Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘story’

Bees, Trees & Keys

The King’s Magnificent Sneeze. Written by Jane Elizabeth Habgood. Illustrated by Russell Ferrantti-Donavellas. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Love the preamble for this picture-book story for 4-8 year-olds, and the taller people that read it with them. “To all of the small people and tall people reading this book – please, always be kind.” That is one of the endearing aspects of this story – no matter how ridiculous, or strange, the behavior is by those involved, everyone accepts what is.

614EmitApzL._SX260_The King’s Magnificent Sneeze reminded me, in some ways, of the classic Goodnight Moon. It is similar in rhythm and rhyme, but different in the context and surroundings. This story takes place throughout the kingdom, whereas Goodnight Moon is all in one room. The tale opens with a humongous sneeze by the King of Snoffleguss.

The King’s sneeze effects some beings physically (such as birds that fall out of trees, and a pond to freeze) and others find their behavior to be quite odd. Even the unimaginable happens when, “Old people easily find their keys.” As expected, and which works perfectly, most every sentence ends with a word that rhymes with “sneeze”.

The writing by Ms. Habgood is just right for the audience, and the illustrations by Mr. Ferrantti-Donavellas are most fitting. Even though they are still drawings, they almost seem to come to life with the people, things, and actions taking place on each page. The King’s Magnificent Sneeze is funny, entertaining, and will delight one and all.

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Lily’s Sexual Awakening

51p5FRVN5QLTea with Trina by Amber Skye
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This novella is a sweet treat and fun to eat (or better yet read). A nice afternoon delight, or nighttime rendezvous, to indulge your fantasies and romantic desires. Lily, who has just broken up with Jason, falls head over hills for Trina, and you will too. They are both caring people, who have experienced painful losses, and yet are unexpectedly confronted with love looking them right in the face (and elsewhere).

The scenes from Tea with Trina are a nice mix of generosity, emotion, thoughtfulness, and sex. There is a tenderness between the two women that is palpable and believable. Normally, it takes time for people to have a strong connection and sense of vulnerability with one another, yet it can happen all at once. Thus is the case within these pages. There is also a lovely erotic scene with Lily alone in the shower.

Expectations of what lies ahead (figuratively) are brimming from page to page. As Lilly approaches Trina’s room, “I walked slowly down the hall, holding my hands in front of me as I navigated the near darkness. A light shone through the little crack of a closed door at the end of the hallway. I tapped gently before entering, gasping at what appeared in front of me.”

I have written a few graphic lesbian love scenes, but none as good as those in Tea with Trina. You may want to have one hand free when reading Ms. Skye’s novella, or read it with your partner. If you’ve broken up with someone lately, had a loss in the past, or think you’ll never find love again, this book will give you hope, and wet your romantic whistle (figuratively and literally).

Don’t Make Me Choose

41MwSno1CqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Confessions in the Dark: Twisted Lessons Collection – Book 2 by C. Yvette Spencer.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This was not what I expected. Confessions in the Dark turned out to be a well written novella, with an intriguing premise, and characters that reveal themselves more deeply as the story evolves. What was unexpected, were the moral, ethical, and religious arguments that were portrayed, and the depth to which they stand out without sounding preachy or condescending.

Seven people find themselves waking up in a completely darkened chamber, not knowing how they got there, or why they were selected to be imprisoned in such a place and fashion. There is a teacher, preacher, rock musician, CEO, student, retiree, and hair dresser, that must confess there deepest secrets in order to survive. The seven individuals are from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and families. I will not say anything more about the situation, plot, or events that take place, as every chapter, and step of the way, ads another twist and food for thought.

Confessions in the Dark had me wondering who was the worthiest to be saved; who had committed the greatest evil; and which player was the most honest with themselves, and their fellow captives. Every chapter kept me guessing, and had me changing my mind, as to who I could choose, if indeed I could ever do so. In some respects, this story was like a very good sermon being acted out in a passion play, with real people playing the parts, and having to live with the consequences. Ms. Spencer writes with heart and head.

Once You Wake Up

51NTSaSA13LWhile You Were Watching the Waltons: A collection of essays and short stories by Gormla Hughes. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A short book, with short writings, and short powerful sentences. A brilliant writer. When scribes, and writing teachers, say, “make very word count”, they must have read the words of Gormla Hughes. While You Were Watching the Waltons combines fiction and non-fiction as few do, and uses every space to its full potential.

Here is a brief glimpse from the essay, Pink Ink and Cyberspace, which looks at the influence of media, role expectations, and maintaining the status quo. “Having stigma attached to you folds you up in eights as citizens. An invisible tagging system. One designed to keep you in line. In line long enough for the Power Holders to acquire more bricks for their empire. But, once you wake up. Once you wake up the anger is transformative.”

The story The Rocking Chair kept me on the edge of mine. There is tension, pain, an encroaching past, and constant threat of violence. “Sitting in the rocking chair, I pour the wine. I take three gulps. I need to numb the desire to kill. Me or Her. I lean back and rock. I like the motion. It makes me feel nurtured. What I think nurtured feels like. I can only speculate.” This tale is a perfect example of the author’s use of rhythm and precision. What could be simpler, or more menacing than, “I need to numb the desire to kill.”

Other stories include The Insemination, about Elsa’s hopes of getting pregnant; Elizabeth’s reaction to her mother’s death, with painful memories of abuse, and not believing, in The Funeral; and the final essay, My Disappearance, which describes the process of loss, discrimination, and finding one’s self beyond expectation. “But I have lost everything that kept me a visible part of humanity, and with it found a freedom. I know how polite works as a tool of subservience.”

While We Were Watching the Waltons is an affront – an affront to “normalcy”. It not only helps us see the world from other perspectives, but also challenges its readers’ to question authority, support those who do, and look inside and out, to see what lies and stories we believe and tell ourselves daily. Creating characters (real and imagined), and using words that have meaning and depth, is no easy task. Not many do it justice. Ms. Hughes is an exception to that reality. She does it very well.

 

 

What Might Be

51+1RXtBEpLspirits at the dawn of day by simon boylan.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Spirits at the Dawn of Day isn’t a light happy romance, or straight up suspense. It’s more like a search for meaning in an internal mystery. If you want fluff, or continued conditioning for an unconscious life, don’t read this. If, on the other hand (or two), you don’t mind looking inside and at the world, with new perspectives and insights, then climb aboard. The story literally crashes itself into existence and takes readers’ on an inner journey, by following the external travels of Josh, an Australian company CEO, who is leaving Japan after a business trip.

All Josh is thinking about is his usual drink, sex, money, and status. After a tragic incident turns his world inside out, Josh seeks out his old friend from college (Alex), and travels around the world looking for answers. He meets up with a philosophy professor on a New England farm (who is reminiscent of Dr. Richard Alpert, who left academia and became Baba Ram Dass); a Kundalini yoga teacher, at a retreat center in Sedona, Arizona; a doctor in Dalian, China; the doctor’s martial arts instructing wife; and a man in Japan; whom he had a connection with from the beginning of the story.

There are in-depth and far-reaching conversations and debates that take place between Josh, and each of those he meets, which include science, philosophy, spirituality, suffering, meaning, love, the environment, business, society, and how they all do, or don’t, intersect and effect one another. The dialogue is not stuffy, or the least bit boring. They contain many of the elements that exist within our lives when we talk personally with a friend, therapist, clergy, teacher, or relative. In many ways, these conversations remind me of the film My Dinner With Andre, in which two men sit down for dinner at a New York restaurant and talk about everything under the sun (and moon).

In Spirits at the Dawn of Day, Mr. Boylan has taken an honest and striking look at what might (or can) happen when the world (and our perceptions of it) becomes something different than we have previously known, or allowed ourselves to see. Perhaps, he may be asking, is it possible to awaken to our inner and outer environment without having to fall from the sky in order to do so? If so, how do we do that? If so, how can we use this story about Josh and his awakening in our own lives? The final question in this story says, “We are all creating the world of tomorrow… Are you consciously creating your part?”

Achin’ for Home

31bo-JcppuL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Over the Pass and Other Stories by Susan Mary Malone. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

You can tell from the get go that this author is a native Texan. It ebbs from her stories like a hot wind in hell blowing across east Texas. This is indeed good news, as Over the Pass and Other Stories is better than a good bowl of panhandle chili (without the side effects). The leads in these tales are tough, hard-working, home-grown people from Texas, Montana, and Kansas.

The first story (Winter’s Prey) describes the feelings of Julie, as she poses before her sculpture husband Troy. “She is naked – not under his hands but before his stare.” Descent follows Julie and Troy on a trip through Montana. Over the Pass continues glimpses into their relationship with Julie realizing. “On a backroad byway between Idaho and Montana, through the Red Rocks Wildlife Refuge, I lost the feeling. My heart got out and took a hike and we were another day down the road before I realized it was gone.”

Other stories in this collection include a rodeo cowboy (The Demon On the End of the Rope); a father and son feeding wrestlers at a yearly retreat (Red Turns to Green); and Foster and Callie, who are in a long distance relationship, reluctantly attending a wedding officiated by Pastor Brown.

Some of my favorite lines are from Cowboys Over Ladies, when old Jim tells Sara, who he’s mentored for over 20 years, “You’re a achin’ for home.” He’d nick his chest with a gnarled fist. “That place inside ya. The one you boxed away a long time ago. So you put the nostalgia on like a blanket of a mornin’ to keep out the chill.” Another is from Two Hundred Miles to Dumas, “Mom glared hard at her, all the crow’s feet tying up around her eyes and making her look more ancient than Grandma, who was older than west Texas dirt.”

Ms. Malone’s understanding, and description, of place and people is spot on – tough, beautiful, barren, and spacious. Every story stands on its own, even though the first three have the same characters. Over the Pass and Other Stories will remind you of folks you know if you grew up in that area of the world, or make you think you’re one of the family, even if you’ve never stepped foot in that part of the country. These stories will stick to you like sweat inside a Texan’s jeans.

A Search for Family

51LrMG-G4QL._SY346_A Dangerous Secret by Peter Martin
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

There are so many things to like about this story. It is well written, nicely edited, and engrossing from beginning to end. A Dangerous Secret turned out to be somewhat what I expected (from the description) and a lot that I didn’t.

The beginning finds Garry dealing with the loss of his mother. The grief he experiences is very true to life and expressed with great depth and understanding. What he learns just before she dies however, puts the wheels of the story into motion, and the search that continues from that day on.

I don’t keep reading a novel very long if I don’t in some way identify with, or have some empathy for, the main characters. That was not a problem in this story. Garry, his wife Delia (Deel), and their family (Cassie, Tom, Chris, Adam), are not only likable, but also very believable.

A Dangerous Secret is a well paced story, which gives just enough detail for each scene, without lingering too long either. It is as much a search for family, belonging, and understanding, as it is a mystery, genealogical exploration, and a wee bit of horror. Without giving anything away, there are shades of the film Get Out, though not to the same extent as the movie.

As is obvious, I liked A Dangerous Secret. It took twists and turns that I hadn’t expected, kept me fully engaged throughout, and gave me a new appreciation for this genre of mystery and suspense.

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