Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sirens Over the Hudson (How do you pay for your mistakes after your trust fund runs out?)

Dear commies, heretics and snowflakes!
I am delighted to announce the release of my novel #10, Sirens Over the Hudson, set in Recession-era Tarrytown. In light of the recent election, this novel will entertain and offend you regardless of which side you are on. As you probably know by now, I do not discriminate. I dislike all people equally (just kidding). Jokes aside, I find something humorous in every individual, in every idea, in every movement. Hats off to my wonderful publisher Crossroad Press for their continuous belief in my work, my gorgeous model friends Mark Ryan Anderson and Kathleen Raab for posing for the cover.

Westchester Co., NY – 2008. Panic engulfs the financial district, but the privileged youth of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow is not feeling the sting just yet. For the children of bankers and Wall Street sharks, the summer holds the promise of rock concerts, boat rides on the Hudson and flippant hookups. Gregory King spends the final weeks of the school year skipping classes, playing guitar and toying with Islam. Greg has a secret vice: he likes to take other people's things. For a while he manages to get away with petty theft – until he becomes obsessed with Cyntie van Vossen, his classmate’s girlfriend. Their affair sets off a chain reaction of treachery and violence. The bars of the gilded cage start bending beneath the weight of the secrets encasing the community where money solves every problem. How will Gregory pay for his mistakes after his trust fund runs out? Sirens over the Hudson will herald his misery.

Friday, May 19, 2017

La Rotta - Medieval "club" hit

Bonjour, heretics!
For the past six weeks I have been mentally stuck in late 15th century France in attempts to resurrect a novel started many years ago. I am not ashamed to admit that I was an avid Renaissance Fair performer. Here is a picture of me dancing in 100 degree weather at a festival in Sterling Forest. In my adolescence I had studied Irish, Scottish and Renaissance dance extensively and, naturally, grasped at every chance to perform. 

The tune the musicians in this photo are performing is arguably one of the most iconic dance pieces of the late Medieval period. It's called La Rotta - meaning "road" in Italian. Even though the tune was popularized in Italy, the composer is said to be of Hungarian descent. This versatile melody can be easily adapted and modernized. I have never heard a rendition of La Rotta I did not love or felt tempted to dance to. Here is one of my absolute favorite ones by Dufay Collective. It has that vibrant pan-Romanic vibe. 

And, if you like the sound of La Rotta, there is a more extensive compilation of "party mix" from the Middle Ages.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Guillaume de Machaut - the acceptable way for a priest to have a love affair

Cheerios, Commies and Heretics!
While doing some research for my latest novel (set in 15th century France and dealing with ecclesiastic music) I went through my notes on Guillaume de Machaut, one of the most prominent and prolific composers of sacred and secular music of the late Middle Ages, who had served as a canon at the Reims Cathedral alongside his brother Jean. I have a number of his albums, including the polyphonic Mass of Our Lady. Guillaume de Machaut can be considered a double menace, being a poet and a composer, equally successful in both areas. Unsurprisingly, his poetry was devoted to the topic of courtly love, the accent being on self-sacrifice versus sexual gratification.

Everyone knows about Pierre Abelard and Heloise, probably because of the gruesome way his reproductive career ended. Not many people know about another love story from medieval France - that of Guillaume de Machaut and a certain young maiden by the name P√©ronne d'Armenti√®res, who allegedly served as his muse and editor in one. She is said to be the inspiration behind his poem Le Voir Dit (A True Tale). The relationship has every right to be called controversial, given the age difference - de Machaut was in his 60s, while the young woman was in her late teens. We are talking 40+ age gap. Oh, and that minor bit about him being a priest and bound by the whole vow of celibacy? Apparently, given the fact that he was in poor health, the romantic relationship was never consummated physically. But it was definitely not a purely Platonic relationship, or a father-daughter, or teacher-pupil type of relationship. It was deeply romantic, minus the carnal component.  Was it not the very idea of courtly love that Guillaume de Machaut praised in his poems?

There also seems to be a misconception regarding the attitude of the Catholic Church towards the physical beauty and sexuality of its canons. Contrary to popular belief, the ideal was not a sexless eunuch but a red-blooded male with full-blow libido. Without those urges, the priest would have nothing to struggle against. It was believed that that very struggle against the natural urges and temptations that led a man to spiritual refinement. In that context, Guillaume was an icon of self-control. Essentially a rock star, sworn into celibacy, he managed to have a romantic affair without breaking the vow or earning a reputation of a licentious, dirty old man. His poem Le Voir Dit, inspired by that love affair, was never regarded as a product of a sinful relationship.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mistress Suffragette - not every girl wants to be "respected"

If you are craving a good courtesan story in the tradition of Fanny Hill and Moll Flanders, Mistress Suffragette is just what you are looking for. Personally, I am a little weary of novels featuring heroines who stomp their feet and claim that they will "not be treated like property" and demand to be "respected" and talk about "dignity". It seems like some authors put their own 21st century thoughts into the heads of 19th century women. It's a form of wishful thinking and projection. Newsflash: not every woman objects to being objectified or treated like property. I know we are not supposed to talk about it, but it's true. Penelope Stanton, the heroine of "Mistress Suffragette" - almost an oxymoron title - is someone who looks at her family's financial predicament without needless pathos. She does throw a temporary pity-party after her father loses his fortune and her fiance/cousin breaks the engagement, but she also recognizes the opportunities for social advancement - and sexual gratification - that life throws her way. The novel explores the benefits and perils of the mistress position. The fact is that mistresses of influential men had a lot more latitude and mobility than official wives. But what happens if you fall out of favor with your benefactor? The novel is original and refreshing because it highlights the market crash of the 1890s, a topic that is not frequently explored in literature. It is also refreshing that the novel is not set primarily in New York. This is not an Edith Wharton knock-off. 

My thoughts:
A young woman without prospects at a ball in Gilded Age Newport, Rhode Island is a target for a certain kind of “suitor.” At the Memorial Day Ball during the Panic of 1893, impoverished but feisty Penelope Stanton draws the unwanted advances of a villainous millionaire banker who preys on distressed women—the incorrigible Edgar Daggers. Over a series of encounters, he promises Penelope the financial security she craves, but at what cost? Skilled in the art of flirtation, Edgar is not without his charms, and Penelope is attracted to him against her better judgment. Initially, as Penelope grows into her own in the burgeoning early Women’s Suffrage Movement, Edgar exerts pressure, promising to use his power and access to help her advance. But can he be trusted, or are his words part of an elaborate mind game played between him and his wife? During a glittering age where a woman’s reputation is her most valuable possession, Penelope must decide whether to compromise her principles for love, lust, and the allure of an easier life.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Beauty & the Beast - a tale rescued from the clutches of Disney

Rachel L. Demeter's Beauty and the Beast was one novel I anticipated. I knew she was going to strip the unnecessary coatings of sugar that Disney and Hollywood persistently put on the classic tale. I applaud the author for not shying away from killing innocent children or having her heroines survive sexual assaults. A superhero is not going to show up last minute and rescue the victimized party. I really don't understand people who read fairy tales to "escape" and complain about having their G-rate expectations shattered. People who are that triggered and that disturbed by violence should read Hallmark cards. At least you know there will be no unpleasant surprises. Like it or not, but infant death and violence against women were elements of reality. Classic fairy tales reflected that reality - before the politically correct producers got hold of them. If you ask any psychologist or any expert in European folklore, and they'll tell you that the story of Beauty and the Beast centers around the Stockholm syndrome. The Beast's inner humanity does not become apparent right away. You need to spend some time in closed quarters with the monster before you start seeing the Man in him.

I really loved how the author developed the back story for her Beauty. The wicked stepsisters are actually orphaned and younger than her, which gives them some grievance leverage. The two teenage girls have to band together to capitalize on their stepfather's physical vulnerability. They know his end is near, so they try to milk him financially while they can. It's an interesting insight into female and sibling psychology. There should be a separate spinoff novel about the wicked stepsisters. They are not just stock characters. Their predicament makes them borderline sympathetic, because you know where they are coming from.

Because this novel violates so many traditional romance taboos, it's not a romance. Rather, it's romantic grind house.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Unholy Alliance - a romantic suspense by Kathleen Rowland

Greetings, commies!

Every once in a while I like to challenge myself by reading work outside of my comfort zone. Being sarcastic and pessimistic, I don't generally read books that have "romantic" in the genre, because you know there is going to be steamy sex between consensual adults, pillow talk and some semblance of a happy ending. Nevertheless, every once in a while a review copy lands in my lap. Anything that has to do with the Irish mob is fascinating. The Irish mob does not get as much coverage in fiction. Kathleen Rowland's Unholy Alliance is a second book in the Donahue Cousins series. The first book Deadly Alliance is the first one in the series, and I haven't read it yet, but there is enough of a back story in the second book to set the scene. Given that Unholy Alliance is a romantic suspense, a genre piece, there is only so much latitude the author can allow herself. It means that the rough edges have to be smoothed over. The crime cannot be too seedy, and the sex cannot be too smutty or kinky (although, there are some rather explicit descriptions of various body parts fitting into each other). The novel's protagonist, Tori/Victoria, has a criminal past, but it has to be for a crime she did not commit. So Tori is not a sympathetic redemption seeker. She is, essentially, a damsel in distress with a veil of martyrdom around her. And the man who pulls her out of jail, Attorney Grady Fletcher, whose only blemish is being a divorced guilt-ridden dad, is her knight in shining armor. So if you take comfort in this particular genre, then Unholy Alliance will prove a very satisfying read.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Girl Like You - a Depression era mystery that reads like an escape fantasy

Greetings, commies!
There is no right or wrong way to interpret a great novel.  A well-written multilayered mystery is open to interpretation. Michelle Cox's debut A Girl Like You is one of such novels. When people feel disempowered and cornered, they often start fantasizing about other people's lives to get distracted from their own misery. They start concocting fanciful plots. It's one of the coping mechanisms with the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. This is why I wanted to share my personal interpretation of this novel as an escape fantasy that takes place in the head of a young woman who ends up with too much on her shoulders.

Henrietta Von Harmon works as a 26 girl at a corner bar on Chicago’s northwest side. It’s 1935, but things still aren’t looking up since the big crash and her father’s subsequent suicide, leaving Henrietta to care for her antagonistic mother and younger siblings. Henrietta is eventually persuaded to take a job as a taxi dancer at a local dance hall—and just when she’s beginning to enjoy herself, the floor matron turns up dead.

When aloof Inspector Clive Howard appears on the scene, Henrietta agrees to go undercover for him—and is plunged into Chicago’s grittier underworld. Meanwhile, she’s still busy playing mother hen to her younger siblings, as well as to pesky neighborhood boy Stanley, who believes himself in love with her and keeps popping up in the most unlikely places, determined to keep Henrietta safe—even from the Inspector, if need be. Despite his efforts, however, and his penchant for messing up the Inspector’s investigation, the lovely Henrietta and the impenetrable Inspector find themselves drawn to each other in most unsuitable ways.

My thoughts:
Michelle Cox's debut novel "A Girl Like You" reads like an escape fantasy. I am not sure if I am the first reader who got this impression, but I can almost see this entire story happening inside Henrietta's head. At nineteen, Henrietta finds herself with so many burdens upon her shoulders. The systemic economic depression that affects the whole country, the personal stigma of having a father who had committed suicide, the pressure from her guilt-tripping mother, the physical needs of her younger siblings who are much too young to be sympathetic. But the greatest burden of all, perhaps, is her beauty. She really hasn't figured out what to do with it, how to use to her advantage. So far, being beautiful has brought more trouble than gain. Committed as she is to helping her family survive, poor Henrietta cannot seem to keep a job. She is stuck in the vicious cycle of being assaulted by male coworkers and rowdy clients, and getting fired for sticking up for herself. She clings to her instinctive chastity and her principles, but is being chaste a luxury "a girl like her" cannot afford under the circumstances? So when Henrietta's life starts taking unexpected turns, veering off into the world of danger and mystery, as a reader, I could not help but wonder how much of it was real, and how much was imaginary. Perhaps, she never leaves the drudgery of her physical existence, and the thrilling murder mystery and her romance with Inspector Howard are mere figments of her frustrated imagination? Regardless of how you interpret Henrietta's adventures, "A Girl Like You" is an exciting read that combines gritty realism with mystery and romance.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Accidental Adulthood - proof that men have feelings too

Greetings, commies!

Relationship fiction has been dominated by female authors. Here is a refreshing change of pace. A humorous novel by a male author. It proves that yes, men have feelings, and they are just as prone to overnalyzing and overthinking as women. Today's guest is Jeff Gephart, author of Accidental Adulthood: One Man's Adventure with Dating and Other Friggin' Nonsense.

Mick's adult life is not turning out the way he'd hoped. His twenties are over, and instead of being the acclaimed novelist and family man he thought he'd be, Mick is stuck running a second-rate California motel and fumbling through an endless succession of hilarious dating misadventures. Most of his friends are married with children, and he feels they look down upon single people like him as being merely a fraction of a whole being. During his version of the modern single man's search for what completes him, Mick must contend with a cast of quirky and memorable characters that both frustrate and sustain him as he navigates his way toward having to make a momentous career decision that will affect all of their lives. Accidental Adulthood is a coming-of-age story for the Tinder generation. As Mick begins to face up to his own flaws and struggles to ascertain his place in the adult world, some universal truths are illuminated about family, ambition, responsibility, loyalty, and relationships.

My thoughts:
Despite the length, Gephart's Accidental Adulthood is a smooth, entertaining and effortless read. Effortless - but far from brainless.  Every chapter is bursting with grit, texture, flavor, references to pop culture, world history and dark humor. The author beats himself up with one hand and then strokes with another. It's a self-deprecating stream of consciousness, a celebration of Peter Pan inside every middle-aged man. It reads like a stand-up comedy skit worthy of Eric Bogosian.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Before and After Zachariah - Fern Kupfer's confessional memoir on raising a brain-damaged child

Greetings, commies!
As we celebrate March 8th, Women's Day, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the whole concept of women's solidarity and their treatment of each other. It's no secret that women can be each other's greatest allies, but they can also be each other's cruelest judges. Mommy Wars seem to have gotten more intense over the years. It's not just about working versus stay-at-home moms. It's about mothers of neurotypical children and special needs children. As a first (and only) time mother, I struggled with the new responsibility. My child was fairly healthy, and I continued working, but I had to make some adjustments to my schedule because of some transient medical needs that he had. Still, on those days when I was at home with a sick child, I felt incredibly isolated. I cannot even imagine what it feels like being stuck at home with a child who has serious medical or developmental issues. I'll be the first one to admit that I am NOT a super mom who thinks that "a special child is a special blessing". When I hear ultra religious people say those things, I cannot help but question their sincerity. Do they really fill this way? Have they convinced themselves that they were chosen by God to parent this un-parentable child? Or are they just ashamed to admit how they really feel? Do they regret having this child? Do they secretly wish the child would "go away"?

A woman from a parenting group I belong to recommended this book by Fern Kupfer, Before & After Zachariah. Even though Kupfer cites many confessional passages from other mothers who had severely handicapped children, she does not speak on behalf of all women. She gives every woman a voice, but she does not become a mouth piece. It's something I respect and appreciate. She does not put herself on the pedestal of martyrdom. Every experience is unique, and every mother's emotional bandwidth varies. Until it happens to you, you don't know your strong spots, and you don't know your fragile spots. Sometimes you break in places you did not expect to break.

Warning: this book uses the word "retarded", which has seems to fallen out of favor with the politically correct crowd. This book is also not for those from the "what doesn't break you makes you stronger" camp or from the "God won't give you more than you can handle."

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Magdalen Girls - predictable vanilla Blarney

Greetings, Deplorables!

I am back to reviewing fine historical fiction. I rarely post about a book that I give anything less than 4 stars, but I wanted to share my review of The Magdalen Girls, in light of recent debates about "women's rights" and how "American women don't know how good they have it". This book tells you more about the sad state of medium-size publishing and what kind of books publishers like Kensington are willing to produce. The trend for headless women on the covers persists, as does the usage of word "girl/s" in the title.

Dublin, 1962. Within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption lies one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries. Once places of refuge, the laundries have evolved into grim workhouses. Some inmates are “fallen” women—unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals. Most are ordinary girls whose only sin lies in being too pretty, too independent, or tempting the wrong man. Among them is sixteen-year-old Teagan Tiernan, sent by her family when her beauty provokes a lustful revelation from a young priest.

Teagan soon befriends Nora Craven, a new arrival who thought nothing could be worse than living in a squalid tenement flat. Stripped of their freedom and dignity, the girls are given new names and denied contact with the outside world. The Mother Superior, Sister Anne, who has secrets of her own, inflicts cruel, dehumanizing punishments—but always in the name of love. Finally, Nora and Teagan find an ally in the reclusive Lea, who helps them endure—and plot an escape. But as they will discover, the outside world has dangers too, especially for young women with soiled reputations.

Told with candor, compassion, and vivid historical detail, The Magdalen Girls is a masterfully written novel of life within the era’s notorious institutions—and an inspiring story of friendship, hope, and unyielding courage.

My thoughts
In 1960s, as the rest of the Western world was in the throes of sexual revolution, Ireland was in a weird place. A recently liberated country, still working to define its statehood, it was slipping into theocracy. "The Magdalen Girls" doesn't get any points for originality. This is the kind of vanilla Blarney that a skittish, play-it-safe publisher like Kensington would churn out. Totally predictable and unimaginative, capitalizing on the proven cliches, "The Magdalen Girls" is a deja-vue from start to finish. Maeve Binchy died and left a void in that needed to be filled with more white bread. The stereotypical portrayal of the Irish father as a heartless, misogynistic drunk will make pseudo-feminists very happy. And of course, making the Catholic church look like a bunch of hypocritical predators will make secular humanists have that nice and fuzzy feeling. There are some parts that are just butt-clenchingly bad, like a 17-year old girl saying out loud: "I want to do more than just cook and clean." Really, sweetie? Never heard that before. That being said, I'm not going to knock the book too much. It is what it is. If you don't want to take chances and read serious books with the right balance of drama and grim humor, this is a book for you.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Welcome to America (go sit with your own kind)

Greetings, commies!
My original resolution was to keep personal posts to a minimum, but another installment of refugee memoirs just bubbled up inside me, and I felt compelled to share. I want to reach out to my fellow commies all over the world who are new to the US or contemplating coming here permanently. I want to teach them how to speak Americanese, the code language of misleading messages. Nobody is going to deny that all of us say pleasant things that are not to be taken literally, but in America this trend is taken to the extreme. One can argue that there is no such thing as "typical white bread American", and yet many people do describe themselves as such. So here is my little translator. When talking about your heritage to people who were born in the US, you can expect to hear some of these comments. 

"America is a country of immigrants ..."

Yeah, but some ethnic groups hold more influence than others. Not pointing fingers at any particular group and certainly not demonizing the infamous 'white Protestant heterosexual male'. Just accept that not all ethnic groups are equal in this country. I don't see how having a Slovene first lady is going to change much for the immigrants of Eastern European stock.

"My great-grandfather came from ...."

This is why he changed Berkowitz to Berkley and Milosewicz to Miles and Petrauskas to Peterson. Your Jewish/Serbian/Lithuanian ancestor wanted to look WASP.

"Welcome to our country!"

As long as you stay in your immigrant-dominated community and work jobs in the service industry. Commies, listen to me. They don't want you to compete for their jobs and their sexual partners. As a high-school student, I was always told to "sit with my own kind" during lunch. We had a separate table for students of Hispanic heritage, and a small table for Polish and Russian students. "Go sit with your own kind ..." Talking about being shown your proper place in life! 

"This is a land of opportunity, you know."

Yes, I know. My mother, who is a music professor in her home country, had to work as a teacher's assistant at a local daycare for $6 an hour back in the 1990s before she opened her own music school. I know that people who make minimal wage in the US still have more material comforts than professors and engineers in some countries. 

"Are you seeing anyone? Because there is a nice Ukrainian/Greek/Vietnamese boy in my algebra class."

Wow, very sweet of you to worry about my sex life.  Even sweeter of you to assume that I pick my sexual partners based on ethnic similarities. That nice boy could be a total jerk, yet you think that I should still give him a chance because he speaks my language. 

"Wow, you are such an asset to our community! You bring so much diversity."

They want you to be that exotic pet that they can use for their own entertainment. They don't want you at their country club, polluting the air with your accent and your peculiar jokes and tales of genocide and ethnic cleansings. No negativity allowed. We're all about "can do" attitude.

"Don't forget your roots, be proud of who you are!"

Translation: we want you to retain those cute quirks that make you an easy laughing stock. 

Conclusion. America is a great place to make money, but not a great place to make friends. I sort of knew it coming into the country. It's no secret that money is more important to me than friends, so I feel that I got a good deal out of my immigration experience.

Deplorably yours,

Connecticut Commie

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dragontail Buttonhole - a novel of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia by Peter Curtis

Greetings, comrades!
I told you I was on a WWII binge. Today's book is The Dragontail Buttonhole by Peter Curtis.

Prague, 1939. Willy and Sophie Kohut own a prosperous business specializing in selling British fabrics for tailoring suits. When the Nazis occupy Czechoslovakia, Willy is arrested and accused of spying for Britain. After Sophie engineers his release, they decide to flee the country for the sake of their toddler, Pavel. Paying a small-time smuggler and using counterfeit Hungarian passports, they journey through Hungary and Germany itself, on an exodus full of unexpected twists that test their courage, and their love.

My thoughts:
The title of the novel The Dragontail Buttonhole is a bit of a mouthful. You basically have two composite words side by side. But strangely, the linguist in me is delighted. The title works well visually and phonetically, because it mimics the composition of German words and contributes to that pseudo-Germanic ambiance that the Nazis established on their occupied territories. There are so many WWII themed novels set in Poland that the occupation of Czechoslovakia seems to fall by the wayside, but I see the tide turning. Last year a magnificent movie "Anthropoid" came out, dealing with the mission to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect behind the Final Solution. Czechs and Slovaks were also Slavs, like Poles and Russians, which meant that the Nazis had no qualms about slaughtering them as "untermeschen".

The protagonist of The Dragontail Buttonhole is accessible and archetypal - without being stereotypical. Willy is a refined and prosperous young businessman of Jewish stock who works in textiles. His ethnicity is not an issue at the time of peace - he downplays his Jewish heritage and does not flaunt his religious beliefs, and his facial features are ethnically neutral, enabling him to pass for a Slav or a Hungarian. His house is open to prospective clients and business partners of Christian faith. He makes frequent trips to England where his parents live. All that changes when Germans march through Czechoslovakia and Willy is accused of being a British spy. His youthful wife Sophie has to muster all the courage and guile in the world to secure his release. However, Willy's release is only the first step towards salvation.

The author does a great job creating the ambiance of apprehension and dread that you would expect from a novel dealing with Nazi occupation. It's a perfectly balanced blend of adventure, hardcore history and noir. If you fond of "escape from the Nazis" fiction and memoirs, definitely add this novel to your list. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Refugee's Perspective - 25 years in the US and counting ;-)

Connecticut Commie is here. It's time for another editorial from Deplorably Yours. In less than a week I am going to celebrate 25 years of living in the US. Take a moment to pause. 25 fucking years! Can you believe that? Now, I know I like to joke about being a mail order bride and all, but the truth is, I came to this country as a refugee. As in ... "Knock, knock, let me in! There's a big bad wolf chasing me!" Gasp. That's right. That makes my support of our current President all the more reprehensible. It's like ... "How DARE you deny other people entry into this country when you're a pathetic, wet, shivering puppy yourself?"

Calm down, snowflakes. As a reminder, I personally do not deny or grant anyone entry into this country. We are all at the mercy of the consulate. Just like my family was 26 years ago, when we applied for political asylum. If the embassy officer deems your claim of discrimination and grave endangerment due to race, ethnicity, religion, etc. convincing - congratulations and welcome to America. No, this system is not perfect, and it's not always fair, but then, nothing in life is. And yes, there will be delays and setbacks. Even when you think you have all your ducks in a row, all your paperwork submitted, a minor change in the policy can upset your plans and throw you back to square one. So you're basically sitting on your bags, having sold or given away all your life's possessions, and then they tell you that your departure date has to be moved indefinitely due to some glitch in the Department of State database. And you be like ... "Whaaaat? Those bastards!"

I just wanted to take a moment to remind y'all that political asylum is not an entitlement. It's a huge undeserved favor that a country can grant an individual. American Dream is not a universal human right. America cannot possibly accommodate every struggling individual who "deserves a better life". And no, not all refugees are equally benevolent. Not all are going to assimilate well. So let's drop all that hippie fluff about us "all being human beings and wanting the same thing." We are not all the same. We do not all want the same things. There are some irreconcilable ideological differences. We do not live in a world without borders, as we do not live in homes without locks or alarm systems. Not yet. 

So, that being said ... If anyone calls you a racist, a Nazi, a fascist, a bigot, etc. don't take it to heart. Those words don't mean shit anymore. They are being thrown around like tropical Skittles. Just brush them off. Don't swallow them. Don't pollute your system with extra sugar and artificial flavors that this country is known for. Fake flavors. Fake news. God bless America!

Deplorably yours,
Connecticut Commie

Monday, January 30, 2017

Remember the two millions ... their lives matter too!

Greetings, commies!
All lives matter ... some deaths just get more media coverage. Some ethnic groups clearly are more vocal than others. Belarusians do not like to talk about their plight. They don't talk much about their losses during WWII or the consequences of Chernobyl. They are the quiet sufferers. You are never going to get exact numbers of how many ethnic Belarusians died during WWII, but 2 million is a safe estimate (this is after you subtract about 750,000 ethnic Jewish casualties on the territory of Belarus). From the point of view of percentile demographics, this was an absolute catastrophe. Today, while researching my latest novel, I stumbled across this picture of a bunch of teenage factory workers in Nazi-occupied Minsk being prepared for execution for aiding the resistance movement. This was one of the first public executions. My hope for 2017 is that as we talk more about "global awareness", we take a more inclusive approach and look at EVERY ethnic group, even the quiet and underrepresented ones.

Have a nice day!
- Deplorably yours,
Connecticut Commie

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Second World Problems - educate yourselves!

Greetings, commies, fellow "deplorables" and SJWs!
Today's edition is dedicated to a series of memes I created to illustrate the plight of the often overlooked Second World Problems. Sandwiched somewhere between the "haves" and the "have-nots", we are a community of Russian brides, cleaning ladies and hackers. We are people too, and we have our stories to tell! So get outside of your comfort zone and educate yourself already!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Beauty Shop - NOT a girly novel

Greetings, Deplorables and dedicated history buffs ;-)

I know The Beauty Shop looks like a frilly girly romance, but it's not. I promise, there is plenty for guys to like. Your testosterone levels will not decline, I promise. Actually, it's a serious, expertly crafted historical novel set during WWII.

England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. But in this darkest of days, three lives intertwine, changing their destinies and those of many more.

Dr Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealand plastic surgeon with unorthodox methods, is on a mission to treat and rehabilitate badly burned airmen – their bodies and souls. With the camaraderie and support of the Guinea Pig Club, his boys battle to overcome disfigurement, pain, and prejudice to learn to live again.

John ‘Mac’ Mackenzie of the US Air Force is aware of the odds. He has one chance in five of surviving the war. Flying bombing missions through hell and back, he’s fighting more than the Luftwaffe. Fear and doubt stalk him on the ground and in the air, and he’s torn between his duty and his conscience.

Shy, decent and sensible Stella Charlton’s future seems certain until war breaks out. As a new recruit to the WAAF, she meets an American pilot on New Year’s Eve. After just one dance, she falls head over heels for the handsome airman. But when he survives a crash, she realises her own battle has only just begun.

Based on a true story, "The Beauty Shop" is a moving tale of love, compassion, and determination against a backdrop of wartime tragedy.

My thoughts:
I was immediately intrigued by this novel, because I have a recurring nightmare about seeing a burning plane crashing in the field. The mixture of terror and curiosity give me night sweats.

When I read the author's bio, I was not surprised that she had a career in healthcare. The medical parts of the novel are explored in depth. Henderson understands the pressures and the rewards of a military medic's life. She understands the loneliness, the stress, the need for humor, the frustration of dealing with obstinate patients, the temptation to get emotionally involved with them. The air battle scenes are also top notch. They are gorgeous, eloquent, striking, raw and just technical enough without sounding like they came from an air combat manual.

Now, romance is the weakest aspect of the novel. In fact, some passages sound like they were written by another author. Such an impressive piece of prose is speckled with pedestrian stock expressions that you would lift out of a romance. "Deep blue eyes", "butterflies in the stomach", "soft lips" and "I can't leave him at a time like this". Thankfully, those occurrences are not numerous. They made me wrinkle my nose a few times but not wince all the way.

I am not sure which aspect of the novel is prevalent. Is it a hardcore military history piece? Is it a field hospital drama? It's certainly not a historical romance. I wish the cover had more testosterone on it. I wish it showed more of the airplane or some surgical equipment as opposed to a girl in the middle of a field. You wouldn't know that it's a serious historical piece. I hope that WWII buffs do not pass on this novel because of the cover and the title. I do not have the heart to subtract stars from such a fine novel. I give it 4.5, but post 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Bend in the Willow - an ordinary woman, an extraordinary amount of pain

Willowood, Kentucky 1965 - Robin Lee Carter sets a fire that kills her rapist, then disappears. She reinvents herself and is living a respectable life as Catherine Henry, married to a medical school dean in Tucson, Arizona. In 1985, when their 5-year-old son, Michael, is diagnosed with a chemotherapy-resistant leukemia, Catherine must return to Willowood, face her family and the 19-year-old son, a product of her rape, she gave up for adoption. She knows her return will lead to a murder charge, but Michael needs a bone marrow transplant. Will she find forgiveness, and is she willing to lose everything, including her life, to save her dying son?

My thoughts:
A Bend in the Willow is not for the squeamish or overly impressionable or prone to hypochondria. If you read the synopsis, it's full of provocation. It raises some very unsavory topics such as rape, domestic abuse, murder, care for a disabled relative, pediatric cancer and bioethics, all of which can be easily sensationalized. Those hot button topics cause an immediate emotional response from the female readership for which the book is presumably intended. There is the bread and butter of women's fiction and Lifetime movies. I do not say it with contempt. I do not look down on women's fiction, as long as it's done at a high artistic level, and its goal is not to perpetuate the feeling of being victimized while demonizing the male figures. I was curious to see how the author would handle those staple ingredients and weave them into a plot line.

Susan Clayton-Goldner does a pretty good job creating a convincing female character who has been kicked around by life a few times. Having spent her childhood in poverty, Catherine (aka Robin Lee) experiences Catherine/Robin is really an ordinary woman, whose ambitions do not extend far beyond having a happy nuclear family life. She has an underdeveloped ego that she eagerly pushes aside to accommodate the interests of other people. She selflessly carries a child of rape to term and gives him up for adoption. She puts her career in medical records aside to raise her son Michael with her new husband Ben. She takes on the role of a caregiver for her ailing father-in-law. And she is willing to sacrifice her freedom for a chance to save her youngest son after he's diagnosed with leukemia. For Catherine/Robin it's always other people before her. I realize that not every reader is going to like a character like that. If you are looking for an escapist fantasy featuring a larger than life warrior princess, this is probably not the novel for you. But the fact is, there are women with such value scales even in 2016. 

Speaking of time period, the novel spans 1950s through 1980s. Before the internet and social media, so it was easier for a person to disappear and reinvent herself under a different name. Also, being diagnosed with cancer in 1985 is a little different from being diagnosed today. The prognosis back then was a lot sketchier.

I knew this was going to be a hard read for me, because leukemia hits a little too close to home. The author does not shroud, downplay or sugar coat the horror of parents with a child who's diagnosed with a chemo-resistant form of blood cancer. If you have a vivid imagination, if you are prone to playing out the worst case scenarios, do not pick up this book. You will not sleep at night. I know I didn't. This is not a generic fluffy heart-warmer. It's a piece of very raw women's fiction at its finest.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Veles - pan-Slavic environmental god


Today's guest of honor is Veles, a major pagan pan-Slavic deity, the patron of earth, water, forests and the underworld. His number one rival is Perun, the supreme and egomaniacal god of Thunder. The battles between Veles and Perun will remind you of our recent presidential debates. In fact, there was so much tension between Veles and Perun, that the statues honoring the two respective gods were never built side by side. If a ruler built the two statues in close proximity to each other, his entire domain would be caught in a conflict between the two gods.

Here is a contemporary sculpture depiction of Veles walking between an ox and a bear. The ox represents domesticity, agriculture, sedentary civilization and private property. The bear represents untamed wilderness and raw instinct. The bird on his shoulder represents the balance of freedom and responsibility. In light of an impending ecological crisis, let's take a moment to honor Veles.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The universal "Thaddeus" - Polish stereotypes in literature

Greetings, commies and fellow deplorables!

Today I would like to share a guest post in Unusual Historicals "Meet My Protagonist" series. I chose Thaddeus Dombrowski, the accident prone, guilt-ridden, sexually exuberant, passive-aggressive husband of my fifteen-year old protagonist Renate in The Gate of Dawn. In American pop culture, Polish men have been subject of many good-natured jokes. Behind every stereotype, there is a bit of anthropological history.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Happiest Mom on the Block - a tale of unspeakable tragedy and recovery

Greetings, commies and deplorables!

Today's guest of honor is the remarkably courageous, resilient and candid Katerina Mayants Nelligan, whose confessional memoir Happiest Mom on the Block approaches such agonizing subjects as parental bereavement. This book is her tribute to her firstborn Juliana, who is now an angel in Heaven.

A memoir of a wife and mother of four who shares her biggest struggles and breakthroughs in parenting, marital strife and more importantly understanding of her soul purpose. Everything was perfect when she met the love of her life and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Until one day, a terminal cancer diagnosis of her daughter left her childless and suicidal. Shortly after losing her daughter, she lost her job, her friends and almost lost her marriage to infidelity. After hitting rock bottom, she was compelled to sets sail on a journey to discovering the meaning of life and blessings of tragedies. Along her journey she discovers the biggest eye opening, paradigm shattering secrets to true happiness and bliss. She was finally able to bask in the light that was once at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel. Giving birth to three more children she shares her biggest secrets to raising happy, respectful and loving children who adore life in the same way she does. This book is a compilation of thousands of hours of research and experiences that will leave the reader with a deeper understanding of the privilege of motherhood, the secrets to a satisfying marriage and the gift of discovering who you really are so that you too can be the happiest mom on the block!

My thoughts:
I found out about this author through a Russian parenting group on Facebook. Turns out, we are from the same hometown in the south-east of Belarus, a former Soviet republic. Maybe it's not my place to speculate about it, but I cannot help wondering if the terrible illness that took her firstborn is somehow linked to the radiation fallout from Chernobyl. Even though she is five years younger than me, her early childhood experiences are very similar to mine, especially her brief encounter with anti-semitism, which clearly left a lasting impression on her. And, just like myself, she chose to marry an Irish-American. I found myself nodding and smiling through various passages, as they were somewhat similar to mine. But you do not perceive Kat and James as a "mixed" or international couple. The cultural clash/integration is not the focus of the story. You start rooting for this ambitious, modern couple, who share a strong work ethic and a dream for a large family.

This book is very raw and candid. The author does not pull any punches when describing the horrific illness that took the life of her oldest daughter Juliana. Even if you have never been through such an experience - and I pray you never have and never will - you have probably tried to imagine what it would be like. If you bring a child into this world, there is no guarantee that he/she will outlive you. Infant death used to be a lot more common. I'm not saying that people in the bygone days had a thicker skin about it. But there were more bereaved parents out there who could relate to your experience. Losing a child in the 21st century can also feel isolating, because most families are spared this heartbreaking experience, due to the medical advances.

But, as the title of the book suggests, Kat and James' story does not end on a tragic note. Having gone through every circle of hell, they emerge victorious, their commitment to each other renewed. They go on to have three more children and rebuild their lives and careers.

Real life stories of love, loss and recovery are much more engaging than formulaic romance novels where all plot-twists are pre-determined by the demands of the genre. If you want an inspirational real life story, from a real life woman, not an actress on Lifetime channel, please consider "Happiest Mom on the Block".

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

When Our Worlds Collide - a Dystopian gem with a Greco-Roman vibe

Happy New Year, commies and fellow Deplorables!

Nothing instills hope like a good Dystopian/Apocalyptic novel. Today's guest is Kellie Wallace, who has become a frequent flyer on my blog. She's here today with a new release When Our Worlds Collide.

As one city’s fate hangs in the balance, a woman’s destiny is about to be determined…

Amira Frost is forced to watch her home be invaded by the warmonger state, Argos. Divided into multiple class zones, the city’s once peaceful existence is threatened.

When an opportunity arises for Amira to get close to the General, she accepts with the hope that her new position as his personal food taster can help reclaim the municipality, but she is pulled deeper into his regime than she initially anticipated.

For every controlling force, a resistance is born…

The Ravens’ elusive leader, Grayson Roe, has one goal—to lead the resistance to victory against the barbaric military. Dedicated and ruthless, he sets out to use Amira to their advantage by offering her a proposal she's unable to refuse. Nothing will stop him from regaining control over his city and its people—not even the dark haired beauty whose loyalty seems questionable.

A city threatens to fall and a decision needs to be made…

As the battle rages, Amira is caught between two opposing forces and reevaluates her allegiance when her loyalty is tested. Her home is under attack, her friends and family are dying, and she is faced with a grueling decision that has the power to save or bring down an entire city.

When worlds collide, she must choose between saving her home or surrendering to the one man who threatens to destroy it all—including her.

My thoughts:
I have been following this young author's work for a number of years now, and I've read all of her books. She has produced a string of stimulating, extremely readable and memorable stand-alone novels. Her two topics of choice are WWII historical romances (with the emphasis on historical/military versus romance) and Dystopian/apocalyptic. It seems that every Tom, Dick and Harry writes Dystopian novels nowadays, and the quality is all over the board, with literary merit often compromised in favor of action. Dystopian fiction is a concept fiction. Just as sci-fi and horror movies do not require big name Hollywood stars to stand on their own, as long as the premise is good, same applies to Dystopian novels. One does not expect elaborate literary experiments in a Dystopian novel. But Wallace elevates her fiction a few notches above, because she does invest into character development and literary crafstmanship. "As Our Worlds Collide" has a distinct Greco-Roman vibe, as the characters and places have names that seem to be taken out of Greco-Roman mythology. But that's not the only ethnic pantheon that the author taps into. For instance, the protagonist's name is Amira, which means "princess" in Arabic. There is also a character named Vesna, which means "spring" in Russian. If you are into foreign languages, mythologies and world civilizations, you will enjoy this novel at a new level.