Monthly Archives: July 2019

CORNELIUS SKY : a novel

Author and Novel’s Backstory
One hot summer’s day in 1990, Timothy Brandon sought refuge in the public library. Wandering in the stacks, he discovered the numerous volumes of the New York Times Index.

“I discovered two abstracts concerning family members. The first, from 1937, about my grandfather, contained the startling keyword of suicide. The second, from 1974, about my uncle, offered this highly curious instruction: ‘See JFK, Jr.'” After pulling the microfilm and reading the articles, he remembers thinking, “If I could somehow capture the bleak irony and pathos of these pieces.”

Thirty years later, having obtained an MFA from NYU, he has crafted his debut novel weaving the reference to JFK, Jr.  and suicide into the story.  The novel’s setting is familiar to him as well; home life in the low-income public housing projects of Chelsea in New York City. A generational workplace as doormen at a posh Fifth Avenue apartment building. The sad history of a few ancestors, parking themselves in pubs, attempting to drown life’s sorrows and inequities.

From all these loose threads,  he crafted, the one, the only, Cornelius Sky.

Our narrator begins the story in 1974 with Cornelius, henceforth known as Connie, as he stumbles home in the dead of night in his usual manner; three sheets to the wind. With difficulty he tries to insert his key in the door only to discover the locks changed and his marriage over. Connie leaves with no destination or plan in mind. He wanders the streets, his doorman cap askew, his gait staggering, too stewed to know what to do next.

He is currently employed at a ritzy Fifth Avenue apartment building. This job, now floundering, like the many others over the years. His charm gets him in the door. His custodial duties are masterful. He starts each job deliberately with high standards. It is critical that he that makes him indispensable right away because it won’t be long before he starts his downward spiral – late to work, drunk on the job, slovenly dressed, and at times, nasty and churlish to the residents.

The firing, when it comes this time, is particularly difficult. He has a developed a friendship with the son of a wealthy resident, a Presidential widow. A thirteen-year-old named John. This friendship seen perhaps as a chance to redeem himself for estranging his own children or just two lost souls finding solace together over a cribbage board in the back hallway.

Connie’s tragic story began in his childhood in the low-income Chelsea projects. His father gave up early by committing suicide. His choice to turn on the gas oven and stick his head inside also killed Connie’s baby brother as he slept. His mother moved on to an abusive lover that made Connie’s life hell. The one place he hoped to find peace, church, was marred by a predatory clergyman. Without a responsible adult in his life, he soon learned self-prescribed doses of alcohol keep everything tolerable.

I can’t picture life without it. He tried to feel out in his mind for an image of himself as a person who did not drink, and nothing came. The construct of a character named Connie Sky who lived a sober life eluded him, terrified him down to the ground. . . 

But not all is doom and gloom. The story begins to feel, after a while, like the narrator is Della Reese and we are watching an episode of Touched by an Angel. We see Connie at his worst, sense his potential, and can’t help but beg him to find help. To find the peace that so deep down he wants.

When it seems that he has lost everything including his soul, we sense that “angels” have arrived to steer him back to life and to a future he thought never possible.

Recommended reading.

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WINTER SOLDIER: a novel

One of the conflicts doctors face in wartime is that they are often asked to do something that is against their healing instincts, because curing a soldier and returning him to the front may mean sending him to his death. This complicates our oath to ‘do no harm.’ I wanted to examine a doctor faced by such choices. 
Interview with Daniel Mason

Winter Soldier is a riveting story of a medical student and a mysterious nun, Margarete, thrown together in a makeshift hospital in an abandoned church in the Austro-Hungarian region of World War I. With a pew for a surgical table and forays to the woods for sustenance, they compassionately offer care to the limbless and horrifically disfigured soldiers in their care. In time, it became a love story. In time, it became a fight for individual choice vs. a doctor’s need to pursue medical care beyond the scope of his duties.

Twenty-two year old, Lucius Krzelewski, was born to a wealthy Polish aristocratic family living in Vienna. His father, an ardent patriot, spent his days reliving the glory days of  the fierce soldiers known as the  Polish Winged Hussars. He did his best efforts to instill that military fervor in his youngest son, but Lucius showed no aptitude or interest in becoming a soldier.

Lucius wanted to become a doctor and pursued his dream.  He found the study of neurology and the workings of the mind particularly intriguing, but overall, by his sixth year, he was a frustrated medical student. All books and no hands-on patient contact. When war broke out, medical students with six of their eight years training completed were allowed to enlist as medical lieutenants and work alongside doctors as assistants.

Shortly after enlisting, Lucius received  several brief assignments with disappointing duties. His fifth assignment was to the front lines of the war, to a place he was led to believe was a fully equipped Regimental Hospital of the Third Army in the Carpathian mountains in the tiny village of Lemnowice. A duty assignment that assured access to surgeries and trauma training. Lucius was about to face a side of humanity he would never learn from textbooks.

Standing before the door to the Regimental Hospital, a small bombed wooden church constructed of rough-hewn logs, he wondered if he should just turn around and head back to Vienna.

He knocked on the door. An eye appeared in the narrow window.
Krzelewski. Medical lieutenant. Fourteenth Regiment. Third Army.

The door opened. A nursing sister with a rifle dangling from her hand stood before him.
May I speak to the supervising physician? . . .
She replied . . . Didn’t you just say you’re him?

Lucius, stepping into the church, was about to meet the one person that would change his life in many ways, Sister Margarete of the Sisters of Saint Catherine. The diminutive nun with the mental strength of a Winged Hussar held true to her position when typhus claimed the lives of 3 of the nurses, one doctor fled from cowardice and the last fled in the middle of the night from losing his mind. Aided by the hand of God, Margarete, exhibiting her superior sense of practicality, did what had to be done in the two months she was alone.

Since December, there have been forty amputations, on twenty-three men. . .
And who, Sister Margarete, has performed the amputations?
He has.
And whose had was he directing?
She held up her little hands.

The little nun, with respect, trained the medical student, and together, with nothing more than, scalpel, morphine and ether did what they could to save the men that streamed through the church door. Until one day, a winter soldier arrived curled in a fetal position in a wheelbarrow. The man could not move or speak although he had no physical injuries. His arrival changes the dynamics of the story.

Blogger’s Comments
This review has given me fits for days. I find it hard to describe Lucius’ love for science, his discovery of deep personal strengths and tenacity, and his need to accept that the needs of the many out-weigh the intense needs of one in war. And dear Margarete, we never learn her secrets, but we are privy to her humor, her intense compassion, and total acceptance of the present. If you will permit me, I see a fiery young Shirley McClain with a soft heart and Kenny Roger’s ability to “know when to hold ’em , know when to fold ’em,  know when to walk away.”

Highly recommended.

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A MADNESS OF SUNSHINE : a novel

Which way should she run today? . . . along the cliffs above the beach. . . along the beach? It was the light that decided her. . . [ the cliffs]. [She saw] a standing form in the distance. . . Her feet took her closer and closer. . .

“Oh,” she said coming to a stop; startled.
I didn’t expect to see you here.”

Miriama, A Madness of Sunshine

About the Author
Nalini Singh is a popular novelist within the science fiction sub-genre of paranormal romance and fantasy romance. She is known for her extremely popular Psy-Changling and the darker sexier Guild Hunter Series.

A Madness of Sunshine is her first stand-alone thriller and devoid of her usual steamy scenes and beyond-the-normal characters. She has issued a warning to her most ardent fans, “[This book] is not written as a romance suspense or romance;” a fact that drew me to read the book. The book will be published in December, 2019.

The setting. Golden Cove. A fictional town tucked in the bush on the West Coast of South Island, NZ. “[A] primal and untamed landscape [with] trees born of ancient seeds and the ferns huge and green”; each fighting for dominance before reaching the jagged cliffs over looking the Tasman Sea and gorgeous beaches. A wild place where tragedy happened in the past when three visiting hikers disappeared into the bush without a trace over the summer. Present day, life has calmed and the disappearances of those three girls only a sad memory dragged out now and then.

The town recently received it first police officer, Will Gallagher; an exiled big city lawman with an award-winning career but a propensity for quick anger. A man, now seeking redemption.

A prodigal daughter leaves a highly successful music career in London to return to Golden Cove. Her husband’s sudden death and the discovery of his long-time infidelity the catalyst.  She moves back into the run-down shack where she grew up.  Annahera Rawiri hopes to live a life of solitude among the people she has always known and trusted.

Though the town’s population is small, it has the requisite mix of bad boys, rich landowners, dowdy housewives, and the community hub- Josie’s cafe. There in the cafe, among the daily crowd, works an achingly beautiful teenager, Miriama Tutaia, much beloved and the object of desire for every breathing male. A golden girl with a promising future in photograph.

Mirihama returns home after work and is unwilling to stay alone in the house with her slimy step-father. She changes into her running clothes and heads out on a little used hiking trail. . . and never returns.

The town is shaken to its roots. Is she injured? Or . . . reviving old memories of the missing girls. Has something evil invaded their isolated world again? From within the community or outside?

Will and Annahera, along with the residents of Golden Cove, join ranks to search for Mirihama. As the search is conducted, the atmosphere  darkens. Annahera begins to see that time has changed her friends; some for the better and others for the worse. Will reveals himself to be a source of comfort and strength to all; and feared by those with something to hide.

Blogger’s Thoughts
A solid three-star effort. Fans expecting the author’s normal writing style might be a little let down. There are red herrings, plot twists, and a pinch of romance. The author took a chance on branching into a new genre. It is a good first try and hopefully will step-up in a future effort.

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