Planet Police by Natalie Vellacott

Planet Police – Never a dull moment policing the streets of Britain

Before becoming a Christian missionary, Natalie Vellacott was a UK police officer from 2001 to 2011. She started at the age of 19, thus fulfilling her childhood dream. She worked both as a plain clothed detective and as a uniformed officer, being later promoted to sergeant. During the decade she spent working for the Sussex Police she gained experience in several departments and was employed in nine different stations.

In 2002 her younger brother James died in a car accident. He was 18. Natalie had a boyfriend at the time, but their relationship ended soon after it and no other boyfriend is mentioned all over the book, so I kept wondering if she hadn’t had anybody else during the following years or if she just decided to omit this aspect of her life from the book.

In Planet Police, the author relates many episodes occurred during her career as a police officer, but I honestly found most of them unimpressive, maybe because all the characters were nameless and each story lasted only a few lines. I forgot them soon after reading them. Maybe the author should have used fake names instead of no names at all. Too many fleeting episodes and characters are difficult to remember. Their physical description would help the reader to picture them better.

What I appreciated was Natalie’s willingness to admit her own mistakes, both on duty and off duty. For example she smoked, drank and gambled, giving up all these bad habits only after rediscovering her Christian faith in 2005 at the age of 23.

Natalie began to be involved in street evangelism during her free time, but this caused her some conflicts with her job. On Saturday mornings a small group of people met for prayer and then went out to give out leaflets about Christianity, but one day Natalie was asked to take part in a peaceful protest against the annual Gay Pride Parade in Brighton.
Natalie knew several gay officers and she treated them as individuals, rather than thinking about their sexuality. She didn’t judge others, but she couldn’t endorse an event like the Gay Pride.
Gay police officers had been given the permission to join the parade and march in uniform while they were working, so she thought it would be acceptable to take part in the protest during her spare time. Nothing identified her as an officer.
Despite all this some colleagues recognized her and Natalie was later summoned by a senior officer. She was told that some people disliked her views and that she shouldn’t have aligned in public. She hadn’t discriminated against anyone, but she had the potential to do it in the future. Some senior officers labelled her as homophobic. A clear example of political correctness dictatorship.

After almost a decade, Natalie began to feel always tired. At first she thought it was just because of shift work, but then she found out that her thyroid was underactive. She had to take medication every day for the rest of her life.

Many retired police officers died in their fifties. Their average life expectancy was of just seven years after they retired. If Natalie had completed her service (30 years) she would have retired at 49. Stress, shift work and the subsequent unhealthy lifestyle lead police officers to an early death. This is why Natalie decided to apply for a six-month unpaid leave. She needed to rest and wanted to look for another job. She sent several applications for paid jobs in the UK, but nobody seemed interested in hiring her. It was then that Natalie volunteered to become a missionary on a ship abroad, but she first needed to save up some money, so she asked to go back to work after only four months instead of six.

Natalie joined the Logos Hope ship in late August 2011. She had obtained a two-year unpaid leave. Some colleagues thought that Natalie was about to sacrifice two years of her life to help people, but she also wanted to share her faith, even if somebody believed it would be arrogant to go to another country and try to change the religion of its people. Of course, Natalie believes that Christianity is the only true religion, because in the Bible God claims to be the only real God and that those who choose otherwise will go to hell.

In September 2013, Natalie returned from her two years on board the Logos Hope ship and resigned from her post as Police Sergeant to become an independent missionary evangelist in the Philippines. What it’s still unclear to me is which kind of Christian is she. Methodist, Baptist or what else?

Natalie gave up her salary, stable job and police pension!
She doesn’t miss neither diversity training courses (e.g. courses about multiculturalism) nor the “politically correct brigade (…) seeking opportunities to take people down for expressing their opinions.”

Natalie’s cool picture wearing her police uniform and holding some guns appeared in a local newspaper and she was given permission to use it for the front cover of the book.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Fixed Up! by Papatia Feauxzar

Fixed Up! is an engaging short story about arranged marriage. Najoua is a young woman of Turkish origin who lives near a lake in the United States. Her eldest sister fell in love with a man her parents didn’t like and ran off with him to get married. But why didn’t they like him? Was it for a good reason or not? Was he a criminal, an alcoholic, a drug addict, a violent man? Did he belong to another faith? Or was he simply not rich enough? Unfortunately we aren’t given to know, but after such a scandal Najoua’s parents hope to avoid another arranging their youngest daughter’s marriage as soon as possible.

At first, Najoua’s doesn’t agree, but wears a silk hijab (veil), an abaya (long dress) and a heavy make-up to meet her guests who are Turks like her. They’re friends of friends. Najoua’s parents can’t apparently decline an offer from people who approach them, but she will be free to choose anyone she likes, as long as she takes their advice into consideration. Does this mean that she’s free to choose only among the suitors approved by her parents?

Najoua would like to see a picture of her possible prospective husband before meeting him, but her mother doesn’t have any! She talked only with his parents and they didn’t show any picture of their son… But also physical attraction should be important in such an intimate relationship!

Abraham seems to be in his late 20s, he has a job and he’s wearing a white T-shirt, a black jacket, navy blue jeans and black shoes. His masculine modern attire contrasts with Najoua’s female traditional one.

Najoua doesn’t like him and he doesn’t show any interest in her, but the following week she visits his family with her parents. This is how Najoua finds out that Abraham has an identical twin called Ibrahim. She’s attracted by the latter who looks more mature and more handsome.

Najoua is 23 and she’s a writer. She’s published three collections of poems and two books. Ibrahim is 29 and he’s a lawyer. The ideal son-in-law for every parent. If it were for parents, women should marry only doctors, engineers and lawyers.

Ibrahim wants to marry her. He had heard that she had refused several matches, this is why he had sent his brother Abraham the first time, but then he takes courage and he visits Najoua accompanied by his married sister. Lovers never alone, like in my grandparents’ time. Najoua is happy. She’s found her future man.

It’s such a pity that Fixed Up! is just a short story! It’s so entertaining that it would deserve an entire novel to fully develop its characters and hopefully answer all my questions! For example: why do both families have two living rooms? And does Najoua earn a living from her writings? Or are they just the pastime of a young woman destined to be the wife of a man who can afford to financially support her?

Thank you Papatia for writing Fixed Up! and sharing it for free with your readers and please continue to write romance stories and novels, because yours have always a special touch!

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories

I decided to read Breakfast at Tiffany’s after watching some bits of the movie on TV. I knew that it was the source of inspiration for several contemporary romance novels and that its protagonist was seen as a symbol of incredible elegance, so I was quite shocked when I found out that Holly Golightly was a prostitute, pardon an escort!

The novel written by Truman Capote was published in 1958, but it’s mainly set during World War II. Holly Golightly, whose real name is Lula Mae Barnes, is an almost nineteen-year-old girl who moved to New York hoping to find a rich husband. She had a sad childhood, but being poor shouldn’t justify such an immoral behavior. She could have found an honest job as a cleaning lady, a waitress or in a factory, but no… Holly’s so tremendously frivolous and ambitious. She admits that she only likes men who are at least forty-two and that she trained herself to like older men. Holly is fond of horses and baseball is only part of her effort to please men. That’s appalling!

Fortunately, she gets what she deserves: the attractive Brazilian José changes his mind and goes back to his country alone when he finds out about Holly’s involvement with the criminal Sally Tomato. Holly decides to flee to Rio, taking advantage of the flight José had bought for her and she asks the narrator (who is a writer like the author himself) to get her “a list of the fifty richest men in Brazil, regardless of race or color”.

Holly finds a rich lover in South America. He’s married. After Brazil she visits Buenos Aires. The years go by and in 1956 the photographer Yunioshi, a Californian man of Japanese descent, sees a wooden sculpture that resembles Holly in Africa. The woodcarver tells him that in the spring of that year a woman and two white men arrived in the village…

I admired Capote’s writing style because he was able to convey empathy even for hideous characters like Holly Golightly. Well, hideous for me. I’m sure he found her adorable, like every other man in the world, even if he wasn’t attracted by women.

The 50th anniversary edition of Breakfast at Tiffany’s contains also other three stories from the same author: House of Flowers, A Diamond Guitar and A Christmas Memory.

I read House of Flowers while I was lying in bed at night and it gave me the creeps! This time the setting is Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Ottilie is a seventeen-year-old prostitute with light skin and almost blue eyes. Her mother is dead and her father is a planter who has gone back to France. She believes in many Gods and one day she falls in love with a beautiful ginger-skinned boy. Royal’s house is like a house of flowers, but he lives with his grandmother and there is only a room. The old woman is known as a maker of spells. Five months after the marriage, Royal begins staying out at night as he had done before. He thinks that a man has to have his pleasures. But Royal’s grandmother is Ottilie’s real torment. The old woman tries to cast a spell putting dead animals in Ottilie’s sewing basket, but the young woman reacts using them as ingredients for the old woman’s food. When Ottilie tells her the truth, the old woman dies, but Ottilie soon realizes that Old Bonaparte is dead but not gone…

A Diamond Guitar is the story that I found the least interesting. A prison in the forest. There are two sleep houses: the white men occupy one and the black men and the only Chinese the other. Mr. Schaeffer is one of the important men. He has reddish, silvering hair. Some winters before, the fifty-year-old Mr. Schaeffer became best friend with an eighteen-year-old Cuban boy. He had a guitar with jewels (glass diamonds). The blue-eyed and golden-haired Tico Feo convinced him to escape together, but Mr. Schaeffer failed while Tico Feo left the country.

A Christmas Memory was instead a pleasant surprise, despite the slow start. In this autobiographical tale, we can find the friendship between a seven-year-old boy (the author) and a woman in her sixties. The boy and the old woman are distant cousins and they live in a house with several relatives. Capote’s parents divorced when he was four and he indeed spent the following four-five years with his mother’s relatives. He had a horrible childhood because of his unloving parents, but in this tale he recalls some nice moments like helping his distant cousin to make more than thirty fruitcakes or going to the woods to cut a tree for Christmas.

It’s wonderful how such different topics can become interesting thanks to Capote’s writing genius!

 

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“What am I?” by Papatia Feauxzar

I have been waiting for “What am I?” since Papatia announced it on her blog, so I have downloaded it for free as soon as the five-day promotion started.

What am I?

What am I?” is a colorful book that tells the story of a child with a black mother and a white father. Even if the children in his pre-school come from many different backgrounds, they seemingly don’t know how to classify him. Nouredine is also confused because he hadn’t paid attention to his skin color until then and doesn’t know how to react.

What am I?” deals with the extremely interesting topic of personal identity, but I was somewhat surprised by the fact that Nouredine hadn’t been thinking about it before since my three-year-old daughter who is half Mexican and half Italian, even if she’s not attending pre-school yet, has already spontaneously classified herself and every member of our family, but maybe it depends on the child’s character, since I was even more naive than Nouredine not realizing that my father’s skin color is darker than mine until I became an adult. One day some Egyptian fruit sellers even asked him if he was Egyptian too.

Nouredine is brown. It shouldn’t be difficult to give an answer to his classmates. Also the girl who describes herself as black is brown, the only difference is that Nouredine’s skin is lighter. He could also say that he’s half black and half white, but in the USA being half or even less black is still enough to be seen as black because what matters is not only the color of your skin, but also the appearance of your face and what kind of hair you have. Unfortunately the illustrations of this book have no eyes, noses and mouths.

Just think of Japanese people: are they white? Their skin is as light as that of many Europeans, but nobody would tell they’re white. Former US President Barack Obama is as brown as many Mexicans are, but nobody would tell that Mexicans are black. I still remember my Mexican husband watching the news with a puzzled look every time Obama was being called black. “He’s not black: he’s as dark as me,” he kept repeating, but apparently skin color is not the only feature we use to classify people.

The truth is that the place where we live can influence the perception we have. Many Mexicans, for instance, will tell you that they’re white even if no European would see them as white. Most of them are the descendants of both Europeans and native people, but since white is seen as nice in Mexico, many will convince themselves to be white, while most Europeans would notice only the exotic native part of their ancestry.

Having said that, my conclusion is that “What am I?” is a good starting point for engaging thinking about our origins and the perception we have of ourselves and other people.

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2016: le mie recensioni / my reviews / meine Rezensionen

Quest’anno ho letto 10 libri (8 ebook e 2 cartacei): 6 in italiano, 3 in inglese e 1 in tedesco. Un paio di mesi fa ho iniziato Colazione da Tiffany di Truman Capote, ma lo terminerò l’anno prossimo perché non ho molto tempo libero. Se vi siete persi le mie recensioni, le potete trovare qui sotto in ordine cronologico. Vi auguro un felice anno nuovo!

This year I have read 10 books (8 ebooks and 2 paperbacks): 6 in Italian, 3 in English and 1 in German. A couple of months ago I started Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I’ll finish it next year since I haven’t much free time. If you missed my reviews, you can find them below in chronological order. I wish you a happy new year!

Dieses Jahr habe ich 10 Bücher gelesen (8 E-Books und 2 Paperbacks): 6 auf Italienisch, 3 auf Englisch und 1 auf Deutsch. Vor ein paar Monaten habe ich Frühstück bei Tiffany von Truman Capote begonnen, aber ich werde es nächstes Jahr beenden, weil ich nicht viele Freizeit habe. Wenn ihr meine Rezensionen verpasst habt, könnt ihr sie unter in chronologischer Reihenfolge finden. Ich wünsche euch ein gutes neues Jahr!

Lo Sri Lanka e due scrittori: Leonard Woolf e Chandani Lokugé1. Wilde Jahre in West-Berlin von Matthias Drawe

2. E alla fine successe qualcosa di meraviglioso di Sonia Laredo

3. Bloom by Papatia Feauxzar BOOK 1: Mistress of the Spices

4. Lie4Me – Professione Bugiarda di Mariachiara Cabrini

5. L’amore violato di Naomi Ragen

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

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God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

God Help the Child (2015) is the last novel written by the Nobel Prize for Literature (1993) Toni Morrison, but I didn’t like it. It didn’t meet my expectations. I thought it was mainly a book about a very specific kind of racism, that of light-skinned Afro-Americans against dark-skinned members of their community, but that is the main topic only in the first amazing chapter where Sweetness is shocked to see her daughter’s ebony skin.

God Help the Child

Bride is the main character and once she grows up she becomes a successful businesswoman for a make-up company. She wears only white clothes and drives a Jaguar. She is a wonderful example of exotic beauty, but when she decides to pay a visit to a woman who has just been released after spending many years in prison, her golden-skinned boyfriend Booker leaves her.

It’s now that the novel turns into an endless series of child abuse cases. When she was eight, Bride accused a teacher of being a child molester so that her unloving mother could be proud of her, the little black girl doing the right thing. The problem is that the poor 20-year-old white woman was innocent, but because of Bride she spent 15 years in prison, so it’s perfectly understandable that she beats her up even if Bride tries to offer her several thousands of dollars when she’s released.

The list of child abuses includes also Bride witnessing her white landlord raping a white boy when she was six years old, a white girl who was sold by her mother to men who wanted to have sex with her, Booker’s older brother being killed by a white serial child molester, Bride’s white friend Brooklyn repeatedly molested by her uncle and Booker’s cousin Hannah who was sexually touched by her father.

Child abuse is surely a terrible thing, but it can’t be possible that almost every character of this novel is affected by this evil. The novel doesn’t sound realistic! There are more sexual abuses here than in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Another element I disliked is the surreal changes in Bride’s body. During the most critical period of her life, she loses her pubic and armpit hair, her chest becomes flat and her ears aren’t pierced anymore. While she’s facing her past, Bride turns again into a scared little girl. It’s only when she finds the fugitive Booker that her womanly attributes reappears. I want pure realism, I don’t like symbolism and I wasn’t expecting it in a novel like this.

Booker is a loser. He has a degree in economics, but he never worked in this field. He leaves his parents’ home after a quarrel and starts playing his trumpet on the streets. During the six months he lives with Bride he idly spends his time reading books and playing with his friends now and then.

At the end of the book both Booker and Bride know each other’s childhood traumas (Adam’s death and the falsely accused teacher) and Bride realizes she’s pregnant, so they decide to give themselves a chance as a couple, even if they are not the best match for each other. Where will they live? What job will they find to earn a living? Booker was a loser from the start, but now also Bride has lost her efficiency after disappearing from her job for two-three months.

The novel closes with the 63-year-old Sweetness living in a nursing home and wishing that God may help Bride’s child, the unplanned boy or girl of her 23-year-old daughter who was born in the 1990s.

 

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Gelo d’autunno a Quieta Radura di Clelia Canè

Gelo d’autunno a Quieta Radura di Clelia Canè è un grazioso libro per bambini ambientato in un bosco popolato da laboriosi topolini che si apprestano ad affrontare l’inverno raccogliendo castagne, noci, funghi e accatastando legna per il fuoco. C’è chi prepara le conserve, chi cuce e chi sorseggia un tè. Con l’arrivo del freddo si accendono i camini, ma arrivano anche i primi malanni di stagione.

Gelo d'autunno a Quieta Radura

Gelo d’autunno a Quieta Radura è un libro dalle piacevoli atmosfere campestri dal gusto rétro. Le numerose illustrazioni che accompagnano la narrazione sono tutte deliziosamente dettagliate e i colori pastello dalle tonalità prevalentemente tendenti al grigio e al marrone si addicono alla stagione autunnale.

Ho vinto una copia di questo libro grazie a un giveaway e l’ho letto insieme a mia figlia di tre anni che però ha avuto difficoltà a concentrarsi a causa dell’elevato numero di personaggi presenti nella storia e per via delle dimensioni ridotte delle illustrazioni di questa edizione tascabile e gli scarsi contrasti di colore in esse presenti.

E per concludere, una piccola osservazione grammaticale: si scrive “finché” e non “finchè”. Attenzione agli accenti! 😉

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