Tag Archives: Fiction

T. J. Klune, How to be a Normal Person

(2018-04-30 001) DELETETitle: How to be a Normal Person

Author: T. J. Klune

Publication Information: Tallahassee, FL : Published by Dreamspinner Press, c2015

ISBN: 978-1-63476-579-4 (digital); 978-1-63476-578-7 (print)

Library of Congress Classification:
PS3611.L86

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Gay men–Fiction
Drug utilization–Fiction
Asexual people–Fiction

Gustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this and so does everyone in Abby, Oregon. He has a ferret named Harry S. Truman, and he reads encyclopedias before he goes to bed. He talks to as few people as possible, which isn’t too hard since he runs a video rental store. Besides the few customer interactions he has, he talks to Lottie, who owns Lottie’s Lattes, and three elderly women known as the We Three Queens. They ride Vespas.

His life continues in it’s daily rut until he meets asexual stoner and hiptser Casey, a relative of Lottie’s who has come to stay in Abby. The world Gus knows is thrown completely out of order as he cannot resist the attraction to the hip stoner. Therefore Gus decides that he wants to be “normal.” Gus goes to great lengths to discover the “secrets” of being a “normal” person so that Casey would like him.

I’ve never read a book by T.J. Klune, but I fell in love with this one almost immediately. Gus lost his father, Pastor Tommy (he’s not really a cleric, just a title given to him by everyone in Abby), a few years before the story begins; his mother left them when Gus was five. Gus is anti-social and tries to control all interactions he has with people. (My impression was that he might be on the autism spectrum.) He limits the time he talks to them and has no real interest in small talk, but all this begins to change.

The book is quite sweet. Gus wants so badly to be with Casey that he finds an Internet site on how to be normal and then proceeds to use the information with hilarious results. There is a lot of drug use in the book, Pastor Tommy being a pothead and Casey having used the drug off and on. This seemed to offend a few people who gave the book bad reviews on Amazon. Casey, being asexual, really isn’t interested in the act of sex; he prefers hugs, so there are no hot and heavy sex scenes.

I wondered about Gus’ relationship with Pastor Tommy, but it unfolds over the course of the entire book. We learn that there was real love Pastor Tommy had for his son, and that Gus really misses his father. (Pastor Tommy died of cancer.) It’s quite poignant. The book is cleverly written.

The book was thoroughly enjoyable, and I highly recommend it.

 

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Jenn McKinlay, On Borrowed Time

(2015-01-17 005)Title: On Borrowed Time

Author: Jenn McKinlay

Series: A Library Lover’s Mystery, book 5

Publication Information: New York: Berkeley Prime Crime, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-425-26073-9

Library of Congress Classification: PS3556.R45

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Norris, Lindsay (Fictitious character)—Fiction
Briar Creek (Conn. :  Fictitious place)—Fiction
Christmas—Fiction
Library directors—Fiction
Public libraries—Fiction
Murder—Investigation—Fiction
Kidnapping–Fiction
Man-woman relationships–Fiction

This is the fifth book in A Library Lover’s Mystery series.

Lindsay Norris is the public library director of Briar Creek, Connecticut, a small New England town. She lives in an apartment with her dog, Heathcliff, and is part of a love triangle with local taxi boat captain, Mike Sullivan, and recently arrived (and married) British actor, Robbie Vine.

The town is preparing for Christmas. The library is decorated, and we get to meet the locals as the book progresses. Beth, the children’s librarian, is one of Lindsay’s best friends. Unfortunately, Beth also has a thing for Lindsay’s brother, Jack. Jack is an economist; he travels the world having one adventure (or misadventure, depending on your point of view) after another as he helps companies across the globe.

Jack sneaks into the library through and open window and Lindsay discovers him. Of course Jack doesn’t come right out and tell her that he’s in trouble. That would be too easy. He promises to tell her everything after he takes a nap. Lindsay was going to use the room for her library book club, but Jack’s presence causes her to move the meeting to another room.

Lindsay later finds the body of someone she doesn’t know in the room, and Jack is now missing. She does not tell the police the entire story of what happened, and she ends up getting Mike and–to a lesser extent–Robbie involved in the case. Mike and Lindsay witness Jack’s abduction by speedboat. Then Lindsay is threatened not to tell the police or her brother would be killed.

Beth is an interesting character. As a librarian responsible for teenage programming, she gets dressed up in a steampunk outfit to lead a teenage group in a get-together at the local restaurant. She’ a bit eclectic, and these are the types of characters that I like. To an extent she marches to her own drum and doesn’t care what others think. The book includes book club members’ recipes, one of which is Beth’s.

The love triangle isn’t something that I can relate to, since I’ve never been in one. Mike and Robbie do compete for Lindsay’s attention, and try to one-up each other. Robbie is only married for convenience and promises to divorce his wife.

It’s Christmas time and the library is decorated, but there really isn’t a feel for the holiday. The only time that Christmas comes into the picture is when Lindsay debates on whether or not to tell her parents what happened to Jack; the family is supposed to get together for the holiday.

As for Jack, eh. He’s just another pretty boy. It’s stretching reality to believe that archaeologists could live the life of Indiana Jones let alone economists. I sympathize with poor Beth, who’s bound to get burned in one of the upcoming novels.

American Association of Patriots, How to Talk to Your Cat about Evolution; How to Talk to Your Cat about Gun Safety

(2015-03-28 001)Title: How to Talk to Your Cat about Evolution

Author: The American Association of Patriots

Publication Information: Slaton, TX: The American Association of Patriots, c2014

Library of Congress Classification: PN6231.C23

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Cats—Humor
Evolution—Humor
Creationism–Humor

(2015-03-28 002)Title: How to Talk to Your Cat about Gun Control

Author: The American Association of Patriots

Publication Information: Slaton, TX: The American Association of Patriots, c2013

Library of Congress Classification: PN6231.C23

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Cats—Humor
Firearms—Humor

Two very important topics, evolution and gun safety, are addressed by the pamphlets from the American Association of Patriots. They are aimed to safeguard an important member of the family: the cat.

Evolution vs. creationism is how the argument has been cast for over a century. I remember discussing this in a grade school class. (Yes, I am old.) The debate raged until one student raised her hand and asked, “Why can’t it have happened both ways?” In other words, evolution happened as God directed creation. This stumped the class. Later, upon reflection, I decided this made perfect sense, which is why the current debate is a non-issue.

This might be the best way to approach the issue with your cat. I think most cats would agree. Cats have many things on their minds, like where to sun themselves today, and cannot become bogged-down in science and theological discussions.

One suggestion is for the owner to open several Bibles to different books. The cat will, of course, lay on them, thus having the opportunity to absorb the holy wisdom. I have tried this with textbooks, putting them under my pillow before going to bed, but with no success; I always did poorly on tests. However, those textbooks were not the Word of God.

Gun safety is a completely different issue. Cats cannot absorb anything from lying on guns. You need to actively get your cat involved in learning how to handle and store guns safely. Without such training accidents, perhaps fatal ones, will happen.

Once a cat is taught how to handle a gun and the responsibilities that come with it, you will immediately reap the benefits. A cat packin’ heat while you are away becomes a formidable adversary for any miscreant who wanders onto your property.

Frankly, these pamphlets can be adapted to teach dogs about gun ownership. Dogs are (supposedly) as smart as cats. A dog’s soul is just as valuable (depending on who you talk to) as a cat’s, and once inoculated against the one-sided evolution argument, the dog can then move onto learning about guns. Canine use of firearms can be just as lethal as feline use. Perhaps even more so.

Think about the safe walks you will have with your dog.  With your dog carrying a gun, no one will think to harass either of you. However, it is essential to get your dog to understand that postal workers are good, else you may come home and find a corpse on your doorstep. Also, kitty needs to understand that blowing away birds and small animals is not a responsible way to use a gun.

All in all, very valuable pamphlets on how to educate and teach your cat about these important issues. Highly recommended.

 

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman

Publication Information: New York: William Morrow, 2014 (1st pbk. ed.)

ISBN: 978-0-06-234324-6

Library of Congress Classification: PR6057.A319

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Boys—Fiction
Good and evil—Fiction
Reality—Fiction

I am ashamed to say that this is the first book I’ve ever read by Neil Gaiman.

Not that I haven’t had friends encouraging me to read Gaiman’s works. I just never got around to it. So when I spotted this book, which is under 200 pages, was in Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon, I decided to give it a try. The two people who I was with had also read it, and loved it.

This is the story of a boy who ends up getting involved with the supernatural activities of his neighbors, the Hempstocks. These three women are independent, and the boy, at the age of seven, befriends Lottie, who is eleven. He is with her and inadvertently gets into trouble when his heart is used as a gateway into this universe by something calling itself Ursula Monkton, who wants to give everyone everything that they ever wanted. This is not a good thing, and the Hempstocks attempt to protect the boy while trying to get Ursula to leave this dimension. Meanwhile, she ingratiates herself into the boy’s family.

It’s a good story. Gaiman, who is interviewed in the back of the book, compares the Hempstocks to the Maiden-Mother-Crone aspect of many goddesses. (I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even pick up on this.) The interviewer points out that the only people with names in the book are the Hempstocks and Ursula; all other characters are referred to by how they dress or by role, e.g. the boy’s sister, father, etc. The story is told from the first person, that of a man remembering an adventure when he was seven.

I enjoyed the book thoroughly. It was a good read, and Gaiman is very clever in how he constructs the story and how it eventually ends. I like how Gaiman writes, too. Listening to the man talk about his feelings and the things he says as a child is believable. This book could be read by children as well. Ursula is a nasty character, but I don’t think the action is too scary. There is violence, but nothing too graphic, and a sex scene that is seen from a child’s perspective. The entire book reads like a fairy tale or something that takes place outside the normal plane of existence.

A really good book.

JoAnna Carl, The Chocolate Book Bandit

(2015-01-30 001)Title: The Chocolate Book Bandit

Series: A Chocoholic mystery

Author: JoAnna Carl

Publication Information: New York, N.Y.: Published by the Penguin Group, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-451-46754-6

Library of Congress Classification: PS3569.A51977

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Woodyard, Lee McKinney (Fictitious character)–Fiction
Warner Pier (Mich. : Fictitious place)–Fiction
Murder–Investigation–Fiction
Public libraries–Fiction

Lee McKinney Woodyard has been invited to become a trustee of the Warner Pier Public Library, which has a new director, Henry “Butch” Cassidy. She attends one of the meetings where, unfortunately,  one of the trustees is murdered right before a meeting, Lee becomes a suspect as do the trustees.

Told in the first person, the book slowly reveals who Lee is: married (her second), the manager of TenHuis Chocolate, a specialty shop in Warner Pier, Michigan. (Chocolate trivia is given between every couple of chapters.) Her and her husband grew up in this small town, where everyone knows everyone’s business. She also twists her words when she’s nervous. As the niece-in-law of the local police chief, Lee seems to have an inside track on certain information.  When someone tries to kill Lee, she is forced to deal with having police protection.

Lee ends up investigating the death and well as what’s going on in the library. One of Warner Pier’s local elite has an interest in the basement in the library. Why? Lee finds herself attracted to Butch as her husband seems more and more distant, spending time with his former high school flame.

The book is good, but the reveal of the murderer left me a bit flat. I think part of the problem is that I really do like Shelly Freydont’s murder mystery books.

Garrison Keillor, Pontoon: a Lake Wobegon Novel

2015-01-05 001Title: Pontoon: a Lake Woebegon Novel

Author: Garrison Keillor

Publication Information: New York, N.Y. : Viking/Penguin, 2007.

ISBN: 978-0-670-06356-7

Library of Congress Classification: PS3561.E3755

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Lake Woebegon (Minn. : Fictitious place)–Fiction
Families–Fiction

Ah, Lake Woebegon.

I just happened to pick up this book used because I had forgotten my bag of goodies at home and was going to lunch alone, so I wanted to read something. Besides, the dust jacket is a map of Lake Woebegon.

I was introduced to Lake Woebegon from two cassettes of Keillor’s Halloween stories that he performed live. I rarely listen to the radio, so I don’t hear Keillor’s regular stories about Lake Woebegon. But I really liked the Halloween tapes–until my car’s tape deck ate one of them. (Still need to replace it on CD.)

This novel starts with the death of one of Woebegon’s oldest citizens, Evelyn Frances Powell, who dies peacefully in her bed at home.

Barbara, her overweight, alcoholic daughter, finds Evelyn the next day. Their relationship was strained, and Barbara just sits with the body for a time. She finds a letter addressed to her in which Evelyn states that she wants to be cremated, her ashes deposited in her bowling ball and then dropped into Lake Woebegon. Typically, this creates a problem for Barbara with her relatives.

Barbara (and Evelyn’s) story eventually becomes intertwined with that of the “commitment ceremony” (“it’s not a marriage”) of Debbie Detmer, one former resident who, at the age of 14, decided to turn nasty and selfish. Abandoning her parents, she moved to California where she eventually made millions on aromatherapy for the Hollywood elite’s pets. Her beau is expected to arrive the day before the ceremony.

In one of life’s bizarre twists, Barbara only starts to live after Evelyn’s death. She begins collecting the letters that her mother sent her from the places that she visited. Barbara discovers that her mother had an entire other life, one where she traveled extensively and had a boyfriend. It is through this process of discovery that Barbara becomes closer to her mother than she had ever been before.

Barbara learns from Evelyn”s letters that life really is too short to waste. She stops drinking and decides to give her mother the burial she wants–which coincidentally takes place on the beach at Lake Woebegon on the same day as Debbie Detmer’s “commitment ceremony.” This results in a real mess that Evelyn would have loved.

How can you not like the people of Lake Woebegon? Barbara becomes a better person by discovering her mother’s past and understanding who she was. Debbie, too, learns a lesson, that she hasn’t been a very nice person for a very long time, that and her arrival home saved her father’s life. (His bizarre behavior, attributed to a bump on the head by Debbie’s mother, was caused by diabetes that needed treatment and management.)

A very fun read. I finished it in a day.

Joe Boland, You are Here: Stories

(2014-09-20 001)Title: You are Here: Stories

Cover Title: You are Here: Romville Stories

Author: Joe Boland

Publication Information: Homewood, IL: Ramsfield Press, 2013.

ISBN: 978-0-9838589-3-5

Library of Congress Classification: PS3602.O5263

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Romville (Ct. : Fictitious place)–Fiction
Life–Fiction
Men–Fiction

First, let me say that the author is the brother of a good friend of mine, and I promised that I would review this anthology quite a while ago.

And this is what it is: a collection of short stories. Normally I read (and review) novels; I rarely read short stories. Romville, Connecticut, is the fictitious town where the stories take place; sometimes the everyday meets The Twilight Zone there.

Most of the protagonists are down-on-their-luck types. In This Story, a crooked cop causes a fellow officer to get shot in the face. (“I watched him shamble down the hall. Dave Dooley, last of the good guys. So what if he was queer?”) The cop is later murdered, which leads his crooked partner to solve the case. Alf, the protagonist in Well She Killed Me, takes as his lover one of his best friends’ spouses. He claims to have always loved her, but she does not return the feeling. Her husband is terminally ill, and she has children. Where the World Goes When the World Goes Away (You are Here) is a take on the Oedipus myth. Al’s woman has been in chemotherapy but dies of cancer. He sees “King Death” driving down the street on occasion with someone who died two years before. Al needs to talk to him …

Ah, teenage angst—again. Charlie looks back on his life at the age of seventeen in Division Street (Boxboy in Zion). Another teenager love story is Roaring Girl. This teenager’s girl Friday needs his help when she finds out she’s pregnant—and being Catholics, abortions are a definite no-no.

My Life Up Until Now is sad but interesting. This is the longest story in the anthology. Dominic, a young man, recollects his childhood of mistreatment, living in the caretaker’s cottage on an estate. His father abandoned Dominic when he was a boy. His mother calls him Dummy and the estate owner doesn’t like him. Secrets are slowly uncovered–with consequences.

Dreamy is the most disturbing. We are introduced to a psychopath who falls in love with a teenager whose mother is dying and she has a younger brother. The protagonist is already married, of course. This is one character that elicits no sympathy.

The stories are very well-written, and I liked some of the characters, but my taste in fiction is not short stories and (right now) mysteries. Nonetheless, there is a mixture of stories here on the human condition–with some supernatural elements.