Review: How I Met Your Father by L.B. Gregg

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

How I Met Your FatherFormer boy band member Justin Hayes is in a plane on his way to San Juan, the wedding destination of his good friend and former band member Chuck.  Justin would rather be home in Chicago, preparing for a wintery Christmas than on this plane, as he has never liked flying.  But Justin is the best man and the one most likely to make sure the wedding goes off without a hitch.  Then the plane hits turbulence, Justin panics and only his gorgeous stranger in the seat next to him keeps him steady enough to survive the wild ride before landing safely at the San Juan airport.  Then Justin notices just exactly how hot the man is leading to wild sex in the airport bathroom.

Jack Bassinger is not a happy man.  His only daughter has just informed him that she is marrying a man he has never met and its a destination wedding on the island of San Juan on short notice.  Along with his son, Jack is traveling when all he really wants is to stay at home for the holidays.  When the plane hits major turbulence, Jack notices that his adorable seat mate is starting to hyperventilate and acts as subtly as possible to give him comfort until the ride evens out.  But a little comfort turns into a white hot anonymous sexual encounter in the airport bathroom and suddenly the trip starts to look that much better.

Neither man expected to see each other again.  Both men were wrong, oh so wrong.  They meet again at the groom’s bachelor party and the wedding starts to go off course from there.  Is a real relationship possible when it starts out lost in confusion, best intentions and hopeless attraction?  Justin and Jack certainly hope so.

I love LB Gregg.  Her Albright and Romano books are among my most favorite light-hearted romance stories.  So I was delighted to see that she was releasing a new story, How I Met Your Father, just in time for the holidays.  How I Met Your Father has everything I have come to expect from this author.  It’s heartwarming, has great characters and more than its share of laughter filled moments that will leave a reader smiling.

Two dissimilar men meet in an adorably unexpected way with complications for both that neither see coming.   There is a marked difference in ages but Gregg shows us that both men are on equal standing in outlook and maturity, something that cannot be said for either Jack’s daughter or Justin’s bandmates.  As with any classical comedy setup, there is the surprise drama and a reveal scene as funny as you would hope it to be.  I often found myself smiling away and wishing I was lurking about on the outskirts of the wedding party just to watch the proceedings and the drama unfold.   LB Gregg has added the extra component of Justin’s closeted status and the impetus needed to make that final step out into the open.

If I have any quibbles about this story, it would be that the sense of light hearted fun also lacks a certain depth that I also associate with her writing, for with every laugh there is normally a moment of sadness or loss.  This story certainly has that possibility within it as the aspect of Jack’s daughter and Chuck’s almost unconscionable behavior towards Jack is never clearly or as satisfactorily resolved as one would hope.   Another scene or two where that all plays out plus one with Jack’s son would have made it all the more realistic and satisfying.

But those quibbles aside, I loved this story.  I loved Jack and Justin especially.  They are wonderful main characters, layered, emotionally real and their romance hit all my buttons.  I absolutely recommend this story to all lovers of light comedic romance and holiday love affairs that turn into happily ever afters.  How I Met Your Father is a lovely, happy romp, perfect for the Holidays and beyond.

Cover Art by L.C. Chase, http://lcchase.com/design.htm.  A fun cover but somewhat generic in design.  It could be for any book located on a beach.

Special Author Note:

20% of all proceeds from this title are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org

Book Details:

98 pages
Published November 18th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626490840
edition language English
Buy Link url http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/how-i-met-your-father

Review: The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings

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Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5

The Queen's Librarian coverLucas Tripp is the Queen’s Librarian.  He is also her cousin, her much poorer cousin.  He has a mother who loves to spend money and six sisters, four of whom need husbands and expect Lucas to find them suitably wealthy ones as their status  (and their mother) dictates.  Lucas also runs their family estate, takes care of their offerings to the gods and tries to find time to spend with his patient and oh so gorgeous boyfriend Alex Booker.  But nothing is running according to plan, any plans.  One of Lucas’ sister is being courted by a renown womanizer who  just so happens to be his boyfriend’s brother. Then when another sister finally settles on a suitable  suitor,  the man disappears amidst a flurry of speculation and  a tinge of magic.

Before Lucas realizes it, he is in the middle of a multitude of mysteries.  Where did his sister’s suitor disappear to?  What happened to the rains?  Who is the man who keeps popping in and out of his life and rooms, only to mutter a mysterious foreign phrase or two and then disappear?  Everything seems to come back to The Stone Circle and the Daimin but what does it all mean?  Lucas must find the truth, get his sisters married ,save the towns harvest, and make his cousin, the Queen happy.  Oh, and find time to spend with his boyfriend.  What is a Queen’s Librarian to do?

Carole Cummings’ Wolf’s-own series was fantastic and one of my favorites last year.  So when I saw she released a new book I couldn’t wait to read it.  I was expecting marvelously intricate world building, multilayered characterizations and a tight, deep story worthy of the first two elements.  Unfortunately, I found none of that here.  In fact, The Queen’s Librarian is almost the antithesis of those amazing stories and it seems she planned it that way.  In her dedication, she mentions that Fen of the Wolf’s-own series was the reason for this story. In her own words:

“Fen, because if it hadn’t been for the bleak despair that was his headspace, I would never have needed Lucas and Alex to brighten up the path away from his angsty abyss.” – Carole Cummings

Unfortunately, everything that was right with Fen is wrong with Lucas.  Once again, it all comes back to characterization as the key to a story and at the heart of this story is one character so diffuse that he lacks a core personality to relate to.  Lucas Tripp is one of those flighty, scatterbrained characters who dither and mumble and stumble their way through their life and the story.  You can always count on them to be forgetful, naive to the point of stupidity, and have the focus of a Magpie.  Have I left out any characteristics of this type of personality?  Oh, right, they are also unaware of their good looks, kind, and prone to a punctuation free, never ending style of inner monologue.

I have seen quite a few of these characters lately.  Some I loved because they were so well done or their dialog was fun if not downright delightful.  Others not so much.  Unfortunatelyl, Lucas falls into the latter category.  I will give you a sample of Lucas and the narrative you will encounter:

THERE was a bit of a scuffle, with Bramble assuming he and his muddy paws would be welcome in the house and Lucas begging to differ. Lucas won. Just barely. And Cat seemed a little too pleased with it all, so much so that she deigned to greet Lucas with a stretch and a serpentine saunter over to her milk bowl—on the shelf over the stove to deter Bramble from slurping it—rather than her usual slow blink and yawn. Or, in Bramble’s case, her usual glare of death and warning extension of claws. Lucas obligingly fetched her the last of the milk and let the reverberating contented purr that rumbled through the quiet of the little house soothe him as he stripped and changed. His clothes smelled of pub. He hadn’t noticed it when he’d dragged them back on this morning, or when he and Alex had been walking home, but now… drat it all, had he spilled ale all over his shirt? Or maybe taken a swim in it?

He tossed the shirt into the growing pile in the corner. There was a basket under there somewhere, he was sure of it, that he was going to have to gather up one of these days and present to Miss Emma. The anticipated oh-whatever-are-we-going-to-do-with-you look that always came along with the occasion was what held him back. He should learn to wash his own clothes… someday. He should also learn to cook. Toast and cheese and the occasional egg did not a satisfying diet make. And if he learned to cook, he wouldn’t have to spend so much time up at the main house, suffering through yet another not-quite-lecture about Why Certain Young Men Should Have Already Given Their Mothers Grandchildren. As if there weren’t enough of the little creatures about the place for supper every Sun’s Day. Sometimes Lucas wondered if Pippa and Nan weren’t actually in some kind of competition for who could produce the most children in the shortest amount of time.

Thank God they weren’t Lucas’s problem anymore. He was going to have to dump his wages from the Library into the estate’s coffers again, he could see it coming now. He’d been hoping to at least buy Clara’s handfasting dress for her, but he wasn’t as optimistic now as he’d been only a week or so ago. Slade had taken the news of his prospective wife’s poverty extraordinarily well, almost weirdly enthusiastically, actually, nearly doing backflips to assure Lucas that he was in love with Clara and not her supposed dowry. And he hadn’t even been drunk yet. It endeared him almost instantly to Lucas, and even Alex had been soppily charmed. Of course, there was still the meeting with Slade’s parents to get through before everything was official, and the Queen had to approve, if Lucas ever got the chance to put the request to her, but Clara wanted this, and it was a love match, not a contract of convenience, so Lucas would make it happen.

And this is pretty typical of all 224 pages of The Queen’s Librarian.  It just goes on and on and on as Lucas goes on and on and on.  He rambles, he dithers, he’s myopic and the narrative reflects that in descriptions, dialog and plot.  It made my eyes glaze over.  For me to find this type of personality charming, I need to feel that the character has a solid foundation beneath all that fluttering and I never got that from Lucas.  His is a personality so wispy it’s almost airborne.

The plot of The Queen’s Librarian suffers from some of the same elements that mark this book’s characterizations.  It rambles yet the reader can clearly identify the villains almost immediately and determine where the plot meander off course.  It’s a dense morass of words that makes it hard to find your way through the storyline.  And there is a neat plot here but it is buried so deep under layers of extraneous words that it gets lost. The best part of this story is actually the last quarter (or less) of the book.  The story gets a dynamic turn as the “aha” moment arrives, magic splatters off the walls and finally we see some action, instead of the constant rambling discourse that is the trademark of the majority of this story.

If I were to pinpoint the things I liked about The Queen’s Librarian, I suppose it would be the dog, the actual plot underneath it all, the Queen and her Consort.  He seems like a fellow I would share a bit of candy with.  The rest of the characters are a likable enough lot but would I spend another 224 pages with them? I don’t think so.  I certainly couldn’t read this book again.  As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t give this a 3 rating.  Sigh.  For some of you, perhaps, just the fantasy aspect alone will make the story acceptable or better.  For everyone else, I will recommend Cummings Wolf’s – own series to start with.  Those books contain remarkable stories, with memorable characters and a substantial, intricate plot that flows through the series.  Read those and leave this one alone.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  The cover is delightful, light in tone and design.

Book Details:

ebook, 224 pages
Published July 26th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623808693 (ISBN13: 9781623808693)
edition language English

Review: Tell Me It’s Real by T.J. Klune

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Rating: 5 stars

Tell Me Its Real coverIt’s Paul Auster’s 30th birthday and he’s spending it pretty much like he does every night, waiting for his best friend, Helena Handbasket the drag queen to go on stage and perform.  Sure he could be down in the crowd of gorgeous gay boys but he knows that he is just not their type or anyone’s type.  Paul looks at the mirror and sees a slightly pudgy, totally gay, shy, boring guy.  Certainly not the type to turn heads or break hearts.  He lives in Tuscon where he has a house, his best friend Sandy aka Helena Handbasket, a two legged dog named Wheels, and  his two devoted and slightly insane parents.  His grandmother loves him, her homophobic parrot, Johnny Depp doesn’t.  That’s pretty much it and then it all changed in one night just as it did for his parents.

His name is Vince Taylor and he is everything every good gay boy dreams will someday come and drag him off to Happily Ever Afterland.  He’s tall, gorgeous, sex on two legs and everyone is trying to date him, have sex with him or just stand next to him.  And for some reason Vince wants to go out with Paul.  Paul just doesn’t get it, and keeps saying no in every way possible even though his heart, best friend and certain appendages tell him he’s crazy.  Then Paul puts Vince in the hospital after his car and Vince’s bike have their own run in of sorts and he must take Vince home to watch over him after he is released from the hospital.  Just getting to know Vince better brings them closer and hope starts to spring up inside Paul that maybe, just this once, love just like his parents and others have can be theirs, that just once it’s all real.

Ok first let’s start with a Public Service Announcement:

If you suffer from chronic COPD, Asthma, or any other pulmonary thingy that makes you pass out when you heave with laughter, make sure you have your inhalers and a close friend handy before you start the first chapter . And then keep them beside you and for every chapter after that until the book is finished.  Better yet, have a BFF read it aloud for you.  That way when you pass out, help in available to revive you so you can continue on. Or they can explain the circumstances to the EMTs. I am just saying.

End Public Service Announcement.

Now to the review.  From “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” or perhaps “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” , these opening sentences will forever stay in your hearts and memories, evoking the books that made them famous.  Add to that list (ok maybe way down on the list) the following sentence:

“JUST so you know, I don’t have a gargantuan penis.”

And immediately you know you are in the presence of a unique, and definitely off kilter mind.  That mind happens to belong to Paul Auster, the outrageous, unforgettable, and wholly vulnerable character created by T.J. Klune for Tell Me It’s Real.  I will tell you right now I don’t ever remember laughing so much or so hard ever when reading a book and I have read a ton of books.  Paul Auster is just such an amazing character but he needs to come with warnings.

Warning One. Paul’s inner voice, and ok , his outer voice too. It is a constant stream of thoughts strung together in an order that nature might not approve of.  One subject is started on and then Paul’s inner voice  hijacks that subject, twists it, turns it, making balloon animals out of it and somehow you end up somewhere totally unexpected and ahem, lively.  This will take some getting use to.  Please gather your patience, or whatever you need to and stay with it until his unique narrative winds its way into your heart.  It will get there.  It took me a couple of chapters even while laughing away to really get into his mind and heart but once there, I was hooked and stayed hooked.

Paul Auster is an endearing man.  I love him.  I want everyone else to love him too.  T.J. Klune has done a marvelous job with this book because he gifts us not only with Paul Auster but with his entire family, his best friend Sandy, aka the fabulous and fierce Helena Handbasket, his dog Wheels (and can I say that dog almost wheeled away with his parts of the story), his parents, grandmother, well everybody.  And then there is Vince Taylor.  I won’t go into Vince’s characteristics, I think that would almost spoil the joy of meeting him in the story.  From his own offbeat look at life to his generous heart, Vince will stay with you on the same deep level that connects you to Paul.  Each person you will meet within these pages has such a distinctive and down right idiosyncratic voice that you never lose track of any individual or their part in this story.  You can’t, they are all unforgettable and human.  What a magnificent job the author has done in creating this cast of characters.

Warning Two, an endearing storyline you won’t want to end except when you want to throttle Paul. Is there a plot amongst all these denizens of Tuscon’s quirky underbelly?  Sure boy meets boy, boy doesn’t believe he is good enough but the other boy does, boys get together eventually and live happily ever after.  T. J. Klune takes this simple storyline we have read before and elevates it with humor, compassion, and love, all the while making us giddy because we are oxygen deprived from the laugher or sometimes its tears.  This story is full of heart as it addresses the challenges that come from meeting all life can throw at you and still be standing looking forward to the future, and if you are lucky someone is standing there with you.

Warning Three.  You will start  spending time texting things like    sex face >_< or blow job face *o* or making up your own.  Maybe blowjob face for varying sizes,  you know *o*, *O*.     Really, it’s exasperating because you can’t stop. O_o

Warning Four.  See Public Service Announcement.  No, seriously, I thought I was going to need oxygen. Early on there’s this part where Paul starts to choke on a piece of lettuce…..nope I will let you read that one for your self.  In fact, hardly any of this book can be safely quoted in a family friendly media or Amazon, well I am sure you are getting the picture.

Are there real Paul Austers out there?  I believe so and T.J. Klune has so beautifully given them a voice here.  For every gym queen there are those happily in love with their Prius, their carbs and their lower key lifestyle.  But then T. J. Klune thinks it’s ok to be a gym bunny too because when it comes down to it, it is still the inside of a person, their true nature that counts.  Tell Me It’s Real should speak to everyone who reads it because it speaks to our vulnerabilities, to our ability to connect with others, including that one person who just might be the love of your life if only you give them the chance.

Pick up this book, give Paul Auster a chance to work his titled, off center magic on you.  You won’t be sorry.  And just in case, get the phone, friend and oxygen handy.  You will need them.  More please, Mr. Klune.

Cover art by Reese Dante is absolute perfection.  I love it, love the story, they are just irresistible in every way.