Melanie M Thoughts On Labeling – Isn’t It Time to Put Away GFY?

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Melanie M Thoughts On Labeling – Isn’t It Time to Put Away GFY?

Funny isn’t it when all lines of thought lead to a convergence of minds?  That seems to have happened this past week or two.  But I’ve been thinking of it for some time.  And it seems to come down to this.

Labels.

A simple word that applies to so many people that can be so very hurtful when used or misused, intentionally, unintentionally,  or just because thats a pattern that everyone has fallen into over time.  The M/M romance community has been very vocal of late about one author’s latest release and whether its a GFY or bisexual or what have you. More on that later.  But that’s not a new argument, trust me. She is but the latest target which is unfortunate and undeserved.

We should be  long past such  discussions.  I had sort of hoped that we were.

When LGBT enlarged to embrace more of the sexual spectrum to become LGBTQIA, I was encouraged.  It made me hopeful that I would see a change in outlook on people and in our ability to become more open in our perspectives on not only romance but relationships, people, in every aspect would follow.  And to a degree, that’s happened.

But only to a degree as these past weeks have born witness.

Labels and peoples unwillingness to see beyond certain rigid character/sexual definitions still continue to amaze me.  Do you know I still read/hear people say?  That bisexuality is still a stop over on the road to gaytown.  As though it has no legitimacy, no validity of its own.  Its as though people cannot imagine being attracted to both sexes so obviously they are in denial and therefore, not bisexual at all.  And yes, from the discussions held from friends and strangers on the subject, that amount of dismissal and outright contempt that attitude shows hurts.

There’s another issue here.  That’s the GFY label.  That’s the one that holds so many awful connotations, ones I don’t think people have thought about.  We are long overdue to put that label aside for good.

GFY.  Gay For You. How cutsey.  How not.  What?  Someone can wave a magic wand and make that person gay?  Just for them?  People?  Have you not heard enough rightwingers or conservative religious believers spout that at you already?  Why on earth would you want to perpetuate that as a label?  No, you can’t make someone gay for you.  Look at the science.  We know enough about the sexual spectrum.  We are past this. Long, rainbow colored, unicorn, flag waving, past this.

People are pansexual, bisexual, asexual, asexual romantic, omnisexual, lesbian, gay, every wonderful sexual or non-sexual out there. But they aren’t fucking gay for you! Now having said that, it doesn’t mean that LGBTQIA and non fiction isn’t having an impact in the world, even, sigh, the so-called GFY labeled novels.  Here is part of a wonderful FB post from TJ Klune about the current GFY dustup and a email he received:

So, here’s the thing.

I see drama crap in this genre again, people saying what an author can or cannot write about, if GFY is an acceptable trope or if it’s erasure.

Here’s some perspective to make you think if we’re truly arguing about something petty, or if there is something bigger we could (and should) be focusing on.

Part of an email I received from a reader:

“I live in the most homophobic place on earth where you get stoned to death if you’re discovered as a homosexual. I am from Iraq.

You made me laugh and cry, fall in love, be heart broken and be angry and make stupid mistakes with them. your books are my haven from a prejudiced, blood thirsty reality. you made me believe that there’s beauty in who we are. Paul and Sandy’s friendship? Bear and Creed’s? God, what wouldn’t I do to have that. Paul’s family, his parents, his Nana and even johnny Depp. They’re hope shining and bright and something I wish my family was, something I wish I would be in hopefully a long time.

This has become too long and you may never read it. But, I had to tell you that reading your books is a necessity for me, a drug that keeps me sane when I’m pushed to my breaking point for simple silly things like not wearing a head scarf or wearing makeup. You showed me love in all it’s capacity, in all it’s craziness. I know I may never find something like that but at least I’ll feel it through your characters, through you and your power I won’t say ability no it’s your power to channel emotions.”

 

 

That’s heartbreaking and very powerful stuff.  It made me cry and made me more determined to get this out in the right way. Enough to give you pause, right?

And from another literary corner, author Amy Lane, with many terrific thoughts too on the subject, chiming in here from her blog: http://writerslane.blogspot.com/2016/03/your-drug-of-trope.html?m=1&zx=aab514f9a1daa573.  She talks a little about the history, science and authors viewpoint.  It works but perhaps again doesn’t take in enough of the impact.

Yes, GFY is a literary trope, one that has a history behind it, one that authors themselves may not even use.  But if the ones that write the reviews use it, if the ones that read the reviews use it, then it still continues to have power. Power it shouldn’t have.

Maybe I’m not looking at the wider view yet.  Does this label have an impact on those who are fighting for their lives in third world countries because of who they love?  No, it doesn’t.   Maybe.  But its a perception of love that has a power that carries through populations that might surprise you for such a tiny label that I’m fighting for here.

GFY.   Gay For You.

On the back of that  small three letter label stands centers that think they can change a person’s sexuality, people that think being gay is a disease that can be cured, politicians with banners of hate and a sexuality that’s like magic that can come and go with the wave of a magic wand.

Too strong?  Maybe.

Or maybe not.

So if its not the writers, maybe it time for us  reviewers and readers to ditch the GFY, from our reviews, vocabularies, our tagging, and our minds. Let’s take the first step together.  Really its not as big a step as you think.

On our next reviews, instead of GFY, how about pansexual if it applies, omnisexual, bisexual or, even asexual romantic or somewhere along the sexual spectrum wherever that character may stand.  There is a host of applicable terms…lets use them.  Let’s talk to the author, open up a discussion on sexuality.  This could be an amazing opportunity.  Let’s not lose it to get lost in negativity but use to to move forward once more.

How do you all feel about this?  I want to know.  Are you ready to give up your old labels and move forward?  Let’s put GFY behind us and move forward towards the diversity that LGBTQIA stands for in everyway.

 

 

 

 

Review: Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Into This River I DrownBenji Green is still trying to cope with the loss of his father, Big Eddie Green.  Big Eddie was not only Benji’s father, “the best Father in the whole wide world”, but Big Eddie was also his best friend, his confidant, the person who kept Benji centered, made him feel loved and safe.  It’s been five years since his death by drowning when his truck overturned in a river but to his son it feels like yesterday. Benji tried leaving to go to college but it didn’t work out. Now back in Roseland, Oregon, Benji runs Big Eddie’s Gas and Convenience, just as his father had before dying when Benji was 16.

Benji lives with his mother and her two sisters in the house he grew up.  He is surrounded by places and things that constantly remind him of Big Eddie and he often feels as though his life stopped when his father’s did.  Benji’s nights have always been haunted by nightmares of the river in which his father drowned, mile marker 77 and images of blue feathers swirling around as the waters raged higher.  Benji’s days are haunted too. Fleeting touches of a hand pressed to his neck and grasping his shoulder, a feeling as though someone is there beside him yet when he  turns there is nothing.  But lately, the nightmares have grown worse, more intense until Benji’s feels like he is drowning just like his father.  Sometimes the images come to him during the day, leaving Benji uncertain as to what is real and what  is not.

The whole of Roseland is beginning to feel as though it is waiting, waiting for something to happen.  And when it does, when improbably a man falls from the sky, leaving an impression of wings on the ground, then everything changes for Benji and everyone around him.   This is that story.

It has taken me several weeks before I thought I could make an attempt to write a somewhat rational, less impassioned review of this book.  Trust me this is not the one that would have been written after I completed reading Into This River I Drown for the first time, or even the second time.  I love books and rarely react to them in a dispassionate manner.  I like some, love some, feel disappointed by others and on some occasions, feel so disconnected to the stories, that I feel nothing, a deadly reaction to be sure. Authors never set down to write a story where the reaction by a reader is “huh, I could have been doing my laundry” but I have come across some of those in my time as well.  Into This River I Drown has certainly engendered a multitude of strong feelings in me, because rarely am I absolutely furious with some authors and their stories.  And I will say right now that this book absolutely infuriated me, it had me bawling my eyes out as it pulled feelings about my father and my relationship to him, and had me nodding my head in acknowledgement if not agreement on some issues of faith and religion.  I feel in some parts this is a milestone work for T.J. Klune and a book that undercut itself at the end.  Does this sound like an emotional rollercoaster of a ride?  It should because that is exactly what this book is about.

After having read all of Mr. Klune’s previous works, from BOATK to Burn, and including Tell Me It’s Real, I was not prepared for the tone and narrative that I found within Into This River I Drown (ITRID).  All the characters of the BOATK universe have singular voices that identify them immediately.  The same goes for the scattered, funny and somewhat frazzled outlook of Paul Auster and his friend, Helena Handbasket, from Tell Me It’s Real.  And while Burn is my least favorite story this author has written, I could still tell that it was one of TJ Klune’s by the characters involved and their dialog.  But in ITRID, TJ Klune takes his writing to another higher level.

I found his characters to be richer, with more depth and dimension than anything he has given us to date.  Whether it is Benji, his aunt Nina who is so special in so many ways or his friend Abe, these people will speak to your heart as well as your mind. Now don’t get me wrong I love Bear and the Kid, they are outstanding. But the people of Roseland are something different indeed.  You will find yourself involved in their lives, connected to the town in ways you could never imagine.  There are only a few imperfections that I could see, one that jumps quickly to mind is the character Gabriel who seems far too contemporary rather than unworldly,  Same goes for the Strange Men as they are called. But more than that I cannot say which is very frustrating for a reviewer who does not want to give away spoilers.  This entire book is a spoiler, something I have never really run into before.  Almost any detail I could refer to might be the one spoiler that reveals a significant plot point to the reader.  And I won’t do that.

Into This River I Drown also brings an intense, emotionally laden group of topics at its subject matter.  First and foremost is that of the father and son dynamics, something that has been the focus of many memorable books, poems and movies, whether you are talking about Field of Dreams or the New Testament.  At times I felt as though my heart was being pulled out of my throat, some passages hurt so bad.  Here is an example:

EDWARD BENJAMIN GREEN “BIG EDDIE”

BELOVED HUSBAND AND FATHER

MAY 27 1960—MAY 31 2007

Fifteen words. Fifteen words is all there is to describe the man who was my father. Fifteen words are all that is left of him. Fifteen words that do nothing. They do nothing to show what kind of man he was. They do nothing to show how when he was happy, his green eyes lit up like fireworks. They do nothing to show how heavy his arm felt when he’d drop it on my shoulder as we walked. They do nothing to show the lines that would form on his forehead when he concentrated. They do nothing to show the immensity of his heart. The vastness that was his soul. Those fifteen words say nothing.

The only time my mother and I ever really quarreled in our lives, with any heat behind it, was deciding what his marker would say. She wanted it to be simple, to the point, like the man himself. He wouldn’t want the superfluous, she told me. He didn’t need more.

I railed against her for this, anger consuming me like fire. How dare you! I shouted. How dare she keep it so short? How could she not make it go on and on and on until those who made such markers would have to harvest an entire mountain for there to be enough room to say what he was, what my father had stood for in his life, all that he had accomplished? How could anyone understand the measure of a man when those fifteen words said nothing about him?

Into this treatise on father and son relationships TJ Klune adds the issues of faith, family and religion. Through Benji and the townspeople of Roseland the author expounds on God, religion and faith, especially their effects on those who have lost their belief in all three.  Even if you are a non-religious person like myself, you will still find yourself lost in thought as one element after another is presented for examination and discussion.  I found this element to be as strong in feeling and discourse as the central focus of fathers and sons.  For me, there were some minor missteps when the plot turns to the heavenly aspects of the story but otherwise its inclusion was just as well done as the rest of the story.

So why was I furious? One reason and one reaon only.  Towards the end of the book, TJ Klune ties ITRID into his Burn series, making this almost a prequel of sorts.  I was beyond flabbergasted when certain Burn elements were remarked upon by characters in this book, features such as the character Seven, a child who burns and sentences such as “The Split One has crossed into Metatron’s field.”  Really?  Why was it necessary to take this book and make it part of Burn?  Other readers won’t find this objectionable but as I was less than enthralled with his world building and characters within that budding series, to find it pulled in at the last minute to this story, well I found it appalling, almost negating the importance of the father son relationship so the author could set the stage for actions to follow in the Burn series.  Infuriating actually as I said before.  Still do.

However jarring I found this aspect of the book to be, the rest of the story still contains so much beauty, heartache and spellbinding storytelling, that if I were you, I would overlook that element and take Into This River I Drown for the remarkable work of fiction it is.   Here is Benji remembering the last time he saw his father:

 He lifted his hand from my shoulder and ruffled my hair. I didn’t know it then, but that touch, those fingers in my hair, would be the last time I would feel my father alive. I would see him again, but he’d be cold under my hand, life long since departed.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have clung to him. I would have looked him in the eyes to see that spark of mischief, that undying intelligence that belied his gruff exterior. If I’d known the inevitable, I would have said everything I felt in my heart and soul. I would have told him thank you for being my father. I would have said that if I’m ever going to be a good man, it’s going to be because of the way he’d raised me. I would have said that building Little House together and fixing up that old Ford until it was so cherry were the best times of my life. I would have said that I didn’t think I’d be able to go on without him.

I would have told him I loved him.

But I didn’t. I didn’t because I didn’t know. I didn’t even say good night. Or good-bye.

How can that not leave you in tears?  Writing like that is the reason I love books.  Writing like that is the reason I will tell you to pick this one up and read it more than once.  Into This River I Drown is a remarkable story, full of life’s greatest joys and greatest sorrows.  Don’t pass this book by. Let it make you furious or sad or happy or any of the  other emotions it will pull out of you.  Because it will be worth it.

Cover Photo by Kyle Thompson, Cover Design by Paul Richmond.  This emotionally charged cover is perfection.  One of the best of the year that I have seen so far in marrying composition to story to great impact.

ebook, 400 pages
Published March 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623804094 (ISBN13: 9781623804091)
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3665

Sunday, Glorious Sunday and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Finally, our weather seems to have evened out into a semblance of spring and the day is truly glorious.  The sun is shining, the day is warming up and a slight breeze is ruffling the remaining cherry blossom petals on the trees that line the streets of my neighborhood.  My hostas are now at least 4 inches above the ground, my early azaleas are starting to bloom, and the trees all around are raising almost single handedly the pollen count for the entire Metropolitan area.  In fact all my gardens are shaking off their winter doldrums, waking up to the warm spring sunlight and recent nourishing rains.

I love this time of year, the season of rebirth and new growth.  For me, spring is something I also internalize, a time for changes inside as well as out.  I look at the house and think “time to spruce up a bit, hmmmm, new paint job for the living room?” or maybe just the time to start donating or throwing away those unused or rarely used things around the shed, in the basement or in my closet, definitely my closet.  Time to buck up and get rid of those size 8 jeans that have not seen the light of day since my late twenties or those gaucho pants I so dearly loved in my 30’s.  And what do you know? Jumpsuits are back, but maybe not in that military green and Pointer Sisters style.  I know all trends come back around in time, but really, I doubt I will ever see that size again no matter what Weight Watchers tells me!  Why have I kept a bike helmet when I don’t ride a bike?  And what did I think I was going to do with that broken hand turned coffee grinder?  Wait until it was an antique?  In that case, my basement is full of antiques to be, just waiting for their time in the sun.  Kind of like me. I do admit to looking in the mirror and thinking that perhaps a swath of purple would look amazing in my hair and that maybe a visit to the new tattoo parlor that just opened up might just be the thing to add to my calendar.

Hey, its spring and the possibilities are endless, promise of new growth, any type of growth,  is everywhere.  Why not just go with the flow and see what’s new around you?  New places to explore, new people to meet and  always new authors and new books to take along with you on your journey.  Here are some books you might want to consider:

This is what our week ahead in reviews looks like:

Monday, April 15:                 Fire for Effect by Kendall McKenna

Tuesday, April 16:               The Good Fight by Andrew Grey

Wed., April 17:                       The Fight Within by Andrew Grey

Thursday, April 18:               Highland Vampire Vengeance by J.P. Bowie

Friday< April 19:                    Loving Hector by John Inman

Sat, April 20:                           Into This River I Drown by T.J. Klune

That’s the plan at any rate.  I think I have gotten over my snit fit with Into This River I Drown, at least enough to offer a reasonably objective review.  We will see on  that one, rarely does a book make me want to cheer and smash things as that one did.  And thanks, Lynn, for the recommendation of the John Inman book, that was great.  If any one out there has a book they think I have missed out on, please send me the titles, authors and publishing house.  I make no promises but I am always looking for something new to read.

So, that’s it.  There are gardens calling and color samples waiting to be pondered over.  The terriers are gazing longingly out the windows, telling me its time to head outside.  I totally agree with them.   See you all later.

Glorious Books, A Web Hunt and Glorious Weather Too! What A Week It’s Going To Be!

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The weather is perfection today so I am getting ready to pull on the gardening gloves, turn the water for the outside faucets back on and prepare to spend the day getting down and dirty.  I have ferns, some grasses and even an English Daisy or two to plant and weeds to uproot.  To say the least, I am grinning like crazy in anticipation.

Also this week I am reviewing some books that are not only on Scattered Thoughts “Must Read” lists, they have made my Best of 2013 List as well.  Among them are Sarah Black’s The General and the Horse-Lord, T.J. Klune’s Into This River I Drown, Abigail Roux’s Touch & Geaux and Jay Kirkpatrick’s Freedom.  I can’t remember when I had so many wonderful books to read and recommend that released almost at the same time.  A surfeit of riches for us all to enjoy time and time again.

And on Monday, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is participating along with many other websites in Riptide Publishing’s Web Hunt for ???????????????????????????????????????Abigail Roux’s Touch & Geaux, book 7 in the amazing Cut & Run series.  On April 8, 2013, all participating book blogs will be joining the party by posting about the book and including one of their favorite quotes from any book in the Cut & Run series. Readers who collect each quote and submit their findings to marketing@riptidepublishing.com will be eligible to win one of two runner-up prizes and one grand prize.  More about this Cut & Run fun will be posted tomorrow along with my blog of Cut & Run favorite moments in the afternoon.

What a week!  So here is the full schedule, don’t miss a day!

Monday, April 8:          Riptide Publishing’s Web Hunt for Touch & Geaux,

Scattered Thoughts Favorite Cut & Run Moments

Tuesday, April 9:          Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) by Abigail Roux

Wed., April 10:             Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick

Thursday, April 11:      The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

Friday, April 12:           Brute by Kim Fielding

Saturday, April 13:       Into This River I Drown by T.J. Klune

Really, just turn this week’s lineup into a shopping list because you won’t want to miss a single one.  Now the flowers and worms are calling me, really I can hear them right now.  So off I go or should I say Geaux in keeping with the books this week.  Have a wonderful Sunday everyone and I will see you right here on Monday.

Authors News, Book Reviews and Book Giveaway

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What an exciting and blustery week this has been at Scattered Thoughts!  Things are quite topsy turvy around here! There are  so many notable and anticipated books being released this week that I can almost hear the twitching and scrambling as people get ready to click “download”.  Two of those books are being touted here this week and the next.  And I am equally scampering around trying to get my reviews finished for all of them.  But I will just say this, you are going to love them, hate parts of them and reread them often! Just saying.

Now another thing to bring up is that I had scheduled T.J. Klune’s latest novel, Into This River I Drown for review on Saturday and that is notInto This River I Drown going to happen and here’s the reason why, I finished the book and then just sat there speechless, just absolutely floored.  Really, folks, I was in no way prepared for this novel.  I have read all of Klune’s books, most of which I adored, one not so much and still would never have guessed he would have written such a milestone of a novel, one that people always hope to write but few do.  But I can’t figure out how to write the review, don’t know even where to start yet.  So look for it at the end of next week, hopefully I will have figured it out by then.  But please go get this book, right now even if you have to drop what you are doing to do so.  Read it, finish it, and then let me know what it means to you. I really want to know.

Next on the agenda is that I am participating in Riptide Publishing’s Cut & Run Web Hunt in celebration of the release of Abigail Roux’s seventh??????????????????????????????????????? book in the Cut & Run series, Touch & Geaux.  On April 8th, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, along with other terrific book blogs, will be joining the party by posting about the book and including one of their favorite quotes from any book in the Cut & Run series. Readers who collect each quote and submit their findings to marketing@riptidepublishing.com will be eligible to win one of two runner-up prizes and one grand prize, to be revealed soon.   I will have more on this web hunt on Saturday so stay tuned in.  Again, fyi, I think this is one of the best books in a superlative series, just outstanding, but you will have to wait until Monday to read the full review.

Finally, I know this is going to be a very expensive week for all of you book buyers so I hope to lighten the financial load just a bit for one lucky person.  Tomorrow Sarah Black’s latest book, The General and the Horse-Lord is being released by Dreamspinner Press. To celebrate, Sarah Black is guest blogging here about her characters and soap making.  It’s fascinating post and the book is just terrific. Sarah Black is a must read author for me and you can always find her on my “favorite” lists (see Marathon Cowboys and The Legend of the Apache Kid).  So stop buy tomorrow and leave a comment.  At the end of the day, one lucky person will be chosen from those who commented and they will receive a free copy of The General and the Horse-Lord.GeneralandtheHorse-Lord[The]

Wow, so much going on around here!  Later today I will be reposting my Author Spotlight on Sarah Black in preparation for tomorrow’s giveaway.  So mark all these dates on your calendar, check in with us tomorrow, and let’s finish this week up in style shall we?

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.

Sunday Morning Sports Commentary in Maryland and the Week in Reviews

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Sports are on my mind this morning, so bear with me.  Lots of things going on…..Maryland beat Duke in what will probably be their last matchup because of the change in divisions and money grab. So yeay for Maryland and boo for Maryland.  And it looks like no students were beaten by Prince Georges police in last night’s celebration, so good for that!  A step forward at any rate.

The boys of summer are back in spring training and I have high hopes for the Nationals this year.  Davey Johnson is hanging in there for one more year before he retires and all the boys look healthy and in great shape.  Go Nats!

The Caps are playing again as is the rest of the NHL.  About time, nuf said.  Now if they could just consistently get it together I would be beside the moon.  But I am still rocking the red! Go Caps!

The debate on whether the Redskins should keep its racist name is getting louder but as long as Snyder remains as owner I don’t see any changes coming.  Consider who he is and the actions he has taken to date.  Sued old ladies who were long term fans,  sued a free newspaper, cut  down a gazillion trees against the law along the Potomac to improve his view from his home (never mind the bald eagles there), and generally behaves in almost every instance like a wealthy overindulged brat (in my opinion, lawsuits, people) who knew he could get away with anything and does.  If you have time to waste, run over to the Skin’s website and look at the statements he made as to why the racist name couldn’t be changed.  Yet he sued a free news paper over saying it had called him a Jewish slur.  No it hadn’t but he is brazen enough to use the charge when it suits him,  The bad karma this team is wracking up should see them in bottom of the league for quite some time to come.  RGIII, look around for another team to play for!  The smell around the Skins is rank and getting worse.

In the saddest news out of South Africa, a man, Oscar Pistorius – the Blade Runner has been arrested and charged with premeditated murder.  Already the bloggers and commentators are out in force trying to put their spin on this tragedy.  Was it the instant fame and fortune, a man brought down by hubris?  Or was it his real nature that had been hidden all along.  Perhaps we will never know but you can be sure we will be reading about it for years to come. A very sad end for a remarkable tale of endurance and achievement.

We are still flipping back and forth here weather wise, spring one day, winter the next, and then literally back to spring within hours, so the reviews are along the same lines, all over the place.  Several brand new releases, some older books I am just getting to with the only thing that ties them together is the high ratings:

Monday, Feb. 18:                        Where Nerves End by L.A. Witt

Tuesday, Feb. 19:                        Tell Me It’s Real by T.J. Klune

Wed., Feb.20:                              The Family: Liam by Katey Hawthorne

Thursday, Feb. 21:                      A Volatile Range by Andrew Grey

Friday, Feb. 22:                           Lessons in Trust by Charlie Cochrane

Saturday, Feb. 23:                       Upcoming Author Spotlights

So there you have it.  A gut busting comedy, vampires, cowboys, Cambridge dons, and the first Tucker Springs novel.  All great and none of them should be missed.   And remember to send me your questions that you would love to ask an author!   See you all here on Monday.

Review of Who We Are by TJ Klune

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Rating 5 stars (and 5 more for shear awesomeness as Bear would say)

Who We Are picks up right where last pages of Bear, Otter and The Kid left us.  Derrick “Bear” McKenna, Bear’s brother,Tyson aka the Kid and Bear’s boyfriend, Oliver “Otter” Thompson have overcome some but not all of the obstacles in their path to becoming a family. Bear and the Kid’s mother has vanished again as has Otter’s ex boyfriend.  The three of them are moving into their new house affectionately known as The Green Monstrosity. Bear is going back to school, Otter’s at the photography shop, and the Kid is about to skip ahead a grade at school.  The events of last summer still reverberate through their lives as they try and move forward.  With Otter’s help, Bear is trying for custody of the Kid, the Kid has to see a therapist and things are still cool between Bear and his best friend, Creed who just happens to be Otter’s younger brother. As  usual, the chaos is accompanied by the running dialog in Bear’s brain that threatens to overwhelm him in any given situation. But sometimes the best of families are formed by love and not blood.  With Mrs. Paquinn, Anna and more on their side, the family comes together as they all learn that family is “defined by those who make us whole—those who make us who we are”.

I am always a little hesitant when picking up a sequel to a beloved novel.  My mind is full of questions to go with the anticipation.  Will the characters I came to love retain the same layering, the same quirkiness that captured my heart to begin with? Can the author recreate the magic the first book so beautifully delivered? Will I be happy with the new journey the author takes our heros on?  And I am so happy to be able to tell you the answer to all those questions is a resounding “Hell, yes!”. With Who We Are , TJ Klune delivers a knockout punch of a novel that in many ways supersedes the one that went before. Here we still have all the elements that made Bear, Otter and The Kid so special.  Bear’s jumbled inner commentary still reigns supreme, erupting in nonsensical sentences to the amusement and bemusement of all. The Kid still produces bad poetry and sage pronouncements on the evils of eating meat and the wisdom of Anderson Cooper. Otter is trying to be the strength and glue for all of them even as their emotions and new trials shake the walls they are building around them.  Mrs Paquinn is still her loving eccentric self and her importance to Bear, Tyson and Otter has not diminished. Anna, Bear’s ex girlfriend along with Creed, his childhood best friend are all here.  Everyone is here but supersized.  It’s as though a patina of copper has been thrown over the characters who now shine more brightly, whose nuances and depth reflect out past the pages and into our hearts.  For those who said “Please sir, I want some more.” Here it is. There’s more more here. More emotion, more trials, more complications, more of the realities people face when they come together as a family. And of course, much more love of every type whether it be newly discovered, hard fought, long established, brotherly, and finally fully realized romantic love.  Love is here in its many permutations.

TJ Klune demonstrates with authority his gift with characterization as once more Bear, Otter, the Kid, and new characters roar to life within their story.  Bear is still Bear, insecure, brave, at once burdened and lifted up by stewardship of his little brother. But now that he has accepted his sexuality and Otter’s place within his heart, the character of Bear seems to expand and strengthen.  His inner dialog still runs amuck but wreaks less damage as he talks himself out of one self inflicted panic after another.   Tyson is still that most amazing of kids.  I have met children with the same frightening degree of intelligence so that has always rung true about his character.  But TJ Klune never forgets that Tyson is also a  young child with all the fragility of the young.  When the emotional earthquakes happen, the impact upon the Kid shake not only his family but the reader with its tremors. Otter has never seemed more human than he does within these pages.  Always the strong one, here Otter’s own insecurities and doubts come forward.  He must deal with his family’s reaction to his own coming out and his brother’s lack of communication with him before his goal of a family with Bear and Tyson can become a reality.  With Otter, a good character became great. Dominic is a new character that reaches out with his damaged background and dares the reader not to love him.  And love him you will along with all the denizens of Seafare, past and present. The author never takes the easy out with one dimensional characters or situations.  Instead we are given loving families presented with an upheaval of their status quo, and then shown how they overcome past tragedies and feelings to bring everyone back together.  These people breathe air and walk with large strides across the pages of this novel with certainty and determination.

In Who We Are, TJ Klune never forgets to maintain his story’s emotional balance as comedy is interwoven with equal amounts of heartbreaking angst.  I often found myself laughing and crying together with the characters, as so often both tears of pain and joy mingle as emotions collilde on the same page.  The story is also solidly constructed and those annoying questions left over from BOATK are happily resolved here to my complete satisfaction.  And that prologue was a thing of geeky beauty! As Bear finished with his tale and said goodbye, I was sad to get the end of Who We Are. Even with the wonderful epilogue, their voices spoke so clearly to me that I will miss them so.

You will find no quibbles here within this review.  I loved this book, no ifs ands or buts.This is a book I will come back to when I feel the need to see them all again, especially the Kid and his bad poetry. Here is a sample, trust me it grows on you!

“Bacon is bad! Beef is wrong!

Mad Cow Disease stays with you for a time that’s long!”

For the rest of it, you will just have to buy the book.  You will love it.

There is a wonderful short story Word of the Day, where in the Kid first meets Dominic.  You can find it here at T.J. Klune’s blog A Fistful of Awesome.

Cover:  The cover artist is Paul Richmond.  The cover art for both books always looks as though a young adult had crafted it.  It does give the books a unique look that immediately identifies them but it comes across as less than polished.  Perhaps that is the intent.  Hard to argue with the happy family on the front.

Available at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and ARe.

Review of Bear, Otter And The Kid by TJ Klune

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With the sequel to BOATK out  from Dreamspinner Press, I thought we would take a look back to our first introduction to Bear, Otter and the Kid and some added thoughts from me on these beloved characters.

5 stars

Three years ago, Bear McKenna’s mother took off for parts unknown with her new boyfriend, leaving Bear to raise his six-year-old brother Tyson, aka the Kid. Somehow they’ve muddled through, but since he’s totally devoted to the Kid, Bear isn’t actually doing much living—with a few exceptions, he’s retreated from the world, and he’s mostly okay with that. Until Otter comes home.

Otter is Bear’s best friend’s older brother, and as they’ve done for their whole lives, Bear and Otter crash and collide in ways neither expect. This time, though, there’s nowhere to run from the depth of emotion between them. Bear still believes his place is as the Kid’s guardian, but he can’t help thinking there could be something more for him in the world… something or someone.

That was the publisher’s blurb for BOATK as it is affectionately called now.  But that description doesn’t start to describe the heartwarming, and at times heartrending story that is Bear, The Otter and The Kid.

It is a remarkable story of family and love told through the POV and unique voice of Derrick “Bear” McKinna made even more remarkable for BOATK being the first book written by TJ Klune.  The story is so well done that I found it difficult to separate myself from it and its characters at the end, so real does it feel.  Bear is a beautifully constructed, multilayered character whose voice and thought patterns are so unique that I can tell it is his character at a glance at the phrasing.  Bear has all the conflicted feelings, traumatized emotions and inner denial monster you would expect from a young boy whose mother has stolen the few funds he had saved, written him a crappy note and fled, leaving him the sole responsibility of a young brother with a brilliant mind inside the body of a five year old.  In other words, Bear is still dealing with his hormones, letting go his dream of college, and the constant turmoil and fear that their mother abandoning them has left behind. All through Bear’s actions and sometimes inability to cope, you may get frustrated with this character and want to throttle him, but  it is because everything about Bear seems authentic, including his control issues and need for stability.

The other star of this story is The Kid, also known as Tyson McKenna.  When this story first appeared, there were several reviews that remarked on the Kid’s high level of dialog and shear “smarts”, saying no 8 year old (as he was later in the story) sounded like that.  But I have worked with children for over 20 years and come across others with Tyson’s intellect and outlook.  It is to the author’s credit that I felt I knew the Kid intimately, laughing at his “bad” poetry and crying with him in the bathtub when the emotional hurricanes hit.  I love the Kid, vegetarian and eco terrorist in the making.  And his poetry?  Oh my…… Here’s a sample:

“Otter! Otter! Otter!

Don’t lead cows to slaughter!

I love you, and I know I should’ve told you soon-a

But you didn’t buy the dolphin-safe tuna!”

Half the time I am reading, I am also wheezing with laughter and wiping my eyes.  No really, you have to read this!  And there are other great characters orbiting the two McKenna boys, Creed Thompson, Bear’s best friend forever, Anna, Bear’s girlfriend, Mrs. Paquinn (next door neighbor and Tyson’s sitter), and finally Otter Thompson who is Creed’s older brother and the love of Bear’s life if only Bear can admit he is gay.

The author handles with skill the whole issue of Bear finally admitting he is gay and the pain and anguish that is his companion throughout the process. As Bear admits his sexuality, climbs out and away from the safety of the closet, your tears will flow and your nose is going to run. Just saying. And then you are going to think of every young gay boy out there dealing with his sexuality, the guts it takes to admit you are gay while facing the taunts and jeers of homophobes who may just be your family and neighbors,  and the tears will  start anew.  Keep that box of tissues handy.  You will need all of them. What TJ Klune has done with Bear is give other GLBT youths/young men someone they can identify with, a character  we desperately need to see more often in YA fiction and media.

The closer it gets to Bear’s high school graduation, the more problems seem to accumulate until  Bear is panic stricken and feeling out of control. As the story builds to its climax, you find yourself teetering on the edge of the precipice with Bear and the Kid.  Your heart is in your throat along with theirs, hoping their next step doesn’t see them toppling over the cliff. And you realize what an outstanding job TJ Klune has done to bring you there with the two boys.

I did have a few quibbles as to unanswered questions left at the end of the story and am happy to say they are all answered in Who We Are to be reviewed here tomorrow.  I am also happy to say that Bear, Otter and the Kid will live on.  That’s the word from Klune who has had quite the year, full of ups and downs.  I will let him tell you all about it in this post he wrote for his blog. I am sorry he had that year but quite honestly I think it has made him that much stronger as an author.  Bear, Otter, and The Kid as well as Who We Are have become comfort rereads for me and I think they will do the same for you.  Please give them a chance.  You won’t be sorry.

Cover:  Paul Richmond is the cover artist and I really like this cover with the Kid so prominently featured. The author has said he asked that Tyson be put in that position on the cover as that is his position in the story.  I like it, it makes me smile.  So does the Kid.

TJ Klune can be found here at A Fistful of Awesome.  http://www.tjklunebooks.blogspot.com

Both BOATK books can be bought at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and ARe.

Pork Florentine and the Week Ahead

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This is going to be a great week ahead with some exciting books to be reviewed, including Who We Are by TJ Klune and the first book in a great new fantasy series by Megan Derr.  A Mary Calmes book is reviewed as is the latest book from a new author for me, AR Moler.  Happy Mother’s Day all.  Have a great Sunday!  It’s picture perfect weather here and I am going outside to enjoy it!

Monday:                           Review of Bear, Otter and The Kid by TJ Klune in preparation for its sequel

Tuesday:                           Review of Who We Are by TJ Klune, sequel to BOATK

Wednesday:                     Review of Treasure (Lost Gods #1) by Megan Derr – a real treat for all you fantasy lovers

Thursday:                         Review of Frog by Mary Calmes

Friday:                               Review of How We Operate by A.R. Moler

 

Today is all about the great dinner I fixed last night – a perfect for Mother’s Day or any day at all.  Trust me, you will serve this over and over again.

Rolled Pork Florentine

Serves: 4            Prep time: 3o min  Total Cooking Time: 1 hr 10 min   Total Time: 1 hr 40 min

Ingredients:

1 pork loin, about 2 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 ounces spinach
2 slices bacon, cut into lardons or small pieces about 1/4 inch
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon oil, for frying
1/2 cup white wine

Directions:

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Set the pork on a cutting board and imagine you’re going to cut an upside-down letter T into it: in other words, slice half-way through, lengthwise, then half-way through to the left and the right. Open out the meat. Lay plastic wrap over it, and pound flat with a mallet. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Rinse the spinach and spin dry, allowing a little water to remain clinging to the leaves. Put it in a saute pan, cover, and wilt, about 5 minutes. Lay the spinach on a clean tea or kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Chop, and set aside.

Wipe out the pan and put if back on the stove. Fry the bacon until cooked, remove to drain. Pour off all but a tablespoon or 2 of the fat and fry the onion until golden. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir through the bread crumbs and spinach. Season with salt and pepper.

Pat the stuffing over the meat, leaving a 1-inch border. Roll and tie the pork at 2-inch intervals. Wipe out the saute pan and heat the oil in it. Brown the meat on all sides, pour in the wine, and then transfer to the oven and roast until done, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest 10 minutes. Wrap for later, or slice and serve with the pan juices poured over.