Monday, July 2, 2012

Booyah Books! The Long, Hot Summer

Hey everyone, the wonderful Lisa from
 The Novel Approach is back  to give us another installment of Booyah Books!

It's hard to believe the month of June has already come to an end. In fact, it's hard to believe this year's half over already. Kind of amazing how fast time flies when your nose is almost constantly buried in a book, yeah? It was a mixed bag of reading experiences for me this month, so since I read some great books in a variety of different sub-genres, I think I'll break things down that way, just to make it a bit easier, 'kay? 'Kay. Without further ado, here we go:

Romantic Comedy:

I'm just going to come right out and say it: I love Ethan Day's sense of humor. He manages to do snark like no one else I've ever read, and just when you think his characters couldn't take life and love less seriously, they find someone who makes them want to take life and love way seriously. I know I probably say this with every new Ethan Day release, and I do sincerely mean it each and every time: Second Time Lucky is my favorite book yet.

Luke Landon and Owen West get a second chance at love. They were young and kind of scared, for lack of a better word, of the way the felt about each other when they began dating in college. They didn't break up as much as they ran away from each other, which is pretty much Luke's M.O. - when the going gets tough, he gets going as fast as he can in the opposite direction. Fast forward fifteen years, to Luke's birthday party, a party to which none of his friends show up(!), and there you go - the perfect setting for Owen to catch Luke when he's at his most vulnerable.

Owen is as steady as Luke is changeable, and watching them work and fight and grow and make mistakes with each other was both funny and hugely rewarding. The failure of Owen’s eleven year long relationship with his ex, Tommy, wasn’t due to his lack of commitment but from his being with the wrong man. And it could be argued that Luke’s failure to commit to one man wasn’t based in a lack of ability but was due to the lack of the right man in his life—the right man being Owen, and the right time being the moment they saw each other again after so many years spent drifting through life, waiting for the right one and the right time to come along.

They are realistically imperfect men who are realistically perfect for each other, and their story is one I can’t recommend highly enough for being touching and clever and so very romantic.
Buy Second Time Lucky HERE.

Young Adult:

If you came of age anytime during the '80s and believed John Hughes' movies were the epitome of the fictional teenage experience, movies like "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club", then I can't recommend John Goode's Tales from Foster High series highly enough.

This series follows Foster, Texas high school seniors, Kyle Stilleno (the brain and maybe a little bit of the basketcase, too) and Brad Greymark, the athlete—the invisible nerd and the popular jock—who fall in love and endure the trials and turmoil of coming-of-age and coming out in a small, conservative north Texas town. Theirs is a story of courage in the face of fear, and of standing up for yourself, your beliefs, and for those who are powerless to stand up for themselves when confronted with bigotry and discrimination within the establishment. They are two boys from very different walks of life who discover that their home lives maybe aren’t so different after all, and who are both attempting to cope with their roles as sons within highly dysfunctional families, as they’ve each built invisible walls around themselves to mask their burdens.

In a relationship where their roles might otherwise be defined by expectation, Kyle and Brad discover that who they are—or who they believed themselves to be—is influenced and transformed by how much they grow to care for and want to protect each other from those who would make them suffer for the sake of their differences. The brain becomes the brawn in their relationship as Kyle, along with his mother, Brad’s parents, and a whole host of others fight the powers-that-be to defend Brad’s right to be treated fairly and equally.

I can’t begin to praise the three novellas in this series enough, beginning with Maybe with a Chance of Certainty, through End of the Beginning, and finally to Raise Your Glass. John Goode has introduced two heroes who are nothing less than wonderful, engaging, and courageous.
The author infuses these books with humor and warmth and angst, perfectly capturing the power of first love and skillfully depicting what it means to fight for and be proud of who you are.
Buy Maybe with a Chance of Certainty, End of the Beginning, and Raise Your Glass HERE.

Epic Fantasy:

I've been praising Carole Cummings and the Wolf's-own series since Chapter One of the first book wormed it's way into my head and heart and refused to let go.

Incendiary is the fourth and final installment in this legendary journey of two men who must learn exactly who it is they're meant to be before they can be anything close to whom the other needs. It's mythology and magic, action and adventure, as well as a story of the transformative power of love and the discovery that that most monumental of emotions doesn't make a man weak but brings him the strength and courage he needs to accept himself exactly the way he is.

The Wolf’s-own series is an experience; that’s all there is to say. It is a feast for those who love to dig beneath the surface to the symbolism beneath, and a journey for the reader, a puzzle that just begs to be solved and an unforgettable adventure.
Buy Incendiary HERE.

Literary Fiction - Non-Romance:

Joshua Martino's Fontana is a brilliant book. And I don’t mean that solely in the intellectually brilliant sense of the word; I mean that it is also luminous and powerful, and it made me angry and it made me cry, and it’s been some time since I’ve read a book that engendered such a strong emotional reaction in me.

This book is told in the first person by sports journalist Jeremy Rusch and is the story of baseball player Ricky Fontana, set during one epic season when the twenty-year-old wunderkind held America’s pastime and, indeed, the world in the pocket of his mitt and the sweet spot of his bat.

During one memorable summer, when nearly every baseball fan’s (and many non-fan’s) attention was trained on the Mets and a young man from Rhode Island who was set to break the long standing records of two of the sport’s greatest—Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio—and doing so in a single, monumental season, Jeremy was struggling with the failure of his marriage, alcoholism, and the near anonymity of a career that would change dramatically with just one scoop, a single byline that would set him apart from his colleagues and propel him from the dregs of mediocrity. Jeremy accidentally finds that scoop in his pursuit of Ricky, and in a moment of avarice, trades his personal integrity for career gain, opening a Pandora’s Box and releasing a storm of bigotry and intolerance upon Ricky, a gay athlete. “On a warm, wet June night, I said yes.” And at that moment, the moment Jeremy Rusch traded his soul for a story, my heart broke just a little for a fictional athlete named Ricky Fontana.

Fontana is the story of a young hero whose meteoric rise and subsequent crash back to earth, puts him in the center of a Salem-Witch-Hunt that overshadows his incredible accomplishments in the sport that means everything to him. Ricky only ever wanted to play ball, but instead becomes the poster child in the raging debate over gay athletes. In spite of his best efforts to pay for his privacy, the public ends up taking its pound of flesh in their “right to know” everything about him, and in that violation, Ricky, a man of integrity and loyalty and incredible courage, remains strong and focused and succeeds in doing what many thought was the impossible.

And then, at the age of twenty, his legend both tarnished and secure in the annals of baseball, Ricky fades into history.

Fontana is a book within a book, a story that Jeremy has written chronicling his own personal losses and triumphs, as well as those of Ricky Fontana. It is both Jeremy’s personal account of that summer, as well as a series of interviews with Ricky’s ex-lover Peter Morgenstern, that comes together in an outstanding novel that should make everyone examine the need to label and the fascination with what goes on in the privacy of a person’s bedroom.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It will be a long while before I can think about Ricky and his struggles and triumphs without a lump coming to my throat and a tear coming to my eye.

Fontana will be available for purchase on July 16, 2012, HERE.

Historical - Mystery/Suspense:

Danger, extortion, betrayal, and homophobia welcome Charlie Harris and an incriminating photograph to Whistle Pass, Illinois, a photo that is allegedly being used to blackmail Mayor Roger Black with a threat that could derail that man’s ambitious pursuit of the office of state representative if the picture is ever leaked to the press.

Charlie has been summoned.

”Need you.” Two words that years before had meant something coming from the lips of someone Charlie believed had loved him. Those two little words effectively do their part to tempt Charlie to Whistle Pass, where, rather than finding the man he’d fallen in love with in the trenches of World War II, he discovers an ambitious politician (and married man) in his place, and also learns, in a painful way, that politics in this city are intimately acquainted with corruption.

Involving hotel manager Gabe Kasper in the danger that has suddenly become Charlie’s life was not a part of the plan, but recognizing a kindred and sympathetic spirit in Gabe, that’s exactly what Charlie unintentionally does when he hands the photo over to the man for safe keeping. Falling in love with each other was also not part of the plan, but that’s exactly what happens as the two men become embroiled in what amounts to a nasty domestic situation with further reaching implications, revealed as the twists and turns keep wending their way through this story.

Whistle Pass has a lot to offer: mystery, intrigue, suspense, some homegrown justice, and an unlikely—some may say near impossible—romance between two men in 1955. Charlie’s particular affliction and the sense that he’d found safety and no small measure of comfort in Gabe was a lovely contrast to the hope they might overcome the odds of building a successful relationship in a time when their attraction to each other was equated with mental illness. It lends a bittersweet feel to the novel, while the setting and KevaD’s writing gives the book a noir-ish sense that complemented the plot very well. The well written characters, both major and minor, only added to my need to finish this book in near record time.

This book languished in my TBR pile for what seems like forever. The best compliment I can pay to it is that I could kick myself for waiting so long to bump it to the top of the heap.

Buy Whistle Pass HERE.

And that's it for another month of Booyah Books! Until next time, happy reading!

3 comments:

  1. Wow, I haven't read any of those!

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  2. How is it that I haven't read any of these books? I do have Incendiary on my reader, just haven't had time to read it yet...I need to get reading... :)

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  3. Well, if you decide to read even one of them, I hope you love it, regardless of which you pick. :)

    I thought they were all pretty fantastic, but I have to say that Fontana still has a special place at the top of my list. :)

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