Lisa from The Novel Approach is here again to share her treasures on Booyah Books.
It's so good to be back after taking some personal time off in August, in which I didn't get a whole lot of reading done, but what I managed did offer some really great entertainment. Comedy, drama, first love, mystery, romance - both contemporary and historical - will round out this combo edition of the Booyah. Here are some of the great reads that really grabbed my attention over the past two months:
Historical (World War II) - Short Story:
This is what Aleksandr Voinov has done in Skybound. He has created an image with words that is bleak but at the same time filled with hope among the fear of death. It is a picture painted of victory in the certainty of defeat, where a kiss can give you the wings to fly and surrendering doesn’t mean losing but gaining the promise of a future that might otherwise have been lost.
The year is 1945 and the Second World War is gasping its final breaths. It is a place and time when Felix and Baldur discover there is something more worth fighting and living for than their country’s directives. Skybound was an entirely new experience for me. I’ve read stories from the American side of the war, from the British, but this is the first time I’ve read a story set on the German side, which illustrated to me how easy it is to forget that in battle, regardless of what side a man is on, the casualties are still altogether human ones.
Skybound is an example of the perfect short story: spare because that was the mood and tone of the time in which it takes place, sedate yet filled with a sense of urgency that translates into a raw and undeniable longing to be somewhere, anywhere, as long as it’s on the winning side of life.
I’ve read a lot of Aleksandr Voinov’s work and I have to say that this story is at the top of my very tall heap of favorites.
Buy Skybound HERE.
Young Adult Contemporary:
Ari Mendoza narrates this story, the story of a fifteen year old loner who meets Dante Quintana in the summer of 1987 and is suddenly not so lonely anymore, though he still feels very much alone with his anger and frustration. This is the story of a boy on the verge of evolution and the slow and sometimes painful discovery that being ashamed of how he feels doesn’t make those feelings inevitably shameful.
I’m going to confess I selected this book for it’s title and cover. I loved this book for all its many truths and loved that Benjamin Alire Sáenz wrote it in such a way that it felt as though it might have been autobiographical in its realism yet felt universal to each and every person who’s ever struggled while navigating their way through those teenage years, when knowing yourself really was as impossible as knowing all the secrets of the universe.
Buy Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe HERE.
Hemmi Sparks is one of Finn’s privileged students at a tony prep school in Smithfield, who, it appears, might be in some danger from a fan who’s been creeping on Hemmi’s celebrity father. Enter Max, who has been hired to make like Hemmi’s shadow at school, and what you get is a fair amount of friction between two men that seem determined to be little more than the thorns in each other’s sides. That is, if they could keep their hands and lips to themselves long enough to discover there’s something more going on between them than just sex and conflict.
There’s also much more going on at Dalton Prep High School than a celebrity stalker, and it soon becomes evident that the threat to Hemmingway Sparks may be a home-grown kind of danger that’s targeted at someone other than just Hemmi. It’s a danger that will drive the typically unshakable Max Douglas to distraction, and is a danger that’s so impossible for Finn to imagine that he makes the near-fatal error of underestimating the power of crazy. But, as they say, that’s show biz.
Men of Smithfield: Max and Finn is dependably good entertainment from L.B. Gregg. 99% of the fun of this author’s books is the witty banter, the comedic internal dialogue of her first person narrators, the frequently hysterical situations her characters find themselves in (everyone knows the toaster is the kitchen’s bravest small appliance, after all), not to mention the sizzling sexual chemistry between her heroes. The other 1% is just everything else a great read can and should be, and those are the things that make me burn through her books, while, at the same time, wishing they’d never end.
Buy Men of Smithfield: Max and Finn HERE.
Subsurdity is a block-party sitcom where the morality is policed by Melinda Gold and her mother, a harpy of an old woman whose only redeeming feature is the comedic gas-mine of her chronic fart problem. Eric Arvin skewers the illusion of the perfect suburban neighborhood with a voyeur’s eye view of exactly what goes on behind closed doors on Jasper Lane, where Cassie Bloom holds court and hosts gay porn parties, where out of work husband and expectant father, Steve Jones, becomes a gay-for-pay porn star—and suddenly keeping-up-with-the-Joneses takes on a whole new meaning. It’s the place Gayhound the homosexual dog calls home; where “Better Homes & Gardens” meets “Murder Most Likely”; where “good Christian” is an oxymoron of biblical proportions that threatens to strangle the very life out of seventeen-year-old Patrick Gold; where nothing spells humiliation like your tongue stud getting stuck in the UPS guy’s Prince Albert—for all your neighbors to witness—and where, amidst all the absurdity, a lovely little romance blooms between Rick Cooper and James Tucker. That is, if James can find the strength to come out of the closet.
Folks, Subsurdity ain’t your mama’s daytime soap opera, that’s for sure. It takes the monochromatic suburban life and transforms it into an in-living-color satire where the characters put the “fun” in dys-fun-ctional, and I’d gladly turn off my Kindle and tune into that fun, if only to gawk and wonder why my life is such an utter snooze.
Buy Subsurdity: Vignettes From Jasper Lane HERE.
There are some books that you know are going to be emotionally eloquent before you ever read the first sentence. Amy Lane’s Mourning Heaven is one of those books. It is a story that is articulate in a way only the best dramatic stories can be, tugging at the heart while also burrowing into the conscience, and giving the reader the ammunition to soldier through it because s/he knows that the long-suffering souls of its characters will be redeemed in the end by the strength and healing that can only be found in the kind of love that is patient and kind and dares to hope and persevere.
Mourning Heaven is the story of Bodi Kovacs, Michael Hickman and his cousin Peter Armbruster, three young men who are irrevocably bonded by love, guilt, anger, and the crushing grief of losing someone long before he was ever stolen by death.
It is the story of a boy who was idolized and beloved, a boy so full of spirit and courage and conviction that Peter believed he could never approach the bar of perfection Michael had set so high, when, in truth, Peter did the most important thing far better than Michael ever did—Peter loved Bodi with a passion so strong that when Bodi fell to pieces, felt shattered beyond all hope of salvation, it was Peter who was there to put Bodi together again and show him that loving and living sometimes means embracing the power of truth and thriving on the freedom that comes from relinquishing your heart to the one who will reassemble its remains into something new.
If you haven't already, you can buy Mourning Heaven HERE.
And that does it for another month of Booyah Books! Until next time, happy reading!