While Kitty is getting through the heat by turning up the AC and losing herself in a cozy mystery, my reading habits have been all over the place since Memorial Day weekend. I’ve been to the Nursery Crimes police division in Reading, England (alternative universe England, that is), on an Aussie football field in Melbourne, and in a sick generational ship in outer space. (I told you I read weird stuff!) Here are some quick reviews of my latest reads…
The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde.
The Gist: Nursery Rhyme characters are real! (And so are Greek gods, and aliens.) Humpty Dumpty has a great fall and the Nursery Crimes Division, headed by DCI Jack Spratt and assisted by DI Mary Mary, is called in. Turns out Mr. Dumpty didn’t just fall. He was shot! It was murder!
Status: Read cover to cover.
Summer Escapism: A
Strength of Writing: B
Stimulation of the Little Grey Cells: B (It helps to have access to Mother Goose Rhymes as a reference. Fun!)
Social Relevance: Uh… er… OK! C+
General Reaction: You already know I love Jasper Fforde if you read my reviews of The Eyre Affair and Shades of Grey. While reading this first Nursery Crimes mystery, I often thought that Fforde was trying to hit the reader with too much weirdness. But weirdness is what Fforde is all about. The Greek gods and aliens don’t add anything to the main plot, but they do make for some great laugh-out-loud moments. Despite the gimmick-taken-to-extreme nature of the book, the mystery itself is solid, and just when you think it’s all solved, there’s the weirdest last reveal you could imagine. Priceless Fforde.
Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy
The Gist: Gay romance centering on the outing of a Australian Football player. Oh, and… boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back; the basic formula, except this time with rainbows.
Status: Read cover to cover.
Summer Escapism: B
Strength of Writing: C (You know there may be a problem when the writer has the football-crazy protagonist ask why an injured player has to travel with the team. For team support, doofus! Even I knew that.)
Stimulation of the Little Grey Cells: C (Well, it did inspire me to learn a bit about Aussie Football.)
Social Relevance: A (Lots of talk right now about gay athletes in pro sports, so, yeah, it was pretty relevant.)
General Reaction: I’ve read plenty of gay novels, but I had never read a gay romance. It’s interesting to see this variation of the classic romance formula. See if you recognize it: Protagonist is sarcastic and a loner, thinking he doesn’t need love, but he really does. Meets Mr. Wonderful. Mr. Wonderful pushes all the right buttons but seems too good to be true. Personalities clash during a crisis. Mr. Wonderful has faults! Love is slipping away. The idea of love lost puts the crisis in perspective. Love is reaffirmed. Fireworks. Happy ending.
Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear
The Gist: Mystery and terror on a generational space ship. Our narrator is awakened from a deep sleep to find himself naked and freezing inside a giant spaceship. He is having trouble recovering his memories, and some of the monstrous creatures around him want him dead.
Status: Three-quarters of the way through!
Summer Escapism: B
Strength of Writing: B (This book is turning out to be a fast read, but it takes a bit too long to really get started, despite the intriguing set-up.)
Stimulation of the Little Grey Cells: A
Social Relevance: B (Poses the intellectual, ethical and moral questions you expect from good Sci-Fi.)
General Reaction: I’ve never reviewed a Bear novel on Okie Reads, but his Blood Music is a favorite Sci-Fi classic of mine. Although I’m still reading Hull Zero Three, I can tell you that the revelations to the mystery thus far are as big, strong and provocative as you would expect from this master of the genre. Three-quarters of the way through, I’m very pleased with this book. I’ll certainly let you know if it falls apart for me in the end.
OK, that’s what I’ve been reading. What have you been reading during this late spring/early summer heat wave?
Once upon a time, there was a gay teenager in America who would not share his “secret” with anyone; not his teachers, not his friends, not his siblings, and (God forbid!) certainly not his parents. Instead, he kept this part of his identity completely to himself, waiting for the day when he met like-minded individuals, when he could finally and openly share and discuss his unique nature in this world.
Even when he was a child, before he knew he was gay, there were other boys in school who saw he was different, and they called him names and bullied him. But he hung on, because he had a loving family, because he had good friends, because he was curious, because he could read, and because he did read. His father had a collection of books and magazines about science and the natural world. His mother signed him up for a children’s book club and read to him. His sister introduced him to the world of comic books and short stories. When he became a teenager, he went to the library and investigated many things, including a natural phenomenon known as “homosexuality.”
Eventually, he grew to adulthood and finally did meet those like minded individuals. He discovered he was not alone (he always knew this) and that most people, whether straight or gay, were loving and accepting, and ready to welcome him. And he lived happily ever after.
This is not a fairy tale. (Pun most definitely intended.) It’s real, and I lived it. And it’s a story that goes on even today in our country. It’s encouraging that society is increasingly becoming more knowledgeable and understanding of human sexuality, and I know it must be much easier for many young gay teenagers today. But I also know that there is a darker story that continues to play out across the states; one where rejection by loved ones, ostracization, isolation, and hateful speech from the pulpit and the political arena can lead young people to very different ends: depression, drug and alcohol abuse, risky behavior, and even suicide.
We know that reading entertains. It educates, it inspires, and sometimes it is a literal lifeline. How many of us turn to books, be they spiritual or secular, for solace and assistance when times are tough? The intellectual pursuit of knowledge and understanding helps. Books help. I remember how popular The Lord is my Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay, by Reverend Troy G. Perry, was with some of my crowd. It helped these people bridge the gap between their religious upbringing and the truth of their nature.
Today’s gay teenagers have a wealth of literary lifelines to explore and to help them find their place in the world. The Today Show’s website has an excellent article: Teen books with gay themes take off. The article includes a quote from a 15-year-old teen that makes me burst with joy:
“I see the characters trickling into the mainstream genres. I really like that,” Brent said. “It makes being gay feel natural, which it is, of course. Books give you hope.”
Books give you hope. It sounds like a marketing slogan for the publishing industry, yet we know it to be profound and true.
It’s Gay Pride Week in OKC. The gay pride events across the nation have always been about hope: hope that the world will change and the LGBT community will soon enjoy the same rights and freedoms as other citizens. Today, gay Americans are discovering this hope at a much earlier age.