Category Archives: Fiction Books

Elliot Allagash by Simon Rich

This is my latest Kindle acquisition: book #617. To tell you the truth I don’t know a whole lot about it. However, I concluded that I might like it because of the following:

  • Whenever I see a list of the funniest novels of the year, there’s almost always a Simon Rich entry. He must be doing something right.
  • This one appears to be a cringey, uncomfortable school story, and I’m always a sucker for the cringey, uncomfortable school stories.
  • The blurb at the top of the cover says “An enjoyable little dose of poisonous cynicism.” Yes! I’m in.

Plus, it didn’t hurt that the price is $2.99 for Kindle. I’m not sure if that’s the everyday price, or a temporary situation. But I snagged it. In fact, I snagged it for the second time. There’s a paperback version — with a different cover — kicking around here somewhere. I’m now re-buying books I already own, because I prefer reading on a Kindle.

You’ll notice that the novel has mixed reader reviews at Amazon. That would concern me, and probably dissuade me from buying it, if it were in a genre other than humor. You can always count on humorous fiction receiving too many negative reviews. I think it’s the people who are really good at math who have a problem with subtle comedy. It’s just a theory. Indeed, two of my favorite humor novels, A Confederacy of Dunces and The Dog of the South, receive an inordinate number of one-star reviews. How anyone could trash those true works o’ genius is a mystery to me. It’s gotta be the fucking mathematicians, right? I can think of no other explanation.

About a Boy by Nick Hornby

I believe everybody who’s ever worked in a record store has read Nick Hornby’s debut novel, High Fidelity. It’s a very funny book about a group of guys who, you know, work in a record store. They have a lot of pop culture knowledge, and strong opinions. They argue and bicker and make Top 5 lists, which they then argue and bicker about. The main character’s girlfriend has just left him, and it upsets him greatly that her new boyfriend has a subpar record collection.

Hornby’s second novel is About a Boy, and it concerns a perpetual adolescent (sensing a theme?) who lives in London, dates as many women as possible, and generally lives like an adrift 22 year old hipster, even though he’s now 36.

Then he starts seeing a woman with a troubled 12 year old son, and our hero finds himself in the improbable position of being a role model. He tries to help the kid grow up, even though he hasn’t fully grown up himself. It’s unclear who the Boy in the title is referencing. It could go either way.

This second book is also very funny, and charming as well. It was made into a successful movie, and later a TV series that I never saw. I’m fairly sure it’s Hornby’s biggest selling novel, and basically made him a literary star. I read it a long time ago, right after High Fidelity, but plan to revisit both books soon.

About a Boy is $1.99 for Kindle today.

Invasion by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant

Hundreds of orbs are sailing through space, moving toward Earth. ETA: six days. Nobody knows what in the open-face hell is going on, but there’s no shortage of speculation and panic. The government has already been caught lying about what they know, and society is on the brink of collapse.

The family at the center of this adventure novel is attempting to get from New York City to a vacation home in the Colorado mountains, where they plan to hole up and hopefully ride out whatever is to come. You might find this difficult to believe, but they encounter quite a few problems along the way.

I read this one a couple of months ago, and had a great time with it. I like how the titular invasion is something ominous and threatening, but not actually happening until deep into the book. And even then… it’s not exactly clear what’s going on.

But there’s always book two… and three… and four. This is the first entry in the so-called Alien Invasion Series, which contains seven books. I plan to read them all, and own most of the novels already. This first installment is free today, and probably tomorrow. Oh, these guys know what they’re doing.

If this sounds like your kind of thing, I’m confident you won’t be disappointed.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

mosquitolandThis is my latest Kindle acquisition: book #615 on the device. Previously, it had been residing on my Amazon Wishlist for many months, because, I believe, I read an article that listed it as one of the funniest novels of 2015. Beyond that, I don’t know much about it.

It’s described as a Young Adult book, which is fine by me. At this point in our history, YA should not scare away any not-so-young adult readers. There’s a lot of greatness under that heading. Don’t let snobbery or prejudice block you from greatness.

Plus, there’s a School Library Journal review of the book on the Amazon page that suggests that some of the humor is insensitive. Yes! Insensitive and inappropriate humor is, needless to say, a big-time positive.

And there’s this blurb, which sealed the deal for me: “…reminiscent of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off if done by John Hughes with Jack Kerouac.”

But, the real reason I finally pulled the trigger on it was price, of course. All roads lead to cheapness. Yesterday, as I was scrolling through my outrageously bloated Wishlist, I noticed the price on the Kindle version had been reduced (temporarily, I’m sure) to $1.99. It’s still there, as I type.

And that’s the secret: do the research, try to identify all the good books, put them on your Wishlist, and wait for a temporary price-drop. It’s how a person ends up with 615 amazing books on their Kindle. Well, that and a light dusting of mental problems.

The hunt continues!

In Times Like These: A Time Travel Adventure by Nathan Van Coops

In Times Like TheseI finished reading this one a few weeks ago, and had a great time with it. As the title suggests, it’s, you know, an adventure story involving, well, time travel.

It begins with a group of friends waiting out a thunderstorm in a dugout, hoping to get their planned softball game in once the rain and wind moves on and becomes somebody’s else’s  problem. But it’s not to be. A power line is knocked loose by the storm and drapes the dugout, blasting our new pals ass-over-tits. When they regain consciousness, something feels a bit off, and it doesn’t take them long to learn the reason. They’ve woken up in freaking 1985!

The novel is a lengthy, fun ride. The characters are likable and real, and there’s no shortage of twists and turns in the plot. Will they figure out a way to return home to 2009? Will they even want to? Along the way they meet plenty of memorable characters,  and encounter any number of compelling situations. It’s highly entertaining. And today it’s free for Kindle. If it sounds like your kind of thing, you won’t be disappointed.

DC Trip by Sara Benincasa

DC TripI knew nothing about this book or its author, but it was recommended to me by a creepy Amazon algorithm that seems to know what I’m thinking, my moods, and all about that terrible thing in August of 1979 with the beanbag chair, etc.

I liked the cover, and the $1.99 price was right in my wheelhouse. But it was this customer review that sealed the deal for me:

This book was seriously hilarious. I hope they make it into a movie and somehow make the movie as good as the book. D.C. Trip is full of horrible teenage girls, underage drinking, accidental drug use, public bathroom BJs, many f-words, and all kinds of inappropriate behavior, which is part of what makes it so good. It made me wish I was a teenager again so I could get in the kind of trouble that makes a great story to tell the grandkids but doesn’t do any lasting damage.

Sounded like my kind of thing! And at two bucks… sign me up. I just started reading it last night, and was alone in my silent living room laughing my ass off. Like a mental patient. I’m only about 15% into it, but can already recommend this one. It’s well-written, hilarious, and kinda filthy. Perfect!

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

cuckoosThis is the latest addition to my Kindle. It’s a crime novel released a couple of years ago, by an unknown author. At first few people were paying attention, but the book quickly began generating a buzz. Here’s a perceptive reader review, posted shortly after the novel appeared:

This book is so well written that I suspect that some years down the road we will hear the author’s name is a pseudonym of some famous writer. Lots of description made one feel like another occupant in the scene. You could feel the weather, the tension, the pain, the atmosphere in the gatherings.

Nicely done, reader! As it turns out, “Robert Galbraith” is actually J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels. At this point she’s released two additional books featuring London private investigator Cormoran Strike under the Galbraith name, and they’re reportedly gritty and grimy and built for an adult audience.

I’ve been intrigued from the start, but don’t like paying full-price for my books. I mean, what am I, Ted Turner? Finally, my patience paid off (once again) and I downloaded The Cuckoo’s Calling for just $2.99. As I type this, it’s still at that low price in the Kindle Store. Check it out, if you’re so inclined. I’m looking forward to it!

Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon

boyslifeI read this book many years ago, probably when it first came out in paperback, around 1992. But I just downloaded it to my Kindle, and plan to read it again soon.

When it comes to books and movies, and that sort of thing, I don’t have a very good memory. I’m amazed when people can talk about specific scenes in films they’ve only seen once, a long time ago. With me the forgetting begins almost immediately. While the credits are rolling… the degradation is already underway.

What I do recall, however, is my emotional reaction to books and movies. Not so much the specifics, but how I felt about them, in general. And I remember being blown away by Boy’s Life, thinking it was surely one of the best books I’d ever read.

My vague recollections: it’s very Southern, it’s a well-crafted coming-of-age novel, and there’s a mystery element. And… it’s really, really good. I remember thinking it was almost To Kill A Mockingird-good. But I’m going to read it again, to confirm all this.

Today Boy’s Life is $1.99 in the Kindle store. My central nervous system is telling me it’s a good one. And I’ve learned to trust the system.

Jurrassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic ParkI’ve never read this book. I saw the movie at some point, but don’t remember much about it. There’s a good chance I was drunk, but that’s neither here nor there. Didn’t Newman get eviscerated during the first reel? It’s all very unclear to me.

I’ve also never read a Michael Crichton novel. He was super-popular, which was a strike against him in my eyes, back during snobbier times. Plus, his shit was science-heavy, wasn’t it? Funk dat.

But, I’ve heard and read so many people say that Jurassic Park the book is an absolute blast to read, I added it to my Kindle Wishlist somewhere along the line. It feels like two years ago. And today my patience paid off, once  again. I snagged that baby for $1.99.

I don’t know what’s going on with it. It might be a one-day price reduction, so grab it now if you’re so inclined. I’m going to wait for a gray winter day, and get into this thing. Should be fun.

The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh

choirboysI read this book at least twice when I was in Junior High School. At the time I thought (knew!) it was the most subversive and audacious thing ever written. I simply couldn’t believe it existed.

It’s a novel about a bunch of disgruntled and frustrated cops in current-day (1970s) Los Angeles who get together after hours for hard-drinking bitching sessions, which they have dubbed “choir practice.”

I loved it when I was 14 because the characters were hilarious in a way I’d never experienced before. Nobody I’d known talked that way, Well, kids did… kinda-sorta. But this was taken to a whole new level. The cops’ opinions were outrageous, and expressed in ways that had me crying with laughter. And their creative use of profanity was nothing short of art.

And the cool thing about it? It was a bestselling novel, available for purchase right there at the Kroger checkout. So, I could carry around what must be the wildest, most amazing thing ever created, and nobody would even question it. It felt like I was pulling the world’s biggest scam. I’m not kidding, this book — along with MAD magazine and National Lampoon — helped warp me forever.

I haven’t read it in 35 years, but I downloaded it to my Kindle today, since it’s priced at $1.99. It’ll be interesting to see what I think of it now. My memory tells me it’s something that would NEVER be published in 2015; there’s something to offend every special interest group known to man inside this book. At least I hope I’m not disappointed, and find out I have it wrong.