I received One Night by Deanna Cabinian from the author. At first a bit reluctant to read something described as a “coming of age” novel, I am glad I did. I have a category I like to call a “comfort read.” Nothing in it should give offense to anyone (IMHO). It borders on fantasy in that the characters are almost too perfect and, in several cases, too mature in behavior and opinion for their chronological age. In the first few pages, I worried the story would spiral down into sappy, syrupy, sentimental storytelling in a nostalgic search for an imagined perfect past. That did not happen. The tightly controlled crisp writing moved the story along at almost page-turner speed. There are nicely woven reflections on quality of life, the inevitability of death, different perceptions of love (requited and unrequited) and the values of a strong family life. What could have been sappy was rescued by the writers skill into something really good. On an Amazon scale, I gave this a five-star rating, something I have never done with a “comfort read.” I highly recommend this for the YA crowd and will nag my son until he reads at least parts of it.
The Cupboard by Charles Harris is a collection of seven unusual stories. That is what is stated on the cover so as I go through each story I will be looking at the “unusual” factor and rate each story accordingly.
Unusual rating = U + 1-10 (10 being the most unusual)
The Cupboard (U8) There is no end to this story. It is a realistic ending without being an ending. Our unnamed narrator is a film director who is not always employed. His upstairs neighbor, Frank, turned out to be a cameraman with a gift for lighting. When Director found a script about a magician that he thought worthy of production, he also found magic to be one of Frank’s talents. Frank helped correct a few errors in the script and Director went on to production but felt Frank’s talents as a cameraman weren’t sufficient to include him in the project. Frank didn’t actively complain but became increasingly quiet and didn’t visit Director’s apartment as much. The film was a success and Frank was invited to a party where he performed his most astonishing trick of all. It would affect others present in different ways in their futures. The story is unusual and so is the phrasing used to discuss some of Director’s observations. Describing his marital relationship with wife Rosie, Director noted: “She was attractive enough to find her own lover if she wanted to, and in her mid-thirties was still more than serviceable.” (loc 68-69). I found that a bit jarring. Such phrasing contributed to what made the story unusual for me.
The cover of Cigerets, Guns & Beer by Phillip T. Stevens catches the eye immediately. Beer and cigarettes are present, necessary for any good breakfast. While a gun is not displayed, bullet holes are, perhaps from the night before. A reader might predict that this will be a “good ol’ boy” novel replete with rednecks. The reader would be correct. This novel will make those who grew up in a small town nostalgic; a place where there might be only one law enforcement officer who also read water and electric meters, sold alcohol in defiance of Sunday “blue laws,” was a source of under-the-table porn, and served as a de facto judge deciding what town residents could and could not get away with.