Sunday, December 28, 2014

"A Good Year" by Peter Mayle

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 17

As we think back over the pleasures and pain of the past year, here’s my review of A Good Year by Peter Mayle.
A bored, urbane London career man inherits a rundown vineyard in the Bordeaux region of France. Fortunately, he speaks fluent French and doesn't act so English as to be spurned by the locals. His predictable romantic adventures with bucolic hotties are not graphic at all, but the descriptions of his meals at the local bistro border on the pornographic. If reading about artfully prepared food and incredible wines get you excited, this is your book.
The wine, of course, is a topic of infinite variety. I’m familiar with rhapsodic descriptions including tastes of chocolate, berry, and oak, but this is the first time I saw "dirty socks" mentioned in connection with the taste of wine.
There's a bit of a crime story here, nothing so stressful as to inspire a Hollywood blockbuster. Unanswered questions about the history and lore of this French farming community may pique your interest, like an appetizer course, or what the French call an amuse bouche, a tasty morsel to tease the mouth.
The mystery is not much of a crime. The most violent act involves spitting into a crachoir (a spittoon for wine tasters), which as the Brits might say is a bloody shame, especially if the wine contains just the right hint of dirty sock.
But if in the midst of winter, you’re tempted to escape to the south of France, reading The Good Year is a quick and inexpensive vacation.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. As a holiday gift to my readers, LaPuerta Books has released all three of The Rollo Hemphill Misadventures in one Kindle ebook for just 99 cents. These are the wacky stories of a young man failing upward in a series of three novels: My Inflatable Friend, Rubber Babes, and Farnsworth’s Revenge. Young men will identify, mature men will sympathize, and women of any age will delight in seeing poor Rollo go splat. That’s The Misadventures of Rollo Hemphill on Amazon Kindle. It’s priced at less than a buck for a limited time. You can catch these podcasts on Boychik

Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014 Boychik Lit Book Awards - Great Gifts!

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 16

Just in time for your holiday book shopping, here are the Boychik Lit Book Awards for 2014. These are books by authors I know personally and who have given me the generous gift of their time, attention, and suggestions. So, grab a ballpoint because you’ll want to add these to your list and check 'em twice:
  • In the category of mystery and crime fiction, For Whom the Shofar Blows: A Rabbi Ben Mystery by Marvin J. Wolf. Get this one for fans of Walter Mosley and Michael Connelly.
  • For mind-bending short stories with a metaphysical twist, it’s Meeting God or Something Like It by Morrie Ruvinsky. Just the brain food for a train ride or while waiting at the airline gate.
  • My kudos for outstanding family relationship drama go to Black Cow by Magdalena Ball. A dysfunctional family from an upscale suburb in Australia moves to a farm and tries to build a new life. And you thought you had problems.
  • For historical romantic fiction, get For the King by Catherine Delors. Intrigue and passion in early nineteenth century Paris. Just the page-turner for a cold night in February.
  • For political satire, read The Man Who Loved Too Much by John D. Rachel. He’s a wise cynic who rants against the follies inevitably committed by all kinds of authority, from family heads to heads of state.
  • In the realm of personal relationships, I recommend Never Kiss a Frog: A Girl’s Guide to Creatures in the Dating Swamp by Marilyn Anderson. Uh, the title pretty much says it all.
  • For outstanding achievement in science fiction, The Man Who Would Not Die by Thomas Page. If you dream about immortality, be careful what you ask for.
  • And in the category of children’s books, Tell Mommy a Story by Jim and Jean Anton, a picture ebook for toddlers, available on iTunes.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. My new books are Mr. Ballpoint about the wacky Pen Wars of 1945 and Christmas Karma about an unhappy family during the holidays, narrated by an angel with a weird sense of humor. To get the complete list of these books, download the podcast at

Sunday, December 14, 2014

All Three of Rollo's Misadventures Now in Kindle for a Buck

My holiday gift to fans of Rollo. Priced at 99 cents through the holidays, ALL THREE comic novels combined in one Kindle. (No paper, think green.)

So if you have a Kindle and are taking a trip, load it up! If you get a new Kindle, let this one be your first download! Buying three ebooks separately would cost almost 15 bucks. So for just one buck, you get My Inflatable Friend, Rubber Babes, and Farnsworth's Revenge. 

And you get to find out how failing upward can be so painful it's funny. It's boychik lit - a story about a young man with more chutzpah than brains. Young men identify, mature men sympathize, and woman of any age just love to see this guy go splat. 

Grab it now, because in January the list price goes back up!

"The Mackerel Plaza" by Peter De Vries

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 15

Here’s my book review of The Mackerel Plaza by Peter De Vries. I credit humorist and poet Peter De Vries as the godfather of boychik lit, or comedies about boys and men who are less than careful with their life choices, particularly their choices of romantic partners.

The Mackerel Plaza is one of the funniest books you will ever read. That is, provided you have a sense of humor about both religion and the lusts of the flesh. Rev. Mackerel, respected leader of the People’s Liberal Church in suburban Connecticut, has a problem. His saintly wife has recently passed away. But that’s not the problem. He suspects she’s enjoying a better life. But while he’s still on Earth, he’d like to remarry. And, conveniently enough, he’s been secretly dating the church secretary, Miss Calico. There’s a double irony here. First, his congregation is so respectful of his wife’s legacy that they wish to erect a new shopping mall named in her honor – the Mackerel Plaza. Secondly, the preacher rightly worries that, even if his flock were to eventually approve of his intention to marry Miss Calico, the couple would have to wait years to set the date – not until the plaza is built, the dedication is done, and the luster of his wife’s postmortem fame begins to fade.

A humorous novel must have an engine of comedy. That is, a situation that is both ridiculous and impossible to maintain, which generates conflict, embarrassment, and laughter. An outwardly righteous man who harbors secret lusts is just such a formula. Certainly, men and women of the cloth have the same urges and flaws as the rest of us, but in someone whose social position is exalted, discovering their hypocrisies gives them farther to fall. And we do love it when our comic characters go splat.

The Mackerel Plaza was published in 1958, back when making fun of straying fundamentalist preachers wasn’t politically incorrect. Author De Vries grew up in the Dutch Reformed church in Chicago and yea those strictures gave the guy a real cramp in the you-know-where, so painful it's hysterical.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. I think you’ll enjoy my new humorous novel Christmas Karma about the travails of a dysfunctional family around the holidays, narrated by an angel who has a wicked sense of humor. Main character Willa Nawicki is bewildered by a series of curious karmic events that literally ring her doorbell during the frantic season, awakening years-old resentments and stimulating ever-more-intense personal confrontations. These bizarre visitations include a grizzled old man claiming to be her father, who has been missing for some thirty years but now says the title to the family home is in his name – and now he wants the place back.

As the angel observes, “The surest way to invoke the laughter of the universe is to make plans, particularly devious ones.”.

Christmas Karma would make a great gift for yourself or anyone tends to get the blues this time of year.

And be sure to catch these podcasts on

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 14

Here’s my book review of Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

The book’s title refers to a pledge in the Hippocratic Oath, "I will not cut for stone." Although the original meaning had to do with not removing bladder stones, it would perhaps be more relevant to today's medicine for a new doctor to promise, "I won't perform treatments just for the sake of making money.”

So, it’s all about ethical choices and doing the right thing.

The story flows from the unlikely and surprising birth of a pair of twin boys, Marion and Shiva, by an Indian-born nun, Sister Mary Praise, in Ethiopia in the 1950s. The father is an English surgeon, Thomas Stone, who heads the field clinic. The story is narrated by Marion. It’s about Marion’s finding his way in the world as he grows up, his identity both bonded to and becoming separate from Shiva, and eventually becoming a surgeon himself. The boys’ mother dies from the difficult birth, and their father abandons them. It’s a story about family, community, betrayal, parental love and estrangement, sibling bonding and rivalry, personal bravery, not-so-uncommon acts of kindness, the heroic practice of medicine, suffering and compassion--and irony. Things just don’t turn out in the ways you’d expect.

Author Abraham Verghese is likewise a practicing surgeon, now living in the U.S., who grew up in Ethiopia. His account seems autobiographical, but much of it is invented, as he explains in detail in his Acknowledgments.

I heard him speak at a book signing at an Ethiopian restaurant in Los Angeles, and he mentioned that he admires W. Somerset Maugham. This book does remind me of Maugham’s Cakes and Ale, including the crafting of its sentences. Maugham also studied medicine, and Vergehese has said that Of Human Bondage was one of the books that motivated him to become a doctor.
Verghese also said in an interview that “a book is a life you live without giving your life.” You probably never thought about how challenging it would be to practice medicine in a place like Ethiopia, but here’s your chance.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. I think you’ll enjoy my humorous novels Mr. Ballpoint and Christmas Karma. And you can catch these podcasts on

Monday, December 1, 2014

"The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 14

Here’s my book review of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

This is a story about art theft and romantic obsession. Main character Theodore Decker is very much the boychik – a young man with more ambition than brains. So it’s a coming-of-age story, as well, full of his personal introspection and psychological turmoil.

Be warned – plot spoilers ahead.

Young Theo and his mother duck into a New York museum in the rain and are caught in a terrorist bomb blast. His mother is killed, but he is one of the few survivors. Another fatality is a cultured old man named Welty, who was at the museum with his pretty young ward Pippa. She’s close to Theo’s age and also survives, but with some debilitating injuries. She will become the unrequited love of his life. Before Welty expires next to Theo in the rubble, he gives him his signet ring and tells him to take this small painting – The Goldfinch – a Dutch Master picture of a bird chained to its perch. Theo takes on the mission to keep the painting safe.

That’s as much of the story as I’ll give away. There’s a lot more – this is a big book. The novel owes a lot to Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, and it mentions both. The underlying philosophical questions are broad and deep: Why is there evil in the world? What is the point of living? And what do we owe to history? to future generations?

A literary agent told me that author Donna Tartt refuses to be edited. Like I say, it’s a long book. It topped the bestseller lists for a while, and clearly many of her readers hoped it would be worth the time invested.

As for me, I applaud its ambitions, but I do think less would have been more.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. My new humorous novels are Mr. Ballpoint and Christmas Karma. And you can catch these podcast book reviews on