I’ve had some down-time lately, and this has allowed me to catch up on some reading; and by down-time I mean that incident at the Winter Carnival (which I can’t talk about according to my court-appointed lawyer, but I will say that driving a tractor with a goat as your co-pilot should not be considered reckless endangerment, anyone who’s had to sit through a Law & Order marathon on TNT knows that). There are only so many hours in the day I can Tweet Ralph Macchio to taunt him into agreeing to fight me in the Valley Karate Championship, and after a case of Schlitz the thrill of that life goal kinda wears off and seems zenfully shallow.
Since it is winter, all the creeks have frozen up and the elusive Yeti has gone into hibernation, which always strikes me as a little odd — shouldn’t winter be prime-time for Yetis? But I digress, the point of this article is to illustrate that I needed something to do to occupy my brain, steel-trap beasts like that brain of mine need to stay well oiled or they become rusty, like that C3-PO that Dorothy found on the Yellow Brick road to Oz near those talking trees.
Talking trees are total dicks, fyi.
After I played a few games of Words With Friends and kicked Karla Nellenbach and Alec Baldwin’s ass by using the words Fahrvergnügen and Bassoon in a combination they just weren’t ready for, I decided that I needed something fresh and unique to set my synapses all a-flutter.
It also had to be something that wouldn’t set off the electronic ankle-bracelet.
This is when I discovered that I had been emailed an advance copy of a new book by Tess Thompson entitled Caramel and Magnolias. Now, the title was instantly intriguing, as I have known two pleasant young ladies in my past who happened to be named Caramel and Magnolia respectively. I quickly discovered by doing a word search on the document that these were not the same ladies, as glitter wasn’t used once in the manuscript.
Still, why not? I decided to read (well, some parts I had my Uncle Lester Earl read out loud to me, because he sounds everything out and it was kinda funny, but ultimately distracting).
As I dug deeper into this book, I wasn’t ready for what was being presented to me. What was this strange world that Tess Thompson had created? Who were these people? When would we find out that the Loch Ness Monster was involved?
Turns out, this was one of those romantical books.
See, there’s this nice schoolteacher lady named Cleo, with a broken-heart from something that happened to her in her past that involved a box of donuts (before you jump to conclusions, you’re probably thinking the same thing that I was, but it turns out it’s not that). Then there was this other lady named Sylvia who wanted to have a baby and, right when she thinks she’s got everything she wants, tragedy strikes. Turns out Sylvia has a longing-heart, she’s in love with this dude and he’s in love with her too, but neither one of them will tell one another. So, it made me go, “Dude, tell her you love her and stuff. Cause if you don’t then you’re gonna be an old man and have this weird bucket-list and one of the things you have to check off is going to the Walgreens and buying a Hey, I’m an old dude now, and I should have told you that I loved you card with a picture of a cute kitten on the front of it…
Just letting you all know, you’d think that cute kitten card trick would work, but turns out the rate of success in real-world scenarios is not that high.
For guys like me, that are totally in touch with their emotions and Deepak Chopra talks to you in your head like Obi-Wan Kenobi, it was easy to get wrapped up in this story. The characters are very well written and have interesting back-stories (I never thought I’d admit something like this, but the character work in this is even better than the cast of The Expendables, and that had Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger).
The more I think about Caramel and Magnolias, the more I consider that it’s not just about all that love stuff, there’s cross-genre appeal (I just copied cross-genre appeal out of an article about The Hunger Games, so you’re welcome, universe). There’s buddy cop stuff going on, there’s crime and intrigue, there’s a little solving a murder sprinkled in. The only thing missing really is Space Marine, and I can’t fault Tess Thompson on that — because after Aliens where do you go with it that hasn’t already been covered?
And in case I freaked you out above by talking about cute cat pictures, there’s a mean cat in this book. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s not a werewolf pretending to be a cat. We’ll have to wait for a sequel to learn the truth on that one. If it’s set in London and Jenny Agutter offers to take care of someone then Tess Thompson will have already tipped her hand to the involvement of a secret lycanthrope conspiracy.
The cats in this book didn’t need to be cute anyway, there’s babies that take care of that action. For those of you who love cute babies with dimpled chins, this book is for you. I am glad to see cute babies getting their due in modern fiction. I was just reading some Dan Brown the other day (okay, I was watching that movie because the cable company forgot to lock the box that turns off my HBO) and I was saying to myself “You know, you good looking badass, you — Tom Cruise does a good job solving these mysteries and running through the Vatican, but could he take care of a baby?” I’m calling you out, Top Gun. Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson have got nothing to prove in the baby taking-care-of department. So far, all we know about you is that you take after-volleyball showers at Kelly McGillis’s house and talk to a soccer ball.
So, if you’re not like my Uncle Lester Earl and you didn’t quit school in the 5th grade so you could run away with the carnival, therefore, know how to read books, Caramel and Magnolias has something for you.
Read these words and let Tess Thompson school you on babies, and love, and cops, and cops in love, and pianos, and how to make stuff out of glass, and beer. You should get off the sidelines, and read Caramel and Magnolias.
(In the interest of full disclosure, and since I cannot afford two lawyers at the same time, I am a part of the Booktrope family, who is the publisher of Caramel and Magnolias. Tess Thompson or Booktrope in no way endorsed this article (or even wanted it) and Tess did not pay me $20 to write it, even though I might have asked her to. What? I was drunk.)
Tess Thompson is a mother before all else, and a writer after that. She’s also a Zumba queen, though the wearing of the crown is reserved for invitation-only appearances. After honing her craft in theater with a prize-winning play titled My Lady’s Hand, her heart was called to a different storytelling medium: the great American novel.
And all was right with the world.
The first of these, Riversong (Booktrope Editions), went on to become #1 on Barnes and Noble’s Nook Book chart in October 2011. Two years after its release, readership ofRiversong continued to grow, spending weeks in the top 100 Kindle bestsellers; it’s known amongst her friends and family as “the little book that could.”
And now, I try and sell you Schlitz…
Billy Purgatory and the Curse of the Satanic Five is the second book in Jesse James Freeman’s Billy Purgatory series. He has been at war with dark forces (stuff like: cobras, lasers, yetis) his entire life. He enjoys Tweeting, scented candles, and waffles. He is hard at work on Billy Purgatory 3 and an epic poem entitled Witches vs Robots.