Tag Archives: San Diego

San Francisco Nights

Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparens (Delta Trade Paperbacks)

This debut novel by Shawn Klomparens became a must read when I finished his second novel, Two Years, No Rain.   The location and protagonist are quite different – this story being set in San Francisco rather than San Diego, and the main character a woman (Jessica Zorich) rather than a man (Andy Dunne).   What permeates both books is the slightly unnerving sense of impending danger.   There is an undercurrent that lurks in the background which the reader cannot ignore.

Jessica is an attractive red-headed advertising copywriter with a hesitant, non-committal approach to life that is not serving her best interests or desires.   She begins her tale by bemoaning the relationship rules she has invoked with her upstairs neighbor/sometime boyfriend Patrick McAvoy.   Their interactions could be labeled “Push Me, Pull You” after the Dr. Doolittle character.  

Patrick is not at all exciting for Jessica because he is stable, trustworthy and reliable.   The story picks up its pace when a tall mysterious artist named Josh Hadden fixates on Jessica at a party that Patrick arranged.   Sensing the attraction, Jessica enjoys feeling like the center of someone’s attention.   Josh is lusty, aggressive and deeply committed to his political beliefs!

Although Jessica has had difficulty with her romantic ties with Patrick, she makes easy transitions to a new job and a quirky semi-relationship with Josh, a lithographer who is intent on melding modern technology with the age-old art.   Her one life-long relationship is with her sister Katie.   These two sisters are portrayed as each other’s bedrock.

In Jessica Z, Klomparens dazzles the reader with his cinema verite style that brings the reader along while Jessica narrates her actions and thoughts.   Jessica oddly stifles her modesty, comfort and privacy when she is with Josh.   She becomes prey – her mouse to his cat.

Jessica’s lack of self-protection is truly naive and shocking.   Klomparens exploits the humanity that becomes apparent when we spend time with others – time enough to break through their public faces and expose the vulnerability that resides deep inside every person.  

This novel is insightful and persistent in its explorations of relationships.   It offers lessons about life that are both true and troubling.   Highly recommended although it is not light reading.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A copy of the book was received from the publisher.   Jessica Z is also available as a Kindle Edition download.

 

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Who’ll Start the Rain?

San Diego’s two-year drought serves as a metaphor for the life of the main character, Andy Dunne.   Author Shawn Klomparens is a master at dialogue.   He is able to delve into suppressed feelings and expectations through the exchanges between the characters that populate Andy’s world.   An underlying theme of betrayal and loss is also woven throughout the fast-paced story.

There are many types of love, friendship and respect that Andy demonstrates in his interactions with his sister Leigh Anne, niece Hannah, best friend Rich and most of all with Hillary Hsing, his two-year (married) infatuation.   The story takes place in the context of satellite radio weathercasts and a children’s TV show complete with a magic flying carpet.two years 5 (sharp)The book is nearly the male counterpart of Easy on the Eyes, the story of a TV news magazine host who is urged to undergo plastic surgery to keep her career alive.   Redundancy and the economy rather than aging beauty provide the impetus that launches our hero on his quest to become New Andy, as Hillary calls him, or finally Real Andy, as he describes himself.

This book is ideal as a vacation read with equal parts of humor and soul-searching.

Delta, $15.00, 370 pages

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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Wesley the Owl

Wesley

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien (Atria Books, $16.00, 256 pages)

“Wesley changed my life.   … I wondered if he was actually an angel who had been sent to live with me and help me through all the alone times.   He comforted me; many times I cried into his feathers and told him my troubles, and he tried to understand.”

These are words that come near the end of this true love story about an adopted barn owl named Wesley, who lived for 19 years with author Stacey O’Brien.   O’Brien was a young biologist, trained in wild animal behavior at Caltech in Pasadena, when she adopted the baby owl with the injured wing, knowing that he would not survive in the wild.

What O’Brien did not know at that time was that she was literally following in the footsteps of her maternal grandmother, who had adopted a barn owl that had been injured by dogs and had named it Weisel.   This explained the long-time mystery of why her grandmother had lived in a home filled with owl dolls and figurines.

O’Brien’s story takes us from Wesley’s adoption at a mere four days old to his death from cancer after what amounted to a remarkably long life for a barn owl.   Anyone who owns a cat or dog will identify with O’Brien’s discoveries about her “wild animal.”   Wesley loves to preen and groom, to tell her about the events of the day, and to attack “prey” such as pencils and film cannisters.   Wesley also understands the difference between words like tonight, tomorrow and (in) two hours.   Most importantly, Wesley attaches himself to his owner as a lifelong surrogate mate, since barn owls have but one partner in life (although Wesley was often tempted by the wild female barn owls who hovered outside the window of his San Diego canyon area apartment).

Wesley teaches O’Brien about trust, commitment and love; as she puts it, “It’s the Way of the Owl.   You commit for life, you finish what you start, you give your unconditional love, and that is enough.”

O’Brien learns, via Wesley’s life and death, that “If all I had to give was love, that was enough.”   Her life was forever changed by knowing Wesley, the intelligent and loving barn owl, and the reader is blessed by having access to the story of this very remarkable and very special relationship.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

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