TJ Klune

Books: Romance| Queer| Fantasy 


How to Be a Normal Person (2015), How to Be a Movie Star (2019)


The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020)

Green Creek: Wolfsong (2016), Ravensong (2018)


How to Be a Normal Person (2015)

This is a silly and utterly ridiculous story.

It also had me laughing ridiculously on multiple occasions.

The Internet was vast and had men with disproportionately large testicles.

Gustavo Tiberius isn't normal.

He was not a firework. Or, if he was, he was those black snake ones that you light and they do nothing but ash a long line. That was an acceptable firework to be. Nobody liked them and they did absolutely nothing.

"What's your inseam measurement?"

"Why, I don't believe that's any of your business," Gus said stiffly. Plus, he'd never really measured, so he had no idea. Was that something that everyone was supposed to know? He reminded himself to look it up in the encyclopedia when he got home, but remembered he was only on the letter G, and he couldn't skip ahead. He was destined to wonder for months.

This was less of a problem before his father died, but now he is strange and weird and alone–even if some people in town have forced their friendship upon him.

He took the We Three Queens' video card, charged them two bucks (even though it should have been four; he told them it was because they were regulars, and that was mostly true. It also was because he loved them deeply and didn't know quite else how to say it.

"Thanks for coming to Lottie's Lattes!" she shouted after him. "Where we like you a lottie!"

"For fuck's sake," he muttered as the bell rang overhead.

First, to be clear, this is a funny story, but the story does not make fun of Gus. Yes, he doesn't think or see things the way regular people do, and that leads him to say ridiculous things at times, but the humor tends to be at things he thinks and says, not that cringe-worthy embarrassment humor that was so popular in 80s movies and that I despised.

"Hey, man. Raining cats and dogs."

Gus (being Gus) said, "The first recorded use of that phrase was in the 1651 collection of poems Olor Iscanus by Henry Vaughn," all the while thinking shut up, shut up, shut up!

Then, the hipster comes to town.

"Hey, followers. Second day in and I met Gustavo Tiberius and his ferret. Check it out. They both have pretty eyes. Blushing smiley face. L-O-L. Hashtag awesome. Hashtag presidential ferrets. Hashtag mountain town adventures. Hashtag—"

Gus' life is turned upside down and he decides that perhaps he needs to learn how to be normal. Because he decides he likes Casey, even if he's never dealt with a asexual hipster before.

"What? No. Just. Shut up. I don't even know you."

"Oh," Casey said. "You will."

"Don't you threaten me!"

But it's more than just Gus and Casey. It's also Lottie (Casey's aunt) and even better, the We Three Queens, who are an utter delight. They are and elderly Vespa riding gang of three. And they are marvelous.

"I liked it," Bernice breathed, standing only inches away from Casey now. "I liked it so much. You have to autograph something for me. Like my dreams."

"Hello. I am calling for advice."

"Shhh," she snapped, sounding slightly muffled. "I'll put it on speaker, just be quiet. Did you hear what he said? He needs advice. He's totally going to do it! Casey will be so— ahem. Hello, Gus. Nothing is going on here at all. It is just me and no one else. What sort of advice are you looking for?"

"This shit is hysterical," Bernice said, flipping through more notecards. "Gus, in case you don't know, you're my third-favorite person in this room. And my first-favorite man."

Gus also turns to the Internet for advice on how to be normal. This is even more ridiculous than you'd respect.

That One Friend

We all have them. You know what I'm talking about. That One Friend. Yes, That One Friend who you love dearly and enjoy very much, but who can be a bit on the wild side. Their personality isn't for everyone. What you might consider bubbly, others might potentially consider undesirable. Before you decide which of your friends is That One Friend, make sure you look inside yourself to make sure that you're not That One Friend.

Yeah. I'm totally That One Friend.

Did I mention it also made me a little weepy? That's because it's been several years, and Gus is still mourning his father. His grief is just so blunt it's heartbreaking.

This story is not for everyone. Gus is odd, and Casey is an asexual stoner hipster, but it kept making me laugh, and really, what more could one ask for?

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

How to Be a Movie Star (2019)

How to Be a Movie StarJosiah Erickson wants to be a movie star. From his first acting role–as a block of cheeses–he has wanted nothing more than to act.

Unfortunately, he tends to create stories in his head.

A man a few chairs down stood up. He had to be at least six four and looked as if he were an underwear model who liked to stand near the large windows in his loft and brood as he stared down at the city below, a cup of coffee in one hand, the other pressed against the glass.

When he is auditioning for a role, this is problematic.

Also unfortunately for Josy, he's demisexual, in a town that sexualizes everything. So meeting nice guys is a problem.

Xander apparently decided to use his powers for evil, because he said, "Josy, isn't there something you wanted to say?"

Josy wasn't feeling very fond of Xander at the moment. "Um."

"Hi," Q-Bert said.

"Hi," Josy breathed.

"Huh," Dee said again.

"Jesus Christ," Xander muttered.

Josy has no ego. He also has no filters.

He's very sweet, but I also found him annoying in large doses, which was problematic with him being the main character.

"I'm a Rubik's Cube," Josy said honestly. "I'm made up of rainbow colors, but they're all out of order, and you need to spin me around until I start making sense."

Luckily, the location shifted from LA back to Oregon, and we get more of other characters.

"Don't we have that thing we have to get to?" Betty asked Bertha and Bernice. "Remember? That thing we have to go to so we don't have to be here?"

"What thing?" Bernice frowned. "I don't remember there being a thing."

"That thing," Betty growled.

"Oh," Bertha said. "That thing. No, that got postponed until some other day. We have absolutely nowhere else to be, so we'll stay right here."

So this was a frustrating book for me, because I get that Josy is sweet and kind and lovely and open, but I can only handle that in small bits.

Publisher: BOATK Books

December 2021 | Rating: 7/10


Green Creek

Wolfsong (2016)

Ox was twelve when his daddy told him that Ox wasn't worth anything and people would never understand him.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road. Joe talked and talked and talked, but Ox found out later the boy hadn't spoken in almost two years.

Ox believes he is stupid and of little worth, even though he has a mother who loves him and friends who care for and support him.

TWO THINGS happened on my sixteenth birthday.

I was officially hired at Gordo's. Had a business card and everything. Filled out tax forms that Gordo helped me with because I didn't understand them. I didn't cry that time. The guys patted me on the back and joked about how they no longer worked in a sweatshop with child labor.

I really liked Gordo. He obviously cared for Ox, as well as for the men who worked for him. And he recognizes Ox's worth, even when Ox is unable to see it.

Such as this bit, which reminded me very much of one of my favorite Roald Dahl books.

He showed me how to change the oil when I was three. How to change a tire when I was four. How to rebuild an engine for a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Coupe when I was nine.

That's the end of where things feel the same as Danny, The Champion of the World, but it was still nice. It also helps to emphasize to the reader that regardless of how Ox feels about himself, he isn't stupid.

Plus, he's heart-breakingly sweet and gentle.

(T)he only things I owned that were beautiful were not mine to give away. My mother. Gordo. Rico, Tanner, and Chris. They were the only things I had.

To the reader who has been immersed in werewolf fiction, and who read the title of the book, it's somewhat obvious what Joe and his family are. But it's ok that Ox doesn't get it, since he does not live in a world of magic.

"Sometimes people are sad," Joe said, leaning his forehead against my arm. A whine sounded like it came from the back of his throat. "And I don't know how to make it go away. It's all I ever wanted. To make it go away."

TJ Klune has an unusual writing style, and it takes me a bit to get into the flow of the story. It's not bad, just different.

He also has some fascinating world-building and ideas about werewolves and witches etc. I adore seeing what different people do with the various mythos that exist around supernatural creatures.

I was frustrated by the pace at times, but I thin that was part of the story–time passed slowly for Ox, so we see how it went, even if I wanted to move onto the bits where Joe grew up and returned.

It was a very different story, and I quite enjoyed it.

Scars showed what I'd been through. That I was still alive.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Ravensong (2018)

That's it.

I'm out.

Gordo Livingstone was made the witch of the Bennett pack when he was a child. Then, his pack abandoned him and he was left completely alone–even by the boy he thought he loved.

This book happens before, during, and after the events of Wolfsong, giving us Gordo's POV. I'd assumed this book was going to be Gordo and Mark working out their differences and dealing with Gordo's father.

No. It wasn't. It was an entirely new Big Bad AND the book ends with Gordo's father talking to one of the troublemakers of this book.

This book was long. Really really long. It needed a lot of editing and didn't get it.

Which is too bad because I like Gordo, and I really like his friends–the other men who worked at his auto repair shop.

"Oh man," Chris said, looking down at the badly wrapped gift in his hand. "I got you a gift at the dollar store."

"I didn't even get you a gift," Tanner said, staring at the streamers and balloons and the tables filled with food.

"You can go in on mine," Chris told him. "It was only a dollar." … "It's a pop gun," Chris said, shoving the present into my hands.

"It's from the both of us," Tanner said.

"You owe me fifty cents," Chris told him.

"Oh, since you're being serious," Tanner said. "Guys, look. We have to listen to him now. He's being serious."

"That'll change my mind," Rico said, shaking his head. "Thank you, Gordo, for telling us what you think we're supposed to do. Should we ignore you right off the bat and move on to something productive, or do you want to fight us on it?"

That did not, however, save the story from going on and on when it needed ruthlessly pruned. And then ending with all kinds of nasty info dumps meant to keep your wondering.


I'm out.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020)

The House in the Cerulean SeaI've read several TJ Klune books, and I am not always sure how I feel about them when I am done.

That was not a problem here.

Linus works for the agency in charge of monitoring the welfare of magical children. He is a caseworker who looks into issues at orphanages and children that may be a danger to themselves or others.

Linus is quirky and alone but takes great pride in his job and firmly believes his job is important because he needs to make certain that children are safe and being well-cared for.

(S)ometimes, we can't always control the … gifts we're given. And it's not necessarily the fault of those with said gifts."

That didn't seem to make her feel better. "Then whose fault is it?"

Linus blinked. "Well, I suppose there are all sorts of factors. Modern research suggests extreme emotional states can trigger instances such as yours. Sadness. Anger. Even happiness. Perhaps you were so happy, you accidentally threw a chair at your friend Marcus?" It was the reason he'd been sent here in the first place. Marcus had been seen in hospital in order to have his tail looked after. It'd been bent at an odd angle, and the hospital had reported it directly to the Department in Charge of Magical Youth as they were required to do. The report triggered an investigation, which was why Linus had been assigned to this particular orphanage.

"Yes," Daisy said. "That's exactly it. Marcus made me so happy when he stole my colored pencils that I accidentally threw a chair at him."

Let's just say that government agencies in charge of magical children seem to be just as soulless as the government agencies that exist now.

He put on his pajamas, buttoning up the front. They were monogrammed with an LB on the breast, a gift from the Department after fifteen years of service. He'd selected them out of a catalogue he'd been given on the day of. The catalogue had two pages inside. One page was the pajamas. The second page was a candleholder.

His boring and organized life, however, is about to be overturned when he is sent to spend a month at an orphanage on a secluded island to assess both the children and the master.

Although the kids are a big part of this story, it is Linus's story from start to finish, but the kids are fun and quite kid like.

"(I)f there are cannibals, yell back at us when they start to eat you so we know to run away."

"What if they eat my mouth first?"

Lucy squinted up at him. "Um. Try not to let that happen?"

"You can pick out two flavors," Arthur told her. "Nothing more. You don't want to spoil your appetite for dinner."

"Yes, I do," she assured him.

Be aware that although this is pretty much a YA book, it involves kids who have been mistreated by the system that was supposed to keep the safe. We don't get details, but we do get to see some of the results of the damage they have suffered.

It's a good story, and I do recommend it.

Publisher: Tor Books