Reading Round Up: Canada Reads 2015

What is the one book that can break barriers? This is the question that will be asked of the five Canada Reads 2015 book finalists and debated by their champions, as announced on January 20, 2015. Canada Reads 2015 is all about books that can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes and illuminate issues.
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Training Season by Leta Blake

3 stars

Training Season Training Season is Leta Blake’s debut novel and the first book I’ve read by this author. It features the romance story of Matty Marcus a once Olympic skating hopeful and Rob Lovely a rancher/cowboy with a heart of gold.

Matty’s lack of discipline previously cost him the gold and a back injury completely sidelined him from skating. Now recovered he’s in search of a top coach and a comeback. But in-demand coaches don’t come cheap. A wealthy skating patron steps in to generously contribute to his Olympic dream in exchange for a six-month housesitting stint in rural Montana. This leaves Matty with plenty of free time to train and make enough money to hire the best coach in skating.

Much to his surprise, local residents in small town Montana turn out to be tolerant and friendly, especially his next-door neighbour rancher Rob Lovely, who proves to be much more than a cowboy stereotype. They begin a relationship and Matty learns much from Rob and about himself. With his newfound self-assurance, he drives himself harder to go straight to the top. But competition has a timetable and to achieve his Olympic dream Matty must leave Rob behind to join his new coach in New York City and focus on winning the gold.

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151 Days (Tales From Foster High #6) by John Goode

5 Stars

151 Days Aptly entitled 151 Days, Book 6 in the Tales From Foster High series chronicles just that – the last 151 days of high school until graduation for Kyle Stilleno and his boyfriend Brad Greymark. It is Mr. Goode’s best-written instalment in the series to date, as with each successive book the author raises his own bar in terms of writing quality, character development and overall story advancement.

151 Days picks up immediately following events in Book 4, End of the Innocence. It is a turbulent time for Kyle, Brad and their friends as they continue to deal with the aftermath of Kelly’s death. With their support, Kyle sets out to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in Foster High as a means of raising awareness and promoting tolerance so that what happened to Kelly never happens again. But life continues to unfold and the GSA is not their only going concern as choices and decisions must be made about love, sex, graduation, college and their future beyond Foster, Texas. At the same time they must face the circumstances surrounding Kelly’s death and a situation that threatens to lead to yet another tragedy at Foster High.

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Reading Round Up: A Fresh Start

It has been almost nine months since I’ve posted a book review on this site. An illness in spring 2014 followed by a long recovery and other family issues forced an unexpected hiatus from reviewing for the remainder of the year. Needless to say, 2014 was a difficult year and one that I am glad is over.

While I did manage some personal reading over 2014, I did not read enough to compile a fulsome best of list, as I have previously done at the beginning of each new year. Still, I did not want to pass up the opportunity to mention two books released in 2014 that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.

Foolish Hearts The first is the long-awaited second anthology by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction. In Foolish Hearts Lambert and Cochrane once again bring together an exceptional collection of short stories featuring contributions from well-established authors and newer writers of gay fiction, including from several alumni of their first anthology Fool for Love.

The Unwanted The second is The Unwanted by Jeffery Ricker, an action-packed gay young adult fantasy set against the backdrop of the ancient Greek mythological world.

This post marks what I hope to be a fresh start as I resume reading and reviewing for 2015. There were a number of books released last year that are still on my reading list and that I hope to get to in the coming year. I look forward to reading both past and new releases from beloved authors and as always, hope to discover new authors and works. With this, my first review of 2015 is for the sixth book in one of my favourite series, 151 Days: Tales From Foster High by John Goode.

On a more personal note, I would like to thank the authors that submitted books for review for their patience, understanding and their well wishes. I hope to be reading and reviewing your submissions in the coming year. I would also like to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2015.

Reading Round Up: Q & A with Author Jeffrey Ricker

Jeffrey Ricker I’ve mentioned many times of my love for the anthology Fool or Love: New Gay Fiction and one of the reasons is that this compilation of short stories introduced me to several wonderful writers, one of whom is author, editor and graphic designer Jeffrey Ricker.

Since the publication of his first short story “At The End of A Leash” in Fool for Love, Jeffrey has contributed over a dozen short fiction titles to anthologies by some of the best known publishers of LGBTQ fiction, including in: Wilde Stories 2011: The Year’s Best in Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press), The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy (Northwest Press) and Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction (Cleis Press); as well as in numerous titles by Bold Strokes Books: Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up, Men of the Mean Streets: Gay Noir, Night Shadows: Queer Horror, Blood Sacraments: Gay Vampire Erotica, Raising Hell: Demonica Gay Erotica and Riding the Rails: Locomotive Lust and Carnal Cabooses.

Several of his single short fiction stories, such as, Maternal Instincts, Straightening Up and New Normal are available from Untreed Reads and he has also written non-fiction essays that appear in The Other Man (JMS Books), Paws and Reflect: A Special Bond between Man and Dog (Alyson Books) and in the upcoming A Family by Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships (Touchwood Editions).

A graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Jeffrey is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

The Unwanted Detours

His first novel, Detours was published in 2011 by Bold Strokes Books, and on the occasion of the recent release of his second novel The Unwanted, Jeffrey was kind enough to accept an invitation to answer some questions here at Indie Reviews.

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The Unwanted by Jeffrey Ricker

4-5 Stars

The Unwanted The Unwanted, Jeffrey Ricker’s second novel, is an extremely well written, action-packed gay young adult fantasy set against the backdrop of the ancient Greek mythological world. In it, the author unfolds the story of Jamie Thomas a sixteen-year-old high school junior whose life is turned upside down by the return of a mother he thought was dead, and who is now seeking his help to save her tribe – The Amazons. Mixing action, danger and romance, Mr. Ricker chronicles Jamie’s more personal journey of coming to terms with the relationships in his life to write a page-turning young adult adventure story that has depth and underlying meaning, and one that I could not put down.

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Reading Round Up: Winner of Canada Reads 2014 & Lambda Literary Awards Finalists

Each year I await the announcement of the Canada Reads nominees and the Lambda Literary Awards list of finalists to inform my reading list for the year and beyond.

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Reading Round Up: Q & A with Editors R.D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert

TJL-BC As a lover of short fiction I read a lot of anthologies. But, there is one anthology that stands out and has set the standard for me in terms of short story compilations – Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors R.D. (Becky) Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert, released by Cleis Press in 2009. Fool for Love is an outstanding collection of sixteen short stories that covers a spectrum of themes relating to gay romance, love and life. It is not only my favourite anthology, but also one of my favourite books and one that I continue to recommend far and wide some five years after its initial publication.

Most recently, I read and reviewed Lambert and Cochrane’s second anthology Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, the follow-up to Fool for Love, and equally fell in love with the stories and writing. On Valentine’s Day of this year, Cleis Press released their third anthology – Best Gay Romance 2014.

Best Gay Romance 2014 Foolish Hearts Fool for Love

In addition to co-editing, both are respected authors in their own right. Timothy Lambert’s stories have appeared in Best Gay Love Stories and The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica. Becky Cochrane has published short stories and two novels: A Coventry Wedding and A Coventry Christmas. Together they co-authored Three Fortunes in One Cookie and The Deal, and through their collaboration with authors Jim Carter and Timothy Forry, under the nom du plume Timothy James Beck, they have published five novels: It Had To Be You, He’s The One, I’m Your Man, Someone Like You and When You Don’t See Me.

On the occasion of the release of Foolish Hearts and Best Gay Romance 2014, Becky Cochrane and Timothy Lambert agreed to participate in a Q & A at Indie Reviews.

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Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction by editors Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane

4-5 Stars

Foolish Hearts As a lover of short fiction, I’ve read my share of short story compilations over the years, some more memorable than others. But there is one anthology that always stands out and remains one of my favourites – Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, released by Cleis Press in 2009.

In January 2014, Lambert and Cochrane released their second anthology Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, the follow-up to Fool for Love. Once again, they have brought together an exceptional collection of seventeen short stories featuring contributions from well-established authors and newer writers of gay fiction, including from several alumni of their first anthology.

Foolish Hearts offers a diverse mix of stories and themes, including: the thrill of young love; the bitter sweetness of unfulfilled love; second chances at love; and how through love we often find ourselves. Much has happened in the United States in the advance of LGBTQ rights over the last five years. And as art often reflects real life another prominent theme for a number of the stories is same-sex marriage. But, there is also a distinct international flavour to the anthology as the stories and their characters come from all parts of the globe in celebration of gay romance, love and life.

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Dear God (Tales From Foster High #4.5) by John Goode

4 stars

Dear God Dear God by John Goode is a deleted chapter from End of the Innocence, the fourth book in the Tales From Foster High Series, which was excluded from the book because the author felt it would have slowed the pace of the story, but important enough in its subject matter to be released as a short story. In this short piece, Kyle goes to a local church in search of understanding and answers on God, the Bible and Christianity’s treatment of homosexuality as a means of fighting prejudice and those using religion against his friend. His inquiry leads him to some surprising conclusions and forces him to re-examine his own beliefs.

As with all the books in the series, Dear God is well written, and I enjoyed this short fiction for what it is – a means of delving further into the character of Kyle Stilleno, one of the main protagonists in this series, and at the same time examining the issues of Christianity and its treatment of homosexuality, within the context of the overall story arc.

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