“Cody Pinnt’s sense of himself came early; valued the carousal of pubescence as an affirmation of his nature: Queer. No doubt about it. Didn’t linger on the implications. Took to wrestling as a worthy sport, befitting the use of his body strengthened and sculpted by the demands of a lifetime of work that began before sunrise and ended after sunset. The leveraging of that strength against others, the feel of sweat-soaked skin and nylon singlets, the smell of the battle, the more often than not sublime joy of the win, all of it barely satisfying a voraciousness to get on with it; life just moved too damn slowly in Big Spring for Cody Pinnt’s liking. Cody Pintt knew who he was early on. Knew where he wanted to go. Knew, too, the worth of Skylar Hand to his life.”
I readily admit that George Seaton is a favoured author in gay fiction and it is always a pleasure to read one of his stories. In his recently released novella, Saving Skylar Hand, Mr. Seaton gifts the reader with a beautifully written and tender holiday tale of lifelong friendship between two boys that are separated by the life choices they make as young adults, only to realize that their love for one another is immutable and that they cannot spend their lives apart.
“…It was then that I realized that my lonely childhood had come to a reverberating halt. This moment in time would forever be seared into my psyche, destined to become part of the psychological baggage that I would carry upon my shoulders for the rest of my life. That was how I spent my thirteenth birthday.”
I picked up The Long Road From Perdition with much interest given the story summary and I was not disappointed. In this novel author J.R. Stone has written a moving tale of the life of Nicholas Fontenot, a precocious yet sensitive teenager who lives in an abusive home and is suddenly thrust into a dangerous world, which he must navigate on his own.
On his thirteen birthday, Nicholas witnesses a horrific murder and his world is torn apart. Abandoned by his remaining family he becomes a ward of the state while awaiting news on whether he’ll be charged for the crime he witnessed, but did not commit. He is forced into the foster care system where he experiences even more misery, abuse and danger until he escapes at the age of fifteen. Nicholas draws his strength to persevere and seek a better life for himself from his older brother and protector Josh who is always with him in spirit.
On his journey to find safety, Nicholas meets a kindred spirit in Charley, a drag queen and owner of an off the beaten path gay bar in New Orleans. Charley and a host of colourful characters that work in the bar become Nicholas’ extended family. Yet, his troubled past continues to haunt him until he is tragically forced to leave Charley and New Orleans the only happy home he has ever known. Nicholas’ road from hell and his journey to find peace and his place in the world is a long and difficult one.
Blain Harrington and his husband Manny Madeira have travelled from Massachusetts to Culver Pines, Alabama to attend Blain’s twentieth high school reunion. During the banquette and slightly before midnight Blain realises that he’s lost track of Manny. While sitting at an empty table he finds paper cocktail napkins with homophobic and derogatory drawings of him and Manny. Now panicked, Blain begins to search for Manny, last seen talking with Patrick McMann an old classmate, but can’t find him anywhere. What he does find is Manny’s cell phone tossed in a tree planter at the hotel. By 1:00 a.m., Blain is at the police station trying to file a missing person’s report with a very uncooperative Culver Pines duty officer. On the advice of his best friend Michael, Blain enlists the help of Rich, a gay-friendly private investigator from Atlanta and the local gay organization to help find Manny. One week later with no news on Manny’s whereabouts, Blain returns home to wait. The dreaded news that he’s feared all along arrives – Manny was found dead in a ravine.
“…and if we could capture it, put it under glass, keep dampness from tamping its restless tranquility. What then? Every storm has brilliance, Dustin; has beauty when you look at it from a distance. It blurs all those incessant imperfections we seek to hollow out with each of our hopes. But when you step into its still center, when you see its fury and its power, you also see its beauty; its grace.
Five thousand miles away and I can still feel your turbulence on my skin, Dustin; your grit stuck in the chambers of my heart…and all the silence that has followed it.
Please write me back.”
Listening to Dust by Brandon Shire is a devastatingly beautiful and emotionally powerful love story of a magnitude that is at times overwhelming. It is not often that I find myself without the ability to articulate my thoughts in a review because the writing has rendered me so. This is such a story and I am not altogether sure if this review can or will do the writing justice.
This summer’s road trip was not too far from home. In late July we headed to Toronto for about a week and then it was on to the Rez with a few side trips to Guelph, Paris (Ontario) and Fort Erie. Visiting with family and friends was our main activity, however, as always, I made time for some book shopping.
I will begin this review by getting directly to the point. Arthur Wooten’s Shorts is an intelligently humorous and often hysterically funny compilation of one short story – Stroke of Luck, and a short novella – The “Dear Henry” Letters.
Erik Orrantia is one of a handful of authors in gay fiction with whose writing I connected almost immediately when I read and reviewed his Lambda Literary Award winning debut novel Normal Miguel (Bristlecone Pine Press; Cheyenne Publishing, 2010) for Rainbow Reviews. His is an evocative and fluid voice and from this author I have come to expect good writing, an intuitive understanding of his adopted home of Mexico and always, always extremely well written and developed characters. Mr. Orrantia delivers all of this in his third novel Taxi Rojo a multi-layered “tale of triumph and defeat, hopelessness and perseverance, life and death.”
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a Reading Round Up. This post, however, is slightly different from my periodic summaries of the books I’ve read and reviewed in that it is focused on reading and music.
Music has always been a very important aspect of my life, including my reading life, and as with books my tastes in music are varied and eclectic. There is almost always a connection between a story that I’m reading at any given time and a particular piece of music. It is the rare occasion when no musical piece comes to mind for a particular story. One of my favourite features of LiveJournal is the ability to list a specific song or music with each post. Something I have taken full advantage of over the years when posting or linking my book reviews there.
“I’m leavin’ my fam’ly
Leavin’ all my friends
My body’s at home
But my heart’s in the wind
Where the clouds are like headlines
On a new front page sky
My tears are salt water
And the moon’s full and high” (Shiver Me Timbers by Tom Waits, 1974)
Kergan Edwards-Stout’s debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, is the poignant and darkly humorous story of Gabriel Travers who is HIV positive and convinced that he’s dying despite his doctor’s proclamations to the contrary. His viral load is undetectable, his T-cell count is up, but according to Gabe one glance in the mirror tells him everything he needs to know. “His ass, once the talk of West Hollywood, now looks suspiciously like a Shar-Pei…” Faced with his own mortality, Gabriel’s first person narrative takes the reader on an emotional journey as he recounts his life experiences and relationships, reflecting on the choices that he’s made along the way and questioning his treatment of the people in his life.
There are probably only a handful of devoted readers of mainstream paranormal romance that have yet to read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward. Although I’m not an exclusive reader of romance (whether paranormal or other), I began reading this series in 2006 and while I enjoyed the early books, my interest in the series began to wan and I easily let go of the series in 2008 following the release of Lover Enshrined (Book 6). But, with the recent publication of the tenth book, Lover Reborn, which features the story of Tohrment the last of the original Brothers, I’ve picked up the books once again to catch-up on the newer storylines and characters in anticipation of reading Book 10. As I’ve never reviewed any of the books in this series I thought it would be interesting to post my thoughts on some of the stories in retrospective, starting with the first book Dark Lover.
As the first book in the Black Dagger Bortherhood (BDB) saga, I consider Dark Lover foundational to the series as a whole and the book upon which the author springboards the BDB world and introduces many of the characters that are set for stories in future books. While it’s not the strongest written book in the series, it is a solid beginning.