The Elephant of Surprise is the fourth book in the Lambda Literary Award winning Russel Middlebrook Series that was kicked off by the groundbreaking book Geography Club, and which has been adapted into a feature film slated for released sometime in 2013. Mr. Hartinger continues the tale of Russel and his best friends Min and Gunnar in this fourth volume by mixing humour, danger and romance to unfold an extremely well written story chalk full of life lessons for the threesome. In the process, the author also touches upon important social issues while at the same time not sacrificing the story’s subtleties.
“Stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous.”
Thomas King is one of my favourite authors and I was thrilled to learn that he was to give a reading and talk in Ottawa. On the evening of March 6th, a sold out audience of about 1,000 congregated at the Centretown United Church to listen to Mr. King read from his most recent book, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada, November 2012) and to field questions from Waubgeshig Rice, author and broadcast journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and from the audience. The event was co-sponsored by a host of organizations, among others: Octopus Books one of the only remaining independent bookstores in the city; Random House of Canada; and a number of local Aboriginal organizations, including, the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health and the Odawa Native Friendship Centre.
My initiation to the work of this author, activist and academic was through his highly acclaimed novel Green Grass, Running Water (Bantam Books, 1993) and the Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour a radio series that he wrote and produced, and which premiered in 1997 and ran for three consecutive years on the CBC’s Radio One. Characterised as irreverent comedy that pokes fun at Indian stereotypes, the Dead Dog Café borrows numerous elements from the novel Green Grass, Running Water, including the fictional café of the same name which is set in the equally fictional town of Blossom, Alberta, but with different characters. In Dead Dog Café, Mr. King plays himself and is the straight man and third wheel to Jasper Friendly Bear (played by Floyd Favel Starr) and Gracie Heavy Hand (played by Edna Rain). The CD box set of Dead Dog Café has become a listening staple during our annual road trips.
My next intersection with the author’s work came by way of the published version of his Massey Lectures, which he delivered in 2003. Mr. King was the first indigenous person to be invited to do so and in all he delivered five lectures under the title The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative (House of Anansi Press Inc., 2003) to different audiences across Canada. In keeping with the Native oral tradition of storytelling, Mr. King begins each of the lectures with a Native creation story of a pregnant sky woman who falls to the water world and with the help of various water animals builds the earth (Turtle Island) upon which she can deliver her twins. He uses this story in each lecture to weave through his own personal history as a Native American and that of the colonization of the Americas, illuminating upon the impacts of colonization on First Nations (or Native Americans in the United States) and of Canada and the United States’ relationship with its Native peoples. The Massey Lectures are eloquently subversive and they remain my favourite body of work by this author.
Over the years I have read Mr. King’s books for my personal knowledge, understanding and growth. It was an absolute pleasure for me to attend his reading from his latest book, The Inconvenient Indian, which has been described as both “a history and the complete subversion of history” and “a critical and personal mediation…about what it means to be ‘Indian’ in North America.” In his responses to questions from Mr. Rice and the audience on his experiences as a writer and activist and his views on First Nations issues, Mr. King was quite gracious and erudite and that rye sense of humour that is woven throughout his stories comes naturally.
Thomas Hunt King was born in 1943 in Sacramento, California. His father was Cherokee and his mother Greek, and he holds dual (American/Canadian) citizenship. Mr. King received a PhD in English Literature from the University of Utah and went on to teach Native Studies at the University of Minnesota, where he became the Chair of American Indian Studies. In 1980, Mr. King emigrated to Canada which has since become his adoptive home. He has taught Native Studies at the University of Lethbridge (Alberta) and Native Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Guelph (Ontario).
In addition to Green Grass, Running Water, which made a splash in Canadian literature and earned him his second Governor-General’s Award nomination, The Truth About Stories and The Inconvenient Indian, his other widely-acclaimed novels include Medicine River (Penguin Books, 1990), and A Coyote Columbus Story (Groundwood Books, 1992), a children’s book for which he received his first Governor-General’s Award nomination. He is the editor of All My Relations: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Native Fiction (University of Oklahoma Press, 1992) and co-editor of The Native in Literature: Canadian and Comparative Perspectives, in the academic journal American Indian Quarterly (University of Nebraska Press, 1992).
Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries by Marshall Thornton is the first book in this well-written and gritty detective series that is reminiscent of hardboiled crime fiction. The book is a compilation of three novella-length mysteries all set in Chicago, circa 1980-1981. The mysteries are engaging, and the writing features a captivating main character and sets an excellent overall mood for the stories.
“Finding the courage to face the pain of the past in order to have a future.”
Title: The Agony of Joy
By: Red Haircrow
Published: February 17, 2013
Length: 350 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, GLBTIIQ Interest
Price: $4.99 in e-book format
Available at: Smashwords; soon at other online distributors
Book Trailer: The Agony of Joy
Blurb: For many survivors of child sex abuse, there is a lifelong battle for understanding and acceptance, not only from others, but also from themselves. From London to Berlin, to the frozen seas of far east Russia, this is an unforgettable journey of rebirth, revelation and redemption as two men struggle to overcome their separate past agonies and allow themselves to experience friendship and love.
No Deadly Thing by Tiger Gray is the author’s debut novel and the second book in the Twisted Tree series published by Hard Limits Press. The story is set in the American Pacific Northwest and the author fuses the tenets of good and evil of the ancient Zoroastrian religion and philosophy with the theme of environmental contamination to write an elaborate urban fantasy tale that also interweaves strong elements of action/adventure and mystery. The writing is refined and textured and well serves the plot, world building and characterisation.
Ashrinn Pinecroft has spent a lifetime trying to forget his Anglo-Persian family’s expulsion from his native Iran. He has made a career as a soldier serving in Iraq as the leader of the elite American anti-terrorist unit, Delta Force. When a sniper’s bullet cuts Ashrinn’s career short, he wakes up in an infirmary tent not sure of his reality or whether he’s hallucinating the silver-haired man standing at the foot of his bed. The man is named Randolph and he is the leader of the Order of the White Eagle, a group of magicals on a mission to rid the evil that is infecting the Pacific Northwest. Randolph enlists Ashrinn to lead a group of paladins (warriors) in the fight against this evil force.
The Zoroastrian myths Ashrinn’s mother entertained him with as a child have found new, twisted life in the streets of Seattle, and he has a central role to play in the fight against destruction whether he likes it or not. Ashrinn must use his newfound divine powers to save the Pacific Northwest from an evil snake-handling cult that is contaminating the waters with its magic, killing both magicals and humans. The cult is also hell bent on sacrificing Ashrinn to their demon god. With a ragtag group of warriors that call themselves The Storm and includes a half crazy werewolf, a psychic sniper, and his equally blessed best friend and former Delta team mate Malkai (Mal) Tielhart at his side, Ashrinn will do everything in his power to combat the corruption. But sometimes the greatest horror imaginable and the things held most dear are one and the same, and corruption is not so easily spotted when it hits close to home.
The German by Lee Thomas had been on my reading list since its release by Lethe Press in March 2011. I was finally able to get to it in late 2012 and read it in virtually one sitting. As a long-time reader of the suspense/thriller and horror fiction, over the years I’ve read my share of both well-written and utterly forgettable stories in these sub-genres. However, it’s been a long while since I’ve read a story of this calibre of excellence.
John Goode’s Tales From Foster High (Tales #1-3) is a compilation of the first novella that kicked-off this well written young adult series Maybe With A Chance of Certainty and the two books that followed: The End of The Beginning and Raise Your Glass. I initially read and reviewed Maybe With A Chance of Certainty as a single title and immediately fell in love with Mr. Goode’s writing and in particular his characterisation. While this is a review of the compilation as a whole, it also incorporates some of my thoughts from the review of the initial novella.
My retrospective of the Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) series continues with a review of the second book, Lover Eternal, which features the story of the Brother Rhage and his human love interest Mary Luce. I began reading this series out of sequence starting with this book and recall being intrigued enough with J.R. Ward’s take on vampire lore, the close relationship and camaraderie between the Brothers and the fusion of paranormal romance with darker urban fantasy elements to back track and read Dark Lover (Book 1) and the rest, as they say, is history. In Lover Eternal, Ms. Ward begins to hit her stride with this series.
If I were to choose a theme to characterise my reading year in 2012 it would be the year of the debut and independent author. The majority of books I read either for my own pleasure or specifically for review were by first time and/or predominantly self-published authors. While self-publishing tends to get a bad rap in some reading circles, in general, my personal reading experience with self-published and independent press authors has been positive as I find that they are able to push creative boundaries not always readily achievable within the realm of more mainstream publishing. Works by several such authors have made the list of my reading best for 2012.
The list also features works by some of my favourite authors that have become staples in my reading life, they include Alex Jeffers, Erik Orrantia and Brandon Shire. Several new-to-me authors such as, Drake Braxton, Kergan Edwards-Stout, John Goode, Red Haircrow, Jeff Mann, Tom Schabarum, Lee Thomas and Arthur Wooten joined this list in 2012 and I look forward to reading their previously published and future books.
My reading best for 2012 includes a mix of novels, novellas, compilations and short stories across a variety of sub-genres and within the realms of LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction that were published in 2011 and 2012.
The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam by Alex Jeffers is a compilation of ten exquisitely written short stories that take the form of chapters and come together as a novel. Ziya, a Turkish national, narrates the stories in retrospective explaining himself and his life to Adam, his American lover, telling Adam the stories of his life.