My list of reading favourites for 2013 features a mix of titles, both literary and genre fiction, including action/adventure, contemporary, fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery, young adult and (erotic) romance. Most of the books listed were released in 2012-2013, but there are a few that had been on my reading list for years and that I was finally able to get to in 2013. The past year’s best include stories from previously read favourite authors, as well as from author’s that are new to me, and I look forward to reading more of their works in the future.
“…I became a clown for the usual reason – because things didn’t work out. On a grand scale. That’s the cliché of clown stories. I know. Yet I didn’t go bankrupt or lose my family in a tornado or anything like that. I lost Jimmy, which amounted to the same and then some.
Because it was like a tornado, the way it came, leaving nothing behind but dust and ruination – and Jimmy’s voice as he grabbed hard ahold of my wrist with what strength he had left, his big hollow dark eyes looking at me: ‘Don’t forget to take me back the way I came, Seamus…road’s the place for lost souls.’
The question that was my face.
I nodded. Then I kissed him on the forehead and sat holding his hand, listening to the rhythm of his breathing – and humming along with it – as he made his way toward sleep.
Jimmy was a song, see? And the song’s over. Let me tell you the story. You read and I’ll hum…”
I was first introduced to the writing of award winning author Trebor Healey through his politically charged and brilliantly eloquent short story “Trunk,” featured in the 2009 Cleis Press anthology Fool For Love: New Gay Fiction. In 2012, Mr. Healey released A Horse Named Sorrow, an exquisitely written and heart-rending story of twenty-one year-old Seamus Blake who meets and falls in love with strong and self-possessed Jimmy. But their time together proves short-lived, as Jimmy dies of AIDS-related illness. The grieving Seamus (or Shame, as named by Jimmy) is obliged to keep a promise to Jimmy: “Take me back the way I came.” Shame sets out from San Francisco on Jimmy’s bicycle – Chief Joseph – with Jimmy’s ashes, to bring him back home to Buffalo.
I first learned of author Marshall Moore when I came across his guest post on Rick R. Reed’s site, entitled, My Open Relationship With Genre, in which the author shares his insights on genre, writing, and the state of gay fiction. While as a reader I also share many of Mr. Moore’s perspectives on genre what equally made an impression are the titles of his published works – The Concrete Sky, The Infernal Republic, An Ideal for Living. Call it this particular reader’s quirk, but I have a thing for titles, and have been known to purchase a book based solely on its title. So when I received a request from the author to review his 2013 release, entitled, Bitter Orange, I agreed without hesitation.
Bitter Orange is the last book I read in 2013, and in this regard I saved one of the best for last. It is an extremely well written, imaginative, provocative and by degrees disturbing multi-themed story that is part urban fantasy and part mystery, but is firmly rooted in contemporary reality. Through the main character of Seth Harrington, who possesses the ability to become invisible, Mr. Moore turns the more accepted notion of superhero in speculative fiction on its ear to explore the darker motivations and actions of an ordinary person who possesses extraordinary powers. The author grounds the fantastical elements of this story and Seth’s increasing confusion and anxiety about his ability to become invisible against the backdrop of the disquiet and weariness of American (urban) life in a post 9/11 and dotcom crash world. Particular to the main protagonist’s personal story is the question of whether Seth can move beyond the loss, pain and trauma of those falling towers to once again find his place in the world.
End of the Innocence is the fourth book and the first full-length novel in the Tales From Foster High series. It is an incredibly moving and thought-provoking multi-themed story in which author John Goode throws the doors of Foster High wide open to grow Kyle and Brad’s world by focusing on not only what is happening to them, but also on what is happening all around them, further developing secondary characters and introducing new ones.
In doing so Mr. Goode examines the issues of homophobia, forced outing, marginalisation and cyber bullying from all angles and blurs the lines between bully and victim. The author also deals with the issue of gay teen suicide head on, with the same sensitivity and respect that he’s written all the books in this series. There are tragic events that transpire in this story that are transformative for both Kyle and Brad, their friends and the entire town of Foster. They are also a turning point for the series as a whole.
I found this instalment in the series the most powerful and the best written to date. This is saying a lot because I consider all the books in the series to be extremely well written. What make this particular book stand out so are Mr. Goode’s courage and care in the execution of this story. Courage in tackling with realism extremely difficult subject matter, and care in how the issues are depicted all the while ensuring the integrity of the overall story and its characters. And despite the ugliness of some of the events and the tragedy that ensues as a result, the story conveys incredibly important messages while at the same time leaving the reader with a sense of hope.
Cold by Brandon Shire is a contemporary gay romance that is set in prison and the first book in the continuing story of Lem Porter and Anderson Passero, who meet as inmates and get together for a short, but intense, period of four months. It is a well-written story of two very different men that are thrown together as a result of their incarceration, but otherwise would likely have never crossed paths. The strengths of this story are in Mr. Shire’s characterisation and in his portrayal of Lem and Anderson’s short-lived relationship and the eventuality of their separation.
On the high plains of northwestern Colorado, tales emerge near Yampa, up where the Bear River runs and the Causeway and Little Causeway Lakes nestle into the wilderness like curled cats lolling in the comfort of gracious laps. It is here within the purely black chill of night time when the pop and hiss of a campfire illuminates the faces of wide-eyed children hunkered with their backs to the deep, dark shadows of pine, spruce, and aspen; it is here where the telling of the tales commences from elders to youngsters.
Real or imagined movement within these night shadows is perceived by the children as bears, wolves, or maybe spirits of the White River or Yampa Ute Indian tribes. There is a sense that some malevolence lurks in the shadows, something that may rob sleep from the young who understand the thickness of a nylon tent is no defense against…well, imaginations do conjure a bleak inevitability in such circumstances.
George Seaton’s latest release, The Gift of Stories, is a stand-alone short story of some forty pages that is part of the “Average Joe Collection” published by MLR Press. It is a lovely and heartfelt tale within a tale of many themes including, the magic and importance of stories in our lives and the imparting of wisdom from one generation to the next.
Second Chances by Arianna Paige is a short novella of less than fifty pages and the debut publication for this new author. It is the romance story of Richard Forrest and Adrian (Rain) Moore who meet up again by chance, and resume their relationship after a two year separation. What initially ended their friendship was Rain’s cocaine addiction. But Rain is now clean and sober, in recovery and trying his best to put his life back together.
Prior to Rain’s disappearance they had a close friendship, although it suffered because of Rain’s drug use. Despite the sexual tension between them, Richard was too afraid to admit to anyone that he is gay and to let Rain know that he’s in love with him. But when Richard finds out that Rain is drug free he welcomes him back into his life as a second chance at what he wants most – to be with Rain. He finally admits to his feelings and they agree to take things slow. Everything moves ahead in a fairy-tale manner until Rain’s all too familiar past behaviours start to resurface and Richard’s suspicions and fears threaten to tear them apart.
‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller – a job he still does, and still loves. A cat lover, ‘Nathan managed to fall in love and marry Daniel, who is a confirmed dog person. Their ongoing “cat or dog?” détente continues and according to ‘Nathan will likely end with the acquisition of a dog. They live in Ottawa, Canada, where socialized health care and gay marriage have yet to cause the sky to cave in.
My introduction to ‘Nathan’s writing came by way of his first published short story “Heart” a beautiful and poignant tale of love and loss, which appeared in the critically acclaimed 2009 Cleis Press anthology Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. My introduction to ‘Nathan came about while I was on the hunt for a second print copy of Fool For Love (my first one had fallen apart from re-reading). Coincidentally, the only bookstore in Ottawa that wasn’t sold out of copies was ‘Nathan’s, and a great thing happened when I got to the bookstore – I met one of the authors of one of my favourite anthologies.
Since the publication of “Heart,” ‘Nathan’s had over two-dozen stories appear in anthologies by some of the best publishers of LGBTQ fiction, including in: Men of the Mean Streets: Gay Noir and Boys of Summer (Bold Strokes Books); Tented, a Lambda Literary Award finalist and The Touch of The Sea (Lethe Press); and Afternoon Pleasures: Erotica for Gay Couples (Cleis Press).
‘Nathan’s story “Sky Blue” appears in Saints and Sinners 2013: New Fiction From the Festival (Bold Strokes Books) as a runner up in Festival’s short story contest for that year, and his story “Hometown Boy” appears as a 2011 finalist in Saints and Sinners 2011: New Fiction From the Festival (Queer Mojo). In July 2013, his story “Old Age, Surrounded by Loved Ones” was published in This Is How You Die: Machine of Death 2 (Grand Central Publishing). His non-fiction pieces have appeared in I Like It Like That: True Stories of Gay Male Desire (Arsenal Pulp Press) and 5×5 Literary Magazine.
Not only a writer of short stories, ‘Nathan’s also an avid reader of short fiction and combines insightful reviews of the stories he’s read with equally thoughtful observations about, among others, his experiences as a bookseller through his Short Story 365 Series.
His first novel Light was released by Bold Strokes Books earlier this week, and to mark the occasion I invited ‘Nathan to participate in an author Q & A here at Indie Reviews.
I’ve been a fan of ‘Nathan Burgoine’s short fiction since reading his first published story “Heart” in the critically acclaimed anthology Fool For Love: New Gay Fiction. To say that I eagerly awaited the release of Light, the author’s first novel, is a bit of an understatement. As it turns out my anticipation and excitement were well founded. In Light, Mr. Burgoine brings together elements of several sub-genres including action/adventure, fantasy/urban fantasy, horror, the paranormal, suspense and romance to write an incredibly charming, funny, action-packed and by degrees sexy page-turning superhero adventure that I could not read fast enough and devoured in one sitting.
Inertia by Amelia C. Gormley is the first of three books in the Impulse series and the debut publication for this author. It is a well-written novella-length m/m erotic romance that chronicles the beginnings and slow development of the relationship between Derrick Chance and Gavin Hayes.