Reading Round Up: The Best in LGBTQ Fiction for 2013

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.

The Best in LGBTQ Fiction for 2013

Light I’ve been a fan of ‘Nathan Burgoine’s short fiction since reading his beautifully written and poignant debut story “Heart” in the critically acclaimed 2009 Cleis Press anthology Fool For Love: New Gay Fiction. In his first novel Light (Bold Strokes Books, October 2013), Mr. Burgoine brings together elements of 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. The story revolves around Kieran Quinn, an unassuming massage therapist by day and reluctant superhero when needed. Along with his sexy leather-man boyfriend Sebastien, Kieran takes on a bible-thumping evangelist hell-bent on destroying Ottawa’s LGBTQ community. The character of Kieran was a pure joy to read. A perfect mixture of cuteness and geek, shyness and sass, confidence and klutz that had me grinning ear-to-ear throughout the story, except when I was too busy laughing out loud. Light is an extremely well written feel good story that I could not read fast enough and devoured in one sitting. Review

End of The Innocence End of The Innocence by John Goode (Harmony Ink Press, November 2012) is the fourth book and the first full-length novel in the Tales From Foster High series. It is a moving and thought-provoking multi-themed story in which the author grows the continuing story of Kyle Stilleno and Brad Greymark 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 this story Mr. Goode examines the issues of homophobia, forced outing, marginalisation and bullying from all angles and blurs the lines between bully and victim. He 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. 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 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. Despite the ugliness of some of the events in this story 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. Review

Elephant160X233 The Elephant of Surprise (Budda Kitty Books, March 2013) by Brent Hartinger is the fourth book in the Lambda Literary Award winning Russel Middlebrook Series that was kicked off by the groundbreaking book Geography Club. 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. I was a little nervous going into this book because while I had heard of Geography Club I had not read any of the preceding books in the series. It turns out that my nervousness was completely unfounded because the author provides for continuity by referencing events that take place in the earlier books so that this story can easily be read as a first time title. The Elephant of Surprise is a wonderful story and one that I highly recommend for readers of all ages. Review

A Horse Named Sorrow As with author ‘Nathan Burgoine, I was first introduced to Trebor Healey’s writing through his politically charged and brilliantly eloquent short story “Trunk,” featured in the anthology Fool For Love: New Gay Fiction. In 2012, Mr. Healey released A Horse Named Sorrow (Terrace Books), an exquisitely written and poignant story of twenty-one year-old Seamus Blake who meets and falls in love with Jimmy, but their time together is short-lived because Jimmy dies of AIDS-related illness. Part Odyssey, part pilgrimage, the story chronicles Seamus’ journey on bicycle from San Francisco to Buffalo to bring Jimmy’s ashes home, with glimpses into their short time together through the non-linear unfolding of the story. The writing is pure poetry set in narrative form and the imagery, which is wrapped in Native American histories, teachings and spirituality, as well as Christian symbolism, is absolutely stunning. The character of Seamus is at once both inspirational and tragic as he pulls – at first to love and care for Jimmy as best he can with moments of hidden hope at somehow preventing the inevitable, and then through his promise to take Jimmy back the way he came, which becomes a search for salvation from his grief and purpose for his existence. A Horse Named Sorrow is without question the most beautiful story I read in 2013, but it is also the saddest, and I savoured each and every word. Review

Bitter Orange Bitter Orange by Marshall Moore (Signal 8 Press, March 2013) 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. Mr. Moore writes in a literary style with a refined sophistication and a sardonic humour that I found beyond appealing. Seth’s tale unfolds slowly, leading the reader down an unassuming path given what we learn about the character over the course of his story until the last portion of the novel when the author reveals the reasons behind Seth’s invisibility in a completely unexpected twist, and a climatic ending that leaves the reader guessing. Review

Aflicted Cold Two of Brandon Shire’s titles made the list of my reading best for 2013. Afflicted (TPG Books, September 2012) is Mr. Shire’s first published foray within gay erotic romance. The story traces the development of the relationship between Hunter Stephens, a blind audio books publisher, and Dillon Chambers, a high priced male escort, from their chance meeting and one-night stand, to their burgeoning love. What ensues is a well-written, highly erotic and sensual romance story as their need for something more than a sexual relationship grows, but their respective insecurities serve as an obstacle in fulfilling their desire for love. I look forward to reading the sequel Afflicted II. Mr. Shire’s Cold (TPG Books, May 2013) is also a contemporary gay romance that is set in prison and features the 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 tale of two very different men that are thrown together as a result of their incarceration, but otherwise would likely have never crossed paths. Its strengths are in the author’s characterisation and in his portrayal of Lem and Anderson’s short-lived relationship and the eventuality of their separation. While their story continues in the sequel entitled, Heart of Timber, I feel that Cold can stand on its own merit and in many respects can be complete as a single title given the realism with which this story is written and the difficulties in sustaining relationships between the incarcerated and the newly released. (Review of Afflicted and Cold)

Boystown 1 Boystown 2 The Boystown series by Marshall Thornton (Torquere Press, MLR Press, 2009-2013) had been on my reading list for a while and I’m pleased that I was able to pick it up in 2013. Named after Chicago’s gay village and one of its main settings, Boystown is a gritty mystery series that takes place in the early 1980s. It is reminiscent of hard boiled detective fiction (think Mickey Spillain’s “Mike Hammer”) with an extremely captivating main character, Nick Nowak – a former cop turned private investigator that was forced from the Chicago Police Department when he was outed. There are five books in the series to date and a prequel. The first three are compilations of novella-length mysteries and books four and five are full novels. Each mystery is better written than the last and the author provides a realistic portrayal of the nature of detective work in the early 1980s, just before the dawn of the digital age. But, as interesting and well written as are the mystery stories, the draw of this series is the compelling character of Nick Nowak and Mr. Thornton’s measured denouement of this character through his continuing story. This, coupled with the author’s authentic depiction of gay life, circa early 1980s, and the looming spectre of the HIV/AIDS crisis, made this series one that I could not put down. I’ve reviewed the first two compilations but will be returning to the series in 2014 to review the remaining books in anticipation of the release of the sixth instalment. (Review of Boystown 1 and Boystown 2)

Music: Clocks – Coldplay (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)

4 thoughts on “Reading Round Up: The Best in LGBTQ Fiction for 2013

  1. Fantastic list, Indie.

    The books I haven’t read look fascinating and there are a few there we share as favorites for 2013 — The Nick Nowak Mystery series by Marshall Thornton made it to my ‘favorites’ list in its entirety. Thank you for the recommendation. As is Light by ‘Nathan Burgoine because… what an excellent read! A Horse Named Sorrow made it to my overall list in 2012, and I am SO glad you loved it!

    I still have not read John Goode’s series, but you know when I do it will be in one big swoop! And, Brent Hartinger’s series looks really good to me. Knowing my tastes, anything else in your list that you think will be a good match for me?

    • Hils,

      We both agree on the Burgoine’s Light and the Marshall Thornton series, and without doubt A Horse Named Sorrow was a breathtaking read. In terms of HIV/AIDS in fiction I’ve mentioned it before, but will nag you again, you must read Alex Jeffers’ Safe As Houses.

      I plan on re-reading books 3-5 in the Nick Nowak Mysteries for review and in anticipation of book 6, which I believe is slated for release in 2014. Also to be released this year (February, I think) is the final book in John Goode’s Tales From Foster High series, entitled “151 Days,” which following the power of End of the Innocence is highly anticipated. So if you haven’t read this series yet, you can do so in one shot.

      You must put Marshall Moore on your reading list. I know you love speculative ficiton and his is such a distinct voice. Bitter Orange is one of those books you think about long after you’ve finished reading – at least it was for me. I’ve purchased most of his books, and plan on slowly making my way through them.

      I know you enjoy the Percy Jackson books, and while Hartinger’s Russel Middlebrook Series is firmly rooted in contemporary reality and is not fantasy at all, the close friendship beween Russel, Min and Gunnar, sort of an “us against the world” feel, reminded me of Percy and his crew. I haven’t read the Geography Club (Book 1 in the series) yet, but plan on it this year.

      • Thanks for the great recs and for the detailed information, Indie. I’ll be getting samples of these series/books for my Kindle to remind myself to purchase them. But, it looks like I’ll be reading John Goode’s series this year after all.

        And yes, I have Safe as Houses in my TBR!

  2. Pingback: I keep forgetting to update this. | Marshall Moore

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