Taking Chances is John Goode’s fifth instalment in the Foster High books. It is an extremely moving and at times funny story of Matt Wallace and Tyler Parker, who despite having lived down the street from one another while growing up in Foster, Texas, only discover each other as adults. The character of Tyler was first introduced in Book 2 of the series, The End of The Beginning, when he befriends main characters Brad Greymark and his boyfriend Kyle Stilleno and tries to support them in dealing with the fallout of their coming out. Matt’s tale was initially written as a short story, The Boy Behind The Red Door, and previously published as part of a Dreamspinner holiday anthology. Taking Chances is the full-length novel of that short story, in which the author continues to grow the Foster world through Tyler and Matt’s story.
Destiny on the Tracks by Drake Braxton is a Bittersweet Dreams title by Dreamspinner Press that offers a refreshing alternative to the traditional happy ending within romance. It is a multi-genre novella that incorporates time-travel, fantasy, romance, mystery and a period historical to provide for a well written and touching page-turning love story.
John Goode’s Tales From Foster High #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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 going to deviate slightly from my usual first paragraph summary format in beginning this review to admit that John Goode was not an author on my radar. I stumbled upon Maybe With A Chance of Certainty, well, by chance, as I was perusing the Internet for new book releases. What immediately caught my attention was the title, specifically, the contradictory terms it contained. I found the play on words quite clever and wondered what the significance was to the actual story. Although the story summary outlines a commonly written trope in gay young adult and romance fiction I nonetheless remained intrigued by the title and purchased this book on a lark. I’m glad I did so because within the one hundred pages of this novella I fell in love with Mr. Goode’s writing and in particular his characterisation.