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 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.
‘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.
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’s a career 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, that 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Wicked Instead by debut author Vivien Weaver is the first book in the Twisted Tree series and the flagship publication for the recently launched Hard Limits Press. It is an urban fantasy that combines Ozark redneck “haint” culture with ancient Hungarian mythology and folklore to tell the uncommon coming of age story of brothers Cary and Lindsay Delaney.
Each December I compile my list of favourite books read over the course of the year. Unfortunately, the trend I experienced in 2010 persisted in 2011 and my reading and reviewing time was extremely limited due to the demands of work. As a result, the number of books I did read was less than in previous years and there were a number of new releases by some of my favourite authors, as well as books by new-to-me authors of interest that I wasn’t able to get to. They include, among others, The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam by Alex Jeffers, The Palisade and Finding Deaglan by George Seaton, The Visionary: Welcome to the Fold by the writing duo of Reno MacLeod and Jaye Valentine and The German by Lee Thomas. I’ve included these 2011 releases and several others in my reading list for 2012.
Even with less time to read, my reading habits remained consistent and I continued to read across sub-genres. My list of favourites for 2011 includes an eclectic mix of novels, one anthology and short stories from a cross-section of sub-genres including fantasy, horror, the suspense/thriller, erotica, contemporary, historical, indigenous and young adult literature. In addition, my list includes not only gay fiction (as in previous years) but also books and stories that feature lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer characters and themes, something I hope continue in 2012 as I broaden my reading experiences.
Always a thrill for me is the discovery of new authors and there are a number of books that made my list for 2011 written by new-to-me authors, including a debut author, all of whom I look forward to reading in the future. Also listed this year is The Equinox Convergence by Erik Orrantia, a novel that does not feature a prominent LGBTQ theme (there is a lesbian relationship involving secondary characters in the novel) I chose to include all the same because it is an excellent story by this LGBTQ award-winning author. Finally, two of the novels listed are past favourites re-read in 2011.