It has been almost nine months since I’ve posted a book review on this site. An illness in spring 2014 followed by a long recovery and other family issues forced an unexpected hiatus from reviewing for the remainder of the year. Needless to say, 2014 was a difficult year and one that I am glad is over.
While I did manage some personal reading over 2014, I did not read enough to compile a fulsome best of list, as I have previously done at the beginning of each new year. Still, I did not want to pass up the opportunity to mention two books released in 2014 that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.
The first is the long-awaited second anthology by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction. In Foolish Hearts Lambert and Cochrane once again bring together an exceptional collection of short stories featuring contributions from well-established authors and newer writers of gay fiction, including from several alumni of their first anthology Fool for Love.
The second is The Unwanted by Jeffery Ricker, an action-packed gay young adult fantasy set against the backdrop of the ancient Greek mythological world.
This post marks what I hope to be a fresh start as I resume reading and reviewing for 2015. There were a number of books released last year that are still on my reading list and that I hope to get to in the coming year. I look forward to reading both past and new releases from beloved authors and as always, hope to discover new authors and works. With this, my first review of 2015 is for the sixth book in one of my favourite series, 151 Days: Tales From Foster High by John Goode.
On a more personal note, I would like to thank the authors that submitted books for review for their patience, understanding and their well wishes. I hope to be reading and reviewing your submissions in the coming year. I would also like to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2015.
I’ve mentioned many times of my love for the anthology Fool or Love: New Gay Fiction and one of the reasons is that this compilation of short stories introduced me to several wonderful writers, one of whom is author, editor and graphic designer Jeffrey Ricker.
A graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Jeffrey is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
His first novel, Detours was published in 2011 by Bold Strokes Books, and on the occasion of the recent release of his second novel The Unwanted, Jeffrey was kind enough to accept an invitation to answer some questions here at Indie Reviews.
As a lover of short fiction I read a lot of anthologies. But, there is one anthology that stands out and has set the standard for me in terms of short story compilations – Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors R.D. (Becky) Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert, released by Cleis Press in 2009. Fool for Love is an outstanding collection of sixteen short stories that covers a spectrum of themes relating to gay romance, love and life. It is not only my favourite anthology, but also one of my favourite books and one that I continue to recommend far and wide some five years after its initial publication.
Most recently, I read and reviewed Lambert and Cochrane’s second anthology Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, the follow-up to Fool for Love, and equally fell in love with the stories and writing. On Valentine’s Day of this year, Cleis Press released their third anthology – Best Gay Romance 2014.
As a lover of short fiction, I’ve read my share of short story compilations over the years, some more memorable than others. But there is one anthology that always stands out and remains one of my favourites – Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, released by Cleis Press in 2009.
In January 2014, Lambert and Cochrane released their second anthology Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, the follow-up to Fool for Love. Once again, they have brought together an exceptional collection of seventeen short stories featuring contributions from well-established authors and newer writers of gay fiction, including from several alumni of their first anthology.
Foolish Hearts offers a diverse mix of stories and themes, including: the thrill of young love; the bitter sweetness of unfulfilled love; second chances at love; and how through love we often find ourselves. Much has happened in the United States in the advance of LGBTQ rights over the last five years. And as art often reflects real life another prominent theme for a number of the stories is same-sex marriage. But, there is also a distinct international flavour to the anthology as the stories and their characters come from all parts of the globe in celebration of gay romance, love and life.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.