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 finished Marshall Thornton’s Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries earlier this year and after reading the first compilation of novellas in this extremely well written series, the main protagonist Nick Nowak is a character that lingers and has gotten under my skin. No other way to describe the effect of this character and his continuing story. At the first opportunity to do so, I picked up and pretty much devoured the second instalment in one sitting.
Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries by Marshall Thornton is the first book in this well-written and gritty detective series that is reminiscent of hardboiled crime fiction. The book is a compilation of three novella-length mysteries all set in Chicago, circa 1980-1981. The mysteries are engaging, and the writing features a captivating main character and sets an excellent overall mood for the stories.
The German by Lee Thomas had been on my reading list since its release by Lethe Press in March 2011. I was finally able to get to it in late 2012 and read it in virtually one sitting. As a long-time reader of the suspense/thriller and horror fiction, over the years I’ve read my share of both well-written and utterly forgettable stories in these sub-genres. However, it’s been a long while since I’ve read a story of this calibre of excellence.
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.
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.
What happens when someone realizes the story of his life isn’t the right story? What happens when he discovers the so-called point of no return is a fairytale? What if a person could find his way back and make things right?
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.