Aptly entitled 151 Days, Book 6 in the Tales From Foster High series chronicles just that – the last 151 days of high school until graduation for Kyle Stilleno and his boyfriend Brad Greymark. It is Mr. Goode’s best-written instalment in the series to date, as with each successive book the author raises his own bar in terms of writing quality, character development and overall story advancement.
151 Days picks up immediately following events in Book 4, End of the Innocence. It is a turbulent time for Kyle, Brad and their friends as they continue to deal with the aftermath of Kelly’s death. With their support, Kyle sets out to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in Foster High as a means of raising awareness and promoting tolerance so that what happened to Kelly never happens again. But life continues to unfold and the GSA is not their only going concern as choices and decisions must be made about love, sex, graduation, college and their future beyond Foster, Texas. At the same time they must face the circumstances surrounding Kelly’s death and a situation that threatens to lead to yet another tragedy at Foster High.
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.
Dear God by John Goode is a deleted chapter from End of the Innocence, the fourth book in the Tales From Foster High Series, which was excluded from the book because the author felt it would have slowed the pace of the story, but important enough in its subject matter to be released as a short story. In this short piece, Kyle goes to a local church in search of understanding and answers on God, the Bible and Christianity’s treatment of homosexuality as a means of fighting prejudice and those using religion against his friend. His inquiry leads him to some surprising conclusions and forces him to re-examine his own beliefs.
As with all the books in the series, Dear God is well written, and I enjoyed this short fiction for what it is – a means of delving further into the character of Kyle Stilleno, one of the main protagonists in this series, and at the same time examining the issues of Christianity and its treatment of homosexuality, within the context of the overall story arc.
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.
End of the Innocence is the fourth book and the first full-length novel in the Tales From Foster High series. It is an incredibly moving and thought-provoking multi-themed story in which author John Goode throws the doors of Foster High wide open to grow Kyle and Brad’s world 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 doing so Mr. Goode examines the issues of homophobia, forced outing, marginalisation and cyber bullying from all angles and blurs the lines between bully and victim. The author 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. There are tragic events that transpire in this story that are transformative for both Kyle and Brad, their friends and the entire town of Foster. They are also a turning point for the series as a whole.
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 and care in the execution of this story. 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. And despite the ugliness of some of the events 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.
My introduction to the writing of John Goode came by way of his debut novella Maybe With A Chance of Certainty, the first book in the Tales From Foster High Series published in October 2011 by Dreamspinner Press. While reading the story I quickly fell in love with Mr. Goode’s writing and in particular his characterisation. The compilation of the first three books in the series, entitled Tales From Foster High, made the list of my Best in LGBTQ Literature for 2012. Since then, the author has been quite busy with over ten published works under his belt, to date, in the realms of gay young adult and adult-themed contemporary fiction, science fiction, fantasy and romance. On the occasion of the release of the latest instalment in the Foster High books, Taking Chances, I invited John to participate in an Author Question & Answer at Indie Reviews.
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.
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.
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.