Reading Round Up: Words and Music

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.

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Reading Round Up: The Best in Gay Fiction for 2009

Virtually all the books I read this year are in the area of gay fiction (erotica, romance, horror, suspense, urban fantasy, western/cowboy, young adult, etc.), and as the year draws to an end I thought I’d put together a list of my favourite books and stories for 2009.

The two books that standout the most and I consider my #1 reads for 2009 are Amnesic Nostalgia by Zea Miller and Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane. These two gems rightfully take their place as part of the list of some of my most favourite books.

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Desert Sons and Into This World We’re Thrown by Mark Ian Kendrick

Desert Sons by author Mark Kendrick traces the evolution of the relationship between Scott Faraday and Ryan St. Charles all the while exploring a gamut of realities and experiences, both good and bad, that gay adolescence faces in contemporary America: the fear of coming out and the reaction of family and friends; feelings of insecurity and alienation; the issue of suicide; the thrill of first-time sex and the coming into one’s own sexuality; the utter elation and euphoria of first love and the inevitable confusion of emotions that a love relationship brings with it.

Scott Faraday is sixteen and lives with his parents in Yucca Valley, California, where he attends high school and works part time at his family’s restaurant. His two passions in life are rappelling (rock climbing with extreme descent) and music. He rappels every chance he gets and is the sound man and sometimes lyricist and flute player for a local rock band – Centauri. Scott is gay and out only to his mom and aunt. Being gay is not an issue for him although he is cautious about whom he tells what with living in a small town and having to deal with small town minds. He wishes he were out to, and closer with, his dad and that his dad understood his need to study music and not business. Despite this, Scott’s life is pretty good, but it would be perfect if he could have sex and find himself a boyfriend.

Ryan St. Charles is a brash seventeen year old that has seen his share of life’s darker side. Both his parents died when he was ten and he and his younger brother Chris went to live with their grandmother in northern California. Ryan had a very difficult childhood and an equally troubled adolescence. He has many secrets. At sixteen, he became involved in an unhealthy relationship with an older man, even though he considers himself straight. Ryan has attempted suicide on several occasions. His latest attempt resulted in a totalled car and landed Ryan in the hospital. Not knowing what more to do, Ryan’s grandmother sends him to live with his uncle in Yucca Valley.

Scott and Ryan meet at Scott’s family restaurant and form a tentative friendship. Ryan is moody and abrasive, completely opposite Scott’s easygoing and friendly nature. Scott can’t quite figure Ryan out. As their friendship develops, Scott begins to suspect that Ryan might be hiding that he’s gay. Scott is sure Ryan has no idea that Scott is gay, so he comes out to him. Scott’s coming out to Ryan completely transforms their friendship into their first real love relationship. But Ryan’s hidden past eventually catches up with them. Scott is not at all prepared to deal with Ryan’s past and issues. Nonetheless, Scott stands by Ryan, and despite their differences, he learns more about himself and relationships he ever thought possible. Ryan in turn slowly begins to trust again and to believe that maybe, just maybe happiness is possible in his life. And over the course of a summer Scott and Ryan are forever changed.

Mr. Kendrick continues Scott and Ryan’s story in the sequel Into This World We’re Thrown. No title is more befitting this sequel because in it both Scott and Ryan are thrust headlong into the world, into life. In Dessert Sons the boys spend almost all of their summer alone together as they explore each other and their relationship. They are very much cocooned in their own world. In the sequel their relationship becomes more public, there are lingering tensions as a result of their coming out, new challenges to face and some very difficult obstacles to overcome.

It’s Scott’s senior year of high school. His father is having difficulty accepting Scott is gay and continues to pressure him to study business in college. But all Scott can think about is being with Ryan, his love of music and the fact that his band may be breaking-up. To make matters worse the older man from Ryan’s past resurfaces in his life. But when Ryan’s grandmother dies it sends him spiralling into deep depression and he begins to question everything, including his relationship with Scott. At the same time that Scott is trying to deal with the possibility that his relationship with Ryan may be over, he learns of a very determined secret admirer at school who inevitably gets his attention and turns Scott’s head.

Where Desert Sons is focused on the coming together of Scott and Ryan as friends and then as lovers and the difficult process of their coming out, Into This World We’re Thrown more deeply tackles the stuff of real life, love and relationships that Scott and Ryan face as a result of their particular circumstances – depression, suicide, jealousy, infidelity, anger, resentment, hurt, faith, hope, commitment and love.

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