Each year I await the announcement of the Canada Reads nominees and the Lambda Literary Awards list of finalists to inform my reading list for the year and beyond.
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.
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.
“Cody Pinnt’s sense of himself came early; valued the carousal of pubescence as an affirmation of his nature: Queer. No doubt about it. Didn’t linger on the implications. Took to wrestling as a worthy sport, befitting the use of his body strengthened and sculpted by the demands of a lifetime of work that began before sunrise and ended after sunset. The leveraging of that strength against others, the feel of sweat-soaked skin and nylon singlets, the smell of the battle, the more often than not sublime joy of the win, all of it barely satisfying a voraciousness to get on with it; life just moved too damn slowly in Big Spring for Cody Pinnt’s liking. Cody Pintt knew who he was early on. Knew where he wanted to go. Knew, too, the worth of Skylar Hand to his life.”
I readily admit that George Seaton is a favoured author in gay fiction and it is always a pleasure to read one of his stories. In his recently released novella, Saving Skylar Hand, Mr. Seaton gifts the reader with a beautifully written and tender holiday tale of lifelong friendship between two boys that are separated by the life choices they make as young adults, only to realize that their love for one another is immutable and that they cannot spend their lives apart.
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.
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.
The debate over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) continued to rage in the United States when I picked up this anthology. By the time I had finished reading and was ready to begin writing this review the U.S. Senate had already voted to repeal DADT opening the door for the U.S. to join the grouping of liberal democracies around the world that had rid them selves of such anachronistic, ridiculous and harmful policies and laws years ago. I am ecstatic that what was only a few short weeks ago an anthology of, for the most part, contemporary stories about some of the impacts of DADT on gay service men, is now a compilation of what used to be with DADT thankfully passing into history.
When I began writing this post I had the intention of listing ten of my favourite books in gay fiction for 2010. But it quickly became apparent that it would be impossible to restrict the list to only ten. Despite the fact that my reading time was more limited over 2010 due to the demands of real life and work and I read much less than in previous years, there were too many reading gems that I did read and could not omit from the year’s best.
Over the course of the year I made several wonderful discoveries in new-to-me authors, finally got around to reading books that had been sitting on my shelves for years, I received some great recommendations from online friends, some of my favourite authors released incredible stories and I gave myself permission to re-read some past favourites without guilt.
In the end, twenty books (novels, novellas, anthologies and short stories) made the final cut of my best in gay fiction for 2010 across several genres – contemporary, erotica, horror, historical, mystery, romance and young adult. Some were weighty stories, others lighter fare with happy endings, and several had unforgettable characters that continued to haunt me long after I was done reading their stories. But all the books listed as my best of 2010 in their own way dealt with the stuff of life and fed my mind, heart and soul.
September and October were steady reading months with some very good to excellent reads. Early in September I revisited (and reviewed for the first time) two of my favourite books by gay romance/erotica author Sean Michael – The Center of Earth and Sky and its sequel Painting the Desert now available only in a compilation entitled, Center (Torquere Press), and made a small dent in my reading pile with Tere Michael’s third book in the Faith, Love and Devotion series and the eagerly awaited sequel to Faith & Fidelity – Duty and Devotion (Loose Id). I also had the opportunity to review for Rainbow Reviews The Guardian Angel of South Beach by Neil Plakcy (Loosed Id) an author I’ve been wanting to read for a while, as well as reviewed for Three Dollar Bill Reviews Test of Faith by Aleksndr Voinov and Raev Gray (eXcessica Publishing). Finally, I had the pleasure of reading George Seaton’s Big Diehl: The Road Home (MLR Press) which I reviewed for Three Dillar Bill Reviews and his short story entitled Continuum (Untreed Read) for Rainbow Reviews, both of which I absolutely loved.
Diehl’s return to Wyoming from six years of service to his country – including combat in Iraq – is colored with a dark intent to even the score with his father. But before he can once again embrace his adopted family, including Tony, a ranch hand with a military history of his own, Diehl’s single-minded purpose of revenge against his father precipitates events that turn his life in a direction never envisioned. His comfort through it all, is Jack, a Border Collie who Diehl rescues from certain death; a dog who, perhaps, rescues Diehl from himself.