Boys of Summer is all about the butterflies in the stomach and uncertainties that come along with that first crush or first kiss. Hot summer days, san...moreBoys of Summer is all about the butterflies in the stomach and uncertainties that come along with that first crush or first kiss. Hot summer days, sand, surf, camping grounds, fairs, and summer evenings make the perfect settings for our boys to explore and experience.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Swamp Thing by Ann Zeddies In this solid read about a geek and a gay boy who longs to belong, Chase certainly shows Shane that belonging doesn't always mean being part of the popular crowd. I love the summer atmosphere and the swamp setting, the excellent teenage characterization, and the ending in this story.
Get Brenda Foxworthy by Shawn Syms In Syms' dark(ish) tale, his characters Dean, Preet and Rickie are on their way to fight back against mean girl Brenda Foxworthy who bullies through psychological abuse and underhanded manipulation. There's a violent edge to this solid story by Syms that I found provocative and one that fits with the YA LGBT theme. I like that it lends a different perspective to this anthology, and that it also gives Dean hope for change at the end.
Cave Canem by Dia Pannes This is a good story that features Wyatt, a summer volunteer at a local pet rescue. It has dogs, dog fighting, a hot bad boy, and rescuing as a theme. The rescuing applies to both the dogs and the bad boy. There's a definite summer atmosphere, as well as that "I'm crushing on you" trope that I enjoy. The ending is ambiguous and left to the reader's imagination.
Breakwater in the Summer Dark by L Lark Lark weaves a rather clever story where he combines the fear of coming out with first love, shy moments, and youthful lust. Both of his characters are plagued by different fears that are alleviated only when Cody admits to himself that he cares for Harry. I ended up loving these two boys together, weird monster in the lake and all.
Brass by Marguerite Croft & Christopher Reynaga I really enjoyed this cute story about an unknown (could be any) boy who has a crush on fellow high school band member Ben. Ben plays the tuba and he plays the trumpet. This short story takes place on a hot 4th of July day as our young man makes up his mind to make a move on Ben. There's heat, a balmy evening, a car, a first kiss, and... ohhhh the possibilities that opened up on that hot summer day!
Summer's Last Stand by Aimee Payne Aimee Payne concentrates her summer tale on bullies, family, and the all important support that young adults in the LGBT community need. Payne captures the importance of family and friends with the promise of a future romance.
Most Likely by Steve Berman Most Likely bears Berman's signature writing style. I love that he adds a bit of diversity to this anthology by featuring Roque, a hot Latino boy who has the hots for Gregg, a Jewish boy who turns out to be Roque's friend and big "high school crush." Berman's hints of 'the unexplained,' conjures great summer atmosphere and combines it all with Roque's uncertainty about Gregg's feelings and some jealousy that drives Roque to a passionate pursuit. This is a great read.
Leap by 'Nathan Burgoine Ohhh, I loved this story! I did! Burgoine's boys of summer experience all the right moments: the uncertainty and butterflies that come from that first crush, the vulnerability and desire experienced during the first kiss, plus real friendship and fear for the future. Burgoine's Leap is a complete, detailed short story that captures all those "first" moments and hot summer days beautifully, leaving the reader feeling great at the end.
Bark if You Like Bad Boys by Sam Cameron Sean is a secondary character in Cameron's Mystery of the Tempest: A Fisher Key Adventure, a story I really enjoyed, and I can't tell you how glad I am that he is highlighted in this anthology. There's a gorgeous summer atmosphere to Bark if You Like Bad Boys, the setting is perfect and the reader feels as if he/she is there eating ice cream at the beach. Cameron really captures the growing friendship between Sean, Rob and Andrew, Sean's growing concern as events begin to take a serious turn, and the beauty of that "crush" and first kiss. I love this story.
Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy by Alex Jeffers Alex Jeffers is a favorite writer and it is no surprise to me that this turned out to be one of my favorite stories. Jeffers combines a contemporary tale with a legend and in the process adds that cultural diversity that I enjoy so much. This is a gorgeous story that transports the reader to the sea and another culture. There's longing, discovery, desire, and passion in this excellent boys of summer story that ends with a surprisingly sweet touch.
Boys of Summer edited by Steve Berman captures and combines those lazy days of summer with the excitement of summer crushes, love and adventures, perfectly. It's a great read for young adults experiencing or hoping to experience these feelings for the first time, or adults who have been there. Remember when? You will if you read it. Enjoy! (less)
It is summer time. Some of us dream of the sea and the lulling sounds of mesmerizing waves, the smell of sea salt, forever skies, and sunshine. Marine...moreIt is summer time. Some of us dream of the sea and the lulling sounds of mesmerizing waves, the smell of sea salt, forever skies, and sunshine. Mariners have always referred to the sea as she . . . but when I picked up The Touch of the Sea edited by Steve Berman, I knew there would be one difference and was ready to sit back, relax, and dream some more while enjoying eleven stories of men, myths, adventures, love, and the magic of the sea.
I found the magic. It is there in mythology-based stories as in Chaz Brechley's Keep the Aspidochelone Floating, the gorgeous seafaring myth-based story full of greedy pirates and an exciting whale hunt that become part of Sailor Martin's adventures along with his obsession and love for cabin boy Sebastian. And in The Stone of Sacrifice where Jeff Mann combines Gaelic mythology with a few of his signature erotic scenes in a story of love lost when a man unknowingly calls the god Shoney and the lure of new love becomes an obsession.
I found the dreams. They are there in stories of mermen luring the incautious or the fated to the sea, as in Out to Sea by John Howard, The Calm Tonight by Matthew A Merendo, and in Ban's Dreams of the Sea where Alex Jeffers creates a mesmerizing fable where through erotic dreams, alluring sea creatures lure men and women into the sea. And again in Air Tears, a beautiful story about changes, choices and looking forward, Damon Shaw weaves a tale where as payment for a kiss and an erotic encounter by the sea, a man may never again return to land.
I found the adventure. It is there in The Bloated Woman by Jonathan Harper and in Wave Boys, Vincent Kovar's excellent seafaring adventure full of boys with tribal rituals, pent-up desires, a kraken, youthful aggression, pride and loss. This is my favorite story of the anthology due to the strong narrative voice, the excellent world building, and characters that drew me in from the first page. I wanted more of this story . . . just more. Then, in Night of the Sea Beast, Brandon Cracraft returns to 1956 and with this period piece, he mixes monster movie making, ala Creature Features, with Greek mythology, a multiple murder investigation, and a wonderful tale of brotherhood.
And of course I found love. There's loving of one sort or another in all the stories, but some are about that second chance at love or lost love. 'Nathan Burgoine's Time and Tide mixes up old Naiad myths with a tale about accepting gifts and love when a man returns home to the call of the sea and an old lover. And there's The Grief of Seagulls by Joel Lane. His is a story of coming to terms with love lost where after grieving for ten years, a man meets his dead lover come to life for one night of passion.
Overall, the stories in The Touch of the Sea are well crafted and while all are entertaining, some tales are downright mesmerizing. They also fit this anthology perfectly so that by the time I finished reading, I could smell the sea salt and feel that sunshine. Fun!
I've had The Silent Hustler, a collection of twenty-six stories, in my TBR for a long, long time. I can't tell you how fantastic this collection is! I...moreI've had The Silent Hustler, a collection of twenty-six stories, in my TBR for a long, long time. I can't tell you how fantastic this collection is! It begins with two gorgeous stories about fathers and sons "Things I Can't Tell My Father," and "Ice Water." These two contemporary/lit fiction stories are brilliantly written with intimacy of thought and emotion. The collection is then divided into three sections: Frankenstein, Alone in the Country, Boys in the City, and Sax and Violins. Each section contains stories that take young gay men from early sexual discovery, through young adulthood and the discovery of the gay lifestyle, and on to adulthood.
There is nothing conventional or pedestrian about Meriwether's writing skills or the edgy, erotic, and emotional stories in this collection. Meriwether hooked me with the first two stories, but he kept me reading to the end by way of his talents, and by challenging comfort zones while making it all seem easy and fresh. A fantastic read! (and a gorgeous, gorgeous cover) (less)
Last year I loved the Wilde Stories 2011 anthology, so picking up Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman w...moreLast year I loved the Wilde Stories 2011 anthology, so picking up Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman was a no brainer for me. In this year's edition, I again found excellent creative speculative fiction by favorite authors plus new-to-me authors whose works I'm going to explore in the future.
The anthology begins with an excellent introduction by Berman, followed by fifteen stories and showcasing the wide range and variety he discovered in gay speculative fiction. Personally, I think that variety is what I love and enjoy the most about reading speculative fiction. That and the fact that there's no placing most of these stories into a neat little box even when certain genres are used as a base in their construction.
I'll give you a few samples of the variety found in this anthology. There are two stories that really touched me, "Ashes in the Water by Joel Lane and Mat Joiner," and "Hoffman, Godzilla and Me by Richard Bowes." These tales are quite different in setting, mood, atmosphere and writing styles, yet pain and loss oozes out of the pages while that darkness and other worldliness that comes with a speculative fiction story is central to both. And while one story is edgier than the other, they both leave the reader in deep thought while chilled to the bone.
There are also fun tales such as "The Peacock by Ted Infinity and Nabil Hijazi," a science fiction based love story, between a spambot program and a man, that made me snort and laugh from beginning to wonderful over-the-top end, and Tom Cardamone's very short excellent Chinese mythology-based story, "The Cloud Dragon Ate Red Balloons," which surprisingly left me with a smile at the end. These two stories while very different are both excellent, quite creative, and fun!
Of course a speculative fiction anthology would not be complete without the all popular horror-based tale, and this year Berman features great stories I enjoyed, his own creepy contribution "All Smiles," featuring young adults, is one of them. And while Steve Berman's story is full of dread and quick action followed by a hopeful ending, in "The House By The Park," Lee Thomas contrasts the bliss of a gay couple as they find love and lulls the reader with everyday life details while all along dark evil slowly hunts them.
Both horror tales are nightmare worthy, but compare that horror to the magic found in Justin Torres' creative fable "Fairy Tale," Ellen Kushner's fantasy-based tale of swordsmen "The Duke of Riverside," or another favorite, "We Do Not Come In Peace by Christopher Barsak" where Peter Pan-like young men in a familiar Neverland-like setting battle the Fair Ones, and you get the idea as to the variety of stories included.
I enjoyed reading this anthology slowly, savoring each tale on its own. It is interesting to note that even as personal taste led me to find favorite stories, it is also easy to say that the quality of the stories and writers, gay themes, plus the variety found in Berman's Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction make this anthology an overall well-balanced, rock solid read. (less)
From this anthology, I only read Against All Odds by Lisa Kleypas. It's a novella about Lydia Craven, Sara and Derek Craven's eldest daughter, and Dr...moreFrom this anthology, I only read Against All Odds by Lisa Kleypas. It's a novella about Lydia Craven, Sara and Derek Craven's eldest daughter, and Dr Jake Linley.
This is a sweet, short romance that I enjoyed because it served as a sort of epilogue to Dreaming of You. The romance itself needed more page time in order to become more than an average read. Regardless, it's enjoyable enough.(less)
Every year editor Steve Berman publishes one special collection after gathering the best of previously published gay speculative fiction stories writt...moreEvery year editor Steve Berman publishes one special collection after gathering the best of previously published gay speculative fiction stories written by a wide variety of authors. I've loved Berman's collections in past years and Wilde Stories 2013 is no exception. This year's volume, however, is memorable for the different and interesting young adult speculative fiction short stories included. They provide this volume with adventure, a touch of whimsy, and yes, an edge that I really enjoyed.
Breakwater in the Summer Park by L Lark is a light and fun summer camp story with a mysterious monster in the lake whose presence inadvertently helps two boys whose lives are full of insecurities and personal fears about the future. I enjoyed this story in the Boys of Summer anthology and although it is one of the lightest stories in this collection, it definitely belongs. The Keets Variation by K.M. Ferebee on the other hand has young adults as main characters, yet the dense narrative and heavy subject matter give this story edge and weight. Tatooed Love Boys by Alex Jeffers is queer fantasy at its best. With a plot that shifts and curves, this story takes the characters and the reader on a wonderful ride.
I initially read Wave Boys by Vincent Kovar in The Touch of the Sea anthology and loved it so much that it made my 2012 short story "best of" list. This dystopian young adult story is memorable for its fantastic world-building, great adventure, and characters that I feel should be further explored -- it was a pleasure re-reading it again! Another young adult story with excellent world-building is Next Door by Rahul Kanakia. This is an action and anxiety driven futuristic science fiction short set in a society where technology trumps humanity.
Then there's the fantastic and unforgettable story about a boy and his wolf, Sic Him, Hellhound! Kill! Kill! by Hal Duncan. I've never read anything like it. There are some rather ironic references to those dreaded sparkly vampires and the girls who admire them, but what can I say? This story cracked me up, particularly since it is narrated from the dog/wolf's point of view!
---Hello hello hello hello! I love you! ---Yes, I know, I love you too. ---But I really love you! I missed you so much! ---And I missed you too. Yes. I did! Oh yes I did! Now, down you go. ---But I missed you!
From the adult speculative fiction short stories, Wetside Story by Steve Vernon is memorable and the most irreverent in this collection. This fun, creative piece has some crass humor that won't quit. I appreciated it from beginning to end. Imagine a sexy gay squid in love with another squid who has a radioactive smile. Yeah...
Bucky grinned me back a picket fence full of pleasure. The toxic waste that riddled his cavities gave them a wonderfully fluorescent neon gleam. His scales glittered as prettily as those of the dead mackerel had.
My heart went thump.
Changing gears, in Laird Barron's A Strange Form of Life his talents are displayed in all their glory and can be fully appreciated as, in short order, he weaves a fantastic Lovecraftian horror piece. Grierson at the Pain Clinic by Richard Bowes is such a gripping and unique story, about a man and his rather disturbing Shadow, that I couldn't stop thinking about it. And the fantasy, myth-based, whaling adventure Keep the Aspidochelone Floating by Chaz Brechley is another story from The Touch of the Sea anthology that made my 2012 "best of" list. Re-reading this well-written, detailed piece full of action, pirates, and a love story between a mariner and his boy was a pleasure.
I had a tough time choosing favorites in this volume of the Wilde Stories series. Steve Berman included a wide range of stories and gay themes, as well as an excellent mixture of writing styles in Wilde Stories 2013. Combining young adult and adult speculative fiction not only added a creative edge but a unique touch to this collection. (less)
Best Gay Stories 2013 edited by Steve Berman is Lethe Press's yearly collection of twenty of last year's best gay stories. This year's edition is focu...moreBest Gay Stories 2013 edited by Steve Berman is Lethe Press's yearly collection of twenty of last year's best gay stories. This year's edition is focused on different and highly relevant gay themes.
Berman chose a wide variety of stories written by well-known authors as well as new talent. The authors' writing styles are as diverse as their approach to the stories, and by the time I finished reading this collection it became obvious to me why each story and writer was chosen. The themes vary from young to adult love, and from fear of aging to committed partnership and cheating issues, but there is much more.
There is "Irrespective of the Storm" by Mark Ameen, a fantastic story about 1980's gay lifestyle and hookups. "Farewell to Wise's" by William Sterling Walker explores complacency and the need to move on, and Steve Berman's "Bottom of the Menu" manages the question of aging with great wit and eroticism. Also included, there are two must read favorites, "Next Year at Sonny's by Eddy Sarfaty", an excellent essay exploring family, friends and modern gay lifestyle, and an essay I've dubbed "body beautiful" by Peter Knegt, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Have Sex in Gay Art Porn."
As in all collections of this size, there are pieces that stand out and there is always the question of preference, however, I firmly believe that within the twenty stories included in Best Gay Stories 2013 there are plenty of meaningful, excellent pieces to satisfy the most discerning reader. This is certainly a winning collection of gay themed stories for me.
Fire and Frost begins with Speed Mating by Jessica Sims, a new-to-me author. I enjoyed this short piece about a female lyger (lion/tiger) shifter abou...moreFire and Frost begins with Speed Mating by Jessica Sims, a new-to-me author. I enjoyed this short piece about a female lyger (lion/tiger) shifter about to into heat. She goes to her sexy alpha for advice and decides to look for a mate/father for her cub through speed dating. What I liked the most about this interesting world-building with shifters is that the female can choose her mate. Yes... she has a choice! The story is hot and sexy too.
Then we have Conjuring Max by Carolyn Crane, a story set in the world of her Mr. Real series. This story works as a bit of a prequel and gives the reader an idea of how it all begins. I liked both characters, Max and Veronica, and the way magic and technology is integrated in a not-too-distant past. I really like how it ended.
Set in her Iron Seas world, my favorite piece in this three piece collection is Wrecked by Meljean Brook. Brook manages to add to her world-building by introducing new intriguing characters and interesting usage of the machines developed by the Horde, and still manages to satisfactorily develop a believable romance with a happily ever after.
He's The One is a contemporary romance anthology with short, sweet, sexy stories about finding him, the one. This book is perfect for the beach or a v...moreHe's The One is a contemporary romance anthology with short, sweet, sexy stories about finding him, the one. This book is perfect for the beach or a vacation because you can read one short story, put the book down, go have a good time, and get back to another story later on. Not all the stories and authors worked for me personally, but there's something here for everyone.
I have two personal favorites beginning with No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service by Kate Angell. Angell scores high with me by focusing her sexy romance on one couple from her already established Barefoot Williams world. I found this short story to be truly romantic, high on the sensuality scale, with a wonderful happy ending and an absolutely gorgeous summer atmosphere that really fits this anthology. 4.5/5
My other favorite is Fish Out of Water by Cat Johnson. Cat Johnson's contribution won me at "hello," or as soon as the handsome but rather nerdy and brilliant English professor was introduced. I love how passions run deep and wild once he meets his "cowgirl." She sees more under his pink polo shirt and lack of fishing/camping experience, and he sees more than the "cowgirl" trappings as they take each other for the ride of their lives. This is a sexy summer read that kept me engaged from beginning to end. 4/5
Less enthralling, yet still good enough for me, is Jill Shalvis' Captivated. In this novella, the married protagonists meet at their vacation cottage under highly unusual circumstances just after she serves him with divorce papers. This is a "hot, hot" signature Shalvis piece with chemistry between the couple, great atmosphere and a beautiful summer setting. On the minus side, there is a forced quality to the set up or unusual set of circumstances and the ending is a bit "over-the-top." 3.5/5
Seducing Tabby by Lucy Monroe comes in on the average side with a story about a gorgeous Englishman who sets his rather possessive sights on a curvaceous beauty who believes men only approach her to gather information about her classically gorgeous sister. This story begins with a great premise, but it doesn't quite deliver. It has a nice, slow, non-sexual seduction that I enjoyed, with sexual tension used to build up the relationship. However, for some reason, his quick claims of "love" feel more calculated than passionate, and the end is rushed and rather predictable. 3/5
The one short story that didn't really work for me is Batteries Not Required by Linda Lael Miller. In this romance a woman returns to a town where she lived years ago for a very short period of time and as soon as her feet hit the ground she meets the old boyfriend she ran away from. Things get moving and shaking between the two in the blink of an eye despite the rather superficial misunderstanding that kept them apart for years. Years when they "thought about each other" every so often. This romance and its quick, improbable happy ending felt wrong from the beginning and fell flat for me in the end. 2/5
As you can see, I liked some novellas more than others in the He's The One anthology, but the one winning factor they all have in common is the summer theme. I like that the settings for the romances are different, yet they all fit the theme perfectly. (less)