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December brings Santa, snow (well, it used to snow
here before Global Climate Change), and the inevitable onslaught of “Best of”
lists. Not one to buck a trend, we at Out in Print have reviewed our 2012
reviews and settled on 15 books that have stayed in our heads and hearts since
we picked them up. We hope you’ll feel the same way. In no particular order,
our recommendations for 2012 are:
Fontana – Joshua Martino (Bold Strokes Books)
This fastpitch debut novel from Joshua Martino delivers the
goods as we watch Major League baseball player Ricky Fontana come out publicly.
At once hopeful and cynical, Fontana examines the issues and Fontana’s
process in a reckless, threatening atmosphere that provides poignancy as well
The Survivors – Sean Eads (Lethe Press)
An alien invasion novel that throws more than a few curves, The
Survivors morphs from mordantly funny to darkly philosophical with
effortless ease. Eads’ writing is sharp and focused, and his gift for creating
heartbreak from havoc keeps on giving throughout the book. This is speculative
fiction you won’t soon forget.
Green Thumb – Tom Cardamone (BrazenHead)
Cardamone’s inexhaustible creativity drives this fantasy
novella of a post-apocalyptic plant boy named Leaf and his friends as they
explore a devastated Miami (renamed Canal City) and find civilization not what
it’s cracked up to be. Cardamone’s astounding sense of place and inventiveness
will leave you breathless, as will the depth of his characters. Not to be
Chulito – Charles Rice-Gonzales (Magnus Books)
An amazing love story between two Latino hoodrats, Chulito
is a well-crafted story with some interesting twists and turns and an ending
that will bring tears to your eyes as it puts a smile on your face. Gritty,
authentic, and involving, you’ll find it tough to put this one down.
Purgatory – Jeff Mann (Lethe Press)
Acclaimed poet, short story writer, and essayist Jeff Mann
brings his skills to the long form, forging an intense Civil War love story
from food, bondage and violence. Lovingly detailed, exhaustively researched and
altogether captivating, this pushes buttons in unforgettable ways.
Strange Bedfellows – Rob Byrnes (Bold Strokes Books)
Hapless criminals Grant Lambert and Chase LaMarca are back
with yet another caper as only Rob Byrnes could write. Snappier-than-hell
dialogue, a political plot that pokes sly fun at sexting, and a great
supporting cast all combine to make this a laugh-out-loud read that’s as
pointed as it is hilarious.
The Raven’s Heart – Jesse Blackadder (Bywater Books)
A re-telling of the story of Mary, Queen of Scots as seen
through the eyes of the cross-dressing last of her family, Alison Blackadder,
who tries to win back her ancestral home by getting close to the queen.
Beautifully written, with marvelously complex characters and just enough court
intrigue, The Raven’s Heart is historical fiction at its best.
The Heart’s History – Lewis DeSimone (Lethe Press)
A quiet masterpiece, The Heart’s History examines
aging, settling down, settling for, and being assimilated into straight society
with depth and grace. DeSimone’s dialogue is awe-inspiring, giving us unsparing
portraits of people we come to care about quickly. By turns comic and
contemplative, this is a delicious read that will leave you perfectly
Awake Unto Me – Kathleen Knowles (Bold Strokes Books)
Newcomer Kathleen Knowles brings turn of the century San
Francisco to breathtaking life with her story of rough and tumble Barbary Coast
born Kerry O’Shea and quiet shopkeeper’s daughter Beth Hammond. Their shy love
grows to a passionate affair bold for their time, and Knowles captures this
with solid assurance. A perfect time machine.
The City’s Gates – Peter Dubé (Comorant Books)
The ever-interesting Dubé uses his considerable gifts to
conjure a tense, Orwellian atmosphere in which mysterious characters seek to
undermine an economic conference. Dark, urbane and atmospheric, the long, slow
build is as entertaining as the knockout climax. So real, you’ll swear you read
about this in the papers.
Cowboys, Armageddon, and the Truth – Scott Terry
One man’s heartfelt story of growing up Jehovah’s Witness,
told with aching sincerity and an unerring eye for detail. Terry pulls no punches
and gives no quarter in recounting his abusive childhood and confused
adulthood, and you’ll cheer as he pulls himself out of the clutches of the
cult. Terry’s truth has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with
Songs for the New Depression – Kergan Edwards-Stout
Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, Edwards-Stout
has fashioned a detailed examination of a truly detestable individual and
actually made it work. Told in backwards chronology, its structure is nearly as
interesting as the narrator. You’ll read this once for its emotional impact and
again to see how the author achieves it. But no matter how many times you dive
in, you’ll be impressed.
You Will Meet a Stranger Far From Home: Wonder Stories
– Alex Jeffers (Lethe Press)
Imaginative, atmospheric and rare, this brace of short
stories never fails to entertain. It bends reality into fantasy as often as it
bends genders, folding back in on itself in a cultural Moebius strip that melds
emotions and intellect. You’ll want to read them quickly, then go back to savor
their exotic spice.
Split – Mel Bossa (Bold Strokes Books)
A stunning romance between childhood friends Derek and
Nicolai that weaves a present day storyline around anecdotes from their past, Split
is everything gay romance novels should hope to be: poignant, tragic, hopeful
and heartening. This is the romance that should have won the Lammy in
The Dust of Wonderland – Lee Thomas (Lethe Press)
The only reprint on our list, it was so damn creepy and
unforgettable I had to include it even though it wasn’t written in 2012. Thomas
bends horror tropes into new, unrecognizable nightmares and tosses a few
left-handed plot twists into the mix just to keep the reader off guard in this
story of a man and the past he thinks he’s left behind. All this and New
That’s our list—fifteen wonderful books just ripe for
holiday gifting. Buy one for someone you love and another for yourself.
Assuming they’re not the same person.