Non-Speculative Fiction Reviews

 

Upcoming: Goth of Christmas Past  by Debbie McGowan



September 28, 2018

Title: Year of the Guilty Soul (novella)

Print Length: 74 pages

Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing

Publication Date: July 28, 2018

Genre: LGBT/YA/Romantic Elements

Keywords: bisexual, genderqueer, literary YA, romantic elements, religious (Christianity & Judaism)

Amazon  (also available via other sources and as part of the Seasons of Love Anthology)

Blurb: The year is 1991, and Antonia “Toni” Moskowitz is caught in the middle, always having to pick a side. Whether it’s between her family’s two religions or in her relationships, she has choices to make. Does her heart belong to the outgoing boy with the lime-green nails or the girl in the black velvet skirt? Where does she fit in when both gender and gender roles feel confining?

But learning who she is and who she wants to be with has a price. Every decision has consequences, especially when some kinds of love and expression are still taboo. Sometimes it’s hard to choose between being good and being right. Four seasons. Four kisses. One year to figure out what her heart wants

Part of Seasons of Love Anthology.


No Spoiler Review: I couldn’t identify more with the protagonist if I tried.  Where to begin. Oh, identity and its ramifications. Toni is caught between faiths, at an impressionable age, uncertain of her identity, and confused as to how it all fits together. She faces temptation from both genders, and she doesn’t know what to make of it besides guilt. There’s uncertainty and confusion on all levels and, yes, that was me at the same age (though in the 1980s). I wasn’t caught between faiths, but I knew the one I was being raised in wasn’t right for me but, at that age, most of us have no choice.

What I Liked Loved: A.M. Leibowitz does a masterful job of handling Toni’s confusion and sense of guilt, detailing it through a first person POV. This was a walk through my teen years, a reminder of how difficult it really is when you don’t know who you are or where you’re going. Decisions are everything and Toni doesn’t know which way will be the right one.

Concerns: This was too short! Greedy reader speaking here but, really, I wanted to know more about Toni’s struggles, about how she copes, manages, and grows. That said, leaving things as they were was okay too. We all have our own paths, and we can speculate about how Toni fared.

My review rating: Well, I don’t really do those anymore, but I can say with confidence that Year of the Guilty Soul is well worth the modest price but go find an early 90s playlist to listen to while you read.


About the Author: A. M. Leibowitz is a queer spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. They keep warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing about life, relationships, hope, and happy-for-now endings. Their published fiction includes several novels as well as a number of short works, and their stories have been included in anthologies from Supposed Crimes, Beaten Track, Witty Bard, and Mischief Corner Books. They are an occasional host for The BiCast, a podcast for the bi+ community, as well as doing bi+ advocacy work and curating the best-of bi list on the QueerBooksForTeens website. They are a social media contributor for Supposed Crimes, LLC, and they post about news, reviews, and updates for the website. In between noveling and freelance editing, they blog coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, books, and their family.



November 1, 2017

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And a yellow tabby shall lead them.

TITLE: Keeping the Faith (Faithfully Yours #3)

AUTHOR: A.M. Leibowitz

PUBLISHER: Supposed Crimes

PUBLICATION DATE: November 1, 2017

LENGTH: 238 pages (~84k words)

GENRE: Literary fiction/romance

SYNOPSIS:

It’s been three years since Micah’s spouse, Cat, passed away at the age of thirty-six. In the process of cleaning his house, Micah discovers a series of letters Cat hid before he died, in which he made one request: that Micah empty his life of Cat as a way of moving on. Micah has been able to work through his sorrow, but he’s unable to fulfill Cat’s last wish. He can’t see a way past his loneliness despite all the caring people around him.

Enter two new friendships. Jude, Micah’s vivacious new coworker, brings joy back into his life. But she has a big secret about her family, and the truth will rock Micah’s understanding of who she is. Chris, the new minister at Cat’s former church, intrigues Micah. Unlike Jude, Chris is an open book, from his musings on theology to his work as a trans advocate and activist. His gentle manner and deep faith become safe space for Micah to open up about his loss.

Through them, Micah becomes involved with the town’s new community center, where he offers a creative writing class. Using Cat’s detailed letters, he fictionalizes their love story to share with his students. In doing so, he at last begins to sort through his complicated grief. Micah learns he doesn’t have to erase his life with Cat in order to make new memories. He may even be falling for Chris, despite their vastly different spiritual views. With a little help from family and friends, Micah will need to open his heart to love completely again.

NO SPOILER REVIEW: Yes, a yellow tabby. But that’s not a spoiler, just a hint, and enough to launch me into this review. Once again, A.M. Leibowitz made me break one of my fiction-reader rules… no crying. *sniffles and reaches for another tissue* What a way to wrap up a series I have unexpectedly grown to adore.

WHAT I LIKED: That darned cat and his oh-so-timely appearances. Okay, that and the way Leibowitz masterfully spun the past, present, and hopes for the future together without losing me. I knew what was happening every step of the way, even when it made me blubber like a sentimental fool.

WHAT I LOVED: The interconnected themes: 1) Family. Family is what you make it, especially to the LGBTQIA community, and Leibowitz shows this in a beautifully accepting manner. There’s the family we’re all born into as well, but even most of it’s beautiful in Keeping the Faith, or at least trying to understand, with a few, glaring exceptions. 2) Healing. Healing means more than the mere physical. The spirit is in there somewhere too, which leads me to the third distinctive theme I found in Keeping the Faith— 3) Faith. Faith means more than opening a religious text. Faith means… well, read. Okay? I promised no spoilers, and I mean it.

CONCERNS: The only factor I think someone open to LGBTQIA fiction might object to is the deep Christian faith involved in this novel, and, indeed, the entire Faithfully Yours series. Some might be put off by it, but knowing it’s there, and that it’s laid out in such a heart-warming manner will help readers understand that they’re not being preached at. If anything, Leibowitz is showing how simply and joyously faith can be included within the LGBTQIA community, no matter what that faith path might be. I say this as a non-Christian, but, honestly, I had no complaints about the faith expressed in the Faithfully Yours series whatsoever.

ONE NOTE ON CONTENT: There is some mild erotic content in this novel, but I, as someone who doesn’t like erotica, wasn’t put off. The scenes were brief, non-gratuitous, and delicately written. I had no problem with them whatsoever. Leibowitz also gives content warnings about grief, loss, character death, funerals, spiritual trauma, LGBTQIA antagonism, abusive family members, and non-detailed, past suicide attempts. I had no problems, but that doesn’t mean another reader wouldn’t find these issues to be trigger points. Forewarned, is forearmed.

MY REVIEW RATING: Sorry, I no longer do those, but as with Leaps of FaithKeeping the Faith is time well spent. It will not disappoint, and will certainly leave your soul warmed and your outlook hopeful.

 


 

October 16, 2107

Bring your colorful nail polish and your open mind to a delightful collection of human stories… oh, and bring a big box of tissues too, because you’re going to need them.

TITLE: Leaps of Faith

AUTHOR: A.M. Leibowitz

PUBLICATION TYPE: Self-published

LENGTH: 463 pages

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction/ Short Story Collection

RELEASE DATE: 7/12/2017

COVER EVALUATION: Nice and simple but speaks volumes about what lies within

AUTHOR BIO: (FROM AMAZON) A. M. Leibowitz is a queer spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. They keep warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing about life, relationships, hope, and happy-for-now endings. In between noveling and editing, they blog coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, books, and their family.

BLURB: (FROM AMAZON) From Christmas to Easter and from childhood through the end of life, here are ten interconnected stories revolving around one couple and the people who love them. These are tales of friendship, family, sensuality, and all the intimate moments that make them who they are, together and apart. The stories, while standalone, also fill in the gaps before and around the events in the novels in the Passing on Faith series. Included: a youth embraces his identity; two women build a life together; a former rebellious teen finds her way; a pair of lovers explore each other’s minds and bodies; a man copes with loss and grief.

NO SPOILER REVIEW: I pride myself in being a reader who doesn’t cry over a story or its characters, no matter how tragic or inspirational the story might be, (perhaps I’m a bit cold in that regard) but this collection of short stories, Leaps of Faith,made me cry. Seriously, I bawled…tear-streaked face, sobbing, dirty tissue in hand, bawling, often alongside the characters. I feel I lived with them through triumphs, tragedies, new relationships, illness, the comforts of familiar, long-term lovers, the fear of the unknown, a bit of insanity, joy, and, more than anything, life itself. That strong sense of personal connection to the characters, at least for me, is one of the best parts of the collection.

Bonus: the fact that this collection was based on characters in a series I’ve not read didn’t present a problem, and that honestly shocked me as a reader. But now, I can’t wait to read the rest of the Passing on Faith series.

Speaking on faith. Yes, Faith, indeed, Christianity, is one of the overarching themes for this collection (along with LGBT acceptance and family) but it was neither shoved down my throat nor shown to be the only faith-path available, both of which I greatly appreciated.

One note on content: There is some mild erotic content in this collection, but I, as someone who doesn’t like erotica, wasn’t one bit put off. The scenes were brief, non-gratuitous, and delicately written. I had no problem with them whatsoever.

My review rating: Well, I don’t really do those anymore, but I can say with confidence that Leaps of Faith is well worth the modest price, but make certain you have those tissues available.

You’re going to need them.