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)
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
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
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 Faith, Keeping the Faith is time well spent. It will not disappoint, and will certainly leave your soul warmed and your outlook hopeful.
October 16, 2107