KEEP FAITH Review!! / Anthology / A Book on The Intersection of Queerness and Faith

keep faith

Summary

Keep faith, in the broad sense of the word. It doesn’t have to be a religion, unless you want it to be. It doesn’t have to speak about the universe, unless you want it to. It doesn’t have to be about anyone but yourself. Keep faith, in other planets and other houses; be it in the face of danger, grief, or while you spread your arms and laugh. Keep faith the same way you keep hope, bright and shiny, ever present. Keep faith in all your queer, beautiful self. Because you deserve it. This is an anthology of 14 short stories, by 14 queer authors, where faith and queerness intersect. Incidental, purposeful, we-exist-and-that’s-why queerness. And faith meaning whatever you want it to mean.

Featured Authors

Gabriela Martins
Abida Jagirdar
Bogi Takacs
C.T. Callahan
Ella Ha
Julia Rios
Kate Braunning
Kess Costales
Mary Fan
Mayara Barros
Megan Manzano
Shenwei Chang
Sofia Soter
Vanshika Prusty

Why You Should Read This Book

For some reason, I’m really bad at writing positive reviews. When it’s a bad review, I can write pages and pages, but when it’s good I just want to say “Yeah, you should read it, it was bangin'”. So…I guess I’ll bullet point it. Usually, I’d include things I disliked about the book as well, but I didn’t really dislike anything? Except the short stories could easily make their own book by themselves, and I would read the shit out of all of them. So, on we go!

  • There was content warnings included at the start of the book, including specifics so you knew exactly what you’d be getting in for and I really liked that
  • Super intersectional and included people from all kinds of backgrounds
  • Spoke about the connection between queerness and faith, and I found the connection between queerness and religion the most fascinating personally (which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the others, but I did specifically enjoy that as it’s not a perspective I’ve read much on) – it also included faith in yourself and the universe which sounds really cheesy, but it was awesome
  • The representation was this was incredible. Seriously, there was so much I don’t even think I can remember all of it to list – demisexuality, asexuality, being aromantic, lesbian, bisexual, polyamarory, transgender (both binary and non-binary), etc etc. I also really enjoyed how a majority of the relationships in this book were f/f and, if not, f/nb
  • It explored all kinds of different relationships, not just romantic – and this includes the relationships they have with their religion, with themselves, with the universe, with platonic relationships, and how different relationships can work where they are dedicated to each other but it doesn’t work the same way as other “traditional relationships”
  • It made me feel okay about being confused on my own sexuality, even if I know I belong in the queer community, and not being comfortable with yourself or not knowing what your sexuality is 100% doesn’t mean that you aren’t accepted
  • Whatever your tastes, each short story spoke with their own voice – fantasy, non-fiction, contemporary romance, there is more than likely going to be at least one short story within this that’s your cup of tea

I’m sure I could go on and on and on but…you get the idea, right?

As a bonus addition to get you to preorder your copy of KEEP FAITH, 100% of the proceeds go to someone deeply in need of help. You are contribiting to a good cause while getting to read fourteen amazing stories in the process!!

If you want to know more information about the background of what went on, I had an interview with one of the authors here if you want to read that too!

(but seriously, it was so good)

Until next time,

A.W

Interview With One of the KEEP FAITH Authors, Kess Costales!!

keep faith

Hello!

So, as many of you may know, the KEEP FAITH publication date is near! (1st September). To celebrate, how about a little interview with one of the authors, Kess Costales? And, of course, I have an eARC of this book so a review will be up soon as well! The authors, alongside Kess, are Bogi Takacs, Megan Manzano, Vanshika Prusty, Kate Brunning. Kayara Barros, Gabriela Martins, Elly Ha, C.T. Callahan, Shenwei Chang, Sofia Soter, Julia Rios, Abida Jaigirdar and Mary Fan!

In this anthology, which compromises of short stories about queer religious people, Kess Costales writes “Whatever She Wants”, the last short story in this collection.

1. Tell us a little about your background as a writer, and what pushed you to start writing.

My name is Kess Costales, a Filipino-Canadian author from Toronto. I haven’t always been a writer, as I’m definitely not one of those people who started writing stories or poems from the moment I could pick up a pen or pencil. It came to me a little later on when I was a pre-teen and I started discovering the kind of stories I like, the kind of fairy-tale vibes and magic and romance and mystery. I’d only ever had access to my mom or my older sister’s books and they never seemed to be for me. I thought I just didn’t like books, but then I discovered, I like specific kinds of books.

After discovering that, I realized I couldn’t get enough. I started coming up with my own stories ideas. Small ones, really, so nothing that can be turned into a full story—let alone a book. Later, I began writing on the Neopets forums in roleplaying threads, which led to roleplaying websites, and then slowly to my own personal writings. I tried my hand at a few stories in my early teens, but it felt too big and so I stopped pursuing that and focused on poetry. I did that for maybe a couple of years, posting things on a now-closed Tumblr, and then my mental health took a turn and I basically stopped writing for a couple years. I didn’t know if I would be able to write again.

Fast forward to 2016, I completed my first book/manuscript. Fast forward again to today, I have a literary agent, 3 polished manuscripts that have been or will be sent to editors at publishing houses, a short story published in a literary magazine, a short story in the Keep Faith anthology edited by my friend and amazing writer, Gabriela Martins, and a poetry collection that I’ll be self-publishing later this year.

2. What can you tell us about the process of the anthology, and having such a short timeline to get everything ready?

Long story short: the process for KEEP FAITH is utterly amazing. Gabhi has done something incredible by pulling together this team for a meaningful collaboration. When she told me about it, there was no way I could say no. Sure, we aren’t getting paid to participate, but we are getting to share our stories and do so while contributing to a cause: helping someone.

I’m queer and Catholic and a WOC. I wanted the chance to share those intersections and how they affect my experience and the anthology is a spectacular way to do so.

It did come together very, very quickly and you have to applaud Gabhi for all that. She’s the one who had the idea, gathered the authors, put together a timeline, and sought out support from bloggers. I’ve done everything I can to make this happen for her, including designing the cover, writing a short story, and doing guest posts like this. Sometimes, I offered verbal support, and I hope that made it easier for her to accomplish this incredible feat.

I’m the kind of writer that’s always worked on deadlines because, without them, I don’t get anything done. I can also be a pretty quick writer if I’m motivated enough and all the conditions are perfect to get  the writing done. I think I have the longest, or one of the longest stories in the anthology, but it was a tough ride getting there and discovering the characters and the story along the way. The longest part of the process was given to the writing, and then Gabhi did all the editing, and it was just… unbelievably amazing to witness. I think it was a little more than a month and it truly flew by and makes you think about how slow publishing is lol. Anyway, when you keep your head down and focus on your own work (as I discovered), and if everything around you is in sync to allow you to do the work, then it’s possible.

I don’t know if it’s something I’d recommend, but with such an incredible team with and an extraordinary leader, it can happen.

3. Can you tell us more about your short story and what it means to you? 

WHATEVER SHE WANTS is a queer, fake dating story about a Filipino teen named Theodora who is asexual and biromantic with a Catholic upbringing. She believes in God as a creator who loves and accepts all people, including those who are queer. The story shows her journey of discovering her sexuality along with her classmates. The story shows her journey toward self-acceptance as she discovers romantic love for her best friend, Magnolia, and for a boy named Alastor. After she and her best friend break up with their boyfriends, they agree to pretend to date each other to make their exes jealous. But the entire, Theodora hides that she’s in love with her. Spoiler: there’s a happy ending to it as they come out to each other and realize that they stopped pretending somewhere along the way.

When Gabhi approached me with this opportunity, I quickly realized the only thing I could write was something personal and similar to my own journey (except being in love with my best friend). I grew up Catholic like Theodora, attending Catholic schools and going to Mass on Sundays. And like Theodora, as I started understanding myself and my sexuality, I realized I couldn’t believe in a God who wouldn’t love all people, especially if He supposedly created us in His image. So I wrote about my doubts and emotions through Theodora and hoped to share a story that resonates with someone else. Plus, it’s always nice to have a chance to write something sweet and fluffy when life is dark and difficult.

4. Have you read the other stories yet? Do you have a favorite?

Because of some.. ahem, life upheavals that I’m going through, plus work and other deadlines happening, I haven’t yet been able to read the other stories but I had the privilege of getting to do promo graphics for the stories. And that means getting to see quotes from them! The group of writers involved in this anthology truly are amazing and talented and I am so, so, so blown away by all the hard work that’s gone into making this book happen.

It’s hard to choose a favourite when each story is so different. We write in different ways, with a variety of perspectives and experiences, let alone different voices. You can see the diversity in the writing and to say that one is better than another, especially when I am involved in it, feels wrong and does injustice to who we are and the kind of stories we have to offer. I am so, so grateful to be part of this project and I want to uplift all the voices involved. You can check out #KeepFaithAntho for sneak peeks into the stories. You might see the graphics I’ve made, little snippets shared by the authors themselves, and more! Then, when it comes out, I highly recommend taking a look and finding your own favourite among them.

5. How can readers help KEEP FAITH be successful? 

Preorder! Purchase at the set price or a higher one!

Buy the anthology when it’s released (Sunday, September 1st)

Follow the authors on Twitter, Instagram, etc.:

Adiba Jaigirdar, Bogi Takács, C.T. Callahan, Elly Ha, Gabriela Martins, Julia Rios, Kate Brauning, Kess Costales, Mary Fan, Mayara Barros, Megan Manzano, Shenwei Chang, Sofia Soter, and Vanshika Prusty.

And, of course, boost these voices and our stories! Spreading the word can make a huge difference. I know some people will be unable to purchase the book for financial or other personal reasons, and I don’t want anyone to feel bad about that. Word of mouth can do so much though, and if that’s all you can do, please do.

Even when the release date has passed, keep talking. Keep sharing. Keep the stories alive.

6. Anything to watch out from you in the future?

In the near future, I’ll have a poetry anthology out this upcoming December! An official release date and pre-order links will be announced shortly.

Other than that, you’ll have to wait and see. I love participating in projects that boost marginalized voices so I hope to be part of more in the future. As for traditional publishing, that’s where all the waiting will be. ❤

 

Personally, I really enjoyed hearing Kass’s answers to these questions and I look forward to the book being published! Even though I have already read it, I fully intend to purchase this, just so I can read it again and advertise it as well. This is really worth reading, even if you’re not queer or religious. It offers such a diverse selection of perspectives, and ones that I don’t think we frequently hear very much from.

Again, if you’re able, preorder! The release date is Sunday, 1st September. Mark your calender!!

Until next time,

A.W

 

REVIEW / Toil and Trouble by Various Authors / 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft

toil and trouble

Authors: Jessica Spotswood, Tess Sharpe, Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Cordova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May

Summary

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era. Are you a good witch or a bad witch? Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth. History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations. Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.
A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane. From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored

What I Liked:

  • Witches!
  • The diversity in this was super good and showed different perspectives, a different voice and a different writing style to every story that each had a different message but were all equally powerful
  • It was intersectionally feminist, which I really enjoyed
  • It had queer witches!! (f/f, as well, and included polyamory)
  • Each story was really interesting, and educational on the history of witches without really knowing you were being educated
  • Really highlights the power that women posess

What I Didn’t Like:

  • I wished some of these stories were more developed and weren’t short stories, because they’re so good and it’s hard to cover such a large subject in such a short amount of time
  • Some of the stories had a lot of references to social media, and some makes sense because social media is a big part of our world but constantly is a little overkill
  • I didn’t like that pretty much every story was about romance, I don’t feel like every story needed romance in it, and although I believe a woman can be romantically involved with whoever she likes and still be powerful and strong I would have really liked at least one or two stories where romance wasn’t key to the character

TRIGGER WARNINGS; Rape/sexual assault, confinement, rape victim blaming, abuse, violence, blood, gore, fire, death, racism, sexism, homophobia, child birth, animal death, animal death descriptions, parental loss, bullying, labour camps

 

So, next time I read something involving short stories, I should probably take note on each indivudual story as each voice and each plot and tale was different to one another and I don’t think lumping them together and reviewing them like this is fair or accurate but overall I enjoyed this and I should have probably looked up the trigger warnings beforehand, but it was great. I would reccomend it.

Until next time,

A.W

 

REVIEW / Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire / Mystery, Crime, Witches, Paranormal…

every heart a doorway.jpg

Summary

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. No matter the cost.

Things I Liked:

  • truly delightful
  • a really fast paced, intriguing plot
  • a lot of interesting themes going on – witchery, magic, hidden doors, asexuality, all sorts
  • oh, the asexual representation, I really really loved that
  • amazing diversity and representation and not just asexuality – there was also a trans man, and diverse enthnities)
  • it…actually managed to live up to the hype? which I feel like not many books are capable of doing
  • It’s really unique to most things that I’ve read before so it stands out a lot
  • super gruesome and creepy which I was not expecting from this, but it turned out to be a nice surprise because I do love paranormal thrillers and horrors so it was exactly my cup of tea

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • I wanted to know the characters more in depth and to have more character development and arcs
  • if the story was longer because then we could go more into depth about things like world building
  • It’s very predictable, but I knew that would probably be the case as I’m nearly in my mid twenties and this was written for teenagers

 

I listened to this on audiobook and finished it in a day (for an audiobook, that’s extremely fast, even if it is a short book) and ended up giving it four out of five stars. It was a delightful read, and I’m so excited to get through the rest of the series. I really hope the characters are developed more in future novels, and that maybe they’ll increase in length as well, and that we get to know more about the world as these are really my only criticisms. Plus, being asexual myself, I really apprechiated the representation.

Until next time,

A.W

REVIEW / Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston / A Queer Royal Love Story

red white and royal blue

Summary

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.  As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

What I Liked:

  • It was really, really funny and I actually laughed out loud at several points
  • Adorable
  • I was smiling through about 80% of the book
  • One of the love interests was Mexican-American, I believe?
  • ENEMIES TO FRIENDS TO LOVERS TROPE!!
  • Alex and Henry worked so well together, they really complimented each other, but they were also great characters independently as well
  • The romance was really fluffy, which helped ease the heavyness of the other topics written in the book
  • The narrator on the audiobook had a British accent and it was wonderful
  • The sex scenes were really good – vague, so not too detailed to make me go “ew” (asexuality yay lol) but enough detail to make me really feel their love and how much they enjoyed one another
  • This book is just…happiness, and I felt pure joy for a majority of the book

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Political, but I knew that going into the book, it just stresses me out and triggers my anxiety so it ruined the experiance of the book a little
  • The very very very long chapters
  • One of the characters was forced to come out and, although the ending of this was mostly happy, it was really uncomfortable

So, what did you think of it?! I know pretty much everyone has read this before me, and the hype for this has long since died down, but I am late to every trend so why not this one as well?

Anyway, I already want to re-read it again and buy a physical copy so I can destroy it with how much I re-read it. I haven’t felt such strong happiness reading a book in a really long time. 5/5 stars. Obviously.

Until next time,

A.W

eARC Review / Avant Guards: Vol 1 by Carly Usdin and Noah Hayes / An Adorable Queer Sporty Graphic Novel

the avant guards

Summary

When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team. As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

Review:

What I Liked:

  • So very, very queer
  • Also so very, very diverse
  • The art style was incredible, but I didn’t like it much to begin with – it grew on me!
  • So sporty, so gay, I love it when sports and gay are tied in because I’m a sucker for cliches
  • It spoke about important topics like consent and boundaries
  • Very adorable, did I mention that?
  • It was really fun and engaging to read
  • There was a lot of puppies
  • One of the characters uses they/them pronouns
  • F/F ROMANCE THAT IS SLOW BURNING

What I Didn’t Like:

  • IT ENDED ON A CLIFFHANGER AND I IMEDIATELY WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED LIKE NOW

 

To summarise, I think I have found something that has added itself to my favourites. This one isn’t even out yet, as it’s an eARC review, so goodness knows when the next one is going to be published. It was really, really amazing though so I urge everyone to read it – it’s SO GOOD

Until next time,

A.W

Trans Power // Juno Roche // Spoiler-Free Review on Owning Your Gender

trans power

So, I admit, I never read the description of this book. I saw pink, I saw “Trans Power”, and instantly clicked “request” on NetGalley. This will be published in October later on in the year, if you’re interested. If I did, though, I probably would never have read it because sex (especially penises) make me horribly uncomfortable. That was entirely my mistake, though. As a trans person myself, it still makes me happy to see queer sex being spoken about so openly from a transgender ex-sex worker.

Despite that, there are some things about this that I did really enjoy. I liked how transgender POC were spoken about, and how their race plays a part in their sexual relationships and their experiances being transgender. It speaks about certain violence that they face, and how they process being transgender in comparison to someone who is white (in that case, the comparison is against Juno herself).

I also liked how it spoke about the love that two people can share for each other when one or both is transgender. I think this is especially important for other transgender people to read about and know that being trans doesn’t mean they can’t have a loving relationship and be attractive. For the cis people who read this, it may give them a new perspective and outlook on how they percieve transgender people.

It includes others like disabled people (one had seizures, ME and uses a wheelchair, for example) and non-binary people. I’m so used to us enbies being excluded from transgender discussions that I honestly wasn’t expecting us to become a part of the book, and this was a pleasent surprise.

There were a few problems I had with this, though.

  1. I know that the whole point of this book is to explore sexual relationships between queer transgender people, but I would have liked it to mention or imply that some transgender people don’t have sex/are asexual/are monogamous and that’s okay
  2. The writing style was a drag, and it was difficult to read. It wasn’t sense, and it didn’t include information dumps, it was just boring and there’s no other way to describe it – the writing didn’t make me want to carry on reading it
  3. Most of the voices within this book come from AFAB transgender people, and maybe that’s because Juno is AMAB and wanted to experiance new voices and learn new experiances that would be different from her own, but I would have liked to have heard more about AFAB transgender people
  4. The language used was uncomfortable, but I think that’s just personal preference (and maybe the fact that I’m British). It was a bit too graphic and vulgar for me to be able to enjoy it and really get into it

 

This wasn’t a bad read. Overall, I gave it 3/5 stars, but it just wasn’t for me. It all boils down to personal preference and I do actually really enjoy reading non-fiction and I don’t read it anywhere near as often as I read fiction, but I do tend to like it. This one just wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m sorry! I think plenty of people, especially if you’re comfortable with an open discussion on queer sex, would love this.

A.W