Our Wives Under the Sea (audio)book review

Our Wives Under the Sea
Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield
240 pages
published July 12th, 2022

Fathomlessly inventive and original, Julia Armfield’s Our Wives Under the Sea is a portrait of marriage as we’ve never seen it before.

“A wonderful novel, deeply romantic and fabulously strange. I loved this book.” —Sarah Waters

“Without a doubt, one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s not only art, it’s a perfect miracle. We are lucky for it.” —Kristen Arnett

Leah is changed. A marine biologist, she left for a routine expedition months earlier, only this time her submarine sank to the sea floor. When she finally surfaces and returns home, her wife Miri knows that something is wrong. Barely eating and lost in her thoughts, Leah rotates between rooms in their apartment, running the taps morning and night. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home. As Miri searches for answers, desperate to understand what happened below the water, she must face the possibility that the woman she loves is slipping from her grasp.

By turns elegiac and furious, wry and heartbreaking, Our Wives Under the Sea is an exploration of the unknowable depths within each of us, and the love that compels us nevertheless toward one another.

This is a wild, surreal book about a wife who loses everything under the sea. It’s a weird book that is …. extremely British. I read this on audiobook and I think this was the only thing that allowed me to keep the two different perspectives of each wife straight (they are narrated by different narrators). This book is like, fundamentally sad and melancholy and absolutely soaked. Like, there’s just water metaphors everywhere. I uhhhhh don’t really know how I feel about this book. Three and a half stars, rounded up for NetGalley/Goodreads. Like many Surreal Vibes books, I think it kind of falls apart in the latter half. Readalike for Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore? I feel like that’s the last Surreal Book I read. But that book is much more grounded in reality and this book is…. not. Booksweet link. Storygraph link. 

What Moves the Dead (audio)book review

What moves the dead
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
176 pages
publishes July 12th, 2022

From T. Kingfisher, the award-winning author of The Twisted Ones, comes What Moves the Dead, a gripping and atmospheric retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.

What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.

Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.

This book is really really weird and I think that’s its best trait. I was extremely spooked by The Fall of the House of Usher as a small child, (and also confused it with the popular musical artist, Usher, and was terrified of him as well). The narrator has a really interesting Narration Style, which is sometimes weird and sometimes makes everything spookier. The audiobook is also narrated by the fantastic Avi Roque, who gets five stars from me! Also, the main character is nonbinary. If you’re looking for something spooky, especially around this October, you should definitely pick this up. Also, just look at that COVER! Five stars. Booksweet link. Storygraph link.

Scatter of Light book review

Scatter of light
Scatter of Light by Diana Pharoah Francis
??? pages
published June 24th, 2022

Welcome back to Diamond City where hell just busted loose.

Senator Rice, hater of all things magic, declared martial law following the recent bombings. His goal? Arrest all magic-wielders and take control of the mines. To get what he wants, he doesn’t care how many people have to die.

How is Riley supposed to stop an army without starting a bigger war? It’s going to take deceit, timing, sleight of hand, and a whole lot of luck. To help, she’s got her family, friends, and a collection of mobsters, who will probably slide a blade between her ribs the second she turns her back. But beggars can’t be choosers, and playing it safe is a losing proposition.

Unfortunately, there’s more going on than anybody realizes, and the real enemy has yet to show his face.

When push comes to shove, can Riley risk sacrificing the people she loves to save a city of people she doesn’t even know? Risk her people, her family on a plan almost certainly doomed to fail?

For Riley there is really only one choice.

What would you choose?

Sooooo this is not “ A Scatter of Light” by Malinda Lo which is what I was actually looking for. This book is perfectly fine, but it is the 5th in a series where I didn’t read any of the other ones. I did not finish this book and I am rating it three stars, which is Perfectly Neutral; I have no strong thoughts about this book either way. It just isn’t my jam and wasn’t what i thought I was getting into. 

The Loophole book review

The loophole
The Loophole by Naz Kutub
336 pages
published June 21st, 2022

A gay Muslim boy travels the world for a second chance at love after a possibly magical heiress grants him three wishes in this YA debut that’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda with a twist of magic.

Sy placed all his bets for happiness on his boyfriend, Farouk . . . who then left him to try and “fix the world.” Now, the timid seventeen-year-old Indian Muslim boy is stuck in a dead-end coffee shop job and all he can do is wish for one more chance . . .

Sy never expects his wish to be granted. But when a mysterious girl offers him three wishes in exchange for his help and proves she can grant at least one wish with an instant million-dollar deposit into Sy’s struggling bank account, a whole new world of possibility opens up. Is she magic? Or just rich? And can Sy find the courage to leave Los Angeles and cross the Atlantic Ocean to lands he’d never even dreamed he could visit, all to track down his missing ex? With help from his potentially otherworldly new friend, will Sy go all the way for one last, desperate chance at rebuilding his life and refinding love?

Your wish is granted! Naz Kutub’s debut weaves an engrossing whirlwind of an adventure with a journey to find love, home, and family.

This book is charming and really short. The cover feels more heartwarming than its actual contents (there is a forced outing and a character is kicked out of their house), but it is ultimately a story of found family and a note of hope for queer teens who feel like they don’t belong. It’s a really nice coming of age story. Four stars. Booksweet link. Storygraph link. 

Silk Fire book review

Silk fire
Silk Fire by Zabe Ellor
475 pages
publishes July 5th, 2022

Set in a planet-sized matriarchal city where magic and technology freely bleed together, a male courtesan’s quest for vengeance against his aristocrat father draws him into an ancient struggle between dragons, necromancers, and his home district’s violent history.

In the world-sized city of Jadzia, magic and ancient science merge into something dark and wondrous.

Koré’s life is consumed by power, politics, sex and vengeance, and as courtesan to the wealthy and powerful, he is privy to all manner of secrets. He knows meddling in politics is dangerous─still, he is willing to risk everything to stop his father from seizing the Imperial Throne of the War District. But Koré soon finds the corruption runs far deeper than just one man.

During a tryst in an ancient tomb─in the pursuit of political influence─Koré encounters a dying god, who imbues him with the powers of one of the city’s sacred dragons. Suddenly Koré finds himself a hunted man, threatened with becoming a pawn by whoever finds him first.

If the wrong person discovers his secret and lays claim to his powers they would plunge their world into war, unleash untold horrors and destroy the city─and the two people he has come to love.

Aughughuhguh. This book is so. I’m so. Eugh. Lots of other people have said a lot of really smart things about this book and you should go read their reviews instead. The famous dathomira review, of course, but also some other great reviewers have given in-depth reviews. Personally, this book was Exhausting and I could definitely see that maybe someone could enjoy it, but there was SO MUCH going on, and I didn’t understand what was happening, and there was no way to really get immersed in the book because there is such a weird mix of Fantasy Language and Regular Slang. I stopped 45% of the way in. Two stars, only because I legally have to give this a star rating. Booksweet link. Storygraph link. Goodreads link.

All the Things We Don’t Talk About

All the things
All the Things We Don’t Talk About by Amy Feltman
320 pages
published May 24th, 2022

A “big-hearted, lively, and expansive portrait of a family” that follows a neurodivergent father, his nonbinary teenager, and the sudden, catastrophic reappearance of the woman who abandoned them (Claire Lombardo, New York Times bestselling author).

Morgan Flowers just wants to hide. Raised by their neurodivergent father, Morgan has grown up haunted by the absence of their mysterious mother Zoe, especially now, as they navigate their gender identity and the turmoil of first love. Their father Julian has raised Morgan with care, but he can’t quite fill the gap left by the dazzling and destructive Zoe, who fled to Europe on Morgan’s first birthday. And when Zoe is dumped by her girlfriend Brigid, she suddenly comes crashing back into Morgan and Julian’s lives, poised to disrupt the fragile peace they have so carefully cultivated.

Through it all, Julian and Brigid have become unlikely pen-pals and friends, united by the knowledge of what it’s like to love and lose Zoe; they both know that she hasn’t changed. Despite the red flags, Morgan is swiftly drawn into Zoe’s glittering orbit and into a series of harmful missteps, and Brigid may be the only link that can pull them back from the edge. A story of betrayal and trauma alongside queer love and resilience, ALL THE THINGS WE DON’T TALK ABOUT is a celebration of and a reckoning with the power and unintentional pain of a thoroughly modern family.

This book was really difficult for me, personally, to get through, due to Trauma, You Know, of being part of a really dysfunctional family. But it’s also a story of wild interpersonal relationships, of existing around charismatic but ultimately destructive people (Zoe is the Caroline Calloway of this book and also this family), of betrayal and grief and having something fundamentally missing and trying to fill that. And ultimately, it’s a queer story about family love and acceptance. Five stars.

Booksweet link.

Body Grammar book review

Grammar
Body Grammar by Jules Ohman
320 pages
published June 14th, 2022

A coming-of-age queer love story set in the glamorous but grueling world of international modeling—a “terrific debut … roiling with deep questions of identity and art, love, and the irrepressible need for meaning in life” (Jess Walter, bestselling author of The Cold Millions)

By the time Lou turns eighteen, modeling agents across Portland have scouted her for her striking androgynous look. Lou has no interest in fashion or being in the spotlight. She prefers to take photographs, especially of Ivy, her close friend and secret crush.

But when a hike ends in a tragic accident, Lou finds herself lost and ridden with guilt. Determined to find a purpose, Lou moves to New York and steps into the dizzying world of international fashion shows, haute couture, and editorial shoots. It’s a whirlwind of learning how to walk and how to command a body she’s never felt at ease in. But in the limelight, Lou begins to fear that she’s losing her identity—as an individual, as an artist, and as a person still in love with the girl she left behind.

A sharply observed and intimate story of grief and healing, doubt and self-acceptance set against the hyper-image-conscious industry of modeling and high fashion, Body Grammar shines with the anxieties of finding your place in the world and the heartbreaking beauty of pursuing love.

I really enjoyed this vibrant, complex book about teenagers growing up and coming of age and discovering who they are and who they are going to be. The main character, Lou, is very good and well-voiced, but I also enjoyed all of the side characters and the people she comes across; they’re complex in ways that don’t always relate back to Lou. This book is evocative and transgender and explores the nature of the body versus the self, which relates back to the title of BODY GRAMMAR. This book gets four and a half stars from me, rounded up for NetGalley. Booksweet link here.

Boards and Spreads book review | Shareable simple spreads for Every Meal

Boards and Spreads
Boards and Spreads: Shareable, Simple Arrangements for Every Meal by Yasmin Fahr
192 pages
publishes August 23rd 2022

Enjoy more than 65 recipes for platters and boards, including dinner-worthy spreads, appetizers, breakfast, snacks, and more inspiration for anytime-eating

Boards and Spreads presents more than sixty-five recipes for beautiful, delicious boards and epic spreads for sharing-friendly meals, from breakfast through dinner. Going far beyond the standard cheese board or charcuterie board, here you will find countless ideas for how to create colorful platters and spreads with easy, flavorful recipes to fill them, like the Italian Aperitivo Board with Crispy Prosciutto Caprese; Any-Night Tacos with super-quick sheet pan shrimp, and rotisserie chicken that you spice up yourself; and breakfast spreads like the make-your-own Egg Pita Sandwich Board. Even drinks can be served board-style, whether it’s a Bloody Mary Bar or the DIY Daytime Drinks set-up for a crowd. Plus, there are plenty of quick recipes for dips, snacks, and other fun add-ons that you’ll turn to time and time again for countless meals, like Za’atar Flatbread, Smashed Olives, Quick-Pickled Shallots and Jalapenos, and Two-Minute Feta Dip.

Whether you’re looking for a snackable spread or grazing board to serve when having people over, searching for the perfect food to share for an outdoor get-together, or simply looking for easy-to-make recipes that you can throw together on a whim, Boards and Spreads is full of ideas for turning everyday ingredients into festive, low-effort meals.

I really like the pictures and photography in this book, and I like the themeing and some of the essays included with the recipes. Unfortunately, there is way too much cross-referencing other recipes with each other in this book – every time you’re like “oh, there’s only six ingredients in this recipe” they’re like “oh also reference this other recipe later in the book where you’ll need a whole wheelbarrow full of ingredients”, which I just don’t think is accessible! And I do think that a Board should be accessible; these just seem way too fancy to have the word ’simple’ in the title. It’s finger foods on a plate! This gets just three stars from me because of it. Full list of recipes available on my blog.

Bookshop link here.

Boards for Breakfast
The Jam Plan board
The Egg Pita Sandwich board
The pancakes board
The Shaksuka-ish spread
The Smorrebrod-style Lox board
The Homemade granola board
Bloody Mary Bar

Breads on Boards
The No-cook tartines board
The crispy snacky tortilla board
The feta flatbread board
The tinned fish board
The pizza toast board
Be Your Own Sausage Hero spread

Snacking Boards + Salad + Veggie Platters
The Many mezze Snacking Board
The Italian Apertivo Board
The Summer trio platter
The fall/winter truo platter
The spring duo platter
The charred salad duo

Dinnertime boards
The Mini Sliders board
The Taco Spread
The Top-Your-Own Chili board
The winner, Winner Chicken Dinner board
Big pot of mussels on a board
The Salmon Centerpiece Spread
The Kebab Dinner

Take it Outside
DIY Daytime Drinks
The Crispy Chicken Bites Spread
The Sandwich board
Picnic salad trio
Highly transportable grain bowl
Go green pasta salad board

Accents & Add-ons
Quick-pickled shallots or jalapenos
Lemony herbs + onions
Herby green sauce
Smashed Olives
Jammy eggs
Quick-charred artichokes
Caramelized bananas
Any-berry compote

Dips, Spreads & More Fun Things
Herby Yogurt Dip
Restaurant-style hummus
Za’atar flatbread
Baked pita chips
Two-minute feta dip
Scallion labneh
Two super simple salads
Avocado salad
Marinated chickpeas
Garlicky white beans

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet

The summer of
The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson
384 pages
published May 10th, 2022

In this complex and emotionally resonant novel about a Métis girl living on the Canadian prairies, debut author Jen Ferguson serves up a powerful story about rage, secrets, and all the spectrums that make up a person—and the sweetness that can still live alongside the bitterest truth.

Lou has enough confusion in front of her this summer. She’ll be working in her family’s ice-cream shack with her newly ex-boyfriend—whose kisses never made her feel desire, only discomfort—and her former best friend, King, who is back in their Canadian prairie town after disappearing three years ago without a word.

But when she gets a letter from her biological father—a man she hoped would stay behind bars for the rest of his life—Lou immediately knows that she cannot meet him, no matter how much he insists.

While King’s friendship makes Lou feel safer and warmer than she would have thought possible, when her family’s business comes under threat, she soon realizes that she can’t ignore her father forever.

The Heartdrum imprint centers a wide range of intertribal voices, visions, and stories while welcoming all young readers, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

This is a really complex story, with a lot going on. Lots of things don’t really get the conclusion that I wanted them to have, on-page — I’m still kind of worried about Lou’s best friend, Florence, who goes off her meds and doesn’t have anyone really reach out to her. There’s also some different opinions about bisexuality on-page, and I think that it’s up to the reader to decide how to interpret them, and use their best judgements about who is ‘right’. I was so invested in Lou’s story, flush with rage and grief and confusion and being a teenager and coming of age and not really liking your boyfriend and growing up. I really enjoyed that at the beginning of each chapter, there was a bit about different flavors of ice cream. This is an intense summer read, but I think it’s ultimately an important summer read. Four stars.