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. 

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.

The Last Fallen Moon book review

The last fallen moon
The Last Fallen Moon by Graci Kim
384 pages
published June 14th, 2022

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents the second book in Graci Kim’s magical and mysterious Gifted Clans trilogy.

“Graci Kim does such an amazing job of blending Korean mythology into the modern world, I am now wondering how I ever lived without knowing all this cool information.”–New York Times #1 best-selling author Rick Riordan

For Riley Oh, life as the Godrealm’s last fallen star is not all it’s cracked up to be. Her new divine heritage doesn’t even come with cool magical powers; half of her friends and family (including her parents) can’t remember her; and to top it all off, the entire Gom clan is mad at her for killing the Cave Bear Goddess and stripping away their healing abilities.

But when their anger boils over and a group of witches curse Riley’s home, she knows it’s up to her to restore magic back to her clan – even if it means sneaking into the Spiritrealm.

Luckily, Riley has some backup. Along with her sister, Hattie, Riley meets Dahl, a heaven-born boy with shockingly white hair and a fondness for toilets who might not be telling the whole truth about who he is. Together they’ll fight vicious monsters, discover dark underwater worlds, and race to save the land of the dead from a fate that no one could have foreseen.

And this time, Riley won’t let anything get in her way. Because she can’t shake the feeling that something terrible is coming their way – and the gifted community is going to need all the powers they can get.

You’ll never guess, but I did not read the book that is previous in this series, which is called the Gifted Clans trilogy. The first book in the series is called The Last Fallen Star, and I do in fact wish I had read it, because when we pick up in this book, Riley Oh’s parents and friends don’t remember her! What did you do to get into this situation! But, as with all Rick Riordan presents books, I loved learning about Korean mythology in a present-tense way, as it affects our protagonist, Riley. I say this a lot, but this is a great readalike for Aru Shah and her series of books! Aru and Riley are so different as main characters, but each girl grows and changes throughout the course of their stories. I’m excited for this trilogy to join other mythology stories on bookshelves everywhere — and I am going to go back and read the first one! Five stars.

Booksweet link here.

The Marvellers book review

Marvellers
The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
416 pages
published May 3rd, 2022

Dhonielle Clayton makes her middle-grade debut with a fantasy adventure set in a global magic school in the sky —an instant New York Times and #1 Indie Bestseller!

“The Marvellers deserves the highest compliment I can give a book: I want to live in this world.” —Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling–author

Eleven-year-old Ella Durand is the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, a magic school in the clouds where Marvellers from around the world practice their cultural arts, like brewing Indian spice elixirs and bartering with pesky Irish pixies.

Despite her excitement, Ella discovers that being the first isn’t easy—some Marvellers mistrust her magic, which they deem “bad and unnatural.” But eventually, she finds friends in elixirs teacher, Masterji Thakur, and fellow misfits Brigit, a girl who hates magic, and Jason, a boy with a fondness for magical creatures.

When a dangerous criminal known as the Ace of Anarchy escapes prison, supposedly with a Conjuror’s aid, tensions grow in the Marvellian world and Ella becomes the target of suspicion. Worse, Masterji Thakur mysteriously disappears while away on a research trip. With the help of her friends and her own growing powers, Ella must find a way to clear her family’s name and track down her mentor before it’s too late.

“A marvelous gift of a novel! With fantastical twists at every turn, Clayton has created a world that readers won’t want to leave.” —Angie Thomas, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Hate U Give and Concrete Rose

This is a PERFECT readalike for kids who want more of The Book Series that Shall Not be Named but are starting to develop better taste. 😛 It’s a magic school boarding book that features Marvellers from around the world and the main character is a misfit even in her own world. Some interesting divergences from The Series that Shall Not Be Named include not being sorted into houses until the end of your first year, multiculturalism, and adults who are smart and who care about kids! Also, taking a page from dark academia, there are secrets everywhere about everything. I’m really excited to see where this middle grade series goes – it’s absolutely going to become a staple in every library. Five stars. Booksweet link.

Dewey Decimated book review

Dewey
Dewey Decimated by Allison Brook
336 pages
publishes September 6th, 2022

Librarian Carrie Singleton is back on the case, alongside library ghost Evelyn, in the sixth installment of Agatha Award nominee Allison Brook’s Haunted Library mysteries.

Carrie Singleton is just off a hot string of murder cases centered around the spooky local library in Clover Ridge, Connecticut. She could really use a break—but no such luck, as she; Smoky Joe, the resident cat; and Evelyn, the library’s ghost, are drawn into another tantalizing whodunit.

First, a dead body is found in the basement of the building attached to the library, and it turns out to be Carrie’s fiancé’s Uncle Alec, who Dylan hasn’t seen in years. But Alec has no intention of truly checking out, and his ghost makes itself at home in the library, greatly upsetting the patrons. Carrie and Evelyn work hard to keep Alec out of sight, but what was he doing in Clover Ridge to begin with? And why was he killed?

Meanwhile, the town council, of which Carrie is also a member, is embroiled in a hot-headed debate over the fate of the Seabrook Preserve, a lovely and valuable piece of property that runs along Long Island Sound. Turn it into an upscale park? Sell it to a condo developer? Or keep it as protected land?

As the dispute rages, there’s another murder, this time involving a council member. Could the two murders be connected? And could Carrie be next on the hit list? 

Obligatory I have not read any other of the books in this series, and this is the sixth one in the Haunted Library series. This book is very spooky! There’s ghosts! There’s a complicated web of interpersonal politics! There’s an appropriately slow start! There’s a resident ghost! There’s a cat named Smoky Joe! There’s A MURDER (which results in a ghost, obviously). There’s a cop and his name is John and the entire Clover Ridge Police Department is involved, and there’s an INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER who wants to TAKE DOWN the police department because they’re INCOMPETENT. And she’s RIGHT. We stan Julie in this house. Honestly, the quote on the front of the book is “all my favorite cozy things’”, and this book does deliver (library? cat? murder? perfect), but I wish there was less Police Drama and also I wish there were more dessert-based descriptions. Or some recipes! Four stars. You’ll probably like it. Bookshop link here.

Camp Out Quest: Agents of H.E.A.R.T book review

Camp out quest
Camp Out Quest: Agents of H.E.A.R.T by Sam Hay, illustrated by Genevieve Kote
256 page
published June 28th, 2022

In Camp Out Quest, the second book in this fun, magical illustrated chapter book series from Sam Hay, author of Spy Penguins, a young girl goes camping with her family and enlists the help of friends and fairytale princesses in a quest to get her stepmother to fall in love with the stray puppy she wants to keep.

The Agents of H.E.A.R.T are at it again!

Now that she’s gotten her happily ever after helping out in her family’s café, Evie has one last wish—to keep Fudge, the adorable stray puppy she found. Fudge is extra cute… and extra wiggly… and may have made a mess of the house.

But Evie has a plan. Nothing says family and bonding like camping in the great outdoors. And with her friends coming too, Operation Love Fudge will be a piece of cake—or a delicious gooey s’more!

Maybe, she’ll bring the magical storybook just in case.

In the second book in this fantastically funny series by Spy Penguins author, Sam Hay, Evie and her friends return for a chaotic romp through the forest featuring an easily excitable pup, a fiasco of fairytale princesses, and the power of teamwork.

Obligatory I did not read the first in this series. When you’re a kid, you don’t really understand like, levels of Terribleness, which is weirdly reflected in this book? Evie’s step-mom says that because her puppy stole a hot dog from another set of campers, the police might come and take away her puppy, and this is treated as the Worst Possible Thing that could happen. Which it is! And cops are not really in the business of taking away dogs; in reality they would probably do much worse. I simply don’t think they should be mentioned in the book at all, and certainly not used a threat (towards a puppy??). Anyhow, that’s all mediocre, but the rest of the story is cute and the illustrations are great. Two stars for weird morals and cops; I wouldn’t pick this one up.

Professor Goose Debunks Goldilocks and the Three Bears book review

Professor goose
Professor Goose Debunks Goldilocks and the Three Bears, written by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
40 pages
published June 21st, 2022

The first in a new series by the author of Franklin the Turtle! Join Professor Goose in this STEM-filled picture book as she fact-checks classic fairy tales and shares the science behind these flawed stories.

Mother Goose’s fairy tales are NOT based in science, and her great niece Professor Goose thinks it’s time to share the truth. Join Professor Goose as she — literally — travels through the pages of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, fact-checking, exposing the flaws and explaining the science. Bears don’t live in cottages — they prefer dens! The smallest bowl of porridge wouldn’t be “just right” — it would have been the coldest! Professor Goose is delighted to see Baby Bear use the scientific method and Goldilocks’s fight or flight response. And maybe Goldilocks should have used a GPS so she wouldn’t have gotten lost in the first place?

Jammed with jokes and wonderfully silly illustrations, this book entertains while it introduces basic scientific laws and rules to young readers. At the back of the book, readers will find Professor Goose’s instructions on how to engineer their own chair for a (teddy) bear!

This is a delightful picture book that introduces STEM concepts through Professor Goose, a distinguished academic researcher. This is a great book for kids who love deconstructed fairy tales; it’s a different direction for right after reading Stinky Cheese Man, and also for kids who aren’t quite ready for A Tale Dark and Grimm. There’s even an engineering craft at the back, to make a chair for a (teddy) bear! This introduces concepts like fact-checking and critical evaluation, and is a great STEM introduction for reluctant-to-math kids, or for kids who really like to prove other people wrong. (I may or may not have been one of these children.) Five stars; a great addition to your picture book library. Five stars.

Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend book review

Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend by Katie Zhao
288 pages
published April 26th, 2022

An epic new fantasy series inspired by Chinese mythology that #1 New York Times bestselling author Kwame Mbalia calls a hilarious tussle between homework, family, and heroism. When a girl awakens the stuff of legends from an old family recipe, she must embrace her extraordinary heritage to save the world.

Winnie Zeng has two goals: survive her first year of middle school and outdo her stuck-up archnemesis, David Zuo. It won’t be easy, since, according to her older sister, middle school is the pits. Luckily, Winnie studied middle school survival tactics in comic books and anime, and nothing will stop her from being the very best student.

But none of Winnie’s research has prepared her to face the mother of all hurdles: evil spirits. When she makes mooncakes for a class bake sale, she awakens the stuff of legends from her grandmother’s old cookbook, spilling otherworldly chaos into her sleepy town.

Suddenly Winnie finds herself in a race against time, vanquishing demons instead of group projects. Armed with a magic cookbook and a talking white rabbit, she must embrace her new powers and legacy of her ancestors. Because if she doesn’t, her town–and rest of the world–may fall to chaos forever.

This is a fantastic middle grade adventure novel from the great and inimitable Katie Zhao! The last middle-grade series I read and loved was the Aru Shah series, and fans of that series will find lots to love here as well. It’s a fantastic entry into Percy Jackson readalikes, and it was a quick read. Also, I really enjoyed the plot device of a magic cookbook. This left me craving mooncakes. Four stars.