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. 

Sorceline book review

Sorceline by Sylvia Douye and Paola Antista
144 pages
published May 17th, 2022

Welcome to the Island of Vorn, where mythical creatures roam free and only the brightest students are invited to study them. In Book 1 of this riveting new middle grade graphic novel series, a gifted young cryptozoologist-in-training must learn to tame powerful beasts–including her own inner demons.

For as long as she can remember, Sorceline has had a knack for the study of mythical creatures. Now a student at Professor Archibald Balzar’s prestigious school of cryptozoology, she’s eager to test her skills and earn a spot as one of Balzar’s apprentices.

But for all her knowledge of gorgons, vampires, and griffins, Sorceline is mystified by her fellow humans. While she excels in her studies, she quickly clashes with her classmates, revealing her fiery temper.

When one of her rivals suddenly disappears, Sorceline must set aside her anger and join the quest to find her. But the mystery only deepens, leading Sorceline on a journey far darker and more personal than she expected . . .

This is definitely a great readalike for someone who has just finished reading Coraline. It’s also a great introduction for readers who are reluctant to start graphic novels. Fantastic character dynamics, cryptozoology, interesting mystery. I really enjoyed the color palette of this book. There’s also promise for a future sequel! Four stars. Bookshop link here.

I Am The Ghost In Your House book review

I Am the Ghost In Your House by Mar Romasco-Moore
432 pages
Published April 19th, 2022

From the author of Some Kind of Animal comes a wildly unique story about an invisible girl struggling to see herself in a world obsessed with appearances.

Pie is the ghost in your house.

She is not dead, she is invisible.

The way she looks changes depending on what is behind her. A girl of glass. A girl who is a window. If she stands in front of floral wallpaper she is full of roses.

For Pie’s entire life it’s been Pie and her mother. Just the two of them, traveling across America. They have slept in trains, in mattress stores, and on the bare ground. They have probably slept in your house.

But Pie is lonely. And now, at seventeen, her mother’s given her a gift. The choice of the next city they will go to. And Pie knows exactly where she wants to go. Pittsburgh–where she fell in love with a girl who she plans to find once again. And this time she will reveal herself.

Only how can anyone love an invisible girl?

A magnificent story of love, and friendship, and learning to see yourself in a world based on appearances, I Am the Ghost in Your House is a brilliant reflection on the importance of how much more there is to our world than what meets the eye.

This cover might actually genuinely kill me. LOOK AT IT. Jeez Louise. Anyhow, this is definitely marketed as horror (see: the COVER,) and there are some tension-filled parts, but it’s more fabulist than it is horror. What did I just compare to “burn our bodies down” by Rory Power? I think it was “Queen of Junk Island”. Not to reveal that I only read like 12 books two years ago before I started this book blog, but I would ALSO like to compare this to “burn our bodies down”. Big on the mom trauma, or the mauma, if you will.

It’s a slow read and it’s full of aching loneliness and isolation. It’s a sadder, more sapphic readalike to “Things Not Seen” by Andrew Clements.

We’re gonna go for 3.5 stars, rounded up for NetGalley.

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester book review

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor
360 pages
publishes May 3rd, 2022

In this queer contemporary YA mystery, a nonbinary autistic teen realizes they must not only solve a 30-year-old mystery but also face the demons lurking in their past in order to live a satisfying life.

Sam Sylvester has long collected stories of half-lived lives—of kids who died before they turned nineteen. Sam was almost one of those kids. Now, as Sam’s own nineteenth birthday approaches, their recent near-death experience haunts them. They’re certain they don’t have much time left. . . .

But Sam’s life seems to be on the upswing after meeting several new friends and a potential love interest in Shep, their next-door neighbor. Yet the past keeps roaring back—in Sam’s memories and in the form of a thirty-year-old suspicious death that took place in Sam’s new home. Sam can’t resist trying to find out more about the kid who died and who now seems to guide their investigation. When Sam starts receiving threatening notes, they know they’re on the path to uncovering a murderer. But are they digging through the past or digging their own future grave?

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester explores healing in the aftermath of trauma and the fullness of queery joy.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy.

Back when I was a kid coming out, the only book around for nonbinary pals was I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST by Mason Deaver, which is a really boring book. (Sorry, it’s just that nothing happens in it). Now THIS book? About a nonbinary teenager solving a murder mystery? AND ALSO THEY’RE AUTISTIC? Excuse me??

Let’s pull out some bullet points:

  • a little bit paranormal!
  • ace spectrum
  • adoptee
  • a great dad!!!!
  • starting over at a new school!
  • new friendships!

Honestly, this is a queer cozy mystery that really just needs like, a couple more puns for it to hit four stars for me. The writing feels somewhat stilted and weird, and it never drew me in enough to ignore the fact that the NetGalley copy was a PDF, which is the absolute worst way to read an eARC. Three and a half stars, rounded up for NetGalley. Storygraph link. Bookshop link.

The Void Ascendant book review | Love does not compel me, it converts me

The Void Ascendant by Premee Mohamed
480 pages
publishes April 26th, 2022

The mindblowing, cosmic conclusion to the breakout Beneath the Rising trilogy.
SURVIVAL HAS CONSEQUENCES

Seven years ago, the last survivor of Earth crashed through uncountable dimensions to a strange new world. Nick Prasad found shelter, and a living, as a prophet for the ruling family–servants of the Ancient Ones who destroyed his home.Now, he’s been offered a chance to rid the multiverse of the Ancient Ones, past and present and forever, although he’ll have to betray his new masters to do it.The first step is jailbreaking a god–and that’s the easy part…

SORRY FOR THIS REALLY SHORT REVIEW – I got this after bothering Solaris Publishing for weeks to read it early because the end of A Broken Darkness simply Murdered Me, and they approved me on the day that it archives (today). Obviously I read the entire thing in one sitting between work and class. Yes I have had it preordered since literally last September. Honestly, this is the best end of a trilogy of books that I may have ever read? I feel like I’ve always been disappointed by third books in trilogies, but this was incredible. I would die for Johnny And She Would Let Me. Yeah I can’t wait to reread the whole series this summer. Incredible work by the incredible Premee Mohamed, once again. Who knew a little bug could write so many words?? (Five stars.) Thanks Solaris Publishing for providing this free eARC in exchange for a review, etc etc and also so I would stop bothering them. Bookshop link.

dancing upon that woven life (the men: a hate review)

The men
The Men by Sandra Newman
272 pages
publishes June 14th, 2022

This review is by my roommate, Jude, who read this because I sure was not fucking going to. Take it away, Judah!

the main issue with this book is that our dear latitude, owner, author, and editor of this blog, my favorite roommate, would disappear on account of their xy chromosomes.

but really — so many things about this book are bad – the racism, the plot, the prose, the ableism, the ~twist~, the ending (it’s a dream, really? what is this, tumblr 2010?), the transmisogynistic premise, the racism. honestly this book felt like nothing happened and a white woman is just malcontent about her life. because in fact, nothing happened, and a white woman is just upset about her life choices.

here’s the main events of the book: jane pearson is camping with her husband and young son. while they go to bed in the tent she falls asleep outside, in a hammock. she wakes up and they’re gone. she stays on the mountain 10 days trying to find them. she comes down and realizes all the men (technically everyone with xy chromosomes) has disappeared. she eventually seeks out her old good friend/almost lover, evangelyne moreau, a black political revolutionary and the only remotely interesting character. the book is interspersed with details about a mysterious site that has videos of the disappeared people in weird, trippy settings. eventually evangelyne’s past with a bipolar girl comes out and it’s somehow all her fault, and she asks jane to choose her over her husband & son, and if she doesn’t choose evangelyne everything will go back to the moment the men disappeared – including evangelyne with a police mob surveilling her house.

jane pearson is insufferable the entire story. the men is just a book about her feeling bad about her cushy life that she is unwilling to leave, even though she is bored and unhappy. and the story really didn’t need to be 200 pages of annoying racist comments to be told. far too frequently a white character would be like “I had this racist impulse/thought and was ashamed” and it never added anything to the story but it kept happening, just a book of white guilt. jane’s ultimate choice at the end directly causes evangelyne to be murdered by the police in her own home.

jane talks about the advantages of men disappearing as if women have no agency, as if all women go around appeasing the men in their lives and putting all women’s behaviors at the behest of men. the prose also just says some inane stuff sometimes, like this quote:

it has always astonished me how women talk. men talk, but women talk as if engaged in research, talk in no direction, pondering, investigating, acting out scenes, asking open-ended questions, spinning a life like a spiderweb and dancing upon that woven life

like first of all this is just a wild romanticization of how women talk, and, i’ve been a woman in my time, i’ve navigated social spaces both as a woman and as a man (and as a gnc woman, a trans man, as genderqueer, a dyke, a fag – plenty of genders i’ve acted out!) and this is an absolutely buckwild thing to write. the painting of men as a monolith of terribleness, of maladjustment and violent and stupid and oh women are never these things – is extremely gender essentialist and also the most stupid, basic, boring analysis of gender.

on the subway, two people asked if ruth wanted help, and when she got down from the train platform, for the first time ever it didn’t smell of urine. that undid her, and she was sobbing on the train, so furious at the men. of course you couldn’t know their disappearance was punishment, but who didn’t think it was punishment? after all the wars, the pollution, the rapes? they even had to piss on the train platforms! they had to keep misbehaving until they got erased.

we all know women of course wouldn’t cause war, pollution, or rape, or piss outside of toilets (also, you think the piss on train platforms is because dudes wanted to piss there or do you think maybe the lack of public bathrooms might be related). narrowing every social issue down to “oh it’s because of men” is such a nearsighted analysis – as if all the bullshit we live with can be boiled down to manhood. wealth, race, religion, greed, selfishness, individualism – so many things contribute to the evils of the world, and those wouldn’t disappear if men weren’t around. powerful women would be there ready to take up the gauntlet.

 i was also the nice white girlfriend who could give white donors a feeling of safety, a girl with a radiant public goodness like a stained-glass window, like eva perón. in this connection, my sex offender status only seemed to add a little spice, as perhaps fascism had for eva.

this is an insane sentence i don’t need to say anything more on it.

the way that the book throws in some “oh i saw trans women in the weird videos of the men also” and “there was a trans man but he got sexually assaulted in the street” is absurd considering that the book is still entitled *the men* and the mention of transness and gender and sex variance aren’t investigated in the context of the story at all. honestly i’d rather the editor who advised newman to write those mentions in didn’t do so because somehow it makes the “everyone with xy chromosomes disappears” premise worse. i’m more offended by the shitty attempt of inclusion than i would be by the run of the mill sex-based essentialism that i experience every day.

my rating: 1/5 stars

i’m just a dumb stoner, but you should consider reading gretchen felker-martin’s review, which is much smarter than mine. or, better yet subscribe to her patreon and also purchase and devour manhunt, an actually good book.

i read this as an ARC and would not recommend anyone spend money or time on this book. unless you want to hate-read it to gossip about it, which is why i read it, but please don’t pay for it otherwise we are not friends anymore.