It feels good to finally be back into the swing of things when it comes to reading. While I didn’t read every book selected for the Pride Month Readathon, I was able to read four of them! I’m still slowly chugging away at my BOTM pick (The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah – a hefty first book in a trilogy based around One Thousand and One Nights), but I managed to read a total of eight books in June! I’m now at 31 out of my goal of 50 for the year, seven ahead of schedule!
I already wrote a full review of Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, and I’ll be doing smaller reviews for the other books that I finished in this readathon. I also had a bonus book that I wasn’t anticipating reading but definitely checks all the boxes of this readathon, so I’m including a review for that as well.
For being such a short story, Our Wives Under the Sea captivated me. This is a heartbreaking horror story told in two parts: the first is in present-day, with Miri adapting to life with her wife, Leah, who has just returned from a nightmarish deep-sea mission. The alternating parts are in the past-tense, with Leah documenting what happened in the bottom of the sea. Miri’s chapters are difficult to witness, as we learn the history of their relationship and then very quickly watch it dissolve in present-day. I found both of the characters to be a bit frustrating at times, but I think their personalities were so genuinely real of the situation.
I both liked and disliked the mystery of the mission. Since this book is short, these chapters didn’t feel completely developed. Making the setting of a story in a broken down submarine in the ocean is terrifying, but I didn’t feel that the rest of the plot tried hard enough to grasp the horror elements it was aiming for.
We don’t ever actually learn what the monster is. Sometimes a mystery like that can be fun, but when you spend the other half of the book watching Leah disintegrate because of what she faced, you have high expectations. Instead, the end result was a bit flat, and I walked away disappointed.
I picked up A Lesson in Thorns because I’d heard it was a really well done contemporary romance. I’m not someone who ever reads romance, and usually the romance subplots of stories don’t do much for me, but I was still intrigued because, shockingly, the plot of this book sounded interesting. However, this was definitely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”
I did appreciate the diversity in characters, both with ethnicities, body types, and sexualities. Polyamory is heavily present, kink and bdsm are not just glorified for the smut but also discussed at length between characters, and virginity as a social construct is a leading plot device. Also the smut scenes are between M/M, M/F, F/F, and even M/M/F. We love the inclusivity.
Here’s what I didn’t like: the amount of times Poe describes herself as “sex monster” (only six, I checked, but once was more than enough), how often Saint’s lip piercing was sexualized (what grown ass man is still sporting one of those?), the cringey moment when Poe asks her dad if her parents were into kink, and honestly how unrealistic all of the plot was. Obviously the plot is going to be a little stupid to make all the sex scenes happen, but it didn’t make sense to me that a group of five people who haven’t seen each other in twelve years (two of whom hate each other, another who is a priest), all are pining after each other and want to hook up in any capacity. They all agree to hold a ceremony where two of them have sex in front of everyone else, and thanks to Poe, they all suddenly want to be into kink/bdsm.
I’m too much of a left brain to enjoy romance novels, even if the smut is well done.
Genre: romance, contemporary
I know this is going to be a controversial take, but I absolutely could not stand this book. It follows Griffin after his ex, Theo, dies. He reflects on their relationship, and those scenes were admittedly sweet. However, I absolutely hated Griffin once he and Theo broke up, and his behavior made me want to DNF this book a few times.
Griffin is one of the most selfish characters I’ve ever read. He destroyed his friendship with one of his only friends to pursue a relationship. He made multiple shady and red flag decisions throughout, and then refused to own up to his actions. Instead of understanding that his boyfriend was across the country, in college, and that sometimes you just grow apart and your first love isn’t going to be your only love, Griffin played the victim card repeatedly to make sure everyone around him was just as miserable as he was.
I think most people who loved this felt that Griffin’s grief of losing a loved one was devastating and heartbreaking, and that’s true. This story showcased how difficult it is to lose someone you love. However, Griffin’s attitude made me completely forget about any sad or happy feelings I was supposed to have while reading this. Instead he just made me angry.
Genre: young adult, contemporary
In the Dream House was a staggering memoir that left me in ruins. The author retells her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship, and it hit me a lot harder than I expected it to. Machado is incredibly honest and vulnerable in her portrayal of her relationship. There were scenes that reminded me of my own abusive relationship, and others that I couldn’t even imagine someone going through.
It was interesting to read how similar same-sex abusive relationships are to hetero relationships. I didn’t think there was really a big difference to begin with, but it truly goes to show that narcissists are narcissists regardless of their sexual preferences.
The prose here is gorgeous, and I found myself rereading lines a dozen times. I could live in Machado’s head forever.