I really had to speed-read in order for this post to go up before the end of Pride Month, and I’m so happy that I made it!
This month’s Caitlin Reads is Pride-themed. As you can tell from the title, I’ll be reading f/f books that were released this year. I’m so excited, because I absolutely love boosting f/f books. It sucks that so many people say that there there are no f/f books, or that there are no good f/f books. I’m excited to prove them wrong in today’s post! (Also, I’m so sorry there was no Caitlin Reads in May. I wasn’t able to finish the books in time. 😔)
In case you missed it, Caitlin Reads is a feature I started in the beginning of 2020. For every post, I read a couple of books that fit a certain theme. I give updates as I’m reading the books, and also include pictures from my real life in order to give the post more of a “reading vlog” feel. Check out previous Caitlin Reads posts here.
Book #1: The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski
Out of all the books in this post, this is the one I’m most excited to read! While the Winners Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski isn’t perfect, I still look back on it fondly. I’ve heard mixed reviews for this, but I am tentatively optimistic.
2%– I have never updated so soon before, but HELP, I am already bored!! The writing is so atmospheric and descriptive, it hurts. I have no idea why Marie Ruktkoski felt the need to describe the dough Nirrim (the main character) was baking and the cherries that she and her people aren’t allowed to eat. 🤦🏻♀️
Anyways, for a quick summary: Nirrim is a member of the Half Kith, the lowest caste in Herath. The highest caste is the High Kith, and the Middlings are, well, you guessed it. The story is about what happens after Nirrim is thrown in prison and meets her cellmate, an enigmatic traveler named Sid.
39%– I’m loving this?? Going into it, I was so wary because of the mixed reviews, many of which criticize the lack of plot. Maybe it’s because the Winners Trilogy’s first book also doesn’t have a clear plot motivation, or the reviews helped me lower my expectations, but I actually think that this has a plot?
In the first few chapters, I, too, was confused about where it was going, but after Nirrim met Sid, the plot (though still far from being action-packed) started moving forward. Also, I’ve gotten used to the writing already, which is helping me fly through this book.
Sid is so mysterious and charming. She’s like every flirty male love interest who has his fair share of secrets, except she’s a girl, so she’s automatically 100x better than them. Her chemistry with Nirrim ~sizzling~, and I’m rooting for their relationship so hard!! I can already tell that their romance isn’t gonna be fluffy and soft, something that most people criticize sapphic romances for always being.
My biggest complaint so far is that even though the story is in Nirrim’s first person perspective, I somehow still feel like I don’t really know her. If I were more invested in her, I’d be so much more invested in the story.
I’m rating this 3 stars, but it’s a very solid 3 stars!! I absolutely recommend that you read this book. The sapphic romance is so steamy, and has the potential to be as angsty as the one in the Winners Trilogy. I’m so ready for the pain.
I know I said that I got used to the writing, but that was a lie. I mean, not really. I did get used to it, but I didn’t like it. In fact, it was what took away most of my enjoyment of the book. It was dense, and I constantly had to reread lines because I didn’t understand what they mean the first time.
That being said, Nirrim is in an abusive relationship, and I loved how that was explored. This book perfectly illustrates how abusers gaslight victims and make them believe things that aren’t true.
This world isn’t homonormative in the slightest, and I like that we saw characters grapple with not being straight in a fantasy setting. In Nirrim’s case, she is unsure if she can even be attracted to girls, and in Sid’s, she’s constantly had to tell the people in her life that she’s not attracted to men.
Lastly, if you’ve read the Winners Trilogy, you have to read this!! This is set in the same world, and the references to the characters and events in it will make you Feel Things.
Book #2: You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
I initially wasn’t interested in this because of the premise, but the amount of positive reviews changed my mind. Plus, it’s important to read and boost (not just buy) books by Black authors!!
33%– I’m already getting all the Black joy vibes from this book!! Liz Lighty is poor, Black, and queer in a high school where being all of those things aren’t the norm. When the financial aid she needs to attend her dream college falls through, she has to enter the running for Prom Queen in order to win a scholarship.
Even though Liz is in a negative predicament and her life definitely isn’t easy, I love that the book still has a light-hearted and joyful tone. Liz’s friends are so supportive of her, and it’s so fun to read about her campaigning and volunteering in order to have a shot at winning prom queen.
Liz is crushing on the new girl at school named Mack, who’s also running for prom queen. Their relationship is progressing so well and it’s so cute! I’m all for angsty slow burn romances, but this is one case where I prefer fluffiness and softness. Liz Lighty and the sapphics deserve it okay. 🥺
What is it with queer books and outing scenes? Why are they becoming so prevalent? Is there no other way to spice up the plot? 😭 I’m not mad that there’s an outing scene in this, but I do wish they’d be written less, because they can be triggering, and they’re just not fun to read
I ended up rating this 4 stars. All of the characters and character interactions are so funny. Usually, I don’t like it when there’s a mean girl who’s there just to be the villain, but this time I didn’t mind, because Rachel wasn’t coming after Liz for no reason. They’re rivals when it comes to grades and other achievements. Plus, Rachel’s friends are nice to Liz and acknowledge Rachel’s mistakes, so that was a nice trope subversion.
P.S. In regards to representation, in addition to being Black and queer, Liz struggles with anxiety, and though I’m not sure, I think the representation is #ownvoices.
Book #3: The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska
I don’t know much about this besides the fact that it’s a villain romance? The love interest is apparently a witch who sacrifices boys regularly. 👁
48%– This book is set in an island where the witch queen regularly sacrifices the boy she loves to prevent the dark tide from rising and engulfing the island. The current witch queen, Eva, has been sacrificing boys to the dark tide, but her attempts aren’t keeping it at bay, because she doesn’t actually love the boys she’s sacrificing. This year, Eva takes the main character Lina’s crush, and Lina trades places with Thomas in order to save him.
First of all, I love the atmosphere and setting!! If you love small, magical island settings, then I suggest reading this book. At first I was unsure whether this is set in our world or a secondary world, but I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.
I wouldn’t recommend this if you need in-depth worldbuilding in books. I wouldn’t say that I do, but I do prefer harder magic systems, so the magic system in this isn’t doing it for me.
So far, Lina is coming across as a stereotypical main character. You know, not very special, but headstrong and will sacrifice herself for her loved ones. But I’m not complaining! Even though there are many characters like her in YA, she’s three-dimensional, and her personality is such a nice contrast to Eva’s. Eva is so snarky and sure of herself. She’s the opposite of Lina in many ways, and I can’t wait for them to fall in love. 🥺
I’m not enjoying the story as much as I want to though. I feel disconnected from it, and I don’t care about what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s the book’s problem or mine, because I’m forcing myself to finish it as soon as possible.
Sadly, I’m rating this 2 stars. I don’t think it deserves 3 stars, because 3 stars means “I liked it.”
I regret saying that I wasn’t complaining about Lina being stereotypical, because she was, and it just added to the mediocrity of the story. Eva could’ve been interesting, but her character wasn’t explored more. Their romance also lacked transition from irritation to “Oh, no I have feelings for you.” (That one kiss scene was a little spicy though. 👁)
To sum my thoughts on this book up in one word: forgettable. You might enjoy it more than I did, but I’m pretty sure that there are better sapphic books—and books in general—to spend your time on. 🤷🏻♀️
Book #4: The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth
To be honest, I don’t have high hopes for this. YA contemporary and slice of life stories just aren’t what my fantasy-loving heart prefers, and this seems like it’s gonna be very slice of life. But hey, it’s sapphic. Plus, that cover 😍
30%– This book follows Saoirse (she actually mentions that her name is pronounced Seer-sha, not Sur-sha like Saoirse Ronan in the first few pages of the book lmao). Saoirse is still dealing with heartbreak from a breakup. Her mother also has dementia, something that Saoirse is likely to also be diagnosed with when she gets older, and no longer recognizes her. Because of these things, Saoirse no longer believes in love. When she meets a girl named Ruby at a party, they have an instant connection. Ruby suggests that they enact a falling in love montage from a romcom, only without the actual falling in love part.
From the summary, you can probably tell how the book is gonna go: they’re gonna fall in love anyway. But the funny thing is that Saoirse acknowledges this, and says that their plan is akin to a person from a horror movie saying, “I’ll be back.” 😂
Saoirse is such a cheeky narrator, and I’ve actually laughed out loud at some of the things she said. Because of what she’s going through, it’s easy to understand why she doesn’t long for a relationship and her anger at her father for pursuing a relationship with another woman.
I also like that she’s a lesbian—the word lesbian is explicitly used on-page—and it isn’t a big deal. This book isn’t a questioning or coming out story (those stories are important too, but so are others).
Pretty much everyone in Saoirse’s life already knows about her sexuality, and absolutely nobody has a problem with it! Maybe this is unrealistic, but I don’t really care. I’m just happy to be reading a gay book where the characters don’t have to worry about being gay. 😌
I rated this 3 stars! Again, 3 stars isn’t a bad rating—I still recommend it. I just didn’t enjoy it enough to rate it higher. I feel like a terrible reviewer for saying that, but I’ve accepted that my rating system is extremely subjective. 😭
There’s no question about it, The Falling in Love Montage is a lesbian romcom. I’m pretty sure Ruby and Saoirse themselves call it one. I love how, despite the fact that it’s clearly inspired by romcoms, it also pokes fun at the problematic and questionable elements in some of them.
If you like romcoms, you have to read this, because it references so many!! I’m pretty sure the only movie I understood the references to was 10 Things I Hate About You. :((
Side note: I just watched 10 Things a few months ago (very late to the game, I know), and I really enjoyed it! It had some questionable and cringe-worthy moments, but I still had fun watching it for some reason. 😭😭
The characters are all well-developed, and Saoirse’s friendship with Oliver is the BEST. More boy-girl friendships please! As someone who’s unsure about what’ll happen after she graduates, I loved seeing them grapple with what they want to do after high school.
Lastly, I loved the ending! It was both realistic and happy, and it gives you enough closure but not too much.
I’m so happy with the results of this Caitlin Reads!! I enjoyed all of the romances I read about (even Lina and Eva were sorta cute). And most of my problems with the books did not lie with the romances. I’m still a sucker for slow burn and angst, but sapphic insta-love just Hits Different.
Based on the ratings, You Should See Me in a Crown is my favorite book I read for this post. But my favorite couple is undoubtedly Sid and Nirrim. Their relationship is the angstiest out of all of these, so no one’s surprised.
Also, I’m sorry I only took pictures of food and Gordon. I got really lazy, and these two things are the only interesting things about my life…