Matt’s Weekly Reads, July 30, 2022


Husband Material, Alexis Hall (NEW RELEASE! – August 2, 2022)

I was fortunate to receive an Advance Review Copy of this hotly-anticipated sequel to Boyfriend Material (2020), which comes out this week. And did it ever deliver! We meet up again with Lucien and Oliver two years after the first book as they continue to navigate their relationship and insecurities, while it seems like everyone around them is getting married. One of the wonderful things about sequels in the romance genre is that we get to see the progress in the lives of the characters after their ‘happily ever after’; so while the first book saw Lucien start at rock bottom and begin to put his life and self-worth back together, here we see him in a much healthier and mature place (even if that still surprises him), but still plagued by doubt; similarly, we left Oliver just beginning to pick apart the strictures of his upper middle class WASPy upbringing, and here we see him further along that process, but nowhere near settled in his relationship with his parents and their values. All of this struck me as profoundly realistic, and it enabled the conversations in the book to be very reminiscent of the real conversations I have with my friends about things like queer culture, ‘the community’, heteronormativity, ‘rainbow capitalism’, and so on. Additionally, unlike most literary ‘romantic comedies’, this is legitimately funny, through a combination of witty dialog, absurdist situational comedy, and most of all, Lucien’s hilarious, pitch-perfect, wry, self-aware narrative voice. All told, this is a charming, honest, and hilarious book.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Romance after the Happy Ending
  • LGBTQ2S+
  • Comedy and Humour
  • Contemporary Urban Life
  • British Culture
  • Sequels Done Right

My Rating, 10/10

Weekly Roundup

  • The Upside of Uncertainty, Nathan Furr and Susannah Harmon Furr (NEW RELEASE! – 2022), 10/10: In an increasingly topsy-turvy world, understanding how to navigate uncertainty is becoming a required skill set for all of us. In this wonderful book, the Furrs offer readers a timely and needful toolkit to help us do just this. The tools are very accessible and practical, useful for both personal and professional development. (Resilience, Uncertainty, Personal Development, Psychology, Leadership, Surviving being Human in the 2020s)
  • Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, Alexis Hall (2021), 8.5/10: This is a cute romantic comedy (male-female but decidedly queer) about Rosaline, a young mom who goes on a television baking competition show and comes to reconsider what it is she wants out of her life. Bonus points for a non-annoying precocious child and for what is probably the best bisexual representation I’ve seen in print. (Romantic Comedy, British Culture, Motherhood, Classism, LGBTQ2S+, Bisexual Representation)
  • A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman (2012), 8/10: This is a contemporary classic that often makes it onto readers’ ‘all time favourites’ lists. And I can see why; it’s a wonderful story of finding hope and love in found family even after you’ve lost the will to go on. But Ove has a long way to go to get there, and that journey was just a bit too far for me to consider it a favourite of any kind. Ove is often described as a ‘curmudgeon’, but for me his behaviours and attitudes went well past the curmudgeonly and into asshole territory. A little misanthropy is one thing, but overt xenophobia and misogyny, coupled with his bizarre pettiness and utter contempt for anyone who doesn’t think and act like him is quite another. This is still a great book, but I do wish Ove didn’t have quite so far to go so it wasn’t so hard to forgive him for being the absolute worst. (Found Family, Grief and Loss, Sweden, Social Change, Suburbia)
  • Holding the Calm, Hesha Abrams (NEW RELEASE! – 2022), 7/10: Abrams is a well-established professional mediator who shares some of her secrets to success in this new book. It’s a solid introduction to the field and provides some helpful advice about things to keep in mind when we’re trying to keep calm in tense conversations. (Mediation, Conflict Resolution, Business)
  • The Dawnhounds, Sascha Stronach (2022), 7/10: This is a dystopian fantasy pirate novel that draws inspiration from Maori culture and fungi. If that sounds like it’s a lot, it is, and I’m not sure how well it all holds together, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. (Indigenous, Maori Culture, Fantasy, Dystopia, Pirates, Interconnectedness, LGBTQ2S+)
  • Recitatif, Toni Morrison (1983), 9/10: This short story, originally published in 1983 but re-released this year is a fascinating literary exercise: A story about a Black woman and a White woman whose lives intersect periodically over the course of several decades — the trick? There are no racial markers at all; the book was written so that you would not know which of the women was Black and which was White. Fascinating (Americana, Racism, Social Issues, Short Stories, Postmodern Storytelling)

2 responses to “Matt’s Weekly Reads, July 30, 2022”

  1. […] to Crumble, Alexis Hall (2022 – NEW RELEASE – November 1, 2022), 7.5/10: This sequel to Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake features an unlikely and fraught romance between two contestants on the next season of […]


  2. […] I really loved this book and read it in a single sitting. I thought the satire of contemporary urban and queer cultures was spot-on, the writing and narrative voice deployed the best kind of British wit, the relationships within it were complicated and realistic, and I enjoyed the way it uses Danny’s weaknesses, blindspots and failings to touch on important issues of privilege and marginalization, internalized classism and homophobia, intersectionality, and ‘passing’. But for me, as a gay man who, like Danny, doesn’t feel like I fit in either the dominant straight culture or queer subculture, I found it to be profoundly relatable. I loved the way the book addresses some of the more toxic aspects of contemporary queer culture while celebrating the ways it is healthy and beautiful. I also appreciated the realistic, if troubling, journey Danny takes as he swings wildly about in his attempt to find his own equilibrium. And, perhaps most of all, the basic message that we’re all fighting our own battles and so we need to have empathy and grace for the people in our lives, felt as earned narratively as it is true. Thematically, an interesting comp would be Alexis Hall’s Husband Material, which I reviewed back in July. […]


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