Julie Thompson reviews The Dark Wife audiobook by Sarah Diemer, narrated by Veronica Giguere

BEFORE. I am not my mother’s daughter. I have forfeited my inheritance, my birthright. I do not possess the privilege of truth. The stories told by fires, the myth of my kidnap and my rape, are all that remain of me. Forever I will be known as the girl who was stolen away to be the wife of Hades, lord of all the dead. And none of it is true, or is so fragmented that the truth is nothing more than a shadow, malformed. The stories are wrong. I am not who they say I am. I am Persephone, and my story must begin with the truth. Here it is, or as close as I can tell it.

*Trigger: rape, incest

Welcome to the world of “alternative facts”. The administration on Olympus controls the flow and shape of information. Fear undercuts the bacchanalian veneer of the ancient Greek pantheon. Elsewhere in the world, gated away in her mother Demeter’s earthly paradise, the Immortals Forest, Persephone frolics and dreams with her girlfriend, a nymph named Charis. The most fraught moment of her life is learning that she has to move to Olympus and leave everything she loves behind. In a desperate bid for freedom, the young goddess and nymph hatch a plan to runaway. And then it all falls apart.

In The Dark Wife, author Sarah Diemer recasts the Grecian myth of Persephone, goddess of Spring and Rebirth, and Hades, ruler of the underworld, from abduction and forced marriage to a kick ass romance. What starts as an escape from Zeus’ escalating machinations, transforms into a greater mission to dissemble his aggressive and destructive hold on humanity and the gods/goddesses.

While falling in love (they don’t seem to make an issue of being related; though Hades knows of this connection before she reveals it to her niece), Persephone and Hades also endure smear campaigns and risk shunning in order to take down the kingpin. They take a stand against bullying, misogyny, complicity, and rape culture. This is evident in the simple ways in which they live their lives (for example, helping bridge the gaps between the afterlife in the Elysian Fields and the village of the dead), as well as how they make a stand.

Diemer sets most of the novel in the underworld, showing us the underworld and Persephone’s evolving sense of self and purpose as she explores it with Palais, Hades’ best friend. The final face-off against Zeus feels anti-climactic, taking place within the last twenty minutes or so. Although, the other confrontations are more indirect; Zeus channels his passive aggression through manipulating the souls of the dead, in hopes that this will be enough to tear down his sister goddess.

There are a few key differences between Diemer’s version of the Greek myth and older incarnations:

  • Pomegranate: In older versions, Persephone eats the seeds and must stay with Hades for six months of every year, hence winter. In Diemer’s version, the pomegranate takes on romantic implications. The fruit is a precious reminder of Persephone’s idyllic earthly life. She uses it during her marriage ceremony with Hades to seal their commitment.

  • Older versions: Demeter becomes depressed by her daughter’s abduction; nature withers and the first winter occurs. In Diemer’s story, Zeus twists Demeter’s arm and forces her to freeze the world, threatening death to all creation.

First published in 2011, Diemer released the Audible version of The Dark Wife in February 2017. The audiobook, at its best, enhances Diemer’s storytelling and immerses listeners in the world she re-envisions. Veronica Giguere’s narration is pleasant overall. The tone she assumes for much of the story reflects Persephone’s emotional lens, though Giguere’s delivery does not always convey the heightened sense of drama during key scenes.

Persephone and Hades garner the most distinct characterization. Giguere invokes the vitality and innocence of Persephone’s youth and sheltered existence. Hades reminds me of a lower, breathier version of Linda Griffin, mother of Lawndale High’s fashion club president, Sandi (Daria). Zeus comes across as the petulant, whiny bully that he is. Plus, his creepy, inappropriately jolly laughter after he rapes and deceives makes your skin crawl. Secondary and tertiary characters garner less clear representations. The younger cohort of gods and goddesses, including Hebe (daughter of Hera) and Harmonia (daughter of Aphrodite), and to a lesser extent, Palais, are similarly voiced. Charon, ferryman of the river Styx, holds potential for super disturbing representation by Giguere. Given how Diemer describes the various personages embodied in Charon’s shifting frame, I expected the editing to layer different pitches and personalities that Persephone encounters on her ride across the Styx to her new life.

After finishing this quick, enjoyable eight hour audiobook, you may find you need a Daria and Xena: Warrior Princess fix.

You can read more of Julie’s reviews on her blog, Omnivore Bibliosaur (jthompsonian.wordpress.com)

Kathryn Hoss Recommends Lesbian Beach Reads

Every summer my entire obnoxious/lovable extended family rents a beach house in the Carolinas for a week, and every summer I end up scouring Goodreads, Amazon, and the Lesbrary for “lesbian beach reads.” Usually, that phrase yields zero-to-few results.

I’m here to change that.

funhomemusical   unbearable lightness portia de rossi   PriceofSalt   FriedGreenTomatoes   the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-cover-final

Looking for a juicy tell-all for the drive down?
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is one of my all-time favorites. The graphic memoir explores Bechdel’s fraught relationship with her closeted gay, perfectionist father and his unexpected suicide. Despite the subject matter, Bechdel’s tone is more thoughtful than ruminating, probing for the truth in a situation with many sides. As someone who was a baby butch at one time, it was a breath of fresh air to see myself reflected in child- and college-Alison. This read can be accomplished in a few hours.
Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi is another quick read, but it is not light. The memoir recounts de Rossi’s lengthy struggle with bulimia and anorexia, her journey from rock bottom, when her organs nearly shut down, to a very nice life with Ellen Degeneres and their horses. I will say it brought back eating-disordered feelings from adolescence that I didn’t know I still had– de Rossi’s devastating internal monologues can be triggering– but it’s an important story and an engrossing read.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith might be the perfect road-trip story, straddling the line between pulp novel and classic literature. You’ve probably already seen the 2015 movie, Carol, but I’m gonna say the book is worth reading too. Highsmith’s prose tends to maunder in details that I thought not at all necessary to plot or characterization, but I found it interesting on an anthropological level to see Therese and Carol’s relationship unfold in 1952. Elements of the story are lifted straight out of Highsmith and her friends’ lives, adding to the realism. For the romance crowd, if you like the “Oh no, there’s only one bed and we have to share it!” trope, you’re gonna love this.

Looking for something profound so that when your relatives ask what you’re reading, you don’t have to feel ashamed?
I actually haven’t finished Fried Green Tomatoes by Fanny Flagg, only because the prose lends itself to be read slow as molasses. There is definitely a lot in this book that would not be considered politically correct. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought, “Is this a White Savior narrative?” The romance is also only one thread in a rich tapestry of family and food. But Fried Green Tomatoes feeds my soul because it depicts a lesbian-headed family living in the south, in the 20s and 30s, and no one ever says a word about them being different or wrong. I actually tried fried green tomatoes (the food) the other day. Spoiler alert: They were delicious.

I was going to do a separate YA section, but then I was like, nah. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth is Literature. Set in small-town Montana in a fully-fleshed out fictional city, The Miseducation is so hyperreal, I kept thinking, “This has to be autobiographical, right? No way someone could make up that much detail.” And yet, danforth did. Right down to watching the girl you like skid her flip flop a little too far away and lunge to pick it up with her toes. A bittersweet story of parental mortality, thwarted teenage love, and coming of age, I couldn’t bring myself to read this one on the beach because it made me feel like my heart was in my throat.

secondmangocover   LoveDevoursbySarahDiemer   ClimbingtheDatePalm-200x300   BrandedAnn   olive conspiracy

Looking for adventure, romance, and fantasy all rolled into one beautiful escapist mess?

Not gonna lie– this is what I consider a Certified Lesbian Beach Read. Sitting ankle-deep in the surf with wind sand-blasting my face and the sun encroaching ever-closer to my beergarita, I’m not exactly looking to think too hard. I want to see some salty pirate pansexuals, some transcendentally beautiful trans mermaids, and some lesbian ladies in full 16th-century attire making out on a tropical island.

First off, I can recommend Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adoration by Sarah Diemer. You can download “The Witch Sea” for free on Amazon separately, but my favorite story in this collection is “Seek.” I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll say this: Mysterious sea woman. Girl-knight seeking to win the hand of a beautiful princess. Sultry enchantress. Intrigue! Also check out The Monstrous Sea by Sarah and Jennifer Diemer for its trans girl YA mermaid story, “True if By Sea.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention The Second Mango by our own Shira Glassman for its lesbian princess, her woman-knight BFF, her bisexual long-lost love, and the tropical, vaguely Floridian setting in which they frolic.

Finally, Branded Ann by Merry Shannon was a recent standout, well-plotted with a careful balance of romance and adventure. This is the lesbian Pirates of the Caribbean– a search for lost treasure, threats of mutiny, mayyyyybe some kind of supernatural being?? I also came away feeling like I learned something about 16th century piracy, all while enjoying sizzling hot sexual tension. My only gripe is the character description. I felt like had no idea what most of the characters looked like, except the two main characters, who were described in frequent and florid detail. Still, this was all I ever wanted, all I ever needed in a pirate romance novel. (This one comes with a trigger warning for sexual assault mentions.)

What are your favorite LBT beach reads? Let me know on the Goodreads list! (https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/100656.Lesbian_Beach_Reads)

Kathryn Hoss is an aspiring author and singer-songwriter from Ohio. She can be found at kathrynhoss.tumblr.com.

Krait reviews Winged Things: A Lesbian YA Short Story Collection by Jennifer Diemer and Sarah Diemer


WINGED THINGS is a bewitching collection of young adult short stories, ranging from paranormal to fantasy, all featuring a lesbian heroine. This collection is part of Project Unicorn, a fiction project that seeks to address the near nonexistence of lesbian main characters in young adult fiction by giving them their own stories.

Winged Things, as the blurb suggests, is part of an awesome project by Sarah and Jennifer Diemer to expand the cast of lesbian protagonists in YA fiction. Project Unicorn is currently on hiatus, but a current total of 51 free short stories are available online. Winged Things is the sixth in a series of e-zines collecting the stories of Project Unicorn, with two new stories not available online.

Generally speaking, I really enjoyed this collection. It’s the sort of thing I wish I’d been able to read growing up, where there are no tragic lesbians and everything ends on a hopeful note. There’s a lightness to the stories, no doubt helped by the motif of flying running through the collection. The protagonists are young girls growing and expanding into new and lovely creatures. (Or people, depending on the story).

On an individual basis, a few stories really stood out for me. (Some spoiler-y quotes to follow)

In “When We Flew,” our heroine Ola lives in a tiny village where everyone is born with wings, but they’re considered shameful appendages, fit only to be removed at 17. I was struck by some really gorgeous turns of phrase:

“And on the scheduled day of Removing, I removed myself. I flew on wings that had been destined for dust but grazed the stars instead.”

This particular quote is fairly typical of the narrative style, so if you prefer very precise, concrete prose, the writing might not be for you.

Both “Aphrodite Has A Daughter” and “Flower Constancy” are two stories that I would love to see expanded, whether just into a longer form or into a full novel. “Aphrodite” is a short retelling of the meeting of Eros and Psyche, where Eros is the jaded daughter of Aphrodite, the embodiment of “love-in-action.” I would absolutely love to see a lesbian retelling of the full story of Eros and Psyche, particularly in Diemer’s style. “Flower Constancy” is a historical that actually ends happily for two young women in England. I didn’t get a firm sense of what time period it was set in, but the descriptions of the house and the butterfly garden make me think Victorian.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Winged Things if you enjoy speculative and fantasy short stories, and it’s definitely suitable for young teens and up.

Danika reviews Twixt by Sarah Diemer


Sarah Diemer is an author that I am pretty familiar with from her online presence, but I’ve only read one book by her, The Dark Wife. One of my favourite Booktubers, Jessie Quinn from Cup of Books, reviewed Twixt pretty positively and recommended it as an October read, so I figured it would be a good one to pick up during Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. (Now that all the links are out of the way…)

Twixt is a sort of dystopic fantasy young adult book. It drops you immediately into this world of Sleepers and Snatchers, a walled in town where monsters swoop in and snatch people who try to leave, a place where hair is bartered like money and memories are drugs. It’s overwhelming at first, and I spent most of the novella trying to get my bearings. This is a story that I feel like is based around the world and setting. Although the characters are interesting, I didn’t feel like they were fully realized. I also appreciated a lesbian romance in this setting, but because I didn’t feel connected to the characters, I wasn’t invested in the romance, either.

Because the setting is so unique, the whole time I was reading it I thought that the ending/explanation would really determine how I felt about the novella as a whole. The explanation is satisfying in that it is fittingly odd, and does make sense for the story, but afterward I felt like some elements were unnecessary (spoiler, highlight to read: specifically the doubling of the sixers–the two-as-one thing seemed unexplained and unneeded. Also some details like the rivalry between the houses felt superfluous).

Overall, I found the story interesting and intriguing, but I wanted more from it: more development of the characters and more detail of the setting. I would have liked to see this fleshed out into a novel-length work. It feels like the bare bones of a richer, more thorough narrative. But this may just be my own experience. In addition to Jessie’s review, also check out Katie’s very positive review at the Lesbrary.

Hannah reviews The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer


The Dark Wife is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth involving Persephone and Hades. This myth is one of my favorites, so I picked up its reinterpretation eagerly. Diemer’s tale didn’t disappoint.

This book simply holds a solid, good story. The prose is immediately engrossing and full of similes which paint the ancient world Diemer depicts. The pacing is, perhaps, slow – but this isn’t intended to be a page-turning thriller. This is a kind of fanfiction, if you will, and it allows a lover of ancient myths to indulge herself for a time.

Diemer writes Hades as a woman in such a way that, while reading, I kept forgetting that the ‘actual’ Hades is male. After reading the book, I find Diemer’s characterization preferable. In addition, I appreciated that Diemer didn’t skim across the sexual assaults and crimes committed by the gods (especially one god…). Diemer isn’t an apologist and doesn’t try to make light of any of the darkness in these myths.

This is a wholesome retelling. My sole complaint is that the epilogue could have been longer, but this is hardly a bad thing! The Dark Wife comes fully recommended.

For anyone interested in another expansion (although not a retelling) of an Ancient Greek myth, try The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Katie reviews Twixt by Sarah Diemer


Sarah Diemer’s Twixt drew me in from the first sentence, sunk its claws into me, and didn’t let go until the last page. The novel is named after the world it resides in – Twixt – and the world is a strange, frightening, utterly fascinating one. People wake up in Abeo City with no memories, and they’re forced to navigate a world that doesn’t work like the one we’re used to. Walls can be walked through, people barter hair for things they want, and everyone lives in fear of the Snatchers – skeletal, birdlike monsters that swoop down and take away anyone caught outside at night.

The narrative follows Lottie, a girl who proves from the beginning to be an exception to so many rules. People usually appear in Twixt at one of Abeo City’s crossroads at midnight, but Lottie wakes up outside of the city. She also appears to be immune to Nox, a drug that the people of Abeo City use to regain a memory from their past. The story centers around the mystery of Lottie’s past and is interwoven beautifully with her relationship with Charlie, an idealistic and deeply courageous girl whose job it is to retrieve new arrivals from the crossroads before they’re attacked by a Snatcher.

The growing relationship between Lottie and Charlie and the rich development of the world in Twixt are what drew me in and kept me captivated. I constantly long for genre stories in which the main characters are lesbians – fantasy and historical fiction and sci-fi and horror – and I think Twixt falls into the Young Adult dark fantasy category. It’s very suspenseful. The atmosphere really creates a feeling of oppression, dread, and the unknown: the landscape of woods outside the city is flooded with images of a red sky behind black bars of trees, and inside the city, the decrepit, dust-covered, crumbling areas are contrasted with a Victorian-esque affluent section. Through all of it, Lottie’s emotions are so close to the reader that I felt swept along with the story. Her relationship with Charlie felt so authentic, especially considering that, with so many mysteries and secrets, they struggle with telling each other the truth. At the same time, their relationship is incredibly uplifting and made me want to punch the air with triumph several times.

There are so many twists involved in this story that it’s hard to talk about without spoilers. I was really struck by the strength of the characters and the compassion they show. I really enjoy books that restore my faith in people through the characters; Lottie has such incredible courage in the face of really awful, soul-searing things, and Charlie has a tremendous amount of goodness and hope in her. All of the characters have their flaws and downfalls, and even the side characters are multi-faceted. My favorite lesbian books are ones where the fact that the characters are lesbians is only a part of it, informing their experience but not engulfing it. The messages of compassion and hope made this a very fulfilling read for me.

Katie reviews Project Unicorn Vol I: A Lesbian YA Extravaganza! by Jennifer Diemer and Sarah Diemer


Project Unicorn: A Lesbian YA Extravaganza! by Jennifer Diemer and Sarah Diemer is a free fiction project that was created, in the authors’ words, “because of the obvious lack of lesbian heroines in the Young Adult genre, and the critical need for them.” Typically updated twice a week, this project provides short genre-fiction stories that feature lesbian characters.

I’m reviewing Project Unicorn: Volume I, which includes The Dark Woods, The Monstrous Sea, and Uncharted Sky. I really can’t tell you how delighted I am that these stories are being written and published – for free, no less – in the first place. I’ve always been a genre fiction girl at heart, and I’ve sharply felt the lack of lesbian characters in genres like fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and historical fiction. Not only is the quality of the stories in Project Unicorn: Volume I extremely high, there 30 stories to enjoy in this volume, more on the authors’ website (http://muserising.com), and more to come. The stories are extremely diverse, from mermaids to ghosts to werewolves to aliens. They span all sorts of time periods, and elements of romance appear in varying levels of focus. I loved the sweetness of the relationships in “Finding Mars” and “The Gargoyle Maker” as much as I appreciated that romance wasn’t forced to take the spotlight in “Melusine”. The characters are all lesbian, but their lesbianness doesn’t necessarily define who they are. There was a balance of stories in which being a lesbian was a non-issue and ones in which the characters had to deal with the discrimination and hardships that lesbians face in reality. I found the balance very satisfying, because I get tired of all stories featuring lesbians focusing mostly on their lesbianness, but at the same time I understand the importance of acknowledging what we go through.

Some of my favorites from the anthology include Jennifer Diemer’s “Dreaming Green,” about a woman on a sterile space station who finds a mysterious seed in space and defies regulations by planting it; her “The Girl on the Mountain”, which follows the relationship of a young girl in a mountain village with a sky-being who her people consider to be a deity; Sarah Diemer’s “The Gargoyle Maker,” about a woman who creates stone monsters to protect a medieval town; and her “Nike,” a stunningly beautiful story about a bullied girl who reaches the depths of despair and learns how to raise herself out of them. Also among my favorites are “Kyrie” and “Mirror,” two extra stories not published on the website that are included in Volume I.

The writing quality ranges from charming to exquisite. There were a handful of stories that left me wanting more and felt like snapshots of a larger story, but the majority of them were well-rounded. These are stories I’ll gladly curl up with and read again when I need comfort or crave escape.

Marcia reviews Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adoration by Sarah Diemer

I really wanted to like Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adoration, a short collection of short stories with a dark fantasy/sci-fi theme by Sarah Diemer. That isn’t to say that the collection is wholly without merit, but some combination of the stories themselves and how they were organized seemed determined to hit me somewhere around “pretty good, I guess?” despite lots of pretty words and pretty girls kissing.

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy in my free time, but I’m not averse to the genre when writing is strong, world-building is interesting, and characters are fleshed out. At 192 pages with six stories, Diemer frankly doesn’t have a lot of room to do all of these. Love Devours tends to feel more like a thesis than a story collection – the constant repetition of the monster in literal and allegorical form, the similar story framework, and the study of worlds (with the exception of “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark”) where lesbianism is celebrated and accepted without question or sideways glance. In theory, this works. It is refreshing to read a collection of stories without awkward coming-outs, without the danger of being cast out, bullied, or worse because of a word, an identity. Six stories featuring alternate, female-centered mythologies? Yes! Sign me up!

Unfortunately, in practice this collection was far from what it set out to be.

The stories range from actually quite good with the exception of a few details (“The Witch Sea”; “Our Lady of Wolves”) to poorly edited and poorly planned (“Far”, which opens the collection and sets the tone for huge aspirations with little delivery; “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark”). Diemer’s world building is, for the most part, interesting but rushed. Some basic details are in place, but I got the feeling that each setting is far more intricate in Diemer’s head than she communicates on the page. Characterization is lacking across the board – “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark” is the first and only story in the collection to actually use the first person narration to give the character a unique voice. And worst of all (at least for me) is the almost de facto lesbianism. I have little to no idea what brings these characters together, what draws them close, what urges them to kiss or to go on these epic quests. If Love Devours is intended to be a set of replacement myths, similar in blank form and grand adventure to the stories adopted from ancient civilizations into the Western canon I might be able to excuse the places where the collection fails. But style, narration, and story choices lead me to believe that Love Devours is simply failed in its execution, a rushed effort that doesn’t do justice to the ideas it wants to express.

Danika reviews The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer

I’ve seen The Dark Wife reviewed and recommended all over the place, and I’ve been following the author’s blogs for a while, so I have to admit that I was a bit worried about how I would actually like it. Luckily, it doesn’t disappoint.

Honestly, you’ve probably heard this all before: The Dark Wife is a teen lesbian retelling of the myth of Persepolis (oops!) Persephone and Hades. That pretty much tells you all you need to know! Once you’ve heard the basic blurb of the book, there isn’t too much that comes up to surprise you. It’s not a plot-driven book, really. It is just a slowly building love story, one that comes naturally. It doesn’t seem to drag (much, at least–I did want to hurry Persephone along at times), it just unfolds in its own time.  The writing is easy-to-read and fits in with teen books, but at times it can be beautiful, too. The setting comes to life, and enough details are given to flesh out the world. It is a very satisfying story. The only complaint I had was that the end seemed rushed after the leisurely pace of the rest of the book, and didn’t quite fit with the tone of the middle portion of the book. That was a pretty minor quibble, however. I would definitely recommend this one.