Hello reading slump, my old friend.
I’ve been so busy in the past three months that I, once again, haven’t had time to read as much as I wanted to. But you know what? Books will always be there, but the opportunities that arose during these months won’t. So I can’t be mad at myself for picking the more time-sensitive option.
Here’s what I read during June, July, and August!
(all summaries and covers from goodreads)
1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.
3 out of 5 stars
I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn’t get into it. To be honest, I found myself skimming a lot of the passages—many of which I found to be entirely too long—and considering DNF-ing several times. But I stuck it out for the sake of the story being told.
I was honestly pretty bored for the first third of the book. I wasn’t a fan of the style, and while the characters were all well-developed, I didn’t find myself interested in any of them. I found myself even considering looking up spoilers to see if it was worth finishing. I know, pretty crappy, but I had nothing to convince me to keep reading at that point.
That said, I kept reading. Sure, later in the book things started to pick up and interest me a little more, but… agh, I just wasn’t sold. It took me nearly a month to finish reading it, and when I finally read the final line, all I could think was, “That’s it?”
All things considered, it wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t for me. TBH, it’s one of those books where the entire time I was like, yeah, this’ll make a great series on some premium cable channel/streaming service one day. And then I saw that my prediction was correct.
I look forward to watching it one day. Maybe I’ll like it a little better in that format.
2. Bleed Like Me by C. Desir
From the author of Fault Line comes an edgy and heartbreaking novel about two self-destructive teens in a Sid and Nancy-like romance full of passion, chaos, and dyed hair.
Seventeen-year-old Amelia Gannon (just “Gannon” to her friends) is invisible to almost everyone in her life. To her parents, to her teachers-even her best friend, who is more interested in bumming cigarettes than bonding. Some days the only way Gannon knows she is real is by carving bloody lines into the flesh of her stomach.
Then she meets Michael Brooks, and for the first time, she feels like she is being seen to the core of her being. Obnoxious, controlling, damaged, and addictive, he inserts himself into her life until all her scars are exposed. Each moment together is a passionate, painful relief.
But as the relationship deepens, Gannon starts to feel as if she’s standing at the foot of a dam about to burst. She’s given up everything and everyone in her life for him, but somehow nothing is enough for Brooks-until he poses the ultimate test.
Bleed Like Me is a piercing, intimate portrayal of the danger of a love so obsessive it becomes its own biggest threat.
1 out of 5 stars
This was another book from my physical TBR pile that I bought during a BookOutlet sale one day because I liked the cover and the summary sounded interesting. Well, mostly it sounded like some angsty emo YA, and y’know, sometimes I want some angst.
But, uh, I didn’t want this.
Brooks was gross and abusive, the kind of guy that doesn’t take “no” for an answer. Gannon was… well, she had her issues and dealt with them in the way that some teens who feel they have no other outlet sometimes do. But these two together was a messy emo garbage fire. Lord. I knew they would be from the summary, but yikes, man. Way worse.
And Gannon repeatedly complaining about “poseurs” threw me straight back to middle school. Whewwwww, child, it was too much.
Anyway, the 1-star rating is for both the lackluster writing and the content, especially the representation of self-harm. It just didn’t sit right with me. A lot of things about this book and how they were portrayed didn’t. Do yourself a favor and leave this one alone.
3. Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward
In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly turf war raging between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Possessed by a deadly beast, Rhage is the most dangerous of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.
Within the brotherhood, Rhage is the vampire with the strongest appetites. He’s the best fighter, the quickest to act on his impulses, and the most voracious lover-for inside him burns a ferocious curse cast by the Scribe Virgin. Owned by this dark side, Rhage fears the time when his inner dragon is unleashed, making him a danger to everyone around him.
Mary Luce, a survivor of many hardships is unwittingly thrown into the vampire world and reliant on Rhage’s protection. With a life-threatening curse of her own, Mary is not looking for love. She lost her faith in miracles years ago. But when Rhage’s intense animal attraction turns into something more emotional, he knows that he must make Mary his alone. And while their enemies close in, Mary fights desperately to gain life eternal with the one she loves…
3 out of 5 stars
After the mess that was Bleed Like Me, I figured I might as well return to the vampires with weird names who are also extremely controlling of women—but that’s okay because they’re ~~supernatural creatures~~ and it’s in their ~~nature~~
I gotta say, this series is pretty embarrassing. The dialogue, the descriptions, the character names… it’s just a constant source of secondhand embarrassment. And yet I keep reading!! I’m too hooked to stop! Gimme all that vampire trash!
4. Man Hands by Sarina Bowen
He puts the “screw” in screwball comedy…
At thirty-four, I’m reeling from a divorce. I don’t want to party or try to move on. I just want to stay home and post a new recipe on my blog: Brynn’s Dips and Balls. But my friends aren’t having it. Get out there again, they say. It will be fun, they say. I’m still taking a hard pass. Free designer cocktails, they say. And that’s a game-changer. Too bad my ex shows up with his new arm candy. That’s when I lose my mind. But when my besties dare me to leap on the first single man I see, they don’t expect me to actually go through with it.
All I need right now is some peace and quiet while my home renovation TV show is on hiatus. But when a curvy woman in a red wrap dress charges me like she’s a gymnast about to mount my high bar, all I can do is brace myself and catch her. What follows is the hottest experience of my adult life. I want a repeat, but my flying Cinderella disappears immediately afterward. She doesn’t leave a glass slipper, either—just a pair of panties with chocolate bunnies printed on them. But I will find her.
3.5 out of 5 stars
This was one of the books I queued up to read while on my many flights to-and-from my Vancouver vacation. This one got me through the first and second legs of my travels (about three hours) and managed to make the time fly (pun obviously intended).
Cute, quirky, and light-hearted, it was the perfect thing to read on the airplane… minus the woman sitting next to me who kept glancing at my iPad right when a sex scene came up. Every. Single. Time. I’d say don’t read romance on a plane if you’re worried about that (me, I don’t care either way) but definitely beware when there’s a chapter written from the point of view of the MMC’s dick… which this one did.
5. Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward
In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly war raging between vampires and their slayers. And there exists a secret band of brothers like no other – six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Of these, Zsadist is the most terrifying member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.
A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion, and terror is his only passion—until he rescues a beautiful aristocrat from the evil Lessening Society.
Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for one another begins to overtake them both, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now, Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past, and find a future with her…
3.25 out of 5 stars
Yes, I’m still reading this godforsaken series. I’m hooked now. I can’t stop. You’ll have to pry these books from my cold, dead hands!!
That said, this one was the best of the three I’ve read so far. I’m finally getting used to the awful names, and Zsadist (nevermind, still not used to these names) was probably my favorite character to watch develop and I enjoyed his romance with Bella. This one got me through two four-hour flights without getting bored, so that’s gotta count for something.
6. Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward
Butch O’Neal is a fighter by nature. A hard-living ex-homicide cop, he’s the only human ever to be allowed in the inner circle of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. And he wants to go even deeper into the vampire world—to engage in the turf war with the lessers. He’s got nothing to lose. His heart belongs to a female vampire, an aristocratic beauty who’s way out of his league. If he can’t have Marissa, then at least he can fight side by side with the Brothers…
Fate curses him with the very thing he wants. When Butch sacrifices himself to save a civilian vampire from the slayers, he falls prey to the darkest force in the war. Left for dead, he’s found by a miracle, and the Brotherhood calls on Marissa to bring him back. But even her love may not be enough to save him…
3 out of 5 stars
This one fell a little short after the last one but it still served to entertain me while I was stuck in the airport after my flights were canceled two days in a row. But honestly, there’s not much to say about this series other than I’m still hooked!
7. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.
4 out of 5 stars
I honestly felt the same way about this book as I did about the first one: wonderful exploration of world building, exciting characters, and amazing writing. But once again, I was missing that connection that would have made this a higher rated read. I kept waiting, but it never appeared.
Still, I felt like Schwab was able to stretch her creative legs a little more with this one thanks to most of the characters having already been established in book 1, which made for a read that never felt boring.
8. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.
Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.
Which is how she gets into trouble.
Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.
3.25 out of 5 stars
Oh my god this book was so long. SO LONG. SO UNNECESSARILY LONG! 632 ebook pages! It could have easily been condensed down by at least 150, if not 200, pages. Heck, maybe even 300! There was truly no reason for it to drag on and on like that. And boy, did it drag! Sure, it started off pretty great: fun, cutesy, royal romance progressing at a nice pace! But then… oof, things just kept going on and on and on (and on and on and on).
Don’t get me wrong, this was definitely an entertaining read. But it was entertaining in the “I just binge watched six seasons of a show on Netflix and by season four I kind of couldn’t wait for it to end even though I enjoyed it overall” kind of way. I felt like I was reading this for thirty years. Every time I thought I’d made progress, I’d look down and see that I’d only read a mere 5% in two hours.
But somehow—somehow!—I managed to finish this and definitively say that I enjoyed it. And maybe if it hadn’t been so dang long, I might have loved it. Do I appreciate how thorough it was? Not a single detail left out? In a way, yes. The authors put so much time and care and research into this, I was so impressed. But at the same time… there was a lot that could have been left out.
I’m realizing now that this read like one of those fanfics on AO3 that get updated maybe once a year, but each chapter is like 10k words and you’re just dying to read more about those characters because you’ve been deprived for so long. This did not, however, read like your traditionally published book that any sane editor would have told you to condense down.
But what REALLY got me was that ending. Hoo boy, you give me all these freaking details and then end it THERE? A loose end?? A leave it up to the reader to decide what happens??? NO. I guess now I just have to wait for the sequel. AHHHH.
Anyway, Netflix, if you’re listening, give me those six seasons. Just give me the full ending tied up in a bow, please.
I’m about to go off on yet another adventure, so I’ll probably have some more airport/airplane reading time to knock a few books out in September. Hopefully it won’t take me three months to read eight books again!
Have you read anything good lately? Leave me recommendations in the comments!