Read in June 2023

Phew, we’re already August, but I still haven’t written about the books I read in June!
To be honest, I’ve neglected writing reviews lately and once I fall behind, it’s hard to catch back up, given that time doesn’t stand still, of course. But also, June was a really bad reading month and most of my notes on the books I read were “boring” “meh” or “pffffffff”, lol. Well, that doesn’t really get me very far with writing a good review!
But this weekend I gathered my wits and finally managed to write a few clear sentences for each book I started. I deliberately say every book I started, because in June I put away a record number of books unread!

In June I started reading 10 books, but ended up finishing only 7 books, some of which in hindsight maybe I should have also DNF’ed!
The number of pages read is about 2800, but if I only count the finished books, then June is good for 2368 pages. The average June book read comes to 338 pages/book.

As mentioned, June was mainly a month of lows and the maximum score a book received was an average of 3 stars. The average score of all read books is 2.7 stars, which is even lower than the colourless month of May!

In June, I mainly wanted to make a dent in my many unread subscription box books, which meant that I read a lot more YA compared to other months. I started reading 5 Young Adult books but only finished 3; and I also started 5 adult books, of which I only finished 4.

As always, I also varied in my reading style, with 2 e-books, 2 audio books, and 6 physically owned books, 3 of which I DNF’ed and will therefore be unhauled in the forseeable future.

For the genres, I switched between 5 genres, namely thriller (1), romance (1), mystery (1), sci-fi (2) and fantasy (5).

For the language I stuck to English once again and did not read a single book in Dutch.

Below is the list of the books I read in June and my rating in stars.
Click the link to jump to the blurb and my review! As always, be aware that both blurb and review may contain spoilers, especially if they are sequels in a series! Sometimes I will also hide spoilers behind a black band, which you can read by selecting the text like here!

  1. Binge, Nicholas – Ascension ★★
  2. Bodard, Aliette de – The Red Scholar’s Wake DNF
  3. Swanson, Peter – The Kind Worth Saving (Henry Kimball/Lily Kintner #2) 🎧 ★★★
  4. Duncan, Emily A. – Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) ★★
  5. Gong, Chloe – These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) DNF
  6. Jones, Jaida & Bennett Danielle – Master of One DNF
  7. Hazelwood, Ali – Under One Roof (The STEMinist Novellas #1) ★★★
  8. McAllister, Gillian – Wrong Place Wrong Time 🎧 ★★★
  9. Córdova, Zoraida – Incendiary (Hollow Crown #1) ★★★
  10. Córdova, Zoraida – Illusionary (Hollow Crown #2) ★★★

Binge, Nicholas – Ascension ★★

Genre: Sci-Fi

A mind-bending speculative thriller in which the sudden appearance of a mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean leads a group of scientists to a series of jaw-dropping revelations that challenge the notion of what it means to be human

An enormous snow-covered mountain has appeared in the Pacific Ocean. No one knows when exactly it showed up, precisely how big it might be, or how to explain its existence. When Harold Tunmore, a scientist of mysterious phenomena, is contacted by a shadowy organization to help investigate, he has no idea what he is getting into as he and his team set out for the mountain.

The higher Harold’s team ascends, the less things make sense. Time moves differently, turning minutes into hours, and hours into days. Amid the whipping cold of higher elevation, the climbers’ limbs numb and memories of their lives before the mountain begin to fade. Paranoia quickly turns to violence among the crew, and slithering, ancient creatures pursue them in the snow. Still, as the dangers increase, the mystery of the mountain compels them to its peak, where they are certain they will find their answers. Have they stumbled upon the greatest scientific discovery known to man or the seeds of their own demise?

Framed by the discovery of Harold Tunmore’s unsent letters to his family and the chilling and provocative story they tell, Ascension considers the limitations of science and faith and examines both the beautiful and the unsettling sides of human nature.

I’ve really been having bad luck with the sci-fi books I’m picking out.
I had been so excited to get to this one and I was convinced it was going to be amazing, but it just turned out to be rather disappointing, despite the thrilling premise and some really cool ideas throughout (e.g. I really liked the snippet about sacred mountains appearing in all our global mythologies and religions). The execution was just lacking, I was bored most of the time and some reveals were rather ridiculous.

I’ve seen many people comment on the writing device and I can only agree with the general consensus of this, since this was also one of my first comments when I started reading.
The story is written in a series of extremely detailed letters the main character writes to his teenage niece, and both the level of detail as the recipient just did not come off as believable. It would probably have worked better as a personal journal or as letters to his son, which would have made the reveal of his death more impactful.

What also bothered me was the inconsistent use of units. This is supposed to be an international scientific expedition, so using imperial units for distances for example just felt really unnatural to me. This might be nitpicky, but it annoyed me.

If that would have been my only issue, I could certainly have looked beyond it, but in the end I was just mostly bored and didn’t feel emotionally invested for a single moment. The anti-climactic and unsatisfactory ending completely sealed the deal of a lackluster, disappointing read for me.

Bodard, Aliette de – The Red Scholar’s Wake (DNF)

Genre: Sci-Fi

Xích Si: bot maker, data analyst, mother, scavenger. But those days are over now-her ship has just been captured by the Red Banner pirate fleet, famous for their double-dealing and cruelty. Xích Si expects to be tortured to death-only for the pirates’ enigmatic leader, Rice Fish, to arrive with a different and shocking proposition: an arranged marriage between Xích Si and herself.

Rice Fish: sentient ship, leader of the infamous Red Banner pirate fleet, wife of the Red Scholar. Or at least, she was the latter before her wife died under suspicious circumstances. Now isolated and alone, Rice Fish wants Xích Si’s help to find out who struck against them and why. Marrying Xích Si means Rice Fish can offer Xích Si protection, in exchange for Xích Si’s technical fluency: a business arrangement with nothing more to it.

But as the investigation goes on, Rice Fish and Xích Si find themselves falling for each other. As the interstellar war against piracy intensifies and the five fleets start fighting each other, they will have to make a stand-and to decide what kind of future they have together…

An exciting space opera and a beautiful romance, from an exceptional SF author.

DNF’ed at ±30%

And my disappointing choices in Sci-Fi books continues!
Any kind of introduction, setup or world-building was missing here. Many things sounded interesting, but nothing was explained, making it just very confusing and unclear reading. This felt more like a second book in a series, where we as readers are familiar with the world, rather than a stand-alone story.

“A barrage of images and sounds overwhelmed her – too fast, too confused, too jumbled”

The quote above perfectly describes my experience while reading. Added to this was a rather odd reason for a marriage of convenience that nevertheless gave all the signals of insta-love, which made me decide not to force myself to read on.

🎧 Swanson, Peter – The Kind Worth Saving (Henry Kimball/Lily Kintner #2) ★★★

Genre: Thriller

There was always something slightly dangerous about Joan. So, when she turns up at private investigator Henry Kimball’s office asking him to investigate her husband, he can’t help feeling ill at ease. Just the sight of her stirs up a chilling memory: he knew Joan in his previous life as a high school English teacher, when he was at the center of a tragedy.

Now Joan needs his help in proving that her husband is cheating. But what should be a simple case of infidelity becomes much more complicated when Kimball finds two bodies in an uninhabited suburban home with a “for sale” sign out front. Suddenly it feels like the past is repeating itself, and Henry must go back to one of the worst days of his life to uncover the truth.

Is it possible that Joan knows something about that day, something she’s hidden all these years? Could there still be a killer out there, someone who believes they have gotten away with murder? Henry is determined to find out, but as he steps closer to the truth, a murderer is getting closer to him, and in this hair-raising game of cat and mouse only one of them will survive.

This was the unnecessary sequel to the amazing The Kind Worth Killing, which did not come close to its predecessor.
It was still an entertaining read, but it failed to surprise or impress me much. The characters didn’t do much for me either, which might have been different if I had reread the other book, but as it stands this was just a quick and easy thriller that I will quickly forget the details about.

Duncan, Emily A. – Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) ★★

Genre: (YA) Fantasy

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

Ugh, another book I should have DNF’ed.

Instead I pushed through, despite not caring one bit about any of the characters, who were both bland and unoriginal, and not giving a damn about any of their plights.

The main female character was extremely whiney (the number of times she sighed that something wasn’t fair, jeez) and her fickleness about her feelings was so repetitive and totally unbelievable. Despite her interesting powers, she did little other than be an aid to set up the two male characters, whose names, by the way, revealed to me what the big plot twist would be, so I wasn’t even slightly surprised: Mal = evil; Serefin = angel = good/better.
The other characters were even flatter and all flowed into each other, one with an even more difficult name than the other.

The world and magic had some cool concepts, but there is no foundation, build-up or any type of explanation of the motives, such as for the origins of the war.

All in all, for me, an incomplete, baseless, rushed and boring story, which mirrored too much of the Grisha-trilogy.

Gong, Chloe – These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) (DNF)

Genre: (YA) Fantasy

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

DNF’ed at ±32%
I really liked the idea and the overall setting of this book, but I couldn’t really get into the writing style, which was really strenuous and exhausting. The story developed really slow and it really failed to engage me. I just couldn’t care less about what was happening or about the characters.

Jones, Jaida & Bennett Danielle – Master of One (DNF)

Genre: (YA) Fantasy

Sinister sorcery. Gallows humor. A queer romance.

Rags is a thief — an excellent one. He’s stolen into noble’s coffers, picked soldier’s pockets, and even liberated a ring or two off the fingers of passersby. Until he’s caught by the Queensguard and forced to find an ancient fae relic for a sadistic royal sorcerer.

But Rags could never have guessed this “relic” would actually be a fae himself—a distractingly handsome, annoyingly perfect, ancient fae prince called Shining Talon. Good thing Rags can think on his toes, because things just get stranger from there…

With the heist and intrigue of Six of Crows and the dark fairy tale feel of The Cruel Prince, this young adult fantasy debut will have readers rooting for a pair of reluctant heroes as they take on a world-ending fae prophecy, a malicious royal plot, and, most dangerously of all, their feelings for each other.

DNF’ed at ±34%
Couldn’t get into it. Confusing, difficult to understand, no depth, hardly any worldbuilding, no motives beyond “we’re evil and want more power”, magic not explained beyond that it was taken from the fae. Flat characters, even our main character Rags, whose main trait is he swears a lot for a YA book

Started out pretty intriguing and the blurb promised a very exciting story, but it was just boring.

At this point I’m starting to wonder if the problem lies with the books I’m picking up or if it’s me?

Hazelwood, Ali – Under One Roof (The STEMinist Novellas #1) ★★★

Genre: Romantiek (contemporary)

A scientist should never cohabitate with her annoyingly hot nemesis – it leads to combustion.

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn….

As an environmental engineer, Mara knows all about the delicate nature of ecosystems. They require balance. And leaving the thermostat alone. And not stealing someone else’s food. And other rules Liam, her detestable big-oil lawyer of a roommate, knows nothing about. Okay, sure, technically she’s the interloper. Liam was already entrenched in his aunt’s house like some glowering grumpy giant when Mara moved in, with his big muscles and kissable mouth just sitting there on the couch tempting respectable scientists to the dark side…but Helena was her mentor and Mara’s not about to move out and give up her inheritance without a fight.

The problem is, living with someone means getting to know them. And the more Mara finds out about Liam, the harder it is to loathe him…and the easier it is to love him.

After really struggling to find a book I could disappear in, I decided to change course and find something lighthearted, fluffy and small to read.
And this is exactly what this was. Just a fluffy little story that can be read in one sitting.

After really struggling to find a book I could disappear in, I decided to change course and find something lighthearted, fluffy and small to read.
And this is exactly what this was. Just a fluffy little story that can be read in one sitting.

🎧 McAllister, Gillian – Wrong Place Wrong Time ★★★

Genre: Mysterie

Can you stop a murder after it’s already happened?

It is midnight on the morning of Halloween, and Jen anxiously waits up for her 18-year-old son, Todd, to return home. But worries about his broken curfew transform into something much more dangerous when Todd finally emerges from the darkness. As Jen watches through the window, she sees her funny, seemingly happy teenage son stab a total stranger.

She doesn’t know who the victim is, or why Todd has committed such a devastating act of violence. All she knows is that her life, and Todd’s, have been shattered.

After her son is taken into custody, Jen falls asleep in despair. But when she wakes up… it is yesterday. The murder has not happened yet—and there may be a chance to stop it. Each morning, when Jen wakes, she is further back in the past, first weeks, then years, before the murder. And Jen realizes that somewhere in the past lies the trigger for Todd’s terrible crime…and it is her mission to find it, and prevent it from taking place.

I really like the concept of this book and how it was used to gradually reveal more about our our characters. Although I did feel the story dragged on a bit too long, I did overall enjoy it and liked the way that it ended.

Córdova, Zoraida – Incendiary (Hollow Crown #1) ★★★

Genre: (YA) Fantasy

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

Nothing too groundbreaking, but sufficiently compelling and engaging.
After all the DNF’s and bland fantasy books, I was so happy to finally discover a world where I felt some interest for, making me probably remember this book more fondly than the story on its own perhaps merits.
Not that anything was wrong with it, but it wasn’t groundbreaking either. It’s a fairly standard YA rebellion story, with common tropes and a couple of predictable twists, but also with an interesting magic system, a compelling writing style and an ending that made me want to pick up the sequel right away.

Córdova, Zoraida – Illusionary (Hollow Crown #2) ★★★

Genre: (YA)Fantasy

Reeling from betrayal at the hands of the Whispers, Renata Convida is a girl on the run. With few options and fewer allies, she’s reluctantly joined forces with none other than Prince Castian, her most infuriating and intriguing enemy. They’re united by lofty goals: find the fabled Knife of Memory, kill the ruthless King Fernando, and bring peace to the nation. Together, Ren and Castian have a chance to save everything, if only they can set aside their complex and intense feelings for each other.

With the king’s forces on their heels at every turn, their quest across Puerto Leones and beyond leaves little room for mistakes. But the greatest danger is within Ren. The Gray, her fortress of stolen memories, has begun to crumble, threatening her grip on reality. She’ll have to control her magics–and her mind–to unlock her power and protect the Moria people once and for all.

For years, she was wielded as weapon. Now it’s her time to fight back.

Nice, satisfying and perfectly rounded finale.
It mainly continued in the same vain as book one: a bit tropy, somewhat predictable, but generally enjoyable.
The epilogue felt a bit rambly and info-dumpy, but at the same time, the author made sure readers would not be left wondering about the future of the characters, which I can appreciate.

Overall, this duology as a whole was just an okay read. I enjoyed myself while reading it, but it did not leave any lasting impressions and will soon be forgotten.

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