June Reading Round-Up

June's reads were full of fantasy! Which, fantasy is usually a staple in my reading lists as it is. But this month I read almost exclusively fantasy. (With a couple of contemporary romance novellas in honor of Pride this month.) Particularly of the epic variety! 

Some notes on how I do wrap ups:  I rate books on a 1-5 star scale. (1= worst book ever why did I read this?; 2= did not enjoy; 3= this was good!; 4= I really liked it! 5= OMG LOVED THIS IT'S THE BEST EVER!) For the most part, you're going to see 3-5 star ratings from me and not a lot of negative simply because if I don't like a book, I'm not going to finish it.

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Song of Blood and Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles #1) by L. Penelope

  • Genre: Fantasy Romance (Own Voices)
  • Format:  Library Hardcover
  • Rating:  4.5 Stars

Quick Summary:  When ruthless soldiers take shelter in Jasminda's home, she falls for one of the spies, Jack. Together they escape captors and save their homeland, Elsira. 

This book was somewhat on my radar and one day as I was picking up a hold from the library, I saw it on the new releases shelf and figured "why not?" Coincidentally, my friend Caitlin (BookChats on YouTube) recently picked it up from her library as well so we did a buddy read. Oh goodness! Both of us are OBSESSED.

Song of Blood and Stone definitely is a romance and has some of the same beats as others in the genre, but if you aren't a fan of romance don't fear - there is a great balance of the romance and the fantasy elements so you'll really enjoy it still! There's magic, adventure, a quest, royalty, secrets, plot twists - all of those things you want in an epic fantasy! The romance was wonderful, and I loved Jack and Jasminda. (There was one moment where Jack was slightly too possessive for my taste, but it was resolved well. I just hope it doesn't become a recurring thing in future books.) But, then you also have a lot of themes about black lives matter, refugees, family, and duty that really ring true. Particularly in the world today.

What makes things really interesting is that L. Penelope originally was a self-published author. She has some paranormal romance books (which I'm picking up ASAP) and then this one was picked up by a publisher, they edited it, then re-released it. So, if you see reviews from a few years ago - that was when this was self published. A lot has changed since then!

Now, I'm eagerly waiting the second book - but Goodreads doesn't have a release date yet! When is it coming out?????

You'll like this book if you also enjoy:  Romance, fantasy, African culture inspired fantasy, Black Lives Matter, secret relationships, royalty, independent female characters, inner-racial relationships

Trigger warnings:  On page sexual assault, violence (against adults and children), loss of parents, war, racism

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making (Fairyland #1) by Catherynne M. Valente (Re-Read)

  • Genre:  Middle Grade Fantasy
  • Format:  ebook
  • Rating:  3.5 Stars

Quick Summary:  September is taken away by the Green Wind to Fairyland where danger and adventure awaits.

I read The Girl Who Circumnavigated... a couple of years ago because a friend of mine, (My Name is Marines on YouTube) LOVED it and gave me a recommendation. I know a ton of other people love this series as well. I liked it the first time around, but didn't love it. Then, another friend of mine a few weeks ago invited me to join our local library's book club and this was their pick for June. I said I'd give it a go. I liked it a lot more this time around! Maybe the first time I was in a weird mood? Who knows. But, I definitely see more of why so many people have been raving about this series.

It's so whimsical, September is strong and courageous while still being real, all of the characters are fun and unique (there's a wyvern who is actually a library), and I loved all of the author's plays on words and the thoughts about children, being courageous, losing your heart (and whether or not children have one!), and growing up. 

You'll like this book if you also enjoy:  The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, and other books about children running away to magical lands, whimsy, fantasy, middle grade, adventure, 

Trigger warnings:

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

  • Genre:  Epic Fantasy (Own Voices)
  • Format:  Library Hard Cover
  • Rating:  5 Stars

Quick Summary:  Against all odds, Rin gains acceptance to the most elite military school in the country, is chosen by one of the gods, and must save her people. 

Oh this book was so fantastic! Everyone has been raving about this book and with good reason! 

Poppy War could have gone the Harry Potter route where Rin goes to school and each book covers one year of her time there. But, it didn't. The first half or so is when Rin is preparing to go the school and when she's there. Her school years somewhat are crammed together, but it doesn't feel rushed at all. Then the second half is focused on her time in the military during the war. 

Rin is such a headstrong and driven character - almost to a fault, and I love seeing the pros and cons to this aspect of her personality. The use of magic was unique and something you as the reader need to grapple with on how "moral" it is (Drugs... basically. Which I enjoyed that inner struggle, at least for myself. It made me think about the book more than I would have otherwise.) The other characters were complex and interesting. The world was intense. 

It took me longer to read this book than I anticipated, and it's not necessarily a fast read. But once I had the opportunity to sit and dig deep, I couldn't put it down!

You'll like this book if you also enjoy: Mulan... but A LOT darker, low fantasy, Chinese history, Chinese folklore, academy settings, military and war stories, feminism

Trigger warnings:  drug use and abuse, violence, sexual assault, rape, torture, child abuse,... basically ALL the trigger warnings. 

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J Maas (Re-Read)

  • Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
  • Format:  Hardcover
  • Rating: 5 Stars

Quick Summary:  Celeana travels to a new land to confront the truth of her heritage. 

Continuing on with my Throne of Glass re-read before the final book in October!

Heir of Fire is one of my favorites of the series. We get introduced to awesome new characters. (Hey there, Rowan and Mannon.) We learn more about Celeana's past, and I love the journey Dorian starts on. As I was re-reading HoF, I realized that Sarah J Maas excels at writing books about emotional recovery. 

In the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, the best book is the second one where Feyre is struggling with PTSD, depression, and getting out of an abusive relationship. The heart of the book is her recovery and coming out stronger in the end. I would say HoF is similar in this way. Celeana is at one of her all time lowest points emotionally at the start of the book after all which has happened in the previous books. The heart of her journey in HoF is learning to face her inner demons and come out stronger at the end. Which is why it's one of my favorites.

Also- Mannon, witches, and wyvrns. The first time I read this book I was like "who are these witches and why do I care" but now I'm all "MANNON IS MY QUEEN."

You'll like this book if you also enjoy:  epic fantasy, witches, dragons (wyvrns to be specific), the other Throne of Glass books, stories about someone learning to use magic

Trigger warnings:  PTSD, demon posession, violence, abuse

Fearless by Shira Glassman

  • Genre: Contemporary Romance Short Story
  • Format:  ebook
  • Rating: 3.5 Stars

Quick Summary:  A band mom falls for the high school's orchestra director. 

I realized about half way through the month I hadn't read anything in honor of Pride and I felt like a terribly ally. So, I found some novellas to read.

This one was cute! It gave me high school band flashbacks, but I loved that it was about the adult chaperones and not the students. It just felt a bit rushed at times. 

You'll like this book if you also enjoy: contemporary romance, F/F relationships, sweet/clean romance, novellas, snowed in plots, single moms

Trigger warnings: none I can think of? Being stranded in a hotel during a blizzard?

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

  • Genre: Contemporary Romance Short Story
  • Format:  ebook
  • Rating: 4 Stars

Quick Summary:  Knitter Clara teams up with local artist, Danielle, for a yarn project. Romance ensues!

I liked this one even more! It's the same author as Fearless and too cute! It didn't feel as rushed, but still would have loved even more!

You'll like this book if you also enjoy:  knitting, F/F relationships, own voices, cats, artists, sweet/clean romance, contemporary romance, novellas

Trigger warnings:  Again... none I can think of. Identity theft?

New Heights by Quinn Anderson

  • Genre: Contemporary Romance Novella
  • Format:  ebook
  • Rating: 5 Stars

Quick Summary: Opposites attract when two men meet at an airport and their flight is delayed.

And the novellas just kept getting better! This couple was so cute, I thought I was going to die. It was this great setting of being trapped in an airport due to delayed flights, opposites attract, prank war, and romance. I was rooting for them and shipping them before they even met! It was also longer than the other novellas, so it didn't feel quite as rushed. It was the perfect length.

You'll like this book if you also enjoy:  airports, opposites attract, M/M relationships, prank wars, hate to love

Trigger warnings:  Again... none really unless you have PTSD from delayed flights.

Currently Reading:

Dreamer's Pool (Blackthorn and Grimm #1) by Juliet Mariller

  • Genre: Epic Fantasy
  • Format:  mass market paperback
  • Rating: 4.5-5 stars as of right now, unless something drastically changes in the next 100 or so pages.

Quick Summary: Blackthorn gets a chance at a new life as a healer and teams with one of her prison-mates. 

I was sucked into this book from the first chapter! The main character, Blackthorn, is so fierce! I don't always connect with characters whose main motivation is revenge, but she comes from it more from a justice perspective which I really liked. Then Grimm is one of those big terrifying criminal type of characters, but at the same time you just want to give him a hug and tell him everything is going to be okay. Oran was my least favorite point of view character. Which was odd because he was one of those "I'm a prince but I'm also a hopeless romantic and a genuinely good guy who wants to do good for my people" types. But, was a tad over the top for me where he kind of felt like an idiot. Yet, I was never not rooting for him. So, there's that. 

A lot of this book focuses on women's rights and rape culture which was hard to read at times, but I think was very well done. 

Unless something goes terribly wrong in the last 100 pages or so, I'll for sure be wanting to pick up the next book!

You'll like this book if you also enjoy:  Irish Folklore, Fae, Healers, fantasy that feels more historical, multiple POVs

Trigger warnings:  (As of the first 300 pages, most of these are off page but definitely talked about, sometimes in detail) rape, violence, torture, loss of spouse and child, prison

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