What I Read in May + June 2020

As you probably noticed, I didn’t do a May wrap-up last month. Honestly, I just didn’t feel like it. The world felt (and still does) feel very heavy. In reaction, I didn’t do a ton of reading in May. But I rebounded in June. So, I just decided to do a combined May and June wrap-up. Overall, I did read some wonderful books the past two months – 17 in all. Without further ado, let’s get into my mini (spoiler-free) reviews.

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Well I finally finished the original Mortal Instruments trilogy. I have to admit, this last installment was by far my favorite. As I’ve said in previous wrap-ups, these are not my favorite Shadowhunter books. However, they do seem to be getting better as the world builds. I’ll be picking up the second part of The Mortal Instruments trilogy sometime in the next few months. Then, on to The Dark Artifices (which I’m very excited about!).

The Mortal Instruments follows Clary Fray, a girl who is suddenly thrust into a world of shadowhunters, downworlders and demons after she witnesses a murder and her mother disappears.

“People aren’t born good or bad. Maybe they’re born with tendencies either way, but its the way you live your life that matters.”

City of Glass

A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life by Pat Conroy

A Lowcountry Heart by Pat Conroy

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this collection of Conroy’s thoughts on writing. Part biography, part advice, A Lowcountry Heart offers insight into Conroy’s world. Speeches, articles and blog posts make up the majority of this posthumously published collection, and I was brought to tears several times, particularly in the remembrances at the end of this book. I read part of this everyday, and it was the perfect inspiration to help me write, even when I didn’t want to.

A Lowcountry Heart is a collection of Conroy’s musings on writing – from blog posts to speeches – published posthumously after his death in 2016.

“Throughout my career I’ve lived in constant fear that I wouldn’t be good enough, that I’d have nothing to say, that I’d be laughed at, humiliated—and I’m old enough to know that fear will follow me to the very last word I’ll ever write.”

A Lowcountry Heart

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

In May, I decided to reread The Hunger Games trilogy in preparation for the release of A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (which I naturally haven’t started yet). I hadn’t read this series since my senior year of high school – almost 10 years ago! Let me just say: it held up. This world is painful to read about with its brutal games and culture of fear. But Collins manages to weave hope into every word she writes. This is the triumph of this series. Collins’ characters are masterfully written. My favorite characters in this world have to be Katniss and Cinna.

In Panem, the Hunger Games is an annual forced fight to the death among district children, instituted to remind citizens of what happens when they rebel, but in the 74th games, a girl from District 12 may change the odds.

“You’ve got about as much charm as a dead slug.”

The Hunger Games

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Many series suffer from second book syndrome. I don’t think The Hunger Games series is one of them. I had truly forgotten how much I loved this second installment, though it’s probably the movie I had seen the most over the years. Collins develops her main characters wonderfully in Catching Fire, and the stakes continue to raise in the games and across Panem. It always amazes me that she manages to make the Quarter Quell even more terrifying than the 74th games, and I love the way she uses the games to spark revolution among capital favorites. We are also introduced to wonderful new characters in book two. My favorite new characters introduced in Catching Fire have to be Finnick and Johanna.

In Panem, the Hunger Games is an annual forced fight to the death among district children, instituted to remind citizens of what happens when they rebel, but in the 74th games, a girl from District 12 may change the odds.

“I always channel my emotions into my work. That way, I don’t hurt anyone but myself.”

Catching Fire

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Mockingjay is the conclusion to the trilogy and wraps up Katniss’ story. Now, I have to say my feelings about the ending – and I mean the last chapter – are unchanged. It feels a little rushed and corny. However, the build-up to that ending is wonderful. The stakes couldn’t be higher, with the future of Panem on the line. Collins created such a rich world, and the actions of her characters are nothing short of revolutionary. To round out my favorite characters list, Boggs and Paylor have always been my favorite new characters introduced in Mockingjay.

In Panem, the Hunger Games is an annual forced fight to the death among district children, instituted to remind citizens of what happens when they rebel, but in the 74th games, a girl from District 12 may change the odds.

“It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.”

Mockingjay

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this latest story from Sarah Dessen. She has always been one of my favorite young adult contemporary writers, and her books just feel like summer to me. While this doesn’t quite crack my top five favorite Dessens, it was still a wonderful story about family, grief and discovery. The lake setting was just what I expect from Dessen – atmospheric and small-town and wonderful. I will say this relationship was good but not my favorite. There are some side relationships that hinder the main relationship (which of course we all know will end just fine), and that’s always been one of my least favorite tropes. Even though the actual relationship building wasn’t my favorite, Roo (the love interest) was adorable.

Emma Saylor had her summer planned, until a last minute change forces her to spend it at the lake where her mother – who passed away a few years prior – grew up, but this will force her to face her mother’s death in a new way by spending time with the family she’s never known.

“A life isn’t just the pages you know, it’s everything.”

The Rest of the Story

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I picked up Dress Codes for Small Towns after hearing BooksandLala rave about it, and I’m so glad I did. This small-town, Southern setting was so reminiscent of my own home. Not only that, the friendships, grown out of a church youth group, reminded me so much of many of the friends I had as a teenager (you guessed it, from my church youth group). This book focuses on discovery, but in a unique way. The main character, Billie, knows exactly who she is. This story focuses more on the discovery of what she wants – from life, from love, from friends. It was a wonderful exploration of self, friendship, love and sexuality in small town America.

Billie McCaffrey is a small-town daughter of the local preacher and a tomboy through and through; her friends are more like her family, and they always seem to get themselves into trouble, especially the summer when things change for Billie.

“What everyone is scared of—that if I’m me, I’m not enough.”

Dress Codes for Small Towns

The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

As you’ll see, I binge read The Folk of the Air series in June. There is something about a good fantasy series binge that just makes me happy. The Cruel Prince as the first book in this series was just okay in my opinion. I don’t know if it’s just because I knew where this story was going, but this book felt like a lot of set-up without a ton of pay off. While I really enjoyed the world itself and learning about the fae, I wanted more from the characters in this first installment. Frankly, I was here for the hate-to-love story. So, I didn’t love having to trudge through some other side relationships and plot lines that I just knew wouldn’t last (looking at you, Locke).

Jude Duarte and her sisters were swept from the human world and into the High Court of Faerie when they were young, forced to grow up alongside the viscous and powerful fae, but Jude’s decided that she’s done playing the mortal.

“What could I become if I stopped worrying about death, about pain, about anything? If I stopped trying to belong? Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.”

The Cruel Prince

The Wicked King (Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I must have had good luck with second books the last two months. The Wicked King was by far my favorite Folk of the Air book. Stakes are raised, and I was truly surprised by several unexpected moments. Jude is – and pardon my French – a badass. She just is. While I was frustrated with her sometimes, she is strong and smart and so capable. We also got more development from Cardan, which was truly a charm, and the hate-to-love was just peak angst in this installment. I also really enjoyed seeing some other aspects of the fae world, even if they caused our main characters some extreme pain. Am I now obsessed with fae stories? Possibly.

Jude Duarte and her sisters were swept from the human world and into the High Court of Faerie when they were young, forced to grow up alongside the viscous and powerful fae, but Jude’s decided that she’s done playing the mortal.

“The three of you have one solution to every problem. Murder...Someone tries to betray the High King, murder. Someone gives you a harsh look, murder. Someone disrespects you, murder. Someone ruins your laundry, murder.

The Wicked King

The Queen of Nothing (Folk of the Air #3) by Holly Black

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Folk of the Air series concludes (for now) in The Queen of Nothing. This last installment was good. While it didn’t completely blow me away, I did enjoy it more than book one. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the world couldn’t be more brutal. Jude has to hold onto the power she’s managed to find for herself while figuring out who she can trust in a world built on deception and cunning. There were a few plot lines that made me say, “huh??” But overall, the romance concluded exactly how I wanted, and that’s really all I was asking from this series anyway.

Jude Duarte and her sisters were swept from the human world and into the High Court of Faerie when they were young, forced to grow up alongside the viscous and powerful fae, but Jude’s decided that she’s done playing the mortal.

“By you, I am forever undone.”

The Queen of Nothing

Queens of Fennbirn (Three Dark Crowns novellas) by Kendare Blake

Queens of Fennbirn by Kendare Blake

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I’d had these novellas for a while now, after finishing the Three Dark Crowns series last year. The world of Fennbirn is a wonderfully dark, twisted fantasy setting, where three sisters are destined to fight to death for the throne every generation. These stories follow The Oracle Queen, locked away for madness, and young Arsinoe, Mirabella and Katherine. Overall, I really enjoyed this bind-up and could have read an entire book on The Oracle Queen. Of course, I’ll also take any excuse to read more about my girl Arsinoe.

Queens of Fennbirn is a novella bind-up from the world of Three Dark Crowns and includes a history of the Oracle Queen and tales beginning at the Black Cottage when Arsinoe, Mirabella and Katherine were young girls.

“No Sight no sound no fault was found no treason to be had. Yet every one would die that day for Elsabet, the mad.”

Queens of Fennbirn

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This debut young adult fantasy blew me away. I loved the setting, magic and characters so, so much. Morrow developed both Effie and Tavia’s perspectives, giving them individual and distinct voices. Weaving together social justice issues and siren magic, A Song Below Water offers important commentary on race, gender, media and power of protest. This book was a wonderful story of Black Girl Magic and being who you truly are. Honestly, my main (and really only) “criticism” is that I want more!

Tavia and Effie are more than best friends – they’re sisters; Tavia is a siren, forced to hide who she is, and Effie is being haunted by demons from her past, but everything changes after a siren murder trial hits the national spotlight.

“I’m not a monster because I live in a world that gives me impossible choices.”

A Song Below Water

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Phillipe

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Y’all, this book was an absolute riot. Norris Kaplan is such a witty, smart, cynical main character. Sometimes he was so cynical and sarcastic that I wanted to yell at him, but mostly it was just hilarious. Philippe created such wonderful side characters, too. Madison and Liam were just gems, and I loved learning more about them as they helped Norris navigate the American high school. Overall, loved this funny, heart-warming book that tackles some important topics with humor and wit.

Norris is a Black French Canadian who moves to Austin, Texas his junior year, and let’s just say the American high school is a place that Norris isn’t sure he’ll survive.

“It doesn’t matter if you make a mess. It matters that you fix it. Maybe the whole point of approaching life as origami that the documentary had missed was learning to fold your sharp edges.”

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Are you a fan of Practical Magic? Then you don’t need to know anything else. Pick up Summer of Salt. This book had all the best of the classic magical story – the girl power, the atmospheric setting and of course, magic. But this story is much more. It was almost reminiscent of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender for me. I don’t want to say too much because this is another that I enjoyed just diving right into. Definitely take a look at the trigger warnings on Goodreads before going into this, if you want to know before starting.

The Island of By-the-Sea is full of salt and magic from the sea and the Fernweh women, and Georgina is waiting impatiently for her magic to show up when a shocking event rocks the small island.

“Except there weren’t any princes on By-the-Sea. We didn’t need princes; we saved ourselves.”

Summer of Salt

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Trilogy #1) by N.K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Well, I have a new favorite adult fantasy book (and hopefully series!). To be fair, I haven’t read a ton of adult fantasy, but this one is leaps and bounds ahead of the others. Jemisin has created a brutal, stark world. This is not for the faint of heart – this book is difficult to read, but it’s so rewarding. It deals with issues of race, gender, motherhood, politics and more. On top of all this, the story itself is just amazing. Jemisin’s writing is exquisite, and her world building impeccable.

The Stillness is never still – quakes and tsunamis constantly rack the Earth and sometimes end the world in a fifth season. Essun is a woman on the run, searching for her daughter as the world ends for the last time.

“When we say “the world has ended,” it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine. But this is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. For the last time.”

The Fifth Season

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Well, I woke up in the middle of the night a couple nights ago convinced the Night Stalker was standing over me, so I guess you’d say this book has stuck with me. This non-fiction true crime book is not for the faint of heart. McNamara does a good job of giving just enough detail to make the brutality sink in without giving in to oversharing. One of the more tragic things about this book itself is that McNamara didn’t get to see it finished, and in turn, she didn’t get to see the killer and rapist she stalked in the night arrested. As she said, though, she didn’t care who caught him, as long as he was caught. This is now streaming as an HBO docuseries, with the first episode out this week [6/28/20]. Overall, I found this book to be meticulously researched and carefully constructed to give voice to victims and call for justice.

He went by many names – The Golden State Killer, The East Area Rapist and The Night Stalker – and he terrorized Northern California for a decade. Michelle McNamara spent her sleepless nights hunting him and giving his victims voice in her relentless search for the truth.

“He loses his power when we know his face.”

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Now we’re to my last book of the month and arguably one of the more disappointing for me. This wasn’t a bad book necessarily, but I think my high expectations might have made my reading experience suffer. I was in a siren mood (and still am), so I picked up this hate-to-love young adult siren fantasy. Things I really like: the world/atmosphere, the characters and the very beginning and very end. Things I didn’t like: the romance (it didn’t convince me at all) and the middle of this book (slow). I’ll admit that Lira and Elian were honestly a little annoying at times. But I want more Kye, Madrid and Kahlia! Madrid gave me Inej vibes, and I wish these side characters had a little more development, especially given their amount of page time.

Lira is a siren born of the sea, and Elian is a prince of the land sworn to hunt sirens; when their paths cross they are on the hunt for the same treasure, but can they trust each other when their motives are entirely different?

“In my heart, I’m as wild as the ocean that raised me.”

To Kill a Kingdom

Well, there you have it! My reading for May and June 2020 was pretty good overall, and I found a couple new favorites. What did you read last month? What were your favorites? As always, here’s a preview of my July TBR:

  • The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  • A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Rosanne A. Brown
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

3 thoughts on “What I Read in May + June 2020

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