June's been a month of Kindle Unlimited guilty pleasure reads for me. Despite my ever-growing TBR, I found myself scouring KU over and over, unsatisfied with what I was reading. I think I DNF'd three books this month, which rarely happens outside of e-books for me.
Kindle Unlimited is a book subscription platform that allows you to pay about $10 a month to read everything you want (from their included books). I found there's a pretty good array of novels on there, and it allows me to try things I probably wouldn't buy in stories and spend money on. It's why I tend to DNF more books on Kindle Unlimited than books I purchase individually.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Completed June 5
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low, and in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Karou is living between two worlds, running errands for the monsters she draws in her sketch book and attending classes with friends who think her stories are just that... stories. But when one of those errands puts her in the same alley as a winged stranger, Karou doesn't understand why he spares her life. And neither does he.
This is a series I've been meaning to read since I fell head over heels for Taylor's Strange the Dreamer duology. Her writing style in that novel put her first series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, firmly on my radar and my TBR. I find Taylor's descriptions of Prague were a huge draw for me, and the fantasy story kept up with my expectations. It really was the side-characters that made this series so great, and I loved the times that Karou was with her friends, and even her ex-boyfriend stands out in my mind.
Outside of that part of the story, it was much weirder than I expected, but it was worth the read.
Days of Blood and Starlight - Laini Taylor
⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Completed June 7
This is book two in Taylor's series! After Karou discovered all the secrets, I found the series a bit less engaging. I did feel as though the build-up for Karou and Akiva was a bit insta-lovey, but the plot of the story demanded that. I just wish there'd been more tension there and more obstacles in their way.
Also because Prague was such a big draw to the series for me, I really longed to see Akiva and Karou there more, doing normal, everyday things. I would've loved them to have more time before more of the plot picked up. I think it would've helped their relationship not feel so rushed. There is a third book in the series, and I do plan to read it. I just felt a little tired of the books as the plot progressed.
One Last Stop - Casey McQuiston
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Completed June 8 | RudeFiction Review
This book is romance meet science-fiction, revolving around two young women who meet on the New York subway. August moves to the city --- drawn to the cold detachment of NYC's reputation --- but she winds up amongst a group who might've been outsiders anywhere else, but who are welcomed with open arms into the community they've made in the city.
On the train she meets Jane, a punk riot-girl who radiates as she talks and chats with everyone aboard. But as Jane and August spend more time together, Jane starts to remember and August begins to question. They discover that Jane doesn't only look like she stepped out of the 70s, she did. And now she's stuck on the metro line, appearing on whatever train August walks onto. The two are linked, and August is desperate to discover why.
This is another one that was different from what I expected when I picked it up. That's of course because I read half the synopsis on the back in Barnes & Noble (the half about a summer romance between two women in NYC) before adding it to the pile. But it was a really good read, and I enjoyed the more downplayed sci-fi elements. Not everything has to be explained to the ends of the earth --- sometimes it's enough just to have a cool premise and good characters. I'll suspend my disbelief for that.
Corrupt - Penelope Douglas
⭐⭐ | Completed June 16 | Kindle Unlimited
This was a seriously weird one (I'm seeing a trend already). Erika grew up in a wealthy community, and from the time she was a child, she practically lived in the Crist household, best friends with Trevor Crist, the two were groomed to end up with each other.
But Erika couldn't help but notice Michael, Trevor's older brother and the black sheep of the family. But everything she looked, he looked away, and as he got older, his misbehavior became legendary, culminating in "Devil's Night" --- where he and his friends would go out and wreak havoc on their upperclass community. One night, Erika watches Michael, and he finally watches her back, ultimately bringing her along on Devil's Night to give her freedom from her --- and his --- parents' expectations.
The story jumps back and forth between past and present, and we see adult Erika breaking up with Trevor and moving out of their community into the same city where Michael lives. But there's a tension between Michael and Erika... he hasn't looked at her since that night, when his best friends were arrested for all the trouble they caused.
Penelope Douglas writes some seriously messed up books sometimes. I always give her a shot because Birthday Girl was one of my favorite reading experiences, but since then I've just gotten whiplash from the things she's written. I wouldn't say this book was bad, necessarily (I mean, it's maybe 2.5 stars), but it's normally something I would say is bad... there was just something about it that I actually liked, for the most part.
The most frustrating thing is that she bills Michael as some hotshot pro-basketball player who made it out when none of his friends did, but we see Michael do absolutely nothing except scheme with his creepy friends. It's basically just one big revenge plot, but it just didn't hit the mark.
Pas De Deux - Wynter SK
⭐⭐⭐ | Completed June 18 | Kindle Unlimited
Back home in South Boston after a stint in Iraq, Cillian Ronan discovers his dad’s boxing gym has been sold to some asshole who wants to benefit off Cillian's "hero" status and boxing history.
Sammi Carnevale’s dream of owning a dance studio seems a distant dream after an assault leaves her with PTSD. When she takes up boxing to fight her demons, she wants nothing to do with the men who frequent the most iconic gym in Southie. But when Cillian steps in to protect her one night, she can't help but put herself out there again.
This was a decent read, built on the trauma of these two characters and the time it takes to heal and become comfortable around others. Despite the aftermath of their traumatic experiences, not a lot happened, and the book was a little slow. It was nice to read a book where the main guy is simply a nice guy, but I would've liked him to have a little edge to counter all the soft and gentle moments throughout the novel. I wouldn't say either of these characters are particularly interesting, but there were some funny moments (when their families came into the picture).
Fighting Silence - Aly Martinez
⭐⭐⭐| Completed June 18 | Kindle Unlimited
This isn't normally something I'd read, because the main characters knew each other early in their lives. I don't normally read Friends to Lovers books because I find that SO much time has to pass, especially if they knew each other as children.
This book actually started when they were kids, and time passed starting when they were like thirteen until they were in their twenties. There was a lot going on in here, and it felt like a lot of loose ends were left.
Ultimately it's about the friendship and eventual relationship of Till Page and Eliza Reynolds, who meet when they're thirteen and both hiding out in the same abandoned building. They go to the same school, but never let on that they know each other, then meet each other at night to hide out in the room they call their home. They grow closer as they grow older, and eventually Eliza leaves for college. Till struggles with this because he doesn't believe he's good enough for her, and she spends the rest of the book trying to convince him that he is.
I just don't understand a lot of the premise. Like, why don't they talk at school when they're children? They live in the same neighborhood, have the same social and financial background, and are completely obsessed with each other as young kids. It just doesn't make sense they wouldn't acknowledge each other... I think it would've brought a lot more to the story if they'd interacted in person... we would've also been able to see a world outside of just the two of them (because there's no world-building whatsoever in this novel).
White Hot Kiss - Jennifer L. Armentrout
⭐⭐ | Completed June 21 | Kindle Unlimited
This book is about a teenage girl named Layla who is half-demon, half gargoyle (slash ancient protector / chosen race / slash Shadowhunter rip-off), but she doesn't really fit in either side. Adopted by the gargoyle people, called "guardians," she's been raised to hate her demon side. However, gargoyle women are raised to do a couple things. 1. kill demons and 2. make babies. But Layle, being half-demon, will kill any boy (human or gargoyle) just by kissing him.
So much for her kiss on her adopted/foster brother, Zayne. Enter Roth, the only demon she's ever met.
I struggled with this book SO hard, and I found the writing and the plot pretty lazy. I do not understand why she made this character 17 and under the control of the gargoyles twenty-four seven. This is a book that should've been bumped up to adult --- not because the content is too "adult" for YA, but because it's just BORING as is. She literally gets grounded like four times by a foster father who hasn't shown any interest in her her entire life.
This book is just "good boy" vs "bad boy," and every lesson is about teaching Layla there are gray areas. I really struggled with this novel (which I have for multiple Armentrout books. I don't know why I keep trying them). I definitely expected this to be more adult-centered, and as someone who's been loosely planning a gargoyle book in the back of my head since I watched that gargoyle TV show as a kid, I had high hopes for me first delve into the genre.
Beautiful Disaster - Jamie McGuire
⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Completed June 27
Beautiful Disaster was the first New Adult book I remember reading. There's been so much talk about it over the years (because it really was one of the books that started the genre), and people have varying opinions all over the place, but I probably will always enjoy this book. A lot of popular novels have been modeled on this book.
Abby Abernathy is dragged down into the underworld that's hidden by Eastern University's pristine facade. She moved far away from her home and her past to escape those demons, but finds herself in a dark and gritty basement of a building on campus, squashed between her best friend, her best friend's boyfriend, and hundreds of other college kids as an underground fight begins.
When Travis Maddox knocks out his opponent and sends a spray of blood across Abby's clothes and face, she finds herself face-to-face with Eastern's most notorious student. Determined to keep on the straight-and-narrow, Abby is determined to keep Travis out of her life. But her best friend is dating his cousin, and she can't help but be charmed by his attempt at friendship.
The friendship between Abby and Travis is what makes this book so good. They really do start as friends, and it's genuine. They're best friends and it comes across realistically on the page. You can see why these two get along, and you can see when it starts to progress a little more. Travis tries so hard to keep Abby in his life, even if that means just keeping her as his best friend. It's really well done.
Cruel Saints - Michelle Heard
⭐ | Completed June 27 | Kindle Unlimited
This is another book that I really didn't like, and it gives crime family books a really bad name. This author is someone I've seen mentioned multiple times, and she has a lot of books in the same series, so I had high hopes, but this book is trash.
Basically it's an arranged marriage story. Only the MC is arranged to marry someone else. She's abused by this older man, her father doesn't care about her at all, her mother left her, and all the other cliches.
To make matters worse, somehow all the mafia "families" get along with each other, and they have a "neutral" resort facility where they're all trained to be better criminals... it makes no sense. But after hiding his daughter and locking her in the house her whole life, he sends Elena off to this resort/training hotel, warning her to keep away from Lucian Cotroni... who's finishing his training to take over as the "head of the (entire??) mafia" from his father. It's like boarding school for criminals (who hate each other but also somehow have alliances).
Lets just say Lucian immediately falls in love with Elena, because she's so "feminine" and helpless. All she wants is to be free from her abuser and the mafia. She asks Lucian to help her, but instead of helping her get free, he forces her father to agree to a new arranged marriage, with him. Despite the fact that it's the last thing she wants. Then he tells her to be "grateful" it's him and not the man who abused her. That's the author's attempt at making Lucian edgy and "dangerous" (he's not).