“The whole mess began in a courtroom in Vsila, the capital of Nuryevet, where I was being put on trial for something stupid.”First line in A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland
June is over so it is time for my wrap-up. It was an okay month for me but it got better towards the end because of my birthday on the 26th. It was a Sunday and I don’t know how but it was like everything just aligned perfectly in the week leading up to it. On the 22nd, the new season of The Umbrella Academy came out on Netflix (I’ve watched a certain scene at least twice every day since), on the 23rd, my favorite author, Natasha Pulley, released a new book (I’ve yet to get a hold of a copy but I’m working on it), and on the 24th, my favorite band played in my city so I was able to see them for the first time in three years (I cried). What more could I possibly ask for?
In June, I participated in Marvelathon and I would call that a success. Just take a look at how much I read.
I’m so on top of my Goodreads goal now. Of course, the ratings could have been better as there (again) were no 5-star reads. But I came close!
I think that’s all I need to say so let’s look at all the books I read in June!
Witchmark (The Kingston Cycle #1)
Author: C. L. Polk
Published: June 19th, 2018
Buzzwords: Witches, fantasy world that looks like Edwardian England
Synopsis: In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.
Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.
When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.
I loved a lot of things this book did. The story is set in a world with a secret society of witches that controls the weather to make the country prosperous but they are very elite and have some strict backward rules that our main character, Miles, is trying to escape. There’s a big theme of class differences in that that I really liked, and I thought the world had a lot to it.
It also had one of my absolute favorite tropes which is a dysfunctional family, which I just adored, to begin with. However, it’s also a dangerous trope because if it isn’t handled right, it turns into my least favorite trope, and unfortunately, this book fell into that trap towards the end and almost ruined the otherwise good experience I had with this book.
Generally, I didn’t like the ending. It felt very rushed, and we even had characters who, with 50 pages left, were talking about two major events that were yet to happen. And they did happen along with some other stuff but, geez, slow down! It didn’t help that I read the synopsis for the next book and realized we would be switching main characters so Miles’s storyline is essentially wrapped up in this book. That was just too fast. And we’re also switching to the character I hated the most in this book, so now I actually don’t know if I want to continue.
The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Published: October 1st, 2019
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Buzzwords: 1950s Spain, life under a dictator, romance, photography
Synopsis: Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.
I don’t have a lot to say about this, to be honest. The book is a very interesting insight into Spain under Franco but portrayed in a digestible manner as it is YA. It could still get quite dark, though.
What I was really impressed with was the book’s inclusion of photography as the interest of the main character. I’m not at all a photography person, but I loved the scenes where the character got more technical about how to take a good photo and be a good photographer. And the way Sepetys then described these photos actually had me imagining them so clearly in my head, which was really important because they helped create the proper atmosphere of Madrid in the 50s.
Another fascinating thing about the book was its use of real media reports sprinkled throughout that related to whatever was happening with the fictional characters. Again, it was something that made sure I had that feeling of being in Spain at the time of all these horrible events.
As for why this isn’t 5-stars, the plot wasn’t the strongest and it dragged quite a bit despite the chapters being short (in true Ruta Sepetys style). I certainly felt the book could easily have been about 100 pages shorter.
The Atlas Six (The Atlas #1)
Author: Olivie Blake
Published: January 31st, 2020
Buzzwords: Dark academia, mysterious societies, magical abilities
Synopsis: The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few…
– Libby Rhodes and Nicolás Ferrer de Varona: inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds.
– Reina Mori: a naturalist who can speak the language of life itself.
– Parisa Kamali: a mind reader whose powers of seduction are unmatched.
– Tristan Caine: the son of a crime kingpin who can see the secrets of the universe.
– Callum Nova: an insanely rich pretty boy who could bring about the end of the world. He need only ask.
When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.
Not to be that person but why is this so popular? It has no plot and despite being character-focused, there’s little to no character development throughout the entire book. It’s just a group of people being pretentious for 300 pages. I finished the book with the feeling that I could just have read the first five chapters and then skipped to the last two and I wouldn’t have missed a thing.
That said, though, I didn’t hate reading this book. It was quite enjoyable until the very end because I think Blake was very good at making it look like the book had a plot and that we were working towards something exciting happening with the characters who are all so unlikeable. Turns out she is very good at setting things up that then amounts to nothing while other developments happen out of nowhere. That is extremely frustrating to read.
I buddy-read this with Naemi @A Book Owl’s Corner and we pretty much agreed on everything including which characters were the best (Callum) and the worst (Parisa), so I highly recommend checking out her review for it. She’s way better at explaining what was wrong with this book than I am anyway.
Author: Alice Oseman
Published: July 9th, 2020
Genre: YA Contemporary
Buzzwords: Asexuality, English university life, LGBTQ+ rep
Synopsis: It was all sinking in. I’d never had a crush on anyone. No boys, no girls, not a single person I had ever met. What did that mean?
Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.
As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.
But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.
Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?
Look, I’m sure this book is great for the kind of person who needs a book like this. I’m just not that person. And I think I can also now conclude that I’m not an Alice Oseman fan. Everything was so Quirky and Correct and Perfect and so not me. There’s only so much eye-rolling I want to be doing while reading a book, you know.
The book felt very long and that’s despite the fact that I only spent two days getting through the audiobook. It took the characters a very long time to arrive at the simplest conclusions, and as an adult, I don’t want to criticize a YA book for being predictable, but I’m also not a fan of dumbing things down just because it’s for teenagers, at least not to this extent. I definitely felt like I spent most of the book just waiting for characters to realize stuff I’d already realized 10% into the book, so naturally, I was a bit bored. Like, the first half of the book only works because I’m supposed to believe that an 18-year-old (who spends a lot of time online and who reads fanfics) doesn’t have the faintest idea what asexuality is. And I’m told she’s the smart one.
With all the quirkiness and correctness, the book is trying very hard to be relatable and it was in some cases. However, on occasion, I also felt it was trying too hard to make me relate to Georgia, which I think is a problem.
Author: Austin Chant
Published: February 9th, 2017
Buzzwords: Peter Pan retelling, transgender main character, romance
Synopsis: The Lost Boys say that Peter Pan went back to England because of Wendy Darling, but Wendy is just an old life he left behind. Neverland is his real home. So when Peter returns to it after ten years in the real world, he’s surprised to find a Neverland that no longer seems to need him.
The only person who truly missed Peter is Captain James Hook, who is delighted to have his old rival back. But when a new war ignites between the Lost Boys and Hook’s pirates, the ensuing bloodshed becomes all too real – and Peter’s rivalry with Hook starts to blur into something far more complicated, sensual, and deadly.
This was a short but enjoyable read. It’s a retelling of Peter Pan with Peter as transgender and returning to Neverland all grown up, and I can only say that it really works. The book is definitely my favorite Peter Pan retelling so far although I haven’t read that many yet. It’s fast-paced and still captures the action and wonder so inherent to the story of Peter Pan, just making it a little more adult.
I was also pleasantly surprised by what the author did with the lore of Neverland (which is already my favorite thing about Peter Pan retellings) because it fits so well with this particular story while also being faithful to the original. Generally, if you love Peter Pan retellings, you need to read this.
A Conspiracy of Truths (A Conspiracy of Truths #1)
Author: Alexandra Rowland
Published: October 23rd, 2018
Buzzwords: Storytelling, political games, elderly main character
Synopsis: In a bleak, far-northern land, a wandering storyteller is arrested on charges of witchcraft. Though Chant protests his innocence, he is condemned not only as a witch, but a spy. His only chance to save himself rests with the skills he has honed for decades – tell a good story, catch and hold their attention, or die.
But the attention he catches is that of the five elected rulers of the country, and Chant finds himself caught in a tangled, corrupt political game which began long before he ever arrived here. As he’s snatched from one Queen’s grasp to another’s, he realizes that he could either be a pawn for one of them… or a player in his own right. After all, he knows better than anyone how powerful the right story can be: Powerful enough to save a life, certainly. Perhaps even powerful enough to bring a nation to its knees.
I have a hard time articulating my feelings toward this book so I’m sorry for the following ramble. On one hand, the book is super boring but… I really liked it? The story is very contained in the sense that we read it from the perspective of an old man who spends most of his time in a prison cell. You really gotta like people just talking to enjoy this book. Not a whole lot of action happening. But it’s what the characters are talking about that is so fascinating. It’s an extremely political story and Rowland is an author who plays with a lot of different aspects in regards to the political game. I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s the kind of book where you should know as little as possible. It’s such an interesting concept the book is trying to portray. Unfortunately, I wished the ending would have handled it better. It was so close to being perfect that I’m not too mad about it. But it could have been so good!
One thing I want to mention, though, is the book’s focus on storytelling. That old man I was talking about is actually a Chant, a person who travels around the world to collect stories and folk tales from different countries and then share his knowledge. I really loved the unique spin that put on everything in this book!
The State of Us
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Published: June 2nd, 2020
Genre: YA Contemporary
Buzzwords: Queer romance, US politics
Synopsis: When Dean Arnault’s mother decided to run for president, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone, least of all her son. But still that doesn’t mean Dean wants to be part of the public spectacle that is the race for the White House—at least not until he meets Dre.
The only problem is that Dre Rosario’s on the opposition; he’s the son of the Democratic nominee. But as Dean and Dre’s meet-ups on the campaign trail become less left to chance, their friendship quickly becomes a romantic connection unlike any either of the boys has ever known.
If it wasn’t hard enough falling in love across the aisle, the political scheming of a shady third-party candidate could cause Dean and Dre’s world to explode around them.
What this book has going for it are its themes. It really explores the question of whether you can be friends or even just be on friendly terms with someone you disagree with. When you have a book that’s about the son of the Democratic presidential candidate falling in love with the son of the Republican presidential candidate, there are plenty of opportunities to explore that question from different angles. And I really liked how Hutchinson didn’t force a conclusion on the reader but rather just presented the many sides to the issue. It was an immensely refreshing approach from a YA book. My only complaint is that I wished he had picked up some of the threads at the end and maybe spelled some of it out a bit more.
Other than that, the book was obviously really sweet. It’s being compared to Red, White and Royal Blue a lot, and well, I guess this is the YA version of that. It still manages to be its own thing as it, as evidenced above, explores different themes.
Seems like I read a lot of books this month with less than great endings. It inevitably changes my opinion of the rest of the book when the author doesn’t stick the landing. Anyway, my favorites of the month are tied between Peter Darling and A Conspiracy of Truths. I’m definitely very excited to get to the sequel of the latter so that might happen in July already. What was your favorite book in June? Have you read any of the books mentioned here? Let me know in the comments and then I hope you have a great July!