What I Read June 2023

by - July 17, 2023

Wow, I read a lot in June. Way more than I anticipated, actually. That said, three of the things I read were school-related. I had quite a few that I would consider flubs. Everything I included on this list, I finished, but most of the series I decided not to continue. Anyway, I've left you waiting on this reading roundup post for long enough already. Let's get started.

Author: Agatha Christie

This is on the suggested paired readings for the new curriculum my school is implementing next year. I'm a pretty big Agatha Christie fan, but this is one I had not read before. It's not very long, and I found the structure to be a bit odd. Each chapter is divided into multiple parts, which I could understand if each part was from a different character's viewpoint, but that's not always the case and it got a tad confusing, especially since she didn't always identify whose thoughts you were privy to at the time. It was 100% intentional on Christie's part, but it made figuring out who did it even more difficult.

The premise of the book is this: ten people are invited to the mysterious Soldier Island, which has been in the headlines recently over the mystery of who purchased it. The guests include a governess-turned-secretary, a judge, a doctor, an elderly woman, etc. In other words, they come from all walks of life and social status. Their first night there, they are all accused of various murders and quickly deduce that they don't actually know the supposed hosts of the retreat. Hosts who aren't present, I might add. What follows is a series of deaths with seemingly no motive nor singular suspect. In fact, it's not revealed as part of the plot at all but rather with a letter from the killer that is inserted after the epilogue. I'm still not clear if the letter was actually found or delivered to investigators or is somewhere in the ether. In fact, I almost overlooked it. I read this on my Kindle and it automatically sent me to the review page before I'd even seen the letter!

Spark of Desire (Dragons in the Wind book 1)
Author: J. Kearston

Amara is a dragon shifter who can't shift and who's running from the man that killed her family and took her prisoner. When a robbery gone wrong lands her in the hospital, Amara comes in contact with one of her three mark-mates. Determined not to get them involved in her problems, she keeps them at arms length until it's not possible. Eventually, her past catches up with her, but the book ends on a cliffhanger so no idea how it all plays out.

I did finish this book, and I do have the second book already downloaded. However, I haven't pulled the trigger on it yet, and I honestly don't know if I will. I didn't not like this book, but it didn't grip me either.

Turmoil (Elite of Elmwood Academy book 1)
Author: J.L. Weil

When Josie's mom remarries, she's forced to attend a prestigious academy against her will. To make matters worse, she discovers the guy she had a one-night stand with at her mom's wedding basically rules the school as the leader of the Elite, so her plan of never seeing him again goes out the window. Then throw her conniving stepbrother into the mix. He has it out for Josie and a grudge with the Elite, so they team up to bring him down.

Usually, these type of academy stories are like a guilty pleasure, but I found this one to be just a bit too cliché. Nothing felt new, and I just didn't feel drawn into the plot.

Author: John Fleischman

This is the first book my students will be reading this school year. It is an incredibly short nonfiction text - only four chapters! This is far from what I typically read, but it was very interesting, and I think my students will enjoy it.

Phineas Gage was a foreman for a railroad company in the early 1800s. He survived an accident that sent a tamping iron completely through his head, damaging part of his brain and altering his personality. The book examines the accident and its immediate aftermath, Phineas's life after he physically recovers, and the impact his case had and is still having on the field of brain science. 

Author: Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

This is the paired reading for Phineas Gage that my students will be doing this year. I only read the excerpts they will be reading. This text is definitely more of a technical read. It's very scientific, so it comes with a higher difficulty level, especially in terms of vocabulary. It specifically looks at how the brains of teenagers develop. The excerpts we'll read in class mostly focus on risk-taking. It's kind of interesting, I guess, but the language was incredibly scientific, and I'm worried that my students aren't going to connect with it.

Author: E.J. Lawson

I downloaded this because of a Facebook post, but I have to say it - Omegaverse is still not my thing. I did finish the book, though, and enjoyed the basic plot premise. Omegaverse is just odd to me, and I don't connect with the social hierarchy of the worlds.

Anyway, Riley is an omega living on her own trying to pass herself off as a beta because she doesn't want to burden anyone with her incurable disease. She's also got a bit of a traumatic past and has been mistreated by her own family. She succeeds at staying under the radar until a chance encounter with an alpha puts her on the radar of the local authorities. That alpha's pack takes her in to keep her from being assigned to an omega-less pack that might abuse her. Despite her attraction to the alphas, Riley is determined not to get too involved and to keep her sickness to herself. Pretty soon, though, she can't hide her condition, but it turns out one of her packmates' parents are the leading experts on her disease and have a good shot at saving her life.

Zodiac Binding (Zodiac Chronicles book 1)
Author: Arya Karin

This had an interesting concept, and I wanted to like it so much, but the execution just wasn't there for me. It was too much smut and not enough plot for me. Plus, I had a really hard time getting past the main female character's name, Karen. I mean, really? This book is new enough that I can't believe they went with that name!

Anyway, Karen is a half witch-half coyote shifter (who can't shift) who makes her living by lifting curses. Turns out, she is the ultimate curse breaker - the Thirteenth Zodiac. It's up to her to take on 12 mates, all from the different zodiac clans, in order to keep the supernatural world from descending into utter chaos.


I Dare You and The Fourth Guy (The Line Up 1-2)
Author: Misti Murphy

These were fun reads! I'm pairing them together because their timelines overlap. Basically all that changes is the focal couple and the main conflict of each.

In book one, Hayley is a former teen TV star who fell from grace after an incident at an awards show. Ever since, she's basically been living as a recluse to avoid being recognized and harassed. One day she gets a wrong-number text from a guy asking for advice on what to wear to his sister's wedding. The two become texting buddies without ever sharing their names. They unknowingly meet when Hayley's friend drags her out to a bar owned by the mystery texter, Callan. Despite their chemistry, Hayley and Callan don't hit it off at all, but their two best friends take it upon themselves to play matchmaker.

Book two focuses on the two best friends - Makai and Sadie. They claim they're just friends, but anyone with eyes can see that they're into each other. After a run of really bad luck with boyfriends, Sadie has sworn off dating. Makai, meanwhile, is waiting for the real thing, which is a hard thing to tell when you're a bachelor billionaire, something Sadie is unaware of but wouldn't impact her at all because she, too, is rich.

Fire & Smoke (The Red Masques 4)
Author: M. Sinclair

This was a nice installment in this series. We learn a lot more about what's happening and the ultimate goal of the plot is much clearer. However, I would have liked a bit more development in the plot. There was a lot of time devoted to the group building relationships, which was enjoyable but I felt like it was drawn out too much while the plot itself didn't advance all that much. Still, I'm invested in the story and want to see how it ends. That's about all I can say without spoiling the other books. Sorry!

Author: Bill Rivers

This was my One Woman Book Club pick, and it was so good. Thirteen-year-old Jack doesn't want his oldest brother, Pete, getting drafted and sent to Vietnam, so when his city-boy cousin, Frankie, comes to stay for the summer before Pete turns 18, they come up with a plan to turn Pete into a hero so he'll get to stay home. But that summer turns into much more than just saving Pete when the county tries to buy the Elliots' land out from under them to flood the valley. There's also the evolving relationships with the three brothers, one of the older brothers' crush on the preacher's daughter, a motorcycle gang causing trouble, and a neighbor boy who's disturbed.

This was such a good historical fiction novel. I loved the family dynamics, and I especially loved Pete (even though he was not the main character). Watching Jack grow over that summer and experience all of the confusing emotions of adolescence was so poignant, especially his fear for his older brother going to war.


Greed & Envy (The Damning 1-2)
Author: Katie May

I've been waiting for this series to be complete before I started reading it. Two books in, and I'm not sure if I'll continue. Parts of the plot are confusing, and I'm not as invested as I hoped to be.

Anyway, Z is an assassin and member of the resistance fighting against the Nightmares that rule her world. When she accidentally becomes a competitor in The Damning, a competition to choose the seven kings' next assassin, her mission becomes to take out said kings. What she doesn't count on is being the unlikely mate of the seven princes. Winning the competition is just the first step, though. Now, she must complete a task from each of the seven kings to keep her newfound position. Oh, and you can't forget the fact that she took a magical oath that won't allow her to harm anyone in the royal family.

Author: Amy Daws

This was a quick rom-com. Kate Smith is an author who's found herself with a serious case of writer's block that only clears when she's in the waiting room of a local mechanic's shop. So she keeps sneaking back in day after day, taking advantage of the complimentary coffee and pastries. Kate thinks she's gone unnoticed until she's called out by one of the mechanics, Miles. Despite their undeniable chemistry, neither are looking for anything serious. Kate just broke up with her boyfriend, who still technically lives with her, and Miles has some pretty serious baggage, but he agrees to help his new author friend out with her next book. Of course, it's never that simple.

Secrets in Her Eyes (The Sorcerer's Society 1)
Author: Lexie Scott

This has really good reviews, but this first book of the series fell flat for me. It moved so slow, it was practically glacial. Seriously, nothing happened until the very end, but other than a family revelation, it left way too much unsaid, so much so that I really can't tell you what this series is about other than a girl named Avalon moving to a new town with her dad, going to a co-ed school for the first time ever, and making friends in two rival groups. Based on the series title, there's some sort of magic aspect, but you don't see any of that in the first book other than a really vague reference to a car accident. I won't be continuing this one.

Author: Viyana Morrigan

This one has been on my TBR for an embarrassing amount of time. I love the idea behind this story, but there were some things I just couldn't get on board with. It's a time travel romance that isn't based on any actual history. Amethyst somehow travels into the past and lands smack dab in the middle of a peace treaty between two nations that have been at war for decades. She immediately is comfortable with everything, especially the four men at the center of the treaty, which I found incredibly unbelievable, as well as the fact that they decide to make her empress of their newly combined kingdom. I mean, I realize it's time travel but it all seemed to fall into place too easily. Then there's the opposition - the people in one kingdom who don't want the merger. They latch onto Amethyst and keep attacking her, even after they've been locked up. Each of her men are insanely powerful but can't keep these weaker ones away from their empress. She ends up hurt repeatedly, and as a reader that was incredibly frustrating.

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