I love that I just had a conversation last month about how I was pretty sure my reading was seriously down from normal and then I somehow read fifteen books in the second half of May. Like… What? Who am I? Anyway, let’s hop to it since I clearly read too many books this month for a short wrap up.
11. Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh (Audio)
I absolutely love this concluding novel to season one of Psy-Changeling, but I know some people find it frustrating that there isn’t a specific romance happening here. I mean, arguably you’ve got Xavier and Nina but really this is about advancing the plot and tying up the threads from season one. We check in with pretty much all of our favorite couples and I for one, absolutely adore that part. If you haven’t read the series, this is for sure not a place to jump in. I would suggest starting at Slave to Sensation, but if that’s too much of a commitment, I would say you could start with Silver Silence, which I’ll talk about here in a few.
12. Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (Physical)
This book is absolutely hilarious. First of all, I was cackling for basically the entire first third of the book and secondly, I called my best friend so I could read her a three or four page section about turkeys. I LOVED this book. I mentioned it in my most recent Trope Talk post (or well, the only one that’s over here, I suppose) about fake dating, plus the hype for this book is HIGH. If you’ve missed it, basically this book follows an alternate universe in which a woman was elected president after President Obama and her son REALLY doesn’t like the Prince of Wales. Probably. But like he’s obsessed with him the way Harry and Draco were obsessed with each other. And it’s fine, it’s all fine. The one thing I want to note about this book is that it’s written in third person PRESENT, which is weird and can be somewhat distracting. I, personally, found it incredibly worth it though. It was just so fun and sweet. CW though for outting.
13. Silver Silence by Nalini Singh (Audio)
I feel like I should say more here than just quoting the book, but like… “Silver Fucking Mercant” sums up this book so well. Valentin, alpha of the StoneWater bears in Moscow, is super intrigued by Silver Mercant, Kaleb’s icy assistant and the new leader of Em-Net. When he saves her after she ingests poison, Silver’s grandmother insists Silver get out of town. Where better for Silver to go than into hiding with the StoneWater bears? I loved this so much. There is some symmetry here with Silver entering the land of the changelings, much like Sascha did in Slave to Sensation, but Lucas and Valentin are wildly different alphas and Sascha and Silver could not be more different, aside from both melting for cubs. (Are tiny bears cubs? I don’t remember.) Anyway, I, personally, love this installment in the overall series and think it’s a great place to kick you off into the new arc of the series.
14. Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean (e-ARC)
God bless, Avon, and Netgalley for granting my wish and allowing me to read this book early. I’ve had it pre-ordered from my local Indie for a few months now and I’m so glad for it to release to the world at large. Whit is a gruff hero and for some reason I’m back in that mood where gruff heroes melting is like, my everything. Sometimes I just find that annoying, but not right now! Anyway, the point is, this book is about Hattie focusing on her Year of Hattie. She has a plan and Whit being tied up in the carriage she needs to get to her plan is really a problem. Except, Whit is extremely handsome and even once she (LITERALLY) kicks him out of the carriage, she can’t stop thinking about him. And then he shows up where she is… I just adore their relationship and Hattie and Whit as individual characters too. There’s something about them that just feels so right? I’m not sure how to describe it. Anyway, I loved this installment of the series and can’t wait for book three!! (Also have you SEEN the stepback for this book? It is utterly delightful.)
15. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (physical)
I really loved this one and I’m so glad I gave it a shot after being let down by TKQ when everyone else raved about it. This one though just really worked for me. Essentially, Khai’s mom goes to Vietnam and brings Esme back to be Khai’s bride, without Khai agreeing to this plan, mind you. I’ve seen a couple of reviews talking about the power difference inherent in bringing someone over on essentially a fiancé visa, but honestly, I thought Helen pretty neatly sidestepped those issues. I found Esme absolutely incredible and I loved getting to know her. For my rating, I ultimately landed on four stars because Esme has a daughter that she leaves behind in Vietnam, but also keeps a secret from everyone. I… don’t love that. I could understand the leaving her behind, but I struggled with how her daughter is woven into the story. Anyway, I would recommend picking this up if you’re curious!
16. Dark Skye by Kresley Cole (Audio)
So I was expecting this installment of the Immortals After Dark series to be my absolute favorite because it has my all time favorite trope of childhood friends turned enemies turned lovers. However… I, um, did not. I’m not sure why, really. I thought it was okay. I enjoyed parts of it. But mostly, I felt pretty neutral about it, which was disappointing. Also weird because neutral to a Kresley Cole book feels like it should be impossible. Anyway, this one follows Lanthe and Thronos, whose story I’ve been looking forward to since Carrow’s book, but now that I have it, I just feel a little let down. I’m optimistic that the Fated Mates episode on this book will help me feel more positive. In the meantime, just know this is another Torture Island beginning and then Thronos and Lanthe are off plane and traveling lots of places.
17. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (Audio)
First of all, I adored this book. I was apprehensive since I haven’t been reading much YA lately and this book tackles teen parenting, but I really enjoyed it. I think Elizabeth Acevedo has the most incredible voice (both like speaking-in reading her words-and the way she writes) that lends itself so well to being read aloud. There were so many lines in here that just felt so poetic. This book follows Amani through her senior year of high school while she tries to figure out what her future looks like, how to fit in cooking to that future, taking care of her two year old daughter, maintaining and supporting her friendship, and falling in love (for real this time). I think this book is absolutely incredible and would definitely recommend it any way you can get your hands on it, but if you can do audiobooks and your library has Hoopla, allow me to recommend!
18-21,24. Hard Ink series by Laura Kaye (ebook/audiobook)
I have two novellas left to read from this series, but I thought I would go ahead and include them as a whole here because wow, this binge read was intense. The series follows five Special Forces veterans who were discharged other than honorably in a cover up that they don’t understand, but know stems from their dirty commander. When Becca Merritt shows up at Hard Ink, the tattoo shop Nick Rixy’s brother owns asking for help because her brother is missing, Nick is not about to help his dead commander’s daughter. But… then he feels bad. And discovers that Charlie might be the secret to unraveling the story of what happened to him. He calls on his old teammates for help and soon the five guys are living above Hard Ink and falling in love.
These books contain a lot of content warnings I definitely want to point out. Collectively, the men have been through a trauma and are now put back into a situation where they are kind of being forced to face that trauma. Some of the women paired with the men have their own trauma (there’s also a m/m novella featuring Jeremy and Charlie, which given that Charlie was kidnapped… But I haven’t read that one yet.) Anyway, there is discussion of suicidal thoughts, survivor’s guilt, guilt in general, a stalking storyline (in the final novel in the series), grief, sexual trauma, panic attack (a couple happen on page, I think), and part of this conspiracy had to do with drug trafficking and another had to do with human trafficking. So there are a lot of CWs.
I mostly feel like all of this was handled well. I think Kaye tried to get the diversity right and I would say she sort of succeeded. One of the things I loved regarding diversity was that Derek has a prosthetic limb from the ambush the men survived and he’s really comfortable with it. He does have to deal though with the fact that his best friend is super not fine with it, but there’s a reason and backstory for that.
I devoured this series, which is not my usual fare, but I’m really glad. My favorite of the series was the last one, partially because it’s a hate to love romance, which is one of my favorite tropes. If you are also ready and willing to fall down a rabbit hole that involves found family and bio family dynamics that are just incredible, I would definitely recommend these to you. And if you have any specific questions for content warnings or about the books, feel free to ask.
22. Real Kind of Love by Sara Rider (ebook)
The first in her Books and Brews series, I found myself sinking into the world and the characters Rider created with some serious intensity. Literally as soon as I finished Real Kind of Love, I went and bought the sequel, Make Me Fall. But Real Kind of Love was such a great fake dating book. First of all, I adored the family dynamic within Clem’s family. I loved how the overbearing nature of her family was handled. And I really loved the way Clem and Jake fell in love. Plus, it was so cool to see Clem’s career as an audiobook narrator. And don’t get me started on how swoon worthy Jake’s big fix-it moment was. I do think this book would have benefited from more pages, but I could just want to spend more time with the characters. I just really liked this book a whole lot and I wish I had read it sooner so I could have included it in that last Trope Talk post!
23. Make Me Fall by Sara Rider (ebook)
I stayed up too late reading this book, but #noregrets. I LOVE Eli and think he’s such a great hero, in large part because I feel like he loves the parts of Nora that IRL people criticize women for. She’s extremely organized and neurotic and likes things in a particular way. IRL this relationship that starts with the two hating one another wouldn’t turn into what it does, probably. But like, I really loved spending my time in a world where Eli would defend Nora against her really awful friends AND facilitate her making new ones. On her own. I just… This book meant a lot to me as someone who lives in a town where it is difficult to make friends and your people live HOURS away from you. I did feel like this book had weird timing sometimes but I enjoyed it all the same.
25. Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann (physical)
Y’all, I’m just on a military romantic suspense type binge here and I can’t seem to stop myself. This is book four in the Troubleshooters series, which is where I started because this is the one I picked up at the used bookstore. Now that I’ve read this one, I’m mad I didn’t pick up the entire rest of the series, but especially book six. I can’t wait to get to that one! I think the way these books are written is really interesting because Suzanne isn’t telling just one story, she’s telling at least three. You know the storylines are going to intersect, but at the beginning I wasn’t sure how.
There were a couple of things in here though that bothered me more than a little, enough to mark it down to four stars even though I mostly loved it and now want to binge the whole series
So there you have it! The final fifteen books I read in May. I’ve already completed one book for June and am halfway through a second. It’s hard to say if my favorite book of the month was Brazen & the Beast, Red, White, & Royal Blue, or Real Kind of Love, but I really did like all three so incredibly much. What was your favorite? Let me know!