June was a truly important reading month for me.
I made a goal close to the beginning of the month to swap all of my audiobooks for titles written by Black authors. Boy, am I glad I did! It was refreshing to have a different perspective. I’ve always valued diversity when it comes to books, and I don’t consider myself close-minded or stuck in a white-washed reading rut. However, making a serious point to focus on #BlackPublishingPower was really beneficial. I can’t stress enough how important fiction is when it comes to learning. You don’t have to get all your facts from non-fiction or memoirs (though they are excellent as well, of course).
In addition, I wanted to answer a question I’ve been asked a million times over: “how do I read so many books each month?” Every single time I mention my reading habits online, I’m met with astonishment over the amount that I read.
How to Read at Least 10 Books Every Month
Read before bed. Don’t pick up your phone. It isn’t good for your mind anyways. Give your brain and your eyes a break from screens, and indulge in a physical copy of a book prior to sleep. Not only will this allow more time to enjoy a story, but it will promote even better rest!
Utilize the library. You don’t need to spend copious amounts of money on new books to enjoy a good read. In fact, I rarely do! I only purchase a book if I’ve 1) already read it and 2) love it enough to read it again. It’s 100% free to use your library, and more likely than not, they have the book you’re hoping to read!
Audiobooks are phenomenal. I didn’t think I’d enjoy them, but I subscribed to Audible last year, and it’s been life-changing! I listen while I shower and get ready in the morning, while I’m driving, when I’m doing dishes or cleaning my house, when I’m working out, when I have a headache and can’t stand to keep my eyes open – but need entertainment, when I’m editing photos or doing “mindless” work on my laptop. Truly, there’s rarely a time when I’m not listening to a book.
Double up on your reading. I listen to one audiobook and read one physical book during the same time-span. This way, I complete 2-3 books per week, depending on their length and the time I’ve dedicated to them. Mix genres so you don’t get your stories confused. I listen to one rom-com and read one fantasy or vice-versa, for example!
shop the books
The 12 Books I Read in June
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? Welcome to Weep.
I thought taking some time in between finishing this book and writing my review would help my thoughts to come across more concisely. However, I’m realizing that it’s hard to put into words how much I appreciated this book. It came at the perfect time, because while I was reading, the Black Lives Matter movement shook the nation and the world. Now, this book does not have Black individuals in it, but the racial injustices that were covered in the story were profound, and I shed tears more times than I’d like to admit. Yes, it’s a well-written and beautiful fantasy, filled with stories and gods and heartache. It’s also thought-provoking and in a time where I’ve wanted to educate myself more than ever, it was needed. People of color, other ethnicities, other backgrounds, that look and act differently than you DESERVE LOVE AND JUSTICE TOO. Okay, okay, so maybe the political statement wouldn’t have come across so strong at any other time, but let it be known that this book really shook me to my core.
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three-year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates – Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material – and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works. Meanwhile, she dreams of doing “important” work, but only ever seems to get auditions for dishwashing liquid and peanut butter commercials. It’s hard to tell if she’ll run out of time or money first, but either way, failure would mean facing the fact that she has absolutely no skills to make it in the real world. Her father wants her to come home and teach, her agent won’t call her back, and her classmate Penelope, who seems supportive, might just turn out to be her toughest competition yet. Someday, Someday, Maybe is a funny and charming debut about finding yourself, finding love, and, most difficult of all, finding an acting job.
I reached for this book the instant I finished listening to “Talking As Fast As I Can,” because hearing Graham talk about the behind-the-scenes of writing this made me want to read it even more. I’ve had this on my list for years, and I’m so glad I finally read it. I can see parallels to Graham’s life, and it was a heart-warming story that ended exactly as I hoped it would. If you’re looking for a lighthearted 90’s-set contemporary read, this is ideal!
A Song Below Water by Bethany C Morrow
Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes. But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.
I began this book because, well, it meshed some really cool fantasy vibes and made it modern. I really enjoyed the concept of sirens, gargoyles, sprites, and more – but I found myself really confused throughout the majority of the novel. I think I wanted a little more backstory, because it took all the way until the last few chapters to distinguish what was happening (one girl totally unsure of her abilities and the other trying to silence them – the history was missing for me). Maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to detail, or maybe it was listening to an audiobook version rather than reading a physical book, but either way – I felt kinda lost. I appreciated the way Morrow brought crucial topics into the discussion in a natural way. It didn’t feel overly political, and it was really thought-provoking. I think it would be a really fantastic story for so many to read, I just think it… wasn’t what I was looking for.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
I read this book primarily because of the hype surrounding it. I began it for the first time when it came out back when I was in high school. I quit reading when I wasn’t even halfway through because I found it to be really boring. So, needless to say, I was almost peer-pressured by my bookstagram friends to read it again almost ten years later. I can’t say I found it much more exciting the second time around. I will say that towards the very end (I’m talking, within the last 5 chapters) it begins to pick up speed and have more of the adventure I hoped for. I’ve heard that for most people, this series doesn’t even really get interesting until the third book, and while that’s all well and good now that the entire series has been released, if I was back in the past, and knew nothing of what was coming, I would quit right here and now and not finish the rest as they were being launched. It’s just lacking in thrill, considering what it sounds like. GIVE ME MORE ACTION! Meh, I probably won’t be finishing this series. Not worth it if I still don’t like it the second time around.
The Poet X by elizabeth acevedo
A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo. Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
Talk about POWERFUL. I often find myself unable to enjoy young adult books fully because it’s been so long since I was, well, 15. However, Xiomara didn’t need to be relatable for me to be drawn to her story. The poetry was beautiful and imaginative, along with important. I noticed somewhere halfway through listening to the audiobook (do yourself a favor and listen to this – it’s narrated by Acevedo, herself) that I was tearing up. X works through her emotions by writing them down in haikus and poems of all kinds. They were truly incredible. The end of the book is filled with explanations of different poems throughout the book, and it really stretched my mind. I have always been drawn to poetry, so it was really cool to learn more about how these could be read. Do yourself a favor and read this as soon as possible.
the worst best man by mia sosa
A wedding planner left at the altar. Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s managed to make other people’s dreams come true as a top-tier wedding coordinator in DC. After impressing an influential guest, she’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials. Tired of living in his older brother’s shadow, marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client looking to expand its brand. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning—absolutely off-limits—ex-fiancée. And she loathes him. If they can survive the next few weeks and nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own. But even the best laid plans can go awry, and soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them. Still, this star-crossed couple can never be more than temporary playmates because Lina isn’t interested in falling in love and Max refuses to play runner-up to his brother ever again…
The best I can say is that this was pretty predictable for a contemporary romance. It had the typical enemies-to-lovers trope, and a slew of steamy scenes that had me fast-forwarding my audiobook out of embarrassment. It was cute at moments, but definitely not something I’d be interested in reading again. The story had potential, but somewhat fell flat in the long run.
The Falconer by Elizabeth May
One girl’s nightmare is this girl’s faery tale She’s a stunner. Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty. She’s a liar. But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them. She’s a murderer. Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother. She’s a Falconer. The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first. The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read.
Faerie murder and a badass heroine? Sign me up! I had just finished reading a very popular fantasy novel that fell incredibly flat (*coughtogcough*), so The Falconer was exactly what I needed to get back into my favorite genre. It didn’t wait to get interesting, with immediate mystery and action within the first chapter. Kiaran is sexy and intriguing, with a faerie bad boy backstory, and a wicked Celtic name. On that note, there’s a whole lot of Celtic verbiage, steampunk vibes, and Victorian Scottish goodness. I literally looked forward to the end of the day just so I could pick this book up and read some more, and I was THRILLED to find out that it’s an entire trilogy. When the first in a trilogy makes me that excited, you know it’s about to be a great ride. I can’t wait to dive into the rest.
i owe you one by sophie kinsella
Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people. So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she? Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?
Sophie Kinsella does it again! I can now say that she wins the award for my favorite romantic comedy writer. Her books are heartwarming, funny, and (for the most part) pretty clean. I’m not one for sultry, steamy sex scenes scattered throughout a book, so it’s enjoyable to read something that’s equally romantic and adorable, without all the R-rated material. This book made me totally fall in love with the small shop life, and it was so cool to see how a fateful day turned into a wild ride for Fixie. I spent the majority of the story wanting to deck her entire family (minus her mum, of course), along with her ex. It sent me on an emotional roller coaster as she fought to keep Farr’s in business, monitor her family, and work through a blooming relationship. It was just the light-hearted read I needed.
the sound of stars by alechia dow
Can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music work together to save humanity? Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population. Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her. Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does. Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
OH MY GOSH. This book totally blew me away. I downloaded the audiobook on a whim, hoping to indulge in a sci-fi, since I hadn’t listened to anything quite like this in some time. It exceeded what little expectations I did have for it within the first couple of chapters. There are aliens, hybrids, humans, dystopian vibes, and the representation was top-notch. I found myself itching to finish the story every time I had to step away from my phone. I was dying to know what happened next. There was truly nothing dissatisfying to me about this book (aside from the male narrator always having to pronounce M0RR1S’ name in a really bizarre way). READ THIS.
the boyfriend project by farrah rochon
Samiah Brooks never thought she would be “that” girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she’s been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other “girlfriends,” London and Taylor-have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men, no dating, and no worrying about their relationship status . . . For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she’s always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy, honey-eyed Daniel Collins at work. What are the chances? When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as a coincidence. But is Daniel really boyfriend material or is he maybe just a little too good to be true?
Ooohhh YES. Talk about a strong, Black, female lead (and her amazing friends). Samiah’s bond with Taylor and London is serious #SquadGoals, and Daniel is dreamy AF. I related to her struggle between dedication to her day job and her desire to complete her passion project. I spent the entire time wishing Daniel would just TELL HER ALREADY. I didn’t want the story to end. And I can’t wait to read the sequel!
illuminae by amie kaufman and jay kristoff
Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she’d ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But the warship could be the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their biggest threat; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking to get to the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: Ezra. Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents–including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more–Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
** spoiler alert ** Three stars for creativity. Truly, this is probably the most creative and unique book I’ve ever read. From text message conversations, to data reports, to an AI speaking in robotic prose. I was beyond impressed with the ingenuity of the entire book – though I certainly do not recommend an audiobook because it would be painfully confusing. This must be read in physical form. That being said, I did not enjoy the story. It was really difficult to keep up with, since the format kept changing, it was incredibly depressing (with just about everyone you wanted to live … not living)*, there was no indication of how gory it would be prior to reading it**, and the last quarter of it being in AIDEN’s voice threw me over the edge. I was literally flipping through pages like a madwoman, hoping it would just END ALREADY. I won’t be finishing this trilogy. *The fact that Ezra didn’t ACTUALLY die, but you’re led to believe he did until the last… 2 pages of the book? That made me so freaking angry. I already loathed AIDEN, and then to find out it didn’t actually hide Ezra’s death drove me wild. I don’t like a book that toys with my emotions quite this much. **Also the zombie-like death virus? I had been dealing with nausea the week I was reading this, and there were moments I literally had to skip pages or stop reading because the descriptions caused my nausea to increase. If you don’t like gore, DON’T READ THIS.
You should see me in a crown by Leah johnson
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor. But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington. The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
Talk about a fantastic way to end Pride Month! This story was one of the cutest I’ve ever read. I immediately fell in love with Liz and her “go get it” attitude. It’s a precious coming-of-age story, and I guess a coming out story as well! Her and Amanda’s relationship had me literally pausing to gush to my husband about the cuteness. Sure, the whole thing isn’t particularly realistic, since everything kinda winds up perfect, but what are you expecting going into a fluffy YA rom-com? I certainly loved it, and felt my heart expand 3x its natural size by the time I wrapped it up. I highly recommend the audiobook!