Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

As I reflect on June releases while writing these reviews, I realize just how outstanding the books released were that month. I have several five stars of the year from that month alone, and when I attempt to decide my favorite book for that month, it changes every time I ask myself that question. Among this last batch of reviews for books released in June 2022 are some of the best of the year.

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi is a book you must put on your TBR if you love epic fantasy. There is no way I will ever be able to do it justice, whether it is a brief review or a lengthy one. Not only does it use African and Arabian mythological influences, but there are also two switched-at-birth heroes, a Sapphic love interest, political machinations, the birth of a revolution, and an intense set of games to decide upon the new heir. It is genuinely fantastic and worthy of all the stars you can give it.

This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede

This Vicious Grace is a debut novel that in no way reads like a debut. Emily Thiede’s novel is another one I urge you to read as soon as you possibly can. First, the premise alone, a woman whose mere touch is fatal and who has had three husbands and three funerals for those husbands, is funny. Granted, it is also tragic, but Ms. Thiede instills humor to lighten the tragedy of Alessa’s life. There is plenty of low-grade spice added to the mix, along with plenty of action and betrayal. Again, I know I am not doing it justice in the slightest. Just know I don’t rave about books that often, so if I am willing to rave about this one, do yourself a favor and read it!

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

Melissa Albert does it again. In the third five-star book of the month, Our Crooked Hearts uses a dual point of view to tell the story of a daughter and mother driven apart by secrets. While this is the story of a daughter/mother relationship, it is also about magic, the type of magic one should never attempt. Our Crooked Hearts takes some dark turns, as one would expect of anyone familiar with Ms. Albert’s previous novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. She kept me guessing until the last, and I love how it ends. To me, her third novel solidifies Ms. Albert’s talent and proves she is an author who excels at writing dark, modern Gothic stories.

Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett may not be as prolific as some authors, but his writing is outstanding and worth the wait. Locklands is the last in his Founders trilogy, and boy, is it a doozy. It truly is a culmination of each previous book in that our heroes now fight on enemy turf instead of their own. We finally get the answers to Clef’s origins and the identity of the Hierophant. While that will not mean anything to anyone unfamiliar with the first two books, trust me when I say these are big reveals worthy of an ending. Told with the same care and wit as The Divine Cities trilogy, Locklands is clever, fascinating in its intricacies, and so well-written as to make the most complex situations easy to imagine. I will gladly read anything Mr. Bennett writes in the future.

Blade Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
Blade Breaker is the second novel in Victoria Aveyard’s Realm Breaker series. I was not a massive fan of the first novel; it was too similar to the Fellowship of the Rings for my taste. This sequel, I feel, is a much better story overall. While there are still hints and homages to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it is not as overt as in the first novel. There is more action and forward progress in the story as a whole. Now that she no longer has to introduce the characters, Ms. Aveyard takes the time to develop them more fully, resulting in richer, more nuanced characters than those we first met. Overall, I greatly enjoyed Blade Breaker and look forward to more of the story!

Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noël
Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noël is such a fun story. Blending a boarding school drama with time travel, a secret organization, and plenty of mystery, it’s a wacky story that I adored. Natasha is a spunky character, the best kind of smart-ass, and what she experiences at Gray Wolf Academy is bonkers. Admittedly, the novel’s beginning is the slowest, as Ms. Noël establishes her characters and educates the readers on numerology and tarot. But once Natasha enters the academy, hold on to your pants! Stealing Infinity is a roller coaster of a book, and I cannot wait to read what happens next!

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