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Looking Back at the Books I Read in July 2023

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This month felt like every book series had a release. Granted, that’s not true as many more are releasing books next month that are on my TBR. Either way, there were a lot of things that I wanted to read. Some of them were definitely better than others, not to mention I also went on a massive hockey romance or rather college sport romance kick as I just couldn’t commit myself to reading a new series while I was in the middle of packing up to move and arranging everything involved in that.

We’ll see what I end up reading next month, since I’m crashing at my mom’s house for six weeks until my new apartment is available. And while there are a bunch of new books I want to read that come out that month, there’s also a lot I got on Kindle to go through as well. Literally, there are over twenty books in that list. Many of them were on Kindle Unlimited, but others I had purchased as well or got a deal using my Kindle points. And knowing that I’m staying at my mom’s place, either I’m going to be able to read as much as I want or I’m going to forced into doing various activities so ‘I’m not holed up in my room’ as my mom says. Which is fair given I’m going to be in a room that’s big enough for a bed and a foot of walking space to leave the room.

So, what did I read this month?

These are all the new books I read, not any that I decided to re-read along the way. If I did a review, I’ll share the link to those. Otherwise, I will do a quick review of the book or series (with the series getting the mini-review at the end of all the books in the list). Mostly, those will just be a quick blurb about what the book/series was about.

  1. Beyond the Veil (Zodiac Academy, Book 8.5) by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti – 3.5 stars
    • See my blog post discussing my general thoughts on this series. This book takes place during the events of book 8 from the perspective of those that are dead. So, we’re seeing the thoughts of the deceased as they are forced to witness the events of what happened in that book, but generally unable to help. Though they do manage in small ways. While some I glossed or skipped over, it was nice to see Hail and Darius interact. And how Gabriel’s birth father was trying to hold on but struggling since Gabriel never met him, and despite Hail’s jealousy he did help the guy out from time to time.
  2. Reign of Stars and Fire (The Broken Kingdoms, Book 8) by LJ Andrews4 stars
    • See my review for thoughts on this series.
  3. Shutout (Rules of the Game, Book 2) by Avery Keelan – 3.5 stars
    • This books follows the younger sister of Chase (character from the first book) and his roommate Tyler (goalie for Boyd). She ends up moving into the guy’s place when her mom gets cancer. And this book largely focuses on dealing with anxiety and stress. For Sera, this comes in the form of trying to figure out what she’s going to do with her life and finding out if she has the genetic mutation BRCA1 like her mom. And Tyler deals with it in the form of pressure over his hockey career. Especially when the team he was drafted for is looking at other goalies, which means he might not ever play professionally. He’s almost working and breathing hockey around the clock, so he has almost no downtime. And his dad and trainer are constantly applying that pressure, though they eventually realize Tyler is cracking due to this and it’s affecting his ability to play hockey. While this is happening, Tyler and Sera agree to being friends with benefits (though they totally are in a committed relationship with each other) and keep that it will remain a secret (since Chase would be an overprotective older brother). I did think this book was better than the first but there were some elements that resolved very quickly or weren’t given the depth I think they should have. Like the fact a 23 year old took a girl’s virginity at 16, it’s mentioned but nothing come about it other than the guy is still around and flirting with her (possibly drugged her at one point) and it forces Tyler and Sera to reveal their relationship to Chase. I feel like that could’ve had more confrontation, but other than Sera telling off her friend and getting rid of said friend about what really happened there’s nothing that comes out of that.
  4. Find Me on the Ice (Nighthawks, Book 2) by Pru Schuyler – 3.25 stars
    • Check trigger warnings for this book if you want to read it. While the abuse is not actively happening, it’s mentioned in details throughout the book by both characters. Cam was abused by his father, while Morgan (Nikki) was abused by her ex-boyfriend. Both of whom happen to be cops. Despite leaving in different states, the two meet and fall for each other, then have a long distance relationship where Cam often goes to visit her. She does conceal her real name from him and avoid any public setting so her ex-boyfriend cannot find her. Eventually, however, she’s spotted and put in the headlines so her image then later identity/location are revealed, which makes her finally tell the full truth to Cam. Which he is extremely forgiving about since he knows she only did it for her own protection. These two are perfectly matched for each other from their trauma to their scars to their nightmares, so it’s no wonder the two end up together. Even if she pushes him away for a good portion of time, but that’s understandable given her trauma is still new while his has been over for years.
  5. Find Me on the Rain (Nighthawks, Book 1) by Pru Schuyler – 3.25 stars
    • Did I read this out of order? Yes. Do I care? No. Was this good even though second-chance romances aren’t my thing? Yes. Laura got pregnant by Alec when she was fifteen. He moved away without knowing about that fact, as his parents hid that from him despite the fact she tried to tell him. Years later, they meet again when Alec is in town for hockey. He wants her back and she wants nothing to do with him (for obvious reasons since she thought he abandoned her and their son). But when the truth regarding Jack comes out, Laura finally lets him back in. It was a cute, short read. And very emotional since it deals with the loss of a parent.
  6. Weak Side (Bexley U, Book 1) by SJ Sylvis – 3.5 stars
    • This was cute hockey romance book. I kept getting recommended it by Kindle Unlimited so I decided to give it a try. Claire ends up being accidently assigned dorm roommates with the captain of the hockey team, Theo. It’s probably the first college hockey book I’ve read where the main characters actually live in the dorms and not off campus housing. The two go from being roommates who vex each other to fake dating. Him to keep puck bunnies away for the year, and her to make her cheating ex-boyfriend jealous after he blackmailed her due to the financial debt her mother owes his family. Of course they really aren’t fake dating, and both realize that it’s genuine between them. However, Claire’s trust is shattered after a bomb shell of information is revealed to her. But they do have a HEA in the end.
  7. Breakaway (Beyond the Play, Book 2) by Grace Reilly – 3 stars
    • This is a hockey romance I kept seeing in my recommended list and considering I was waiting on other books to be released and didn’t want to start some of the other ones in my TBR, I figured I would give it a shot. It’s technically the second book in the series with each one being a standalone book focused on one of the Callahan siblings, who each play a different sport. But since I like hockey the most, I figured I would go with this one. The plot is rather simple: Penny is trying to complete a list of ten different sexual acts to regain her control after her first experience was tainted by her ex, and Cooper is trying to become captain of his team and winning his father’s approval. Of course, Penny is also his coach’s daughter so they decide to keep their relationship a secret. There isn’t really any blow out from the fact she’s his coach’s daughter like I thought there would be. And the end of Cooper’s plotline comes down to miscommunication/father not knowing how to express his feelings. So, the tension wasn’t really tension. It was still a good book, but I kind of needed a bit more drama. Not to mention some parts were really cringy.
  8. A Foul Thing (Last Violent Call, Book 1) by Chloe Gong – 3.5 stars
    • This novella follows Roma and Juliette four years after the events of their story. They are investigating a string of suicides that mimic the madness they once dealt with. The married pair are in hiding, so a lot of the novella is split between the plot, the romance (which seemed forced in bits), and them deciding if being hidden was worth it still. I enjoyed reading it and seeing that the characters were still alive/together, but it didn’t read the same as their original tale. Mainly, as there’s no conflict between the two as there was in the original, which was a driving force behind their relationship before.
  9. Fearsome Dream (Shadowblood Souls, Book 5) by Eva Chase – 3 stars
    • The final book in this series. The group managed to escape their captor in the previous book and I was all ready for an epic showdown. Only we didn’t get that. The guy dies pretty early on along with the leadership of the group that held them captive. Then the rest of the book is dealing with the fall out of the recently experimented group that only feel rage due to the chemicals they were pumped full with. So, we have multiple attempts at detaining that group and figuring out how to fix that issue. It’s not bad, but it’s not the ending I thought this series would go for. I just thought we’d have epic showdown against their captor and the organization, then they would show the reverse of the effects on the others in the last chapter or epilogue, rather than 70% of the book. I’m most likely not going to read the other books in this universe. I know there is at least two before this series and one coming after, but as much as I liked some elements others were just too out there for me. And I know those elements are going to be in the other books.
  10. A Foul Murder (Last Violent Call, Book 2) by Chloe Gong – 3.5 stars
    • The second novella of the Last Violent Call, which followed Benedikt and Marshall, who are now married. They board a train to find Lourens to help Roma and Juliette; however, they are on a very strict timeline to find the scientist. So, any stops would get in their way and unfortunately the biggest one occurs. Someone on board has been murdered, so the two disguise themselves as private investigators to solve the crime in order for the train to keep going without stopping. There were a lot of sweet moments between the two and I liked seeing a little slice of life for them especially after how things went for them in the past.
  11. First Down (Beyond the Play, Book 1) – 3.25 stars
    • This is a college football romance story that focuses on the oldest Callahan brother, James, and his girlfriend, Bex. They meet in their senior year of college when they both end up in a freshmen writing class together. James because he failed it at his previous college, and Bex because her credit didn’t transfer. But James struggles with writing, so he ends up convincing Bex to tutor him, which she does in exchange for him pretending to date her to keep his teammate and her ex away. Only that doesn’t work as the ex refuses to leave her alone regardless of how many times she says no. While this is happening, Bex is also dealing with running her mother’s diner and putting her dreams aside because of that. So, she’s got a lot going on, something that James was specifically told to avoid after his previous girlfriend didn’t handle space well and almost killed herself when James focused on football after realizing she was causing him major issues. So, he has to learn how to prioritize between his career and having personal relationships, which he ends up figuring out with Bex.
  12. A Soul of Ash and Blood (Blood and Ash, Book 5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout – 3.5 star rating
  13. Reign of Hell House (Kildale Academy Series, Book 3) by Dakota Wilde – 3.75 stars
    • The final book in this series, where the girls discover they are half-siblings and the guys become mates with each of them: 3 for Skye, and 4 for Salem. We also finally got more Garrison too as he becomes involved with Salem. Not to mention, everyone is reunited as they face off against the mastermind behind everything that’s been happening. Which brings in a Greek mythology angle to everything, rather than a biblical one like I had thought there would be. Which was an interesting surprise.
  14. A Game of Gods (Hades Saga, Book 3) by Scarlett St. Clair – 3.5 stars

My Rating System

Check out this post to see how my rating scale works, but the quick version is:

  • 5 stars = Masterpiece. Nothing can literally be better than this. Not to mention, a major book slump happens afterward where I am unable to pick up another book for quite some time.
  • 4 stars = One of the best books I’ve ever read, I couldn’t put it down and found little fault in it.
  • 3 stars = A good book but there were some flaws, from editing to plot to you name it.
  • 2 stars = Liked the book, but wouldn’t say it was something that was memorable.
  • 1 star = Book wasn’t for me.

I almost never give a 5-star rating. Some books have come close, but something always held me back from giving it to those books. I also use .25 increments with the ratings, so there’s a range in each of those levels.

DNF’d Books

  • Stealing Home (Beyond the Play, Book 3)
    • I read 67% of this book before I decided to call it. My main issue with it was Mia. I like a career focused gal, who doesn’t let anyone stand in their way of their goal, but this was not it. She comes from a traditional family where the women are excepted to be a wife and mother, not go into science like she wants. And while that could’ve been good plot for her, we don’t see that struggle at all. She just pushes off phone calls or avoids those conversations, so there’s never any real pressure that we experience. Instead what we see is Mia stringing along Sebastian, who is already dealing with enough: night terrors of his parents dying in front of him, anxiety over the draft and having any spotlight on him, and figuring out what he wanted to do in the future. I felt bad for the guy because he was willing to accept crumbs of affection/relationship from Mia, even though he deserved so much better as Mia seriously treats him like shit. Sebastian never should’ve given her a second chance after she stood him up months ago. Sebastian’s chapters were the only thing I enjoyed and even at that point it wasn’t enough for me to read the rest of the book knowing I would have to read more from Mia. I skimmed the end, so I know how it ends and honestly good for Sebastian (regarding career choice) but the rest? Nope.

Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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