June 2022 in Books

When I met my niece, I knew I had to make her a mini me. So far, so good. Honestly, maybe too good. A few months ago, she started reading a Young Adult vampire series one of my aunts had given her. She became obsessed and handed all 17 books over to me. Wonderful. For months, she asked me if I had started them yet and for months, I deflected. Until now. My goal was originally to finish them in the month of June. They’re just Young Adult books, how tough can they be to get through?

Not tough at all but boy have I been busy! Most of my free time goes to reading (minus catching up on Stranger Things and The Umbrella Academy) and I didn’t have a lot of free time in June. That being said, I still got through seven of these books. I took a single break to read a book I’ve had for a while that was screaming to me from my bookshelf (you’ll see why). I’m going to make them as spoiler free as possible!

I apologize for the lack of ~variety~ in my books this month but when the coolest 13 year old in the world asks me to read a vampire series, there’s no way I can say no.

1. Marked (House of Night #1) by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Throw away all vampire knowledge you have (and if you’re anything like me, you have a lot) because this is a series that reinvents vampire lore. I know there are purists out there who absolutely hate when vampire lore is turned upside down (I’m looking at you Twilight haters) and refuse to accept it. The cool thing about the supernatural fiction genre is… It’s fiction. So let’s dive in. In this series, the only way you become a vampire is if you’re “marked”. You are marked by Nyx, the Greek goddess of the night, who the vampires see as their goddess. Every person born could hold the “vampire” gene and it’s not hereditary. Around your 16th year of life, you will be marked or not. If you’re marked, you become a vampire fledgling and have to go to a House of Night school before you die because if you’re not around adult vampires, you’ll die. If you make it past this part of your life without being marked, you’re just a normal human. This school is like a basic high school except it’s run during the night time (the sun doesn’t kill the vamps, just makes me them super uncomfy) and you learn how to be a vampire. Humans are well aware of vampires and several celebrities are vampires as well. Vampires don’t need to eat humans (they use blood bags) and they strive to be viewed as civilized. Most of this book is really introducing all the lore of vampires. We follow Zoey, a newly marked fledgling, who has a special bond with Nyx. We follow her journey throughout her first few weeks of being a fledgling. She is also Native American (specifically Cherokee… of course) and is very close with her grandmother who has taught her many of their Native American traditions. I am going to stop there and mention that the authors are white women. And it becomes abundantly clear throughout the series that they are white women (these are some names that their Black female characters have: Shaunee and Kramisha – they’re also consistently talking about how they have coffee colored skin). Despite that, I do like how they have Zoey mix her Native American heritage in with the vampire rituals and heritage. The characters aren’t super fleshed out yet (Zoey’s mom is basically owned by her religious zealot of a stepfather, her grandmother is the coolest, she has a super country roommate/BFF, there’s a hot guy everyone loves named Erik, and she still has her human boyfriend – Heath). Zoey also has a gay vampire friend, Damien, but don’t worry, you’ll never forget he’s gay because the authors will always tell you that Damien is gay whenever Damien is brought up. The authors also use a lot of non-PC words (one that really bothers me is the “R” word that all the characters say A LOT in this first book) and I have to continue to remind myself that this was written in the early 2000s and a lot has changed. Overall, this book was okay. If I didn’t have all 17 books and a 13 year old at my heels, I probably would have stopped. (but I am happy I kept going!)

2. Betrayed (House of Night #2) by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Okay so Zoey is super powerful and is “the Chosen One”. I love that trope and I’m here for it. Zoey IS a judgmental Mary-Sue at this point though. She calls many girls “hoes” and “sluts” for sleeping with a guy. I’m not here for it. I struggled with this one because of Zoey’s “holier than thou” attitude. The authors are giving Mean Girls vibes and there’s nothing I hate more. Do better. This book also didn’t convince me to keep going.

3. Chosen (House of Night #3) by P.C. and Kristin Cast

OKAY. I finally got into this series. By the end of this book, I was hooked. But one quick non-spoiler: Zoey ends up having THREE GUYS she’s stringing along in this book. So much for miss slutty-hoe-pants. I think that this situation really humbled Zoey’s judgy side. The book roped me in with it’s plot of vampires gone wrong. Zoey is unlike any fledgling (or even adult vampire) that the world has ever seen so of course there’s a weird vampire thing going on and she discovers it. It’s really hard not to spoiler this up. But if you can get to the 3rd book in this series, you’ll be hooked and in for some treats, trust me.

4. Untamed (House of Night #4) by P.C. and Kristin Cast

I know that I just told you that the books get better but this one was a let down. Zoey is back in her judgement zone and is pissed off that one of her boyfriends (remember she has 3) is upset at finding her NAKED with another one of her boyfriends (no one knew about one of them FOR GOOD REASON). She consistently shits on Boyfriend #1 because he dared be upset with her for cheating on him. Mary. Sue. Zoey can do no wrong. I am ready for someone to knock her down a few pegs. DON’T WORRY boyfriend 3 goes away just in time for Cute Boy Number 4 to step in and take his place. There’s one thing Zoey is really good at and it’s falling in love with every straight boy who says hi to her. This is the part that kills me the most. Zoey always talks about other girls making out/having sex with boys and here she is, consistently stringing along 3 boys (AT LEAST don’t worry there’s gonna be 4 at some point). Like girl. Look in a mirror. Also, the books start to get really repetitive. It’s book 4 and you’re still reminding me that Damien is gay (he also has a boyfriend who is also gay by the way) and that Shaunee is black (with cappuccino skin). I still get told that the grandmother using the Cherokee word for “daughter” is the Cherokee word for daughter. If the repetitiveness was taken out of these books, the first 5 could have probably been one whole book. And then I remind myself this is YA.

5. Hunted (House of Night #5) by P.C. and Kristin Cast

I’ve been hooked back in. This book had WAY less boyfriend drama, thank the goddess. We do have to talk about the worst character though, Heath. When Zoey’s human boyfriend is introduced in the beginning of the first book, Zoey doesn’t even refer to him as her boyfriend. It seems like a freshly started relationship and Zoey is already annoyed with him. However, as the books go on, it sounds a lot more like a LONG relationship that started in elementary school. I’m still confused with this. Anywyay, if you’ve seen The Vampire Diaries… Heath is the Matt Donovan of this series which means he’s the worst automatically. He’s the football player who has known our main female character since they were born and therefore he thinks he has some ownership over her. Gross. Zoey doesn’t even really seem to like him that much (compared to her other 6,000 boyfriends at least). I have no idea why he’s still here. Please kill him off. This book focused much more on the non-boyfriend (… kinda) drama of the book. An ancient immortal being has been set free by someone everyone trusted and it’s up to Zoey and her gang to stop them and also get everyone to believe her because remember that Zoey has literally only been a fledgling for like 2 months. I think that this is the first book in the series to show different points of view, which is great.

6. Tempted (House of Night #6) by P.C. and Kristin Cast

ANNNNNNND now Zoey has 4 guys she’s juggling. I have enough stress having just 1 husband. Why would I want to deal with 4 dudes? Sounds awful. Anyway, we somehow manage to skirt around boyfriend drama and even Zoey finally seems exhausted by it. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that within 2 months of being marked, Zoey has become an anomaly who is praised by a ton of people, has been involved with 5 different dudes, has saved her grandmother a few times, has saved the world a few times, saved her friend from being a crazed vampire along with saving more crazed vampires, stood up to a trusted person, and banished (for now) an immortal being. I’m tired just writing that. I want to mention something that I think might have happened in the last book (my bad). Zoey meets a Catholic nun. And she’s wonderful. My aunt (Thea) was a nun and this character reminds me SO MUCH of her. This nun explains to Zoey that she has nothing against vampires because they are also humans. She says that she thinks they believe in the same things, they just call them different names (her example is that Nyx to them is Mary to her). I love the way she explains it and I really wish that more organized religion could be more accepting and understanding of other religions. This definitely made me like the books a bit more. This book also marks the authors finally writing better.

7. Burned (House of Night #7) by P.C. and Kristin Cast

I read this one in one sitting. I’m officially hooked on this series. I don’t know if the repetitive nature has stopped or if the fact that we’re now seeing from other characters’ points of view has slowed down the repetitveness. The story has been much more fleshed out and has taken us to new places. I’m actually really excited to continue on with this story.

8. The Witch’s Book of Self-Care by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

I’ve had this book on my shelf for ages. It was bought with good intentions. I was going to FINALLY learn how to take care of myself before I burn out and get sick/cry/become exhausted/blow up. Then it sat on my shelf FOREVER. Not anymore! I can finally add this to my “Read” pile. It’s a cute, quick read that helps you with a lot of ideas to slow down. It gives you rituals to perform to remind yourself to slow down and a lot of journal prompts. Reading the book itself felt like self-care. There were a lot of points that the author made that felt like they were attacking me… because I suck at taking care of myself. There’s a reminder not to guilt yourself when you want to just veg out and not clean/do something. There’s no shame in that – even though there always feels like shame. Moral of the story: take care of yourself.

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