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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Winona chapter.

We’ve officially reached the midpoint of the year, and I’ve been absolutely crushing my reading goals. At the end of the month of June, I had read 41 books of my 50 book goal which, according to Goodreads, puts me 17 books ahead of schedule.

During the month of June, I fell into a bit of a reading slump, but still managed to read eight books. Although I still haven’t managed to get out of my slump, near the end of the month I started to be interested in reading again.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on my June reads.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich • 3/5 stars

After reading The Night Watchman during a literature class this spring, I was excited to read more from Louise Erdrich. The Sentence is her newest release, and promised a story about a ghost in a bookstore. 

I thought this would be lighthearted, funny, and whimsical, but hidden within this narrative was a story about the pandemic and riots after the death of George Floyd. I found that it was hard to read about these heavy, recent topics with hardly any warning in the synopsis. I was glad to revisit these times and reflect on my own coping process, but I felt like it was too soon to be reading about something that feels like it was just a few short years ago.

The book jumps right into the action as Tookie is encouraged to move a dead body for her friend. Unbeknownst to her, cocaine is taped into the deceased’s armpits and Tookie is given a long jail sentence. After serving her time, Tookie lives in Minneapolis, marries the reservation cop that arrested her, and works at a local bookstore.

After the death of one of the store’s regulars, Flora, Tookie begins to suspect that Flora may be haunting the store. Throughout the novel, Erdrich uses this unsuspecting bookstore and a Native American-obsessed ghost to explore the impact of the pandemic, George Floyd’s murder, and the honor we pay to our dead.

Although the book immediately jumps into the action, it falls into quite a lull after that. The store is haunted, yet the haunting is on the backburner of the story with the current events taking center-stage. The discussion of the pandemic and George Floyd murder was unexpected based on the seemingly innocent and lighthearted synopsis.

The book explores important issues, yet it does it in a very character-driven way that bored me to death at times. This book was a bit of a miss for me, but I hope that I’ll be able to find another of Erdrich’s books to catch my interest soon.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid • 5/5 stars

This book has been popular on BookTok, so I was excited to pick it up and form my own opinion on it. Prior to starting, I had heard that it is atmospheric and makes you feel like you’re truly immersed in the ‘70s rock scene. After finishing the read, I can say that this is absolutely true. This book made me nostalgic for a time period I never lived through, which is no easy feat.

Daisy Jones and the Six follows The Six, an up-and-coming rock band, as they collide with Daisy Jones, an independent singer hoping to follow her Hollywood dreams. They’re pushed together by their label to become the greatest band of all time. But like all bands, all of the members can hardly ever agree, and they run into numerous issues along their path to stardom.

The book is written in an interview-like style where each sentence jumps from one character to the next. All of the band members are interviewed, and all of their points of view are heard, showing how each person remembers the band’s heyday and arguments in different lights. The narrative was addictive, and I raced through it. This is a book I will definitely remember long after turning the final page.

Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert • 2/5 stars

Wicked Beauty is the third book in the Dark Olympus series. I was enthralled by both Neon Gods and Electric Idol, so I pre-ordered Wicked Beauty without even reading the synopsis. Once it finally showed up on my door on publication day, I immediately jumped in blindly and was a bit surprised by what I got.

Helen Kaisos, the sister of the newest Zeus, has always been a pawn in her father and brother’s political games. However, when the position of Ares comes open, Helen decides that she will no longer be a prize to be won. When the title is announced, Helen is the prize, promised to the future Ares as their wife, but she decides to win her own hand and enter the competition herself. Along the way, Helen is reconnected with an old friend—Patroclus—and ignites a new flame with his partner—Achilles.

The entire time I read this book, it seemed as if romance took the forefront to the Ares trials, but, at times, I wanted to learn more about the trials. I’ve noticed since continuing with this series that there is constant drama in the city of Olympus, yet it never comes to a head or climax. It makes it seem more like a soap opera which is starting to bore me to death.

I also felt like the romantic connections felt forced and unnatural. I didn’t like how their relationship formed, which caused me to be turned off by the book about midway through it. Although I finished to the end, this one was a big miss for me, and I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the Dark Olympus series.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood • 5/5 stars

Like Daisy Jones and the Six, this was another book I had heard a lot about but avoided reading because I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype. Thankfully, I was immediately hooked by this book, couldn’t put it down the entire time I was reading it, and ended up loving it long after I read the last page.

The Love Hypothesis follows Olive, a young PhD student at Stanford University. Anh, Olive’s best friend, is in love with Olive’s ex, Jeremy, but won’t go against girl code and date Jeremy. To convince Anh to follow her heart, Olive does the most logical thing and gives Anh the proof she needs to pursue a relationship with Jeremy. Olive does so by kissing the first guy she sees, which happens to be the moodiest professor in the department, Adam Carlsen.

To keep her cover, and to convince the department that Adam is a permanent fixture at Stanford, Adam and Olive embark on a fake dating scheme. However, the faux couple is constantly thrown into awkward situations where they must prove their romance through handholding, public kissing, and sitting on laps. However, these situations gradually grow less awkward as they begin to grow used to one another and the line between fake and real begins to blur.

After reading this book and a few others like it, I’m beginning to think that fake dating is one of my new favorite tropes. I loved watching Olive and Adam get thrown into unexpected situations and have to rely on one another in order to maintain their 

Their banter is hilarious, not to mention that Adam is an absolute dream man that is Olive’s perfect match. It’s hard to believe that this book began as Kylo Ren fan-fiction, but I’m not complaining. Ali Hazelwood claims to be the queen of STEM romance, and I’m excited to continue reading more from her niche genre of romance.

Hopeless by Colleen Hoover • 4/5 stars

At the beginning of the year, one of my goals was to read more from Colleen Hoover, and maybe even venture to complete her entire backlog. Although I don’t think I’ll hit that lofty goal, I was excited to continue reading from the acclaimed author.

Hopeless follows Sky, a high school student that has been homeschooled for her entire life. Her senior year, she somehow convinces her mom to go to public school. There, rumors spread about her and her best friend, but she is protected by Dean Holder, who she forms an immediate connection with that goes beyond friendship. However, the closer Sky comes to Holder, the more she learns about the depth of their connection and their unlikely history.

The synopsis of this book is quite vague, which made me nervous after Slammed was such a flop for me. However, the hidden twists and turns ended up being unexpected and kept me on the edge of my seat. 

In the middle of the action, I felt like things hit a wall and didn’t progress. At this point, I felt like things were boring and repetitive, but I persisted through and ended up enjoying this book quite a bit.

After finishing this book, my biggest complaint was about how stilted and awkward Sky and Holder’s relationship felt. At this point, I expect it of Colleen Hoover’s couples, but some of their initial interactions make me uncomfortable nonetheless. However, I enjoyed the mystery of Sky and Holder’s unlikely connection from their entwined pasts.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn • 4.5/5 stars 

This book covers lots of heavy topics. Please look at this list of trigger warnings prior to reading.

After finishing Hopeless, which included a touch of mystery alongside abundant romance, I leaned into the mystery genre and read my first thriller by Gillian Flynn. The best way to describe Sharp Objects is eerie and unsettling.

Sharp Objects follows Camille Preaker, a reporter that is shipped off to her hometown from the big city in order to cover a pair of unusual murders that have happened during the last year. During her return home, Camille is forced to stay with her family where tensions run hot and confront her troubled past all while dealing with the out-of-town investigator and trying to report promising steps in the investigation.

Flynn has such a unique way of describing each and every character in raw and imperfect ways. Each chapter concisely ends with a resonating line that keeps the pages quickly turning. Camille has such strained and uncomfortable relationships with many of the people in town. It was interesting to watch her grapple with her challenging past while trying to stay in town for the sake of the story.

I found the ending unexpected and surprising, but it did not feel as climactic as it should have. There was hardly any resolution and I felt as if the book ended at a sudden moment. Other than that, I really enjoyed this book and hope to read more from Gillian Flynn soon.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren • 4/5 stars

When this book became available at my library, I was excited to read another romance by Christina Lauren. I’ve loved her romances because they’re cute and fluffy, but each one feels realistic and often covers deeper topics.

The Unhoneymooners follows Olive who is chronically unlucky. Her twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. When Ami falls in love and begins to plan her wedding, she pays for almost the entire thing by winning sweepstakes and prizes. She event wins an expenses-paid trip to Hawaii for her and her husband’s honeymoon.

However, for what may be the first time in her life, Ami has bad luck. The seafood buffet at her wedding, which she won from sweepstakes, has poisoned everyone in attendance except for two people—her sister, Olive, who is allergic, and her husband’s brother, Ethan, who has a thing about germs and buffets. Rather than forfeit the honeymoon, Ami convinces Olive and Ethan—who have pretty much hated each other ever since they met—to go on the honeymoon together.

Olive and Ethan initially disapprove, but Ami finally convinces them to go on the trip together. As they travel together, Olive and Ethan agree to do things independently and still make the most of the vacation, but when they meet Olive’s new boss and she lets it slip that she was just married, they must be fake-married and do activities together in case they see her boss somewhere at the resort. However, as they go on these fake dates, the line between hate and attraction becomes crossed and Olive and Ethan realize that they might not have hated each other in the first place.

I was a bit hesitant to read this romance simply because it sounds so cheesy. The beginning definitely is cheesy. I thought the seafood fiasco that required Olive and Ethan to go on the honeymoon together was absolutely laughable and was a bit worried about what the rest of the book would bring. Thankfully, once they arrive in Hawaii things become much more believable, aside from the fact that Olive is a terrible liar and tells her new boss that she’s newly married.

I loved the banter between Olive and Ethan, especially all of the name-calling where they avoid referring to one another by their actual names—it felt cute and light-hearted. 

When they return to Minneapolis after a perfect vacation, Olive and Ethan must address the reality of their siblings’ marriage and decide what’s more important—their love for one another or their allegiance to their siblings and the integrity of their marriage. Although I don’t want to give any spoilers, this gave the book so much more depth, and I loved that Olive had to weigh her love for Ethan against her love for Ami.

All in all, The Unhoneymooners is another great romance from Christina Lauren, even if it starts a bit cheesy. After all, aren’t all romances a little cheesy?

The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker • 4.5/5 stars

When I began this book, I expected a romance, but this book has so much more depth and emotion than I could’ve imagined.

Calla Fletcher was born in Alaska, but moved to Toronto when she was just two-years-old when her mother realized she couldn’t compete with Wren’s love for flying bush planes. Since then, Calla has lived a spoiled life in Toronto. Now, she’s twenty-six and has just been let go from her job. When it seems like her day couldn’t get any worse, Calla gets a call from an unfamiliar number in Alaska. She learns that her father, Wren, has been diagnosed with lung cancer, and she realizes she must go to Alaska to make her peace with him or she never will.

When she arrives at the airport in Anchorage, Calla meets one of her father’s pilots in what seems like the smallest plane in the skies. It fits just two people and Calla’s luggage is too large to fit in the plane. Jonah, the grumpy pilot, forces Calla to put her absolutely necessary items in a small duffel bag and promises that the rest of their luggage will be delivered on the next flight.

Calla immediately loathes Jonah for being short with her, but tries not to let his constant badgering get to her. However, when they land at the airport in Bangor, Calla is pretty sure that she already hates him. Unfortunately, Jonah is her father’s right-hand man and is constantly around. He drinks coffee with Wren every morning and is even their next door neighbor. Although he looks a bit like a yeti, Calla can’t help but admit that Jonah is attractive, especially when he goes out of his way to bring her almond milk from Anchorage. Calla’s trip to Alaska is overwhelming as she must confront her rocky relationship with her father, his cancer, and a budding romance with his best pilot.

This book is so amazing and has many different layers—I’m not even sure where to begin my review. As I said before, I was expecting a cliché romance with an Alaskan backdrop, but the complication of Wren’s illness adds another layer to the storyline. Not only does she have to address their poor relationship, but she has to decide whether to resent him for his absence in her life or forgive him and make the most of the time they have together.

There is also a found family component that just makes your heart ache. The crew at Alaska Wild shows how family is not always by blood, but can be found through trust and kindness.

I want to say everything about this book, yet I feel like I can hardly say anything at all. The romance is slow-burn, the ending will make you cry, yet you’ll come back asking for more from Calla, Jonah, and the rest of the crew at Alaska Wild. I can’t wait to read book two!

As always, thank you for checking out my monthly wrap-up. Summer relaxation has made me a bit late to write and publish this article, but I still hope you enjoyed these reviews. Be sure to add me on Goodreads to check out my other reads, and until next time, happy reading!

Brianna Strohbehn is a junior at Winona State University and a small-town girl from central Iowa. Brianna is studying English, double majoring in writing and applied and professional writing with hopes of someday becoming an editor at a publishing firm. When she isn't writing, Brianna enjoys thrifting, reading, exploring her new home in Winona, and spending time with family and friends.