Hey everyone, and welcome back to the blog! Well March has been a bit weird, hasn’t it? I’m of course talking about the Covid 19 Coronavirus UK lockdown. Sadly, I’ve been busy with work as an essential frontline worker, so things have been tough. I also had a really quiet birthday, which has been strange. I’ve been reading a lot to combat my mental health struggles though, and it has been helping. This month, I read a total of 11 books! So without further ado, let’s begin, and fair warning, there may be spoilers.
The first book I read this month was The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess Vol 6 by Akira Himekawa. This is the sixth manga in the series, and follows hero Link as he attempts to save the world from encroaching darkness. Following on from the events of the previous book, Link is searching for the shattered Twilight mirror fragments, but his feelings are beginning to muddle… This felt a shorter manga, but it was powerful. There was a lot of action, and I loved the yeti side-plot – this was something I loved in the video game too! Link has funny moments, but it has a darker side that is appealing and makes the overall plot of this instalment. It’s almost like a portrayal of mental illness and anxiety, and I appreciated that. The art is as good as ever, but my disappointment in this was the length – I think it’s the shortest so far, and while a lot happens in the art, it doesn’t advance much of the plot on. I rated this 4 stars.
The next book I read was the hardback edition of Harleen by Stjepan Šejić, which is a DC Black Label graphic novel. This collects issues 1-3 of the graphic novel series, and is a dark interpretation of Harley Quinn’s origin story. In this, Harleen Quinzel is a young psychiatrist searching for a cure for madness. She spends time with the inmates of Arkham Asylum, but she is drawn to one in particular – someone who may take her further away from reality… I absolutely loved this! These are well established characters, in a well known plot line, yet somehow, Harley and Joker seem more human. Their flaws and thoughts are what people have experienced in some or other, and it’s easy to see how and why they entered into an abusive relationship, even from the start. The plot considers the romance aspect, and this was more steamy than I had expected. This is definitely more of an adult’s graphic novel, as it is darker and more psychological in its portrayal. All this realism is within the art as well – it’s a style that feels less cartoon and comic book like. Its a cleverly written and drawn book, and I’d highly recommend. I rated this 5 stars.
The next book I read was House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas, which is an adult fantasy. This is the first book in the Crescent City series, and follows half-human, half-Fae, Bryce Quinlan. Bryce was a party girl, but when her friends are murdered, she hangs up her dancing shoes and becomes a shadow of her former self. Two years later, when a slew of murders occur, she is called in to assist Fallen angel, Hunt Athalar, to find the killer… This novel had me confused. There was a lot of world building, characters and information given that I felt really slowed the pace down at the beginning. The novel is 800+ pages, and feels slow – there are scenes or phrases which could have been taken out. Bryce and Hunt are characters almost typical of Maas’ writing style – she’s trying to find things and be tough, whereas he is domineering with mistakes in his past. Their relationship grows and I did like the realism – at times. Some of those scenes didn’t feel right at times, and there are less romantic scenes than typical of a Maas novel. There are also a lot of clichés and tropes, but it does work for the novel, and tries to tun them on its head. It twists and turns, leading a merry dance to a climax, which is powerful and action packed. I ended up rating this 4 stars.
I then read a library book, How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran, which is an adult contemporary. This is the second book in the How to Build a Girl series, which follows working class Johanna, as she tries to find her place in the world. Picking up after the events of the first book, Jo is still writing music articles under the name Dolly Wilde. She’s living her best life in London, although things aren’t always great. She’s still pining after musician John Kite, and has had terrible sex with comedian Jerry Sharp. When Jerry reveals their escapades to friends and the general public, Johanna is mortified, and tries to find a way back to being herself… I was disappointed with this, and I had read this in one day. I feel like Johanna or her family have had little growth as characters. The biggest change in some respects is John Kite, but at times it felt a little bit like contrite fanfiction. The writing felt like an exact copy of the first book, except I found spelling and grammar mistakes that I couldn’t ignore. The plot itself feels like a cash in on the #MeToo movement, and bumbles along in it’s own little vein, whilst trying to be feminist, but I think ultimately failing. I rated this 2 stars.
The next book I read was also from the library, and that was Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen,which is a young adult contemporary. This is the first book in the Loveboat, Taipei series, which follows groups of Asian teenagers who are brought together to learn more about their culture, and also break out and rebel. This novel follows Ever Wong, who is destined for medical school, much to her disappointment. Ever longs to dance, but her life has been dictated to her by her strict family. When she begins the Loveboat programme, her world is about to be turned upside down… I enjoyed my time with this book, reading a lot of it in my breaks at work. Ever goes from being so downtrodden with dreams, to finding out how easy it is to be her own person, and be accepted for this. I loved the cultural exploration, which is own voices – the author and her husband have been on Loveboat-type programmes. I did find the plot a little too cliche. Maybe I’m getting too old for teen drama, I don’t know, but everything was a little over the top and dramatic. I didn’t care for the romance aspect – wrong guy in my opinion! There were however, discussions of domestic abuse, family, mental health, and virginity, which are topics everyone needs to have some sort of knowledge around, especially in our society. All in all, I did like this, but I’m not sure I’m going to be reaching for the sequel. I rated this 3 stars.
The next book I read was The Beast by J. R. Ward, which is an adult fantasy. This is the fourteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, which follows a deadly vampire race, and their various romances. In this instalment, warrior Rhage is feeling off-kilter, although he has a wonderful life. It isn’t until an accident leaves him with a hole in his world… I enjoyed this a lot – so much, that I read this in one day! Rhage and Mary are a sweet couple, and you fall in love with them and cheer as they push through their struggles. The writing is a little cheesy in places, and this is a common theme – it’s like Ward is so invested in her characters and their narration, that she uses their language so commonly. It becomes irritating to see a random #whatever in a sentence. The plot was sweet and really touches upon what makes a family, and the affects of domestic violence. The side plot of Layla’s pregnancy and Xcor’s imprisonment left me wanting more – I like them a lot. There is also a side plot with a human girl that I felt was shoe horned in – again, Ward puts a lot of plot in these novels, and it isn’t needed. This being said, I’m so deep in the series that I can’t back down, and I rated this 4 stars.
The next library book I read was The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks, which is an adult fantasy. This is the first book in The Night Angel series, which follows Azoth, a guild rat, who apprentices himself to an assassin. Azoth must shed his old way of life and become Kylar Stern, an assassin capable of dancing with death and winning… I liked this a lot! Kylar has a lot to learn, and as a reader new to this world, it feels like you’re learning with him. Sadly, a lot of the training is missed out with time jumps, however, when the action arrives, it is well thought out and full of danger. The writing is easy to follow and sometimes chatty, however, there is a huge cast of side characters and subplots which can become confusing. This being said though, the world was so interesting and I’d like to see how it expands, and how the magic system will continue to be fleshed out, as I feel it was in it’s baby steps at this time. I’d like to continue the series at some stage, and I rated this 4 stars.
The next book I read was Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson, which is a children’s fantasy. This is the third book in The Moomins, and this novel finds the mischevious characters getting into trouble with a mysterious hat they have found… This was so cute! I read this in one sitting, and I loved it. The characters yet again have such great personalities and differences, whilst the wholesome adventure is endearing and have such a timeless quality to them. There isn’t a lot I can say about this really, apart from it might be my favourite so far! It’s no surprise that I rated this 5 stars.
I then read One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus, which is a YA contemporary thriller. This is the second book in the One of Us Is Lying series, which follows teenagers at Bayview High School. One year after the death of gossip columnist Simon, life is returning to normal. And then a new game begins – Truth or Dare. Choosing Truth may reveal your darkest secrets, whereas Dare could endanger your very life… I enjoyed this novel a lot. Whilst these characters did feel a little stereotypical, there was still some depth to them, however, the romance aspects feel a little forced. Not everyone wants to couple up in books – I’d like to see some strong friendships for a change! The mystery elements I didn’t solve, which was great. The writing kept pulling me back, and I wanted to read more, and the twists were well executed! This is a fun novel, and if you like things like The Breakfast Club and Pretty Little Liars, then I think you’ll enjoy this series. I rated this 4 stars.
The next book I read was Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski, which is an adult fantasy. This is the fourth book in The Witcher series, and in this instalment, Ciri is on her way to a school for enchantresses, but things don’t go to plan. War is ravaging the lands, and Ciri must be protected by the witcher, Geralt, and his lover, the enchantress Yennefer… I found this a little difficult to get into. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the war and politics, which doesn’t usually bother me, but there was something awkward about this. Geralt’s page time has been drastically reduced, whereas Yennefer comes across quite distant and bitchy. Ciri is growing up, and honing her skills, however there’s a slightly romantic scene, which was a little bit uncomfortable to read. There’s a lot of intrigue and action within this, but something about it just didn’t stick with me. I did like it, but I think I’d like it better on a reread, so I rated this 3 stars.
The final book I read was an absolute whopper that has been on my shelf for a long time, and that was The Stand by Stephen King, which is an adult horror. This follows groups of survivors after a superflu pandemic kills 99.4% of the population. These survivors begin to build their lives, but challenges lie ahead… Maybe reading this in a pandemic wasn’t my smartest idea, but it has cleared it from my TBR. This is an overly long novel, that I soon became bored with. I enjoyed the descriptions of the flu, and it’s effects on others. There was a fascinating chapter showing how fast the illness spread, which was very lifelike. Sadly, the novel tailed off for me after that. There were characters I didn’t particularly like, and more were being added, so it was hard to keep track of who was who, what the backstories were and what they were doing. There was a religious undertone, with a good vs. evil characters plotline, which really off put me, and I soon started to skim read. I’d have probably enjoyed the novel more without this, and if it was more about the community struggles. The novel is huge, and although the edition I read was the complete and uncut, I feel like a lot could have been cut back. There was repetition of phrases from characters that began to grate on me, and it seemed too overly ambitious. This being said, the novel didn’t cause me any health anxiety, so that’s a bonus. I was torn with this novel, and rated it 3 stars.
So that completes my wrap up! Let me know what book/books you have read in the month of March – whether it’s paper/hardback, audio, eBook, graphic novels or manga. They all count! If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know!