March Wrap-Up 2020


March has been defined by a huge reading slump for me. I've read a fair few books, and yet I feel so discouraged about all of them. Send me prayers! But really, I am in a big ole' reading slump but a good few books made it onto my TBR this moneth which was partly due to participating in the Tis The Damn Readathon. Let's chat about them. 

Shadow & Bone
Leigh Bardugo 

Alina is a run-of-the-mill poor mapmaker, until her life changes in a literal flash of her eyes. Her inner power blossoms when she least expects it, resulting in her being face-to-face with the Darkling. With the weight of the people on her shoulders, can she make her life work in this high-society while keeping peace between herself and the most powerful man in the land?

Me reading a YA fantasy adventure? Who even am I? This book has been sitting on my shelf for years, I actually almost donated it a few times as I've been out of love with fantasy for a while now. However, the Netflix adaption that is coming out in April pushed me to give it a go and.. wow! I had so much fun reading this. I really liked Alina as a main character, she had great depth and didn't suffer under the "wet blanket" YA protagonist curse. She had a reason for her actions and decisions that went beyond trying to break away from a man. 

Sarah Crossan

Joe hasn't seen his brother Ed in 10 years, not since his brother was accused of manslaughter. Nobody believes he actually committed the crime, but each day is a countdown to his excursion date.

This is a novel told entirely in verse, which is a newly popular format of novel that I enjoy. I find it very poetic and usually fall headfirst into the novel with interest. I got this recommendation from Literary Diversions and, boy, it was a novel. This was a gripping story with some main characters that made me question their decisions. I liked how it wasn't black/white and made me think for myself when it came to my thoughts on the law case and the relationships that wove themselves throughout the book. I'm impressed at how eloquently the author handled such sensitive topics and layered characters. 

Still Alice
Lisa Genova 

Alice is a 50-year-old linguistics professor who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. While struggling to come to terms with her illness and the abundance of symptoms that come with it, she also has to juggle the emotions of her family.

This has been on my TBR ever since the movie adaption came out. It was one of those books that I kept on my shelves for when a reading slump hit. I really liked this novel, I chose to go the audiobook route which I think definitely helped with the writing as though it wasn't terrible, it wasn't the most well-written book I've read within the contemporary genre. What this book lacks in creative skill,  it definitely makes up with medical knowledge. I learnt a lot about Alzheimer's and though I wanted to tear my hair out from the reactions of Alice's family, I did appreciate the bluntness in which Lisa Genova wrote the family. It was frustrating but realistic. Overall, this is worth a read but I imagine just watching the movie would be equally as rewarding. 

The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm
Hilarie Burton Morgan

This is the memoir of One Tree Hill actress Hilarie Burton who with her husband, Jeffery Dean Morgan, decided to thrown in the LA towel, move to a small town, and buy a farm to renovate. This book talks about Hilarie's marital problems, the love of motherhood, what it means when you adopt alpacas, recipes, and her journey through infertility that led to depression. It is the perfect combination of real life pains and finding joy.

I adored this book so much. In the same vain as From Scratch by Tembi Locke, I really think you'd enjoy this book even if you have no interest or knowledge of the actress. Memoirs are always iffy as it can often feel like a money grab without them adding in any substance, this is the exact opposite. I cried, laughed, and instantly wanted to reread. 

TW: miscarriage, infertility 

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters #3)
Talia Hibbert

Eve Brown is the youngest and most chaotic of the Brown sisters. She's always switching career paths and depends on the monthly allowance from her parents to keep her life afloat. But her parents are done. They refuse to give her any more money unless she proves she is capable of keeping a job for a year. This leads her to interviewing for a chef's job at a quaint B&B and hitting the owner with her car. Yup, you read that right.

I adore The Brown Sister trilogy by Talia Hibbert. Each book has the most perfect balance of fun romance and discussions on some more serious topics without it ever feeling like it takes away from the joy of reading. In Act Your Age, Eve Brown it has has some rep for Autism and though I can't speak for the rep itself, I will say that I learned more about the illness. Which, at the end of the day, is what you want from a book that is trying to raise awareness. I adored Eve as a protagonist, I liked how she was more chaotic than her sisters without being belittled. I enjoyed having more interactions with the rest of the Brown family, and yeah, fully recommend if you want a light-hearted read that isn't frivolous. Adore, will buy. 

The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis #1-4)
Marjane Satrapi 

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. Told through the format of graphic novel, this is a very original take on a story that we all should know. 

I didn't know what to expect going into this as the notion of a memoir in graphics struck me as odd, but you know, it really did help the tory flow. Satrapi's story was gut wrenching to read. As someone who wasn't all too familiar with the Islamic Revolution (and as someone who is pretty dumb when it comes to dates), this entire reading experience felt like a lesson on that period of history. I learnt so much and it led to me researching more about that time. My only quim with the collection was how I felt like the first quarter or so was very confusing, as we're seeing the war through the eyes of a child who is clueless about it. I felt quite muddled. And there were a few lines that made me 'eek'. Fat shaming was quite prevalent, as was the cold writing of some of the characters. It often felt quite black/white when Satrapi was having any sort of disagreement with.. anyone. It felt like the author couldn't look past her own views, even when she was clearly in the wrong. I dunno. I enjoyed this book for the history aspect, but I feel like the author would've benefited from a different editor. 

 The Refrigerator Monologues
Catherynne M. Valente

This is a tiny collection of short stories written about various women from the superhero universe.

And the biggest surprise of the month goes to... The Refrigerator Monologues! Never having read any superhero graphic novels, nor really keeping up to date with the humongous Marvel/DC movie stuff, I wasn't sure whether this book was for me. But, I really liked it! This is one of the few short story collections that I've enjoyed in it's entirety. There was one story that just baffled my brain in a non-fun way, but all the others held greatness. I was very impressed with how the author managed to write 6 different main females, and have them all be their own people. Not many authors can achieve that, especially when they only have 15-20 pages per character. I enjoyed how this delved into the "why are the female characters there just to create the origin story of a superhero?" and a commentary on how it's always the female love interest that gets kidnapped, or murdered, or takes the brunt of the pain for the hero and then gets dismissed. Yeah, it was very thought provoking and even if this isn't your usual jam, I'd recommend.

The One
John Marrs

If a test was created that could tell you exactly who your soulmate is in life, would you take it? That's the question that humanity is facing after the impossible was made possible by Rebecca Webb discovering that this is easily done with a simple DNA swab. Throughout this book we follow five different relationships that were connected through the test, but things quickly turn dark after a mass murderer is connected to a police officer, a man is matched to another man (despite him always thinking he was straight, and someone is out for revenge. 

This has been sitting on my TBR for a while now but the mixed reviews always put me off giving it a go. However, this was a lot of fun. I don't know whether it was that my expectations were so low going in, or that it helped me get through a reading slump, but I devoured this novel in 2 sittings. The writing wasn't the best, but the fast-paced nature and the too dramatic plot twists made for a very addictive read. I would pick up more by the author, and am looking forward to watching the Netflix adaption.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Gabrielle Zevin

A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a baby is abandoned at the bookstore, her unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over.

With this kind of novel, you know what to expect the moment you start reading the synopsis. It's a heart-warming cozy read with a little mystery on the side to keep you engaged. This didn't come close to the likes of A Man Called Ove, but it was still very cute. It got me to cry, which was to be expected. And I grew rather fond of the grouchy old man and the people who wove themselves into his life after his wife died. I'd recommend the audiobook for this.

Milk Fed
Melissa Broder

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. Her mother being the root cause of her problems, her therapist urges Rachel to take a detox from speaking to her family. During the detox she meets Miriam, a plus-sized woman who knows herself in ways that Rachel aches for. Miriam soon becomes Rachel's new obsession.

Having read The Pisces by Melissa Broder, I went into this book knowing to expect some questionable material. And I was very much correct in that assumption. What starts out as a young woman trying to find her place in the world without the dysfunction that her mother brings her, but quickly spins into a romance story with some very odd fantasies and shitty human behavior. Yet, I enjoyed this weird book. Broder's writing is incredibly compelling and I can't help but continue to want to read more by her. She has an ability to make my skin crawl in a way that thrillers/horrors have never done. It's incredibly eerie storytelling. I disliked all the characters, I hated the direction the plot took, and yet I want to give it 4 stars. Madness.

TW: Heavy fat phobia, distorted eating, homophobia. 

The Emperor's Soul (Elantris #1.7)
Brandon Sanderson

Shai has been condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter. She is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.

This is a short story I picked up during Becca's 24-hour BookoplAthon. I enjoyed the reading experience, but I wouldn't say it's a favourite Sanderson. I found some sections a little too info dumpy which hurt my brain, and the entire story felt too rushed. I wanted more of the side characters, and though I liked the character of Shai she felt quite flat which made it difficult for me to root for her. 

Black Girl Unlimited
Echo Brown

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet each day is touched by magic. Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

Echo Brown has become a auto-read author for me just from this book. Her writing has such a eloquence to it that it felt almost raw to read. So many times I had to put this book down for me to catch a breath as it felt like a weight was pressing onto my chest. The story never really strayed from the magical realism side or fantastical realism, but yet it was grounded within our reality. The sexual assault scenes were some of the hardest I've had to read, and I want to really make it clear that if that's something triggering for you, be sure to do your research before picking this up. 

TW: racism, sexual assault, drug addiction, poverty, depression

Alice Oseman

Tori Spring is a teenage blogger who is struggling with her mental health. After a tragic incident involving her brother changed her entire life, her friends have dwindled and Tori can't seem to find it in herself to care about their petty high school problems. But when Michael Holden shows up, and a group called Solitaire start terrorizing the school, Tori's life begins to once again unravel.

This is one of those books that I wish I had read when I was younger. Solitaire was on the younger side of YA, with characters who read much younger than their actual years. I liked the friendships that formed, but never really rooted for anyone to get what they wanted. Tori as a protagonist was pretty bland, and far too reminiscent of other books in this sub genre (All The Bright Places, Midnight Sun, Looking For Alaska, Leah on the Offbeat, Love & Other Carnivorous Plants, Everything, Everything). The "plot twist" was predictable, and the entire plot had too many loop holes that bothered me. Meh.

Love Sick
Cory Martin

Corry was 28-years-old when she got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. This is a memoir of her learning to come to terms with the news, and her processing whether she is worthy of love when sick.

I'm so torn. I enjoyed the writing of this book, Cory is a writer herself so it makes sense that she exceled in that element. It made me laugh, and it read like an enjoyable episode of TV. However, I really don't think she came across well. If this was fiction I would mark it as "unlikeable characters", but.. it's biographical... so, awkward. When I finished, I assumed this was written in the early 2000's as it has the 'Sex and the City' white woman being 'woe is me' theme. And I get it, I myself am chronically ill and it is very scary. But I hate that the author never even tried to educate on the subject. It was a constant stream of her getting pity from people in her life, and her commentary on how she feels unlovable. I wanted more depth. This read like a long-winded Cosmo column that is fun while reading, but then you instantly feel blegh afterward. 

So, yeah. That's March done! What did you read? Any there any books here that sit on your TBR shelf? Let me know! 

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