“I lost an arm on my last trip home.”First line in Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
March is over so it’s time to look back and reflect on what I did and read in the past month, although it hasn’t been the most eventful March. I think the weather has been the most exciting because you just never knew what season it had picked for the day. Would it be winter? Summer? Full-on apocalypse? As someone who works outside, I just wish I would pick one and stick with it.
Anyway, my March was also spent trying to fix my shoulder problem from last month and it has slowly been getting better. A physical therapist gave me some exercises that I’m doing three times a week, which is tough but I can tell it helps so I’m motivated to keep doing them.
I did a lot of reading in March because I participated in Trope-ical Readathon and I exceeded my own goal in terms of how many books I read. Just take a look at my stats for the month:
Well, I would have loved a higher average rating but then again, it was also a month where I read quite a few books that I had been putting off for a while. Maybe I was right about being reluctant about them. Still, I have reviews for all nine books so let’s get started.
One Last Stop
Author: Casey McQuiston
Published: June 1st, 2021
Buzzwords: Subway romance, F/F romance
Synopsis: For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.
But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.
Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.
It was no Red, White and Royal Blue but it was alright. The main character August had my attention at the beginning because of her family situation which made her a unique contemporary character in my head. However, there were developments in the book that ended up overshadowing how cool I found August to begin with. It’s become somewhat of a trend that I find these contemporary books more unrealistic than the fantasy books I read because everything is so easy and always works out. For example, at one point August is too busy with her romance to go to work or do any schoolwork for several weeks… and it’s just fine. Literally zero problems arise from that. And the fact that it’s set in our own world makes it so jarring to me, even though I guess I’m supposed to ignore such things in a romance novel.
Then we have the romance. It’s fine. I would say it’s mainly physical and not much else, which would be fine if they weren’t also through phrases such as “love of my life” around. I had trouble seeing the emotional depth of it in their actions.
Despite its flaws, I didn’t hate reading this book. I was slightly bored sometimes but it’s possible my problems with it are down to me being a poor romance reader. If you want to turn your brain off and have a good time, this could still work for you, I guess.
The Atlas Paradox (The Atlas #2)
Author: Olivie Blake
Published: October 25th, 2022
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: This book is bad in ways I didn’t know a book could be bad. And I don’t mean that in an “oh, it just wasn’t for me” kind of way. This is objectively terrible. Everything is a mess. The characters have a new personality in every chapter and there’s no direction to anything that is happening because there is no plot either. And I’m all for books that are “no plot, just vibes”, but there are no vibes either! It’s just characters talking but they aren’t actually talking about anything because the words they use either have no meaning or make no sense when put together. It’s just a bunch of fancy words to make them sound smart but you only have to think about it for two seconds to realize how stupid it is. Remove all the pretentious shit and you have a book that is barely novella-sized. How did anyone think this was worth publishing??
I buddy read this book with Naemi @A Book Owl’s Corner and let’s just say that there were very few of our comments that didn’t include some variation of “this doesn’t make sense”. Even in collaboration, we couldn’t figure this book out. Despite not liking the first book, I was still surprised by how bad this was. There were a couple of characters I was interested in beforehand and I wanted to see what happened to them, but with the whole deal of them constantly changing personalities and apparently forgetting most of what they did in the first book, I quickly lost interest. I don’t need to read the final book.
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: July 8th, 2014
Buzzwords: Christmas, suffering marriage, Christmas magic
Synopsis: Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.
Maybe that was always beside the point.
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…
Is that what she’s supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?
I expected this to be very different from Rowell’s other books and it was. It’s the first book for adults of hers I’ve read and it actually tackles some very adult emotions and problems. So I actually think a big reason why it worked for me was that it felt so new. I’ve never read something like this before so I was intrigued all the way through. I’ve never read about a mother who is trying to save her marriage and I’m glad I experienced that despite how little I can relate to the situation.
Based on the Goodreads rating, this book is rather unpopular and my guess is that the characters are to blame. They are not your typical romance characters and they are not the most likable of people either, but I’m pretty sure that’s intentional. It’s part of how this book shows love as complicated and sometimes ugly, and also that each relationship is different. Each relationship has different dynamics and ways they work which usually only make sense to the people in the actual relationship. And I really liked how the book delved into some heavier topics in that area and showed how people aren’t perfect.
I’ll still call this a Christmas rom-com and yes, I know I read it in March but I read it in the week we had snow so it’s okay.
The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty #1)
Author: Ken Liu
Published: April 7th, 2015
Buzzwords: Chinese-inspired world, military strategy, warring nations
Synopsis: Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.
I can’t imagine people who prefer characters over plot would love this book. Yes, there are characters in it but they are more chess pieces than anything else and their development is the laziest I’ve ever seen. They often do full one-eighties in the span of half a page and the result is that everyone feels incredibly stupid. I believe the author was going for a legendry or fairytale atmosphere because you don’t get in-depth character development in those either because of the word-of-mouth way they are told. But there’s a reason why those usually aren’t 600+ pages long. It gets quite tedious.
Then there’s also the problem of the plot being one long war and while I had hoped we would focus on the political aspects, this book is a lesson in military strategy, and that so not interesting to me. It’s all about moving armies and killing people left and right and time jumps to the next time they’re killing people left and right. It was a very long book.
All that said, I could see myself trying something else by Ken Liu because the writing itself didn’t bother me so hopefully, it was just this particular story that wasn’t my cup of tea.
A Restless Truth (The Last Binding #2)
Author: Freya Marske
Published: November 1st, 2022
In all transparency, I only read this so I’d have the option to read book 3 when that one comes out. The synopsis told me that the whole book would take place on a ship and it would all start with a murder. I was tired before even starting it, and since Marske thought it was a good idea to follow a totally different character than in book 1, here we are with a 2.5 rating.
I didn’t find the main characters interesting and the two women are actually so similar that I had a hard time telling them apart. The audiobook didn’t help with that and I had to totally rely on names being mentioned repeatedly to remember which character I was with. There was nothing about their personalities that could help me there because they were the same person. As the for romance between them, I have to repeat what I said about One Last Stop: It’s more physical than emotional. And I get that they haven’t known each other long, but that was also the case in the first book and the romance between Robin and Edwin, who didn’t have the same problem. It was their emotional connection that made it so amazing. Why could we not have that again?
So there were no characters and no romance to distract me from the mediocre plot. It’s very obvious who committed that murder and when they’re revealed, they’re entirely too stupid to get me excited. I also took off half a star from my rating because we got a full-blown villain’s monologue at the end, and that’s just never not stupid.
Gleanings: Stories From the Arc of a Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #3.5)
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: November 8th, 2022
Genre: YA Science Fiction Novellas
Before starting this book, I had no idea what I wanted it to be but Shusterman still managed to give me exactly what I wanted. Gleanings is a bunch of novellas set in the world of Arc of a Scythe and while a few familiar characters do appear, it’s mostly about characters we’ve never met before. And since the most interesting part of the original trilogy was the world, this actually works really well. The stories explore the world through the characters living in it and show us the different types of people and the different ways to lead a life that are unique to a world where people can’t die naturally. That’s exactly what I wanted! There wasn’t a single story that I didn’t enjoy in some capacity and I actually have trouble naming a favorite because they were all so good. However, there were a couple with unlikable main characters and those are probably the ones I’ll remember the longest.
Now, I did say it was mostly about new characters but I’d still advise checking out a resumé of the original trilogy before going into this. Let’s just say that there were some plot twists that didn’t need to be plot twists if only I had had something called a memory. Halfway through I found this recap from the publisher which recaps the trilogy including all the details you need to know to understand Gleanings. Even if I haven’t convinced you to read this book, I still think you should read the recap because it’s the most hilarious thing ever and all recaps should be like this.
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: June 29th, 2010
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Contemporary
Buzzwords: Dysfunctional families, sibling relationships
Synopsis: When Brontë starts dating Brewster “Bruiser” Rawlins – the guy voted “Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty” her twin brother, Tennyson, isn’t surprised. But then strange things begin to occur. Tennyson and Brontë’s scrapes heal unnaturally fast, and cuts disappear before their eyes. What at first seems like their good fortune turns out to be more than they bargained for…much more.
Bruiser was among the books by Shusterman that I had heard the least about so my expectations weren’t all that high going in. Now I’m actually upset though because why is nobody talking about this book?? It follows not one but TWO dysfunctional families and it purposefully uses this sci-fi (ish) element to explore typical issues for the children in such families. I absolutely adore this concept! It gave the story such a unique twist that also allowed the reader to make their own conclusions along the way. Nothing felt like it was pushed at me. And it also worked really well to follow two families because they have different problems but the contrast between them lets you see the underlying reality of both.
As much as I love the concept, I do think the execution could have been better. It ends up feeling rushed in some places, especially in relation to character development. For example, very early on, one of the main characters is called a bully and he’s in denial about it for approximately two seconds and then he decides to completely change his ways. Just like that. If only it was that easy to get rid of bullies in real life. The book is rather short so I really don’t think it would have been a problem to take the time to make these changes in the characters more earned. Overall, though, it didn’t bother me that much and I really loved this book.
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: January 1st, 1979
Genre: Science Fiction
Buzzwords: Time travel, 19th century America, slavery in America
Synopsis: In 1976, Dana dreams of being a writer. In 1815, she is assumed a slave.
When Dana first meets Rufus on a Maryland plantation, he’s drowning. She saves his life – and it will happen again and again.
Neither of them understands his power to summon her whenever his life is threatened, nor the significance of the ties that bind them.
And each time Dana saves him, the more aware she is that her own life might be over before it’s even begun.
I finally read this book! And I really liked it. I thought it was really interesting to follow how Dana the main character tried to adjust to life in the 19th century where slavery was the norm. The book really asks the question of what would we do if we went back and witnessed all the horrors? Could we even do something about it? Dana, a black woman, is assumed a slave simply because of her appearance so as a reader you really feel the injustice done to her. You don’t understand why she is treated as such or why the white men won’t listen to her despite her clearly being more intelligent. It’s all something that provides a very interesting insight into this historical period.
As interesting as the book was, though, I couldn’t quite give it 5 stars. I was confused about Dana’s decisions a couple of times and I actually think she ends up as the least fleshed-out character in the book, which is unfortunate. Of course, she is the observer and the narrator but I do wish we had gotten some more personality from her so that even if I didn’t agree with her decisions, I would understand why she made them.
Author: Craig Silvey
Published: September 29th, 2020
Buzzwords: Transgender main character, poverty, domestic violence, set in Australia
Synopsis: Late in the night, fourteen-year-old Sam Watson steps onto a quiet overpass, climbs over the rail and looks down at the road far below.
At the other end of the same bridge, an old man, Vic, smokes his last cigarette.
The two see each other across the void. A fateful connection is made, and an unlikely friendship blooms. Slowly, we learn what led Sam and Vic to the bridge that night. Bonded by their suffering, each privately commits to the impossible task of saving the other.
This book does a lot of stuff I usually like and most of it was also a success this time around. We follow Sam who lives with his mother but they’re struggling because his mother would rather go out drinking every night than hold a job so they moved around a lot and Sam learns to steal at an early age. It’s all very heartbreaking but then on top of it all, Sam starts to figure out his identity and learns that he feels great when wearing dresses and make-up. I cannot say if the transgender rep was accurate, but I thought it was very interesting to follow Sam’s development and see how growing up in such a home affected him.
The writing is very much based on dialogue without many pointers so not very many “he said calmly” after each line. It’s relying on the reader to assess the tone, which I really like when it’s done well. It mostly is in this case, however, I think the dialogue focus also made the book feel too fast-paced because there were a lot of short lines with a lot of info. It wasn’t the dialogue alone that made it feel like this because the story also seemed to be in a hurry on occasion. I really wanted it to slow down and let the character development be more of a slow build.
Finally, I also want to say that the plot got very convenient at times and it also wasn’t very hard for me to guess what would happen so I wasn’t completely engrossed in the last half. Like, the miscommunication trope was ineffectively used a couple of times and it prevented the book from being a 5-star read for me.
Okay, so no 5-star reads this month but Gleanings came very close and I’m also just so happy that it wasn’t a disappointment.
In April, I’m going to take advantage of the fact that I read so many books in March that I’m way ahead of my Goodreads goal and therefore read some longer books because they are kind of piling up on my TBR. And hopefully read fewer books because reviewing so many was pretty stressful, not gonna lie.
But let me know if you’ve read any of the books I mentioned or if you plan to!
8 thoughts on “March 2023 Reading Wrap-Up”
Your The Atlas Paradox rant was everything I ever wanted and more! 🤣 I agree with everything!! Which you obviously already knew, but still… Hearing you rant about it never fails to give me enormous satisfaction! So thank you for collaborating on not figuring it out with me! 💙
I think I’ll skip One Last Stop – purely physically motivated romances are one of my ultimate writing pet peeves – but you’ve actually made me interested in trying Landline and Gleanings eventually. (Also, thank you for linking that recap because all the commentary in parentheses had me in stiches! 🤣)
I also loved finally getting your thoughts on Kindred and am glad you liked it overall! I completely agree with your criticisms regarding Dana, too, though – I also felt like I couldn’t fully get a grasp on her, which (if I remember correctly 😅) is why I docked a star from my own rating. However, I still really loved the historical perspective Kindred provided!
Finally, though: When complaing about your average rating and not having read any five star books this month, just keep in mind that things could be way worse 😜 You could also have an overall average yearly rating of 3.0 and not have found a single five-star book all YEAR! 😭
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m glad we can agree on our enormous dislike of The Atlas Paradox 😂 And yeah, I might actually have lost my mind if had read that book alone so thank you 😄
With One Last Stop, I was also surprised that the romance was so physically motivated and started to wonder whether I’d misremembered Red, White and Royal Blue. It just strikes me as odd that the same author could write two such different books.
But you simply MUST read Gleanings! 😁 Even if you don’t love it, I can’t imagine you hating it. One story in particular has your name written all over it 😉 And I’m glad you enjoyed the recap! 😂
I’m less certain about Landline but I think you’re more likely to enjoy it if you don’t go in thinking of it as a cutesy romance. Because while it worked for me, I can definitely understand the low average rating.
I’m glad you agree with me about Dana in Kindred because I kind of struggled to figure out what it was that prevented me from enjoying the book on a 5-star level. Bu yes, I really liked the perspective on the period we got from having a person from the 1970s go back to that time. Like, it really got me thinking of how even if we know how wrong something is, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to fix.
And I’d forgotten you didn’t have a 5-star read yet 🙈😂 But like, excluding rereads, my average rating is 3.3 and I have one single 5-star book so I’m really not doing that much better 😅
LikeLiked by 1 person
Well, come to think of it, the romance in Red, White & Royal Blue WAS also pretty physical, I think 🤔 There was still enough other stuff thrown in that I didn’t mind – like, I definitely believed Alex and Henry had an emotional connection and their fair share of meaningful conversations as well – but I don’t think it’s that surprising that Casey McQuiston could write a book where the physical part took over.
And, well, now that you’ve made me beyond curious as to what that one Gleanings story contains, I guess I don’t have a choice but to read it 😂 Scribd has the audiobook, so maybe I’ll try that once I’ve finished my current one…
I guess we both need to do a better job at picking out books, then 🙈🤣 Although maybe, just maybe, I’ve found my first five-star read of the year – I might be jinxing things by writing this, but the final 100 pages of Jade City will have to be truly bad to make me not love a book that is single-handedly responsible for me beimg two-pages behind on my writing schedule 🤗
LikeLiked by 1 person
I do also remember Red, White and Royal Blue as physical but I still felt the main thing about their relationship was those emails they sent each other and how those convinced me they loved each other. I think I saw the physical parts as an added bonus but I guess McQuiston saw it the other way around 🤔
And there was no jinxing! Congratulations on your first 5-star read of the year! 🥳😁
LikeLiked by 1 person
I missed Robin and Edwin SO much in A Restless Truth. I’m really hoping we see more of them in the next book, bc I agree with you. I absolutely adored A Marvellous Light, but A Restless Truth barely got 3 stars from me. I missed the emotional connection, and I just wasn’t a super fan of the characters, either. Here’s hoping the whole series is satisfying.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yeah, I also think I missed Robin and Edwin so much BECAUSE we were on a boat and I knew they couldn’t just suddenly appear. I really hope they pop up more in the final book even if it isn’t about them.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hey, is March March without the crazy weather? I don’t think so. 😆 I hope your shoulder gets fully well soon! I know the weather can’t be helping with any pain you might be having, all my formerly injured bones and muscles are acting up because of the constant weather changes.
Anyway, reading nine books in a month sounds insane to me, so congratulations for managing that! It must be frustrating not to have found a five-star read among them, but I hope you do read something excellent in April!
Though I haven’t read these (what a surprise 😅), it was nice reading your thoughts on them, especially the ones you didn’t enjoy. After reading both yours and Naemi’s thoughts on the Atlas Paradox, I can’t help but wonder how and why it’s so popular and all over social media. I keep seeing it everywhere.
LikeLiked by 1 person
It’s just that, usually, April is the month with the crazy weather here so we’ve been worried that we’d have to suffer this insanity for TWO months 😅 Luckily, it seems to just have moved to March and the past week has been really good. But thank you for the encouragements about my shoulder ☺️
And reading nine books becomes a lot easier when you can listen to audiobooks at work so I’m really grateful to be able to do that 😄
Trust me, I’m also confused about the popularity of The Atlas series. I had hoped this second book would clear something up in that area but it only managed to make me more confused.
LikeLiked by 1 person