I’m going to have to say, right off the bat, that I didn’t have the best reading month in March. I read mostly YA books and of the ones I read, I only loved one. Not the best!
That said, none of the books were awful, and I only DNF’d one…so without further ado, let me round up my reading month in March:-
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Shadows on the Moon – Zoe Marriott
This is a YA fantasy, Cinderella re-telling. At the beginning there is a little note from the author in which she says that it’s Cinderella with a ‘twist’. The twist being that Cinderella is able to rescue herself and doesn’t need a prince. More on that later…
We start the book with our protagonist, Suzume, witnessing the murder of her father and her cousin. Suzume is able to escape by using something called ‘shadow-weaving’; an ability to create illusions. Magic which until that point, she does not know she possesses. Suzume’s mother returns shortly after the attack, and together they are taken in by a Lord Terayama. Lord Terayama has designs and soon marries Suzume’s mother, forcing Suzume out of the picture and she is left to fend for herself, eventually fleeing.
There was so much about this book that I wanted to love; particularly the setting and the culture but somehow it missed the mark. The writing style in particular I found tricky; it was simplistic with choppy sentences and poor pacing. I’d almost say that the writing was similar to that which you’d find in a middle-grade story but the subject matter was much darker.
I thought the author could have developed the world and magic system much more than she did. I also have issues with it being compared to a Cinderella re-telling with a twist, as I failed to see this. Suzume has a love interest who helps her find her way, so the whole point of not needing a ‘prince’ is also incorrect in my opinion.
Ultimately, this is a book about a young girl filled with anger, hurt and sorrow seeking her revenge. There is some coming of age, some romance and a simple magic system. Readers should be aware that there is also self-harm in this book.
STAR RATING: ***
Thunderhead – Neal Shusterman
This was a much anticipated sequel. It is a YA dystopian/utopian and as it is a sequel I don’t want to say too much.
It is the second book in a trilogy set in a world where there is no hunger, no disease, no want etc and so there is no death. In order to keep the human population under control we have the Scythedom, whose job it is to cull a certain quota of people at random each year. The first book in the series ‘Scythe’ follows the training of two apprentice scythes. I absolutely LOVED the first book so, as I said, I was really looking forward to picking up this story.
I was initially lukewarm about the story; there are a lot of new characters and storylines introduced and I couldn’t see where Neal Shusterman was going with a lot of them. I still don’t! But the ending of this book was so, so good. It finished on an absolute cliffhanger and I cannot wait for the final instalment to be released in September.
The writing in this book isn’t complex but I love the way Neal Shusterman looks at issues such as our acceptance of death, our worldviews and he touches on something which is very believable; the idea of a futuristic cloud which manages the world and solves all our potential problems.
STAR RATING: *****
Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan
I’m afraid this is another YA fantasy. I was subscribed to a number of book box subscriptions for a while and have ended up with a number of YA hardback books which I am slowly trying to get through. This was the last book on my winter TBR as well, so I really wanted to pick it up before the end of the month.
The setting of this book has been inspired by the author’s Malaysian upbringing and I was so excited to pick this up as it’s a culture I am not hugely familiar with. Ngan has definitely succeeded here in creating a world and a setting which is diverse, rich and creative.
We follow the story of our protagonist, Lei, in a world where there are three castes. We have paper caste who are fully human, steel caste who are humans with some demon-animalistic qualities and moon caste who are fully demon-animal in a humanoid form. At the start of the novel, Lei is stolen from her home and taken to be part of the Demon King’s harem, known as the ‘Paper Girls’.
Lei must find her place in this new reality, must find ways to resist and must discover who she really is. It’s worth noting there is sexual, physical and emotional abuse in this book and some parts are quite graphically described.
I feel a little like a broken record, but again, I felt like this book missed the mark for me. There were so many elements which meant I should have loved the story but I just failed to connect with Lei, which I think ultimately coloured my reading experience. I also felt like we spent the whole book building up to something explosive at the end and the finale was just…lacklustre.
STAR RATING:- ***
Although I finished this final book in April, I want to cover it now as it is fresh in my mind.
Transcription – Kate Atkinson
An historical fiction novel with three timelines; this is the story of a young woman called Juliet Armstrong who is recruited to be a transcriptionist for MI5 in the Second World War. We follow her story in the 1940s, during the war, and then after in the 1950s when she is working at the BBC. We also get a snapshot of the present day at the beginning and the end of the novel.
The plot of this book was a little slower than I would have liked; I wouldn’t describe it as a page turner, but I enjoyed the storyline immensely. Even more so knowing that Kate Atkinson was inspired to write the story after the release of actual documents by MI5 about events which took place during WW2. All the way through you are aware that there is something which happened that doesn’t sit well with Juliet and I enjoyed the way Atkinson drew this out in a slow reveal.
I am a sucker for a good WW2 novel, in particular ones which cover parts of the war I haven’t come across before and this definitely ticked the box. It would have got a higher rating had it been a bit pacier.
STAR RATING: ***/****
I also mentioned that I DNF-ed a book. This was Binti, and it was the Bookish Mamas pick for February. It is a YA sci-fi short story and I really did not enjoy it. I only had about 20 pages left but there is just no draw for me to continue.