Readers, I need to be honest with you all: even though I’m reading for quality over quantity, I still feel like a bad reader/book blogger when I don’t read much in a month. I’m trying to retrain my brain to not care, but so far I’m still stuck in my old ways. I say this because these past few months, I haven’t been reading a large number of books. And March is no exception.
But what’s more disappointing is that there was a small dip in quality in the few books I did read. I still had mostly positive reading experiences, but a few reads were letdowns.
In March, I read three novels, one manga, and four graphic novels. I reviewed two of the books I read and wrote a discussion post based on the third. I managed to read 2 out of the 3 books on my TBR. The third, Harrow the Ninth, I’m prioritizing in April.
Anyway, let’s get into the nitty gritty of these books. Fair warning: this post gets real Star Wars-heavy toward the end.
What if you knew how and when you will die? Csorwe does— she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice. But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin— the wizard's loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power. But Csorwe will soon learn— gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.
The further I got into this book, the further it fell in my esteem. First of all, it took me way too long to get through. Probably because I eventually stopped caring. Every character is more interesting than Csorwe. The world-building is confusing and incomplete. The plot has no clear end goal. I fully expected to love this book, but I’m sad to say I just don’t.
When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome— but that will define his life forever.
So I didn’t cry.
Maybe I’m heartless. Maybe I’m just tired. Maybe it’s because I guessed one of the big twists and so it wasn’t shocking to me, thus lacking emotional impact.
Look, I liked this story and I cared about these characters. But in a lot of ways, it felt like trauma porn. Jude’s life has been so excruciatingly awful. Yes, there probably are people who have lived a life like Jude’s and I feel for them. But it was frustrating to read, especially due to Jude’s refusal to get help and, in many ways, lack of sustained character development.
I acknowledge that I’m coming from a place of privilege on this. I’ve been fortunate and haven’t gone through the things Jude has gone through. I’ve also seen therapists and psychiatrists for most of my life, so that’s been normalized for me. This isn’t true of everyone. But I wanted to see Jude improve, even if he occasionally relapses.
I also find it odd that the summary emphasizes that this is the story of four friends, but Malcolm and JB (but especially Malcolm) are largely irrelevant to the story. Why bother creating a Core Four at all, if this is basically The Jude and Willem Show.
I did, for the most part, like this book though. I felt for Jude despite my narrative issues and cared about what happened to these characters. There were some beautifully tender moments. It’s also a lot more diverse than I expected, filled with queer characters and characters of color. But it absolutely did not need to be as long as it is. And the ending pissed me off. So I lowered what I thought would be a four-star read to a three-star read. But, despite my complaints, I’m glad I read this.
Welcome to Edwardian London, a time of electric lights and long shadows, the celebration of artistic beauty and the wild pursuit of pleasure, with demons waiting in the dark. For years there has been peace in the Shadowhunter world. James and Lucie Herondale, children of the famous Will and Tessa, have grown up in an idyll with their loving friends and family, listening to stories of good defeating evil and love conquering all. But everything changes when the Blackthorn and Carstairs families come to London… and so does a remorseless and inescapable plague. James Herondale longs for a great love, and thinks he has found it in the beautiful, mysterious Grace Blackthorn. Cordelia Carstairs is desperate to become a hero, save her family from ruin, and keep her secret love for James hidden. When disaster strikes the Shadowhunters, James, Cordelia and their friends are plunged into a wild adventure which will reveal dark and incredible powers, and the true cruel price of being a hero… and falling in love.
If you’re having trouble getting into this book, stick it out. The second half delivers everything a Cassandra Clare novel should. The romantic tension, the excitement, the plot twists… it’s fantastic.
That said, this book very heavily relies on the fact that these are the children of the Infernal Devices characters. I wish Clare would write about Shadowhunter families aside from the usual suspects. But this was still a good read and I’m excited for the rest of the series.
Tomie Kawakami is a femme fatale with long black hair and a beauty mark just under her left eye. She can seduce nearly any man, and drive them to murder as well, even though the victim is often Tomie herself. While one lover seeks to keep her for himself, another grows terrified of the immortal succubus. But soon they realize that no matter how many times they kill her, the world will never be free of Tomie.
Once again, Junji Ito proves why he is the king of horror manga. These visuals are incredible and horrifying. I don’t know what precisely Tomie is, but I sure am glad she’s not real.
Doctor Aphra, Vol. 6: Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon by Simon Spurrier and illustrated by Wilton Santos
After a year of close shaves, Doctor Chelli Aphra is taking it easy and lying low. Probably herding banthas or something. She's smart like that, right? No, not really. The galaxy's shadiest archaeologist is back doing what she does best: busting into alien temples to steal horrifying weapons for huge profit. She just can't stop herself. But plenty of other people could. Powerful factions are watching closely: Rebel and Empire, familiar and strange— all calculating whether Aphra's more useful alive... or dead.
This has to be one of my favorite volumes in this series. Aphra is so clever and awesome! I can’t wait to read the conclusion to her story!
Poe Dameron, Vol. 4: Legend Found by Charles Soule & Robbie Thompson and illustrated by Ángel Unzueta & Nik Virella
The galaxy's greatest pilot flies on! General Leia Organa gave Poe Dameron an important task: locate the mysterious Lor San Tekka. And our hero may be closer than he thinks... but can he get the job done in time? Then, Black Squadron faces their next assignment. Is it mission impossible? Not for Poe's crew... and that means it's prison break time! Plus, Poe Dameron has never been one to follow the rules. So when he disobeys a direct order from General Organa and gets stranded in First Order space— with no ship and little oxygen— how will he survive?
I liked the first half of the comic more than the second half. Leia is a genius.
Lor San Tekka has been found! Now Poe Dameron is off to recover the missing link to legendary Jedi master Luke Skywalker's whereabouts. But his plan goes astray when the First Order intervenes on Jakku... Meanwhile, the rest of Black Squadron takes off on their most daring mission yet! Follow everyone's favorite Resistance crew as Poe Dameron tells Rey and Finn all about his unseen adventures during the events of Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens!
While I liked parts of this installment, I found it to be overall disjointed and lacking a clear story arc. The “torture buddies” scene was really funny though.
Doctor Aphra, Vol. 7: A Rogue’s End by Simon Spurrier, illustrated by Caspar Wijngaard, and colored by Lee Loughridge
After all she's been through, professional disaster zone Doctor Aphra is right back where she started: working for Darth Vader. What villainous use has the dark lord found for her to make him spare the life of his most annoying foe...? And how long does she have to try to slither out of harm's way before he decides to finish what he started three years ago...?
The end to Doctor Aphra’s story was as bittersweet as I expected. Though parts of this volume seem disjointed, this was overall a good way to end the series.
What did you read in March? Have you read any of these books? Let’s discuss in the comments!