JJ Reads

Memo Pad: March Wrap Up

I’m late with my monthly wrap up. Oops. It’s April already. Luckily I am currently still a European citizen so things could have gone worse (although there’s still time!). I read a lot of books in March which is the main reason this post is late. While I haven’t found it difficult to fit reading time in between my editing time, I have found it difficult to find time to write the reviews…. Or, you know, I’m just being lazy. I should really write them as soon as I finish a book but that almost never happens!

Anyway. Other goings on that happened in March include going back to Lanzarote to sort out some minor paperwork and steal some of the sunshine (and the ice cream.yuummmm.) but we still haven’t sold our house. Sigh.

I’ve also managed to edit one third of my #ExcitingSpaceWIP so far. I’m hoping by the end of April I’ll be able to tell you all I’m two thirds through! We’ll have to see.

Next month I will also be taking part in the Aspec April readathon happening over the first two weeks. Which is a readathon focusing on books with asexual and aromantic characters in them. I’ll hopefully be posting a separate wrap up for that at the end of the two weeks. April is also Autism acceptance month so I’m planning on rounding out the month with a couple of autistic books but again we’ll see. I’m the epitome of a mood reader so this much planning may be my downfall!

I probably won’t be posting anything for autism acceptance month even though it’s my first year of being diagnosed. I wouldn’t know what to write! But if anyone has any questions about Autism or my experiences I’m happy to answer them, just leave a comment below.

But onto the books of March. I’m doing something a little different this time. I’m going to split this into mini reviews and normal reviews (although my normal reviews aren’t THAT long anyway!). Sometimes I enjoy a book but don’t really have much to say about it so instead of forcing myself to write a review that will be bland and boring to you I’m going to do some short reviews. And, seeing as I’m reading more and more hopefully this will stop my wrap up posts from bring ridiculously long.

Reading stats for March:

Books read: 8

DNF: 1

Books acquired: …..okay, I forgot to keep track. My bad. It was at least 4 though…

Owned books to read: 46

Mini Reviews:

Witchmark by CL Polk *****

An enjoyable, quick adult fantasy set in a quasi-WW2 setting with magic and mystery following a war veteran healer trying to save his patients while falling in love, hiding his magic and avoiding his family. The whole cast of characters were great, the magic was interesting and setting vivid. Featuring an m/m relationship.

The Half-God of Rainfall by Inua Ellams *****

I didn’t realise this was poetry when I recieved the arc in exchange for a review. I don’t normally read poetry novels, they’re not really my thing but this was an extremely well written, emotive and interesting story set between Nigeria and the US. Following a woman and her half-god basketball playing son who angers Zeus by gaining too much praise. It mixes gods from different cultures though trigger warnings for rape.

Graham’s Delicacies by Em Ali *****

This book is three short stories wrapped up in one. All set around the same bakery and the people who work there. All 3 are queer and the characters cross over in each of them. The stories centre f/nb, m/m, & nb/m relationships respectively. It is an adult book and does have explicit sex on page. I really loved the characters and their relationships. It’s a soft, warm book with a happy ending for everyone. But only 3 stars from me because I didn’t love the writing.

Full Reviews:

Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori Mccarthy***** (Review Copy)

I wanted to read this as soon as I heard about it. It’s a queer genderbent YA sci fi retelling of King Arthur and Merlin. Set in space, with an illegal immigrant lesbian as the latest reincarnation of Arthur and a grumpy gay Merlin who has aged backwards into a teenager.

Retellings of old stories and myths can by hit and miss but I really enjoyed this. It had such an unexpected and unique take. I loved the main characters. First off, Merlin wasn’t overpowered. He came up against issues with his magic and had to deal with his own teenage emotions by coming to terms with finding family and friends after so many centuries of pain and loneliness. I also loved that Ari (Arthur) had the opposite problems. She had to grow up and find out how to be alone and stand on her own two feet without her found family around her. And the friendship between the two was really warm and wholesome. The whole supporting cast was also great and none of the relationships felt forced. I believed the chemistry and history between all of them. The book also features main m/m and f/f couples as well as a genderfluid side character in an inclusive future.

Looking past the characters we have the settings! It’s a space adventure set between a battered old ship, a space station full of commercial evils, an abandoned earth mined for resources, and a planet with a fake medieval theme complete with jousting tournaments on mechanical beasts. They were all so different but while they sound comical they WORKED.

Overall I do have to say that I did wish the story was a little more deep in places, it felt like for some of the parts it just skimmed the surface of what it could be which is why this is only a four star for me. But its a fun, diverse space adventure with excellent friendships based on a very cool premise.

Adrift by Isabelle Adler***** (Review Copy)

This scifi straddles the line between novella and novel at only 184 pages but doesn’t let down on story at all.

A smuggler space captain accepts a job to try to fix his debts but finds him and his found family crew mixed up in something much bigger. Featuring a hidden moon, ancient alien technology, double crossing soldiers and a soft, slow burn m/m romance.

One of my favourite things in scifi is when people are stuck in an enclosed environment and have to survive. This book takes that to the max, throw in two people who don’t trust each other and complicate it further by them having feelings for each other and you start to touch on how amazing this book was. I did feel the start took a little time to warm up and the crew could have been developed more but in such a short book it really wasn’t the focus. And once it got to the action, the tension was so thick I could not put it down until I’d finished. So it was the perfect length for that! I wasn’t expecting to be sucked in so far.

It’s not a high science story, it’s focused on the characters. And the hidden, barren moon setting really brought their dynamics to the front as they fought for their lives. I loved the main characters development too. It was great to see the arrogance and distance he used to protect himself change as the story went on. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a more self contained space adventure full of tension!

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto ***** (Review Copy)

This is a very complicated book to try to explain but it’s kind of split over two timelines. The now where most of the story happens and the past before the war. But either way it focuses on two sisters who only have each other. Then there’s the phoenix riders who fell during the war and are hunted to extinction. Only those with the magic to bond with animals can become phoenix riders so they are also hunted. Which means the two sisters are hunted. And yeah. It’s complicated but what isn’t complicated is how much I loved this book. Sisters who love and hate each other. Phoenixes. Other animal companions. Lots of hard moral decisions and lots of fighting for their lives.

There are 3 POV characters…..Kind of (Like I said, it’s complicated). Veronyka, a war orphan that runs away after her sister betrays her and dresses as a boy to become a phoenix rider. Sev, also a way orphan but a soldier in the empire who only signed up because it was that or be imprisoned for his crimes and has to hide his magic at all costs, and Tristan, whose grown up at the secret phoenix rider base as the son of the leader. All three have magic. I loved how all three had complicated feelings and moral decisions to make that affected so much more than just their own stories. And the more we learnt about them the more complicated it got. But these three are only the start of the story and through extracts we also learn more about what happened to the two princesses who died to start the war that affects them all. And that is even more twisty and grey.

There’s lots of world building and history here which I normally HATE but honestly it was woven in so well that I actually loved it. There was never a time when the story stopped to dump a few pages of info on me. It was all fed in small pieces when they were relevant. Masterful. Seriously. I’m not sure how this book turned something that normally annoys me into one of my favourite things! The immediate settings themselves were actually quite bland. Countryside and villages, the normal fantasy fare but in a way that made them take a backseat to focus on the characters and story and world filling them

And then onto the fantastical part of the fantasy…I loved the magic. It wasn’t something all powerful or even something that could help the characters much in most situations. Those with magic have a bond with animals. The scope of what it could be used for was only ever touched upon in this first book and the different beliefs of how it should be used and whether animals should be befriended or dominated was an interesting mirror on the characters themselves. All this basically boils down to lots of animal companions throughout. And not just the exalted phoenixes whose eggs are rare and riders revered. But there were owls, llamas… One of my favourite was how a blind girl called sparrow used a crow companion as her guide.

This book has gone straight into my favourite books of all time. The world building was masterful. The characters were twisty, complicated and morally grey. The animal companions were brilliant. I need the next book NOW because as much as I loved this one, I have the feeling the next will be even more epic.

Rep: gay MC, m/m relationship, aro/ace character, and pretty much all the characters are described as poc.

Unbroken by Brooklyn Ray ***** (Review Copy)

This NA contemporary fantasy is set in the same world as the Port Lewis Witches series of novellas but is the first standalone book. It’s set around a college aged travel blogger who moves into a new house and develops a relationship with the demon who lives in his attic.

The prose and cover are both just as gorgeous as those novellas. And the setting was palpable which was one of the things that made me fall in love with the novellas in the first place. I really felt like I could have been there in this rainy seaside Witchy town. the story does dive in with the sexual stuff much closer to the start in this one as this book is more explicit and focused on it. Having said that once the story got going and I learnt more about the characters I did fall in love with this book. I loved the plot and how it snowballs into a much bigger story as you are going through, bringing in the existing world and how this novel fits in with the others.

I can’t wait to see where the adventure goes next and I also loved how the MC grows through out the story. Getting more confident and also more vulnerable at the same time.

Massive trigger warnings for mentions and flashbacks of a past abusive relationship and rape.

The rep includes a main m/m relationship with bi and gay characters and a lot of minor queer side characters from the original novellas.

The Boy who Steals Houses by CG Drews ***** (Review Copy)

About a homeless boy who sneaks into an empty house to sleep but when he wakes up the very loud and very big family are home. And when everyone thinks he is someone else’s friend he joins them for lunch. Which sounds like a funny set up but this book is so heartfelt. If I had to sum this book up in one line it would be: two broken soft brothers trying to be hard to survive because that is what this book books down to.

Sam’s older brother is autistic and both of them have had such a rough life. All they have is each other but it gets to the point where it isn’t enough for either of them and their dreams of the future start to shatter as things get worse and more dangerous for them both. The autism rep for Avery is Ownvoices. Although he’s a side character. we got to know him slowly through Sam’s pov and how much his brother loved him and I loved how the character grew as the story went on and we learnt more about him.

Which brings me to Sam, who is an angry ball of rage and longing. He wants so bad for someone to look after and just SEE him and his need to protect his brother is so strong that it overpowers his thoughts sometimes. Their relationship was heartbreaking but also so hopeful.

The family Sam becomes a part of was also great. Big, messy and complicated. I felt like I knew each of them and the house itself felt like another character because it was so vivid and warm and lived in.

Overall this is a deep, painfully heartfelt YA about family and belonging that somehow never let’s go of the reckless hopefulness Sam clings to.

Trigger warnings for flashbacks and mentions of past physical child abuse

I read a lot of amazing books this month (4 five stars!) but Crown of Feathers was definitely my favourite! How about you, what is the best book you’ve read lately and what are you planning on reading in April? And if you have any questions about Autism/my experiences being Autistic let me know!

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2 thoughts on “Memo Pad: March Wrap Up”

  1. I’m so glad March was such a good reading month for you and you read so many books you loved! Crown of Feathers sounds like such a wonderful read, animal companions is one of my favorite things to read about in fantasy 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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