The week before Canada began social distancing, I happened to go to Chapters to get a stack of books, as it was my March Break and I planned on doing lots of reading. Though I found quite a few graphic novels on my list, they didn't have a few of the novels I was looking for. But all of this turned out in the end, because I ended up downloading a few Kindle books this month that I otherwise might not have. Many of the books I downloaded are from recommendations I see popping up frequently on Instagram, or are written by some of the authors I've started following. All of that being said, I have far more books on my shelf and Kindle app than I can read! Here are the few I managed to get through this month, while also working on writing my graphic novel and children's book (which made it to an editor this month!), and adjusting to teaching online.
A Court of Thorns and Roses - Sarah J. Maas
This is the first book I've read by Sarah J. Maas, and I was really surprised with how much it hooked me! It's a fantasy and romance story - I'm not a huge romance reader, but there are enough other elements that I still enjoyed it right away. It tells the story of a young lady who is struggling to provide enough food for her sisters and father, only to accidentally kill a Faerie while hunting. Soon after, a different Faerie arrives at her house to take her back with him as repayment for the Faerie's death. Humans despise Faeries, and Faeries don't care either for humans, yet this unlikely pairing shows a different side of both humans and Faeries.
One thing that I enjoyed about the writing is that the characters are well-developed - it's really easy to empathize with them because they are just so human, with very specific personalities, strengths, and flaws. The plot itself has numerous twists that are not expected and are creatively crafted, and towards the end it gets unexpectedly dark. After finishing the book, the last 100 pages lingered in my mind as I processed all that had just happened.
My one criticism is that even though I really liked how twisted it got towards the end, some things were a bit formulaic, and some of the struggles faced ended up resolving themselves too perfectly. That said, these things didn't ruin the book, it still has me so hooked that I ordered hard copies of the whole series, and went every day to check the mailbox until they arrived! I think these actions speak for themselves! I would definitely recommend this series to people, but would emphasize that it does get dark, so I personally wouldn't recommend them to teens.
A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
Another book for adults, this story is so unique and captivating. It tells the story of two separate people, who alternate taking chapters to share their story. One is a teenage Japanese girl named Nao who grew up in California and then returned to Japan when her dad lost his job. She shares her own struggles with mental health as she watches her dad repeatedly try to commit suicide. One of the best parts about her story in my opinion, is the nuances of Japanese culture she ties in with the story, that really make the reader understand her struggle adjusting to life in Japan.
The other side of the story is written by the author of the book. She's a Japanese-American author with writer's block, who writes somewhat autobiographically to share about her move from New York to a small island in Canada, right next to the island I live on. This locational connection made me feel like I could relate a bit to her character as well, although to be honest, I definitely would read through these chapters to get back to the ones written by Nao.
The themes in this book make it one I would recommend to others - the struggle with mental health and cultural influences, the ongoing journey of figuring out who we are and where we fit into the world, and the purpose of life. There's a lot to it that can't really be described the same way reading it would unveil, you'll just have to give it a go yourself!
Harleen - Stjepan Sejic
Have you ever wondered how Harley Quinn met the Joker? If you're a fan of Harley Quinn, you know that she is incredibly sweet even though she's a bit wacko and evil at times, and you would also know that though she loves the Joker, even she can even admit that he is pure evil.
The writer does a fantastic job of showing who Harley was before meeting the Joker, some of the ghosts from her past that led her there, and how her truly caring heart is what leads to her downfall. The readers move with Harley as she goes from having nightmares of the Joker to fantasies of him, and watch as this good girl goes bad.
The book itself is large for a comic book, in terms of page size, which is actually quite lovely and fitting for this story, because it allowed the artist the freedom to do larger panels with detail and creative layouts. The length of the story itself is perfect though, with enough lead up and background information, climax, and follow up with the characters a few years later. I also really liked that there wasn't much swearing or nudity, so it's a book I'll be able to bring into my classroom for my newly teen students can read.
Author/Illustrator Bio - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/617155.Stjepan_eji_
Book Link (GoodReads) - https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/52713814-harleen
Saga Volume 5 - Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
For more detail on this series, check out my January Reads blog. I think I liked the first few volumes of this series the best, the fourth one had me a little less hooked, but volume five was a bit better. It has some very shocking images in it that would leave some adults perturbed. If that's your thing you'll love it! If not, you might get past the strange images and enjoy the story anyway, as I have so far... Still to be determined if I'll continue this series or not. I would love to hear others' thoughts - leaves comment below!
Illustrator Bio - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/304633.Fiona_Staples