March is my birthday month, and so I knew it might be a slower reading month purely because there tends to be a few more plans in my diary. I ended up soaking up more outdoors time and playing some more games (namely Pokémon Legends: Arceus, The Cruel Knight and the Great Hero and Kirby and the Forgotten Land) instead of blasting through books, but it’s been good nonetheless.

Sometimes, what feels fun is different month to month.

Having said that, I did get through four books – two of which were chunky babies! – all of which I’d planned to, bar one reread that I’ll get to in April. And so I thought I’d share my thoughts!

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Rating: ★★★★★/5

Howl’s Moving Castle has always been one of my favourite Studio Ghibli films, and so when I finally came across this beautiful copy of the book that it was adapted from, I knew it would be my ‘birthday read’ of the year.

The novel is expectedly beautiful. Whimsical, sweet and uncannily original from every corner, Wynne Jones’ writing is perfect here. Upon venturing out from the family hat shop, young Sophie attracts the attention of a witch, transforming her into an old crone. I absolutely loved reading this: the characters are so perfectly fleshed out, there’s a spine-tingling sense of magical realism, CALCIFER, and the dialogue is full of whimsy. If you’re a fan of the movie, then this will be for you. It even fills in a few gaps and builds on all of the best parts of Howl’s.

Jade War by Fonda Lee

Rating: ★★★★/5

I’ve been desperate to read more from The Green Bone Saga since I picked Jade City up in January. The world of Kekon and the city of Janloon have been indelibly seared into my mind, and this sequel only cemented that for me – I’m thoroughly obsessed. With Jade War, Fonda Lee manages the almost-impossible and has created a stunning follow-up. It doesn’t disappoint, with masterful world-building and action-packed pages that create a cinematic experience. Set 16 months after the first book, war is brewing between the clans. Hilo is shaken, Shae torn, and the other characters meekly standing by. In this book, there’s new threats to Janloon, sticky alliances to be made and even stickier deals and transactions to complete. All with jade at its heart, the precious stone that enriches and emboldens our clans.

I really appreciated that we learn a huge deal more about jade and the business side of the trade in Jade War. It helps to build up the tension from the first book, and you get a real understanding of the monopoly jade has on the nation and how Kekon works. And what I adored most about Jade War is there is a distinctive step-up from its predecessor but not in a jarring way. It feels darker, richer and still beautifully balanced. I love the ominous foreboding and thick tension that dips from every dealing, decision and fight.

How many more great things do I have to say about this series, eh?!

Dune by Frank Herbert

Rating: ★★★/5

It’s been a while since a book really felt like a chore to read, and Dune ticked that box for me this year. While there’s no doubt that Frank Herbert’s Dune really changed the course of how sci-fi novels present today, I found this first book difficult to read.

Herbert’s world-building is exemplary. It’s quite a feat to conjure such an intricate world – perhaps a little too intricate for the mindset I was in when I picked Dune up this time. That, coupled with a huge cast of characters, meant I really found it hard to find roots in any part of the story. I didn’t gravitate towards even one character, and I’ve discovered this is quite important to me as a reader. Moreover, I found it difficult to get my head around the huge culture borrowing that is undertaken throughout this story. Of course, 50 years have passed since its publication, but it made for a tricky read in 2022 for me at least.

Olive by Emma Gannon

Rating: ★★/5

There’s a reason that I rarely pick up literary fiction, and reading Olive cemented that for me. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a great read for me.

Olive is a thirty-something woman, living in London. She’s focused on her career and friends, and she’s nursing a recent break-up. Her best friends – Bea, Cecily and Isla – have grown up together with Olive, seen and held each other through University and their formative twenties, but with life’s rollercoaster ups and downs, their bond feels like it’s beginning to tug apart.

As the four women career through life, their careers, marriages and families, Olive begins to grapple with the fact that she doesn’t want the same things that her friends do. It’s told in a format that jumps from past to present, which really does work here, cementing the fact that when you know, you know.

I found it really difficult to read this book. These four women are supposedly best friends, and this is brilliantly told in the first quarter. But this doesn’t come across at any other stage. Instead, we’re forced to watch the four women constantly fail to talk to each other or know any prominent details of each others’ lives. I was practically shouting at my book! Of course that can often be reality, but it grated on me because it formed such a big part of the plot.

Gannon also tries to take on too many issues here, in my opinion. There was definitely potential to go in deeper on one or two topics, like living child-free, navigating a breakup in your 30s, and long-term friendship. But she brings in other (serious) issues and barely touches the surface. As a result, the entire last third felt impossible to read with a pace that was all over the place. Overall, like many other contemporary literary fictions, this fell short for me. I’m a strong believer that you don’t have to relate to every character or story, but with a book like Olive that seeks to work upon human emotion and experiences, as a British ESEA woman I found it difficult to root relate to many of the ‘relatable’ anecdotes in the story.

April Hopefuls

  • Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
  • Café at 46 Old Street by Hannah Cao
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin

What did you read in March? Share your top read with the community below!

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