We have officially made it through month three of 2022. How are we all doing? Because honestly, I’m not that great about 2022 so far. Hoping it gets better, but also am kind of ready to just hibernate until 2023. I know that’s not a realistic option, but a girl can dream, right?
March was kind of a weird reading month for me. I went through kind of a slumpy period during the first two weeks, where I was sort of reading, but not feeling anything and didn’t finish a single book until halfway through the month. But when I finally did, we got a four-star read and then a new favorite. Immediately followed by two books I didn’t like. But we finished strong with one more five-star read. So not a terrible reading month overall, just a little disappointing there in the middle. So I only have five books to talk about today, but they’re pretty interesting ones.
What I Read
Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura – ★★★★☆
I have been on a bit of a Japanese literature kick lately, and was very intrigued by this one. It’s about a young teenager who decides to stop attending school after some bullying and anxiety issues. One day, while she’s home, the mirror in her bedroom starts to glow. She steps through it and finds herself in a castle with six other students who are also not attending school. There, they find the Wolf Queen (who is dressed as a child in a frilly dress with a wolf mask), who explains to them that somewhere in the castle, there is a key hidden. Whoever finds the key gets a single wish granted. And they have eleven months before the castle closes forever.
I haven’t been reading much young adult lately, but I am glad I picked this one up! It did feel kind of more like a mature middle grade than YA, but I think that served the story well. I found this story intriguing and wonderfully weird. And I absolutely did not see the ending coming at all and may have teared up a tiny bit. I also stayed up late finishing this one, which was kind of amazing after not finishing a book for two whole weeks. So good!
Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc – ★★★★★
Because March was Disability Awareness Month, I decided to tweak my reading list a bit and pick up a book on that subject. I had meant to read more, but wasn’t able to squeeze them in. Still, I am very glad this was the one book I managed to get to this month because it was incredible. It’s all about how fairy tales treat disability and the impact that has on the disabled community (especially children) since fairy tales both reflect and influence society.
As a person with disabilities, I found this really well-written and insightful. Amanda Leduc frames her analysis of disability portrayal in fairy tales with her own experience as a child with cerebral palsy as well as discussions with other authors with disabilities. We all already new Disney movies weren’t the best portrayal of diversity, but this book really shines a light on how lacking they are in accurate and positive portrayals of disability (and just diversity in general).
Representation matters so much, and while we obviously cannot go yell at the Grimm Brothers about Hans the Hedgehog, or Hans Christian Anderson about the little mermaid, we are still constantly adapting fairy tales into books and movies without making them inclusive enough or even keeping harmful stereotypes. I didn’t even consider the fact that Scar in The Lion King is literally only known for his facial disfigurement until this book. In the original fable, before it was Disney-fied, his name was Taka (Swahili for “waste”), which is still not very nice, but doesn’t mock his scar. How is that different from those mean kids in school mocking kids with any sort of disability or difference, whether it be wearing glasses, talking with a stutter, or being in a wheelchair? We can do better in being more accepting, and I think this book does a brilliant job of highlighting ways we can improve to make space for people with disabilities.
In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power – ★★☆☆☆
I am a pretty big fan of Rory Power’s books. She’s one of the very few YA authors that I will consistently pick up. I really enjoyed Burn Our Bodies Down and loved Wilder Girls. So I was definitely intrigued by her newest novel, which is the first in a series and her first foray into adult fantasy. Definitely a departure for her, but one I was curious about as her first two releases were so wonderfully weird and I was excited to see what she would do with this one. I hadn’t read any high fantasy in quite a while, so I thought this was a great book for me to get back into that genre.
But I was so disappointed because this book was just so boring. It’s not actually that long for an epic fantasy – only 432 pages – but it felt like it was easily double that. I finished it in five days, but mostly because I just wanted to be done with it, but was curious to see if it would get better. But none of this worked for me, unfortunately. I didn’t hate it, and there was some beautiful imagery. But other than that, it was kind of just meh for me, and I’m sad about it. If you’re super into high fantasy, you might still want to check this out when it is released April 5. But it wasn’t for me.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw – ★★☆☆☆
I picked this up for a potential blog post where I read some of the lowest rated books on my TBR. I’m not quite sure whether or not I’ll be scrapping that post at this point, because this was the first book I picked up and it did not work out for me. I went into this fully aware that it has an incredibly low average rating on Goodreads (2.83 as of my writing this). But that cover just kept catching my eye, and sometimes I love books everyone else hates, so I thought I’d try it anyway.
Obviously, it did not go all that well. I thought it was super creepy, which was definitely the vibe I was hoping for when I picked this up. I liked the idea of it – it’s a horror novel based on Japanese folklore (and, like I said, I’m kind of on a Japanese kick this year). But there was a lot of folklore elements crammed into a very short book (128 pages), which was a little confusing at times because there wasn’t much room for world building I think wold have been nice, as someone with zero background in Japanese folklore. And pretty much every single one of the characters annoyed me. Mostly the ones who didn’t die, which was kind of disappointing. I just think this might have been better if it had been longer, more suspenseful, and had a few characters I was rooting for to survive.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – ★★★★★
I kind of had mixed feelings going into this book. On one hand, I love everything Shakespeare, so a book about his wife and son absolutely intrigued me. On the other, I didn’t love the other Maggie O’Farrell book I’ve read (I Am, I Am, I Am) and also didn’t realize until my copy of the book arrived that this is a novel about the plague. Which is just maybe still a little too close for comfort.
Obviously, I read it despite my reservations and ended up absolutely loving it! This is such a gorgeous novel. I loved the characters. I loved how Shakespeare himself is never once referred to by name and is made a background character while his family is brought into focus. I loved the slight hint of magical realism. I loved the historical setting. Just a beautiful book. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t end up on one of my favorites lists this year.
*In a Garden Burning Gold was provided to me by Netgalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
What I’m Currently Reading
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
This book is pretty short, but it’s taking me a bit longer to get through than anticipated. Mostly because it’s been a rough few weeks with work, and there’s been a lot of construction noise outside my house, and it’s just been hard to find time to sit and read. Also, I’m halfway through this and it’s already made me tear up. So while I am enjoying it quite a bit, it’s not something I am excited to pick up after a hard day. I will definitely be finishing it very soon, though.
Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier
The cover of this book is not really my style, but I couldn’t get it out of my head for some reason. It seems quirky and weird, and felt like a fun book to pick up. So far, it’s really cute, but I can tell there’s going to be some deeper issues addressed, so I’m curious to see where that goes. Also, I kind of want to try pickle pizza now. I feel like that can’t be too far off than the random veggie combos I usually go with (currently loving black olives and banana peppers).
What I Watched
I’m kind of loving these new Disney movies that address generational trauma. Us millennials really went through it, huh? I also liked the cultural aspects of this one. I thought it was a fun movie with an overall message that I really identified with, but also some interesting culture that I enjoyed. I think this is a movie that will make a lot of people who experienced something we don’t talk about much feel seen, which makes me so happy.
I am not deaf, nor do I really know anyone who is, but I have always been fascinated by sign language. I am relatively bad at it (I know the alphabet, “thank you”, and cat), but I’m just truly terrible at learning any language I’ve ever tried, so that one’s on me. (I did attempt Norwegian on Duolingo during lockdown, and was okay at it, but that’s probably because it’s fairly similar to English. I mostly just know a selection of random words from like six different languages, which is not helpful. Anyway…) There is just something about ASL and deaf culture that I have gravitated towards since I first encountered it as a kid.
I absolutely recognize that is not my space, but I do enjoy learning more. And it has made me incredibly happy to see movies like this starring deaf actors, with deaf characters be so widely appreciated (I adored Sound of Metal last year). And wow this movie was good. Definitely made me cry watching it. And again when Troy Kotsur won his (well deserved) Oscar and Youn Yuh-Jung signed to him (love her so much). I don’t know what it is, but lately I have gotten so much joy from seeing representation in movies and books of people that have been historically underrepresented, even if that representation does not apply to me. It’s just so wonderful to see diversity celebrated more, and especially seeing those movies get recognized at such a huge level. Love.
Alright, that’s it for March! Writing this post made me realize that this was kind of a great month for me in terms of experiencing diversity in the books and movies I watched. So despite the two-star reads, and the mini slump, I am very happy with what this month brought me.
I am obviously trying to read more diversely this year and have been absolutely loving it! So if you have any books I absolutely need to read, let me know in the comments!
What was your favorite book this month?
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