Early March Wrap Up

Six physical books and two e-books were everything I got to finish this monthI know I'm quite early to say this but since I don't plan to squeeze in any other book to my March wrap-up, I suppose it is more practical to post it ahead of time. 

Howl's Moving Castle follows the story of Sophie Hatter who lives with her stepmother and two younger sisters in Market Chipping, a town where it is a common belief that the eldest child will never be successful. After their father died, Sophie gets to inherit her family's dull hat shop while each of her sisters gets off to be an apprentice in the other part of the town. However, everything comes to a halt when one day the notorious Witch of the Waste comes to her shop and curses her into an old woman. Sophie runs away from home and somehow ends up in Howl's moving castle. She then makes a bargain with Howl's fire demon called Calcifer: she will break his contract with Howl, and in return, Calcifer will undo her curse. In doing so, Sophie discovers that there's more to Howl and the castle than he leads everyone to believe.

In conclusion, Howl's Moving Castle was such a magical story though the way I adored its mediums was certainly different: I liked the complexity of the plot in the bookthe characters and premise were very promising despite the lack of development, and Howl was rather funny despite his nonsensewhile I loved the visual of the movie and its compressed plot. Both endings were a bit rushed unfortunately, but I would still recommend either of them if you love middle-grade and something magical.

A Secret Service follows the story of Carter Owens whose father is a Secret Service agent. Since it has been only the two of them for years, Carter grows up being trained to disassemble weapons and fight. Attending the most prestigious school in Washington D.C. called Hamilton Prep full of the children of people in power, being quick-witted, brilliant, and fearless turn out not enough. Everything changes though when some new students come to attend their school. Carter unexpectedly makes friends with the sweet if a little shy Link Evans and his mysterious yet moody friend named Donovan Keller. For once, Carter fails to scare them both away. She doesn't know why they choose to be stuck with her, but she knows for sure that the two are hiding something important that she can't quite put her fingers on.

In my opinion, A Secret Service would be a good choice if you want to read something light that also covered the topic of secret agents. Badass, funny, and entertaining: it's a contemporary book with a slight mystery to it and a slow-burnt romance as a bonus. Even though I didn't think how each of them technically forced the other to talk about their problem was right, I still thought that it played a very important part in regards to Carter's development and thus quite necessary.

The Cruel Prince follows the story of Jude whose parents were murdered by a Faerie when she was a kid. Madoc, the killer, then whisks her and her sisters away to the Faerie Court where they are brought up to its custom and education. Jude wants to be a knight; her twin sister Taryn wants to fall in love and marry one of the Faeries; while her older sister Vivienne just wants to get out of there. But it’s hard to live in the Elfhame when you’re a mortal surrounded by arrogant immortals. Just by being a brave human, Jude finds herself constantly get picked on by the cruel sixth prince of the Elfhame: Prince Cardan and his gangs.

Even though there are quite a lot of mixed reviews about it, The Cruel Prince is definitely a book for me. I binge-read 87% of this book in a day and the rest the next so it’s quite clear how much I enjoyed it: very much. I had actually gotten a few warnings before jumping into this series, most of them saying that the first book was pretty slow though it would get better at some points. Frankly enough, my taste had proven otherwise. The pacing was perfect for me: it was not too dangerously slow that I would get bored by the details but it was certainly unhurried while luring me to go deeper and deeper.

(Please skip this part if you haven't read The Cruel Prince)
Following where we left off in The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King starts five months after Cardan has been crowned the new King of Elfhame. He may be the face of the ruler, the wicked king behind the throne who threw in her brother to prison, but no one knows that the true power lays in Jude's hand. Bound to her command, Cardan has no other choice but to follow each of Jude's decisions though that doesn't mean he stops trying to humiliate her every time he has the chance to. But Jude doesn't always have the time for that. There's a political game to play, and it's very likely that someone close to her means to betray her.

In conclusion, I enjoyed The Wicked King more than the first book for all its unexpectancy and twists. The plot felt as dynamic as the characters and all along I actively wondered what would happen next. Just a friendly warning, if you have decided to read The Cruel Prince and loved it, you may want to complete your collection first before jumping into the second installment. Just trust me and thank me later.

(Please skip this part if you haven't read The Wicked King)
After being exiled by King Cardan, Jude is now living in the mortal world. No one except Vivi knows the truth about her being the High Queen of Elfhame post marrying Cardan and betrayed by her own husband. She is then forced to do a job like a mortal does until her twin sister Taryn comes and begs for Jude to switch places with her. The opportunity is certainly tempting no matter the risk. Jude then tries to sneak her way into the Elfhame as Taryn but not long after that she finds herself dragged away to the enemy’s lair. Caught in between tricky political options, Jude must choose what is it that she needs to do as a queen.

In conclusion, I still enjoyed The Queen of Nothing so much though as a finale it didn’t capture my heart as much as I had hoped it would. Cardan's redemption I had been longing to see since the beginning didn't feel enough either, so even though I loved him, he seemed to be a very different person here. However, I will still give this series a reread in the future. It's probably quite fitting to say that considering the issues I found juxtaposed with how much I enjoyed it, The Folk of the Air series is a perfect guilty-pleasure fantasy to read.

A Pinch of Magic follows the story of the three Widdershins sisters on the island called Crowstone. Fliss is the oldest, prettiest, and very proper; the second daughter Betty is very adventurous and determined; while the youngest Charlie is the most curious of all. They live with their Granny who runs a family business: an old inn called The Poacher's Pocket while their father is far away in prison. Even though not even once have they ever left the island, it never occurred to Betty that it is all because of a curse passed down for generations. When Granny finally lets them in on the secret along with some magical possession, Betty feels like her world just turns upside down. Together, the sisters try to go on a quest to break the curse. But it seems like an impossible thing to do, especially when a lot of things don't go as they planned.

As expected from the start, this book was full of magic. Even though the map did not cover every place the sisters set foot in, I still considered it really pretty. Michelle Harrison's writing style was very easy to follow and the pacing of the story was perfect. It was also really interesting trying to figure out the origin of the curse alongside Betty and her sisters especially because of how badass they were for a middle-grade book's characters.

Frankly in Love follows the story of a Korean-American kid called Frank Li in his senior year. Caught in between his parents' traditional monthly gathering with their old Korean friends and their children who call themselves the Limbo, Frank finds that most of the time it is hard to balance this part of his life with his own Southern California upbringing. Even more difficult, his parents have this one rule when it comes to Frank's romantic life: date Korean, preferably the one in their tribe. Nothing is a problem until Frank falls in love with the smart and white Brit Means from his Apey class. Facing a similar struggle, Frank then proposes to his fellow Limbo Joy Song a pact: they will pretend to date each other in front of their parents but go off with their actual partner as soon as they are out of the elders' sight. Everything goes smoothly until eventually the fake-dating leads into something more serious and Frank discovers more about love and himself through the charade.

In conclusion, I had a very mixed feeling about this book. Perhaps it's partly my fault for setting my expectation bar too high, but then again, a lot of my mutuals on Goodreads seemed to enjoy this book so much. If you want to read a book with a good Asian rep, Frankly in Love could be the one you want to give it a try. I mean, mixed reviews or not, I was still able to really enjoy the story. It was just the characters that were a bit hard to care about.

The Barren Grounds follows the story of two Indigenous children in their new home: Morgan and Eli. After being ping-ponged from one house to another for numerous times, Morgan becomes weary and so she tries to be as awful as possible in front of her new foster parents, James and Katie. On the other hand, this being his very first time, Eli is quieter. All he does is draw things on his bigger-than-he-is notepad that he brings everywhere with him. One day, something strange happens to the kids. When Morgan and Eli are trying to hide in the unfinished attic at their new home, they accidentally open a portal to another reality: a frozen, barren ground named Askí, with little to no food to feed what's left in its community called Misewa. Together with a fisher called Ochek and a squirrel named Arik, the kids embark on a dangerous journey to save Misewa before it is too late.

Overall, The Barren Ground was quite enjoyablecertainly more than I thought it would be. A prompt shoutout is also needed to be given for how pretty the cover is. Looking at it kinda makes me think of a faraway fantasy land you are on your journey in where you could look up and see breathtaking dark nebula with naked eyes. To sum up, I would probably recommend it for a short fun read if you're feeling like picking something light but not so.