What I’ve Been Reading (March 2023)

Pictured above are my favorite reads from the past three months. They represent an interesting mix. The dominant theme, however, is that most of them are books I never thought I’d read. They’re by new-to-me authors or a genre I don’t usually do well with. And yet here we are.

Let’s dive in!

The Raven Cycle and The Dreamer Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater

The bulk of the past two months has been occupied—and I mean this in the most literal sense possible—by Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle and Dreamer Trilogy. I became obsessed with these books early in the year, shared them with a friend, and together, we read all of them. Actually, we listened, and if you’re intrigued, I’d recommend listening, too, as Will Patton’s narration is part of what makes these books so great. I’m fairly certain the characters would have lived and breathed just as well in my mind, but I loved the voices he chose for Gansey, Noah, Adam, Ronan, and Blue, and the cadence he lent to Stiefvater’s often lyrical prose.

The story of these two series feels a bit too huge—like, so huge—to share in this simple review, so I’ll simply tell you what I loved about the books. I would normally state that I don’t read a lot of YA, but over the past year or so, I’ve actually read quite a lot and it has mostly changed my mind about a genre that gets so much attention, both positive and negative. These two series deserve all the positive attention for the richness of the story and the quality of the writing, but mostly because, to me, these books felt genuinely young. The points of view of Gansey and his friends had the maturity of modern young adults, without the simplified, on/off emotions I have so often encountered in YA fiction. Neither are they over-sexualized. There are a couple of romantic threads in both series, but the main focus is always on the plot and how it affects everyone. The character growth is tremendous.

The books are also funny, sweet, and, at times, heartbreaking. The story is amazing. I am in awe of Stiefvater’s vision and the lengths to which she went to pull it off, particularly in The Dreamer Trilogy.

Needless to say, I will be checking out her backlist—and eagerly awaiting whatever comes next.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

Another new to me author, and another author I look forward to reading again. Both of these books are great, though I think Southern Book Club is the stronger of the two—but also more difficult to read in some respects. In the foreword, Hendrix talks about how he wanted to write a book about women like his mother—women who did it all, and rarely got the thanks they deserve—and boy, did he ever. The most difficult aspect of this book for me was the way the husbands of all the women in the book club treated their obviously better halves. 😉 But the ladies get their own back in one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve read to date.

How to Sell a Haunted House is simultaneously one of the funniest and most terrifying books I’ve ever read. One word: puppets. There are dolls, too. Creepy dolls. A super fun and scary read.

Sid Meier’s Memoir! by Sid Meier

Back in January, I started another reading challenge I’ve already, um, ditched. But the first prompt was to read a memoir by someone who has your dream job, so I picked up game designer Sid Meier’s memoir and loved, loved, loved it.

Not only does the book chronicle Meier’s legendary contribution to video gaming, but it’s also a love letter to the industry and its legions of fans. Fantastic stuff.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

The Raven Boys aside, probably the best book I’ve read this year would be Remarkably Bright Creatures. I really only skimmed the cover copy before diving in, the octopus on the cover being more of an enticement than anything else. Said octopus became one of my favorite characters, but I honestly adored everyone in the book and have since recommended it to everyone I know. Now it’s your turn.

Something in the Heir by Suzanne Enoch

This would be the biggest surprise so far. I do love a good historical romp now and then, but I didn’t expect to adore the children in this book so much—kids can often be distracting, and not just in stories. I also loved all the side characters, the setting, the language, and the heartfelt conclusion. Just a lovely story.

Before this post gets too long, I’ll quickly mention the remaining books pictured in the header graphic:

The Crystal Key

—the follow-up to Douglas Smith’s The Hollow Boys. Another YA series I’m invested in and super entertaining.

Stone Skin

—Jenn Burke’s latest and greatest; another sweet romance, with more exciting plot developments. I’m looking forward to the final book.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

—at long last, I’ve read it. And I loved it! Next up: Once and Future Witches.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

—I don’t know why I couldn’t put this down? It just captured and kept me and has left me wanting more.

That’s it for now. Hopefully, the next three months will be as filled with adventure, romance, and good words. How about you? What have you been reading?

Published by Kelly Jensen

Writer of love stories. Bibliophile. Gamer. Hiker. Cat herder. Waiting for the aliens. 👽 🏳️‍🌈

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