Saturday, March 30, 2024

What I read this month: March 2024


I didn't read in February, so I felt like I needed to prioritize it in March. I worked all last year to grow my reading muscle again and I don't want to regress! Sometimes it's pretty sad to realize I just can't read the way I did 20 years ago, when any book could hold my attention non-stop and I could read for 12-hours straight, pausing only for snacks.

But I also feel like it's easier now than it was this time last year, so cheers to progress! Let's dive in.

Running Wild by Linda Howard and Linda Jones

Fluffy romance is truly the best way to cure a reading slump, at least for me. This one had everything I was looking for. Carlin is a sarcastic and resilient woman on the run from a dangerous stalker; Zeke is a literal cowboy who can't help but want to protect her (which in this case means teaching her how to fight and shoot). 

I wasn't the biggest fan of the sex scenes in this book – certain words in spicy scenes make me cringe – and there was one weird and pointless joke about intersex people that made me immediately check the book's publish date. Otherwise, this was just the sort of brain candy I was looking for.

Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson
I put off reading this book after binging half a dozen in this series in January, mainly because Frank and Sarah are noticeably absent from the plot. They're away on their honeymoon, and the secondary characters take on solving this murder. 

Once I got past the annoyance at the two main characters' absence, I quite enjoyed this addition to the series. I like the secondary characters and they were fun to follow; plus, we got to see them fleshed out a bit more.

The mystery was well done, as usual, and even though I sort of figured out the culprit before the end, there was one final twist I didn't see coming.

Radiance by Grace Draven
This novel came highly recommended; I feel like every time I see someone request a romantansy that differs from the usual formula of super-intense-growly-male meets Mary Sue, this one comes up. Because of the hype, I found myself disappointed in some ways, although it was definitely different.

Radiance follows Ildiko, a human woman, and Brishen, her Kai husband. Their arranged marriage promises peace and prosperity between two kingdoms that share a tenuous peace. Kai is basically an orc –  although Draven goes into great detail about what he looks like, in the end I had to just picture him like a Lord of the Rings character because her descriptions were sometimes hard to follow.

I liked that Ildiko and Brishen find each other hideous for the majority of the book. They get along well and develop mutual respect for each other early on. The descriptions of humans-through-the-eyes-of-Kai were amusing and, I thought, well done. The development of their relationship was definitely the high point of this book.

That said, I wasn't a fan of the writing style –  Draven tends to do the thing where characters hearken back to a conversation or event from the previous night, show it, and then bounce back into the present –  usually by someone shaking the POV character out of their reverie.

I hate this conceit and think showing readers important moments when they happen makes for stronger writing. She also uses a lot of antiquated and technical language that made it hard to just sink into the story. I had the feeling she did a lot of research (or spent a lot of time reading a thesaurus) and wanted to use everything she had learned.

Finally, although there is quite a bit of intrigue built up around the unfriendly kingdom that borders Brishen's lands, when the big skirmish finally happens, the stakes feel adequately high, but too easily resolved.

This is the first in a trilogy and I don't think I'll be reading the next two books. I will say, I love to read a book like this and be able to pick out these sorts of issues because it makes me hopeful that my awareness of them means I can avoid them in my own writing.


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