March reading summary and recap

Audiobooks saved my reading life this month. My eye is getting better, but I’ve kept up with the audiobooks because I had a lot of travel this month, and I can listen to them everywhere.

Here’s what I read in March:

If you like Sherlock Holmes, you have got to check out A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas. I’d been wanting to read this series for a while because I love the premise (Sherlock and Watson are both women in this version). But, I had no idea how much I would love the writing and the story. Listening to it on audiobook made it harder for me to guess the “who done it” part of the mystery. I find it’s harder to pick up on clues when I’m listening than when I’m reading. I have a very visual memory — I’m one of those readers who remembers where things are on the page and in the book — and names are especially hard for me to remember when I only hear them and don’t see them in print. In some ways, that made listening to the story even more fun. I was able to just enjoy it without trying to race ahead.

One thing I’m learning about audiobooks vs. reading in print is that pacing is so much more obvious in audiobook. When I’m reading and get to a particularly tense part of a book, I may skim ahead a bit, or read faster to get to the part where the tension is released. Similarly, when I get to lengthy descriptions, I also tend to skim. When I’m listening, I just have to go at the pace of the narrator. Admittedly, I’ve amped up that pace considerably. I listen at 1.25x to 1.5x normal speed. When I listen at normal speed it’s too easy to get distracted and tune out the narrator. The faster speed forces my brain to stay engaged in the story and not wander off. Luckily, the Libby app I use (because I’m listening to audiobooks from my library) doesn’t make everyone sound like chipmunks at that speed. Somehow, it still sounds “normal” to me.

Where I noticed pacing the most was when I started listening to Court of Fives by Kate Elliot. The pacing in that book is relentless (in a good way). Listening to this book made me think a lot about pacing for my own fantasy novels. Every time you think things will slow down, there’s another twist. I didn’t think listening to epic fantasy on audiobook would be a good fit for me because secondary world fantasy usually means lots of new names and terms that (for me) are a lot easier to follow in print. I did have to back up and replay in places, and several times I wished I could easily turn back to check something that happened earlier in the book. I probably only picked up on half the clues I normally would have, which makes me wonder if the political aspect of this story would seem too obvious if I’d been reading instead of listening. But the narrator was great and the story and world were engaging. So, I definitely will be continuing with the series, and I’ll probably stick with the audiobooks.

Names and places, and the fact that it had been a while since I read the first book, also threw me off while listening to The Rose & The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh. It took me a while to remember who was who and where things left off in book one. But, once I got through a few chapters, I was completely sucked into this world again. As the story grew closer to wrapping up, I didn’t want to hit pause. That’s how I ended up listening to a very emotional bit near the end while eating my breakfast at work and tearing up over my yogurt and granola during the morning rush in the mini-kitchen. I think I managed to be discreet enough that no one noticed.

Another thing to file under “listening to romance audiobooks in public places can get awkward,” while reading both No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean and Buns by Alice Clayton, I somehow always managed to get to the “sexy times” scenes at the worst moments. One example: I was listening to No Good Duke… in the car while waiting for my husband to get out of a presentation he was attending in the very small town we’ve moved to. Things between the hero and heroine started getting steamy right about the time the presentation let out. What felt like the entire small town started walking past my car parked outside the venue. It took me a minute to realize they could probably hear the audio from outside the car, and I scrambled to turn the volume down.

Since I seemed to be on a roll with finishing up books in series I’d started but hadn’t gotten around to finishing, I picked up Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton on audiobook. I enjoyed this ballerina thriller just as much as I’d enjoyed the first book (Tiny Pretty Things). I love dance books, especially ballet, especially when there’s a lot of focus on how much work goes into being a professional dancer. I’m a sucker for the reading equivalent of the “training montage.” If you also like that stuff, plus girl-focused thrillers like Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, definitely check out these books.

The only non-audiobook I read this month was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This was one of my favorites as a kid. Like many people, I wanted to re-read the book before I saw the movie. I ended up re-reading the first few chapters before I saw the movie and the rest after. It brought back everything I loved about Ms. L’Engle’s books. Now I kind of want to re-read this entire series — especially the ones that come later when Meg and Calvin’s kids are the ones having the adventures. I’m so excited that they made this book into such a visually stunning movie. The big-name cast and the fact that they had to cut a lot of the detail in the plot made it a little hard for me to suspend reality and enjoy the movie. But, I’m hearing that kids are loving it, and that’s the point. I’m no longer the target demographic for this story, but the idea that a new generation of kids might love it as much as I did makes me very happy.

That’s it for me for March. I hope your March reading made you happy, and your spring is sunny and bright!