Looking for a bit of bookspiration? Check out everything I read in March 2023 ... from classic whodunits to family dramas, thrillers, and more, there is something for everyone!
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March was a great book month for me, and I can't wait to share all my latest reads with you!
I haven't been watching tons of TV lately, so I found lots of reading time this month! All in all, I ended up finishing eleven books (including one graphic novel), plus two short stories.
My favorite books this month were What the Neighbors Saw and Better Left Unsaid! Both of these books were advanced reader copies, which means you can't read them just yet (sorry), but both were excellent, and I'd highly recommend pre-ordering them. If you're looking for a book you can read today, The Maidens was also at the top of my list, and you'll find lots of other great book recommendations below, too!
Did you read anything worth recommending this month? Make sure to let me know in the comments!
Everything I Read in March 2023
I've included links for all of these books on Bookshop.org and Amazon so you can easily find them, as well as my ratings for each book (one star is lowest / five stars is highest).
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk
What could be better than a book about books and libraries? In The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Leigh is a librarian who is used to working behind the scenes at a renowned university library. After her boss has a stroke, she's suddenly put in charge and quickly discovers that a prized manuscript has disappeared. She's told to keep quiet, but when a fellow librarian goes missing soon after, Liesl must investigate both disappearances.
This bookish delight was an interesting look into the world of rare books and university politics. The pacing was a little slow (more of a slow burn than a thriller for sure), and I kind of figured both mysteries from the beginning, but I loved how Liesl gradually began to stand up for herself (and for the library). Overall a very enjoyable read!
Snowflakes by Ruth Ware
Things aren't quite what they seem in Snowflakes! This short story is told from the perspective of Leah, a girl whose family lives on a remote island far from the devastated mainland. When her father senses a coming threat, he demands that his children help him build a wall. However his paranoia only escalates as the wall rises.
I really like Ruth Ware, but I had mixed feelings about this story. Without giving anything away, I'll just say that it deals with a very dark contemporary issue. About halfway through, I figured out what was happening, and it's not something I would choose to read about (a little too grim / real). I listened to this story on Audible, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had actually read it.
You can read (or listen to) this short story for free if you have Amazon Prime. It's an Amazon Original (part of their Hush collection ... I listened to one of the other stories, Treasure, last month).
Order on Amazon | My Rating ⭐⭐⭐ (3 out of 5 stars)
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
My first Agatha Christie book ... better late than ever, I guess! In this novel, the famous Orient Express becomes stuck in a snowdrift overnight, and the train's passengers wake to discover that millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett has been stabbed a dozen times. The much reviled victim was found with his door locked from the inside, and with the train stuck in the middle of nowhere, the killer must be one of passenger. Leave it to famous detective Hercule Poirot to solve the case.
This intricately plotted mystery is the perfect wintery read! The writing definitely had an old-timey vibe, and I felt it dragged in spots and lacked suspense. Overall though, it was a fun book, and I enjoyed trying to figure out whodunit. This novel, which is one of Agatha Christie's most famous books, is #10 in the Poirot series. It's the perfect place to get your toes wet if you're like me and haven't read any of her books before.
Brontë by Manuela Santoni
Learn more about the lives of the famous literary sisters in Brontë! This graphic novel tells the story of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë's successful pursuit against the odds to get their poems and stories published. It also touches on their self-destructive brother, their family's financial struggles, and the obstacles they faced at home and out in the world as nineteenth century women.
I don't pick up many graphic novels, but I was reading about these famous sisters recently and was inspired to learn more. So when I spotted this book in my Libby app, I had to check it out. The stark, broody drawings are a perfect match for the sister's dark story. I'm not sure I actually learned anything new about them (the story is pretty simplified), but it was a quick, pleasurable read anyway ... definitely recommend for fans of the Brontës!
Tip: I read this graphic novel on my laptop's Kindle app, which wasn't ideal (it was hard to read the text). You'd be much better off reading a hard copy of this one!
What the Neighbors Saw by Melissa Adelman (Out 6/20/23)
I received an advance copy of What the Neighbors Saw from NetGalley / St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.
Money makes everything better, right? Not necessarily in What the Neighbors Saw! In this book, Alexis (who is pregnant with her second child) and her husband Sam (who is on the precipice of becoming a partner at his law firm) move into a dilapidated Cape Cod in an upscale DC suburb. Their new home requires constant, expensive renovations, and shortly after their move, their next door neighbor Teddy is murdered, shaking their exclusive community. The lonely and troubled Alexis befriends Teddy's widow Blair, but their friendship is tested when the truth behind his death slowly comes to light.
I loved this book! The story alternates between Alexis and Blair's perspectives and touches on some serious topics, including racism and eating disorders. It definitely took a while for the action to pick up, but once it did, I couldn't stop reading until the end (which featured two unexpected twists). If you enjoy domestic suspense / slow burn thrillers, then I think you'll love What the Neighbors Saw!
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
Global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the post-apocalyptic classic Parable of the Sower! Lauren Olamina is a 15-year-old with hyperempathy (a debilitating sensitivity to other's emotions) who lives in a gated community surrounded by walls that protect her family and neighbors from the dangerous anarchy just outside. When disaster strikes, Lauren finds herself fighting for survival while defining a new vision of human destiny.
This was such an excellent book! It was written in the 1990's, but it's set in the 2020's, and it paints a bleak picture of the world that's all too realistic. I found it very engaging, and the short chapters were fast paced. Because the main character is a teen (albeit a very mature one), it had a young adult vibe, although the topics covered are quite disturbing. I was torn between giving this book four or five stars ... although I really enjoyed it, I ultimately settled on four stars because of the abrupt ending and the religious aspect (not really my cup of tea). That said, I definitely recommend it, and I'm planning to read the next book in this series soon!
The Tiger Came to the Mountains by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
If you're a historic fiction fan, check out The Tiger Came to the Mountains! This short story is set on a farm during the Mexican Revolution, and the young girl at the story's center will do anything to save her brother’s life as they hide in the mountains. It's based on the author's great-grandmother's experiences of hunting, scavenging, and surviving despite all odds.
The Tiger Came to the Mountains has melancholy vibe, and while I enjoyed the story, it really didn't grab me. I listened to it on Audible, and I think that was part of the problem. While I enjoy nonfiction audiobooks, I find it harder to connect with characters when listening to fiction books, let alone short stories! I just feel like I miss too many descriptive details. That said, if you're a fan of Silvia Moreno-Garcia (she's one of my favorite authors!), I'd still recommend checking this story out.
You can read (or listen to) this short story for free if you have Amazon Prime. It's an Amazon Original (part of the Trespass collection).
Order on Amazon | My Rating ⭐⭐⭐ (3 out of 5 stars)
All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham
A desperate mother second guesses her memories in All the Dangerous Things! When Isabelle Drake's toddler was taken from his crib in the middle of the night, her life was turned upside down. A year later, the case has gone cold and Isabelle's life is falling apart, but she cannot rest (literally ... she rarely sleeps) until she finds her son. Her obsession with discovering new clues leads her to a true-crime podcaster, but his questions bring up disturbing memories from her past, and she begins to wonder who she can really trust (including herself).
All the Dangerous Things alternates between the present and the past, and although I enjoyed the two timelines and unreliable narrator trope, I felt that the book was over-written, slow moving, and had little to no suspense. Parts of the story were very predictable, and others felt implausible to me. This book does have lots of fans, so I'd recommend reading other reviews if the story intrigues you. I didn't like this author's previous book (A Flicker in the Dark) either, so her books may just not be for me.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
If you're a fan of Greek mythology or books with strong female characters, you'll love A Thousand Ships! The novel is a retelling of the Trojan War (from its causes to its consequences) told from the women's perspective, both mortals and goddesses.
It took me a while to get into this book, but I ended up really loving it! The story has many different characters (some recurring), so it was tricky keeping track of everyone (I went back and forth a lot to refresh my memory). It would probably be easier to follow if you were more familiar with Greek mythology than me (I referred to the classic book Mythology by Edith Hamilton throughout, which was super helpful!). The women's stories were very compelling, and it was easy to relate to their suffering, but there was plenty of humor, too. This isn't my usual type of book, but it was fun getting out of my comfort zone, and I plan to read more of Natalie Haynes' books in the future!
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
Looking for a dark academia murder mystery with a Greek twist? Then check out The Maidens, which centers around Mariana, a troubled but brilliant group therapist. When her beloved niece's friend is murdered at Cambridge University, Mariana suspects something sinister lurks beneath the beautiful campus atmosphere. She quickly becomes fixated on professor Edward Fosca (who is adored by staff and students alike, especially by a group of female students known as The Maidens), and she's certain that he's the culprit.
This was such a great read! It started a little slow, but I burned through the second half. There were so many potential suspects, and although I correctly guessed the murderer, I wasn't sure why they did it, and there was a major twist at the end. Coincidentally, this book also had lots of references to Greek mythology, and my companion book, Mythology by Edith Hamilton, came in handy once again! Bonus: If you read Michaelides' first book The Silent Patient, you'll LOVE the crossover between some of the characters!
Watching You by Lisa Jewell
Craving some character-driven suspense? Then you need to read Watching You! In this book, newlywed Joey Mullen leaves her adventurous life behind to settle down in her hometown. After moving into her brother's house, she meets a handsome, older neighbor. She finds herself watching him and quickly becomes obsessed. But she's not the only one who's watching the neighbors.
I'm a huge Lisa Jewell fan, so it's no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed Watching You! While it wasn't my favorite book of hers—I figured out what happened about midway through—I still couldn't put it down. This is one of those books where people are not what they seem. Each of the characters was struggling in some way and has something to hide, and I loved reading their different viewpoints.
Better Left Unsaid by Tufayel Ahmed (Out 9/14/23)
I received an advance copy of Better Left Unsaid from NetGalley / Amazon Publishing UK / Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
If you enjoy family dramas, Better Left Unsaid is a must read! After their mother's death, Imran, Sumaya, and their younger brother Majid have drifted in three very different directions. But when Imran's wife is attacked and the footage goes viral, he begs Sumaya to return to the UK from New York to help him. Living together again after so many years resurfaces all their old problems, and the secrets they thought were long buried threaten to come out.
This was such a wonderful, heartfelt book focused on difficult family dynamics ... I was moved to tears more than once! The story follows the lives of the older two siblings (along with the older brother's wife): one whose path is more traditional; and one whose path breaks many of their culture's norms. Both siblings are struggling with the lives they've created, as well as relating to (and really hearing) each other. I found the characters (especially Sumaya) very relatable. The younger brother, who pops up later later in the book, was refreshingly candid and somehow the most well-adjusted of all the siblings!
Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Best friends are forever in Three Things about Elsie! Alone in her apartment at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly, 84-year-old Florence has fallen and is patiently waiting for someone to discover her. While lying there, she thinks about her friend Elsie, a secret from their past, and the new resident who looks exactly like a man who died 60 years ago. As the story progresses through a series of flashbacks, the truth about Florence and Elsie's past slowly unfolds.
After reading (and loving) A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon in January, I knew that I had to read more of her books ASAP, and I picked this lovely book next. Things (and people) are not quite as simple as they seem in this layered story. It's told through multiple perspectives, and each character is struggling with their lot in life. I loved reading Florence's perspective ... older people are often relegated to footnotes or caricatured in books, but she's such an interesting character! This story progresses a bit slowly at first, but the suspense gradually builds as the book progresses, leading to a surprising conclusion.
And that wraps up everything I read in February 2023! I hope you enjoyed reading about these books and found something new to pick up. Have you read any of these novels or short stories, or do you have a book you'd like to recommend to me? Let me know if the comments!