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In March, my reading life took a turn toward a genre I haven’t read for years — fantasy!

For decades, if you asked me what my favorite book was, I would have said The Lord of the Rings. But in recent years, I tend to read more contemporary literary fiction with a few classics thrown in.

After being away from the genre for a while, I started to be curious about this genre once again in large part thanks to several BookTubers who talk a lot about this genre.

One author that seems to be a consistent favorite is Brandon Sanderson. But trying to figure out where to start with Sanderson’s books can also be confusing because most of his books are part of what’s called the Cosmere. The Cosmere is simply the universe in which his stories happen. Sometimes they are connected sometimes they aren’t, and you don’t have to read the books in order. Within the Cosmere, there are series, which you would want to read in order, and some standalone novels.

I found a video by Sanderson himself in which he gives some tips about where to start, and one of the books he said you could start with is Tress of the Emerald Sea. I liked this idea because it’s a standalone novel, and it’s not as big of a commitment as a series. Long story short — I loved this book. I think this will go down as one of my favorite books of the year.

I also decided to start reading through an old fantasy series — The Chronicles of Narnia.

This month also included a good women’s fiction novel, a classic mystery, and a Christian devotional, which has also become a new favorite.

I'm Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagán

I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagán

Whenever I need a good palette cleanser after a thriller or another type of stressful book, Camille Pagán is one of the authors I turn to. Pagán’s heroines are always dealing with some serious life issues, but she has a way of presenting the situation with humor and wit as she works to bring them through it — and she always brings them through it. This might be the heaviest book I’ve read by her to date. When the book opens, the main character finds out that her best friend has just died from an opioid addiction that she didn’t even know that she had. She was under the impression that her best friend was living a near-perfect life, and now she starts to question everything she knew about her. On top of that, she is forced to face growing issues in her own life, especially in her marriage.

  • Publish Date: April 1, 2019
  • Length: 270 pages / 8 hours 2 minutes
  • Genre: Women’s Fiction
  • Content Notes: Drug addiction, death, grief
tress of the emerald sea

Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

This will go down as one of my favorite books of the year. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never read a Sanderson novel or if you don’t know what the Cosmere is (I can say that because this was my first Sanderson novel, and I loved it). This is a book about love, bravery, adventure, and the intricacies of human nature. Sanderson says that this book was inspired by The Princess Bride, but he wanted to explore what would have happened if Buttercup had decided to go find Westley. I used to read more fantasy when I was younger, and this book has definitely whet my appetite for more. I also think this book would be a great place to start if you’re looking to dip your toe into this genre.

Read my full review here.

  • Publish Date: April 4, 2023
  • Length: 320 pages / 12 hours
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Content Notes: Miscarriage
The Horse and His Boy by C S Lewis

The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis

I listened to this book on audio several years ago, but when I was scanning my bookshelves recently, I realized that I couldn’t remember how it ended, so I decided to pick it up. I won’t include any spoilers, but this one does have a great ending. When the book opens, Shasta is a young boy living with an old man who treats and beats him like a slave. When a visitor shows up who wants to buy him from the old man, Shasta is sent to sleep in the stables with the man’s horse. The horse, it turns out, is not just any horse, but a Narnian horse, which means he can talk. They hatch a plan to escape together, and the adventure begins. Can you really go wrong with a re-read of the Chronicles of Narnia?

  • Publish Date: 1954
  • Length: 240 pages / 4 hours 39 minutes
  • Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

After finishing The Horse and His Boy, I decided to continue the series. I recently realized that while I’ve read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe several times, I haven’t ever finished the series. There’s a famous quote by C. S. Lewis that says, “A children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.” This book opens when Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are sitting at the train station getting ready to head to school when all of a sudden, they find themselves in a forest. As the story unfolds, they find that it’s no accident that they are there, but they were actually called there for a reason. What a great book! And yes, I have decided to keep going with the series!

  • Publish Date: 1951
  • Length: 240 pages / 4 hours 40 minutes
  • Genre: Children’s Fantasy
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

This was my pick for the Reading Through the Decades Reading Challenge for a book that was published in the 1920s. When I saw that Agatha Christie published her debut novel during this decade, I knew this was the book I wanted to read. And I have a confession: this was my first Agatha Christie novel. And I was not disappointed. In this book, we get introduced to Christie’s sleuth, Hercule Poirot, and he’s that endearing character that you miss when he’s not on the page. This was a great introduction, and I look forward to reading more.

  • Publish Date: April 16, 2024
  • Length: 185 pages / 6 hours 16 minutes
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Content Notes: Death
christ and calamity grace and gratitude in the darkest valley

Christ and Calamity by Harold Seinkbeil

I went looking for a comforting book after there was a recent death in the family, and this book more than delivered. This is a book that everyone should keep close at hand. It’s not just for those who are dealing with grief, although it is for that, too. This is a book that you will also find comforting even if you are simply having a bad day and need some encouragement. The thing I appreciate so much about this book is that he doesn’t downplay anything you might be struggling with, and he doesn’t use any corny clichés. What Seinkbeil is excellent at is showing how where we are lacking, Christ picks up the slack and then some. For example, these are some of the chapter headings: When You are Faithless, Christ Is Your Faithfulness; When You are Weak, Christ Is Your Strength; When You are Sad, Christ Is Your Joy.

  • Publish Date: June 20, 2020
  • Length: 168 pages / 2 hours 36 minutes
  • Genre: Christian Devotional
  • Content Notes: Grief, death

Currently Reading

Here are some books I’m in the middle of reading right now (I will have more details next month):

  • The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. As I’ve decided to start reading more fantasy, this is another series that comes highly recommended.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. I’ve decided to keep going with this series.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. This is a book I’ve been listening to with my kids on the way to school. Both my six-year-old and my 14-year-old have been enjoying this.
  • How to Stay Married by Harrison Scott Key. This is an interesting memoir about a marriage in crisis.

What did you read this month?? I would love to hear about it.

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  1. Hey Courtney, it’s good to connect with you this week. I used to be a huge Agatha Christie fan back in high school but haven’t read one of her books in forever. Thanks for the prompt to maybe revisit her once again all these years later.

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