Good Writing: My Top 3 Reads of 2022 (So Far)

An Enchantment of Ravens
If We Were Villains
The Love Hypothesis

To Read or Not To Read

I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read this year that have made me want to write. And I’ve read 30 books so far. Maybe those aren’t great odds. Maybe I should be more selective about the books I pick up; maybe I should DNF (did-not-finish) more often. But once I start reading something, I have an excruciatingly hard time stopping until I reach “The End.” If I consider stopping because I’m not enjoying it, I invariably end up feeling guilty. Am I just not in the right mood for it? Am I in a bad headspace with writing at the moment, and I’m taking it out on this poor author?

However, there is a part of me that believes every book I read is a learning experience. “Reading is research” is the mantra you will hear Miraya and I use over on The Tea Grannies Podcast every single episode. (Basically every episode. My father once told me “exaggeration is going to get you into trouble one day” and I guess I still haven’t learned my lesson.) I guess my strategy is to devour as many books as I can in the hopes that a few of them will be exceptional. I guess, with a wild trajectory like that, failure isn’t really possible? The beauty of this strategy is that I collect a TBR (to-be-read) list at a ravenous rate and never run out of titles to choose from (which is simultaneously bad for the decision-anxiety I go through on a day-to-day basis, also courtesy of my father — thanks, Dad!). What’s more, I don’t even read the summaries for some of those titles. So when I pick them up (based on cover alone — yes I am fickle and judge books that way, shamelessly) I am occasionally surprised and blown away by the premise, characters, and my sheer enjoyment of the title(s).

And those few-and-far-between books are the ones that make me want to sit down at my keyboard, or with my writing-tablet-pen in hand, and write the next best thing. The next best book. Something, anything, to get me closer to that elusive feeling of elation I get when I read a story that just bewitches me, body and soul.

These are my top 3 reads of the first half of 2022.

#1 An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Fantasy. Of course, there’s one of these on the list. But if you expected my top reads to all be fantasy, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. (Or … pleasantly surprised? Depends on whether you’re my father or not! Sorry, Dad, I still haven’t learned to branch my reading environs beyond fiction. But I’ve opened up to other genres! A little!).

An Enchantment of Ravens is a fae/fairy/faerie story through-and-through. If you’re not familiar with Holly Black and S.J. Maas and the fae writing goddesses of the twenty-first century, you probably won’t have heard of this one either, but after devouring those other series, this stand-alone novel was a breath of fresh fae air. The way that Rogerson describes the fae world, the way the magic works, and the way the fae interact with humans, was just that — refreshing. Her writing is quick, some would call it rushed, but it’s also breathtaking and colourful. I think I felt right at home because I love a good fast-paced fantasy story with lots of action and romance.

#2 If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

This novel was a mystery bordering on literary fiction. If poetic-leaning prose isn’t your thing, maybe give the summary a quick skim and be on your merry way. I dove into If We Were Villains with trepidation (it’s not fantasy, so how could I know if I would even like it?), but I quickly became engrossed. The characters, the emotional turmoil, the drama (literally — they’re theatre students), the slowly-unravelling mystery of it all… By the end, I was nearly catatonic with the sheer volume of my awe (and Dad, for the record, that’s not exaggeration — not totally). I closed the book, held it to my chest, I was on the verge of tears, and I said to myself, “I want to write something that good one day. I will write something that good one day.”

I’m fairly certain that “one day” isn’t here yet, but I’m still riding the high of that story in my memory. It gives me a target to shoot for, even if that target is blurry and intangible and hopelessly out of reach. “Shoot for the stars,” they said, and then they built a rocket and did just that. So it’s my turn now.

#3 The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Lastly and quite possibly most importantly in this list, the romance book. Before you turn up your nose and judge me for my provincial house-wife-ness, just know that I will defend this book in a fight to the death. (Sorry, Dad. Can’t seem to get this exaggeration lesson right.)

I started The Love Hypothesis last night, at around 10 PM, on recommendation from two close writer friends (I’m sure you know who you are). One of them adored it (she’s a biologist, so that makes sense — women in STEM abound in this story, and it’s glorious). The other friend enjoyed it with a few minor complaints. I stayed up until 1 AM reading it, realized I was about halfway, that I had just reached probably the mid-book crisis, and that I still had to sleep and be productive in the morning. I have stayed up until 4 AM reading other books (If We Were Villains, I’m looking at you), and I nearly did with this one, too. But I promised myself to finish it in the morning and chose to let myself sleep (to protect husband from my moodiness; you’re welcome, husband).

This book started with the kiss-a-stranger-to-get-out-of-something trope, culminated into the fake-dating trope, turned into a hot, spicy mess with the lack-of-communication-leads-to-misunderstandings-about-unrequited-love trope, and resolved in the most perfect touch-her-and-I’ll-kill-you trope moment — leading to much cuteness and a happily-ever-after ending better than any I have read in a long time. I didn’t want the book to end. But at the same time, I read it all the way through with a kind of fevered intensity, so it’s a lot better for my cardiovascular system that it did end, eventually. A re-read may be in order whenever I’m in the mood for something funny and heartwarming. Olive x Adam forever.

Until Next Time

I’ll see you later for my end-of-year round-up, maybe. Probably. Who knows if I’ll remember or if this blogging thing will pan out. Now that Queen of the Nymphs: Book III of the Nymph Keepers is set for release, I expect I’ll be wrapped up in obsessively writing my next book before long.

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