Challenge Check-In March

Challenge Check-In – March 2023

In 2023 I’m starting a new monthly feature, Challenge Check-In which is kind of like a Monthly Wrap Up, but not quite. I will focus on my progress regarding my reading goals (check out THIS post), and will also offer 5-5 recommendations for 2 The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge prompts each month. It’s never too late to join if it catches your interest!

It was like yesterday that I complained about February going by way too fast and here we go, March came and went. It was a super busy month for the blog as we just celebrated our 5th anniversary! I wrote a lengthy post about some of the ups and downs over the year. I also made a lengthy and soppy Twitter thread too.

The Asylum got a well-deserved makeover too, and I’m super happy with the results. Hopefully, you’ll love it just as much as I do. And some friends joined to help celebrate! Make sure to check out all the fun features we brought to you in March. And I’m happy to say that more is on the way.

So, here comes my Challenge Check-In for March 2023.

The Month in Reading

March 2023

For March 2023 my handy spreadsheet at the start of the month had 3 ebooks and 2 audiobooks (one I started in February, so it got pushed over) planned. It ended up having 10(!!!) books. 2 of those I’m still reading, and 2 were DNFs, although one at 52% and one at 76% (and I might go back and finish it in April). I have no fucking idea how this happened. I don’t even know when was the last time I managed to read this much and I’m astonished. Out of those 9 books, 5 were on my self-imposed TBR. So far I’m doing pretty well.

Before I get to what I read this month, here are some reviews for books I finished in February, but reviewed in March:

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

The King Must Fall by Grimdark Magazine

We Dream of Gods by Devin Madson

The Lord of Stariel by AJ Lancaster

TitleThe Lord of Stariel
Author: A.J. Lancaster
Series: Stariel #1
Publisher: Camberion Press
Release Date: November 1, 2018
Format: audiobook
Status: Reread
Rating: 5👑

I started reading the Stariel series last year, but then got sidetracked, so decided to catch up and do it from the start while I’m at it, since I never got around to review book 2. I became addicted…

I don’t know if it’s because I was really engrossed by Downton Abbey, but I couldn’t stop thinking The Lord of Stariel is what would happen if Downton Abbey was set in a Fantasy world. I also need to mention the narrator of the audiobook, Finty Williams, who did an absolutely stellar job bringing this book to life.

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Songbird by Karen Heenan

Title: Songbird
Author: Karen Heenan
Series: The Tudor Court #1 / standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: December 3, 2021
Format: ebook
Status: Read
Rating: 3.5👑

Historical fiction is one of my weekness, and I’ve been eyeing Songbird for a while now. Then I got a review request and I was supposed to read it at the end of last year, but that never happened… I’m all caught up now, though!

The Tudor Court series could become something special within the historical romance genre. I recommend Songbird for those who are looking for a coming-of-age found family romance story set in the Tudor era, sprinkled with a bit of court intrigue.

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The Prince of Secrets by A.J. Lancaster

Title: The Prince of Secrets
Author: A.J. Lancaster
Series: Stariel #2
Publisher: Camberion Press
Release Date: January 21, 2019
Format: audiobook
Status: Reread
Rating: 5👑

I had a good run with the Stariel series in March, listened to the audiobooks like there was no tomorrow 😅 A year late, but I had my review for The Prince of Secrets!

A.J. Lancaster absolutely sucked me into this alternative regency world, and she won’t let me go any time soon, I suspect. While The Lord of Stariel filled a Downton Abbey-sized hole in my heart, The Prince of Secrets managed to build on that and lodge this series firmly on my list of favorites.

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The Court of Mortals by A.J. Lancaster

Title: The Court of Mortals
Author: A.J. Lancaster
Series: Stariel #3
Publisher: Camberion Press
Release Date: January 18, 2020
Format: audiobook
Status: Read
Rating: 4.5👑

So, yeah, I did get addicted to this series, and the only reason I didn’t read book 4 yet is that the amazing Finty Williams was replaced by another narrator and I didn’t like the sample, so I’m waiting to be able to buy the ebook.

I already admitted in my review for The Prince of Secrets, that I’m addicted, and honestly, The Court of Mortals did nothing to cure me of that. There are worse things to be addicted to, though, so I’m taking my wins where I can. The Stariel series and A.J. Lancaster are both slowly taking their place on my respective favorite lists, and I don’t even have any regrets about that.

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Tethered Spirits by T. A. Hernandez

Title: Tethered Spirits
Author: T. A. Hernandez
Series: Curse of Shavhalla #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: December 14, 2021
Format: ebook
Status: DNF at 52%
Rating: 5/10 for SPFBO

Tethered Spirits is one of the SPFBO 8 Finalists. I hoped I would like this one, but sadly, we weren’t meant to be.

Ultimately, cool as the worldbuilding was, I just had to admit I was not the right audience for Tethered Spirits, and quietly walk away.

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Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Title: Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Series: standalone
Publisher: Hutchinson
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Format: hardcover
Status: Reread
Rating: 5👑

The series based on this book was released recently on Prime and Jason Aycock kept talking about it, so naturally, I had to reread it before watching the show. I did (both), and loved (both).

Daisy Jones & The Six is one hell of a tour of emotions, life and music. I don’t think a book ever made me tear up by page 38. And those were even happy tears!! Honestly, I just loved everything about this book from start to finish. It’s not happens every day that my extremely high expectations are met and I fell in love with a book everyone else seems to love. Just… go for it. Give this a read if your love the ’70s, rock and roll or just music in general. You won’t be disappointed. 

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The Meet Cute Method by Portia MacIntosh

Title: The Meet Cute Method
Author: Portia MacIntosh
Series: standalone
Publisher: Boldwood Books
Release Date: May 4, 2022
Format: audiobook
Status: Read
Rating: 4👑

While I was coming off my Stariel “high”, I needed something cute and funny to tide me over. The Meet Cute Method seemed like a good choice, and while it was quite predictable, it still made me laugh, so that’s a win in my book.

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A Song for the Void by Andrew C. Piazza

Title: A Song of the Void
Author: Andrew C. Piazza
Series: standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: July 15, 2020
Format: ebook
Status: DNF at 76% / RTC
Rating: TBA

Another SPFBO 8 Finalist, the last I was reading. I’m still not sure how I’m going to review this Horror, Fantasy, and Historical Fiction mix. And then I might even go back and finish to see if it changes my opinion. Either way, an official review is coming in April.

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Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Title: Daughters of Night
Author: Laura Shepherd-Robinson
Series: standalone
Publisher: Mantle
Release Date: June 25, 2020
Format: audiobook
Status: Currently reading
Rating: TBA

I heard so much good about Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s books, that I had to check them for myself. I got the audiobook copy of Daughters of Night and have to say I’m enjoying it so far. In the meantime, I keep all my fingers crossed that due to some miracle, I would get approved for an ARC of her upcoming novel, The Square of Sevens.

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The Cleaving by Juliet E. McKenna

Title: The Cleaving
Author: Juliet E. McKenna
Series: standalone
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: April 11, 2023
Format: ebook
Status: Currently reading
Rating: TBA

I wasn’t supposed to request this on NetGalley, but… I let myself be persuaded by that alluring Historical Fiction label *sigh*. Well, that, and the fact that I haven’t read anything by Juliet E. McKenna either. I’m currently about 40% into it and plan to post my review for the release. I will also interview Juliet as part of a blog tour.

Womble's TBR Reduction

The prompt for March was “fresh starts”. Since March is the beginning of spring, we were required to start a series we never read before. The stretch goal is to read the whole series during the year. I was contemplating picking Songbird for this round, but since I want to have at least one stretch goal, I’m going to cheat once again and pick The Lord of Stariel. I know it’s half a reread and half a new read, but… I’m reading all the books this year either way!

The Sound of Madness

I made some progress with my reading challenge in March, although I’m holding out on a few yet before I decide where I’m going to put them. and filled some prompts with the following titles:

Here is what my card looks like right now:

The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge progress March 2023

And as promised, I’m going to give you some recs for the first two prompts on this lovely card.

Mindenütt jó (Everywhere is Good)

Home is the main theme of this song, so it should be a book either set in your hometown/country or a book that reminds you of home. Or a book in which home is a central theme in some way. I can see a cozy fantasy book going with this prompt too. One that’s set in the character’s hometown for instance. Or a book where a character finds their home eventually. A found family theme might also work, although there is a family prompt further down the line.

Budapest Noir by Vilmos Kondor

Title: Budapest Noir
Author: Vilmos Kondor
Series: Bűnös Budapest #1 (Budapest Noir #1)
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Release Date: February 1, 2008

Recs for a prompt about home wouldn’t be right without at least one book on it from my home. Budapest Noir is the first in a series of Historical Fiction / Crime novels set in the 1930s. As far as I know, only this book was translated into English. I highly recommend it if you like detective novels. One of the best Hungarian books I’ve read.

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The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox by Claire Gradidge

Title: The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox
Author: Claire Gradidge
Series: Josephine Fox #1
Publisher: Zaffire
Release Date: August 8, 2019

I listened to this one on audiobook during the pandemic, just a month after I moved out from my parents. In this novel, Josephine Fox returns home to find answers about her past but she also ends up investigating a murder case.

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Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burges

Title: Scales & Sensibility
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Series: Regency Dragons #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: October 4, 2021

Scales & Sensibility is one of my more recent reads thanks to SPFBO, in which this is a finalist. I picked it for this prompt because the book is set in Elinor’s home. Or at least the house she’s been calling home since her parents’ passing. Not that she ever really felt at home there…

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Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Title: Rivers of London
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Series: Rivers of London #1
Publisher: Gollancz
Release Date: January 10, 2011

I admit this is not necessarily the most obvious pick for this prompt. I choose it because it’s set in London, which always feels like home to me when I’m there. And because it’s home to the beings featured in this series, as well as the MC, Peter.

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Falling Through Stars by Staci Olsen

Title: Falling Through Stars
Author: Staci Olsen
Series: standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: August 1, 2021

I picked this book because the story is set in Ts’ellbah’s clan’s settlement. It’s a small-scale story, one for which the author drew from her childhood memories and home.

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Demons

This is this year’s “creature” prompt. Anything goes with monsters, fantasy creatures, and supernatural beings. They don’t necessarily have to be bad ones, though.

The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer

Title: The Long Way Down
Author: Craig Schaefer
Series: Daniel Faust #1
Publisher: Demimonde Books
Release Date: July 12, 2014

I read the first Daniel Faust book way before I became a blogger. I didn’t even know it was self-published back then. But that’s beside the point. I could have picked any of the books in this series, as both demons and other supernatural creatures get featured frequently.

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Miss Percy's Pocket Guide by Quenby Olson

Title: Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care & Feeding of British Dragons
Author: Quenby Olson
Series: Miss Percy Guide #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: January 1, 2021

Since we take all creatures under this prompt, we naturally need at least one book with a dragon. Miss Percy’s one is cute to boot! It’s a book that well earned its place in the SPFBO 8 finals.

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The Second Bell by Gabriela Houston

Title: The Second Bell
Author: Gabriela Houston
Series: standalone
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: March 9, 2021

Gabriela Houston’s debut novel draws on Eastern-European myths. In The Second Bell, people who are born with two hearts are considered to be strigras, unnatural creatures. But of course, not everything is as it seems.

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Where Oblivion Lives by T. Frohock

Title: Where Oblivion Lives
Author: T. Frohock
Series: Los Nefilim #1
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: February 19, 2019

Man, I love this series so much. Historical Fiction mixed with Fantasy. So, so good. And lucky for me, fits right into this prompt. It has angels and demons, but that doesn’t mean all of them are good or bad.

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A Master of Djinn by P. Djéli Clark

Title: A Master of Djinn
Author: P. Djéli Clark
Series: Dead Djinn Universe #1
Publisher: Tor.com
Release Date: May 11, 2021

I admit that I haven’t read this book yet, although I did read and enjoy one of the prequel novellas, A Dead Djinn in Cairo. I picked it for this prompt because I wanted to give you a nice variety of creatures to show how many options there are. Plus, come on, djinns are interesting!

And that concludes my Challenge Check-In for March 2023. On the whole, I did surprisingly well, and hopefully, I’ll be able to keep it up. Let me know how you progressed with either my challenges or the ones you set for yourself!

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