top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

February Wrap-Up: My Favorite Reads of the Month

My very favorite Bossy February reads!

Here are the six books I most loved reading this past month.

If you've read any of these titles, I'd love to hear what you think!

And I'd also love to hear: what are some of your recent favorite reads?


01 The End of Drum-Time by Hanna Pylväinen

Pylväinen's novel explores the cooperation and conflict among cultures in a mid-nineteenth century community in the Arctic Circle, immersing the reader in a cold, unforgiving climate and in the long-held traditions of its varied characters.

...she wondered, was this what love was, to persist when you didn't want to, to try for patience another time....

In Hanna Pylväinen's The End of Drum-Time, it's 1851 in the Arctic Circle, and a small community of reindeer herders, a minister's family and his flock of followers, and a local shop owner whose greatest profit comes from liquor are all trying to get through the winter.

In their remote location in the Scandinavian tundra, they're each carving out lives shaped by the unforgiving snow and cold.

Their cultures are sometimes mysteries to each other, and at times conflict greatly with others' traditions. I was fascinated by Pylväinen's explorations of how the old ways and new ways pushed against each other, as did the Finn, Lapp, Sámi, Swedish, and Russian influences of the region. Religion is a particular conflict in the novel, with the Christian characters proving themselves to be naïve, rigid, judgmental, greedy, vain, and foolhardy.

The End of Drum-Time was intriguing and kept me interested throughout; it was brutal and frustrating (these foolish men--!) but its setting was beautifully crafted.

For more cold-setting stories, check out my Greedy Reading List Six Books with Cold, Wintry Settings to Read by the Fire.

For my full review of this book, please see The End of Drum-Time.


02 Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1) by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs is a formidable, dogged, whip-smart investigator working to ferret out the truth in the aftermath of World War I in this irresistible first installment of Winspear's 18-book historical fiction series.

She knew she was out of bounds, but this was nothing new to her. She had spent much of her life out of bounds, living and speaking where, according to some, she had no business.

Maisie Dobbs begins Winspear's series as a thirteen-year-old servant in a Belgravia mansion, but Maisie ultimately trains as a psychologist, with a World War I wartime interlude serving as a nurse, before turning her fascination with humans and her keen eye for detail to becoming an investigator--despite the fact that a female entrepreneur investigator is an unheard-of position for the time.

The mystery of the book centers around a post-war haven for soldiers mentally and physically harmed by The Great War. But the mystery takes a back seat in the book to Maisie's explorations of human motivations, her interest in others' behavior, and her unorthodox methods of ferreting out the truth.

I was dissatisfied with (and didn't fully buy into) the ending of the book, but I loved Maisie's overall headstrong manner and her rejection of societal limitations. I look forward to reading the next books and to seeing where Maisie goes next.

Check out this Greedy Reading List for Six Historical Fiction Mysteries to Intrigue You.

Click here for my full review of Maisie Dobbs.


03 The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn

The Whalebone Theatre begins with offbeat children's performances on a lazy, decadent English estate in the 1920s and builds to the young-adulthood of each of three characters, which are deeply shaped by World War II.

The war and all its deprivations seem relentless, but for Cristabel, there is a strange and guilty thrill running through it, for it is exactly this thinning of the ordinary that allows the unordinary through.

Joanna Quinn's debut novel is a hefty 558 pages, and the story sweeps through time from the 1920s malaise of the children and the excess of the adults on a secluded English estate, Chilcombe Manor, on to World War II, as experienced by a community of family and friends.

The beginning of the book moves quite slowly, which is fitting for the decadent, ongoing series of lavish dinner parties, hangovers, persistent hangers-on, and malaise occurring for the adults, who are largely without pressing business or life missions where they might direct their generational wealth. The children are largely unattended during this time, but their bonds to each other are solidified.

The pacing of the story picks up, appropriately, when World War II begins to shift the world, exerting changes that finally trickle down to Chilcombe and its inhabitants. I loved reading as the children come into themselves--in fits and starts--as young adults, and I came to care deeply about them, their roles in the wartime efforts, and their potential for various happy-ever-afters.

Click here for my full review of The Whalebone Theatre.


04 Unsinkable by Jenni L. Walsh

I loved each of the historical fiction story's two timelines--following a stewardess on board The Titanic as well as a British spy working with the WWII French Resistance--and the details of life in each time, but I found the ending's resolutions too easy.

The book's past timeline is set in the early 20th century, as Violet, a young ship's stewardess bent on providing for her family after her father's death and mother's onset of illness, works aboard ships including, as the story sweeps along, The Titanic. I love a ship-life story, and I was taken with the details of Violet's caring for the elite passengers.

The story's later timeline takes place in the time of World War II as Daphne, an intelligent and educated young woman who is emotionally closed off and desperately trying to impress her estranged, famous father, serves as a spy assisting the French Resistance.

Throughout Unsinkable, Daphne and Violet fought through unimaginable difficulties, focused on their duties at the expense of their romantic happiness, witnessed various horrors, and yet recognized and cultivated an unlikely spark of hope for themselves and their futures that felt hard-won and intriguing.

The final scenes felt oddly clean and neatly wrapped up with a bow as though according to a formulaic "happy ending" equation, and I found this shift from the appealingly messy, imperfect, wonderful, adventurous, tragic lives shown in the bulk of the book to a smooth, no-loose-ends set of outlandish coincidences and resolutions jarring rather than wholly satisfying.

Please click here for my full review of Unsinkable.


05 Beautyland by Marie-Helene Bertino

In Beautyland, Bertino offers a poignant, funny, strange story full of extraterrestrial observations of humans and their behavior that ring true. This was odd and lovely.

Adina is born on Earth just as Voyager 1 launches into space. Her mother is a street-smart, scrabbling single parent, while Adina is an unusually perceptive child--with knowledge of another planet, a vivid nighttime school she attends in her mind, and faraway extraterrestrial relatives who have asked for her observations about humans and life on earth--which she provides by sending them her reflections through an otherworldly fax machine.

The reader is privy to Adina's many missives to her extraterrestrial family--and their often-terse replies to her. She feels caught between existences, and the book pulls to a powerful but understated end in which this push and pull is resolved.

I found myself torn throughout reading this; was Adina a character struggling with mental illness and imagining her superiors' replies, or was she truly an alien in a human "shell"? I believed in the latter, but establishing the definitive truth of the situation didn't ultimately matter deeply to me: Adina's eyes offered a beautiful, odd, lovely peek at human behavior, and her observations were just wonderful.

For my full review, check out Beautyland. If you like this book, you might also be interested in the books on my Greedy Reading List Six Great Stories about Robots, Humans and Alien Life, and AI.


06 Gwen & Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

Lex Croucher's queer medieval rom-com--the author's debut young-adult novel--is an absolute gem; it's full of excellent banter and lots of heart. I smiled while reading this one.

“Nobody else is ever going to care as much as you do about the things that you want, Gwendoline. So it's up to you --you can put them aside forever, if you can live with that, or you can put on your big-girl girdle and demand more for yourself.”

It's hundreds of years after King Arthur's reign, and his descendant and namesake Arthur, a future lord and committed partier and social butterfly, has long been betrothed to the short-tempered princess Gwendoline.

Gwendoline has strong opinions and is feeling constricted in her prescribed royal role even without the weight of her pending marriage upon her.

But Gwendoline and Arthur detest each other. And when they're forced to spend the summer together at Camelot to prepare for their upcoming nuptials, it doesn't take long for them to realize that Art has been kissing a boy and that Gwen has a crush on the only female knight in the kingdom.

The premise of Lex Croucher's Gwen & Art Are Not in Love is irresistible, the pacing is great, and the banter is excellent--funny dialogue is a favorite element of mine. I adored the voices of the characters and witnessing their growth over the course of the story.

For my full review, please see Gwen & Art Are Not in Love.


bottom of page