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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

June Wrap-Up: My Favorite Reads of the Month

My very favorite Bossy June reads!

First, would someone please explain how it's possibly the last day of June? This seems unlikely and also undesirable.

Second, here are the books I most loved reading in June!

  • The Second Ending, Michelle Hoffman's light-fiction novel about music, dark secrets, zany hijinks, and redemption;

  • Beyond That the Sea, historical fiction set during World War II about a young girl balancing two worlds and families;

  • Boys I Know, Anna Gracia's debut, young adult fiction about a wonderful young protagonist navigating sexuality, others' expectations, and shaping her own future;

  • Charm City Rocks, Matthew Norman's layered light fiction about music, unorthodox family, growing up, and finding new beginnings;

  • The Celebrants, Steven Rowley's exploration of friendship, loyalty, life and death, and moving on after tragedy; and

  • Yours Truly, Abby Jimenez's irresistible newest rom-com, which had me laughing and also made me tear up a little.

If you've read any of these books, 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 Second Ending by Michelle Hoffman

Hoffman's novel is about facing dark realities, entering uncharted territory, leaning on music as a solace, and welcoming new beginnings. The Second Ending was fun and full of heart.

Prudence Childs was a prodigy. She taught herself to play the piano as a toddler, became famous, played at the White House, and appeared on television. She inspired a generation to take up the piano.

Then she realized her grandmother was exploiting her and she broke from both her family and her fame. She fell into a career writing jingles--creatively unsatisfying but it paid the bills.

Decades later, Prudence's dark past threatens to upend her peaceful, if uneventful, adult life.

One thing leads to another and she agrees to participate in a popular televised dueling piano competition--against Alexei Petrov, a young Russian pianist who has flawless technique. But Alexei's parents have always pushed him so ruthlessly, he never made friends or developed a life outside of music.

When the two face off, they each have something to prove--to their families, their exes, those who have doubted them--and to themselves.

There are a number of appealingly zany hijinks here as well as a surprising amount of heart. The Second Ending is about self-discovery, facing dark truths, taking a terrifying leap out of the safety of what is known, and opening the door to a boundless, uncharted future. I really enjoyed this.

For my full review, check out The Second Ending.


02 Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash

Beyond That, the Sea is a lovely character-driven historical fiction story about complicated relationships, found family, growing up, and balancing two lives, all set against the backdrop of World War II.

She had tried, as best she could, to braid her life with theirs. She never thought then that their futures would diverge. That there would be two lines, heading in very different directions... [She was] caught between two old England and one New.

Beyond That, the Sea tells the story of two families on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean during World War II.

British parents Millie and Reginald Thompson make what feels like an impossible choice: to send their eleven-year-old daughter Beatrix to America for her safety.

The Gregorys pull Bea into the heart of their Boston family and their New England life. Bea settles in, and soon her American family and life feel more familiar than the parents she left behind.

Tragedy strikes both of her families, making Bea feel torn between the two lives she's led, each of which have without question shaped her into the person she is.

The point of view frequently shifts, and many chapters are short, but I felt connected to each of the characters and thought the varied perspectives were one of the book's strengths.

I loved witnessing the growth of each of the relationships in this character-driven historical fiction gem.

Click here for my full review of Beyond That, the Sea.


03 Boys I Know by Anna Gracia

Gracia's young adult debut digs into teenaged June's messy, sometimes disastrous, and ultimately heartwarming teen exploration of identity, sexuality, relationships, resisting parental expectations, and forging her own path.

Despite the unrelenting pressure and sky-high expectations from June Chu's Taiwanese mother, June has always done just all right. She's got lots of third-place violin competition trophies, unlike her sister, who secured a full-ride violin scholarship to college, an achievement June is frequently reminded of.

But June is more concerned with her crush on her lab partner, Rhys, and on getting to girlfriend-boyfriend status.

After a disastrous encounter with Rhys, a new romantic opportunity arises...and June suddenly finds herself making complicated decisions that shape how she feels about gender roles, her sexuality, her identity, and what she wants for her future.

Her explorations threaten to destroy her relationship with her mother even past the world-war-level disagreements they already have going.

I loved this book. I was all in for June and her whole glorious, often painful, messy journey of discovering who she is and what she wants.

Click here for my full review of Boys I Know.


04 Charm City Rocks: A Love Story by Matthew Norman

Charm City Rocks is sweet, interesting, and layered. I loved this story about relationships, complications, famous/everyday person romance, and a love of music that binds.

Billy Perkins is a music teacher living above a record store in Baltimore called Charm City Rocks with his beloved teen son Caleb. He's content co-parenting with his ex-partner Robyn, who is remarried.

Margot Hammer, on the other hand, is miserable. The former drummer of the popular band Burnt Flowers is, decades later, a recluse living in New York City.

When a documentary shines a light on Margot again, Billy's longtime crush on the musician is renewed. Caleb cooks up a scheme to get Margot to perform at Charm City Rocks so his dad, who Caleb thinks is lonely, can finally meet Margot and, if all goes as planned, hopefully forge a connection.

The everyday-person/famous-person love is a favorite trope of mine, and Norman adds emotional complexities to each of the main characters' situations so that their ups and downs feel appealingly realistic.

I was in love with Charm City Rocks. This is a perfect light-fiction read that's fun and funny, but never silly.

If this book sounds intriguing, you might also be interested in the books on my Greedy Reading List, Six Rockin' Stories about Bands and Music.

Please click here for my full review of Charm City Rocks.


05 The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

Rowley brings humor to this heartwarming--but never cloying--exploration of friendship, connection, messy relationships, heartbreak, and life and death.

To think about life is to contemplate death--it's what makes living so valuable. Our time here is limited, gone in the blink of an eye.

The Celebrants centers around college friends who made a pact after Alec, one of the original six, died before their 1995 graduation: if any of them is going through a crisis and needs to know they are loved more than they love themselves, they can call upon the others to assemble, no questions asked--for affection, support, and the sharing of sentiments typically reserved for after a loved one is gone.

The members of the group may have grown apart, but in the decades to come, when one of them feels adrift and lost, they come together in sassy, funny, imperfect, loving support.

Rowley doesn't smooth over realistically tangled, messy, intriguing conflicts or sober themes, yet he doesn't position the friendships in such a way that their existences magically solve life's deepest problems.

You can check out my full review of The Guncle here. Rowley's husband Byron Lane wrote another book I loved, A Star Is Bored. You can find my review of that book here.

If you're intrigued by books about facing mortality, you might be interested in the books on my Greedy Reading List Six Powerful Memoirs about Facing Mortality.

For my full review, please check out The Celebrants.


06 Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

Jimenez's rom-com frequently had me laughing, made me tear up a little, and kept me hooked on the fake-dating, will-they-won't-they tension while also digging into some deep themes.

Briana Ortiz's divorce from her cheater husband is about to be finalized, her brother Benny's health is failing, and she's living in her childhood home, complete with its original flowered couches and shabby carpet.

At least she can pour energy into her work. She's busy as an ER doctor and is poised to become the next Chief.

But when a new doctor relocates to the hospital, Bri's promotion is in jeopardy. She's set to detest this interloper--but then he sends her a letter that changes everything.

It's not unusual for me to feel frustrated by a drawn-out will-they/won't-they tension, or by a fake-dating setup between two characters who should obviously be together. But this novel had me eating out of Jimenez's hand.

The banter between Bri and Jacob is funny and adorable, their attraction is sometimes steamy, the supporting characters are all wonderfully wrought, and I loved tracing Bri and Jacob's emotional self-discovery as they moved toward a hard-fought resolution to the issues initially stopping them from being together.

Jimenez also digs into deep themes here: anxiety disorders, trauma, miscarriage, divorce, financial struggles, and more.

Jimenez is also the author of Part of Your World, The Friend Zone, and The Happy-Ever-After Playlist. For my full review, please check out Yours Truly.


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