March Wrap-Up: My Favorite Reads of the Month
My very favorite Bossy March reads!
I had so many favorite reads this month, I'm saving back two from the past week for April in case I need them!
Read on for what I loved reading in March: The Night Ship, historical fiction set in two timelines featuring magical realism; Hello Beautiful, contemporary fiction about a family that breaks and finds its way back together again; I Have Some Questions for You, a boarding-school mystery that's also about race, gender, and power; Weyward, a multi-timeline witchy story; August Kitko and the Mechas from Space, wonderfully wacky science fiction; and Foster, a slim Irish story that captured my heart and that I gave five Bossy stars.
If you've read any of these, 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 Night Ship by Jess Kidd
Kidd's dual-timeline historical fiction, based on actual events, shines in its vivid settings, richly imagined characters, sea voyage details, and magical realism elements.
The Night Ship is historical fiction with a magical realism undercurrent that's told in two timelines. I didn't realize up front that this is based upon a true story, and now I'm even more deeply haunted.
The Night Ship centers around the dilemmas, conflicts, and discoveries of two characters separated by three centuries: Mayken, a Dutch girl on an ocean voyage who is shipwrecked off the coast of Australia, and Gil, an eccentric Australian boy living three hundred years later on the same island, trying to move past trauma and make a home with his grandfather, a stranger to him.
Jess Kidd is the author of Things in Jars, a mystery I gave four Bossy stars--and listed in two Greedy Reading Lists, Six Spooky, Gothic Tales and Six Historical Fiction Mysteries Sure to Intrigue You.
For my full review, check out The Night Ship.
02 Foster by Claire Keegan
This was my favorite read of the month!
Keegan offers a gorgeously wrought Irish story of childhood, hope, love, and loss that is spare, lovely, heartbreaking, and that brought me to tears.
In Claire Keegan's slim novel Foster, a young girl in Ireland is taken by her unreliable, frequently drunk gambler of a father to spend the hot summer with previously unknown-to-her relatives, a couple living on a rural farm.
Her bitter mother has just had another baby, and her various other siblings are fighting for resources. Her home life is hectic, hardscrabble, and emotionally cold, but she has never known life to be any other way.
The loving, affectionate household in the country allows her to feel more open and secure than she has before. She has plenty to eat, useful work to do, she learns to love books, she finds laughter. She can't help wondering if she might possibly be here to stay of if she'll be thrust back into her rough home, and which she'd prefer. Summer is ending, and there's a mysterious, unspoken, dark undercurrent at the Kinsellas'.
I absolutely adored this book. It's beautiful, spare, and powerful. I was brought to tears at the end. I'm in for all Claire Keegan books forever now and just ordered her story collection Antarctica through my local bookstore, Park Road Books.
03 August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White
White's first Starmetal Symphony installment offers deadly deep-space robots, showcases the power of music, and illustrates how love can persist even in the face of imminent demise. I loved the main characters' fashion, banter, and stubbornness.
Gus is a jazz pianist whose biggest hope for the pending end of the world was to play at the most epic goodbye party of all time. After all, the Vanguards, giant, deadly AI robots, are headed from deep space to destroy Earth at any moment.
But when the Vanguards arrive, the sudden, brutal ending Gus has envisioned for himself doesn't happen. Instead, Gus and a few other Earthlings are pulled in by a small group of traitorous Vanguards--and tasked with being modified, temporarily melded with the robots, battling other robots--and saving all of humanity.
The robots and the imminent demise of the human race that the robots seem perched to enact serve as a catalyst for the human main characters to assess their own purposes and consider what makes life worth living. They forge desperate, deep connections and struggle with loss and an uncertain future, and I loved the impractical, invigorating, stubborn love in the book.
04 I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai
Makkai's boarding school-set mystery offers depth as it exposes age-old power mismatches; offers young characters agency; explores systemic violence against women; and serves up true-crime fascination while its middle-aged protagonist makes mistakes, seeks justice, and fights for closure.
Bodie Kane is a professor and podcaster, and she has left firmly in the past the events of her boarding school years, when her roommate Thalia was murdered--and the school's athletic trainer was convicted of the crime.
But when her alma mater invites her to return to teach a course, Bodie is drawn back to the case and realizes its shoddy investigation and its seemingly faulty conclusions. It makes her wonder: who really killed Thalia?
I've been eagerly awaiting the release of this story, which I understood to be part whodunit, part boarding school novel--I love a boarding school novel. Yet Makkai's book was also much more.
I Have Some Questions for You is an examination of the shocking, broad power of a social media whirlwind, particularly one without basis in facts or merit. It's about our societal obsession with tragedies and mysterious murders, and the tendency of bystanders to insert themselves into speculation and judgment. It's about the infuriating, often tragic power mismatches between men and women, white and Black people, and the wealthy and the poor.
Please click here for my full review of I Have Some Questions for You.
05 Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
Ann Napolitano's Hello Beautiful explores family bonds, broken connections, forging through pain, allowing for unconventional routes to happiness, and finding forgiveness.
William grew up in a family broken by tragedy, the darkness and trauma of which shaped his childhood and overshadowed everything. He is emotionally closed off and only reliant upon himself.
When he meets driven, plan-focused Julia in his freshman year of college, she pulls him into her high-spirited, joy-filled, energetic orbit--and into her loving family, which includes her volatile and no-nonsense mother, her beloved and romantic father, and her three charming sisters, who have always felt like interconnected pieces of a whole.
When William's painful history resurfaces, it shakes the entire family with its repercussions. It's not clear whether he and Julia can go on--or if her family will ever be the same.
I didn't expect the ways in which various characters redefine their bonds and reconsider their places in the world when they make choices that separate them from each other. The ways in which the family members reconvene were not neat or without pain, but were intriguing.
Napolitano is also the author of Dear Edward, a book I adored.
For my full review, please check out Hello Beautiful.
06 Weyward by Emilia Hart
Emilia Hart's debut novel links women in three timelines through blood and a powerful connection to the natural world as they resist male dominance and cruelty in various witchy ways.
In Weyward, Emilia Hart's story of witchcraft and the natural world, she explores three timelines of women connected through the ages by power and by society's historical suspicion of strong women.
The majority of the male characters in Weyward are unredeemable buffoons, at best ignorant and rigid and at worst neglectful and cruel--and always holding the power, at least before the Weyward women recognize and develop their own. The story features instances of rape, abandonment, witch hunting, and attempted suicide.
Yet Altha, Violet, and Kate persist, struggle against the binds society attempts to put upon them, connect powerfully with the natural world, and are linked by blood ties and echoes of hardship and overcoming.
I received an audiobook version of this book courtesy of Libro.fm (Libro.fm supports local bookstores!) and Macmillan Audio. The story is wonderfully narrated by Aysha Kala, Helen Keeley, and Nell Barlow.
For my full review, please check out Weyward.