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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

March Wrap-Up: My Favorite Reads of the Month



My very favorite Bossy March 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 Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera

Listen for the Lie offers a fascinating story structure, dark humor, and deeply flawed characters as main protagonist Lucy works to resolve her memory loss surrounding the events leading to her best friend's death.

Twentysomething Lucy is found wandering the streets of her small Texas town, covered in her best friend Savvy's blood.

But Lucy suffered a head wound the night of Savvy's death and now she can't remember anything about the night Savvy was murdered.

Everyone assumes she killed Savvy, and Lucy can't escape the suspicions and resentment surrounding the mysterious conditions of Savvy's death.

I was hooked on the structure of the story and the way the truth is gradually revealed; the information is illuminating as it creeps out but Tintera's tone is never teasing. The author doesn't throw in red herrings, and she doesn't manipulate the facts in order to spring a surprise on the reader.

The podcast element was engaging--I loved how it allowed for layers of interpretation, revelation, and intrigue.

For my full review of this book, please see Listen for the Lie.


 

02 Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar

The tone of Martyr! was tough for me to get a handle on for much of the book. The story is dark, nerve-racking, irreverent, tragic, and poignant. Late in the story a fateful connection made the story really take off and feel meaningful.

Cyrus Shams is an orphaned young adult, the child of Iranian immigrants, and a recovering addict and alcoholic. He is also a self-doubting poet.

Cyrus seeks meaning in art, in a close, sometimes-sexual friendship, and in the idea of trying to craft his book.

For the majority of the novel I felt as though I appreciated the story more than I was taken in by it or enjoyed it.

The book really took off and intrigued me once Cyrus traveled to New York to visit an artist whose final exhibit was made up of living in the Brooklyn Museum and having conversations with visitors until her death. The ripples of their meeting and connection reached farther than I could have imagined, and this portion of the book was fascinating.

I listened to Martyr! as an audiobook.

Click here for my full review of Martyr!


 

03 The Excitements by C. J. Wray

C. J. Wray's story of elderly British sisters who played key roles in fighting the enemy in World War II offers lots of heart, sassy dialogue, and a showcasing of the women's triumphs in both their past and present timelines, before a satisfying ending.

In C. J. Wray's The Excitements, Archie's British great-aunts Josephine and Penny are a handful. He's busy ushering them to commemorative World War II events, attempting to monitor their uninhibited speech, and trying to keep the two elderly veterans safe.

Archie begins wondering about unexplained aspects of his own family history, and when he and his aunts travel to Paris so the sisters may receive Légion d'honneur awards for helping to liberate France during the war, surprising facts begin to surface about the sisters' past--and they may be related to his own life.

The story is heartwarming, the pacing moves along in both timelines, and the characters are explored in satisfying fashion. The tone is playful with a wonderfully outlandish ending, and I was certain that all would work out, yet there was enough depth to make me interested in each character's resolution.

If you like books about World War II and women spies, you might also like the books on my Greedy Reading Lists Six Great Stories about Brave Women During World War II and Six Books about Brave Female Spies.

Click here for my full review of The Excitements.


 

04 Good Material by Dolly Alderton

Alderton's literary fiction rom-com is a funny, poignant, and sometimes frustrating deep dive into the emotionally stunted main protagonist's extended heartache and the rehashing of key moments of his recent relationship.

Andy and Jen were in love and living together.

But now Andy, a struggling stand-up comedian, is left reeling, trying to figure out what went wrong.

He's obsessed with trying to figure out why Jen broke up with him, and no amount of rehashing, deception regarding the manipulation of mental-health professionals, or mining for information is too much, in Andy's mind.

The breakup came out of the blue. He and Jen had just gone to Paris--they were blissfully happy! Weren't they?

Much of the story is told from Andy's point of view, and his capability for emotional growth is...limited. Baby steps are hard-won progress for the often-clueless main protagonist. He begins a Reasons Why I Loved Being with Jen list as well as a list of reasons why he's glad their relationship is over--tracing the funny, silly, nitpicky, ridiculous, and poignant moments they shared.

The reader sees what a mismatch Jen and Andy are, despite their real affection for each other, but the clarity about their incompatibility is longer in coming to Andy, who remains wistful, hopeful, and heartbroken for much of the book.

I listened to Good Material as an audiobook.

Please click here for my full review of Good Material.


 

05 The Women by Kristin Hannah

Hannah offers a meaty story about Vietnam and the nurses who served there, suffered, and were largely forgotten or denied; this storyline is conflated with romance-novel elements that keep things moving but frequently pulled me out of the historical fiction story I loved.

The Women shines a light on the women who served pivotal roles in the Vietnam War--but whose existence was largely ignored, forgotten, or denied by Americans at home.

Main protagonist Frankie signs up to leave her idyllic, privileged Southern California life--and the control of her conservative parents--in order to serve as a nurse serving soldiers in combat. Her brother is killed in combat before she even ships out, and her parents reject her potential to be a war hero worthy of a photo on the family's wall of honor, so she is reeling before she even enters the shock of Vietnam.

The excellent historical fiction here is conflated with romance-novel-worthy storylines and dialogue ("You don't know how beautiful you are" types of lines; unrealistically convenient run-ins; not-dead-after-all twists; and more). This aspect keeps the story moving, although it frequently distracted me from the hearty story of Vietnam, its complex costs and its dark perception at home, and the truth about the many forgotten women serving as nurses there, whose bravery helped send so many injured American soldiers home.

I listened to The Women as an audiobook. For my full review, check out The Women.


 

06 Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Donna Woolfolk Cross offers a fascinating historical fiction tale of a pioneering, headstrong, brilliant figure whose existence has been debated for centuries.

Pope Joan is Donna Woolfolk Cross's historical fiction about a figure whose existence the Catholic church has officially denied for a thousand years: Joan, a young woman who disguised herself as a man in the ninth century and rose through the ranks to eventually sit on the throne of St. Peter.

I'm fascinated by stories in which a woman poses as a man in order to achieve freedoms otherwise not available to her. In Pope Joan, Cross offers fascinating, grim, brutal details of life in the Dark Ages to bring the story of the brilliant, strong-willed Joan to life. Cross includes historical events, but makes up some characters (as with Gerold, Joan's love interest in the story).

I was fascinated by Cross's Author's Note detailing the extensive research and rich history surrounding Joan, as well as the contradictions in the denial of her existence.

For my full review, please see Pope Joan.

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