October Wrap-Up: My Favorite Reads of the Month
My very favorite Bossy October reads!
Here are the six books I most loved reading this past month: two historical fiction stories, gothic magical realism, science fiction, a character-driven mystery, and yet another of Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell Victorian mysteries.
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 October in the Earth by Olivia Hawker
Hawker's newest historical fiction gives a wonderfully evocative peek into a gritty period, as her main protagonist escapes a bad marriage to ride the rails during the Depression and reinvents herself completely.
Olivia Hawker's newest historical fiction is set in Depression-era Kentucky.
Adella (Del) Wensley is the wife of the showy, prosperous, revered local preacher. She's learned to bite her tongue, and she feels like the poor treatment her husband shows her may be deserved, as after eight years of marriage, they haven't conceived a child. Her life's purpose is meant to be made up of motherhood, catering to her husband's needs, and keeping house, after all.
But when her husband pushes her too far with abhorrent behavior, Del hops a train and dives into the transient community riding the rails in search of work and survival.
Hawker offers a wonderfully vivid, gritty, sobering, often surprisingly hopeful--but never too easy--peek at Depression-era desperation, forged loyalties, shedding of expectations, and new, hard-fought identities and priorities.
For my full review of this book, please see October in the Earth.
02 The Great Transition by Nick Fuller Googins
Emi, Kristina, and Larch are a family that survived the immense destruction of the climate crisis, but secrets, danger, and a double life might be their undoing.
Emi Vargas is, frankly, tired of being reminded that her parents were part of the movement that saved the world--and weary of the constant comments about how she's so lucky to have been born after the climate crisis.
But then climate criminals begin to be systematically assassinated in public shows of retaliation for their past crimes, Emi's mother Kristina goes missing, and Emi fears that her mother is in danger.
Emi and her father Larch journey from their home in Greenland to a near-future, postapocalyptic New York City, frequently ravaged by flooding and storms, to try to find Kristina.
When a long-term secret is revealed and Emi's safety is endangered, the family must decide whether they can go on as before, or whether they must invent a new future for themselves.
You might also like the books on my Greedy Reading Lists Six Fascinating Dystopian and Postapocalyptic Novels and Six More Dystopian and Postapocalyptic Novels.
Click here for my full review of The Great Transition.
03 The Caretaker by Ron Rash
Ron Rash's newest Appalachian-set novel explores a small town shaken by upended expectations, the Korean War, and selfish rigidity that threatens to undo them all.
Blackburn Gant is the sole caretaker of a hilltop cemetery in 1951 Blowing Rock, North Carolina. He lives a quiet life, which is partially dictated by his physical limitations since suffering through polio as a child.
When his best (and only) friend Jacob is sent to serve overseas in the Korean War, Blackburn promises to look after Jacob's wife, Naomi. The two had eloped just months after meeting, which led to Jacob's being disowned by his wealthy family.
Blackburn and Naomi grow close as they anxiously await word of Jacob's fate halfway around the world. When an important telegram arrives, they fear the worst.
A series of elaborate falsifications, outrageous subterfuge, and outright lies creates a tangled web for all involved--and the situation just begs for justice to be served to those blinded by selfish desire and rigid expectations.
Click here for my full review of The Caretaker.
04 American Girl by Wendy Walker
This is another whodunit winner from Wendy Walker: a character-driven mystery with a neurodivergent main protagonist, small-town intrigue, and satisfying revenge.
Charlie is a math-whiz teen with autism who is working as much as possible at The Triple S sandwich shop so that she can one day afford to leave her Pennsylvania hometown and attend MIT.
But when the shop owner, Clay Cooper, who owns several other local businesses, is a town council member, and has his hand in most of the local business, turns up dead, everyone becomes a suspect, including all of his employees.
Charlie must help discover the truth about what happened in order to clear her coworkers--and Charlie herself--from suspicion of murder.
Wendy Walker writes wonderful, character-driven suspense that keeps me hooked as she guides the reader through a twisty mystery. The fierce loyalty and revenge elements in this intriguing whodunit were immensely satisfying.
Please click here for my full review of American Girl.
05 Starling House by Alix E. Harrow
Starling House is another wonderful, dark, twisty story from Alix E. Harrow, with imperfect characters, a noble, messy quest, layers of history, and a captivating end.
Opal is desperate for cash, and her petty theft at her minimum-wage jobs isn't going to cut it. She's got to raise the money to send her bright younger brother Jacob to a private school where he can thrive--and have better prospects than Opal herself has had since the loss and disappearance of their single mother.
She's been cobbling together enough to get by, but when a mysterious draw to the spooky Starling House ends up in an overpaying job offer, she feels she can hardly say no.
Arthur, the young, haunted-seeming caretaker of the estate, seems resigned to her presence even as he advises her to stay far away from Starling House. He's caught up in solving some sort of puzzle related to the past.
Opal takes his envelopes of cash for her overpriced housekeeping, but she doesn't tell Arthur that she's been dreaming of the decrepit, rambling house for years, and that she has some eerie sense that she's finally home.
Alix E. Harrow is also the author of the wonderful The Once and Future Witches and The Ten Thousand Doors of January, as well as A Spindle Splintered, A Mirror Mended, The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage, and Fractured Fables.
For my full review, check out Starling House.
06 A Murderous Relation (Veronica Speedwell #5) by Deanna Raybourn
The fifth book in the Veronica Speedwell series offers more of Raybourn's magic: witty dialogue, an unorthodox partnership, will-they/won't-they tension, and the solving of dark Victorian-era mysteries that call for bravery, creativity, and a little ruthlessness.
In A Murderous Relation, Veronica and Stoker become involved in a mystery involving a house of debauchery, the heir to the throne, kidnapping, and Jack the Ripper.
Raybourn offers dark undercurrents, witty banter, mischief, and also social commentary. A Murderous Relation also explores class and privilege: the story revisits a working-class character from an earlier book--and presents society's moral judgements (as well as Veronica and Stoker's indignance) about the fact that Jack the Ripper's victims were not only vulnerable, but often poor and scrambling desperately and without qualms to make ends meet.
Hold on to your hats: the Veronica-Stoker relationship gains clarity at long last!
I listened to this as an audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated, as the rest of the series has been, by Angele Masters.
I loved A Curious Beginning, the first book in Deanna Raybourn's feisty Veronica Speedwell series of historical fiction mysteries, as well as the sequels A Perilous Undertaking, A Treacherous Curse, and A Dangerous Collaboration. (There are currently eight books in the series, with a ninth scheduled for publication in 2024.) Raybourn is also the author of the wonderful stand-alone title Killers of a Certain Age.
For my full review, please see A Murderous Relation.