September Wrap-Up: My Favorite Reads of the Month
My very favorite Bossy September reads!
Here are the six books I most loved reading this past month: time travel, historical fiction, a mother's revisiting her youth, Paulette Jiles's newest gorgeousness, a dystopian gem, and yet another of Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell Victorian mystery.
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 World Running Down by Al Hess
Hess's dystopian Utah relies on AI, robots, and the growing, stark split between the haves and have-nots. Trans salvager Val is just trying to get by--but an unexpected connection changes everything.
Al Hess's World Running Down tracks the adventures, challenges, unexpected meetings, and joys of a trans salvager in a futuristic, dystopian Utah.
Valentine Weis is coping with body dysmorphia, and he dreams of making enough money to afford citizenship in Salt Lake City, where the privileged have access to endless food options, shelter and safety, and, most importantly to Val, surgical and medical options to aid his transition.
But for now, Val is eking out an existence in the rugged city outskirts. And a typical day might involve facing mortal danger from roving pirates, cyborg animals, certain AI beings, and even his own salvaging partner Ace.
Val is an underdog and fights for others who have been dismissed or taken advantage of. He's an appealing, unexpected hero, and his heartbreak and heartwarming connections were lovely to dive into.
For my full review of this book, please see World Running Down.
If this book sounds down your alley, you might want also to check out the books on my Greedy Reading Lists Six Fascinating Dystopian and Postapocalyptic Novels, Six More Fascinating Dystopian and Postapocalyptic Novels, and Six Great Stories about Robots, Humans and Alien Life, and AI.
02 A Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell #3) by Deanna Raybourn
In the third book in the irresistible Veronica Speedwell series, we learn more about Stoker's past, secrets, heartbreak, and motivations; are treated to more fantastic Veronica zingers; and delve into the characters' deep, unconventional connection.
In the third installment of Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell series, set in 1888 London, Veronica and Stoker seek the whereabouts of a man who went missing during a fruitful archaeological dig in Egypt--at the same time a priceless diadem disappeared.
The man who has vanished happens to be Stoker's former expedition partner, who he punched on the street a year ago--and he also happens to be married to Stoker's ex-wife.
I adored delving into Stoker's past, and Raybourn offers a number of explanations for some of the previous book's alluded-to personal mysteries and motivations.
My favorite element of the Veronica Speedwell series is the character development, and A Treacherous Curse offers additional layers that drew me even more deeply into the world of Veronica and Stoker.
Click here for my full review of A Treacherous Curse.
03 Chenneville by Paulette Jiles
Jiles's newest stark, beautiful, heartbreaking historical fiction tracks former Union soldier John Chenneville as he travels the country seeking vengeance for the brutal murder of his sister and family.
I got full-body chills when I saw that Paulette Jiles had a new historical fiction novel coming out. The enthusiasm of my obsession with her book News of the World was (borderline? full-on?) irritating to the rest of my book club years ago, but I couldn't help my love.
In Jiles's Chenneville, titular character John Chenneville is a former Union soldier who has spent the year since the end of the war recovering from a severe brain injury. Now he's on a quest for revenge for the brutal, senseless murder of his sister and her family.
Jiles writes gorgeously about the unforgiving landscape, post-Civil-War wasteland, and the sprigs of promising new beginnings. As always, her main characters are richly layered, struggle with terrible circumstances, retain strong moral compasses, and find glimmers of hope in the darkest of days.
Click here for my full review of Chenneville.
04 Time's Mouth by Edan Lepucki
Lepucki's strange, interesting time-travel novel centers around betrayal, broken hearts, second chances, and the power of hate--and of love.
When Ursa was a child she was horribly abused by her father, and while she feels that she's pushed beyond it, the trauma has undoubtedly shaped her.
When she flees to remote California, her ability to travel through memory to revisit the past secures her a revered role in a counterculture 1950s community that builds around her.
A friend's borrowed, rambling home becomes a refuge for unwed mothers and mothers-to-be, with the women on site treating Ursa as a goddess--and the children being horrifically neglected as the women enjoy proximity highs when Ursa time-travels.
The time travel itself is fascinating. A precious few in the story have the ability, and the power can be used for good (reminiscing, reliving beloved moments, spending moments with those lost to us) or evil (creating a whirlwind of negative feeling that shapes others' actions in significant ways).
I loved the father-daughter bond, and Opal is a wonderfully quirky, self-possessed young person. The ending to this often-dark book is satisfying as well.
Please click here for my full review of Time's Mouth.
05 Learned by Heart by Emma Donoghue
Donoghue's captivating historical fiction centers around two real-life young women in an early 1800s British boarding school who fall into a clandestine love and break each other's hearts.
Donoghue builds a rich story around the real-life figures of Eliza Raine and Anne Lister.
Raine was a wealthy orphan--one of two daughters born to a white British father and an Indian mother, who were committed but unmarried--sent from India to England at age 6.
She grew up in a cold, strict British boarding school in the early 1800s. Lister arrives as a wild, curious, unconventional, brilliant tomboy--and is paired as roommates with Raine in the drafty dormitory attic. It almost seems as though the school heads would like to forget either of the troublesome young ladies exist.
The teenage roommates become unlikely best friends, then fall into a deep, forbidden attraction, pledging their eternal love to each other. Their romantic connection is passionate but clandestine, and they manage to evade the scandal and punishment that would befall them if their situation were made known to the conservative school administrators.
It's difficult to consider Raine's mental illness without crediting the likely powerful influence of her worries about her orphaned state, her cold relationship with her sister, her lack of autonomy as a female, her financial future's reliance on her age and marital state, and the secretive nature of her desire and single close relationship--which ends in heartbreak, followed by years of prolonged angst, yearning, and continual disappointment.
For my full review, check out Learned by Heart.
06 Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
Patchett's Tom Lake is a heartwarming, poignant Covid-era bonding session between a mother and her three grown daughters as Lara recounts the surprisingly layered story of her youthful romance with an actor who later became famous.
In Ann Patchett's newest novel, Tom Lake, Lara's three young-adult daughters reunite at the family's Northern Michigan orchard. Covid-19 has struck, and the family is experiencing more togetherness than they ever thought they'd have again.
Lara, her husband Joe, and the girls work feverishly to harvest the cherry crop without the usual support of workers due to the virus, and to make the time pass, the girls beg Lara to share the story of her youthful romance and acting job alongside the then-unknown, later-famous Peter Duke at the theater company Tom Lake.
But when Lara shares aspects of a life lived before her children existed, her daughters are led to consider their own paths and choices, as well as life's twists and turns, evolving dreams and desires, their relationship with their mother, and their parents' bond.
All of the characters seem affected by the truths that emerge in Lara's telling about Lara herself, Duke, her young life, her path to her husband Joe, and the unexpected ways her future shifted and changed.
For my full review, please see Tom Lake.