The Bossy Bookworm
Six More Backlist Favorites to Check Out
Bossy Backlist Favorites
I read many of these books as the Covid-19 pandemic began to shape our lives, and I can vouch for each of these very different stories as great escapism. Heartwarming books and quirky fiction were two types of stories that suited me then and still hit the spot for me now, and these books stand the test of time.
If you're looking for more great fiction you may have missed, you might also want to check out the Greedy Reading List Six Backlist Summer Favorites. Or search by genre to find all of my reviews--and some titles you may not have read yet.
Have you read any of the books on this list? I'd love to hear what you think if you have or if you do!
01 Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah
I loved this story of how Joanna and Gabe are inextricably drawn to each other and drawn into Ursa's magically imagined world.
Joanna is feeling adrift after her mother's death, and she disappears into the constant attention her ornithology research commands, living in her sparse rental cabin and tuning out the rest of the world.
That is, until a young girl appears, battered and bruised, and is resistant to help but clearly in need of it. Ursa says she is from the stars and cannot return until she has witnessed five miracles. Joanna and her reclusive neighbor Gabe become drawn into Ursa's orbit and drawn to each other as they try to protect her--and they discover more about themselves and their capabilities for love than they'd imagined.
I love love loved this. Ursa, Jo, Gabe, Tabby, the ornithology storyline, the makeshift family, and the (maybe slightly too easy but lovely and satisfying) resolution. Highly recommend!
For my full review of this book, please see Where the Forest Meets the Stars. Vanderah is also the author of The Oceanography of the Moon.
02 Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
Darling Rose Gold is a wonderfully twisted tale, with double-crossing, codependence, and dark turns.
In Darling Rose Gold, Wrobel offers readers a story involving Münchausen syndrome by proxy, lies, betrayals, and double-crossing, all within a claustrophobic, isolated, and codependent mother-and-daughter relationship. Yet the tone is often playful as the characters keep things chatty and light while striving to manipulate each other.
I was totally hooked on this fast read and couldn’t wait to find out who was the better strategist and who might be tricking who.
There are some wonderfully devilish dark twists and turns as events evolve and as the characters' layers of plotting become evident.
For my full review of this book, please see Darling Rose Gold.
03 When We Were Vikings by Andrew David Macdonald
I loved this offbeat, heartwarming, lovely book in which Zelda has to figure out what it means to live her own legend.
Zelda is in her twenties and lives with her older brother Gert. She is obsessed with Vikings, she's a stickler for the Rules of the House, and she follows highly structured routines. On certain days she finds her own way to the community center where she and other young adults with challenges and disabilities play and learn social and practical skills; on other set days she visits the library; twice a week she visits her trusted therapist, Dr. Laird.
But there’s a dark undercurrent throughout When We Were Vikings. Zelda has to figure out what it means to live her own legend, and whether she can save Gert or even save herself.
I loved this. The characters, the story arc that isn’t too easy but leaves you in a promising place after all, and the dialogue—love love love.
For my full review of this book, please see When We Were Vikings.
04 Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
This short book packs delightfully odd, satisfying, and sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny moments.
I was very glad to realize that the striking premise itself was not the most powerful element here.
Wilson's story stars combustible children and the low-key, unambitious misfit who sticks with them, making them feel unequivocally safe and understood for the first time.
Kevin Wilson provides some heartbreaking disappointment about family members' emotional limitations and conditional loyalty, and he allows characters to craft chosen relationships into a beloved pod that functions like family.
Before I read this, I went with some members of my book club and other friends to hear Kevin Wilson speak at our local library foundation event. He was unassuming, charming, and quirky, so I knew I had to give this book a go.
I just loved this story.
For my full review of this book, please see Nothing to See Here.
Kevin Wilson is also the author of two collections, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and Baby, You're Gonna Be Mine, and he has a new book coming out in fall 2022, Now Is Not the Time to Panic.
05 A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
Where I come from, we’ve learned to silence ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence will save us. Where I come from, we keep these stories to ourselves. To tell them to the outside world is unheard of, dangerous, the ultimate shame.
In A Woman Is No Man, Etaf Rum explores the often powerless and essentially voiceless status of her female characters within their conservative Arab culture, both in Palestine and as immigrants and first-generation Americans in New York.
Much of this is dark. Yet there are bright points: rare friendships emerge, sisters build intense loyalty to each other, girls and women find joy in secret reading and in books, and there are occasional breaks to freedom. The details Rum provides as a thread throughout the book--the food, spices, and meals that are a framework for much of the structure of the women’s days--are wonderful.
A Woman Is No Man explores the incredible drive and bravery required by Rum's female characters to write a new history, one in which they enjoy freedoms and a voice.
For my full review of this book, please see A Woman Is No Man.
06 In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
This alternate-reality story is really about loyalty and devoted friendship, it doesn't fall back on easy resolutions, and not everything is as it seems. I loved it.
Dannie is on the path to achieving her five-year goals in spectacularly efficient fashion. She goes to sleep one night feeling satisfied, but she wakes up in another life: in a strange apartment, with a different boyfriend, and with an alternate set of choices behind and before her. And perhaps most confusingly of all, she's happy. Very very happy.
Dannie returns to her original reality, but she can’t shake the possibilities raised and the uncertainty created by what felt like an actual temporary shift in her existence. What do those vastly different circumstances and her satisfaction within them mean about how she can and should live her life now?
Serle's In Five Years totally hit the spot for me, and it also wasn’t exactly what I expected. I loved it.
For my full review of this book, please see In Five Years.
If you like books that play with timelines and realities, check out the other books on the Greedy Reading List Six Riveting Time-Travel Stories to Explore.