The Bossy Bookworm
Six of My Favorite Reads of the Year So Far
Some of my very favorite reads of the year...so far!
I've also had three Bossy five-star reads in 2023, and I'm hoping I rack up some more for a post to be made up solely of the year's five-star reads.
Meanwhile, here are the six books I've loved and have given 4.5 Bossy stars this year.
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 Exiles (Aaron Falk #3) by Jane Harper
The third in Jane Harper's Aaron Falk series offers procedural detail, a lush Australian setting, and character development I found heartwarming and immensely satisfying.
I love Aaron Falk stories and I loved the twisty interconnectedness of the characters in Exiles. Harper allows for Falk to develop more fully as a character--as a friend, a romantic interest, a father figure, and a detective. Yet she allows for new opportunities for him that felt real and possible, which I again loved.
I wasn't ever sure who was responsible for the multiple tragedies at the heart of the story, and the resolutions make sense. Meanwhile Harper explores loyalty, procedural details related to the past and near past, beginnings and endings, and looooove.
Jane Harper's The Dry (Aaron Falk #1) is set in small-town Australia with dark secrets and twists and turns, and she offers more of her excellent pacing in Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2).
I'm in for all Jane Harper and all Aaron Falk stories! Exiles was the right mystery at the right time for me.
For my full review, check out Exiles.
02 Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Keegan's slim book may seem cozy and quiet at first, but she beautifully illuminates tiny moments alongside momentous decisions and explores how together, they form a person and make up a whole life.
When Bill, a good-hearted coal merchant, discovers something shocking while making his regular delivery to the local convent, he must decide whether to carry on his way or to consider the uncomfortable implications of the Catholic church's deep influence on the community.
Similarly, when he stumbles onto a truth about his own mysterious heritage--a mystery he felt he had made peace with--he must decide whether it changes his feelings about his childhood and his identity. The two issues are intertwined, and it's a joy to watch the manner in which Bill copes with both instances.
The story comes alive through the little moments Keegan highlights; while she explores decisions often determined by instinctual black-and-white, right-and-wrong judgments, she also digs into the intense struggle involved in reaching out from comfortable safety and taking a risk in order to do what feels right.
Keegan takes the small moments, impulses, generosities, omissions, and aversions that make up a day, a week, and a month and lays them alongside Big Moments of Realization--which often require grace and forgiveness, other times action and defiance--and with all of this in hand, she paints a picture full of the nuances choices, self-reflection, and possibilities that form the basis of a life.
Please click here for my full review of Small Things Like These.
03 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.
04 Solito by Javier Zamora
Zamora's memoir of his grueling journey from El Salvador to the United States without family at age nine keeps the reader within each immediate, breathless, uncomfortable, fear-filled moment through and to the unknown.
In Solito, the poet Javier Zamora shares the story of his grueling journey from El Salvador to the United States at age nine.
Zamora keeps us in his nine-year-old perspective, which also serves to keep us focused on moment-by-moment sensations and concerns and makes the memoir feel immediate and breathless. Physical discomfort (he is tired, cold, hot, burned, thirsty, hungry), emotional turmoil (he feels loneliness, fear, concern, disconnectedness), and yearning (he is desperate for trust, for assurances, for safety and security, for reunification) are at the forefront.
Zamora takes us through what often feels like his literal step-by-step journey, without summarizing or skipping over impactful moments of need and want and despair. Yet he doesn't mine the difficult situation in an effort to build drama; his account feels honest and without emotional manipulation.
I listened to Solito as an audiobook. Click here for my full review of Solito. You might also be interested in the titles on my Greedy Reading List Six Fascinating Books about Immigrants' Experiences.
05 The Trackers by Charles Frazier
Frazier offers an immersive story that morphs from a WPA-funded rural art commission to a leisurely country-wide search, an unlikely obsession, moments of brutality, strange connections, and, finally, an upended set of circumstances.
In The Trackers, Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier offers historical fiction featuring a Great Depression-era painter, Val Welch, traveling west to a small rural town in Wyoming.
As part of a New Deal grant, Val has landed the job of painting a mural on the Dawes, Wyoming, post office. In Dawes, he meets eccentric, wealthy art lovers John and Eve Long--mysterious, possibly hiding something, and certainly unpredictable.
When Eve takes off from Dawes with a piece of valuable artwork, Val agrees to follow her--and uncovers long-buried secrets that could change everything.
Frazier's writing is gorgeous, evoking the stark western landscapes Val passes through, gritty San Francisco, and the powerful cliffside ocean as well as lush, wild, wet Florida and its accompanying corruption and danger.
If you're interested in Great Depression-era historical fiction like I am, you might also like the books The Giver of Stars, The Saints of Swallow Hill, Wingwalkers by Taylor Brown, Nocturne, which offers magical realism and a dance-focused storyline within a Great Depression setting, and This Tender Land.
For my full review, please check out The Trackers.
06 As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson
Jackson doesn't skimp on heart-pounding pacing, captivating character development, and dark turns in this third book in her young adult mystery series. I never would have predicted the twists. Sign me up for all Pippa Fitz-Amobi books, forever, please.
As Good As Dead is the final book in A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, a series I've loved, and I've been delaying reading this third and final installment due to my willful denial that the series is ending, my intense love for the characters of Pip and Ravi, and Holly Jackson's smart, sassy, irresistible storytelling.
Ever since Pip's book two detective work ended in an important resolution, she's been coping with the significant trauma of that case's dramatic final events.
She's in danger of being sued for libel by Max Freaking Hastings, who Pip knows is a terrible person who has done terrible things--which is why she said so, passionately, on her podcast.
And she can't shake a general sense of unease, as though she's missing something.
The direction the book takes is fascinating. Jackson does not let off the gas pacing-wise. The unexpected twists and turns kept me riveted while Pip's unfailing bravery and her hero's struggles and emotional turmoil threatened to break my heart.
For my full review (and links to my reviews of the other books in this series), check out As Good As Dead.