What I Read in October 2022

Ya know what? October was a crummy reading month for me. I did not like most of what I read but I’ll tell you about it anyway. Despite not enjoying most of the books I read, I persisted and ended on a five-star read!

As always, any purchases made through links in this post will go to benefit my store, Twice Told Tales.

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
Order the paperback copy here.

Okay so when I said that I didn’t like the books I read in October, I forgot that I read This Poison Heart this month. It’s so good!!! I’m not a re-reader. In fact, this is the first book I’ve ever re-read! Yes, that’s true.* There are just too many books that require my attention to go around re-reading things. But I read this one for an online book club that I host and everyone voted for it. And hey! Re-reading is fun! Since I knew how it ends, I got to be pay closer attention this time around. It’s almost like when you watch The 6th Sense for the second time. You know what I mean?

Anyway, Bri is a teenager with some lowkey weird magical powers. Plants are drawn to her and sometimes she can even control them a little bit. She inherits a house in a small town which will solve her parents pressing money problems–so they decide to move there for the summer and see what they think. When she’s there, Bri gets in touch and learns to harness her powers with a little more precision and a lot less fear as time goes on. But wait–it looks like some people are willing to kill to get to what she has. DUN DUN DUN.

Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away but I will say that when we were able to really start our book club discussion, my friend David just leaned in and said, “Okay…. WHAT THE FUCK!” And I feel like that really encompasses the ending of this book. It’s a good one. If you decide to read this one, make sure you have the second book in the series on deck.

*edited to add: No, that’s not true. I’ve also re-read Crime and Punishment. Which is so damn good.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro
Order the hardcover copy here.
Download the audiobook here.

Hmmmm did not like.

This book had all the ingredients to build a story that I would love:
Family stories, timeline jumping, a large cast of characters that all come together in the end.
But sheesh. I just did not get into this one. Which isn’t something I say very often–if I’m not getting into a book, then I’ll just DNF but I kept feeling like it was just about to come together. And then it finally did–when there was 45 min left in the book. Eventually I began to understand and like these characters but it was far too close to the end before that happened. Also I’m not even sure this book had a climax.

It was like looking at a plate of ingredients as opposed to eating a delicious dish.

Jackal by Erin E. Adams
Order the book here.
Download the audiobook here.

It’s October. I wanted to read something spooky!!

The premise of this book is so good: Girls continue to be “lost” in the woods outside of town. Who or what is taking them? There was so much potential here.

This was not for me. Horror isn’t my typical reading genre–let’s get that out of the way right off the bat. I’ve found that watching horror movies makes me so nervous, scared, and jumpy! But every horror novel I’ve ever read has just left me feeling confused and wondering, “Wait is this supposed to be a scary part?”
Also in this book in particular I felt frustrated about certain things. Like, in the last 25% of the book the main character mentions a skill that she has that will be profoundly useful in defeating the villain–but this was never mentioned before now. Or one character will be described as, say, full of unyielding energy and then a few lines later they’re so exhausted they can barely move. These little things just kept me feeling frustrated as a reader and unable to get sucked in like I wanted to be. It just felt incomplete.

Such Sharp Teeth: A Werewolf Novel by Rachel Harrison
Order the book here.
Download the audiobook here.

Okay now we’re talking! This book really did it for me!

Such Sharp Teeth is a story about a woman who was attacked by a werewolf and, surprise surprise, becomes one herself. It’s got some comedic elements and romantic elements to it to keep it feeling like it’s taking itself too seriously. This book has an incredible sister relationship and even a romantic relationship though that’s really not the main focus of the book. At the heart of it, it’s kind of a metaphor for the way that hurt people hurt people and we can disrupt that cycle or keep it going. I really, really enjoyed it and will probably seek out other books by Rachel Harrison.

What I Read in September 2022

I got back in my reading groove after taking off some of the summer! And the books I read this month were so good that it made it hard to follow. In addition to the three books I read in September, I marked three others as “did not finish” on my StoryGraph profile.

I’ve gotten really good at allowing myself to not finish a book just because I started it. I can like a book, even, and not finish it. If it’s not a completely engrossing book for me, I’m not gonna dedicate any of my time to it these days. I have too much to read for work that I can’t afford to read a book I’m not absolutely, head-over-heels thrilled about. So here’s a list of three books that fit that description. Don’t forget that all purchases made through this site go to benefit my bookstore–Twice Told Tales in McPherson KS.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Order the hardcover copy here.
Download the audiobook here.

For some reason, I thought that because this book centers around video game developers, it would not be for me, so I put off reading it. Don’t be like me! If anything about this book (even just the gorgeous cover art) appeals to you, pick it up and read it.
Sam and Sadie met when they were children in 1993 and immediately bonded over gaming. Six years later, they’ve teamed up to start making their own. Over the years, we celebrate their joys, mourn their tragedies, commiserate in their frustrations, and fall in and out of love over and over again in different ways. I’m afraid I’m sugar coating it or… generalizing it. And I guess I am because how do you pinpoint the specific way that Zevin is able to draw you so closely into the humanity of a character? Ugh. I related to most of these characters as if they were me, myself.
This is an epic, sweeping novel that spans generations. It explores all the different ways that our longest relationships evolve and morph over time. It is, at its heart, a love letter to life itself if I may be so pretentious. This will go down as one of my favorite books of all time–I already know it.

The Family Outing: A Memoir by Jessi Hempel
Order the hardcover here.
Download the audiobook here.

People who analyze reading patterns don’t have to look too hard to see that I love a book about family–particularly one that spans decades and navigates transition. I think families are fascinating. They’re my favorite. Enter: a family memoir.

This is a book about Jessi Hempel’s family. Everyone has a secret they’re keeping to themselves and as/ after the family seems to implode–they all start telling them and living honestly. Jessi comes out as gay. Her father comes out as gay. Her brother comes out as trans. Her sister comes out as bisexual. And her mother comes out as someone who had some intimate encounters with someone who turned out to be a serial killer; a secret that ate away at her and affected her and her children in serious ways that no one recognized for quite some time. Now, these aren’t spoilers. All this information can be found on the jacket copy. But it’s the way that everyone managed to not only navigate all of this together (and sometimes not together) but also allowed their stories to be told from a perspective that was not their own (save for Jessi) that I admired so much.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Order the hardcover copy here (or buy a copy in-store from us after it releases on Oct 18).
Download the audiobook here.

Okay but this is the book that I can’t shut tf up about. I’m shouting it from the rooftops every chance I get.

This book touched me. I knew that I would enjoy it because it’s Barbara Kingsolver and the way that she writes gives me goose bumps–but I didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect it to fully wreck me and teach me and light a fire inside of me. This book is dark and long but it is a fully compelling and ultimately hopeful critique of systemic poverty and pain pills. I can’t believe how quickly I burned through huge swaths of this book.

We are cheering for Demon from the very first page. We get to know him so deeply, so intimately to the point where we understand every single move he makes–even when they’re the wrong moves we feel like we couldn’t imagine doing anything different. 
This book is sad. It’s deeply sad but it also has some very funny parts. Demon is so darn witty.  It’s going down as one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. 

I was about 1/2 way through when I realized that this book was a retelling of David Copperfield. Is it obvious I haven’t read the source material? Anyway, what I do know about David Copperfield was that it was an impassioned work of social activism at its time. And that is very much the same for Demon Copperhead. It’s just about as long, too. It’s 560 pages–which ain’t nothin’! But I found it absolutely worth it. There is something in which to delight or despair, but deeply feel, on each and every page.

What have you read and loved lately?

What I Read in July and August 2022

I find it hilarious that someone left a comment on my last post that said something like “Wow! You read a lot.” Because it was immediately followed up with reading almost nothing in July (I finished the tail end of Our Missing Hearts). And then reading very little in August.

For my job, I’m required-ish to read books ahead of time and nominate them for the Indie Next List. And I’m supposed to do 2 books a month. So that’s what I did here. The bare minimum. I have good news and bad news.

The Good News: You’re going to love these books. (I nominated them all.)
The Bad News: They don’t come out until October and November.

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Pre-Order the hardcover copy here.
Pre-Order the audiobook here.

A boy named Bird lives in our not-too-distant future (alternatively, could be present day on an adjacent timeline) where America has come out of a devastating crisis, only surviving by the skin of her teeth. The world left behind is on-edge and ready to ensure dominance again by instituting harsh and racist policies in order to keep “True Americans” safe. 
Bird doesn’t care about all that–he just wants to know where his mother disappeared to and if she’s really the dangerous radical activist that everyone says she is. 
Our Missing Hearts is a soul-stirring novel about what wakes us up and how hard many of us will cling to our sleep and forces us to confront the way that the personal is political.

One thing that I found so interesting about this book is that it’s different-ish? than what I would have expected from Celeste Ng. But then when I think about it… it’s not actually all that different. I mean she thrives in suburban fiction and Little Fires Everywhere certainly had some political subtext. This one is just a touch more overt than I’ve come to expect from her. Don’t get me wrong–I LIKED IT A LOT. Our Missing Hearts is going to be an incredible choice for book clubs everywhere–there is so much conversation to be had!

The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson
Preorder the paperback copy here.
Preorder the audiobook here.

I loved this book! Think about the things you love about Emily Henry (complex characters, unpredictable narratives, the ability to turn a trope on its head). Shauna Robinson does all of those things 10 times better! 

Maggie shows up in a small town to help out at her best friend’s bookstore while she’s on maternity leave. When the town Scrooge makes an executive decision, affecting the store’s primary money-maker, sales start to drop. Maggie has to think fast and use all her charm and maybe some illegal means to save the bookshop (and bring the town together for a common cause!). 

I love that in this “romance” book, the relationship between the main character and her beau isn’t the primary focus of the story. Instead, we get to see her fall in love with this town, create a deeper connection with her best friend, and learn to trust herself. 
This is hands down THE BEST romance book I have read in 2022. 

The Islands by Dionne Irving
Pre-Order the paperback copy here.

This is an incredible collection of short stories that I would recommend to anyone who enjoyed books like, Her Body and Other Parties or Behold the Dreamers–in fact, it might be fair to describe this collection as a lovely mash-up of the two.

Personally, I’m finding it challenging to surmise a collection of stories, so I’ll share what her publisher has to say about this book. It’s a collection of “powerful stories that explore the legacy of colonialism, and issues of race, immigration, sexual discrimination, and class in the lives of Jamaican women across London, Panama, France, Jamaica, Florida and more… Restless, displaced, and disconnected, these characters try to ground themselves–to grow where they find themselves planted–in a world in which the tension between what’s said and unsaid can bend the soul.”

On top of being an incredible author (she also wrote a historical fiction novel about the Dionne Quintuplets entitled Quint which was a hit at our shop last year), Dionne Irving is a delightful woman. I had the pleasure of meeting her recently and we’re in talks to host her for an upcoming author event!

What I Read in June 2022

The last week of June, I was laid out with a sickness from which I am still recovering. So, that’s why this post is coming out a week late. But I was so excited about all the reading I did in June that I didn’t want to skip it.

So let’s get to it!! A reminder, any purchase made from the links in this post go to support our bookstore in McPherson KS: Twice Told Tales.

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

Love Marriage by Monica Ali
Download the audiobook version here.
Order the hardcover version here.

It’s not the most fast-paced book I’ve ever read by any means—which is just fine. The author put in so much work to make sure that we love these characters which gives us grace for them when they do things that seem destructive. 
It’s a beautiful story about all sorts of relationships and the way they can shift and change in our lives. I found the relationships between parents and children to be the most nuanced and powerful in this story. The way that parents often keep things from their children long after they had a right to know–just because it can be easier to not talk about certain things. Until it’s not.

If you like stories of familial relationships (my personal soft spot), grab this one right away.

Nora Goes off Script by Annabel Monaghan

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
Download the audiobook here.
Order the hardcover copy here.

It’s very unusual when I am reading a romance and can’t figure out what’s going to happen next. This is about a woman who makes a living writing romance movies for a fictional version of The Hallmark Channel–until her husband leaves her and she finds herself writing that story. Which isn’t really a Hallmark style movie. It gets picked up by a big budget film studio and what do you know–suddenly there’s a film crew and terribly famous actors in her front lawn (a unique fixture of her home plays heavily into the film).
There’s a light enemies to lovers trope along with a more heavy friends to lovers trope and in general a lot of fun to be had by all.

Till the last page I had no idea how it would end. Which, if you read many romance novels, you know that’s pretty rare. Also, this was a fairly closed-door romance (not a ton of on-screen spicy stuff) which is also not something I find very often.
Two things of note:
A. Yes I did just choose this book because the author and I have the same last name.
B. I really wanted to carry this book at the shop but it’s only available in hardcover (most romances are released in paperback) and I know my shoppers well enough to know that no one wants to spend nearly $30 on a 200 page romance. So I’ll be waiting with baited breath for it to be released on paperback.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
Download the audiobook here.
Order the paperback or hardcover copy here (or by picking it up in my store but I’m struggling to keep it on the shelf).

I’ll just copy and paste my review from our Facebook page:

One of the most frequently asked questions I get at the store is “What was the last book you loved?” And lately my answer has been a frantic , “THIS!!!” And then I jump up and shove this book into their hands.

I was looking for a fun mystery and casually thought I’d try this one out—completely unaware of how it would grab me.

It’s the story of a woman who is writing the story of a woman who is writing a mystery novel—while they are BOTH living through their own real life mysteries!

Now I know that sounds confusing when I say it but the author of this book did an astounding job of formatting it so that it’s supremely easy to follow along with! It’s very organized and full of twists and turns and you’ll keep wondering whodunnit till the very end.

Normal Family by Chrysta Bilton

Normal Family by Chrysta Bilton
Download the audiobook version here.
Order the hardcover copy here.

This story is wild. It was so different from what I had expected when I first picked it up. It dives deep into what it’s like to grow up in a family with varying levels of dysfunction but also with a lot of love. The story ends in a way that makes me feel very happy for everyone despite their struggles and I liked that. 

Chrysta’s mother desperately wanted a child. Being a lesbian in the 1980’s–this was a feat even more impossible than it is now. But through her unbound sense of optimism, she figured out a way to bring Chrysta and her sister into the world. And it was her unbound sense of optimism that got them into some… wild living situations. This is the story of mental health and family dysfunction and some unbelievable circumstances but also the tenacity of love and the importance of openness and discovery.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
Download the audiobook version here.
Order the paperback copy here.

I loved everything about this book. I have no notes. My only complaint is that I’m tired of reading books about writers (three of the five books I read this month were about writers for goodness sakes) but I won’t hold that against it.
Florence Day has been secretly ghostwriting for one of the most popular romance authors in the world for the past few years. Just as her contract is about to be up–Florence doesn’t believe in love anymore. She’s struggling to complete the last book.

Also, oh yeah, very casually, Florence has always seen dead people. Yeah–they seek her out when they need help. In fact, when she was in high school she helped solve a murder because of this unique ability she has. The people in her town couldn’t handle how different she was and, therefore, kinda ran her out. Now, her father has passed away and she’s forced to go back and face everyone and everything she left behind.

And that’s all the books that I read to completion! I really liked what I read this month. I almost never devour so many books.

Books that I will be nominating for September’s Indie Next List:

I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers
Dead Flip by Sara Farizan

What I Read in May 2022

I got a little more into the swing of reading this month! But since I’m still very, very into the Morbid podcast… I’m splitting my time between podcasts and reading. What can you do?

Reminder that all of the links in this post go to benefit my bookstore, Twice Told Tales in McPherson KS!

Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley

Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley
Download the audiobook here.
Grab the hardcover copy in our store (on 6/7) or order from here.

I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into with this one but let me be clear–it delivered. If I’m being honest, I picked it 80% because of the cover and 20% because I’ve really enjoyed Crosley’s memoirs and I was curious to see what she would do with fiction.

How I’ll sell it to people: So one night our protagonist is out to dinner with friends where she runs into an ex-boyfriend of hers. They catch up and go their separate ways. The next night, she runs into another ex-boyfriend–which is strange. She quickly discovers that this is not happening coincidentally…
There’s a fun NYC setting, lots of reminiscing about past relationships, a maybe-a-cult?, some good humor and a lot of mystery.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Download the audiobook here.
Get the paperback by stopping into Twice Told Tales or order your own copy here.

Probably the most anticipated/ requested book we’ve had in a while at Twice Told Tales. Emily Henry can do no wrong, more or less, as far as romance novels go. They’re always solid gold! What I like about her stories is that they’re layered and nuanced where sometimes romance can feel a little flat. Well, for that matter, a book from any genre can feel a little flat. But as someone who reads a lot of romance, I feel it the most there.

The only thing that isn’t my number one thing about Emily Henry’s writing? There’s almost no hooking up till the last 1/3 of the book. Which–makes sense according to the plot line. But still. LOL

The Most Precious Substance on Earth by Shashi Bhat

The Most Precious Substance on Earth by Shashi Bhat
Download the audiobook here.
Order the hardcover here (6/28).

This book did to me… the opposite of what Cult Classic did. Again, I wasn’t that sure about what I was getting into with this book and also… I don’t want to say it let me down at all. But it just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. From the way the first couple chapters read and the cover design, I kinda thought that I was getting into a Young Adult coming of age type story.

The story is told in three parts and various semi-connected stories throughout each part. Part 1 takes place during high school where Nina (our narrator) has a traumatic encounter with a teacher. The next two parts take place later in adulthood. Personally, I kept waiting for the teacher-encounter to pop back up, maybe she’d tackle it in some way? But she never does and to be honest, she kind of never really learns to handle anything as far as I could tell. It’s true to life because there are people all over the place who aren’t dealing with their trauma and it creeps up in big and small ways. But, tbh, if I knew going into it that this character just has a sad story with no development, I’m not sure that I would have started it.

Books that I nominated for August’s Indie Next List:
Diary of a Misfit by Casey Parks
Witches by Brenda Lozano

What did you read this past month???