What I Read in November… and December 2021

Look… I’ve been busy the past two months. But I still made time to read a little!
My 2021 goal was to read 50 books. I read 30. That’s okay. I still am going to aim for 50 in 2021 again. Maybe I’ll hit that goal or maybe I won’t. Who knows?

Reminder: All the links used in this post go to support our bookstore, Twice Told Tales.

All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris
Download it on Audiobook here.
Order it on paperback or hardcover here.

This book was incredible. I described it to a friend as “John Grisham meets The Vanishing Half“. When Ellice Littlejohn shows up to work one day, she walks in to the office of her boss–and the man she’s having an affair with, to find him dead. She’s shocked but she weighs her options and decides to slip out without a word to anyone.
What uncovers over the next 10 days will change her life forever.
Ellice has secrets that she’ll go to the ends of the earth to keep–and they might just be the death of her.

Now, full disclosure–I did give this book only 4* on StoryGraph, but it’s just because there are some parts that get a tad repetitive which was a personal pet peeve of mine but didn’t detract from the story at all.

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
Order the hardcover copy here.
Download the audiobook here (it’s been on backorder for ages–everyone wants it). I recommend getting both.

So… like… until November when I started listening to this audiobook, I liked Stanley Tucci as much as the next guy. He’s in a lot of movies that I enjoy. Hasn’t gotten MeToo’d yet as far as I’m aware. Seems chill. But this book was so much fun. I always tell people that I love talking about books because they’re a shortcut to talking about things that someone loves. But talking about food is a shortcut to talking about relationships.

In this book, Stanley tells his story through food. Food that his mother made when he was a child, school lunches that imprinted on his mind, snacks he was never allowed as a kid, the kinds of meals he ate when he was young and living on his own, food that was available on film sets, the types of meals he’ll make for his family these days, what he ate during cancer treatments… And through it all–a depth of humor that only really comes from someone who has lived a good, grateful life. This book made me feel like I was friends with Stanley Tucci and it also really made me want to try to make Spaghetti alla Nerano.

Carry the Dog by Stephanie Gangi
Download the audiobook here.
Order the hardcover copy here.

Have you ever read a book or watched a tv show and thought, “I’m not quite sure why I liked this but I just did.” Well, that’s where I am with this. I’m not sure why I enjoyed it but I’ll give it a shot.

First of all, as I age, I’m increasingly more interested in the stories of women older than me. This is the story of Bea Singer–the daughter of a photographer who was able to make a name for herself in the 1960’s by publishing nude images of her children. Much of the book centers around the fact that some people say the children were exploited and others who believed she captured honest, everyday family life. Now, a woman in her 60’s, she’s trying to figure out how she feels about everything that went down.

She’s working to untangle a lot of the past that she’s hidden away for much of her life and she’s working to define what family means to her, now. Despite the fact that this book comes with all of the content warnings (addiction, abuse, incest, death, grief) and it is a challenging read at times, Bea is able to keep a very realistic sense of humor about things. I feel like she handles things in a relatable way and maybe that is why I liked it so much.

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
Download the audiobook here.
Buy the hardcover copy here.

One of the most highly requested books of the year at our store–everyone was excited for this book. And I get it!! Jodi Picoult is really, really good at topical fiction. I have very intentionally steered away from any Covid entertainment–sorry but I’m just not ready for it yet. That being said, if I was going to be able to trust anyone to handle this topic well, I knew it would be Jodi Picoult. It’s her whole thing. And I think she did a pretty good job at it.

That being said, this isn’t my favorite Picoult book. It felt really rushed to me–like there were some relationships that I wanted to get more insight on before I would be able to be as invested as she clearly wanted me to be. And there is a plot twist that… I did not find satisfying. I gave it 3.75/5 stars on StoryGraph.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain
Download the audiobook here.
Pre-Order the hardcover here.

After being told for years by my customers that I need to read a Diane Chamberlain book, I was really excited to get advance access to this book! And, look, I get it. This woman knows how to tell a story really well! This novel about a woman in 2010 who is getting ready to move into her dream house when she starts getting threatening and ominous messages that she should not move in. Meanwhile, in the 1960’s a young white girl is discovering a passion for Civil Rights and her small, southern community is not on board. There are two different timelines here that seem to be unrelated at first but as time goes on, they braid together in a really satisfying way I think.

The only thing is… there are some incredible books that center on the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s written by Black authors that I’d recommend much sooner. I also feel uncomfy with certain details of Black death and racial slurs coming from the pen of a white writer. I know, there’s a whole discussion to be had about keeping things “authentic to the times” or whatever. But for me, personally, I don’t like it. Aside from all that, this book completely centers on Good White Folks and how innocent and helpless they are against the bigots that surround them. Every single Black person in this story is used to show how good the white main character is and exists for no other reason.
For those reasons, despite being a really well told story–this book is a no for me.

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
Download the audiobook here.
Order the hardcover copy here.

I’ve been wanting to read Ashley C. Ford’s memoir for ages. The only thing is that I love to read memoirs on paper–and as the Christmas season in retail looms large, I only ever had time for audiobooks. So I had this book waiting for me at home. And as soon as we had a couple days off for the holiday, I gobbled this book down so fast.

This story is… heartbreaking and hopeful. It’s hard and it’s also familiar. I mean, Ford and I have had very, very different lives with very different struggles but there are certain aspects to growing up, to grief, to having parents, to loving complicated people that are just universal. And more often than not through this story I found myself nodding along. Yes. I know someone like that. Yes. I’ve felt this way. Yes. I’ve had that kind of a teacher. Yes. I’ve had a love like that.

What do you think?

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