I read this month! Not much, but I did it! Joy of all joys.
Two entire books. Otherwise I’ve just been listening to a lot of podcasts (My Favorite Murder, Deep Dive, Mike Birbiglia’s Working It Out) and watching a lot of television (Midnight Mass, Morning Show, Squid Game–like everyone else).
The links used in this post will take you to stores that help support our bookstore, Twice Told Tales in McPherson KS.
The Wise Women by Gina Sorell Pre-order your hardcover copy here. Pre-order the audiobook here.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: give me a contemporary novel about families and I’ll happily read it. This book was very good (not mind-blowing or anything). It’s got all my favorite things: adult siblings, substantial character development, and a fun kid to tie it all together. In this book, we follow two adult sisters–daughters of a famous advice columnist, as they’re trying to navigate adulthood while following their mother’s sage advice. In the end, and this is no spoiler at all, sometimes just because something is “good advice” or whatever–it’s not the right advice for you. Learning that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to living life has been one of my favorite lessons that I’ve learned in my life and I think that’s why I enjoyed this one so much. I’d recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed novels by Emma Straub and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney–two of my personal favorites.
This book will be published in April 2022.
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
Order your hardcover copy here. Download the audiobook version here. I recommend buying both–I know it’s a lot but do it.
I generally shy away from celebrity memoirs but I know that Stanley Tucci is beloved by many, so I felt compelled to order a few copies for the bookstore. Much to my surprise, this book sold out in two days. I did not expect that.(And when I went to refill, it was on backorder because of ~supply chain issues~.) And also the touch and feel of this book is nothing short of delicious. It feels so good to hold in your hands. So when Libro.fm (an excellent audiobook amazon-alternative which helps support our store), offered to let me listen to this book for free I was like, “Sure why not.” If for no other reason than to get the pleasure of listening to Stanley Tucci talk to me about pasta for a few hours.
I was hooked from the beginning. Look, it’s a simple concept, Stanley Tucci tells you about different meals he’s had throughout his life–starting with things his mother used to make, things he ate when he was a broke actor, things he’s eaten since he’s had much more money (including a hilarious story about something disgusting he ate in France with Meryl Streep), all the way through to things he was eating while undergoing cancer treatments. We learn about the people he loves and the places he loves. AND LOOK you know me, you know that I have very little patience for the musings of men. But goddamnit, I loved this book. I really loved it.
And I’m going to buy a hardcover copy so that I can have access to all of the dozens and dozens of recipes scattered throughout.
Okay so I skipped a few months. But I have a good reason and that reason is that I haven’t read anything since June. I just wasn’t excited about anything and my attention was… limited. To say the least. I’m always jealous of those people who use reading as a coping mechanism for stress. When I’m stressed out, letters on a page turn into alphabet soup.
Speaking of soup, it’s finally October and I’m back to reading again!! Hooray! Here’s everything I read in September! And here’s the soup I’m making for dinner tonight.
*Reminder: sales from any of these links go to benefit Twice Told Tales, my bookstore in McPherson Kansas!
Women Talking by Miriam Toews Order your paperback copy here or download the audiobook version here.
**CW: This book and my discussion of it does mention r*pe.**
The heart of this fictional novel centers around a true story that resulted in the imprisonment of eight men who were convicted of raping hundreds of women and girls in their Mennonite colony between 2005-2009. For years, these women were gaslit into believing that they were dreaming, they were being punished by God for their sins, or that they were simply making up these attacks.
Women Talking centers around a secret meeting of the women after the men of the colony have been arrested. The women are trying to decide what they’re going to do–do they stay and fight? Do they stay and do nothing? Do they leave the colony? The thing that appealed to me the very most was the storytelling technique used here. Because the women do not know how to read or write, they enlist the help of a school teacher from the village that they trust to take notes of their meeting–the story is told from his notes and his perspective of their discussion. Also, because 80% of the book takes place between the women of the colony who know what everyone else went through, there is very little discussion of what physically went on during the attacks. I was afraid that this book would be terribly triggering but because of this technique, there weren’t a lot of details (though there are some details, at one point involving a toddler–so do be mindful when reading this). Instead, the book focuses on the women as they’re discussing how to be good Christians in the face of what’s been done to them. What do they have a right to do and what do they have a duty to fulfil? How much of their anger is sinful and how much of it is crucial? To be honest, it was all just very reminiscent of conversations that I’ve been having with friends who are in the process of deconstructing their faith at the moment.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty Order your hardcover copy from here or download the audiobook version here.
I, personally, love Liane Moriarty’s story telling. I haven’t read all of her books but all of the books of hers that I’ve read I have loved. Now, pardon while I go on a tangent about the Hulu show Nine Perfect Strangers (based on Moriarty’s book by the same name) for a moment, though. I hated this. I didn’t read the book–and that might have been my problem. Maybe if I’d known what to expect? I actually haven’t spoken to anyone who loved the book either so Nine Perfect Strangers is just gonna be one of those books that I’ll never recommend to people. It’s fine. They can’t all be winners. Also if you loved Nine Perfect Strangers–the book or the show, please tell me why. I’m deeply interested/ confused.
Anyway–back to the book I actually read. I liked Apples Never Fall! If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a family story. I love reading about the complexities of a long marriage. I love reading about how adult siblings relate to one another–especially when there are several siblings, being one of 4 myself.
The quick description of this book is that the matriarch of the Delaney family has gone missing–did she get fed up and take a break? Did she totally leave her family of her own volition? Or was it something far more sinister?
In uncovering the truth, everyone goes back through their memories–uncovering reasons or explanations for each option. Within the course of a 40 year marriage, there’s always gonna be one or two motives for murder… right?
I do feel like this book is a tad less thriller-y than some of Moriarty’s other works, but the way that she uncovers and dissects each character while still moving the story forward is still the same.
Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey Order your paperback copy here or download the audiobook here.
Okay I loved this one! It was so fun and sweet. It reads exactly like a romantic comedy–complete with quips and jokes from background characters. And it should, because the main character, Annie, is obsessed with romantic comedies! It’s what she and her mother bonded over as she grew up. There’s nothing in this life that didn’t already happen in a Nora Ephron film first. Annie is looking for love. She’s looking for her “Tom Hanks”. Tom Hanks specifically from You’ve Got Mail or Sleepless in Seattle.
While searching for a man with a houseboat, Annie is also obsessed with making it in the movie biz. But since she lives in Ohio, she doesn’t have a whole lot of opportunities to make that happen. Of course, the impossible happens and she finds that one of her favorite directors is filming a movie right here in her neighborhood and through a series of events, she gets a job as his assistant. And she gets to spend every day with the sexy lead of the film–whom she despises.
A classic enemies to lovers trope (which can get a little boring and predictable for me but for some reason, the way that Kerry Winfrey handled it, she kept it fun!) with closed-door romance. “Closed-door” is a phrase we use to describe that all the sex occurs off-screen (with the door closed, get it?) so it’s perfect for romance beginners or anyone who just knows that they don’t want to read anything explicit. Anyway, I loved this one so much that I immediately ordered the sequel, “Not Like The Movies”.
I’ve done a really, really good job at disentangling myself from guilt in the past few years. I used to feel guilty about resting, taking a day off, not having a clean kitchen, not eating the “right” things, wearing certain clothes, having feelings, posting too much on social media, posting the wrong things on social media, spending money, not spending money, watching too much tv, not watching the right kind of tv… You name it, I could find a way to feel guilty about it! But I’ve knocked that off.
Who is served by my guilt? Because it’s not me! And honestly not really anyone else either because my personal brand of guilt does this fun little thing where I become paralyzed and will find a way to do whatever is causing the guilt even harder. It’s fascinating. For example, if I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t done the dishes in three days… well buckle up because we’re gonna stretch that out a whole ‘nother week baby!!
Anyway, like I’ve said, I’ve done a lot of work to release myself from all that guilt. Now, if my dishes aren’t done today they’re just not done today. Maybe tomorrow! And I’m more likely to actually do them tomorrow, too. Whew. Feels good.
But there is one area where I still feel really, really, really guilty and I can’t shake it. But now that I’ve recognized it, I get to work on it: READING. Why TF am I feeling guilty about reading? I kind of think it’s because I’ve positioned myself as someone who loves to read and now I have to fill that role or something? But then also there’s the fact that it IS my job! And publishers send me these books and want to know what I think and blah blah blah. So, on one hand I have my personal TBR that I want to get through and then all these other books that I didn’t ask for, some I’m excited about… Oh and then there’s book clubs? Woof. So much reading that I want? to do? I think? But also it’s all starting to feel like homework, too.
ANYWAY ALL THAT TO SAY THAT I READ ONE SINGLE BOOK IN JUNE AND I’M NOT SURE I EVEN LIKED IT THAT MUCH? And all month I was feeling guilty about it until this week when I was like “Hey, self, you didn’t read much this month. Fine. BFD.” And then I was like, “You’re right, Self.”
So here’s what I read in June:
The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow Order the hardcover copy here. Download the audiobook here.
I know that I said I wasn’t even sure if I liked this book but it’s not because this book wasn’t good, it’s mostly because I haven’t been able to focus this past month, much. And I wasn’t able to get invested in this book the way it deserved to be invested in. I had it as mostly background noise and it wasn’t meant to be devoured that way. This book is about finding your place in the world. It centers on several different characters who are all at these points of transition. Their lives all overlap. They’re all lost and trying to navigate amidst grief, first loves, and aging. I know this sounds very sad and depressing but, remember, they’re not stuck in those spots. They’re finding their way through it all.
I’m also finding that I really like books that take place in the 60’s and 70’s. If you liked Sue Miller’s Monogamy, I think you’ll like this one, too.
I thought I didn’t read much this month but when I looked back through my StoryGraph account, I finished four books! Which is pretty average for me. I think May was just a really long month.
Any purchases through the links in this post go to help support, Twice Told Tales (my bookstore!).
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid Download the audiobook here. Buy the hardcover here.
Yeah, ok, let’s just start out with a powerhouse. I freakin’ loved this book. First of all, Taylor Jenkins Reid knows exactly how to get you wrapped up in a specific time and place. This time and place is the 1980’s in Malibu, California. The hair is big. The acid wash is out in full force. The famous people are so famous! The simple structure of the story takes place all in one night–a very famous once-a-year house party in a Malibu Mansion owned by sexy, swimsuit model, Nina Riva. The heart of the story takes place between Nina and her three younger (now adult) siblings in glimpses of their love for each other and flashbacks over the course of their lives–in the shadow of their obscenely famous father. This book made me want to call up all of my siblings and tell them I love them.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas Download it on audiobook here. Buy the hardcover copy here.
I read this book as a part of the book club that I run with The Empowerment Studio and I’m so glad that I did! This book was fun and fast paced. Full disclosure, I don’t always love books that are aimed at a Young Adult audience. I spend a lot of time thinking “where are the parents” and “kids don’t really talk like that”. But this one didn’t give me any of these vibes. It was just fun and believable and I loved it so much. Yadriel is a brujo and right off the bat in the first scene of the book we get to experience all the magic and excitement of him coming into his full powers! It just so happens that in that exact moment, a tragedy strikes his family and all of the brujo men are called on to find out what happened. Yadriel is forbidden from helping though because, even though they mean well, his family doesn’t believe he could actually be brujo because he’s trans. In the meantime, Yadriel and his cousin Maritza accidentally summon a ghost? And they can’t seem to get rid of him. And… yeah this ghost is another teenager and super hot and it’s not a spoiler to say that Yadriel and Julian fall in love. This book is fun I’m telling you!! And it wraps up like a perfect teenage romance should.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston Download the audiobook here. Buy the paperback copy here.
Another romance!! Only this one isn’t geared towards teens so just FYI it’s got a lot of spicy scenes. Which, honestly, I didn’t see coming because a good 70% of this book takes place stuck on the subway. But to quote Dr. Ian Malcolm, “life… uh… finds a way.” I loved this book so much! Casey McQuiston is such a talented and creative author! They completely threw out the typical roadmap for romance novels with this one and I’m here for it. Basically what happens is that August falls in love with a girl on the subway. And then… discovers that she can’t get off the subway. And she’s been there since 1976. BUT LOVE IS LOVE Y’ALL! But in the meantime, we get to see all of August’s walls fall down. We get to meet all of her incredible and delightful roommates who want to know her so well and will do anything for her–even busting open the space time continuum.
Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian Download the audiobook here. Buy the hardcover copy here.
**SCREEEEECH** We’re taking a hard left turn with this one. While all the other books I read this month were light and airy–with a good amount of tenderness and thoughtfulness and honesty, this one takes place in 1662 in Puritan New England. Mary Deerfield is in an abusive marriage that she is determined to escape. The only thing is a woman doing… pretty much anything in 1662 will get her labeled a witch. Despite the plain language and pacing that definitely brings in the Puritanical vibe, this book still reads like a super modern thriller. Note: content warnings for all kinds of things that take place in an abusive marriage.
Anyway–that’s all she read! Both Malibu Rising and One Last Stop were released today so go get your copies!!
Have I ever told you how much joy this little reading re-cap blog gives me? No pressure to cover certain topics or be particularly thoughtful or make any money or anything. Just, “Hey I read this.” God, it’s my favorite.
So with that extensive intro, on to the books!
OH! Just a reminder and a PS: all the links on this page go to benefit our store, Twice Told Tales in McPherson KS.
Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro Order the physical copy on Bookshop. Download the audiobook on Libro.fm
Okay, so I have two different responses to this book. One is how I would describe it to a customer who wants to know what this book is about. And my response would be something like, “This book takes place in a not-so-distant-but-still-undetermined future. Klara is an Artificial Friend and we get to see the whole world and relationships through her unusual, limited, but also incredibly nuanced perspective. Great for someone who doesn’t need a lot of plot to get sucked in but will easily get immersed in character development.” But how I actually responded when it was over, “The f*ck was that.” LOL People who are way smarter than me are raving about this book and I’m confident that it’s rightfully beloved by so many people… just not me. Personally.
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron Pre-order the book from Bookshop.
This… was fun. From the get-go. So, while I don’t love science fiction or fantasy–I do have a very soft spot for magical realism and this hits the bill perfectly. My personal definition of magical realism is that everything in the world is normal and ordinary except for maybe one small thing that is completely magical. This book starts out that way (though as it goes on, we do enter a realm of more fantasy) and I love it. So the premise of this book is that Briseis is just out in the world, living her life. It just so happens that she has… a way with plants. They pay attention to her. They turn and look at her. She can bring them back to life just by glancing their way or sticking her fingers in the dirt. Suddenly, Briseis and her family are thrown into a situation where they discover that her powers go way further than just beefing up house plants. She seems immune to poison? And there are people who will do whatever it takes to get their hands on her powers. Good news, it’s the first in a series so the story isn’t over yet! I loved this and I can’t wait to put it on our shelves at Twice Told Tales this summer!
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins Order a copy from Bookshop. Download the audiobook on Libro.fm.
This is a delicious, gothic thriller set in an affluent suburban neighborhood in Mississippi. What I liked about this book was the way that you can never really tell who the hero is and who the villain is. Based on Jane Eyre–anyone who is familiar with the classic will have a vague idea of the bones of this story. I finished this book in a weekend. I got sucked in from the first page. This book is perfect for anyone who just wants to turn their brain off for a while and dive into a dramatic murder mystery.
The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton Order your copy from Bookshop. Download the audiobook on Libro.fm.
Okay, I have really enjoyed some books lately but I haven’t been completely blown away by a book in this particular way in years. Not until The Final Revival of Opal and Nev. Dawnie Walton is a certain kind of master storyteller. It’s completely fictionalized but you constantly find yourself wondering, “wait, is this fiction? Or not? It feels true!” It tells the story of Opal and Nev–a powerhouse rock and roll duo from the 1970’s who experienced some short-lived fame before parting ways. The fictional author was brought on to write their biography before they get back together for a reunion tour. This book is compiled from the author’s scraps of interviews, newspaper articles, and her own personal thoughts all pieced together to tell this incredible story. This book is written in such a way that you feel a bit removed from the subject matter at hand–and yet you become so invested in these people. It’s wholly immersive. That’s what I mean when I say that Dawnie Walton is a master story teller. Somehow through newspaper articles and third-hand accounts I still found myself weeping at a certain point (though do not misunderstand–this is not a particularly sad story. It’s a story that will fill you with power and maybe some rage?).
Anyway, this book completely changed what a five-star read is for me.
Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica Pre-order on Bookshop. Pre-order the audiobook on Libro.fm.
Mary Kubica is one of those authors that the thriller lovers in my store love. So when I was offered an advance readers copy of this one, I jumped on it to find out what all the hubbub was about! This book was riveting! In the first chapter you think you know where this is going, “Okay, here’s a classic, suburban, missing woman story.” And then the second chapter starts and you’re in a completely different place wondering how on earth these two stories are even remotely connected. This is a propulsive thriller that will keep you turning the pages and gasping at the twists and turns (though I will admit that I clocked something in the first couple chapters that made me certain I know whodunit–and I was right. But it didn’t spoil anything at all. The joy is in the journey after all). This is not a book for sensitive readers, however. I’m offering a big ole content warning for things like child abuse, forced imprisonment and bullying. This is why I like The StoryGraph–you can see what content warnings readers have flagged for each book they read. This is such a helpful tool for sensitive readers–just so you can be somewhat prepared. Here’s a link to the StoryGraph for this book so you can see what I’m talking about.
Okay! That’s what I read this month! Did you read anything you loved?