Books I Read in March/ April

I haven’t read very much lately. My brain has been used for other things like planning big events (and the daily minutiae) for both of my jobs, grieving the loss of a friend, and working hard on strengthening my body and increasing my mobility. It’s been quite a spring.

But I finally feel up to sharing the few things I’ve read in the past few months. Just a reminder that the links in this post do go to support my bookstore, Twice Told Tales.


What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris

What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris
Order the audiobook here. Snag the hardcover copy here.

This book was so wonderful. Something about it felt like the comforting, coming of age stories that we read in middle school–though obviously not for a middle school audience. In the wake of their father’s death, Kenyatta and her older sister are going to spend the summer with a grandfather that they’ve never met before and they’re not entirely sure why…
Kai Harris made such a wonder-making choice by making Kenyatta–our narrator, an eleven year old girl who is trying to figure out the world around her. She’s at an age where she believes that she’s capable of understanding more than the adults around her are willing to share and that can be so frustrating. She’s doing all she can to make sense of a super complex situation that she’s living in and she learns so much throughout this summer. Five stars from me.

The Unsinkable Gretta James by Jennifer E. Smith

The Unsinkable Gretta James by Jennifer E. Smith
Download the audiobook here. Get the hardcover copy here.

I’ll fully admit that I only listened to this book because it was narrated by Mae Whitman, who I have had a crush on since Arrested Development. I gotta admit–this book wasn’t my favorite thing she’s ever done. Not that it matters. I hope she had fun.

This book has all the makings of an excellent story but I just felt like it fell flat (or it could have been the narrator–several times she read the dialogue in a way that didn’t make any sense to me). A young rock star and her estranged father are forced together onto an Alaskan cruise in the wake of her mother’s death. They’re both grieving and they both have animosity toward one another. This is the story of their reconnection. I loved this book in theory but in execution… just fell flat for me. But I’d love to hear from someone else about it! If you loved it, please tell me. (It’s also not this book’s fault that I read it after What the Fireflies Knew and that book was just so, so good.)

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
Get the audiobook here. Order the hardcover copy here.

This book is released tomorrow and I hope that I ordered enough copies for the store (I’m confident that I did not–let me order more real quick). This book was so fun! McQuiston took a little more chaste turn with this book, considering it’s geared towards a more YA audience. There are still some titilating parts but no full on graphic scenes like you’ll find in, say, One Last Stop.

From the beginning, this book had big Paper Towns energy for me. Which is great! It’s got all the fun elements of a blockbuster teen movie, to be honest. The hot girl goes missing and leaves behind clues to find her. There’s a deeply satisfying party scene. A very cool and broody best friend who keeps the main character grounded. The coolest queer kids that you desperately want to become best friends with. AND it all takes place at a private Christian high school in Mississippi. Listen to me, this book is gonna get banned so damn fast. It’s going to be released tomorrow. And it’s gonna be banned from all the schools by Wednesday. LOL! I mean, I’m laughing but book banning, obviously, enrages me. Anyway–read this book. It’s really good.

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel
Get the audiobook here. Order the hardcover copy here.

Okay so here’s the thing… this book needs 800 trigger warnings. It’s a horror book after all. There’s a cult and creepy baby dolls and secret passage ways and people keep ending up dead. Some of you just noped out of this book and some of you were like “I’m all the way in”! So… I was neither of those people.

For me, I was reading it skeptically. Personally, I thought I figured out what was going to happen in about chapter 3. The only reason I kept reading was because my hope was that a big juicy plot twist would pop out and surprise me! It… did not. I called the whole thing so early and I don’t even like doing that! I didn’t even try. Such a bummer for me.

In summary, every other book I read was awesome. 😉

What I Read in February 2022

Nothing.

Okay, wait. That’s not true at all. I’ve read a lot. I just haven’t finished anything and that’s different.

I’ve been reading Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise and it is thick and meaty and requires several breaks. I love Yanagihara’s work and this is how I have to consume it–by taking my time and little bits. It’s worth every single bite.

What I Read in January 2022

Is anyone else writing 2002 on their paperwork or is that just me?

ANYWAY–here’s what I read this month and what I thought of it! As always, any links to purchase books go to benefit my bookstore, Twice Told Tales!


Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Download the audiobook here. Or order the physical copy here.

I started off 2022 on an emotional note, huh? I have to tell you that reading the memoir of a person who, at this point, is mostly known for being the victim of an infamous rape–I was expecting this book to be really depressing. But I didn’t find that to be the case at all. It felt real, to me. It felt honest. It didn’t feel like Chanel was trying to gloss over anything at all–in fact her writing style is such that she really stays with a subjects and turns it over in her hands until it’s completely known. But this wasn’t a sad book–it was power-filled. Even in the weak, vulnerable, tender moments–it was her power that shines out of every single word.

I would love for every man that I know to read this book.

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Download the audiobook here. Order the physical copy here.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to unwind with a murder documentary at the end of the day, I feel like Hendricks and Pekkanen are the authors for you. They’re the masters of the plot-twist.
What I like about this particular thriller is the way that as it starts out, you think THIS is what the book is about but at about the halfway point you realize, no no my friend! There was allllllll of THIS going on off to the side that you weren’t even paying attention to–and that’s where the story lies.

I like a book that keeps me guessing and this did it for me.

Love and Other Disasters by Anita Kelly
Download the audiobook here. Order the physical copy here.

After all that heaviness, I needed some levity. I picked up Love & Other Disasters because I was ready for a fun romance but also because one of the main characters is nonbinary! That excited me because I haven’t read a book where such a prominent character was nonbinary and I wanted to hear “they” over and over again. In fact, I shared on our store’s instagram stories that if you’re a person who wants to get better at using They/ Them pronouns in your speech–read a book with a they/ them character! It normalizes it in your mind quickly.
ANYWAY I loved every bit of this book. I feel like it’s a perfect romance. It follows The Formula well enough that you know what track you’re on but it deviates enough that you really aren’t sure where this is going or how it will end. The steamy parts are super steamy AND they’re chock full of incredible ways to weave consent into your sexual experiences. I loved this book so much and I recommend it to a lot of people.

Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson
Download the audiobook here. Order the physical copy here.

I picked up Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson after I noticed that the vast majority of Antebellum-era Historical Fiction is written by white authors. That doesn’t feel super comfy to me, so I wanted to read something from the Black perspective.
Yellow Wife tells a heart wrenching and harrowing story of Pheby Delores Brown (based on the real life Mary Lumpkin) who was born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia. She was promised freedom on her 18th birthday but instead, she finds herself leaving the only home she’s ever known for the infamous “Devil’s Half Acre”, a jail where the enslaved folks are broken and sold every day. There, Pheby uses her ingenuity and countless sacrifices to secure freedom and safety for the people that she loves.

If you want more books from Black authors about this era, check out Jubilee by Margaret Walker or Kindred by Octavia Butler.


Are you interested in the books I did not finish this month? I was thinking about adding them to my blog posts but I don’t want anyone to think these books aren’t good. I do not finish excellent books all of the time. With the nature of my job, I just can’t finish every single book I pick up. Sometimes I need to just sample and move along.

With that said, here are the books that I did not finish:

This Wicked Fate by Kalynn Bayron (I’m so excited about this sequel to This Poison Heart but series are so hard for me. This book picks up exactly where the last one left off–which I read over a year ago. So… I don’t remember exactly what happens. I need a refresher first.)

Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson (I’m not saying this book is bad. I’m just saying that there’s a reason that I don’t read the works of white men that often anymore and this book is a prime example. Excellent for people who know good and well that they love a snobby, literary novel.)

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 I Read in October 2021

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.