What I Read in April 2021

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?

What I Read in March 2021

So, what? January and February are just going to be the longest months of all time and then once it starts getting nice outside, March is just gonna *blip* go right on by? Cool. Neeeat.

So. My reading has changed this month. That’s because something has changed at the bookstore. That is to say that we started carrying NEW BOOKS! AH! We are not strictly a used bookstore any longer! Not only does that mean that you can come in and browse some new releases, but also that anything you want to read, we can order for you. Ain’t life grand?!
Anyway, with that I get Advanced Reader Copies of certain books from the publishers. The purpose is that I can read them and then decide whether or not I want to carry the book at the store. Yes. It is just as awesome as it sounds–especially for a person who loves new releases! It’s also… LOL overwhelming af. Currently I have about 30 books and I get more every day. Some are from authors I’ve never heard of. Some are books I can’t WAIT to get my hands on. Some are… just never gonna get read no matter what. So anyway, I’ve been reading a lot of books that aren’t published yet. But that’s not going to stop me from writing about them! I’ll just link them here and you can pre-order them if you want! (Don’t forget that if you’re local, you can order from us directly! If you’ll need books shipped to you, though, our Bookshop page is still going to be the way to go.)

Cover art for The Therapist by B. A. Paris

The Therapist by B. A. Paris
Will be released 7/13/21
Pre-Order from Bookshop
Pre-Order from Libro.fm

So many of my customers have told me to read books by B. A. Paris that when this one came available, I decided to just give it a shot.
Within the first 10% of the book, I was confident that I had it all figured out. I knew what was going to happen, who was going to do it, and how all the side characters would react. And then what do you know–I was wrong. And I was wrong about a zillion other times, too. I kept feeling like I had it all figured out and it would take a hard left turn. Sometimes plot twists come completely out of nowhere and they’re not satisfying at all. But these were all deeply satisfying. As far as mysteries go, I super enjoyed this one!
If you want another book that has the same sort of satisfying plot twists, I recommend You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

Cover art for Dr. Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness

Braving the Wilderness by Dr. Brene Brown
Get a copy on Bookshop.
Get a copy on Libro.fm.

I read this book for a book club. There was a lot of really great insight in this book which sparked some incredible conversations amongst the group that gathered to talk about it. Brene Brown has a big enough following and credibility that I feel like she doesn’t really need me to sing her praises. But I will say that I’m so tired of being expected to overlook dehumanizing fatphobia just because an author makes other great points. This is why I really hate reading “self-help” style books.

Cover art for Laurie Frankel’s One, Two, Three

One, Two, Three by Laurie Frankel
Will be released 6/8/21
Pre-Order from Bookshop.
Pre-Order from Libro.fm.

This book… surprised me in so many ways. I had no idea what this book was about going into it–all I knew was that I adored This is How it Always Is, Laurie Frankel’s last novel. To be honest, my guard was up really early when I discovered that there were some disabled main characters. I was afraid that this book would treat them the same way that so many other books treat disabled characters–as flat, personality-less, inspiration porn. While I’m still curious to hear what disabled readers think of the representation in this book, I personally (as a mostly able-bodied person) think that it was handled quite beautifully. In an interview with the author (which played after the audiobook), I was pleased to hear that she has been quite involved with disability rights activists and I think that really showed. As far as I could tell anyway.
So basically the plot of this story is that once upon a time, a chemical plant came to town and promised to bring jobs and an economic boom to this sleepy village. What really happened was that they poisoned the water which affected the residents in a massive way. While the residents are fighting for justice and accessibility, they’re faced with an impossible decision.
This story is told from the perspectives of the Mitchell triplets. Each one of them has a distinct and powerful voice that pushes the story along. And even though it sounds like a terribly grey story it was so colorful. There was a lot of joy and excitement, romance and adventure throughout it all. Just like in real life. I can’t wait to push this book into the hands of everyone who walks in my door this summer.

And that’s all I read! Next month I’ll have a lot more to show since I’m almost finished with two books right now. I can’t wait to tell you about them.

What I Read in February 2021

Oooh February has been a rough month. It’s only 28 days long but somehow it’s been 3 years long or something? Woof. Things that happened this past month:
Ryan got his second Covid-19 vaccination! He’s protected and I’m breathing a little more easily.
We got a hotel and spent Valentine’s weekend out of town. Sometimes you just need to stare at different walls.
I attended the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute and it lit a fire in me and prompted us to make some big, big changes in our shop. Which I’m not ready to talk about publicly just yet but I will be soon. Make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram!

So, here’s a rundown of the books I read amidst all of that! Reminder that all the links in this post go to support Twice Told Tales. If you don’t want to support us and would rather give Jeff Bezos enough money to colonize the moon, you’re free to do so but you have to find those links on your own. 😉

Cover photo of “The Death of Vivek Oji” by Akwaeke Emezi

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
Click here to download the audiobook version.
Click here to order the hardcover version.

I knew nothing about this book going into it except that the author was Nigerian (I’ve been reading several books by Nigerian writers lately and I have loved every single one of them). And also someone brought this book into the store to sell it to me and when I asked whether or not the person liked it, they said “It… was… weird…” So I was like, “Cool. I’m reading this.”
I want to offer a content warning about this book–the center of it does hinge on transphobia. And while I’m tired of reading about queer trauma, there was something different about this. Vivek Oji was a beloved member of the community. Vivek Oji’s mother found Vivek dead on her doorstep and she’s on a mission to find out what happened. This could have read like a murder mystery but instead it read like an epic life story and a coming of age for so many of the characters.

The cover photo for “It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake” by Claire Christian

It’s Been a Pleasure Noni Blake by Claire Christian
Get the paperback copy here.
Download the audiobook version here.

Here’s another book that I didn’t know much about. But from the cover art I could tell that it was going to be fun and light hearted–which I sort of was craving after reading about Vivek and while dealing with sub-zero temperatures. Who wouldn’t want to pick up this book? I didn’t realize how very, very, very sexy this book was going to be. I usually don’t listen to romance books on audiobook because they make me blush too much. And I was blushing through 70% of this thing. Just be forewarned. I also didn’t realize how very, very, very bisexual it would be!! I NEVER JUST HAPPEN UPON BI BOOKS! I loved how perfectly normalized and trauma-free the queerness was in this book. I loved it so much for that.
Basically Noni decides she needs to make some big ole changes in her life and decides to go on a pleasure-quest where she just does absolutely anything that her pleasure tells her to do. LOL I couldn’t have written a more perfect-for-me book. And just because I keep things interesting, after I was done reading this book I picked up…

“The Awakening of Malcolm X” by Ilyasah Shabazz and Tiffany D. Jackson

The Awakening of Malcolm X by Ilyasha Shabazz and Tiffany D. Jackson
Download the audiobook version here.
Get the hardcover copy here.

I was so excited about this book because it was written by Malcolm X’s daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz and geared towards a Young Adult audience. (The cover art is stunning, too.) This book centers on his young adult life when he was in Charlestown prison. It talks a lot about the way that Malcolm X really came face to face with the need for true freedom for Black people. It chronicles the way that he joined the Nation of Islam as well as the prison debate team and these two things merged together at just the right time. Now, for me, this book ended right when I was getting really, really excited about the things Malcolm was getting ready to do! Which is the point, I suppose. It made me really want to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.

Have you read anything you absolutely adored lately? I feel like I had a super great book month in February.

What I Read in January 2021

Remember how on Xanga, you used to let people see what music you were listening to? Well if we had that feature, I’d tell you that I’m currently listening to Nina Simone’s “See-Line Woman”. I did not know that was a Nina Simone song. I thought this was a Feist song… okay but Feist’s song is “Sea Lion Woman”. Okay I’m going to need to do more research because this feels a lil messed up. Anyway…

I have been posting consistently for a full year! Can you believe it?! And that year of all years? Wow. Look at me go. If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that Nov-Dec 2020 I read basically nothing. Maybe one book? Anyway, hardly anything. But the desire to read has come back to me, baby! In January of 2021, I read four books!

OH! And on top of that, I started using a new book-tracking app! It’s called The StoryGraph and I love it. I’d been using Goodreads but I’ve never really liked it much. It just felt really clunky to me. And it’s a part of the Amazon machine! You know this indie bookseller is doing all she can to disentangle from getting Jeff Bezos even more rich. So, StoryGraph is awesome. It’s a Black-owned company. It’s not associated with Amazon (instead, linked up with Bookshop.org which is where you can buy books to support our store btw!). You can import all of your Goodreads data into it (so all of your years of Goodreading isn’t lost). It’s got tons and tons of data. Wanna see a pie-chart of all of your reading? You’ve got that. And with all that data comes incredible recommendations! I love it. Oh! Also, there are content warnings so that you can know, before you dive into a book, if you’re going to be sucker punched with something you didn’t want to experience. So, that’s my pitch for StoryGraph. My name is Liblibby on there. Come and find me!

And finally, all links within this post are affiliate links which, if you make a purchase from them, will go to benefit Twice Told Tales, our bookstore in McPherson Kansas!

A portrait of Samantha Irby next to a copy of her book “Wow, No Thank You.”

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
Snag the paperback copy here.
Get that audiobook version over here.
Five stars!

I read this book for our Book Club in The Empowerment Studio and I’m so glad that we read this one. What I love about Samantha Irby is that she does what I want to do with my whole life. And she does it so well. She does this thing where she keeps it real. She’s very honest. And she does it in a way that doesn’t contain any unnecessary cynicism and does open up the space and the freedom to be yourself, too. Sam Irby makes me want to be my whole damn self.

The book cover of “This Little Light” by Lori Lansens

This Little Light by Lori Lansens
Grab the hardcover copy here.
Snag the audiobook version.
4.5 stars!

Okay, wow. So, this book was completely different than I thought it would be. I judged this book by its cover and assumed that it was going to be high literary fiction–which I generally love! Which is why I got the book. TBH, I didn’t actually read much about this book before I downloaded it. I saw a few key words that excited me, “Christian zealots”, “near-future”, “purity ball”. But where literary fiction usually takes a couple hundred pages to get the reader hooked–this one did it in the first page. I would describe this as semi-apocalyptic Young Adult. It takes place over 48 hours after a bomb went off at Rory’s purity ball and now she’s being hunted as a terrorist.

The cover of Fredrik Backman’s “Anxious People”

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Get the hardcover copy here.
Get the audiobook version here.
4.5 stars!

I put off this book for a long time because I know that Fredrik Backman can write a couple different styles of books. He can write sweet, thoughtful books that sound like they’re going to be heartbreaking but are actually not, really (see: A Man Called Ove). And then he can write kind of dark, thoughtful books that don’t sound like they’re going to be very heartbreaking but then they rip your guts out (see: Beartown). And since I’ve been trying to limit my exposure to the latter… LOL I wasn’t ready to take a gamble on this one. But then my friend Mary told me that Anxious People was a little more like A Man Called Ove and so I dug right in! And it was. I’m always amazed at the way Backman can take a horrible situation (in this case, a hostage scenario) and infuse it with so much humor and connection. I love how his books are never predictable–which is usually the case with books like these.

The cover of Jane Igharo’s book “Ties That Tether”.

Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo
Click here to get the paperback version.
Here’s a link to the audiobook.
3.5 stars.

I think Jane Igharo did an incredible job of injecting the typical romance structure with freshness and vitality! She tackles things like cultural obligation vs charting your own path. She talks about grief and what it’s like to really fall in love and I think she nails that “they’re not telling me something” feeling. At least it felt really true to my experience. TBH the only reason that I gave this book 3.5 stars is because it’s really predictable and while that’s why I have been reading romances lately, I don’t want more of that in my reading life. So I gave it a lower score so that my StoryGraph’s algorithm would be able to recommend more of what I do want. Does that make sense? The author did a great job and also it wasn’t something I’d re-read. OH! Also I should mention this is a very open-door romance.

Okay! That’s what I read in January! It feels really good to get lost in a book again. What have you been reading? What do you think about Fredrik Backman’s range?

What I Read in 2020

Here’s a teeny tiny blog post about what I read in December of 2020 followed by what I read in all of 2020! As always, all links within this post will go to support Twice Told Tales–my bookstore in McPherson Kansas!

What I read in December of 2020:

Very similar to my last post about what I read in November of 2020, I thought we were going to have another month with a big fat “nothing” in that space. Which, I can’t stress this enough, I was completely unbothered by. The holiday season in retail is challenging enough in a normal year. In 2020… ha! No space in my brain for books of my own.

And then just after Christmas, I started listening to the audiobook of When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole and I was hooked so quickly. I finished this book in about three days and loved every minute of it. I feel like Cole did what Kiley Reid did so well with Such a Fun Age which is using story telling to tell white people about themselves. I guess, that’s a quick way to say what I think that they did so magnificently. Sometimes when someone says, “this is an important book to read”, I hear “I’m assigning you homework.” But Alyssa Cole (and Kiley Reid, too) dropped us into an incredible, suspenseful, thriller and got us hooked and there were several times when I looked at what the villains (or even the people that you aren’t sure are villains?) were doing and I was like, “Oh yikes, I’ve totally done/ absolutely do that! Time to pivot.” I also learned so much about the history and power of Black communities and Red Lining and all that. All wrapped up in a thriller. Genius.


Okay so this wasn’t such a teeny tiny review. If you want to listen to When No One is Watching, you can grab it on Libro.fm. If you want to read the print version, here’s a link to buy it from our Bookshop page!

What I Read in 2020

I had a goal to finish 50 books in 2020. I finished 42, which, I gotta say, is pretty good considering I had a brain that turned most words on a page into alphabet soup.
Here are five of my favorite reads from 2020 in no particular order.

Just FYI, since I instated my strict, do-not-finish-books-you-hate policy, most of the books I completed the past year were all 4 and 5 star reads! Which makes picking my favorites really challenging but it makes reading books really fun.

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
Grab it on audiobook. Snag the print version.
Every night on New Years Eve, Oona jumps to another period of her life. Sometimes it’s forward, sometimes it’s backwards, every time she’s living through a year that she’s never been to yet. Through this book, she lives her whole life–just out of order. Filling in gaps. It was hilarious and light and also kind of sad and poignant at times as well.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
Grab it on audiobook. Snag the print version.
This book tells the story of Ana–the wife of Jesus. Usually I don’t care for historical fiction–especially if we’re talking ancient history. But Ana’s story gripped me from start to finish. I blew through this one so fast–even though it’s considerably longer than most books I like to read. It wasn’t until near the end that I remembered what happened to Jesus… and yeah. I cried like a baby. I straight up wept when I was finishing it up at work. But it’s not all sad. Ana is powerful and subversive and incredible.

Mercy House by Alena Dillon
Grab it on audiobook. Snag the print version.
This one was kind of an unexpected love for me. I downloaded it on a whim–I had a roadtrip coming up and this book was long enough to last the whole trip! So I downloaded it and fell in love. It’s about a group of nuns living in modern day Brooklyn and working to maintain their safe house for women who need help. We do jump back in time to see what made these nuns into the badasses that they are today and we see the hurt they’ve felt through the church that they’re so dedicated to. It’s another story of powerful women with untold stories.

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century edited by Alice Wong
Grab it on audiobook. Snag the print version.
I’ve always said that stories make change and I feel like this book sets out to do that, too. Disability is such a broad category–affecting so many potential different parts of each individual person. No one’s story is the same as anyone else’s. This book sheds light on just a few different stories–which not only showed me all the different ways I could make changes in order to be more adaptable to disabled humans, but it also gave me permission to explore various ways that disability might be impacting my own life.

Wandering in Strange Lands by Morgan Jerkins
Grab it on audiobook. Snag the print version.
Morgan Jerkins goes on an incredible (literal) journey to trace the paths that her ancestors took as they migrated around the United States post-slavery. This is one of those books that showed me how much I absolutely do not know when it comes to the history of Black Americans–and I don’t think that is accidental either. I think it was intended that I know as little of the truth of American history as possible. And that’s why I’m 37 years old, sitting on my couch, listening to Morgan Jerkins tell me the story of her family (and herself), gape-mouthed and amazed. I especially loved listening to Jerkins read this in her own voice–so much so that I reached out to her on Instagram to tell her so. And she wrote me back about how nervous she was to record her own voice! I like her a lot and I want to read everything she ever writes forever. She dips her toes in so many different topics and genres!

That isn’t all the books I loved but I wanted to talk about a few of my favorite books that not everyone else is talking about. Y’all don’t need to hear me talking about how Untamed was awesome–everyone else already did that.