What I Read in July and August 2020

Well, it finally happened. I skipped writing about what I read for a month. But in my defense it’s just because I didn’t read anything in July. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I read one, singular book in July. And I just didn’t feel like writing a whole post about it. So here we are… a look at what I read in July and August of 2020.

Pictured: A copy of Kwame Onwuachi’s “Notes From a Young Black Chef” on a striped blanket in the morning sunshine.

But first… anything to fill you in on? Let’s see..

OH! Twice Told Tales (our used bookstore in McPherson, KS) turned five years old this past weekend! We had a celebration at the store–not as exciting as we had originally fantasized about but it was still fun. And highly successful! We’ve had a few pretty good days since The Pandemic hit, but it felt good to have a really freakin’ great day for once. Whew! Happy Birthday to us!

Okay onto the books! Oh, but a reminder. All of the books that are linked here will go to further support our store. If you’re not a fan of affiliate links or helping small businesses, feel free to seek these books out on Amazon. (LOL)

In July I read:

Cover of “Most Likely” by Sarah Watson

Most Likely by Sarah Watson
Buy on Audiobook.
Buy in print or e-book.

I gave this one five stars! I don’t often give YA novels 5-stars but this one really just hit me in the best place. The book starts out far in the future where a woman is taking the oath of office to become President of the United States. In the chapters following, we go back in time (to 2019) and follow a group of best friends who are navigating their senior year of high school. We know that one of these girls will grow up to become Madame President but we won’t find out until, literally, the very last page.
I hope she’s not reading this right now because I’ll probably send a copy of this to my oldest niece for Christmas.


Cover of “One to Watch” by Kate Stayman-London

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
Buy on Audiobook.
Buy in print or e-book.

Another five star read for me!! What we have here is a really fun, light read. So, basically, a plus-size blogger snags a spot on The Bachelorette (or, whatever it is that they called their version in this alternate universe). What I like about the fat representation here is that, yeah, she has some insecurities but that isn’t the main focus. She’s a woman who’s proud of her body and proud of her life and also is ready to make some changes in her world! Now, I’ve never seen an episode of The Bachelorette but I know enough to understand the vibe of this book. It was so fun to read about her outfits and how she was relating to the people she met on the show.
I don’t know if Kate Stayman-London is reading my blog or not (lol she isn’t) but just in case, I want to use this opportunity to beg her to write a sequel based on Bea’s BFF. I wanted more of her on these pages!

The Cover of “The Guest List” by Lucy Foley

The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Buy it on Audiobook.
Buy it in print or e-book.

Yet another five stars!! I think I’ve just been very easy to please this summer. This was just a classic psychological thriller. A wedding takes place on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. Something happens and someone did it but we don’t know what or who for quite a while. It’s riveting! Also, I super recommend this one on audiobook because there are so many incredible accents.

The cover of “Notes From a Young Black Chef” by Kwame Onwuachi

Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi
Buy on Audiobook.
Buy in print or e-book.

I gave this one four stars. I liked it a lot. Kwame Onwuachi has so many stories and has lived in so many different places in his short life. It’s such an exciting book and, honestly, I really couldn’t wait to find out where he was going to go next and what would lead him to his dream of owning his audacious restaurant in Washington D.C.
The only thing that kept it from getting five stars, for me, was basically just the fact that while there was no shortage of stories to tell, I couldn’t feel a ton of insight gleaned from those stories. Which is my favorite part of a memoir, to be honest. I hopes he keeps writing, though. I’ll keep reading it as he ages.

I also tried to read Luster by Raven Leilani but I couldn’t finish it. It’s not bad! It’s just not to my taste. I think that if you loved books like My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, you might like it? I can appreciate it but I do not do well with books that focus on someone’s mental health descent–I can watch tv shows (in fact, I just finished “I May Destroy You” on HBO and it is soooooo good!) and I can watch movies but I can not do it with books lest I get dragged down, as well.

And that’s what I read!! What did you read?

What I Read in June 2020

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with myself that I’ve been writing these “what I read” posts regularly all year! I mean, sure, it’s just a post once a month but keeping up with anything has felt impossible in 2020.

I help run a virtual book club for The Empowerment Studio Patreon Community. We read Untamed by Glennon Doyle and had such an incredible conversation over Zoom! I love a virtual book club more than I love an in-person one because I don’t have to psych myself up to leave the house. It’s a struggle to get me into a car in 100 degree heat. PS If you want to join our book club and have at least $1 a month to spare, you can sign up at the link above!

OH! Something so exciting happened at Twice Told Tales in June, too! We got set up with a shop page on Bookshop.org! Bookshop.org is such an incredible resource for small bookstores like ours–if there’s a book that you want to buy from us but we don’t have it in stock? You can now order it online, basically, from us! It works almost exactly how Libro.fm works. Only libro.fm is about audiobooks and Bookshop is about physical books! So, when I post links in this piece, I’ll include links to Libro.fm and Bookshop–they both benefit our shop when you buy from them. You don’t have to get them from us, but it’s an option I wanted you to know about.

Okay! What did I read? What did you read?

PS: Octavia Butler’s birthday was in June. This is one of the notes she used to leave for herself when she was writing. This one reads, “Tell stories filled with facts. Make people TOUCH, and TASTE, and KNOW! Make people FEEL! FEEL! FEEL!”

— — —

The Cover of The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd: 5-Stars
Get it on audiobook here.
Get a physical copy from here.

Okay, so here’s the blurb that’s going around about The Book of Longings: “An extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny.” Okay–so, that does nothing for me. Which is why I was lucky that my first introduction was from Book of the Month where they basically described this book as, “The story of Jesus’ feminist wife.” HELL YES. Sign me up. And I loved it a lot. I don’t generally care for historical fiction–and especially not ancient historical fiction. No thank you. But I fell in love with Anna in the first paragraph and by the end (spoiler alert? But I sorta forgot that Jesus died?) I was weeping for her. I’ve never pulled for a character in a book so hard in my life.

The cover of Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed”

Untamed by Glennon Doyle: 5-Stars
Get the audiobook here.
Get the physical copy here.

Like I said, we read this for a book club. What I love the most about this book is the formatting. It’s really just a bunch of unconnected (and yet totally connected) essays of varying lengths. You can pick up this book at any point and just read and get something awesome out of it. You don’t HAVE to read it in order at all–unless you just want to make sure you don’t miss anything.

The cover of Wandering in Strange Lands by Morgan Jerkins

Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots by Morgan Jerkins: 5-stars
Pre-order the audiobook here.
Pre-order the physical copy here.

I got an advanced copy from Libro.fm and I can not recommend pre-ordering this book enough. It’s going to be released in August. Right now, all the white people I know are filling their TBR lists with work by Black authors. And that’s important! And also, I hope that we keep this energy. That’s why I want you to preorder this book NOW. So that come August you’ll have something to read.
So, usually I really don’t like non-fiction (even though three of the books I read in June are non-fiction) and history doesn’t always grab my attention. But Morgan Jerkins kept me engaged through this whole book. Not only because learning about The Great Migration (which I previously knew 0% about) is fascinating as hell, but because Jerkins is telling the story of her own learning of her family on both sides.
If I start listing all the things I learned in this book, I’ll never stop. There’s so, so, so much about the history of The United States that I don’t know.
Also, I messaged with Morgan Jerkins a little bit on Instagram while I was raving about this book and she’s so sweet and down to earth and deserves so much.

The cover of Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado: 5-Stars
Get the audiobook here.
Get the physical copy here.

Carmen Maria Machado writes in such… a… visceral… way. Which is wholly unique to her. I’ve never known anyone who’s writing can make me feel so fully, in my body, the way that she does (except for maybe my friend Audra).
This is a memoir of an abusive relationship. As someone who had been in a very similar relationship during my college years as well as a few years ago, this book was as validating as it was triggering. I finished it in less than 24 hours because I needed to finish it and also I needed to stop reading it.
Abuse in queer relationships is seldom, if ever, spoken about and that’s why In The Dream House is such a vital work. Every story is important.

The cover of Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: 5-Stars
Get the audiobook here.
Get the physical copy here.

The only other work of fiction that I read in June!! I’ve been looking forward to The Vanishing Half for months and I was so excited when it was available on audiobook for me. What a treasure.
The Vanishing Half tells the story of two identical twins who escape from their small, southern town together. Left to their own devices, one sister embraces her Blackness and the other rejects it entirely–failing to mention it even to her own husband. What follows is the way that each woman’s choices shape the future ahead of them. I don’t want to give anything away but I was glued to this book.

— — —

Eveything I read this month was 5-stars! Which is awesome. Books, right now, are incredible. I love reading so much.

What are you reading? Tell me all about it.

What I Read in May 2020

There’s so much going on right now. As I type this, riots are taking over Minneapolis. Dear friends are planning a protest from their small town in the center of Kansas. The deaths of unarmed black people have made national news at least once a week for the past few months. It’s all reaching a fever pitch. And I can only hope that change will come. That change is on the way.

Related: Sonya Renee Taylor on her answer to when White People ask, “What can I do???”

On top of that, tensions are high re: COVID-19. Everything is re-opening. Our store has been opened for almost three weeks at this point. For a while I was having daily disagreements with people about whether or not they needed to wear a mask in our shop. It was wearing me down. Today I’m not feeling quite so worn down but it’s probably because I’ve gotten better at listening to the way my body gives me cues about what it needs. Like this morning when my body told me to quit scrolling Facebook after I found out about the latest, violent, despicable thing our president tweeted.

With all of that going on, it really does feel like kind of an asshole move to write about all the books I read this month! But also, my brain needs a break or it will break. We rest and then we keep fighting. We rest and then we keep fighting. This is a moment of rest. Here’s what I read in May.

(Reminder, all the links to these books go to support our store through libro.fm.)

— — —

The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson, 4-Stars
This was a really fun family story. In the beginning, it started off a little bit like This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Trooper (another one of my all time favorites). It’s got some family drama but it’s also got a bit of WW2 survival and at the center of it all is some kind of jewel heist? I’d love to hear Amy Meyerson’s pitch for this book because there’s a lot but I feel like she made it all work! I only gave it 4-stars though because there were times that I couldn’t tell what the author was going for. Was I reading a dark family drama? Or was it a fun romp? Because it was definitely both? And that was confusing to me.

The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe, 5-stars
I… loved… this… book. It made me feel some things. As I’ve mentioned in my previous What I Read This Month Posts, I haven’t been able to read anything with much heft to it since Coronavirus hit. My brain needs light and fluffy. This book… is not light and fluffy in the least bit and yet somehow I was sucked into it. And it felt so good to feel that again. To feel like, “this is why we read!”
In fact I basically wrote a love letter to Rufi Thorpe on instagram and then she DM’d me to tell me that what I’d said meant so much to her.

While this book takes place in high-school, it’s not a YA book at all. It doesn’t read like YA to me. It’s the story of a friendship–and some traumatic things that took place during that friendship, as told from an adult perspective looking back.

Beach Read by Emily Henry 5-stars
Here’s another book that wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I see “beach read” and I think, “OKAY! Get ready for some mindless, predictable literature!” Which, I believe, completely has its place. This book, though… had so much depth to it. It had some real sexy sex scenes, too, don’t get me wrong. But this book is not all cotton candy. It’s the best of both worlds–a book that won’t traumatize me in an already challenging time while also singing to my high-literature-loving heart.

All Adults Here by Emma Straub, 5-stars
Another 5-star book for me. This month was a GOOD ONE for reading, finally!! I have loved Emma Straub since I read Modern Lovers a few years ago. If I had to tell you the one central thing that this story is about, I’m not sure I could do it. It’s the way that everyone in a family has their own story and the contributes to the bigger story as a whole–as a family. I don’t know if you can tell but an epic family drama is my favorite. That’s not what this is. It’s not epic–it takes place over the course of a few months. It’s not a drama–there is a lot of comedy and light. There’s conflict but that’s necissary to driving a plot along. I love it. I feel like Emma Straub writes different ages effortlessly and blends in queer stories as if they’re *gasp* just, like, normal human stories! Not something to be wedged into a book to make it “relevant”. Ugh. I just really liked this.

— — —

In retrospect, I read only white stories written by only white people this month. I hadn’t even noticed that until just now. WOW. My blind spots are real. I’m going to make a point to read more books by people of color in June. Starting with Wandering in Strange Lands by Morgan Jerkins.

I’m also looking forward to engaging with the Summer Listening Challenge that Libro.fm is hosting starting June 1! It’s so great. Basically there’s a bingo card and you try to get a bingo! The winner gets… I think a year’s worth of free audiobooks! Let me know if you plan to join in!!

Books I Read in April 2020

Hi. We’re still going hard in Pandemic world around here. To be very honest, I thought I wouldn’t write a “what I read” post for the month of April because I thought I didn’t read anything. But my Goodreads account told me otherwise. I finished THREE AND A HALF BOOKS! What?! That’s amazing!

My brain does this super duper fun thing where, when I’m under stress, I can’t read. It takes all the words on the page and turns them into alphabet soup. Super great. Came in real handy in college. In fact, one time I was given an assignment to read and write something. And all I could write about was the fact that I couldn’t read anything and how I thought I was going crazy and what is life… GOD the things professors have to put up with. Anyway, my professor was awesome and understanding and he gave me an A and told me he understood and that I should maybe take a weekend off. He was right.

Anyway! What I read in April (spoiler alert–they’re all audiobooks). Thank God for Libro.fm. For a LOT of reasons. Like, specifically, because of Libro.fm, we were able to make rent at the store for May! Keep buying Audiobooks from libro.fm/twicetoldtales will ya?? All the links in this post will take you to the audiobook version and buying them from that link will help support our store.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
I didn’t know what to think of this book. At first I thought it was rushing through SO MUCH that there was no way I’d keep up or get invested. But I actually super duper loved the ending so maybe it was all ok? I gave it 4 stars out of 5.

45046742._SY475_You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
It’s been a long time since I read a thriller that really wowed me! There were so many plot twists in this book but NOT the kind that make you feel like they’re coming out of nowhere–they all pay off deliciously and keep you reading. Five stars! I just remembered that I didn’t listen to this on audio. It’s the one physical book I finished all month!


Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman by Abby Chava Stein
I’ve been really digging spiritual memoirs lately and so I decided to listen to this one. It was so incredible. Kind of a wonderful primer on the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish life for someone like me–a person who has a lot of experience in religious circles but who knows almost nothing about Jewishness in general. So many of the struggles that Abby faced as a child growing up feel familiar to me even though our early days were so, so different. But some questions are universal, I suppose. Anyway–when I decided to watch Unorthodox on Netflix a few weeks later, I was happy that Becoming Eve had familiarized me with much of the Ultra-Orthodox life because that show, while it was amazing, didn’t really take the time to explain the nuances that not everyone would understand.


I also read half of The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love by Sonya Renee Taylor 
I wish I’d listened on Libro.fm because since I had Alphabet Soup Brain ™, I just could not dig through this. Which was a shame because it was actually just over 100 pages and full of such good, juicy stuff.

Right now, I’m not even going to try to force myself to read a physical book. I’ve got so many audiobooks calling my name and it’s not a contest. I’ll start reading with my eyes soon enough, in due time.

What I Read in March 2020

Hello. So much has changed in the two weeks since I last let my thoughts fly about how Covid-19 would be affecting us. For example, the store is now closed. We are still selling things online, though. Which has been super duper helpful in this time. Also! It will probably be something that we try to keep up with as time goes on! I’m learning that our little store is beloved by so much more than our community. In fact, most of my sales lately are going to people who live on either coast. Who knew?? I’m so pleasantly surprised.

Since closing the store, honestly… my stress levels have lowered significantly. It feels kind of backwards, right? Like, I should be more stressed out. But the constant wondering if I was putting my customers and everyone they love at risk by remaining open was keeping me up at night and tying my tummy up in knots. When the stay home order came down from our Governor I was upset for a few days feeling like, “Oh no! We’re going to lose everything! What will our days even look like?!” But after having lived a few of those days… it’s not so bad. I’m living it. It’s working. And I’m feeling very whatever will be will be. There’s nothing like encountering a global pandemic to really loosen your grip on control. Anyway, with all that said–here’s everything that I read in March. As always, all book links go to Libro.fm to the audiobook version. Buying books from Libro.fm helps support Twice Told Tales just as if you were buying from us in store!


If you read my last post, you’ll remember that I’ve been having trouble finding books that I’m LOVING lately. And this first book was no exception. I finished it because I kept hoping that it would redeem itself but I did not enjoy it. It’s called Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman. I kept waiting for this main character to realize how maddeningly self-absorbed she was but apparently the author, nor anyone on her editorial team seemed to recognize it as her problem to be solved. SORRY! But I just really, really, really did not like it.
I gave this book 2 stars and I’m not sure I’ve ever done that before.

Five big fat juicy stars to Cameron Esposito for her memoir, Save Yourself. I related to this book so much. And I love Cameron Esposito’s comedy–I knew that her book would be incredible. It’s very funny and it’s full of so much heart. It deals with really painful stuff like religious trauma, sexual assault, body issues, eating disorders, and micro (and macro) aggressions that she’s suffered as a gay woman in the world and in the world of comedy. She deals with hard topics with so much sensitivity–but not in a way that makes you feel like this person is going out of their way to show off their wokeness (which–you know it when you see it) but in a way that is absolutely reasonable and is full of compassion. I loved this. I want her to write another one starting yesterday. I’ll buy everything Cameron Esposito writes forever amen.

I picked up Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore because I was just dying for a new audiobook and I wanted something with some substance. When I started this book, Covid-19 seemed very far away and something to be aware of but not something that would be much of an issue. By the end, our shop was closed and we haven’t touched a friend in weeks. So, like, there was a lot going on. And this book is… heavy. If I would have read it at any other time in life, I probably would have devoured it and loved every minute of it. But as it was, I just wanted it to be over so that I could get my brain into a happier space.
This author does an incredible job at writing characters and really sinking you down into a place. The majority of this book takes place in the heat of a Texas summer and boy do you feel it–the desperation, the sweat, the thirst. I’m going to recommend reading this one in the middle of a winter. So, with all that in mind, I did give the book four stars even though I kind of was not feeling it by the end. Also, I did not enjoy the narrator. I’d recommend picking up the physical copy of this one.

Since I was in desperate need of total fluff and predictability, I grabbed, Not The Girl You Marry by Andie J Christopher. This book was an absolute retelling of How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days. It was exactly what I wanted: fun, trauma-free, drama-filled, raunchy and absolutely, completely predictable. No surprises. I gave it four stars. It would have been five stars but there were some annoying writerly things like using a clever and unusual turn of phrase… and then using it again, another time or two in the same chapter? But that’s just me.


I just started a new book called In Five Years by Rebecca Serle. I’m not far into it but it’s giving me Oona Out of Order and What Alice Forgot vibes. I’m excited to let you know if I was accurate about that.

The Body is Not an Apology is a book that we’re reading for a virtual book club for the Empowerment Studio Patreon community! Only $1/ mo gets you in!

What are you reading? What have you loved reading lately?