What I read in October 2020

This was a light reading month! I made my way through three books (two of them I finished in the past few days) and I’m not mad about it at all. According to Goodreads, I’m still on track to reach my goal of reading 50 books before the end of the year!

(Okay, so I just checked and I need to read 9 books in the next two months to meet my goal. So… we’ll see! COVID brain is real and not allowing me a whole lot of attention for books. If I don’t meet my goal, I won’t be upset about it.)

As usual, every link in this post will help support our bookstore! But if you want to help Jeff Bezos colonize the moon, you can order your books from him. I won’t judge you.

The cover of “Take a Hint, Dani Brown” by Talia Hibbert

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Get the paperback copy here.
Get the audiobook version here.

What do you know? Another romance book! I’m telling you–my brain wants to read romance these days! It’s predictable. It’s fun. I know it’s going to end well–and this one really did. I read the first one in this series last Christmas and fell in love with Talia Hibbert’s writing. And Dani Brown was such a fun character. A little witchy. Super bi. I’m in!! This delivered and I gave it 5 stars.
Fun fact about me, I can’t listen to romance novels on audiobook. They make me blush too much. So I read all my romance novels in hard copy and I’ve already got another one on deck. Up next for me is Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo.

The cover of “Plain Bad Heroines” by Emily M. Danforth

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
Snag the hardcover copy here.
Get the audiobook version here.

This book was super fun and super spooky and super queer and super, super satisfying. It’s a wild ride–it goes back in time between the early 1900’s where we learn about the Brookhants Boarding School for Girls and tragedies that befell students there and present day where some Hollywood filmmakers are telling the story of what happened at Brookhants. This book was longer than I usually listen to–and I had to listen to it, I had 8 hours in the car alone for a road trip I took this month.
Someone asked me if this was a ghost story and my honest answer was, “Um… I… don’t… know?”
Even though I listened to this on audiobook, I’d love to get it in print because I’ve heard the hardcover copy has a lot of illustrations–not unlike those in turn-of-the-century boarding school texts. FIVE STARS!

Book cover of “Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the 21st Century” edited by Alice Wong

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the 21st Century edited by Alice Wong
Get the paperback version here.
Here’s the audiobook version.

I read this book with a book club that I’m a part of. It’s a collection of essays written by different folks who experience disability in one form or another. What I liked about this book is that not everyone who is included in this book is a prominent figure or Capital A Activist. Some were just regular people talking about their regular lives. I think telling our stories is how we make change. And that’s why I’m happy to keep reading these stories and passing them along to others.
This book opened up something brand new in me–something that I’m excited to keep learning about and exploring. Five stars!

Welp! That’s what I read this month! Did you read anything that you really loved?

What I Read in September 2020

Even if all I’m blogging about anymore is a monthly roundup of what I’ve been reading, I’m really proud of myself. I love writing and between my jobs and life in general in this year, I can’t bring myself to get a whole lot of thoughts out purely for the joy of it. So I’m glad I have this, at least. Also it’s been so helpful to keep track of the books I’ve been reading!

I didn’t read a whole lot in September–and to be honest the reason that I feel comfy posting this a few days before the actual end of the month is the fact that I haven’t picked up a book in… two weeks. All of these books were finished before Sept. 16 and I haven’t read anything else since. I’m not sweating it, though. I go through phases and I do not believe in guilting myself into anything. People come into my store all the time and say something along the lines of, “I really should read more.” And I always say, “You really should do whatever it is that’s serving you best right now.” Right now, television is serving me and I’m fine with it.

Also September was filled with some fun moments. One weekend, we closed down the shop and took a long weekend–first time we’ve really left town since Christmas of 2019. Wow. Seeing that typed out in September of 2020 feels–well, honestly, it feels right. We’ve been exhausted and it was good to go fully relax. Even if all we did was just sleep and watch The Office somewhere else.

A photo of Libby, Ryan, and Dr. Bollier standing in front of the Mystery section at Twice Told Tales in McPherson, KS.

Another fun thing that happened was this weekend, someone from Dr. Barbara Bollier’s senate campaign reached out to me and told me that Barbara wanted to meet me and talk about being a business owner in Kansas. To be honest, she had my vote before she stopped in to visit and I was a little nervous that meeting her would make me like her less. But to be honest, it did the opposite. She asked so many questions. She asked about what I need as a small business owner. She asked about how we manage healthcare. She asked about Ryan’s job and how he’s handing it. She talked to my friend who had stopped in and asked her what she needs. Like, she was just there to listen. 100% she just listened. She didn’t try to sell me on anything.
Earlier this year I went to meet Kris Kobach as he was campaigning for the same spot (he didn’t make it past the primary) and the situations were night and day different.

Anyway… on to the 3 books I read this month.
Reminder–all the links in this post go to support Twice Told Tales, Libby’s used bookstore in McPherson, KS.

The cover of N. K. Jemisin’s novel, “The City We Became”.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
Get it in Hardcover from here.
Get it in Audiobook form from here.

I super duper, highly, big-time recommend the audiobook version of this book. The narrator, Robin Miles, does incredible work. There are so many accents and attitudes in this book and she nailed every single one.
This is a fantasy book which is outside of my comfort zones. I had to make sure I was paying attention more than usual but it was worth it. This is an Urban Fantasy about a city that comes alive and the forces at work trying to keep that from happening. It’s amazing. Also I’m going to listen to all the other books that Robin Miles reads.

The cover of “Monogamy” by Sue Miller

Monogamy by Sue Miller
Get it in hardcover or large print here.
Get it on audiobook here.

This is a perfect example of my comfort zone book. Something purely character driven with beautiful, eloquent writing, and maybe even… nothing really happens. I mean, of course things happen but things happening aren’t the point. The characters growing and developing and learning is the point.
I’ve been super duper interested in the concept of compulsory monogamy for a few years now and so obviously when this book became available I reached for it. Though, in my opinion, the book really has nothing to do with monogamy as a concept–more of a plot device.
A bunch of Sue Miller’s back catalogue were released with these gorgeous, new covers and they reminded me of how much I like her writing. So I filled up my Libro.fm app with several of her works.

The cover of Sue Klebold’s “A Mother’s Reckoning”.

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
Get it on audiobook here.
Get it in paperback here.

Honestly, I think the reason that I haven’t been able to get into another book after this one is because I’m still not over it. It’s been two weeks and it’s still on my mind.
Sue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold–one of the people who carried out the massacre at Columbine. This book delves into how she learned about what happened and then chronicles her grief as she continued to learn more and more about what happened, over the years.
This book has so much information on teen depression, suicide, and all sorts of other things Sue wished she’d known about beforehand. Make no mistake, this is a grief-filled book. But for me this book just reiterated over and over and over again about the healing power of empathy. And also that so many of us out here are walking through our own version of the unimaginable.

What have you been reading lately?? Do you try to force yourself to read when you’re not into it or do you allow yourself to just ride the waves as they come?

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!”

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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!!