What I Read in July and August 2022

I find it hilarious that someone left a comment on my last post that said something like “Wow! You read a lot.” Because it was immediately followed up with reading almost nothing in July (I finished the tail end of Our Missing Hearts). And then reading very little in August.

For my job, I’m required-ish to read books ahead of time and nominate them for the Indie Next List. And I’m supposed to do 2 books a month. So that’s what I did here. The bare minimum. I have good news and bad news.

The Good News: You’re going to love these books. (I nominated them all.)
The Bad News: They don’t come out until October and November.

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Pre-Order the hardcover copy here.
Pre-Order the audiobook here.

A boy named Bird lives in our not-too-distant future (alternatively, could be present day on an adjacent timeline) where America has come out of a devastating crisis, only surviving by the skin of her teeth. The world left behind is on-edge and ready to ensure dominance again by instituting harsh and racist policies in order to keep “True Americans” safe. 
Bird doesn’t care about all that–he just wants to know where his mother disappeared to and if she’s really the dangerous radical activist that everyone says she is. 
Our Missing Hearts is a soul-stirring novel about what wakes us up and how hard many of us will cling to our sleep and forces us to confront the way that the personal is political.

One thing that I found so interesting about this book is that it’s different-ish? than what I would have expected from Celeste Ng. But then when I think about it… it’s not actually all that different. I mean she thrives in suburban fiction and Little Fires Everywhere certainly had some political subtext. This one is just a touch more overt than I’ve come to expect from her. Don’t get me wrong–I LIKED IT A LOT. Our Missing Hearts is going to be an incredible choice for book clubs everywhere–there is so much conversation to be had!

The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson
Preorder the paperback copy here.
Preorder the audiobook here.

I loved this book! Think about the things you love about Emily Henry (complex characters, unpredictable narratives, the ability to turn a trope on its head). Shauna Robinson does all of those things 10 times better! 

Maggie shows up in a small town to help out at her best friend’s bookstore while she’s on maternity leave. When the town Scrooge makes an executive decision, affecting the store’s primary money-maker, sales start to drop. Maggie has to think fast and use all her charm and maybe some illegal means to save the bookshop (and bring the town together for a common cause!). 

I love that in this “romance” book, the relationship between the main character and her beau isn’t the primary focus of the story. Instead, we get to see her fall in love with this town, create a deeper connection with her best friend, and learn to trust herself. 
This is hands down THE BEST romance book I have read in 2022. 

The Islands by Dionne Irving
Pre-Order the paperback copy here.

This is an incredible collection of short stories that I would recommend to anyone who enjoyed books like, Her Body and Other Parties or Behold the Dreamers–in fact, it might be fair to describe this collection as a lovely mash-up of the two.

Personally, I’m finding it challenging to surmise a collection of stories, so I’ll share what her publisher has to say about this book. It’s a collection of “powerful stories that explore the legacy of colonialism, and issues of race, immigration, sexual discrimination, and class in the lives of Jamaican women across London, Panama, France, Jamaica, Florida and more… Restless, displaced, and disconnected, these characters try to ground themselves–to grow where they find themselves planted–in a world in which the tension between what’s said and unsaid can bend the soul.”

On top of being an incredible author (she also wrote a historical fiction novel about the Dionne Quintuplets entitled Quint which was a hit at our shop last year), Dionne Irving is a delightful woman. I had the pleasure of meeting her recently and we’re in talks to host her for an upcoming author event!

What I Read in June 2022

The last week of June, I was laid out with a sickness from which I am still recovering. So, that’s why this post is coming out a week late. But I was so excited about all the reading I did in June that I didn’t want to skip it.

So let’s get to it!! A reminder, any purchase made from the links in this post go to support our bookstore in McPherson KS: Twice Told Tales.

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

Love Marriage by Monica Ali
Download the audiobook version here.
Order the hardcover version here.

It’s not the most fast-paced book I’ve ever read by any means—which is just fine. The author put in so much work to make sure that we love these characters which gives us grace for them when they do things that seem destructive. 
It’s a beautiful story about all sorts of relationships and the way they can shift and change in our lives. I found the relationships between parents and children to be the most nuanced and powerful in this story. The way that parents often keep things from their children long after they had a right to know–just because it can be easier to not talk about certain things. Until it’s not.

If you like stories of familial relationships (my personal soft spot), grab this one right away.

Nora Goes off Script by Annabel Monaghan

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
Download the audiobook here.
Order the hardcover copy here.

It’s very unusual when I am reading a romance and can’t figure out what’s going to happen next. This is about a woman who makes a living writing romance movies for a fictional version of The Hallmark Channel–until her husband leaves her and she finds herself writing that story. Which isn’t really a Hallmark style movie. It gets picked up by a big budget film studio and what do you know–suddenly there’s a film crew and terribly famous actors in her front lawn (a unique fixture of her home plays heavily into the film).
There’s a light enemies to lovers trope along with a more heavy friends to lovers trope and in general a lot of fun to be had by all.

Till the last page I had no idea how it would end. Which, if you read many romance novels, you know that’s pretty rare. Also, this was a fairly closed-door romance (not a ton of on-screen spicy stuff) which is also not something I find very often.
Two things of note:
A. Yes I did just choose this book because the author and I have the same last name.
B. I really wanted to carry this book at the shop but it’s only available in hardcover (most romances are released in paperback) and I know my shoppers well enough to know that no one wants to spend nearly $30 on a 200 page romance. So I’ll be waiting with baited breath for it to be released on paperback.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
Download the audiobook here.
Order the paperback or hardcover copy here (or by picking it up in my store but I’m struggling to keep it on the shelf).

I’ll just copy and paste my review from our Facebook page:

One of the most frequently asked questions I get at the store is “What was the last book you loved?” And lately my answer has been a frantic , “THIS!!!” And then I jump up and shove this book into their hands.

I was looking for a fun mystery and casually thought I’d try this one out—completely unaware of how it would grab me.

It’s the story of a woman who is writing the story of a woman who is writing a mystery novel—while they are BOTH living through their own real life mysteries!

Now I know that sounds confusing when I say it but the author of this book did an astounding job of formatting it so that it’s supremely easy to follow along with! It’s very organized and full of twists and turns and you’ll keep wondering whodunnit till the very end.

Normal Family by Chrysta Bilton

Normal Family by Chrysta Bilton
Download the audiobook version here.
Order the hardcover copy here.

This story is wild. It was so different from what I had expected when I first picked it up. It dives deep into what it’s like to grow up in a family with varying levels of dysfunction but also with a lot of love. The story ends in a way that makes me feel very happy for everyone despite their struggles and I liked that. 

Chrysta’s mother desperately wanted a child. Being a lesbian in the 1980’s–this was a feat even more impossible than it is now. But through her unbound sense of optimism, she figured out a way to bring Chrysta and her sister into the world. And it was her unbound sense of optimism that got them into some… wild living situations. This is the story of mental health and family dysfunction and some unbelievable circumstances but also the tenacity of love and the importance of openness and discovery.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
Download the audiobook version here.
Order the paperback copy here.

I loved everything about this book. I have no notes. My only complaint is that I’m tired of reading books about writers (three of the five books I read this month were about writers for goodness sakes) but I won’t hold that against it.
Florence Day has been secretly ghostwriting for one of the most popular romance authors in the world for the past few years. Just as her contract is about to be up–Florence doesn’t believe in love anymore. She’s struggling to complete the last book.

Also, oh yeah, very casually, Florence has always seen dead people. Yeah–they seek her out when they need help. In fact, when she was in high school she helped solve a murder because of this unique ability she has. The people in her town couldn’t handle how different she was and, therefore, kinda ran her out. Now, her father has passed away and she’s forced to go back and face everyone and everything she left behind.

And that’s all the books that I read to completion! I really liked what I read this month. I almost never devour so many books.

Books that I will be nominating for September’s Indie Next List:

I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers
Dead Flip by Sara Farizan

What I Read in May 2022

I got a little more into the swing of reading this month! But since I’m still very, very into the Morbid podcast… I’m splitting my time between podcasts and reading. What can you do?

Reminder that all of the links in this post go to benefit my bookstore, Twice Told Tales in McPherson KS!

Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley

Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley
Download the audiobook here.
Grab the hardcover copy in our store (on 6/7) or order from here.

I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into with this one but let me be clear–it delivered. If I’m being honest, I picked it 80% because of the cover and 20% because I’ve really enjoyed Crosley’s memoirs and I was curious to see what she would do with fiction.

How I’ll sell it to people: So one night our protagonist is out to dinner with friends where she runs into an ex-boyfriend of hers. They catch up and go their separate ways. The next night, she runs into another ex-boyfriend–which is strange. She quickly discovers that this is not happening coincidentally…
There’s a fun NYC setting, lots of reminiscing about past relationships, a maybe-a-cult?, some good humor and a lot of mystery.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Download the audiobook here.
Get the paperback by stopping into Twice Told Tales or order your own copy here.

Probably the most anticipated/ requested book we’ve had in a while at Twice Told Tales. Emily Henry can do no wrong, more or less, as far as romance novels go. They’re always solid gold! What I like about her stories is that they’re layered and nuanced where sometimes romance can feel a little flat. Well, for that matter, a book from any genre can feel a little flat. But as someone who reads a lot of romance, I feel it the most there.

The only thing that isn’t my number one thing about Emily Henry’s writing? There’s almost no hooking up till the last 1/3 of the book. Which–makes sense according to the plot line. But still. LOL

The Most Precious Substance on Earth by Shashi Bhat

The Most Precious Substance on Earth by Shashi Bhat
Download the audiobook here.
Order the hardcover here (6/28).

This book did to me… the opposite of what Cult Classic did. Again, I wasn’t that sure about what I was getting into with this book and also… I don’t want to say it let me down at all. But it just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. From the way the first couple chapters read and the cover design, I kinda thought that I was getting into a Young Adult coming of age type story.

The story is told in three parts and various semi-connected stories throughout each part. Part 1 takes place during high school where Nina (our narrator) has a traumatic encounter with a teacher. The next two parts take place later in adulthood. Personally, I kept waiting for the teacher-encounter to pop back up, maybe she’d tackle it in some way? But she never does and to be honest, she kind of never really learns to handle anything as far as I could tell. It’s true to life because there are people all over the place who aren’t dealing with their trauma and it creeps up in big and small ways. But, tbh, if I knew going into it that this character just has a sad story with no development, I’m not sure that I would have started it.

Books that I nominated for August’s Indie Next List:
Diary of a Misfit by Casey Parks
Witches by Brenda Lozano

What did you read this past month???

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


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.