What I Read in September 2021

Okay so I skipped a few months. But I have a good reason and that reason is that I haven’t read anything since June. I just wasn’t excited about anything and my attention was… limited. To say the least. I’m always jealous of those people who use reading as a coping mechanism for stress. When I’m stressed out, letters on a page turn into alphabet soup.

Speaking of soup, it’s finally October and I’m back to reading again!! Hooray! Here’s everything I read in September! And here’s the soup I’m making for dinner tonight.

*Reminder: sales from any of these links go to benefit Twice Told Tales, my bookstore in McPherson Kansas!

Cover image for “Women Talking” by Miriam Toews

Women Talking by Miriam Toews
Order your paperback copy here or download the audiobook version here.

**CW: This book and my discussion of it does mention r*pe.**

The heart of this fictional novel centers around a true story that resulted in the imprisonment of eight men who were convicted of raping hundreds of women and girls in their Mennonite colony between 2005-2009. For years, these women were gaslit into believing that they were dreaming, they were being punished by God for their sins, or that they were simply making up these attacks.

Women Talking centers around a secret meeting of the women after the men of the colony have been arrested. The women are trying to decide what they’re going to do–do they stay and fight? Do they stay and do nothing? Do they leave the colony? The thing that appealed to me the very most was the storytelling technique used here. Because the women do not know how to read or write, they enlist the help of a school teacher from the village that they trust to take notes of their meeting–the story is told from his notes and his perspective of their discussion. Also, because 80% of the book takes place between the women of the colony who know what everyone else went through, there is very little discussion of what physically went on during the attacks. I was afraid that this book would be terribly triggering but because of this technique, there weren’t a lot of details (though there are some details, at one point involving a toddler–so do be mindful when reading this). Instead, the book focuses on the women as they’re discussing how to be good Christians in the face of what’s been done to them. What do they have a right to do and what do they have a duty to fulfil? How much of their anger is sinful and how much of it is crucial? To be honest, it was all just very reminiscent of conversations that I’ve been having with friends who are in the process of deconstructing their faith at the moment.

Cover image for Liane Moriarty’s “Apples Never Fall”.

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Order your hardcover copy from here or download the audiobook version here.

I, personally, love Liane Moriarty’s story telling. I haven’t read all of her books but all of the books of hers that I’ve read I have loved. Now, pardon while I go on a tangent about the Hulu show Nine Perfect Strangers (based on Moriarty’s book by the same name) for a moment, though. I hated this. I didn’t read the book–and that might have been my problem. Maybe if I’d known what to expect? I actually haven’t spoken to anyone who loved the book either so Nine Perfect Strangers is just gonna be one of those books that I’ll never recommend to people. It’s fine. They can’t all be winners. Also if you loved Nine Perfect Strangers–the book or the show, please tell me why. I’m deeply interested/ confused.

Anyway–back to the book I actually read. I liked Apples Never Fall! If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a family story. I love reading about the complexities of a long marriage. I love reading about how adult siblings relate to one another–especially when there are several siblings, being one of 4 myself.

The quick description of this book is that the matriarch of the Delaney family has gone missing–did she get fed up and take a break? Did she totally leave her family of her own volition? Or was it something far more sinister?

In uncovering the truth, everyone goes back through their memories–uncovering reasons or explanations for each option. Within the course of a 40 year marriage, there’s always gonna be one or two motives for murder… right?

I do feel like this book is a tad less thriller-y than some of Moriarty’s other works, but the way that she uncovers and dissects each character while still moving the story forward is still the same.

Cover image for Kerry Winfrey’s “Waiting for Tom Hanks”

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
Order your paperback copy here or download the audiobook here.

Okay I loved this one! It was so fun and sweet. It reads exactly like a romantic comedy–complete with quips and jokes from background characters. And it should, because the main character, Annie, is obsessed with romantic comedies! It’s what she and her mother bonded over as she grew up. There’s nothing in this life that didn’t already happen in a Nora Ephron film first. Annie is looking for love. She’s looking for her “Tom Hanks”. Tom Hanks specifically from You’ve Got Mail or Sleepless in Seattle.

While searching for a man with a houseboat, Annie is also obsessed with making it in the movie biz. But since she lives in Ohio, she doesn’t have a whole lot of opportunities to make that happen. Of course, the impossible happens and she finds that one of her favorite directors is filming a movie right here in her neighborhood and through a series of events, she gets a job as his assistant. And she gets to spend every day with the sexy lead of the film–whom she despises.

A classic enemies to lovers trope (which can get a little boring and predictable for me but for some reason, the way that Kerry Winfrey handled it, she kept it fun!) with closed-door romance. “Closed-door” is a phrase we use to describe that all the sex occurs off-screen (with the door closed, get it?) so it’s perfect for romance beginners or anyone who just knows that they don’t want to read anything explicit. Anyway, I loved this one so much that I immediately ordered the sequel, “Not Like The Movies”.

What have you been reading??

What I Read in June 2021

I’ve done a really, really good job at disentangling myself from guilt in the past few years. I used to feel guilty about resting, taking a day off, not having a clean kitchen, not eating the “right” things, wearing certain clothes, having feelings, posting too much on social media, posting the wrong things on social media, spending money, not spending money, watching too much tv, not watching the right kind of tv… You name it, I could find a way to feel guilty about it! But I’ve knocked that off.

Who is served by my guilt? Because it’s not me! And honestly not really anyone else either because my personal brand of guilt does this fun little thing where I become paralyzed and will find a way to do whatever is causing the guilt even harder. It’s fascinating. For example, if I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t done the dishes in three days… well buckle up because we’re gonna stretch that out a whole ‘nother week baby!!

Anyway, like I’ve said, I’ve done a lot of work to release myself from all that guilt. Now, if my dishes aren’t done today they’re just not done today. Maybe tomorrow! And I’m more likely to actually do them tomorrow, too. Whew. Feels good.

But there is one area where I still feel really, really, really guilty and I can’t shake it. But now that I’ve recognized it, I get to work on it: READING. Why TF am I feeling guilty about reading? I kind of think it’s because I’ve positioned myself as someone who loves to read and now I have to fill that role or something? But then also there’s the fact that it IS my job! And publishers send me these books and want to know what I think and blah blah blah. So, on one hand I have my personal TBR that I want to get through and then all these other books that I didn’t ask for, some I’m excited about… Oh and then there’s book clubs? Woof. So much reading that I want? to do? I think? But also it’s all starting to feel like homework, too.

ANYWAY ALL THAT TO SAY THAT I READ ONE SINGLE BOOK IN JUNE AND I’M NOT SURE I EVEN LIKED IT THAT MUCH? And all month I was feeling guilty about it until this week when I was like “Hey, self, you didn’t read much this month. Fine. BFD.” And then I was like, “You’re right, Self.”

So here’s what I read in June:

The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow
Order the hardcover copy here.
Download the audiobook here.

I know that I said I wasn’t even sure if I liked this book but it’s not because this book wasn’t good, it’s mostly because I haven’t been able to focus this past month, much. And I wasn’t able to get invested in this book the way it deserved to be invested in. I had it as mostly background noise and it wasn’t meant to be devoured that way.
This book is about finding your place in the world. It centers on several different characters who are all at these points of transition. Their lives all overlap. They’re all lost and trying to navigate amidst grief, first loves, and aging. I know this sounds very sad and depressing but, remember, they’re not stuck in those spots. They’re finding their way through it all.

I’m also finding that I really like books that take place in the 60’s and 70’s.
If you liked Sue Miller’s Monogamy, I think you’ll like this one, too.

What I Read in May 2021

I thought I didn’t read much this month but when I looked back through my StoryGraph account, I finished four books! Which is pretty average for me. I think May was just a really long month.

Any purchases through the links in this post go to help support, Twice Told Tales (my bookstore!).

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Download the audiobook here.
Buy the hardcover here.

Yeah, ok, let’s just start out with a powerhouse. I freakin’ loved this book. First of all, Taylor Jenkins Reid knows exactly how to get you wrapped up in a specific time and place. This time and place is the 1980’s in Malibu, California. The hair is big. The acid wash is out in full force. The famous people are so famous!
The simple structure of the story takes place all in one night–a very famous once-a-year house party in a Malibu Mansion owned by sexy, swimsuit model, Nina Riva. The heart of the story takes place between Nina and her three younger (now adult) siblings in glimpses of their love for each other and flashbacks over the course of their lives–in the shadow of their obscenely famous father. This book made me want to call up all of my siblings and tell them I love them.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Download it on audiobook here.
Buy the hardcover copy here.

I read this book as a part of the book club that I run with The Empowerment Studio and I’m so glad that I did! This book was fun and fast paced. Full disclosure, I don’t always love books that are aimed at a Young Adult audience. I spend a lot of time thinking “where are the parents” and “kids don’t really talk like that”. But this one didn’t give me any of these vibes. It was just fun and believable and I loved it so much.
Yadriel is a brujo and right off the bat in the first scene of the book we get to experience all the magic and excitement of him coming into his full powers! It just so happens that in that exact moment, a tragedy strikes his family and all of the brujo men are called on to find out what happened. Yadriel is forbidden from helping though because, even though they mean well, his family doesn’t believe he could actually be brujo because he’s trans. In the meantime, Yadriel and his cousin Maritza accidentally summon a ghost? And they can’t seem to get rid of him. And… yeah this ghost is another teenager and super hot and it’s not a spoiler to say that Yadriel and Julian fall in love. This book is fun I’m telling you!! And it wraps up like a perfect teenage romance should.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Download the audiobook here.
Buy the paperback copy here.

Another romance!! Only this one isn’t geared towards teens so just FYI it’s got a lot of spicy scenes. Which, honestly, I didn’t see coming because a good 70% of this book takes place stuck on the subway. But to quote Dr. Ian Malcolm, “life… uh… finds a way.”
I loved this book so much! Casey McQuiston is such a talented and creative author! They completely threw out the typical roadmap for romance novels with this one and I’m here for it.
Basically what happens is that August falls in love with a girl on the subway. And then… discovers that she can’t get off the subway. And she’s been there since 1976. BUT LOVE IS LOVE Y’ALL! But in the meantime, we get to see all of August’s walls fall down. We get to meet all of her incredible and delightful roommates who want to know her so well and will do anything for her–even busting open the space time continuum.

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian
Download the audiobook here.
Buy the hardcover copy here.

**SCREEEEECH** We’re taking a hard left turn with this one. While all the other books I read this month were light and airy–with a good amount of tenderness and thoughtfulness and honesty, this one takes place in 1662 in Puritan New England. Mary Deerfield is in an abusive marriage that she is determined to escape. The only thing is a woman doing… pretty much anything in 1662 will get her labeled a witch.
Despite the plain language and pacing that definitely brings in the Puritanical vibe, this book still reads like a super modern thriller.
Note: content warnings for all kinds of things that take place in an abusive marriage.

Anyway–that’s all she read! Both Malibu Rising and One Last Stop were released today so go get your copies!!

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.