What I Read in November… and December 2021

Look… I’ve been busy the past two months. But I still made time to read a little!
My 2021 goal was to read 50 books. I read 30. That’s okay. I still am going to aim for 50 in 2021 again. Maybe I’ll hit that goal or maybe I won’t. Who knows?

Reminder: All the links used in this post go to support our bookstore, Twice Told Tales.

All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris
Download it on Audiobook here.
Order it on paperback or hardcover here.

This book was incredible. I described it to a friend as “John Grisham meets The Vanishing Half“. When Ellice Littlejohn shows up to work one day, she walks in to the office of her boss–and the man she’s having an affair with, to find him dead. She’s shocked but she weighs her options and decides to slip out without a word to anyone.
What uncovers over the next 10 days will change her life forever.
Ellice has secrets that she’ll go to the ends of the earth to keep–and they might just be the death of her.

Now, full disclosure–I did give this book only 4* on StoryGraph, but it’s just because there are some parts that get a tad repetitive which was a personal pet peeve of mine but didn’t detract from the story at all.

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
Order the hardcover copy here.
Download the audiobook here (it’s been on backorder for ages–everyone wants it). I recommend getting both.

So… like… until November when I started listening to this audiobook, I liked Stanley Tucci as much as the next guy. He’s in a lot of movies that I enjoy. Hasn’t gotten MeToo’d yet as far as I’m aware. Seems chill. But this book was so much fun. I always tell people that I love talking about books because they’re a shortcut to talking about things that someone loves. But talking about food is a shortcut to talking about relationships.

In this book, Stanley tells his story through food. Food that his mother made when he was a child, school lunches that imprinted on his mind, snacks he was never allowed as a kid, the kinds of meals he ate when he was young and living on his own, food that was available on film sets, the types of meals he’ll make for his family these days, what he ate during cancer treatments… And through it all–a depth of humor that only really comes from someone who has lived a good, grateful life. This book made me feel like I was friends with Stanley Tucci and it also really made me want to try to make Spaghetti alla Nerano.

Carry the Dog by Stephanie Gangi
Download the audiobook here.
Order the hardcover copy here.

Have you ever read a book or watched a tv show and thought, “I’m not quite sure why I liked this but I just did.” Well, that’s where I am with this. I’m not sure why I enjoyed it but I’ll give it a shot.

First of all, as I age, I’m increasingly more interested in the stories of women older than me. This is the story of Bea Singer–the daughter of a photographer who was able to make a name for herself in the 1960’s by publishing nude images of her children. Much of the book centers around the fact that some people say the children were exploited and others who believed she captured honest, everyday family life. Now, a woman in her 60’s, she’s trying to figure out how she feels about everything that went down.

She’s working to untangle a lot of the past that she’s hidden away for much of her life and she’s working to define what family means to her, now. Despite the fact that this book comes with all of the content warnings (addiction, abuse, incest, death, grief) and it is a challenging read at times, Bea is able to keep a very realistic sense of humor about things. I feel like she handles things in a relatable way and maybe that is why I liked it so much.

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
Download the audiobook here.
Buy the hardcover copy here.

One of the most highly requested books of the year at our store–everyone was excited for this book. And I get it!! Jodi Picoult is really, really good at topical fiction. I have very intentionally steered away from any Covid entertainment–sorry but I’m just not ready for it yet. That being said, if I was going to be able to trust anyone to handle this topic well, I knew it would be Jodi Picoult. It’s her whole thing. And I think she did a pretty good job at it.

That being said, this isn’t my favorite Picoult book. It felt really rushed to me–like there were some relationships that I wanted to get more insight on before I would be able to be as invested as she clearly wanted me to be. And there is a plot twist that… I did not find satisfying. I gave it 3.75/5 stars on StoryGraph.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain
Download the audiobook here.
Pre-Order the hardcover here.

After being told for years by my customers that I need to read a Diane Chamberlain book, I was really excited to get advance access to this book! And, look, I get it. This woman knows how to tell a story really well! This novel about a woman in 2010 who is getting ready to move into her dream house when she starts getting threatening and ominous messages that she should not move in. Meanwhile, in the 1960’s a young white girl is discovering a passion for Civil Rights and her small, southern community is not on board. There are two different timelines here that seem to be unrelated at first but as time goes on, they braid together in a really satisfying way I think.

The only thing is… there are some incredible books that center on the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s written by Black authors that I’d recommend much sooner. I also feel uncomfy with certain details of Black death and racial slurs coming from the pen of a white writer. I know, there’s a whole discussion to be had about keeping things “authentic to the times” or whatever. But for me, personally, I don’t like it. Aside from all that, this book completely centers on Good White Folks and how innocent and helpless they are against the bigots that surround them. Every single Black person in this story is used to show how good the white main character is and exists for no other reason.
For those reasons, despite being a really well told story–this book is a no for me.

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
Download the audiobook here.
Order the hardcover copy here.

I’ve been wanting to read Ashley C. Ford’s memoir for ages. The only thing is that I love to read memoirs on paper–and as the Christmas season in retail looms large, I only ever had time for audiobooks. So I had this book waiting for me at home. And as soon as we had a couple days off for the holiday, I gobbled this book down so fast.

This story is… heartbreaking and hopeful. It’s hard and it’s also familiar. I mean, Ford and I have had very, very different lives with very different struggles but there are certain aspects to growing up, to grief, to having parents, to loving complicated people that are just universal. And more often than not through this story I found myself nodding along. Yes. I know someone like that. Yes. I’ve felt this way. Yes. I’ve had that kind of a teacher. Yes. I’ve had a love like that.

What I Read in October 2021

I read this month! Not much, but I did it! Joy of all joys.

Two entire books. Otherwise I’ve just been listening to a lot of podcasts (My Favorite Murder, Deep Dive, Mike Birbiglia’s Working It Out) and watching a lot of television (Midnight Mass, Morning Show, Squid Game–like everyone else).

The links used in this post will take you to stores that help support our bookstore, Twice Told Tales in McPherson KS.

The Wise Women by Gina Sorell
Pre-order your hardcover copy here. Pre-order the audiobook here.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: give me a contemporary novel about families and I’ll happily read it. This book was very good (not mind-blowing or anything). It’s got all my favorite things: adult siblings, substantial character development, and a fun kid to tie it all together.
In this book, we follow two adult sisters–daughters of a famous advice columnist, as they’re trying to navigate adulthood while following their mother’s sage advice. In the end, and this is no spoiler at all, sometimes just because something is “good advice” or whatever–it’s not the right advice for you. Learning that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to living life has been one of my favorite lessons that I’ve learned in my life and I think that’s why I enjoyed this one so much.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed novels by Emma Straub and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney–two of my personal favorites.

This book will be published in April 2022.

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

Order your hardcover copy here. Download the audiobook version here. I recommend buying both–I know it’s a lot but do it.

I generally shy away from celebrity memoirs but I know that Stanley Tucci is beloved by many, so I felt compelled to order a few copies for the bookstore. Much to my surprise, this book sold out in two days. I did not expect that.(And when I went to refill, it was on backorder because of ~supply chain issues~.) And also the touch and feel of this book is nothing short of delicious. It feels so good to hold in your hands. So when Libro.fm (an excellent audiobook amazon-alternative which helps support our store), offered to let me listen to this book for free I was like, “Sure why not.” If for no other reason than to get the pleasure of listening to Stanley Tucci talk to me about pasta for a few hours.

I was hooked from the beginning. Look, it’s a simple concept, Stanley Tucci tells you about different meals he’s had throughout his life–starting with things his mother used to make, things he ate when he was a broke actor, things he’s eaten since he’s had much more money (including a hilarious story about something disgusting he ate in France with Meryl Streep), all the way through to things he was eating while undergoing cancer treatments. We learn about the people he loves and the places he loves. AND LOOK you know me, you know that I have very little patience for the musings of men. But goddamnit, I loved this book. I really loved it.

And I’m going to buy a hardcover copy so that I can have access to all of the dozens and dozens of recipes scattered throughout.

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!!