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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

It’s December, which means I am all about that holiday reading. But don’t worry, I won’t completely bombard you with holiday themed books this season (although I can recommend a few great new YA books!). However, this one was so delightful I HAVE to shout about it.

Just Like Magic cover

Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle

Betty was once an influencer, but now that she’s lost all her money she’s squatting in a dead woman’s house and fervently hoping her successful, rich family members don’t find out. Of course, the ruse becomes impossible to maintain as Christmas approaches and Betty’s not sure how she’s going to get through it until she accidentally drunkenly summons the Holiday Spirit. Hall, for short. Hall is handsome, exuberant, and he loves the holidays. At first Betty thinks his magic is just what she needs in order to convince her family that she’s doing great actually, never been better, but it’s not long before Betty has to admit that the holiday spirit might be growing on her.

I saw this book described on Instagram as “delightfully unhinged” and I can confirm it is indeed that, and much more! This is a romance novel for people who like Schitts’ Creek and enjoy watching Elf every December, and I struggle to remember the last time a book made me laugh out loud as much as this one did. Hall is basically everything you’d expect him to be — over the top, magical, endlessly enthusiastic, and full of quirks. Betty is mostly grumpy and vain to start, but even though most of us would be rolling our eyes at her shallow tendencies, Hogle does a great job of giving readers peeks at the real, vulnerable Betty from the beginning, so you can’t help but want to root for her.

This book also does a great job of packing in a lot of the spirit of the holiday season, which is in fact full of mayhem and angst as well as happiness and cheer. I ended up loving the dysfunctional family, and the plot took some truly wild turns that had me laughing and always wondering what was going to happen next. (The Dancing with the Stars scene undid me.) If you want to laugh and you’re willing to go with a banana-pants Christmas book, then definitely pick this one up!

Happy reading!
Tirzah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

I hope you all are enjoying what I like to think of as Pie for Breakfast day! If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope it was a good one. Today’s pick is a book by an author I simply adore, and I’ll read anything she writes!

Content warning: Death, grief, violence, anxiety, panic attacks

Scout's Honor by Lily Anderson

Scout’s Honor by Lily Anderson

Prue Perry is a Ladybird Scout legacy, but what most of the world doesn’t realize is that the Ladybirds are more than just a philanthropic social group—they’re also guardians against interdimensional grubs that feed on human emotions. And when the grubs get big enough, they don’t just stop at emotions—they’ll eat humans. Prue is still reeling from the death of fellow scout and best friend Molly three years earlier, and she’s quit the Scouts altogether. But she’s lured back in when she’s given three new recruits to train to take her place, and by the promise of being able to rid herself of the Ladybird life for good. However, training new recruits stirs up old memories, and when another Scout is killed, Prue’s knowledge and skill are needed more than ever.

First off, I love, love, love this premise and I thought that Anderson did such a great job of coming up with a super convincing Ladybird Scout organization and culture that felt realistic. Her world building was excellent, and I enjoyed all of the little details, from an app to social initiatives to various handbooks that evolve over the years. Prue’s backstory keeps the novel from being as light as say Lumberjanes—part of the reason why she no longer wants to be a Scout is because she feels as though Ladybird HQ sees her and her fellow sisters as expendable in the fight against evil, and that can’t be easily solved. But the journey is balanced with lots of humor and levity, particularly in Prue’s recruits: her middle-school-aged cousin and her best friend (who also happens to be the little sister of Prue’s oblivious-to-grubs boyfriend) and her rebellious and maybe slightly dangerous misfit friend, Beast. This unlikely crew has to learn trust and friendship, especially as the stakes get bigger, and I loved watching that journey. Anderson also does a great job of balancing a large cast of characters, which ran the range from lovable to difficult to despicable. I am not at all cut out for hunting inter-dimensional grubs and stabbing them to death, but this book made the Ladybird Scouts seem so cool I sort of wish I could join!

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Happy reading!
Tirzah


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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is a brand-new book by the author of one of my favorite books of the last few years — Nothing to See Here! It’s a weird little book but totally memorable, and I flew through it in a single afternoon.

Now is Not the Time to Panic cover

Now is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson

Frankie is a bored teenager in 1996 when she meets Zeke, who is spending the summer in her tiny Southern town because his parents’ marriage has hit a rough patch. Frankie and Zeke have an instant connection that’s only a little romantic but a lot to do with the fact that they’re both aspiring artists who want to create something memorable. Hours holed up in Frankie’s room leads to a collaboration that unexpectedly takes their town by storm, leading to a cultural phenomenon that will go down in history as the Coalfield Panic. Twenty years later, Frankie is a semi-famous author who receives a phone call from a reporter who thinks she might have found a link between Frankie and the panic…sending Frankie on a journey of reckoning through the past.

I really loved how this book unfolded, and how I immediately was drawn to Frankie. She is a misfit 16 year old who wants so much more out of life than what she’s got, and feels pretty trapped by circumstance. Her yearning to create something memorable and amazing comes to fruition in a wholly unexpected way, and both she and Zeke have to reckon with very different reactions to the panic and fascination that their creation brings about. I thought that Wilson did such a great job of exploring exactly how a small Southern town in the ’90s might react if a strange poster with a bizarre message started appearing everywhere, and it was really fun to see a mystery begin from the inside. Interspersed between the chapters set in the ’90s are chapters from Frankie’s adult life, where she reckons with the fact that she created a social phenomenon but no one knows about it, not even her family. This was such a weird, big-hearted novel about art and aspiration, and dealing with the consequences of your actions, and it packs a big emotional punch.

Happy reading!

Tirzah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

Today’s pick is the newest Tiffany D. Jackson novel, and if you’ve hung around long enough, you know that I am a big Tiffany D. Jackson fan! Like her last release, this one falls under the horror umbrella, but it’s a very different novel from her previous book!

Content warning: racism, racial violence, child abuse, violence, bullying, fire

the weight of blood book cover

The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson

In the small town of Springville, GA, things are done the way they’ve always been done…including hosting separate proms rather than integrate them. Maddy Washington is a loner in Springville, and she tries to fly under the radar, but when an unexpected rainstorm reveals that she’s been passing as white her entire life, the school is in an uproar. And when the bullying hits the Internet, it’s time to change their image. Cue: the school’s first integrated prom. The white teen in charge of it even gets the idea to have her boyfriend, who is Black, invite Maddy as his date to show the world they’re not as racist as everyone thinks. But Maddy has been told what to do her entire life, and when prom night starts to go wrong, she finally comes into her own terrifying power.

This book is an obvious homage to Stephen King’s Carrie and there are a lot of parallels between the story, characters, and events, but whether you’re a King fan or unfamiliar with King’s classic, this book really does stand on its own. The characters are compelling, and Jackson does a really great job at encapsulating the mental gymnastics many go through to justify upholding the past, while also showing how many characters have learned to adapt in order to survive in Springville. It takes some truly unexpected twists and turns, with some gratifying moments and some horrifying ones, and it left me wondering how on earth everything would be resolved. It’s not a book for the faint of heart, but it is a fascinating look at small town tensions and what happens when everything reaches a boiling point. Unlike White Smoke, this book doesn’t have a lot of sustained suspense or scary moments, but it has an incredible amount of tension that has you hurdling to an explosive ending!

Happy reading!
Tirzah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is a charming graphic novel for middle grade readers that I think readers of all ages will enjoy! So whether you have a graphic novel-obsessed kid in your life or just want a nice little coming of age story with fun, bright illustrations and a wholesome family story, definitely pick this one up!

Miss Quinces cover

Miss Quinces by Kat Fajardo

Sue loves drawing and comics, and wishes she could be spending her summer break on a camping trip with her friends instead of traveling to Honduras to visit her family with her parents and two sisters. Once in Honduras, she learns of a shocking betrayal: Despite telling her mom she doesn’t want a quinceañera, Mom secretly already sent out the invites and the event is happening. Sue begrudgingly agrees to it…in exchange for her mom letting her go camping when they get home. But Sue soon finds herself in over her head with the planning, and none of the ultra-feminine traditions really resonate. How is she supposed to survive all this party planning when none of it is her style?

I really enjoyed Sue’s story, and I could definitely relate to her feelings of feeling excluded or not listened to when she discovered that her mother had gone ahead with the party planning against her wishes. The author does a great job setting Sue up to be a really sympathetic reader to characters — you start out thinking, How dare her mom do that! But Fajardo slowly peels back the layers of the story and family dynamic so that readers see how important this tradition is to her extended family, and how it is especially important to her mom because they live so far away from Honduras. And Sue, with her special relationship with her abuela, also really wants to make them happy, even if she’s not the kind of girl who gets excited about a big party. While it’s not a case of magically changing her mind, Sue does understand the value of tradition and family connection, while also lending your own flair to these traditions. It’s a sweet and funny story about family, and learning to find your place in family tradition.

Happy reading!
Tirzah

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

Happy Halloween weekend, friends! I hope that you all have something fun planned, whether it’s dressing up and going out, or tucking in and staying cozy. I thought that it might be fun to recommend something a little different as I’ve been sharing a lot of horror novels this month. Today’s pick is a book with eerie vibes, but it’s not super scary. It’s a Scottish novel that’s recently made its way to the U.S., and one of my favorite reads of 2021!

Ferryman cover

Ferryman by Claire McFall

Dylan has just made contact with her father and has decided to skip school and hop on a train to meet him for the first time, against her mother’s wishes. She’s on the train when she awakes to an empty car and a bleak landscape — the train has crashed, and she is now in the afterlife. That’s when she meets Tristan, a brusque ferryman meant to guide her across this terrain and into the afterlife. Along the way there are wraiths and lost spirits, formed by Dylan’s fears and lost dreams, and the journey will be treacherous. But despite her many questions and fears, Dylan finds herself falling for Tristan, and Tristan is intrigued by the first human to stir emotion in him in a very long time. But when Dylan begins to ask impossible questions and look for another path, her future in the afterlife is no longer certain.

I was intrigued by the gorgeous U.S. cover, but there’s a lot more to this novel than just an interesting set up. I really enjoyed Dylan’s struggle to accept her mortality and all its implications, and her fascination with Tristan and his peculiar job. Their relationship was deftly written, and while the idea of falling for an immortal ferryman might be a bit of a stretch for most people, in this book it just made sense. The author does a great job of balancing dual points of view and the past and present to tell not only Dylan’s story, but Tristan’s as well. And even though the ending seems inevitable from the beginning, this book genuinely left me wondering what would happen next, and eager to find out. It’s a romantic page-turner with an unexpected twist and lots of heartfelt emotion and bravery, and you’ll definitely want the sequel on hand when you finish!

Happy reading!
Tirzah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is one that I read as an ARC back at the beginning of the year, and I loved it so much but I’ve been sitting on it for ages because it’s only just come out this month! If you’re looking for a spicy romance novel, you’ll love this book.

the cover of Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner

Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner

Cassie is a college senior who has no interest in hanging around campus for Family Weekend, so she finds herself in an off, off campus bar where she flirts with a very beautiful older woman. One thing leads to another, and they have a hot hookup that should be a one and done deal…but the next day Cassie is shocked when she’s invited to breakfast with her new friend, a college freshman…and her mom turns out to be Cassie’s one night stand.

Erin didn’t mean to hookup with a younger woman, and she’s horrified to realize that her daughter is friends with Cassie. She resolves to put the whole situation behind her…but the more she gets to know Cassie, the harder it is to stay away. But how can they have a real relationship after all this clandestine action?

I loved Meryl Wilsner’s debut novel, Something to Talk About, so I was super excited to read their next book and this one surpassed all expectations. Not only is it fun and super sexy, but it is a thoughtful take on relationship age gaps and what society views as permissible. (To be clear, Cassie is 23 while Erin is 39 so nothing is illegal or icky on that count.) Cassie and Erin have an electric connection and it goes beyond the physical element to a deeply emotional connection, which they’re both reluctant to admit and explore, but when they do they find something that shocks them: the chance at a genuine connection and happiness. I loved that this book starts off as a sexy one-night stand and turns into a heartfelt romance about two people learning to take a chance on love and be brave in the face of judgement or others’ opinions. It’s also a great book about found family and learning to embrace those who accept you, even if the relationships might look unconventional. Definitely pick this one up if you want a sapphic romance with heat and heart.

Happy reading!
Tirzah

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

We are continuing on my train of eerie and spooky reads for this October season! This is a short little read from a dynamic author whose books have knocked my socks off in the past. Pick this one up if you like creepy settings, Edgar Allan Poe retellings, and are looking for a nonbinary protagonist!

cover image of What Moves the Dead

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

Alex Easton, a sworn soldier now in retirement, has just received word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is gravely ill. They rush to the Usher ancestral home, a forlorn estate crumbling into ruin in rural Ruritania. There, Alex finds that not only is Madeline consumed by some peculiar wasting disease, but her brother Roderick is afflicted with a nervous condition and the local wildlife behaves very strangely. Alex also discovers a redoubtable English mycologist conducting research nearby (yes, there’s creepy mushrooms in this one), and an American doctor who is baffled by the whole situation. Time is not on their side as Alex tries to get to the bottom of what’s really going on.

Alex’s voice is delightful in this book — they’re a bit playful and humorous in how they recount their history and relate details of their world, keeping the book from being overly somber even as some really dark and serious events unfold. I loved their encounters with the various colorful characters, and how Kingfisher situates this novel in European history, giving enough clues to place the book in time while also being vague enough to play fast and loose with some details. The details of the plot and the setting are just peculiar enough to create a sense of unease, but when things take a turn they really get foreboding! This may be a brief book but it’s unforgettable and let’s just say I’ll never look at hares the same way again!

Happy reading!
Tirzah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

It’s October, aka spooky season! I am so pumped about some really great books that fit this time of the year, and I’ve been holding onto this one for a few months — it’s one of my favorites from this summer!

All Our Hidden Gifts cover

All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue

Maeve is an Irish teenager going to a Catholic school, and she’s not the best at school. One day, during detention, she finds a deck of tarot cards and teaches herself how to give readings. Finally, this is something she’s good at, and she even comes up with a nice little side hustle giving readings to her classmates. But when she reads the cards for her ex-best friend Lily, she draws a terrifying card she’s never seen before: the Housekeeper. Then, Lily disappears the next day. Maeve is alarmed, and she can’t help but feel guilty and somehow responsible when she learns that Lily was last seen with a tall, dark-haired woman bearing a striking resemblance to the Housekeeper card. Maeve teams up with Lily’s sibling and a new friend to get down to the bottom of this magical mystery, and get Lily back.

I loved the creepy vibes of this book, which has a light mystery element to it, but is mostly a witchy read about realizing the extent of your power and wielding it responsibly. I loved that Maeve is a teenager who isn’t conventionally good at school and often feels out of place as the youngest child of a big family with siblings who are all a lot older than her. She has insecurities and doubts, and those feed into her budding powers. Her journey is all about learning to come into her own powers, owning up to her actions, and facing her mistakes. There is also a delightful queer romance at the heart of this book, and some really interesting local history, with an all-too-real villain in the form of a far-right Christian conservative group. All of the elements came together really well, and while this book is set in spring and not in fall, it feels like a perfectly atmospheric and witchy book for October. Bonus: The sequel is excellent, too!

Happy reading!
Tirzah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick was one of those instant bestsellers that sold out everywhere immediately and has yet to truly get back in stock (I know, I’m sorry) but I had to read on audio because I had to know what the hype was about. (Also, the author reads the audiobook, which is definitely a bonus!)

Content warning: Child abuse (controlling behavior, emotional abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse), eating disorders, infidelity, terminal illness, parental death, unhealthy romantic relationships.

A graphic of the cover of I'm Glad My Mom Died

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

I defy anyone to look at this book and not be a little curious — it’s an audacious title, and the vintage inspired cover strikes the perfect balance. For those who don’t know who the heck Jennette McCurdy even is: McCurdy was a child actor who mostly got bit and guest roles in TV shows and movies until at age fourteen she was cast as Sam Puckett in the Nickelodeon TV show iCarly. If you are a young millennial or Gen Z, there’s a good chance you grew up watching her play the spunky best friend and then later star in her own show (alongside Ariana Grande before she hit it big.

In this memoir, which is told in short vignettes that are recounted chronologically, we learn that McCurdy was brought up in a deeply dysfunctional Mormon family in Southern California, one that barely managed to make ends meet until her acting paychecks came in. Her mom was ambitious, overbearing, emotionally unhealthy, a hoarder, and a cancer survivor. She wanted Jennette to have the life she always wanted, and Jennette wanted to make her mom happy, so she agreed to start acting and let her mom push her into these roles. Gradually, as she entered her teen years, she realized just how deeply dysfunctional her mom’s actions really were but, in denial, she went along with it until her mom’s cancer came back and she died when Jennette was 21. That was where the true work began of trying to sort through the tangle of emotions and destructive coping mechanisms Jennette had picked up from a young age as she slowly steered herself toward recovery.

Despite the title, for much of the book Jennette isn’t glad her mom died — she grows up terrified that she’ll succumb to cancer, and she’s devastated when her mother finally does pass. With a dry sense of humor, Jennette shows readers just how eager she was to please her mom, and how the entire family would get twisted up in her schemes. In many ways, Jennette was trapped and it took her mom dying to break free of both the mental and emotional abuse, but also the rigid way of thinking that had kept her compliant for so long. This is a deeply emotional, very uncomfortable, and yet very heartfelt memoir about the dangers of parental ambition in Hollywood, learning to break free of bad systems, and figuring out how to get help. It’s also really funny — sometimes awkwardly so. After all, it’s not everyone that can say they’re glad their mom died.

Happy reading!
Tirzah

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