Audiobook: Big Gay Wedding

by Byron Lane
Read by Noah Galvin
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Content: There is swearing, including multiple f-bombs, some tasteful on-screen foreplay, and a giant, graphic, naked gay wedding cake. There is also homophobia, including the use of the other f-word. It’s in the fiction section of the bookstore.

There is a farm in rural Louisiana called the Polite Society Farm. It’s run by Chrissie (I’m not sure if that’s spelled right) Durang, whose husband passed away a couple years back. She’s made do, but she’s hoping that her son Barnett, who is coming home for a visit, will take over so she can retire. The problem is that Barnett isn’t coming home to help his mother out. He’s coming home to get married. To his future husband, Ezra. And his mother doesn’t know yet.

It seems trite to say “hilarity ensues” but hilarity really does ensue. From Chrissy spite-eating all of Ezra’s mushroom-laced chocolate and getting high as a kite to the side characters (Ezra’s family! Pawpaw!) to just the hugeness and over-the-top-ness of the wedding, this one had me guffawing (seriously) while listening. But there’s some depth to it. Chrissy’s not happy with her son being gay, living in Los Angeles, or marrying a man. She’s a homophobe (as was her dead husband), and she learns and grows to accept both her son and his lover. It’s quite lovely to see. The town’s pretty homophobic as well, but there are some bright spots and learning lessons. And, if the sheep death at the end (spoiler, but not much of one) didn’t have me tearing up.

The audiobook is spectacular. Galvin does a fantastic job with the characters and keeping the book flowing and embracing the crazy. I’m not sure I would have laughed half as much if it weren’t for the audiobook.

So, yeah, highly highly recommended. So much fun.

Monthly Round-Up: May 2023

It really is funny how life ebbs and flows. This month I listened to SIX audiobooks, but only read four print books, and one of those was a graphic novel! Times and seasons indeed.

My favorite this month:

It was so much fun to listen to! As for the rest:


Walking with Sam
Soil (audiobook)

Adult Fiction:

Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club (audiobook)
Daughter of the Moon Goddess

Graphic Novel:

School Trip

YA Fiction:

Harvest House (audiobook)
Rubi Ramos’s Recipe for Success (audiobook)
The Night in Question (audiobook)

What was your favorite this month?

Audiobook: Soil

by Camille T. Dungy
Read by the author
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Content: There is some mild swearing (I think? Maybe not?) and frank talk of racism and violence against Black people. It’s in the Creative Non-fiction section of the bookstore.

The premise of this is simple: Camille Dungy owns a house in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and she wants to make her overly-chemicalized turf lawn into something more environmentally friendly and sustainable. She writes about the process the “prairie project” as she and her husband dub it, but the book is more than that. It’s a reflection on environmental writing and the people who usually write (read: white, rich, often men) about the environment. It’s about the intersection of social and environmental justice. It’s how, as a Black woman, Dungy feels not only called to work the land but also compelled to protect it and welcome all living things.

This was such an enjoyable audiobook experience. Dungy is an excellent narrator, and I felt myself not only learning from her but having my own need to garden and see growing things affirmed. I should be better about growing things that are native here, as opposed to just planting any old thing (and seeing what grows), which is kind of what I do now. But, I loved and respected what Dungy had to say about the earth, the environment, and about social justice.



by TJ Klune
First sentence: “I was twelve when my daddy put a suitcase by the door.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: July 4, 2023
Review copy pilfered from the ARC shelves at work.
Content: There is a lot of violence, swearing, and sex (on-screen and talked about). There is mention of child abuse and pedophilia. It will be in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Ox Matheson has spent most of his life believing he was nothing – it’s what his father told him, after all. But then, at age 16, he meets 10-year-old Joe Bennett, and the whole Bennet clan, and Ox’s life is forever changed. Over the 10 years that this book takes place, Ox and Joe grow into each other, as Joe grows into manhood, and Ox learns more about the Bennett family and their werewolf ways (not sure if that’s a spoiler, sorry). Additionally, the wolf clan will fight a rogue wolf, one who blames Joe’s dad for the death of his family, and who will stop at nothing to hurt the Bennetts. This will shape not only Ox and Joe and their relationship, but the whole town they live in. 

On the one hand: while this is early Klune (it’s a re-issue of his first book), there are still some elements of his writing in there that I love. it was very funny at points, and Klune has this way of writing characters that are just good at their core. Ox is one of those characters, and I really enjoyed spending time with him. 

On the other hand, there was a LOT of violence. A lot. It got to the point whenever one character threatened to show up, I had to put the book down because I knew people – often children – would be hurt. And if you ever wondered if Klune could write a very graphic but also very hot gay sex scene, the answer is: yes, he can. But it was also 500 pages of angst and violence and werewolves, and I’m just not sure I want to read the three more books in the series. 

So, while I liked this one, I didn’t love it the way I love Klune’s other books. I’m glad I read it, though.

School Trip

by Jerry Craft
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: New Kid, Class Act
Content: There are some shenanigans and awkward moments. It’s in the Middle-Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Jordan and his friends have a long-awaited school trip to Pairs. They’re all excited for different reasons; Jordan especially since he wants to see all the art with his art teacher. However, to the actions of several tech-savvy kids, the teachers assigned to the various trips get all mixed up, and the teachers going to the Paris trip know nothing. That’s a chance for Maury to shine: his mother went to school in Paris, and they visit often. He is able to show the other kids all the cool spots. As they go through the city of lights, the kids learn to navigate friendships and talk about their feelings and how they are treated. Sometimes everyone being in a new place can make it easier to talk about things you aren’t able to back home.

I really like this series. I like Craft’s art style and the way he has many different characters that all have some depth to them. I like that he’s not afraid to talk about racism or just the way kids can mistreat each other without realizing it. I do like that the kids are mostly complex characters. It’s a fun book, but also a thoughtful one. My only complaint is that Jordan’s parents decided what high school he would attend (he got into an art-specific high school) without letting him have his say. But that’s a minor thing in such a well-done graphic novel.

Highly recommended.

Audio book: The Night in Question

by Liz Lawson and Kathleen Glasgow
Read by Sophie Amoss, Holly Linneman & Mehr Dudeja
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Release date: May 30, 2023
Others in the series: The Agathas
Content: There is some mild swearing, talk of out-of-wedlock babies, violence (both domestic and other), and talk of murder. It’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

Spoilers for the first one, kind of.

Iris and Alice have developed a pretty solid friendship since solving Brooke’s murder four months ago. Their parents and Alice’s old friends don’t really understand it, but it’s harmless, as long as they refrain from solving any other crimes. But at the winter dance, which takes place at the Levy Castle, Alice stumbles upon another crime: Rebecca Kennedy lying in a pool of her own blood, with Helen Park standing over her. While Rebecca’s not dead, she’s severely injured enough to not say what happened, but the evidence is clear: Park stabbed her. Right? 

Well, Alice and Iris think the police are wrong (again) and take it upon themselves to figure out what happened. It takes them on a twisty path involving family (there’s a genealogy project that lurks in the background), old movie stars, the things people will do for money and fame, and will test the bounds of both Iris’ and Alice’s parents. 

I liked The Agathas, but I think this one is better. I liked the twisty mystery, and how all these disparate parts come together in the end. And while there were twists and turns, I never felt like anything was out of left field. Lawson and Glasgow are good plotters, dropping enough hints and foreshadowing that nothing felt out of place. 

And the narrators were fantastic. They all kept me engaged, helped me figure out who was who and kept the mystery from getting sluggish. This is a smart, fun series – who doesn’t love a couple of kids outsmarting the cops and figuring out mysteries? I’m here these as long as Lawson and Glasgow want to write them. 

Audiobook: Rubi Ramos’s Recipe for Success

by Jessica Parra
Read by: Karla Serrato
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Content: There is some kissing. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Graduation is fast approaching and Rubi Ramos has everything all planned out. She is going to go to Alma college and study pre-law, and do Great Things. The only problem? She’s been waitilsted at Alma. And what she really wants to do is bake. However, for her Cuban immigrant parents who own two bakeries, baking for Rubi isn’t an option. So, Rubi has a plan: she’s going to get a math tutor to help pull her class standing up (who turns out to be really cute), and she’s going to compete in the Bake Off (without her parents knowing) and hopefully win – which comes with a trip to Cuba.

Of course, things don’t go smoothly, and there are bumps along the way.

This was a delightful romp. It’s got a baking competition! It’s got a surfer dude! It’s got immigrant parents! It’s got Cuban heritage! I liked the relationship Rubi had with her parents; they were firm and wanted a lot for Rubi, but in the end weren’t unreasonable about working with what she wanted. I loved Rubi’s friends, and the support system she had. And the whole baking competition – which was quite definintly a reference to the Great British Bake Off – with it’s baking puns and Johnny Oliver judge, was charming and silly.

The narrator was quite good as well, and I enjoyed the time I spent listening to this one. A good, fun, summery YA book.

Walking With Sam

by Andrew McCarthy
First sentence: “When I was a very young man and became very successful in the movies very quickly, I harbored a notion that I had not earned my accomplishments, that I hadn’t done the requisite work, that it was all merely a fluke, that I didn’t deserve it.”
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Content: There is some mention of drug use, several f-bombs,, and other mild swearing. It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

I was probably always going to be interested in this book; I love travel books, and I have a friend who has walked the Camino twice. Plus there’s the celebrity factor. But, after finishing The Longest Way Home, I have immense respect for McCarthy as a travel writer. And he delivers in this book.

When he was in his early 30s, McCarthy walked the Camino – inspired by a book – and had a life-changing experience. As his oldest son grew up, McCarthy wanted to share that experience with him. His son wasn’t interested until he was 19 and had just broken off a bad long-term relationship. McCarthy jumped at the chance, and they were off. They walked the northern route – the Camino Frances (or at least that’s what I’m guessing from what he writes) through the Pyrenees and the Meseta, into Santiago. I’m not exactly sure how long it took them – the chapters were labeled with miles until Santiago. But McCarthy is strikingly honest about their walk. The ups and downs, both physically and emotionally, the stresses and joys of their relationship, and yes, you can see the growth in both McCarthy and Sam and between them.

Like the first travel book of his I read, I loved that he gave you a sense of walking the Camino with its own joys and hardships and dull moments, while being introspective. He both compared this walk to the one he took 25 years prior, and reflected on the nature of both his relationship with his son as well as the one he had with his own father. It’s engaging and interesting, as well as being introspective and thoughtful.

I found it an absolute delight to read.

Audiobook: Darkhearts

by James L. Sutter
Read by Ramon de Ocampo
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Release date: June 6, 2023
Content: There is a lot of swearing, including quite a few f-bombs, talk of sex, and some tasteful on-screen sex. It will be in the Teen section of the bookstore.

In middle school, David started a band – Darkhearts – with his friends Eli and Chance. They had some success playing gigs in the Seattle area, where they lived, but after a while, David got annoyed with Eli and Chance hogging the spotlight and so quit the band. However, after he left, Darkhearts got huge. Like super huge. And David’s held a grudge ever since because he feels he missed out. 

But, Chance is back in town – Eli died of an overdose, and Chance came for the funeral and to regroup – and wants to reconnect with David. At first, David goes along with it grudgingly, but after a while he realizes something: he really likes Chance. Like really likes Chance. Is he going to be able to get past everything else – Chance’s fame, his own resentment, his father’s concern – and be able to throw himself into this relationship? Does he even want to? 

This was so incredibly delightful. The characters, the depection of a teenage boy band, the cool things they went. David’s best freind, Rachel. The fluidity of his sexuality, and the total non-issue that it was. The romance – and while it kind of followed the beats of a romance novel, I appreciated David’s growth over the whole thing. De Ocampo was a fabulous narrator as well; pulling me into a story that I may have dismissed in print. 

Highly recommended.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess

by Sue Lynn Tan
First sentence” There are many legends about my mother.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is a lot of violence, most of it on-screen. It’s in the science fiction/fantasy section of the bookstore.

I started to type out the plot for this one, but it’s really long and somewhat convoluted. Simply: there is a woman, Xingyin, who is forced to flee her mother’s home on the moon and ends up in the Celestial Kingdom, where she does quests and challenges (and saves the prince’s life a bunch of times while falling in love with him) to have her mother released from her imprisonment on the moon.

This one came really highly recommended, so I wanted to like it. But I just…. didn’t. I grew impatient with Xingyin’s quest after quest after quest after quest. And the love story between her and the prince was just… meh. And then, in part 3, there’s a twist that comes out of freaking nowhere, and I just lost patience.

I did finish it, but I have no interest in reading the sequel. I do wish I could have seen what others saw in it, but it just didn’t work for me.