Where do I even start? I’m not even sure…I guess I’ll start with my deep love for Barbara Kingsolver’s writing. She wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Poisonwood Bible. I’ve read it multiple times and if you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably seen it pop up in recommendation stacks!
When I found out about Demon Copperhead, I could hardly contain my excitement. If you’ve never read Barbara’s writing (Barbara, because obviously I’m deeply and personally connected to her and we’re on a first name basis), it’s work that will swoop you up and place you within the mindset of the characters, as if you’re one in the same. She has such a unique ability to write with such a balance of raw clarity and beauty.
Demon Copperhead was the deep dive read I needed this year. I equate it with “the greats” of my reading history: 11/22/63, Betty, Pachinko, Shadows of Pecan Hollow, and, of course, The Poisonwood Bible. It’s a heavy-hitter and one you’ll sink down into.
The style of writing slowed me down more than I was expecting, as most of the dialogue between characters is being recalled to you by Demon. Most of the conversations are within the paragraphs, so there’s no skimming this one. All the better, honestly, it forced me to slow down and soak it all in.
It was perfect and painful and tender and honest. I just loved it all.
To celebrate my admiration of this book, I’ve paired it with one of my most-loved cold weather drinks, Austin’s Old Fashioned.
A few years ago, we discovered a speakeasy bar in downtown Fort Worth and started frequenting the establishment because of its calm atmosphere and absolutely phenomenal drinks. Our favorite was The Old Fashioned. The perfect balance between whiskey, bitters, and syrup. An Old Fashioned that’s too heavy on the bitters is… garbage.
Austin set on a mission to replicate this drink at home! After many attempts, he finally found the ratios he was looking for. It’s my favorite choice to cozy up with on a cold night!
Other Five Star Cocktail Recipes can be found here:
Picking the next book for your book club can be stressful! Depending on how your club operates, you may submit books and vote on one or you may rotate and allow different members to choose a book for the group each month.
However your group likes to roll, these are some great book picks for your club this winter!
I’ve included purchase links for all of these anticipated titles! By using my link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!
You can go shopping through my other highly rated books right here. As always these titles and much more can be found in my Amazon storefront.
Be sure to connect with me on Goodreads to get real time ratings on my latest reads!
1. Demon Copperhead by Barbarba Kingsolver
If you’re fans of Barbarba Kingsolver (like me!), Demon Copperhead should definitely be your next read. Be warned, it is not one you’ll be able to skim through. This book is rich with content, but most of the dialogue is presented in the paragraph without quotation marks. On top of that, it’s nearly 600 pages. This will take some dedication, but you won’t be disappointed. The conversations that could stem from this book are endless.
Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, this is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.
Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.
In addition, if you haven’t read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, please do it!! This is a rare book that I’ve read twice. It’s also dense and rich, in true Kingsolver fashion. It would make for incredible discussion and is one that will stay with you for years.
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
If your club is looking for a memoir, consider Solito by Javier Zamora. Solito is the retelling of Javier’s experience embarking on a three thousand mile journey, fleeing from El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and across the U.S. border at just nine years old. This book is filled with hardship, but is also a reflection of kindness and love in unexpected places. It would make for fantastic discussion!
Javier’s adventure is a three-thousand-mile journey from his small town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and across the U.S. border. He will leave behind his beloved aunt and grandparents to reunite with a mother who left four years ago and a father he barely remembers. Traveling alone except for a group of strangers and a coyote hired to lead them to safety, Javier’s trip is supposed to last two short weeks.
At nine years old, all Javier can imagine is rushing into his parents’ arms, snuggling in bed between them, living under the same roof again. He does not see the perilous boat trips, relentless desert treks, pointed guns, arrests and deceptions that await him; nor can he know that those two weeks will expand into two life-altering months alongside a group of strangers who will come to encircle him like an unexpected family.
A memoir by an acclaimed poet that reads like a novel, Solito not only provides an immediate and intimate account of a treacherous and near-impossible journey, but also the miraculous kindness and love delivered at the most unexpected moments. Solito is Javier’s story, but it’s also the story of millions of others who had no choice but to leave home.
Maybe your club is in need of a fast-paced thrill? Let me introduce you to Daisy Darker by Alice Feeny! I’m a complete sucker for trapped thrillers! You know the ones where they’re all locked in a house or on a deserted island? THOSE. This one is very Agatha Christie-esque with a dark moody feel, perfect for the winter months.
After years of avoiding each other, Daisy Darker’s entire family is assembling for Nana’s 80th birthday party in Nana’s crumbling gothic house on a tiny tidal island. Finally back together one last time, when the tide comes in, they will be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours.
The family arrives, each of them harboring secrets. Then at the stroke of midnight, as a storm rages, Nana is found dead. And an hour later, the next family member follows…
Trapped on an island where someone is killing them one by one, the Darkers must reckon with their present mystery as well as their past secrets, before the tide comes in and all is revealed.
With a wicked wink to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Daisy Darker’s unforgettable twists will leave readers reeling.
There’s something about winter that makes me especially keen on magical realism. Call it holiday spirit or the sparkle of a new year, but something about this time always persuades me to pick up a book with the element and I always love it!! Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen is the one I’ll be turning to this season. Estranged relatives, quirky and secretive neighbors, and ghosts? Count me in!
Between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.
Right off the coast of South Carolina, on Mallow Island, The Dellawisp sits—a stunning old cobblestone building shaped like a horseshoe, and named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.
When Zoey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at the Dellawisp she meets her quirky and secretive neighbors, including a young woman with a past, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and a lonely chef, and three ghosts. The sudden death of one of Zoey’s new neighbors sets off a search that leads to the island’s famous author and to a long-estranged relative of the sisters. Each of them has a story, and each story has an ending which hasn’t yet been written.
Maybe you’re looking for a sugar cookie of a book to finish out the year, one you can really just float through and enjoy because you know the happily ever after will be waiting for you at the end. I’d suggest Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert. This book is filled with holiday magic, swoon-worthy dates, and cozy sweet spirit! This one could inspire an entire book club snack menu!
With a name like Astra Noel Snow, holiday spirit isn’t just a seasonal specialty–it’s a way of life. But after a stinging divorce, Astra’s yearly trip to the Milwaukee Christmas market takes on a whole new meaning. She’s ready to eat, drink, and be merry, especially with the handsome stranger who saves the best kringle for her at his family bakery.
For Jack Clausen, the Julemarked with its snowy lights and charming shops stays the same, while the world outside the joyful street changes, magically leaping from one December to the next every four weeks. He’s never minded living this charmed existence until Astra shows him the life he’s been missing outside of the festive red brick alley.
After a swoon-worthy series of dates, some Yuletide magic, and the unexpected glow of new love, Astra and Jack must decide whether this relationship can weather all seasons, or if what they’re feeling is as ephemeral as marshmallows in a mug of hot cocoa.
I read eleven books this month and here’s what you should know about them!
With Instagram glitching ~yet again~ this week, this was a great reminder that we don’t own our Instagram platforms. Anything could happen and not only would our content, memories, and means of conversation be taken, but for many of us, our businesses too.
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I’ve outlined my thoughts on all of my October reads. Some will have you clicking “add to cart.” Others, I read it so you don’t have to! Either way, here to support those TBRs! Be sure to let me know if you pick up any of these books!
Solito by Javier Zamora, published September 2022
The premise of this memoir sold me as soon as I read the synopsis. A nine-year-old Javier embarks on the dangerous migration from El Salvador to California, where his parents are already there waiting. He traveled with strangers, led by multiple coyotes in different regions. This emotionally gripping memoir has added depth, as it’s told from a child’s perspective. It reflects on the scary journey, moments of personal growth, and the tender moments experienced with strangers who looked out for him. Absolutely recommend this book for those looking to broaden their perspective.
The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh, published March 2022
This genre-bending book took me by surprise! Admittedly, I didn’t read the synopsis before diving in, but the title and cover led me to think it was going to be a summer love-esque/ second chance romance type of plot… I was wrong! It packed a punch right from the beginning with the main character having cancer and suffering from infertility (not spoilers). As the story went on, it melted between romance, family drama, and suspense/mystery. Some may think that feels all over the place, but I thought it added depth to the story. This was the Bookcase Beauty Book Club pick for October and we had such great conversations that stemmed from topics in this book. Pick it up if you’re looking for something that will keep your mind swirling.
Daisy Darker by Alice Feeny, published August 2022
I’m a sucker for a trapped thriller! Stuck in a house? A basement? An island? And people keep dying?! I’m all in! This was a very Agatha Christie-inspired book! The Darker family has traveled to their grandmother’s coastal home for her 80th birthday, but then Nana is found dead! So begins ongoing murders and the inability to escape. The Darker family is forced to reckon with their own secrets, while trying to stay together and alive until the tide goes out. This was a fast read! The story keeps the pages turning almost automatically. Pick this one up if you want to get lost in thrilling book!
This was another powerful read! Although some moments were difficult to read, this story is immersive and shines light on generational trauma. If you have reading sensitivities, I would suggest looking up the content warnings on Goodreads. This book follows the Turner family over four decades and is told from four perspectives of family members. Set in a tiny town in east Texas, the Turner family has a dark and twisted path. A family reunion brings up long-held secrets that force each family member to evaluate who is worthy of forgiveness and who is worthy of blame.
This narrative non-fiction book was fascinating! Set in the mid-1800s, it centers on local pioneer “Doc” and Chief Si’ahl (Seattle) of the native Duwamish tribe, as they try to bring together a clash of cultures. The real partnership in this story comes from young Mila and Catori, one an orphan being raised by Doc and the other a boy in the Duwamish tribe. This pair comes together to try and stop a planned attack on the new settlement by the Duwamish tribe. I loved reading about the relationships, good and bad, that grew between cultures.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras, published July 2018
I had marveled at this cover for over a year, yet left it unread because I wouldn’t prioritized it over the new releases. I finally read this for my Backlist Book Club’s October focus, Cover Love. I’m so glad I did!! The synopsis hooked me right away, hence why I bought it on Pangobooks, but the story was so immersive. It had everything I needed for a fall historical fiction read! It’s set in Columbia during the Pablo Escobar era and contrasts high society and working class. Told between alternating perspectives of Chula, a seven-year-old girl and Patrona, a young live-in maid, this story gives a history lesson of Columbia during this fearful time. It was eye-opening and heart wrenching at times, but a powerful read worth your time!
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, published October 2022
FIVE STAR ALERT
I recently gushed about my love for Barbara Kingsolver and Demon Copperhead on Instagram. Please go check out this post for more of my thoughts, the algorithm was not too kind to it. She wrote one of the pivotal books that formed my passion for reading, The Poisonwood Bible. She has such a power about her. Her writing feels classic in the modern era, something so rare! It’s absolutely one of my favorites of the year and I won’t be surprised if I pick this one up again one day.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna, published August 2022
This was a cute, not-so-spooky read for spooky season! It reminded me of The House in the Cerulean Sea, with characters feeling like misfits and unlikely bonds between children and caretakers. This was a great representation that family doesn’t always mean shared blood. Don’t let the title fool you, this book may be about witches but it’s not a Halloween book. Think Sabrina, the Teenage Witch vibes. It can be read year-round without holiday ties!
East Winds by Rachel Rueckert, publishes November 2022
East Winds initially grasped my attention with its book trailer. You can watch it here:
I loved the examination of marriage and commitment across cultures! Rueckert did a fantastic job making parallels to her own religion and culture. Beyond the scope of cultural diversity and unique travel experiences, East Winds gives a great depiction of the first year of marriage- learning the nuances about your partner, building communication, and inevitably repairing and learning from negative experiences. Definitely recommend this perspective-broadening book!
The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simon St. James, originally published 2012, reprinted October 2022
St. James can tell a ghost story! Although this book is a decade old, the reprinting of this cover made me finally pick it up! I also read this book for the Bookcase Beauty Backlist Club’s Cover Love focus. It’s a mystery how Maddy came to be at the Clare’s home all those years ago, but they took her in and raised her. After her suicide, Maddy still haunts the barn on the Clare’s property. The story is told from the perspective of Sarah, who’s temp agency has sent her to assist the ghost hunter, Alistair. The hope is that they can finally send Maddy to rest in peace, but Maddy is MAD and she wants vengeance. If you’ve never read any of Simone St. James’ books, this is a great place to start!
Happiness for Beginners but Katherine Center, originally published in 2015, republished in 2020, soon to be a Netflix movie!
I managed to squeeze in one last Cover Love book for the Bookcase Beauty Backlist Club! If you’re thinking, “geez, that club seems excessive.” It’s not, we only plan to read one book a month from our TBRs, I’m just an overachiever. 🙂 Happiness for Beginners has been on my TBR for so long. I’m a huge Katherine Center fan. If you’ve been around the blog or followed me on Instagram for very long, you know that to be true. Here’s an embroidery I made of her newest book, The Bodyguard.
She’s the master of sweet. This sweet romance has the fun little brother’s best friend trope. There’s something about the friends to lovers and siblings friend to lovers tropes that always get me. Maybe because there’s already a trusting relationship there. I feel like the relationship build is so much more believable. Absolutely recommend picking this one up when you need a dose of sweetness in your life. There are a few heavy topics woven in, but Center does so with such love and grace.
Once or twice a year, my mood reader heart craves a book that will rip me apart and leave me changed. On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel took that as a challenge and grabbed ahold of my heart without mercy.
I’m a huge fan of McDaniel’s writing. She authored Betty in 2020 and it was one of my favorite reads of the year. I’ve since been waiting (not so patiently) for her next heart-wrenching book.
Six women–mothers, daughters, sisters–gone missing. When the first is found floating dead in the river, it reveals the disturbing truth of a small Ohio town. Inspired by the unsolved murders of the Chillicothe Six, this harrowing and haunting novel tells the story of two sisters, both of whom could be the next victims, from the internationally-bestselling author of Betty.
Arcade and Daffodil are twin sisters born one minute apart. With their fiery red hair and thirst for an escape, they forge an unbreakable bond nurtured by both their grandmother’s stories and their imaginations. Together, they create a world where a patch of grass reveals an archaeologist’s dig, the smoke emerging from the local paper mill becomes the dust rising from wild horses galloping on the ground, and an abandoned 1950s convertible transforms into a time machine that can take them anywhere.
But the two sisters can’t escape the generational chaos that grips their family. Growing up in the shadow of the town, the sisters cling tight to one another. As an adult, Arcade wrestles with these memories of her life, just as a local woman is discovered drowned in the river. Soon, more bodies are found. While her friends disappear around her, Arcade is forced to reckon with the past while the killer circles ever closer. Arcade’s promise to keep herself and her sister safe becomes increasingly desperate while the powerful riptide of the savage side becomes more difficult to resist.
Drawing from the true story of women killed in her native Ohio, acclaimed novelist and poet Tiffany McDaniel has written a powerful literary testament and fearless elegy for missing women everywhere.
My spoiler-free thoughts:
It’s five stars for me, but in a “read this book, it’s going to completely wreck you” type of way. Clocking in at 464 pages, it’s one of those books that looks huge but you fly right through in some sort of ethereal experience.
In the same vein as Betty, On the Savage Side is not for the faint of heart. It goes deep into rough and painful topics such as drug addiction and sexual abuse of a child, but McDaniel’s writing is so mesmerizingly beautiful and writes about these topics with intention. If you have reading sensitivities, I would suggest looking up themes before diving into this one.
The one phrase that keeps coming to mind when I try to describe the weight of this story is heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s hard to read and sad, reminiscent of Demon Copperhead (review linked), but there’s this thread of hope woven throughout the story that kept me cheering for Arc and Daffy. The ending left me speechless, stunned, and with a little whiplash.
Save this story for a time when you have the emotional capacity for a deep and powerful read.
On the Savage Side is out now. You can order it and all of my other favorites from the Books list in my Amazon Storefront! Be on the lookout for a Five Star Cocktail in honor of On the Savage Side on my Instagram page soon!