Open Book Episode 5: JK does not mean just kidding

Welcome to Open Book, our biweekly podcast where we are, well, open books about everything. We’ll share what we’re reading, talk about the business side of running a small used bookstore, and maybe get a little weird. This episode we tackle the latest JK Rowling controversy. Yup, she’s at it again. Can you truly separate an artist from their art, or in this case, an author from their books? What does this mean for the Harry Potter series, a collection of books that has defined whole generations of readers? Also, Garrett finally finished his prehistoric shark book, so get ready to hear all about that.

You can listen on Spotify, Overcast, Anchor, Google Podcasts and more – or just find it below.

Open Book Episode 4: Charlotte Author Chat with Jeneva Rose

Welcome to Open Book, our biweekly podcast where we are, well, open books about everything. We’ll share what we’re reading, talk about the business side of running a small used bookstore, and maybe get a little weird. This episode we sit down with Charlotte Author Jeneva Rose, who just published The Perfect Marriage this summer and has already sold the movie rights for it to the same folks who created The Hunger Games. She tells us all about her writing process, her favorite thrillers and her brand new book series coming out later in September.

You can listen on Spotify, Overcast, Anchor, Google Podcasts and more – or just find it below.

Open Book Episode 3: Intentional Reading

Welcome to Open Book, our biweekly podcast where we are, well, open books about everything. We’ll share what we’re reading, talk about the business side of running a small used bookstore, and maybe get a little weird. This episode we talk a bit about our upcoming September buddy read of The Only Good Indians, why it’s important to us to read intentionally and what our top 3 favorite books are. And, yeah, Garrett mentions prehistoric sharks… again. 

You can listen on Spotify, Overcast, Anchor, Google Podcasts and more – or just find it below.

Open Book: Episode Two – Oh Amazon….

Welcome to Open Book, our biweekly podcast where we are, well, open books about everything. We’ll share what we’re reading, talk about the business side of running a small used bookstore, and maybe get a little weird. This episode we talk a bit about The Nickel Boys, supporting Amazon versus local book shops and, go figure, prehistoric sharks, again.

You can listen to this on Spotify as well as down below. We hope you enjoy.

Open Book: Episode One

Welcome to Open Book, our biweekly podcast where we are, well, open books about everything. We’ll share what we’re reading, talk about the business side of running a small used bookstore, and maybe get a little weird. You can listen to this on Spotify as well as down below. We hope you enjoy.

Our Favorite 2020 Reads So Far

And just like that, we’re a quarter of the way through 2020. I don’t think this year is shaping up how anyone thought it would. In January, we were in the process of getting inventory and doing a ton of planning to open up. Crazy, right? 

Even though we were super busy in the first part of this year, we’ve managed to make it through a combined 18 books and audiobooks between the two of us. Here are a few of our favorites: 

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Description: Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

Alyssa’s thoughts: I listened to this book on audiobook, and I’ll admit it was a change of pace for me. I need action-packed audiobooks to keep my attention, and I wouldn’t say this book was action-packed. The narrator was incredible, though, and I love the personality he gave to Hiram. The story is historical fiction meets magic, and I enjoyed the blending. I gave this book 4.5/5 stars. 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez

Description: Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family. But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

Alyssa’s thoughts: This was a hygge book club pick (can’t wait to get that back up and running after all of this!) and one of the first YA books I’ve read in a long while. I thought Sanchez did a great job of describing how depression and anxiety can feel in high school, I loved learning more about Mexican culture and I loved how imperfect the main character was. At times you were frustrated with Julia, but you were always rooting for her. I gave this one 4.5/5 stars. 

ARTEMIS by Andy Weir

Description: Jasmine Bashara never signed up to be a hero. She just wanted to get rich. Not crazy, eccentric-billionaire rich, like many of the visitors to her hometown of Artemis, humanity’s first and only lunar colony. Just rich enough to move out of her coffin-sized apartment and eat something better than flavored algae. 

So when a chance at a huge score finally comes her way, Jazz can’t say no. Sure, it requires her to graduate from small-time smuggler to full-on criminal mastermind. And it calls for a particular combination of cunning, technical skills, and large explosions—not to mention sheer brazen swagger. But Jazz has never run into a challenge her intellect can’t handle, and she figures she’s got the ‘swagger’ part down.

The trouble is, engineering the perfect crime is just the start of Jazz’s problems. Because her little heist is about to land her in the middle of a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself. Trapped between competing forces, pursued by a killer and the law alike, even Jazz has to admit she’s in way over her head. She’ll have to hatch a truly spectacular scheme to have a chance at staying alive and saving her city.

Garrett’s thoughts: I needed this book. It brought me back. It was engrossing enough to allow me to shut my brain off from the rest of the world. Andy Weir ( who also wrote The Martian) has a way with making Sci-Fi feel so real. I could see myself on Artemis. Mix in some murder and corporate greed and I was hooked. Also, shoutout to Weir for having a female lead that breaks through a ton of stereotypes. Jazz is smart, foul mouthed and very blunt. A total breath of fresh air.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Description: Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas’ epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialized in the 1840s.

Alyssa’s thoughts: What an epic book. I love a good classic, and this one easily became one of my all time favorites, despite its incredibly daunting length. I loved Dumas’ writing style – it was surprisingly humorous and approachable. The story was detailed and gripping and I loved that it explored the idea of revenge – and how easily you can be corrupted by it. I gave this one 4.5/5 stars, only because I didn’t like how the original love story in the book ended.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Description: On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’ s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.

Alyssa’s thoughts: I think this is a near perfect novel. I love the movie with Kiera Knightly and James McAvoy, but this was my first time reading the book that inspired it all. I loved every minute of it. I loved how complex the characters are, how beautiful McEwan’s writing is, and the ending is just perfectly heartbreaking to me. This story might just be a 5/5 for me. 

Support Local on Indie Bookstore Day

It’s wild to me that tomorrow is April 25, this year’s Indie Bookstore Day. If I’m being honest, I’m a little heartbroken. We had so many exciting things planned with another local book shop, Shelves Bookstore, to celebrate with y’all.

Even though we and other bookstores aren’t open for browsing or other fun, bookish activities, there are plenty of other ways you can support local tomorrow (and every day during this stay at home order in Charlotte.

We’ll give a full list of how you can support some of our other favorite bookstores in the Queen City below, but first, here’s how you can support us:

  1. We are currently offering local drop offs for books! If you’d like to purchase a book or other merch from us and you’re within 15 miles of our location (330 Camp Road in Charlotte) then you can participate. We don’t have our inventory online, so we’re getting creative with this by offering personalized book recommendations. Simply send us a message on social media or email us at with some info like your favorite genres to read, other books you’ve read and loved, or any specific titles and authors you’re looking for. We’ll do our best to find books that work for you and then drop them off at your house, sanitized and wrapped, on Fridays.
  2. You can buy one of our first ever Oh, I’m Reading Again t-shirts. Stzlife and Inkfinity Printing are helping small businesses gain some extra revenue right now by printing and handling all aspects of t-shirt production, which is huge. The shirts are $25, and we get $12.50 of every purchase. Click here to order.

We get it – maybe That’s Novel doesn’t have exactly what you’re looking for, or maybe we’re just not your cup of tea (it’s fine, I get enough validation from my mom for this not to hurt me). There are a ton of other incredible bookstores in the Charlotte area that you should look to support before you order your latest read from that giant Amazon. Here are just a few of our favorites (I apologize to anyone we missed – we love ALL bookstores!).

Shelves Bookstore

Shelves Bookstore is run by Abigail, a fellow book lover who wanted to create a pop-up bookstore here in Charlotte. Before the stay at home order was put in place, you could catch her with her collection of new books at local coffee shops and other spots. Since most of those places are closed…she can’t pop up any longer. But what she does offer is online ordering for books. If you’ve got a book you’re interested in, she can order it for you and leave it sanitized at Enderly Coffee Co. for you to pick up when it’s convenient for you.

And if you’ve got a book club, Shelves is the way to go. She works with several local bookclubs on ordering their reads each month. Learn more about Shelves Bookstore here.

Park Road Books

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the local favorite, Park Road Books. If you’re looking for a specific, new book, Park Road is where it’s at. They, like us, are closed for curbside pickup but you can still place orders with them and have them shipped right to your home. You can do that by emailing them, ordering through their website or calling the store. Their website is right here, if you want to check them out.

Julia’s Cafe and Books

Boy, we cannot wait to be able to spend hours browsing in Julia’s Cafe and Books with a cup of coffee in hand. Until then, this shop does have their inventory online so that you can look through and still make some used purchases! They set it up through Amazon, but you’re still supporting local when you purchase through this link right here.

Main Street Books in Davidson

Because of the stay at home ordinance in the state, Main Street Books in Davidson worked with to offer an online shopping experience that results in at-home delivery. On their shop page, you’ll still find lists of staff recommendations and recommended reading lists, which is perfect if you’re unsure of what to pick up while staying at home. Check it out here.

No matter how you do it, try to give a local bookstore some love this weekend. Even something small, like sharing a social media post or buying a bookmark, makes a big difference.

Five Books for Social Distancing

We’re all stuck at home a lot more than we’re used to, and the world pretty much sucks, for lack of a better way to put it. To me, this is the perfect time to read a ton of books. 

Books allow me to escape. It’s why I count reading as a big part of my self care. No matter what is going on in my life, I can disappear into a story and forget about it, even for just a little while. Even so, this hasn’t been all that easy the last few weeks. I’ve been more distracted while reading, and I know a lot of other folks have said the same thing. 

It makes sense – there’s a lot of uncertainty right now, and it’s scary. But for me, if I can’t read, it’s almost always because I’m just picking up the wrong book in the moment. Right now, I need books that are gripping, fast-paced, and either nice and fluffy or so intense I can’t get my mind off of it. I need something that will make me totally forget about what’s going on, so nothing too close to real life right now. 

My hunch is that it’s the same feeling for many of you, so I put together a little list of 5 books I think are perfect to read while social distancing. Try checking a few of these titles out that I have sitting in my home library. And don’t forget to support a local bookstore if you do decide to purchase any of these!  

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell 

Description: Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work email. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious emails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now—reading other people’s e-mail. When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. He can’t help being entertained, and captivated, by their stories. But by the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself. What would he even say…?

Why I recommend it: If there were an award for the cutest book I’ve ever read, this might be it. Told partially in Lincoln’s point of view and partially in email correspondence, it’s a really quick read. The characters are sweet and complex, and the story is easy to follow. I actually picked this up myself for a quarantine read, and it was exactly what I needed. Sweet, funny, fluffy and cute. 

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton 

Description: An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price.

Until something goes wrong. . . .

Why I recommend it: Even if you’ve seen the movie, this book is worth picking up. It’s a fast-paced tale that will have you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what dino is going to pop out next and attempt to eat everyone. The writing is witty and the science makes sense, something I wasn’t necessarily expecting but found myself truly enjoying. Because Crichton spent time breaking down the science behind it all, it made the story much more realistic and interesting. Plus, this is a book series, so you’re automatically in it for another two books! 

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman 

Description: Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

Why I recommend it: This story is told from the point of view of Elsa, giving the story a cute innocence – but it also didn’t drive me crazy, like some child-centered stories can. Elsa is a mature 7-year-old, making the story interesting and readable, but not so mature that it’s unbelievable. It’s a sweet story about love, grief, and family. The mystical, magic elements just make it more fun to read and take you back to being a kid.

IT – Stephen King 

Description: Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

Why I recommend it: I find myself gravitating toward longer books right now so I have something to hold my attention for more than a few days. IT is an epic read (my copy is 1,150 pages) and I was hooked for every single one of them. I love King’s writing style and his ability to develop such realistic characters. I think most classify this book purely as horror and discount it as something scary, but the story is more complex than that. In my opinion, the movies (old and new) trivialized the story to make it scarier (as they should) but this book is more powerful and interesting than most believe. 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Description: It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

Why I recommend it: A tesseract, if you’re totally lost, is a wrinkle in time. This book was one of my absolute favorites growing up. It’s mystical and magical and adventurous and even frightening at times. It’s a book I could read over and over again and fall in love with. I think, truly, you could replace this fifth suggestion with your own favorite book as a kid (Harry Potter is another one for me). Returning to a world that makes you feel full of wonder and excitement is the best way to escape any gloomy mood, in my humble opinion.