2017 Reading


Title: Cold Feet At Christmas
Author: Debbie Johnson
Pages: 222 p
Published: November 2014
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I wanted something light and romantic and I got what I wanted. Leah and Rob were an irresistable couple and I was cheering them on, even though their path to togetherness was drawn out. I enjoyed the Cavelli family members as secondary characters.

From the publisher:
Running out on your wedding shouldn’t be this much fun!

A remote Scottish castle on a snowy Christmas Eve. A handsome husband-to-be. A dress to die for. It should have been the happiest day of Leah Harvey’s life – but the fairytale wedding turns sour when she finds her fiancĂ© halfway up the bridesmaid’s skirt just hours before the ceremony!

Fleeing the scene in a blizzard, Leah ends up stranded at the nearest cottage, where she collapses into the arms of its inhabitant – a man so handsome she thinks she must have died and gone to heaven!

And when Rob Cavelli suddenly finds himself with an armful of soaking wet, freezing cold, and absolutely gorgeous bride on the run, he’s more than happy to welcome her into his snowbound cottage this Christmas…




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Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Pages: 406 p
Published: September 2006
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This was a re-read for my book group. I don't remember when I originally read it. I remembered the ending but not the details. And I enjoyed it as an audio--read by Lynn Redgrave and Ruthie Henshall, both outstanding voice actors.

From the publisher:
Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise — she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.

Late one night while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter’s personal story, Margaret begins to read her father’s rare copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer.

As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter’s account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story.

Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets... and the ghosts that haunt them still.



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Title: Here I Am
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Pages: 571 p
Published: September 2016
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I don't know if I would have finished this if I eyeball read it instead of listening to it. And although there are a few minor complaints about the voice actor, I enjoyed his narration. I liked the humor, although this is not a comedy. I liked the secondary characters. What I didn't like is the frenetic feel--there's so much going on! I wasn't sure where to focus my attention.

From the publisher:
God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, and Abraham replied obediently, 'Here I am'.

This is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. Over the course of three weeks in present-day Washington, DC, three sons watch their parents' marriage falter and their family home fall apart. Meanwhile, a larger catastrophe is engulfing another part of the world: a massive earthquake devastates the Middle East, sparking a pan-Arab invasion of Israel.

With global upheaval in the background and domestic collapse in the foreground, Jonathan Safran Foer asks us: what is the true meaning of home? Can one man ever reconcile the conflicting duties of his many roles - husband, father, son? And how much of life can a person bear?




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Title: The Girls
Author: Emma Cline
Pages: 368 p
Published: June 2016
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I can't decide if I liked this book or not. It's a solid coming-of-age story set in turbulent 1969 and loosely based on the female followers of Charles Manson. I am not sure if the present day sections really needed to be there.

From the publisher:
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.







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Title: Jackaby
Author: William Ritter
Pages: 304 p
Published: September 2014
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I thought this was an interesting blend of Sherlock and Dr. Who. It's considered Young Adult--I enjoyed it. I will read more of the series.

From the publisher:
“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion--and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.






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Title: Rebecca
Author: Daphne Du Maurier
Pages: 441 p
Published: June 1938
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I kept forgetting this novel was written in the 1930s. The story unfolds gradually but it creates tension. There's so much to it--it's a mystery, a gothic horror, a creep fest, a coming of age story, and a romance--it's a juicy story! I liked the atmosphere. I liked the twists! I liked how the main character developed through the story--really blossoming from a shrinking violet to a bold rose. I liked the interplay between the secondary characters. I didn't like the overwrought analysis of the main character--she would play out long imaginary scenarios and conversations. This classic has definitely influenced the genre!















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Title: Before the Fall
Author: Noah Hawley
Pages: 400 p
Published: May 2016
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


I liked how sensationalism and the current media climate (all news-all the time!) are part of the commentary of this novel. I liked the backstories and how they added to the tension of the story. I do have a couple of lingering questions, a big spoiler question, that I can't wait to talk to my book group about.

There's much for us to discuss, I can't wait!

From the publisher:
On a foggy summer night, eleven people--ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter--depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs--the painter--and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members--including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot--the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers' intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.

Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.





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Title: Dear Mr. Knightley
Author: Katherine Reay
Pages: 336 p
Published: November 2013
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


I liked this book--it's told in a series of letters, which are like journal entries. I liked how the main character, Samantha "Sam" Moore, discovers herself and develops from a withdrawn, socially awkward girl to a thoughtful, confident young woman. Her transformation is not easy and it's also not cliche.

From the publisher:
Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.





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Title: Rivers of London
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Pages: 310 p
Published: June 2011
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It's the first book of a series that is new to me and I can't wait to read more--or rather, listen to more. The narrator added a lot and the imperfect editing enhanced my enjoyment--it felt like the characters were sitting around my living room telling me the tale. This is outside my typical genre but it was funny and clever and kept me paying attention. It's not high literature but it is a fun escape.

From the publisher:
My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly valuable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden... and there's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.




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Title: Tell Me Three Things
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Pages: 328 p
Published: April 2016
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I can't decide if I'm going to fangirl or rave about this book--but I LOVED IT!

1) The characters are fleshed out and real teenagers

2) The parents aren't cliches

3) Grief is dealt with realistically

From the publisher:
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?




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Title: The Underground Railroad
Author: Colson Whitehead
Pages: 306 p
Published: August 2016
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

What a grim, gritty, uplifting journey this book is. I don't have the words to express the sadness, horror, and joy I sometimes felt. History at a raw, intense moment in time. Masterfully told. I couldn't stop, I had to know what was happening next. It unfolds in the style of a slave narrative--the action without internal dialogue and emotion.

From the publisher:
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven - but the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.






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Title: Fogged Inn
Author: Barbara Ross
Pages: 304 p
Published: February 2016
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's #4 in the series and I think it's my favorite. The Maine flavor is spot-on. And I liked the twists, I didn't figure it out!

From the publisher:
An autumn chill has settled over Busman's Harbor, Maine, but Julia Snowden is warming up the town by offering lobster stew at the local diner. When her landlord discovers a dead body in the walk-in refrigerator, Julia must figure out who ordered up a side of murder.

Nothing's colder than a corpse--especially one stashed inside a sub-zero fridge. The victim spent his last night on earth dining at the restaurant bar, so naturally Julia finds herself at the center of the ensuing investigation. Lost in the November fog, however, is who'd want to kill the unidentified stranger--and why. It might have something to do with a suspicious group of retirees and a decades-old tragedy to which they're all connected. One thing's for sure: Julia's going to make solving this mystery her early bird special…





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Title: Iced Under
Author: Barbara Ross
Pages: 304 p
Published: December 2016
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The 5th installment of the Maine Clambake Series and I think it's one of the best! It's set during the Clambake's off season, in a stormy February, and a lot of the action takes place in Boston--but the change of scenery helps develop Julia's character. I hope no one thinks the description of winter storms is an exaggeration!

From the publisher:
The snow is deep in Maine’s Busman’s Harbor and the mighty rivers are covered in ice. Snowden Family Clambake Company proprietor Julia Snowden and her mother, Jacqueline, are hunkered down for the winter when a mysterious package arrives—heating up February with an unexpected case of murder.

Inside the mystery package is an enormous black diamond necklace that once belonged to Julia’s great-grandmother and disappeared in the 1920s. Who could have sent it—and why? Julia’s search for clues takes her on a perilous journey through her mother’s troubled family history, from a squabble over the family fortune in “frozen water” to the recent unexplained death of Jacqueline’s long-lost cousin Hugh—who’d been missing and presumed drowned for more than forty years. To protect her mother’s inheritance, Julia must fend off a small army of feuding relatives, solve the mystery surrounding Hugh’s demise, and get back home before the next blizzard buries them all.




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Title: The Fireman
Author: Joe Hill
Pages: 727 p
Published: May 2016
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

It's a pandemic, apocalyptic, dystopian novel that had me up at night! Author Joe Hill made a virus, Draco incendia trychophyton, also known as Dragonscale, and had infected people burst into flame--frequently infecting other people around them. The hero of the novel, Harper, an elementary school nurse, volunteers at the local hospital as the infection spreads; when the hospital burns down, she gets infected. She also discovers that she is pregnant--her husband, Jakob is not infected.


From the publisher:
No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman's secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.







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Title: In a Dark, Dark Wood
Author: Ruth Ware
Pages: 352 p
Published: July 2015
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I could not put this down. An eery thriller. A tense, odd assortment of people gathered together for a bachelorette party that erodes to chaos. Told mostly through flashback, the stage is set for a sinister event.


From the publisher:
Nora hasn't seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room....

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.





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Title: Every Exquisite Thing
Author: Matthew Quick
Pages: 265 p
Published: May 2016
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This isn't a typical YA novel. It's like splashing cold water on the face. Plus, it's a book about a book! It's kind of a roller coaster ride--I laughed, I cried!

From the publisher:
Didn’t you ever just simply want to…stop?

Star athlete and straight-A student Nanette O’Hare has played the role of dutiful daughter for as long as she can remember. But one day, a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bubblegum Reaper—a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic—and the rebel within Nanette awakens.

As the new and outspoken Nanette attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, she befriends the reclusive author and falls in love with a young, troubled poet. Forced to make some hard choices that bring devastating consequences, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion can sometimes come at a high price.