2018 Reading


Title: The Good Girl
Author: Mary Kubica
Length: 10 hrs and 38 mins
Published: July 2014
Book Group: School
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Kicking off the new year with a re-read for my book group. Here's the original review of The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.















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Title: The Little Christmas Kitchen
Author: Jenny Oliver
Length: 368 p
Published: October 2014
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It's a fun book--kind of rom-com. Kind of like Mama Mia with a holiday flair.

From the publisher:
Christmas at the Davenports’ house was always about one thing: food. But when sisters Ella and Maddy were split up, Ella to live in London with their Dad, and Maddy staying in Greece with their Mum, mince pies lost their magic.

Now, a cheating husband has thrown Ella a curved snowball…and for the first time in years, all she wants is her mum. So she heads back to Greece, where her family’s taverna holds all the promise of home. Meanwhile, waitress Maddy’s dreams of a white Christmas lead her back to London… and her Dad.

But a big fat festive life-swap isn’t as easy as it sounds! And as the sisters trade one kitchen for another, it suddenly seems that among the cinnamon, cranberries and icing sugar, their recipes for a perfect Christmas might be missing a crucial ingredient: each other.



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Title: The Last Mrs. Parrish
Author: Liv Constantine
Length: 400 p
Published: October 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a fast-paced, can't put down book. I didn't like the materialism, it was way over the top. I don't think it's a mystery-thriller but it is a twisty book. Very entertaining.

From the publisher:
Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn't have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.







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Title: You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
Author: Sherman Alexie
Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
Published: July 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A touching, yet difficult memoir. There’s poetry, prose, and song. It’s pieced together as a quilt is. 








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Title: Autumn
Author: Ali Smith
Length: 272 p
Published: February 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


I’m not sure what to say about this book. It’s beautifully written but I have no idea what it’s about. Part of a series of seasonal books. I can’t decide if I want to read more. It’s nothing I’ve read before, playing with time—so it’s fluid.











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Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Length: 11 hrs and 27 mins
Published: September 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I picked up the book because I've read rave reviews of it. It features teenagers but it's not a YA book. It's about the burden of secrets--big and little. It's about family--big and little. The characters were well-developed, real people. I'm not sure why it's set in the 90s but it works.

From the publisher:
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons' friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia's.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.



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Title: What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Length: 16 hrs and 50 mins
Published: September 2017
Book Group: yes
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I think my book group will have a lot to discuss. It was not what I expected--there are a lot of statistics in the analysis of what happened. I was fascinated by the numbers. And somewhat melancholy that this book needed to be written at all. Not necessarily because I'm a Hillary fan, but the opportunity to elect a female president was dangling out there. She takes responsibility but sprinkles the blame around. And I liked that she comes across as warmer and more vulnerable than she presents in public.









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Title: Some Tame Gazelle
Author: Barbara Pym
Length: 322 pages
Published: 1950
Book Group: yes
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

A light study of manners in a proper British town. I'm not sure my book group will have much to talk about. There's not much action and the characters are prim and adhere to proper behavior. It's amusing.

From the publisher:
Fifty-something sisters Harriet and Belinda Bede live a comfortable, settled existence. Belinda, the quieter of the pair, has for years been secretly in love with the town's pompous (and married) archdeacon, whose odd sermons leave members of his flock in muddled confusion. Harriet, meanwhile, a bubbly extrovert, fends off proposal after proposal of marriage. The arrival of Mr. Mold and Bishop Grote disturb the peace of the village and leave the sisters wondering if they'll ever return to the order of their daily routines.






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Title: The Woman In The Window
Author: A. J. Finn
Length: 13 hrs and 41 mins
Published: January 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This is a stay up all night reading kind of book! Just when I thought I figured it out, it took a twisty turn. A satisfying noir-ish thrill ride. I genuinely cared about Anna Fox. Even the cliches felt fresh.

From the publisher:
It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.





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Title: Chasing Space
Author: Leland Melvin
Length: 272 p
Published: May 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A book I could not put down! A story of grit and grace. I may have a crush.

From the publisher:
Leland Melvin is the only person in human history to catch a pass in the National Football League and in space. Though his path to the heavens was riddled with setbacks and injury, Leland persevered to reach the stars.

While training with NASA, Melvin suffered a severe injury that left him deaf. Leland was relegated to earthbound assignments, but chose to remain and support his astronaut family. His loyalty paid off. Recovering partial hearing, he earned his eligibility for space travel. He served as mission specialist for two flights aboard the shuttle Atlantis, working on the International Space Station.

In this uplifting memoir, the former NASA astronaut and professional athlete offers an examination of the intersecting role of community, determination, and grace that align to shape our opportunities and outcomes. Chasing Space is not the story of one man, but the story of many men, women, scientists, and mentors who helped him defy the odds and live out an uncommon destiny.

As a chemist, athlete, engineer and space traveler, Leland’s life story is a study in the science of achievement. His personal insights illuminate how grit and grace, are the keys to overcoming adversity and rising to success.





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Title: Turtles All The Way Down
Author: John Green
Length: 7 hrs and 12 mins
Published: October 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is the story of Aza Holmes and her struggles with mental illness--particularly anxiety caused by rumanitive thinking. It begins with a fugitive billionaire and a cash reward. But it's so much more than that. It's an exploration of friendship, of new romance, of family bonds. And it's all through the lens of intrusive thinking. There is clever use of technology and pop culture (Star Wars fan fiction about a Rey-Chewbacca relationship). I enjoyed the book.

From the publisher:
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.








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Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Length: 448 p
Published: February 2015
Book Group: yes
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Kristin Hannah is known for her family dramas and love stories. This is the second of her books that I've read with a backdrop of World War II. Hannah tells the tale of two sisters torn apart by the Nazi occupation of France, and their struggle to survive. It is well-researched and I was engaged from the beginning. I'm so glad I've been to France, especially to Paris, so that I knew the general neighborhoods and locations mentioned.

From the publisher:
FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.







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Title: The Heart's Invisible Furies
Author: John Boyne
Length: 21 h 19 m / 582 p
Published: August 2017
Book Group: yes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I LOVE THIS BOOK! It begins with the birth in 1945 and advances by sevens through the years of Cyril Avery's life. I laughed. I cried. I was outraged at the intolerance of society. I was drawn into the story. A theme of the novel is Cyril's homosexuality. A theme of the novel is love--family, friends, and romantic. It's a poignant and somewhat intense look at man's hidden desires, and in this case, the man is Cyril. And I would add that Ireland is as much a character as any person in the book. The evolution of Cyril is the evolution of Ireland.

From the publisher:
Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamorous and dangerous Julian Woodbead.

At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.







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Title: A Fatal Grace
Author: Louise Penny
Length: 10 h 31 m / 311 p
Published: May 2007
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a compelling mystery series and I can't wait to read more! It's not often that I want to re-read mystery books but I already sense that I will revisit Inspector Gamache again. This second in the series is about words--from hidden meanings to literally written on the wall. And the setting of Three Pines, Quebec, Canada, is as a character, too.

From the publisher:
Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.
No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.
When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he's dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?
With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself.

And there is subtle humor, too:
“Let every man shovel out his own snow, and the whole city will be passable," said Gamache. Seeing Beauvoir's puzzled expression he added, "Emerson."

"Lake and Palmer?"

"Ralph and Waldo.”
― Louise Penny, A Fatal Grace




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Title: Force of Nature
Author: Jane Harper
Length: 384 p
Published: September 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

No sophomore slump here--the author created a tight "locked room" mystery. A great series.

From the publisher:
Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?







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Title: The Stranger in the Woods
Author: Michael Finkel
Length: 203 p
Published: March 2017
Book Group: yes
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

An interesting look at Maine's recluse. He doesn't like the term "hermit."

From the publisher:
Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality--not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life--why did he leave? what did he learn?--as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.








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Title: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
Author: Hannah Tinti
Length: 376 p
Published: March 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I don't know how to explain this book--it's a retelling of the Hercules myth and a coming of age story. Alternating between the past--the stories of the scars on Samuel Hawley's body and Loo's quest to figure out who she is in the world. It is a beautifully written story of family.

From the publisher:
Samuel Hawley isn’t like the other fathers in Olympus, Massachusetts. A loner who spent years living on the run, he raised his beloved daughter, Loo, on the road, moving from motel to motel, always watching his back. Now that Loo’s a teenager, Hawley wants only to give her a normal life. In his late wife’s hometown, he finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at the local high school.

Growing more and more curious about the mother she never knew, Loo begins to investigate. Soon, everywhere she turns, she encounters the mysteries of her parents’ lives before she was born. This hidden past is made all the more real by the twelve scars her father carries on his body. Each scar is from a bullet Hawley took over the course of his criminal career. Each is a memory: of another place on the map, another thrilling close call, another moment of love lost and found. As Loo uncovers a history that’s darker than she could have known, the demons of her father’s past spill over into the present—and together both Hawley and Loo must face a reckoning yet to come.


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Title: The Cruelest Month
Author: Louise Penny
Length: 11 h 46 m / 310 p
Published: March 2008
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


This series keeps getting better and better! A mystery within a mystery. I want MORE!

From the publisher:
Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.

It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life...

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil---until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.







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Title: Tangerine
Author: Christine Mangan
Length: 9 hrs and 28 mins
Published: March 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book. It's got a noir-ish, Hitchcockian feel. But it just didn't work for me. The claustrophobic feeling is well done. But the cliched characters just didn't quite click for me.

From the publisher:
The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.




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Title: The Broken Hearts Book Club
Author: Lynsey James
Length: 264 p
Published: September 2015
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This was an enjoyable, light, fun read. A book about books, friends, and love--set in an English village.

From the publisher:
Secrets never stay buried for long...

Lucy Harper has always been good at one thing: running from her past. But when her beloved Nana Lily passes away she has no choice except to return to the one place in the world she most wants to avoid...

Luna Bay hasn't changed much in the eight years she has spent in London. The little Yorkshire village is still just as beautiful, but the new pub landlord is a gorgeous addition to the scenery!

Lucy only intended to stay for a day, yet when she discovers that Nana Lily has not only left her a cottage but also The Broken Hearts Book Club, Lucy is intrigued. Her Nana never have mentioned the club and Lucy can't wait to get started, but walking into her first meeting she is more aware than ever that her past is finally catching up with her.

One way or another, Lucy must finally face the secrets she's kept buried for so long-or spend the rest of her life on the run...



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Title: The Reluctant Fortune-Teller
Author: Keziah Frost
Length: 315 p
Published: March 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is such a feel-good book! Just what I needed.

From the publisher:
Norbert Zelenka has always lived life on the sidelines. It's how at seventy-three years old he finds himself broke and alone except for the company of a Chihuahua. But when Carlotta's Club--three strong-willed seniors with a flair for drama and plenty of time on their hands--decide to make Norbert their latest project, he reluctantly agrees to their scheme. With their help, he establishes himself as the town's fortune-teller, and he soon finds his life changing in unexpected ways. It turns out that years of observing other people's dramas make Norbert an excellent fortune-teller, and people from all walks of life begin seeking out his advice. As Norbert's lonesome world expands with new friendships and a newfound self-confidence, he finally finds himself in a place where he belongs. But disaster looms on the horizon. When a troubled young woman goes missing after a bad reading, Norbert must find a strength beyond the cards to bring her home safely. A heartfelt story of friendship, loneliness and coming-of-age late in life, The Reluctant Fortune-Teller is a feel-good read and a poignant reminder that we're never too old to learn new tricks.




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Title: Rosie Colored Glasses
Author: Brianna Wolfson
Length: 336 p
Published: February 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Oh how I love this book! I was moved to tears a few times. I cheered for Willow. I urged Rex to get it right. I loved Asher's wisdom. But most of all, I love/hated Rosie.

From the publisher:
Willow Thorpe knows friction… The friction between her parents, Rosie and Rex. The friction inside herself as she tries to navigate two worlds since their divorce.

But life has not always been like this.

When Rosie and Rex first met, theirs was an attraction of opposites. Rosie lived life for those heightened moments when love reveals its true secrets. Rex lived life safely, by the rules. Common sense would say theirs was a union not meant to last, but it was genuine love.

Now Willow just wants to be with Rosie, to bask in her mother’s outsize glow and, she thinks, protection. Because Rosie is the only person who can make Willow feel totally alive and completely loved.

But as Willow and Rosie and Rex try harder and harder to stay connected as a family, Rosie’s manic tornado of love continues to sweep up everyone in sight, ultimately to heartbreaking results.





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Title: Say No Moor
Author: Maddy Hunter
Length: 338 p
Published: January 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is the 11th installment of the Passport to Peril series. I love this crazy globe-trotting band of senior citizens--I can't wait for the next adventure! This whole series is a hoot.

From the publisher:
Hoping to reach an expanded clientele of senior travellers, Emily Miceli, travel agency owner and tour escort, offers discounted fares to a handful of bloggers in exchange for highlighting her group’s tour of Cornwall, England. But when the quarrelsome host of their historic inn dies under suspicious circumstances, Emily worries that the bloggers’ coverage of the situation will torpedo her travel agency.

To make matters worse, Emily is roped into running the inn, and not even a team effort from her friends can prevent impending disaster. As one guest goes missing and another turns up dead, Emily discovers that well-kept secrets and family treasure can provide more than enough motive for murder.



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Title: School for Psychics
Author: K.C. Archer
Length: 368 p
Published: April 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a promising series. It's a quick read that kept me wondering what would happen next. Now the dreadful wait until the next book is published. I would say this straddles the line between adult and young adult fiction. And it was more magical-realism than fantasy--magical things happen in a realistic world setting.

From the publisher:
An entrancing new series starring a funny, impulsive, and sometimes self-congratulatory young woman who discovers she has psychic abilities—and then must decide whether she will use her skills for good or…not.

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic.

When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.

In class, Teddy befriends Lucas, a rebel without a cause who can start and manipulate fire; Jillian, a hipster who can mediate communication between animals and humans; and Molly, a hacker who can apprehend the emotional state of another individual. But just as Teddy feels like she’s found where she might belong, strange things begin to happen: break-ins, missing students, and more. It leads Teddy to accept a dangerous mission that will ultimately cause her to question everything—her teachers, her friends, her family, and even herself.



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Title: A Gentleman in Moscow
Author: Amor Towles
Length: 17 hrs and 52 mins / 486 p
Published: September 2016
Book Group: yes
My Rating: DNF

I had to walk away from this one. It bothers me to not finish a book. I just can't do it. Wrong book at the wrong time. I appreciate the writing. I appreciate the characters. But I can't connect to it. I listened for over 6 hours and it was painful to imagine listening to the next 11 hours; I downloaded the ebook from the library and couldn't keep my focus to skim it. The audiobook narrator was wonderful but I wasn't. This doesn't happen to me often. I feel guilty since it's a book group selection. But I shouldn't force myself.









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Title: The Lying Game
Author: Ruth Ware
Length: 370 p
Published: July 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The lying game seems like typical teenage indulgence--thoughtless and slightly cruel amusement where they tell tall and taller tales. This is the story of the players--Isa, the narrator is a new mother who is on maternity leave from her duties as a lawyer; Fatima, a physician and practicing Muslim, whose childhood friends struggle to accept how her faith shapes her life; Thea, who is struggling to find a career and hides evidence of alcoholism and self-harm; and Kate, who can't break away from the ghost of her father, and lives in his old home and art studio. The story unfolds between their past and their present, with their lies and secrets binding them together and tearing them apart. It's just twisty enough!

From the publisher:
On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister...

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).






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Title: The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul (also published as A Cup of Comfort)
Author: Deborah Rodriguez
Length: 317 pages
Published: February 2011
Book Group: yes
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is going to be an interesting book group discussion--the story follows the lives of 5 very different women who find themselves drawn together through the bustling coffee shop. Although it's set in a very unstable Afghanistan, it's a rather light read.

From the publisher:
From the author of the memoir Kabul Beauty School comes a fiction debut as compelling as real life: the story of a remarkable coffee shop in the heart of Afghanistan, and the men and women who meet there — thrown together by circumstance, bonded by secrets, and united in an extraordinary friendship.

After hard luck and some bad choices, Sunny has finally found a place to call home — it just happens to be in the middle of a war zone.
The thirty-eight-year-old American’s pride and joy is the Kabul Coffee House, where she brings hospitality to the expatriates, misfits, missionaries, and mercenaries who stroll through its doors. She’s especially grateful that the busy days allow her to forget Tommy, the love of her life, who left her in pursuit of money and adventure.

Working alongside Sunny is the maternal Halajan, who vividly recalls the days before the Taliban and now must hide a modern romance from her ultratraditional son — who, unbeknownst to her, is facing his own religious doubts. Into the café come Isabel, a British journalist on the trail of a risky story; Jack, who left his family back home in Michigan to earn “danger pay” as a consultant; and Candace, a wealthy and well-connected American whose desire to help threatens to cloud her judgment.

When Yazmina, a young Afghan from a remote village, is kidnapped and left on a city street pregnant and alone, Sunny welcomes her into the café and gives her a home — but Yazmina hides a secret that could put all their lives in jeopardy.
As this group of men and women discover that there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they’ll form an unlikely friendship that will change not only their own lives but the lives of an entire country.


*************************************************
Title: The Cruelest Month
Author: Louise Penny
Length: 13 h 12 m / 372 p
Published: September 2009
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I accidentially read this fifth book before the fourth. It's fantastic! Wow! More!

From the publisher:
Chaos is coming, old son.
With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.





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Title: A Rule Against Murder
Author: Louise Penny
Length: 10 h 59 m / 322 p
Published: January 2009
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I accidentially read books 4 and 5 in the wrong order, but it didn't really matter. I love this series so much! I want to binge read them!

From the publisher:
"What happened here last night isn't allowed," said Madame Dubois.
It was such an extraordinary thing to say it stopped the ravenous Inspector Beauvoir from taking another bite of his roast beef on baguette.
"You have a rule against murder?" he asked.
"I do. When my husband and I bought the Bellechasse we made a pact....Everything that stepped foot on this land would be safe."


It is the height of summer, and Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache are celebrating their wedding anniversary at Manoir Bellechasse, an isolated, luxurious inn not far from the village of Three Pines. But they're not alone. The Finney family—rich, cultured, and respectable—has also arrived for a celebration of their own.

The beautiful Manoir Bellechasse might be surrounded by nature, but there is something unnatural looming. As the heat rises and the humidity closes in, some surprising guests turn up at the family reunion, and a terrible summer storm leaves behind a dead body. It is up to Chief Inspector Gamache to unearth secrets long buried and hatreds hidden behind polite smiles. The chase takes him to Three Pines, into the dark corners of his own life, and finally to a harrowing climax.





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Title: Go Ask Ali: Half-Baked Advice (and Free Lemonade)
Author: Ali Wentworth
Length: 224 p
Published: April 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Ali and I would be great friends. She's witty and wise and a wise-ass!














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Title: Bury Your Dead
Author: Louise Penny
Length: 12 hrs and 43 mins / 371 p
Published: September 2010
Book Group: no
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This series gets better and better!

From the publisher:
It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society - where an obsessive historian's quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?

Although he is supposed to be on leave, Gamache cannot walk away from a crime that threatens to ignite long-smoldering tensions between the English and the French. Meanwhile, he is receiving disquieting letters from the village of Three Pines, where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. "It doesn't make sense," Olivier’s partner writes every day. "He didn't do it, you know." As past and present collide in this astonishing novel, Gamache must relive the terrible event of his own past before he can bury his dead.



I am reminded of my trip to Quebec--all the locations mentioned in the book were part of our tour!



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Title: Rules of Magic
Author: Alice Hoffman
Length: 10 hrs and 58 mins
Published: October 2017
Book Group: yes
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It's not high literature but it captured my fancy. It's the prequel to Practical Magic which I'm going to re-read.

From the publisher:
Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.



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Title: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Length: 11 hrs and 1 min / 327 p
Published: May 2017
Book Group: yes
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's a quirky coming-of-age story, although Eleanor is almost thirty. There will be much to discuss at book group Wednesday. I liked the consistency of the characters' quirks. I didn't like that it seemed to go on a bit.

From the publisher:
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.




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Title: The Poacher's Son
Author: Paul Doiron
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins
Published: May 2010
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The first in this series set in the Maine woods had familiar settings and characters. I liked the Mike Bowditch character, he's a likeable yet flawed rookie Game Warden.

From the publisher:
Set in the wilds of Maine, this is an explosive tale of an estranged son thrust into the hunt for a murderous fugitive---his own father.

Game warden Mike Bowditch returns home one evening to find an alarming voice from the past on his answering machine: his father, Jack, a hard-drinking womanizer who makes his living poaching illegal game. An even more frightening call comes the next morning from the police: They are searching for the man who killed a beloved local cop the night before---and his father is their prime suspect. Jack has escaped from police custody, and only Mike believes that his tormented father might not be guilty.

Now, alienated from the woman he loves, shunned by colleagues who have no sympathy for the suspected cop killer, Mike must come to terms with his haunted past. He knows firsthand Jack's brutality, but is the man capable of murder? Desperate and alone, Mike strikes up an uneasy alliance with a retired warden pilot, and together the two men journey deep into the Maine wilderness in search of a runaway fugitive. There they meet a beautiful woman who claims to be Jack's mistress but who seems to be guarding a more dangerous secret. The only way for Mike to save his father now is to find the real killer---which could mean putting everyone he loves in the line of fire.


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Title: Less
Author: Andrew Sean Greer
Length: 272 p
Published: July 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A lovable loser. I enjoyed this book but didn't love it. I liked that Arthur Less flits from disaster to disaster only slightly oblivious to the disaster of is life. And I thought it was clever that the Less is writing a book about this very story.

From the publisher:
Who says you can't run away from your problems?

You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can't say yes--it would be too awkward--and you can't say no--it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, LESS is, above all, a love story.


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Title: The Little French Bistro
Author: Nina George
Length: 336 p
Published: June 2017
Book Group: yes
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It's a charming coming of second-age story about a woman who rediscovers herself after a suicide attempt (which could be a trigger warning). Set in a gorgeous coastal town in Brittany, France. A quick little delight of a book.

From the publisher:
Marianne is stuck in a loveless, unhappy marriage. After forty-one years, she has reached her limit, and one evening in Paris she decides to take action. Following a dramatic moment on the banks of the Seine, Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the Brittany coast.

There she meets a cast of colorful and unforgettable locals who surprise her with their warm welcome, and the natural ease they all seem to have, taking pleasure in life's small moments. These new friends help Marianne rediscover parts of herself that she had long forgotten, including a special gift for empathy and healing. And when she finds love with a handsome artist, Marianne is forever changed.





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Title: Something in the Water
Author: Catherine Steadman
Length: 352 p
Published: June 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Quite a good psychological thriller! I didn't guess the twist. It was fun to second guess the narrator, Erin. I couldn't decide if I liked her or not. I was grabbed by the opening and couldn't put it down.

From the publisher:
Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water....

Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events....






*************************************************
Title: The Lola Quartet
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Length: 288 p
Published: May 2012
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A quick read. I liked how the quartet members' stories intertwine. And I like the noir vibe that Gavin, who could be considered the main character, alludes to and aspires to. I didn't like that most of the characters are unlikeable, I just couldn't muster up any connections. I liked this book and can't wait to read more from this author. I wish it was a book group selection, there would be a lot to talk about.

From the publisher:
Gavin Sasaki was a promising young journalist in New York City until the day he was fired for plagiarism. The last thing he wants is to sell foreclosed real estate for his sister Eilo's company in their Florida hometown. But he's in no position to refuse her job offer, and there's another reason to go home: Eilo recently met a ten-year-old girl who looks very much like Gavin and has the same last name as Gavin's high school girlfriend, Anna, who left town abruptly after graduation.

Determined to find out if this little girl might be his daughter, Gavin sets off to track down Anna, starting with the three friends they shared back when he was a part of a jazz group called “The Lola Quartet.” As Gavin pieces together their stories, he learns that Anna has been on the run for good reason, and soon his investigation into her sudden disappearance all those years go takes a seriously dangerous turn.



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Title: The Hating Game
Author: Sally Thorne
Length: 387 p
Published: August 2016
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A fun romantic comedy. A perfect fluff of a summer read.

From the publisher:
Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive-aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.




*************************************************
Title: A Trick of the Light
Author: Louise Penny
Length: 11 hrs and 43 mins / 352 p
Published: August 2011
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This series! Gets better and better! This book is about contrasts--light and dark in the literal sense through the details of art. I missed the decadent descriptions of food. They didn't eat enough!

From the publisher:
“Hearts are broken,” Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. “Sweet relationships are dead.”
But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.




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Title: The Hangman
Author: Louise Penny
Length: 87 p
Published: 2010
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A novella that slips nicely into the series.

From the publisher:
On a cold November morning, a jogger runs through the woods in the peaceful Quebec village of Three Pines. On his run, he finds a dead man hanging from a tree.
The dead man was a guest at the local Inn and Spa. He might have been looking for peace and quiet, but something else found him. Something horrible.
Did the man take his own life? Or was he murdered? Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to the crime scene. As Gamache follows the trail of clues, he opens a door into the past. And he learns the true reason why the man came to Three Pines.






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Title: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row
Author: Anthony Ray Hinton with Lara Love Hardin
Length: 280 p
Published: March 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A memoir of hope. This is going to stay with me for a very long time. It's heartbreaking yet uplifting. And it confirms my position on the death penalty--that the government does not have the right to take a life. And I understand that might be an unpopular stance, but it's mine.

From the publisher:
In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free.

But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence—full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon—transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney and bestselling author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015.

With a foreword by Stevenson, The Sun Does Shine is an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Destined to be a classic memoir of wrongful imprisonment and freedom won, Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy.





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Title: Us Against You
Author: Fredrik Backman
Length: 448 p
Published: June 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This sequel picks up where the first book left off. The author weaves the narrative of the original scandal into this novel. There are a few new characters in this story and as before, the characters are rich--no one is all good or all bad. And hockey takes a back seat to small town politics this time.

From the publisher:
After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.





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Title: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
Author: Mario Giordano, John Brownjohn (Translation)
Length: 320 p
Published: August 2016
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a hoot of a summer read. Auntie Poldi is someone I would love to know! The descriptions of Sicily and the environs are lovely.

From the publisher:
Recently widowed Auntie Poldi moves to Sicily in order to drink herself comfortably to death with a sea view. But fate intervenes when she finds the corpse of a young man on the beach, and becomes a potential murder suspect. Poldi falls for the gorgeous Commissario Montana and they soon form an investigative - and romantic - partnership.



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Title: The Miracles of Santo Fico
Author: D.L. Smith
Length: 358 p
Published: January 2004
Book Group: yes
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This was a sweet confection of a novel--lots of small town shenanigans leading to great miracles. I liked that the characters all transform through their love of and concern for the town's aging priest, Father Elio. Tuscany is beautifully described as is this remote, isolated, coastal village. And for a book about miracles, it's not a religous book. It was delightful.




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Title: Still Me
Author: Jojo Moyes
Length: 390 p
Published: January 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is the third in the series--starting with Me Before You and continuing with After You. Louisa is freshly moved to New York and delights in everything about the City That Never Sleeps. I enjoyed this book more than second book. Although there were a couple of predictable parts, I was still cheering for Louisa. I loved how technology was used.

From the publisher:
Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?







*************************************************
Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Length: 394 p
Published: April 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What an epic tale! This was not what I expected. I loved that the author wove mythology's greatest hits into this tale of a lesser-known goddess.

From the publisher:
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.