2019 Reading



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Title: Stowed Away
Author: Barbara Ross
Length: 280 p
Published: December 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The 6th installment of the Maine Clambake series--actually one of the better ones! I love the quirky characters.

From the publisher:
It’s June in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and Julia Snowden and her family are working hard to get their authentic Maine clambake business ready for summer. Preparations must be put on hold, however, when a mysterious yacht drops anchor in the harbor—and delivers an unexpected dose of murder . . .

When Julia’s old prep school rival Wyatt Jayne invites her to dinner on board her billionaire fiancĂ©’s decked-out yacht, Julia arrives to find a sumptuous table set for two—and the yachtsman dead in his chair. Suspicion quickly falls on Wyatt, and Julia’s quest to dredge up the truth leads her into the murky private world of a mega-rich recluse who may not have been all that he seemed . . .




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Title: Becoming
Author: Michelle Obama
Length: 19 hrs and 3 mins / 480 p
Published: November 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the most inspiring and surprising people I've ever read about. I alternated reading with listening and preferred listening, her narration is fantastic.

From the publisher:
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.


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Title: Puddin'
Author: Julie Murphy
Length: 11 hrs and 9 mins / 448 p
Published: May 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The sequel to Dumplin' captures teen voices and attitudes. It features Willowdean's friend Millie and another pageant contestent, Callie.

From the publisher:
Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

Favorite quotes:

“My magic truth-the thing that has changed everything for me-is this: the body I have shouldn't change how deserving I am of my dreams. I stopped obsessing over my body being too round or too wise or too lumpy. Because I'm not too much of anything. I am just enough. Even when I don't feel like I am.”
― Julie Murphy, Puddin'

“For the longest time, I thought the power of positive thinking would get me by. And it helps, that’s for dang sure. But it takes more than thinking and hoping and wishing and praying. You need a whole lot of doing.”
― Julie Murphy, Puddin'

“I kind of wonder what it feels like to love something so much that you’re even happy to fail at it.”
― Julie Murphy, Puddin'


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Title: The Great Alone
Author: Kristin Hannah
Length: 15h 2m / 440 p
Published: February 2018
Book Group: School
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I'm going to be unpopular for this--but I didn't like this book. Too many stereotypical situations and characters. It dragged and dragged. And the ending? Too tidy. Nope. Not for me.

From the publisher:
Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.








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Title: Before We Were Yours
Author: Lisa Wingate
Length: 14 hrs and 29 mins / 342 p
Published: June 2017
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 star

Historical novel telling the ugly tale of notorious Georgia Tann's Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage. Dual narratives tell the unfolding and sad tale of children caught up in "the system" and the modern repercussions of secrets and lies. It is an atmospheric and well-researched novel. The present-day thread of the story was predictable.

From the publisher:
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancĂ©, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.





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Title: Catch Me If Yukon
Author: Maddy Hunter
Length: 314 p
Published: December 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This 12th installment of kooky senior citizens traveling the Yukon is so funny. I didn't figure it out.

From the publisher:
As tour escort Emily Miceli leads her globetrotting band of Iowa seniors into the wilds of Alaska, she discovers that, in the land of the midnight sun, whales aren't the only killers on the prowl. When a tour member turns up dead on a mountainous hiking trail, Emily blames herself for the mishap--until she learns that something far hairier might be to blame. One of the seniors snaps a photo of what looks to be Bigfoot, raising many questions about what happened to the victim. But the illusive sasquatch is just a legend, isn't it? Between whale-watching in the glacial waters near Seward and ziplining in the primal forests of Denali, Emily finds herself locked in a game of cat and mouse with a killer who's too clever to be mere myth.





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Title: Washington Black
Author: Esi Edugyan
Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins / 339 p
Published: September 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wow. I wish a book group of mine was reading this to talk about it. I have questions! I have half-formed thoughts that need to be explored. What was that ending?

From the publisher:
Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born.

When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or "Titch," is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.

He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Titch abandons everything to save him.

What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.

From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again--and asks the question, what is true freedom?







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Title: Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City #1)
Author: Penny Reid
Length: 14 hrs and 19 mins / 316 p
Published: June 2013
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I've read some heavy books lately and needed a rom-com. This was a fun, light-hearted book. I do wish there had been more knitting.

From the publisher:
There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris: 1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved, 2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and 3) She doesn't know how to knit.

After losing her boyfriend, apartment, and job in the same day, Janie Morris can't help wondering what new torment fate has in store. To her utter mortification, Quinn Sullivan- aka Sir McHotpants- witnesses it all then keeps turning up like a pair of shoes you lust after but can't afford. The last thing she expects is for Quinn- the focus of her slightly, albeit harmless, stalkerish tendencies- to make her an offer she can't refuse.





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Title: A Place for Us
Author: Fatima Farheen Mirza
Length: 16 hrs and 38 mins / 385 p
Published: June 2018
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This book is going to make a perfect book group discussion book. It's a contemporary study of family relationships--between siblings, parents and children, husbands and wives. The narrative jumps around--spanning decades, but it was quite easy to follow. The Romeo and Juliet storyline is enjoyable.

From the publisher:
A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia's, wedding - a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son's estrangement - the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.

In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family's past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent's faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals.





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Title: True Places
Author: Sonja Yoerg
Length: 12 hrs and 15 mins / 364 p
Published: January 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Kind of a far-fetched plot. Some cliche characters. But an interesting study of modern family. Told from shifting narrators, I think every character has their say.

From the publisher:
A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone…and collapses.

Suzanne Blakemore hurtles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, away from her overscheduled and completely normal life, and encounters the girl. As Suzanne rushes her to the hospital, she never imagines how the encounter will change her—a change she both fears and desperately needs.

Suzanne has the perfect house, a successful husband, and a thriving family. But beneath the veneer of an ideal life, her daughter is rebelling, her son is withdrawing, her husband is oblivious to it all, and Suzanne is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. After her discovery of the ethereal sixteen-year-old who has never experienced civilization, Suzanne is compelled to invite Iris into her family’s life and all its apparent privileges.

But Iris has an independence, a love of solitude, and a discomfort with materialism that contrasts with everything the Blakemores stand for—qualities that awaken in Suzanne first a fascination, then a longing. Now Suzanne can’t help but wonder: Is she destined to save Iris, or is Iris the one who will save her?