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 fiancé’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 fiancé, 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?



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Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins / 324 p
Published: August 2014
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Originally posted 5/9/2013


From the publisher:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

I wasn't really sure what to think of this book based on the overview from the publisher. But what a treat! This book is laugh out loud funny in several places. Even though you have to suspend belief, it's worth it to follow the improbable tale of Bee piecing together what happened to her mother, Bernadette. It's an epistolary-style book but it incorporates all types of messages: letters, texts, journals, billboards, emails, and other sources. The secondary characters start out as stereotypes but the arc of the story is surprising.

I really loved this book. I wanted to start reading it again just as I finished it.


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Title: Humans of New York
Author: Brandon Stanton
Length: 304 p
Published: October 2013
Book Group: School
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating book group selection--we each responded to individual images, it was fun to share.

From the publisher:
A beautiful, heartfelt, funny and inspiring collection of photographs capturing the spirit of a city

In the summer of 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton set out on an ambitious project: to single-handedly create a photographic census of New York City. Armed with his camera, he began crisscrossing the city, covering thousands of miles on foot, all in an attempt to capture New Yorkers and their stories. The result of these efforts was a vibrant blog he called "Humans of New York," in which his photos were featured alongside quotes and anecdotes.

Humans of New York is the book inspired by the Internet sensation. With four hundred color photos, including exclusive portraits and all-new stories, Humans of New York is a stunning collection of images that showcases the outsized personalities of New York.

Surprising and moving, Humans of New York is a celebration of individuality and a tribute to the spirit of the city.



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Title: The Midnight Dog of the Repo Man
Author: W. Bruce Cameron
Length: 1 hr and 4 mins / 49 p
Published: September 2014
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Had to read this novella--it's seriously got me hooked!














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Title: The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man
Author: W. Bruce Cameron
Length: 11 hrs and 15 mins / 336 p
Published: October 2014
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This series is going to be a hoot! I can't wait to see what happens next.

From the publisher:
Ruddy McCann, former college football star, has experienced a seismic drop in popularity; he is now Kalkaska, Michigan’s full-time repo man and part-time bar bouncer. His best friend is his low-energy Basset hound Jake, with whom he shares a simple life of stealing cars.

Simple, that is, until Ruddy starts hearing a voice in his head.

The voice introduces himself as Alan Lottner, a dead realtor. Ruddy isn’t sure if Alan is real, or if he’s losing his mind. To complicate matters, it turns out Katie, the girl he’s fallen for, is Alan’s daughter.

When Alan demands Ruddy find his murderers, Ruddy decides a voice in your head seeking vengeance is best ignored. When Alan also demands he clean up his act, and apartment, Ruddy tells him to back off, but where can a voice in your head go?

With a sweet romance, a murder mystery, a lazy but loyal dog and a town full of cabin-fevered characters you can’t help but love, New York Times bestselling novelist W. Bruce Cameron’s The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man is yet another laugh-out-loud, keep-you-up-late, irresistible read.




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Title: A Lite Too Bright
Author: Samuel Miller
Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins / 480 p
Published: May 2018
Book Group: School
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is quite a ride. It's a quest for clarity, forgiveness, and ultimately answers.

From the publisher:
Arthur Louis Pullman the Third is on the verge of a breakdown. He’s been stripped of his college scholarship, is losing his grip on reality, and has been sent away to live with his aunt and uncle.

It’s there that Arthur discovers a journal written by his grandfather, the first Arthur Louis Pullman, an iconic Salinger-esque author who went missing the last week of his life and died hundreds of miles away from their family home. What happened in that week—and how much his actions were influenced by his Alzheimer’s—remains a mystery.

But now Arthur has his grandfather’s journal—and a final sentence containing a train route and a destination.

So Arthur embarks on a cross-country train ride to relive his grandfather’s last week, guided only by the clues left behind in the dementia-fueled journal. As Arthur gets closer to uncovering a sad and terrible truth, his journey is complicated by a shaky alliance with a girl who has secrets of her own and by escalating run-ins with a dangerous Pullman fan base.

Arthur’s not the only one chasing a legacy—and some feel there is no cost too high for the truth.



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Title: When We Meet Again
Author: Kristin Harmel
Length: 10 hrs and 20 mins / 384 p
Published: June 2016
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 star

Historical fiction exploring the themes of betrayal, forgiveness, and enduring love. This is the story of a German POW in America, there were many at the local air base so I grew up knowing about them, and the story of his love and loss. Alternating narratives from the past to the present day search for answers, it's a tidy story. I think my book group will enjoy it.

From the publisher:
Emily Emerson is used to being alone; her dad ran out on the family when she was a just a kid, her mom died when she was seventeen, and her beloved grandmother has just passed away as well. But when she’s laid off from her reporting job, she finds herself completely at sea…until the day she receives a beautiful, haunting painting of a young woman standing at the edge of a sugarcane field under a violet sky. That woman is recognizable as her grandmother—and the painting arrived with no identification other than a handwritten note saying, “He always loved her.”

Emily is hungry for roots and family, so she begins to dig. And as she does, she uncovers a fascinating era in American history. Her trail leads her to the POW internment camps of Florida, where German prisoners worked for American farmers...and sometimes fell in love with American women. But how does this all connect to the painting? The answer to that question will take Emily on a road that leads from the sweltering Everglades to Munich, Germany and back to the Atlanta art scene before she’s done.

Along the way, she finds herself tempted to tear down her carefully tended walls at last; she’s seeing another side of her father, and a new angle on her painful family history. But she still has secrets, ones she’s been keeping locked inside for years. Will this journey bring her the strength to confront them at last?


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Title: Kiss Me Quick
Author: Julie Highmore
Length: 300 p
Published: December 2006
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A confection of a book!

From the publisher:
Tim Downer's own life is in chaos, but he's paid for his qualification as a life coach, and he's going to use it. When his new, and only, client tells him she's had a huge windfall, he believes he really could turn his and, of course, her life around. He doesn't suspect that there's more to Debbie than the scruffy, overweight drudge she appears to be. But his ex-wife Erica and daughter Alice instantly spot her dodgy wig and strange accent. Deborah is actually in Shelcombe to investigate life coaching rather than benefit from it, but she quickly finds herself fascinated by the eccentric inhabitants of the little seaside town. Which is just as well, since when the magazine she works for collapses, she's stuck there. And once she meets Tim without her disguise, he gets a few surprising life lessons.



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Title: The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives
Author: Dashka Slater
Length: 5 hrs and 44 mins / 320 p
Published: October 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A riveting true story of the nuances of what seems to be an easy, right and wrong case. What keeps this from being dry is the way the author examines the main and secondary people--from piecing together interviews, reports, and footage.

From the publisher:
One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren't for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.




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Title: Run Away
Author: Harlan Coben
Length: 10 hrs and 20 mins / 385 p
Published: March 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This might be my first read of this author, although browsing through my GoodReads TBR, he's all over it. I will definitely check out more of his books. And I didn't know the genre of Domestic Suspense, either, but it is defined as a thriller with no police, detectives, or serial killers as primary characters. This story drew me in and I couldn't put it down. Suspend belief and enjoy the ride.

From the publisher:
You've lost your daughter.

She's addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she's made it clear that she doesn't want to be found.

Then, by chance, you see her playing guitar in Central Park. But she's not the girl you remember. This woman is living on the edge, frightened, and clearly in trouble.

You don't stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home.

She runs.

And you do the only thing a parent can do: you follow her into a dark and dangerous world you never knew existed. Before you know it, both your family and your life are on the line. And in order to protect your daughter from the evils of that world, you must face them head on.





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Title: Repo Madness
Author: W. Bruce Cameron
Length: 9 hrs and 58 mins / 384 p
Published: August 2016
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This second installment was as much fun as the first of the series. I can't wait to read more.

From the publisher:
Ruddy McCann, former college football star, now Kalkaska, Michigan repo man, is finally getting his life back on track. He has a beautiful fiancé, Katie Lottner, a somewhat stable job stealing cars, and a lazy, lovable basset hound.

With his job suddenly in jeopardy, his fiancé wanting a break, and a new court-ordered psychiatrist insisting he take his medication or violate the terms of his probation, Ruddy finds himself missing the one thing he thought he would be happy to be rid of--the voice of Alan Lottner, dead realtor and Ruddy's future father-in-law.

When a woman tells Ruddy that the tragedy that defines his life may, in fact, be a lie, Ruddy starts to investigate the disappearances of women in the area and soon discovers that his own redemption may be within reach. Alan's voice returns, and Ruddy and Alan work together to bring down a corrupt banker, win back Katie's love, and stop a serial killer before he can strike again.



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Title: Sadie
Author: Courtney Summers
Length: 7 hrs and 57 mins / 308 p
Published: September 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a gripping, difficult, disturbing, compelling read. Categorized as contemporary YA, don't let the label turn you away. It's twin narratives go between the titular Sadie and West McCray who is creating a podcast piecing together Sadie's story. I liked the format--the chapters alternated from Sadie's account of the action to podcast accounting of events. It's going to stay with me for a long time.

From the publisher:
A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she's left behind. And an ending you won't be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Trigger warnings: pedophilia, child abuse, sexual assault, violence, potential eating disorder, descriptions of blood, mentions of substance abuse



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Title: The Immortalists
Author: Chloe Benjamin
Length: 11 hrs and 30 mins / 346 p
Published: January 2018
Book Group: School
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The tagline of this book really captured my fancy: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? But the execution of this story left me flat. I didn't connect with the characters, they were whiny and entitled. I wanted to smack them and tell them to get over themselves.

From the publisher:
It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.





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Title: The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides
Length: 8 hrs and 43 mins / 323 p
Published: February 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

No spoilers here. It's being called a psychological thriller but I think it's more of a character study or a whodunit. Listening to the narrators of the audio version, the voice of Theo is superbly cast. Most of the story unfolds from Theo's point of view, but there are moments of Alicia's perspective too. The end took me by surprise. I didn't see it coming. This is one heck of a debut novel.

From the publisher:
ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

Alicia's refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations--a search for the truth that threatens to consume him...

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?


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Title: Not That I Could Tell
Author: Jessica Strawser
Length: 11 hrs and 44 mins / 320 p
Published: March 2018
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It was good but not great. Kristin's disappearance is a catalyst for the action but the interesting dynamics among the women and how their lives are changed by Kristin's actions are what the story is about. I'm hoping there is a good discussion for my book group!


From the publisher:
When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.


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Title: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell
Author: Robert Dugoni
Length: 11 hrs and 41 mins / 448 p
Published: April 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It's a character driven novel, not a plot-driven one. Because it's character-driven I didn't love it. It's a coming of age story with themes of family, misfits, Catholic guilt, and an exploration of God's will.

From the publisher:
Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” or Sam “Hell” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.

Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.

Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design—especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open—bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters.




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Title: The Peacock Emporium
Author: Jojo Moyes
Length: 14 hrs and 47 mins / 400 p
Published: April 2019 (originally February 2005)
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Well-written and a quick read, but not one that will stick with me as other novels by Jojo Moyes have. I didn't like the main character. I did like the dual narrative timelines.

From the publisher:
In the sixties, Athene Forster was the most glamorous girl of her generation. Nicknamed the Last Deb, she was also beautiful, spoiled, and out of control. When she agreed to marry the gorgeous young heir Douglas Fairley-Hulme, her parents breathed a sigh of relief. But within two years, rumors had begun to circulate about Athene's affair with a young salesman.

Thirty-five years later, Suzanna Peacock is struggling with her notorious mother's legacy. The only place Suzanna finds comfort is in The Peacock Emporium, the beautiful coffee bar and shop she opens that soon enchants her little town. There she makes perhaps the first real friends of her life, including Alejandro, a male midwife, escaping his own ghosts in Argentina.

The specter of her mother still haunts Suzanna. But only by confronting both her family and her innermost self will she finally reckon with the past--and discover that the key to her history, and her happiness, may have been in front of her all along.






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Title: Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Length: 7 hrs and 34 mins / 273 p
Published: April 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is a much-lauded, award-listed book. And I give it a "meh." There's a lot of lovely passages--I didn't connect with the characters.

From the publisher:
At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.



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Title: The Reason You're Alive
Author: Matthew Quick
Length: 5 hrs and 38 mins / 227 p
Published: July 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I almost didn't finish this book because the curmudgeonly character of David Granger is so awful. He is foul-mouthed but beyond that presents as a racist, Vietnam veteran, homophobic, xenophobic, gun hoarding, ultra-right wing, conspiracy theorist, conservative--kind of like an Archie Bunker on steroids. But then the secondary characters made their appearances in the story and they stretch David's horizons and we ultimately find out he's a proponant of unity and harmony.

This book challenged me. And I was up for the challenge. I'm still thinking about it. I liked it.

From the publisher:
After sixty-eight-year-old David Granger crashes his BMW, medical tests reveal a brain tumor that he readily attributes to his wartime Agent Orange exposure. He wakes up from surgery repeating a name no one in his civilian life has ever heard—that of a Native American soldier whom he was once ordered to discipline. David decides to return something precious he long ago stole from the man he now calls Clayton Fire Bear. It might be the only way to find closure in a world increasingly at odds with the one he served to protect. It might also help him finally recover from his wife’s untimely demise.

As David confronts his past to salvage his present, a poignant portrait emerges: that of an opinionated and goodhearted American patriot fighting like hell to stay true to his red, white, and blue heart, even as the country he loves rapidly changes in ways he doesn’t always like or understand. Hanging in the balance are Granger’s distant art-dealing son, Hank; his adoring seven-year-old granddaughter, Ella; and his best friend, Sue, a Vietnamese-American who respects David’s fearless sincerity.

Through the controversial, wrenching, and wildly honest David Granger, Matthew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful view of America’s polarized psyche. By turns irascible and hilarious, insightful and inconvenient, David is a complex, wounded, honorable, and loving man.



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Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Length: 9 hrs and 34 mins / 293 p
Published: May 2007
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A re-read for my book group. This time I listened to it and it was a whole different experience. I picked up so many nuances that I didn't on my first read; of course I know so much more about all the characters and secondary characters now that comparing how I picture them with their introductory descriptions was fun. The language is rich and the descriptions of food are amazing!

I love re-reading my original book review.










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Title: Verity
Author: Colleen Hoover
Length: 8 hrs and 10 mins / 333 p
Published: December 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is categorized as a thriller and a romantic suspense book. There were some twisty parts that I suspected but didn't fully guess. It was a good summer read--quick, with an ending that has me wondering what the truth was. Dark and disturbing and creepy, and cliched and campy.

From the publisher:
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.



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Title: The Cactus
Author: Sarah Haywood
Length: 10 hrs and 30 mins / 384 p
Published: May 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's a character-driven story about Susan and the themes range from sibling rivalry, alcoholism, dementia, grief, lost love, inheritance disputes, single parenthood, adoption, and mature age pregnancy. Although Susan's idiosyncratic world is black and white, it turns out that no one is all good or all bad. The secondary characters are well done--the estranged brother, the flustered single-mom neighbor, the former roommate, the aunt and cousins, and the unlikely romantic interests.

From the publisher:
For Susan Green, messy emotions don’t fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She has a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic, and an “interpersonal arrangement” that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is realized. She is losing control.

Enter Rob, the dubious but well-meaning friend of her indolent brother. As Susan’s due date draws near and her dismantled world falls further into a tailspin, Susan finds an unlikely ally in Rob. She might have a chance at finding real love and learning to love herself, if only she can figure out how to let go.




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Title: Waiting for Tom Hanks
Author: Kerry Winfrey
Length: 8 hrs and 33 mins / 320 p
Published: June 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is the book for 90s rom-com fans. Of which I am. It celebrates the meet-cute. It celebrates Nora Ephron's writings and spirit. It celebrates Tom Hanks' characters in romantic comedies, not necessarily Tom Hanks the person--although he is worth celebrating. I maay have liked the secondary characters more than I liked the main character, Annie. It's a charming, delightful, summer read. Now, excuse me while I binge watch my favorite rom-coms.

From the publisher:
Annie Cassidy dreams of being the next Nora Ephron. She spends her days writing screenplays, rewatching Sleepless in Seattle, and waiting for her movie-perfect meet-cute. If she could just find her own Tom Hanks—a man who’s sweet, sensitive, and possibly owns a houseboat—her problems would disappear and her life would be perfect. But Tom Hanks is nowhere in sight.

When a movie starts filming in her neighborhood and Annie gets a job on set, it seems like a sign. Then Annie meets the lead actor, Drew Danforth, a cocky prankster who couldn’t be less like Tom Hanks if he tried. Their meet-cute is more of a meet-fail, but soon Annie finds herself sharing some classic rom-com moments with Drew. Her Tom Hanks can’t be an actor who’s leaving town in a matter of days . . . can he?





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Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Length: 12 hrs and 12 mins / 370 p
Published: August 2018
Book Group: Library & School
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 star

This coming of age story focuses on the Marsh Girl, Kya, and her story from abandonment to adulthood. It’s part romance, mystery, courtroom drama, and homage to nature, and the narrative shifts from Kya's story to the investigation into the death of Chase Andrews. I think my book group will have a LOT to talk about. It's a much-buzzed-about book and although I was engaged in the story, there were several times I wish I was reading it so I could skim (I even sped up the audiobook narration). Some of the characters and situations were cliches. I wanted to LOVE it--I did like it.

From the publisher:
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.






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Title: The Current
Author: Tim Johnston
Length: 14 hrs and 27 mins / 409 p
Published: January 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a genre defying book: not quite a thriller and not exactly a mystery. It's quite literary and there are some gorgeous passages. The characters are flawed but real and not cliches.

From the publisher:
When two young women leave their college campus in the dead of winter for a 700-mile drive north to Minnesota, they suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives in the icy waters of the Black Root River, just miles from home. One girl’s survival, and the other’s death—murder, actually—stun the citizens of a small Minnesota town, thawing memories of another young woman who lost her life in the same river ten years earlier, and whose killer may yet live among them. One father is forced to relive his agony while another’s greatest desire—to bring a killer to justice—is revitalized . . . and the girl who survived the icy plunge cannot escape the sense that she is connected to that earlier unsolved case by more than a river. Soon enough she’s caught up in an investigation of her own that will unearth long-hidden secrets, and stoke the violence that has long simmered just below the surface of the town. Souls frozen in time, ghosts and demons, the accused and the guilty, all stir to life in this cold northern place where memories, like treachery, run just beneath the ice, and where a young woman can come home but still not be safe.

Here's a quote that resonated:
The first time it snowed it made you happy, it made you think of being a kid and sledding and making snowmen, and Christmas and sometimes after that the snow would turn everything white and pretty again, but now the snow was just snow and the winter went on and the spring would never come.




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Title: Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice
Author: Nathan Maynard, Brad Weinstein
Length: 202 p
Published: March 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic professional development! Reading about the restorative justice philosophy fit so well with my approach to teaching. Relationships established early on prevent the majority of behavior problems in classes. I spend a lot of time and effort at the beginning of the year to build trust and establish expectations with my students--this book reinforced that.










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Title: Ayesha at Last
Author: Uzma Jalaluddin
Length: 11 hrs and 10 mins / 368 p
Published: June 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

What a delightful Pride & Prejudice set in modern-day Muslim community in Toronto, Canada. I loved how the characters were multi-dimensional. I loved the plotline of discrimination in the workplace. I loved the intricacies of family dynamics. I loved the poetry. My big complaint is that Ayesha's reflections on being a substitute teacher are insulting to good teachers. The audio is fantastic!

From the publisher:
Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn't want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.





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Title: Sunburn
Author: Laura Lippman
Length: 9 hrs and 8 mins / 352 p
Published: February 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is the perfect summer noir--there are some funny parts, some intense parts, some mysterious parts--and it's ambiguous who's good and who's not so good. It drew me in and I wanted to finish in one sitting. The ending was kind of disappointing but didn't ruin the story, it just seemed a bit anti-climactic.

From the publisher:
They meet by chance in a local bar in a small town in Delaware. Polly is heading west. Adam says he's also passing through. Yet she stays and so does he--drawn to this mysterious redhead who unnerves and excites him. Over the course of one hot summer, they abandon themselves to a steamy affair. But each holds back something from the other--dangerous, even lethal, secrets.




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Title: The Big Kahuna (Fox and O'Hare #6)
Author: Janet Evanovich and Peter Evanovich
Length: 7 hrs and 8 mins / 320 p
Published: March 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Change of writing partners in this 6th installment of the Fox & O'Hare series--I noticed a difference. The snap of the dialogue and the crazy secondary characters was there but the fast-paced plot was not. It was enjoyable, light summer fare but I didn't love it as part of the series.

From the publisher:
A stoner, an Instagram model, a Czech oligarch, and a missing unicorn. Nick Fox and Kate O'Hare have their work cut out for them in their weirdest, wildest adventure yet in this latest entry in the New York Times bestselling series by Janet and Peter Evanovich.

Straight arrow FBI Agent Kate O'Hare always plays by the rules. Charming Con Man Nicholas Fox makes them up as he goes along. She thinks he's nothing but a scoundrel. He thinks she just needs to lighten up. They're working together to tackle the out-of-bounds cases ordinary FBI agents can't touch. And, their relationship? Well, there hasn't been so much explosive chemistry since Nitro was introduced to Glycerin.
Next on the docket: The mysterious disappearance of the Silicon Valley billionaire, known as the Big Kahuna. Kate's been assigned to find him but no one seems particularly keen on helping. His twenty-six year old adult actress wife-turned Instagram model wife and his shady Czech business partner are more interested in gaining control of his company. For that they need a dead body not a living Kahuna.

The only lead they have is the Kahuna's drop-out son, who's living the dream in Hawaii - if your dream is starting your day with the perfect wave and ending it with a big bowl of weed. To get close to the Kahuna's son, Kate and Nick go undercover as a married couple in the big wave, bohemian, surfer community of Paia, Maui. Living a laid back, hippy-dippy lifestyle isn't exactly in Kate's wheelhouse, but the only thing more horrifying is setting up house with Nick Fox, even if he does look pretty gnarly on a longboard. If they don't catch a break soon, waves aren't the only thing she's going to be shredding (or bedding).


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Title: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Length: 10 hrs and 47 mins / 513 p
Published: June 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I highly enjoyed this romp of an adventure tale. It's a coming of age, in the 18th Century, when social norms were quite different for those born of the upper classes than those of us regular folks and there was a tremendous amount of sexual leeway and privilege to sleep with whom they wanted. Monty's love for Percy is almost a character too. I loved all of the secondary characters--they were fully fleshed out. The audio version is fantastic!

Memorable lines:
“God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.”

“What’s the use of temptations if we don’t yield to them?”

“And then Jesus says, 'Well, watch this' - "
"Really? Well, watch this?"
"That's biblical language."
"If your Bible is written by Henry Montague.”

From the publisher:
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.





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Title: Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Length: 9 hrs and 3 mins / 368 p
Published: March 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I wasn't really sure I would like this much-hyped book. I really loved it. Maybe it's because of the full-cast recording--it was so much fun! It's like a Behind the Music format and I loved it.

From the publisher:
Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

Cast List: Daisy Jones, read by Jennifer Beals; Billy Dunne, read by Pablo Schreiber; Graham Dunne, read by Benjamin Bratt; Eddie Loving, read by Fred Berman; Warren Rhodes, read by Ari Fliakos; Karen Karen, read by Judy Greer; Camila Dunne, read by January LaVoy; Simone Jackson, read by Robinne Lee; Narrator/Author, read by Julia Whelan; Jim Blades, read by Jonathan Davis; Rod Reyes, read by Henry Leyva; Artie Snyder, read by Oliver Wyman; Elaine Chang, read by Nancy Wu; Freddie Mendoza, read by P.J. Ochlan; Nick Harris, read by Arthur Bishop; Jonah Berg, read by Holter Graham; Greg McGuinness, read by Brendan Wayne; Pete Loving, read by Pete Larkin; Wyatt Stone, read by Alex Jenkins Reid; Hank Allen, read by Robert Petkoff; Opal Cunningham, read by Sara Arrington






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Title: Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna
Author: Mario Giordano
Length: 9 hrs and 38 mins / 361 p
Published: March 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This second installment of the series is as clever and fun as the first.

From the publisher:
When Prosecco‑loving Auntie Poldi retired to Sicily from Germany, she never dreamed her tranquil days would be interrupted by murder. But Sicily had other plans, and Poldi found herself honor‑bound to solve the disappearance of her beloved (and cute) handyman.

Now she’s finally ready for some peace and quiet—interrupted by romantic encounters with handsome Chief Inspector Montana, of course—when the water supply to her neighborhood is cut off and a dear friend’s dog is poisoned, telltale signs that a certain familial organization is flexing its muscles. Poldi knows there will be no resolution without her help. She soon finds a body in a vineyard, tangles with the Mafia, and yet again makes herself unpopular in the pursuit of justice. But once wine and murder mix, how could she possibly stay away?



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Title: The River
Author: Peter Heller
Length: 7 hrs and 18 mins / 272 p
Published: March 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Based on the premise--two college friends on a river trip, I didn't have high hopes for this book. I am glad I was wrong--it's a lyrical, literary suspense trip. I felt as though I was on the trip with them, it was compelling and I read it in one sitting!

From the publisher:
Wynn and Jack have been best friends since freshman orientation, bonded by their shared love of mountains, books, and fishing. Wynn is a gentle giant, a Vermont kid never happier than when his feet are in the water. Jack is smaller, more rugged, raised on a ranch in Colorado where sleeping under the stars and cooking on a fire came as naturally to him as breathing. When they decide to canoe the Maskwa River in Northern Canada, they anticipate long days of leisurely paddles and picking blueberries, and nights of stargazing and paperback western novels. But a wildfire making its way across the forest adds unexpected urgency to the journey. When they hear a man and woman arguing on the fog-shrouded riverbank and decide to warn them about the fire, their search for the pair turns up nothing and no one. But: the next day a man appears on the river, paddling alone. Is this the man they heard? And if he is, where is the woman?






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Title: The Mother-in-Law
Author: Sally Hepworth
Length: 9 hrs and 12 mins / 352 p
Published: April 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

At first, I wasn't sure I would like this book but it's one of my favorites of this year. There's depth and dynamic. It's a compelling family drama as well as a mystery. I wish there had been more about the police interviews, but that would have made the book longer and probably wouldn't have been necessary. The narrative passes from different characters and times but it was easy to keep the timeline in order. And the distinction of the narrators' voices was very clear.

From the publisher:
From the moment Lucy met her husband's mother, Diana, she was kept at arm's length. Diana was exquisitely polite, and properly friendly, but Lucy knew that she was not what Diana envisioned. But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice who helped female refugees assimilate to their new country. Diana was happily married to Tom, and lived in wedded bliss for decades. Lucy wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana has been found dead, a suicide note near her body. Diana claims that she no longer wanted to live because of a battle with cancer.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.
The autopsy does find traces of poison and suffocation.
Who could possibly want Diana dead?
Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her adult children and their spouses?





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Title: How to Find Love in a Bookshop
Author: Veronica Henry
Length: 9 hrs and 48 mins / 336 p
Published: August 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A book about love and books!

From the publisher:
Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers—a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father’s death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.

There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there’s a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage—she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.

Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future—and not just within the pages on the shelves. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish.



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Title: Open and Shut (Andy Carpenter #1)
Author: David Rosenfelt
Length: 6 hrs and 50 mins / 292 p
Published: May 2003
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is the first book in the series. Why did it take me so long to jump in? A very enjoyable cast of characters, including Tara the golden retriever! The audio version is deftly performed by Grover Gardner and has the inflection that is perfect for the tone of the book.

From the publisher:
"There is nothing like a golden retriever. I know, I know, it's a big planet with a lot of wonderful things, but golden retrievers are the absolute best. Mine is named Tara . . . The only problem she has ever caused is that I spend so much time with her in the mornings that I am almost invariably late for work."

Whether dueling with new forensics or the local old boys' network, irreverent defense attorney Andy Carpenter always leaves them awed with his biting wit and winning fourth-quarter game plan. But Andy prefers the company of his best friend, Tara, to the people he encounters in the courtroom. Tara, a golden retriever, is clearly smarter than half the lawyers who clog the courts of Passaic County. However, just as it seems Andy has everything figured out, his dad, New Jersey's legendary ex-D.A., drops dead in front of him at a game in Yankee Stadium. The shocks pile on as he discovers his dad left him with two unexpected legacies: a fortune of $22 million that Andy never knew existed . . . and a murder case with enough racial tinder to burn down City Hall. Struggling to serve justice and bring honor to his father, Andy must dig up some explosive political skeletons-and an astonishing family secret that can close his case (and his mouth) for good.





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Title: Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions
Author: Dan Rothstein, Luz Santana
Length: 192 p
Published: September 2011
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Strategies I'll be using in my classroom, for sure.

From the publisher:
The authors of Make Just One Change argue that formulating one’s own questions is “the single most essential skill for learning”—and one that should be taught to all students.

They also argue that it should be taught in the simplest way possible. Drawing on twenty years of experience, the authors present the Question Formulation Technique, a concise and powerful protocol that enables learners to produce their own questions, improve their questions, and strategize how to use them.

Make Just One Change features the voices and experiences of teachers in classrooms across the country to illustrate the use of the Question Formulation Technique across grade levels and subject areas and with different kinds of learners.



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Title: Waisted
Author: Randy Susan Meyers
Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins / 288 p
Published: May 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I loved the premise. The narrators did a good job. But I didn't like this book--kept listening because I was waiting for it to get good.

From the publisher:
Daphne, the plump one in a family of model-thin women, learned early on that slimness earns admiration. Alice, skinny when she met her husband, now risks losing her marriage if she gains any more weight. Though both are successful working mothers, they harbor a secret: an obsession with their weight that overshadows concerns about their children, husbands, work—and everything else of importance in their lives.

That’s where Privation comes in. Located in a remote Vermont mansion, the program promises fast, dramatic weight loss and Alice, Daphne, and five other women, are desperate enough to try it. They’ve left behind their families for this once in a lifetime opportunity. The catch? They must agree to being filmed; afterwards, the world will see Waisted: The Documentary.

Alice and Daphne soon discover, however, that the filmmakers have trapped them in a cruel experiment to test how far they will go to drop weight. With each pound lost, they edge deeper into obsession and instability…until they decide to take matters into their own hands.


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Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Length: 11 hrs and 21 mins / 334 p
Published: January 1813
Book Group: library
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A re-read. I love this story so much! This is my first audio version of it and the narrator did a fantastic job.

Pride and Prejudice, a romantic novel by Jane Austen, published anonymously in three volumes in 1813. A classic of English literature, written with incisive wit and superb character delineation, it centers on the turbulent relationship between Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of a country gentleman, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a rich aristocratic landowner.

Summary
Pride and Prejudice is set in rural England in the early 19th century, and it follows the Bennet family, which includes five very different sisters. Mrs. Bennet is anxious to see all her daughters married, especially as the modest family estate is to be inherited by William Collins when Mr. Bennet dies. At a ball, the wealthy and newly arrived Charles Bingley takes an immediate interest in the eldest Bennet daughter, the beautiful and shy Jane. The encounter between his friend Darcy and Elizabeth is less cordial. Although Austen shows them intrigued by each other, she reverses the convention of first impressions: pride of rank and fortune and prejudice against the social inferiority of Elizabeth’s family hold Darcy aloof, while Elizabeth is equally fired both by the pride of self-respect and by prejudice against Darcy’s snobbery.

The pompous Collins subsequently arrives, hoping to marry one of the Bennet sisters. Elizabeth, however, refuses his offer of marriage, and he instead becomes engaged to her friend Charlotte Lucas. During this time, Elizabeth encounters the charming George Wickham, a military officer. There is a mutual attraction between the two, and he informs her that Darcy has denied him his inheritance.

After Bingley abruptly departs for London, Elizabeth’s dislike of Darcy increases as she becomes convinced that he is discouraging Bingley’s relationship with Jane. Darcy, however, has grown increasingly fond of Elizabeth, admiring her intelligence and vitality. While visiting the now-married Charlotte, Elizabeth sees Darcy, who professes his love for her and proposes. A surprised Elizabeth refuses his offer, and, when Darcy demands an explanation, she accuses him of breaking up Jane and Bingley. Darcy subsequently writes Elizabeth a letter in which he explains that he separated the couple largely because he did not believe Jane returned Bingley’s affection. He also discloses that Wickham, after squandering his inheritance, tried to marry Darcy’s then 15-year-old sister in an attempt to gain possession of her fortune. With these revelations, Elizabeth begins to see Darcy in a new light.

Shortly thereafter the youngest Bennet sister, Lydia, elopes with Wickham. The news is met with great alarm by Elizabeth, since the scandalous affair—which is unlikely to end in marriage—could ruin the reputation of the other Bennet sisters. When she tells Darcy, he persuades Wickham to marry Lydia, offering him money. Despite Darcy’s attempt to keep his intervention a secret, Elizabeth learns of his actions. At the encouragement of Darcy, Bingley subsequently returns, and he and Jane become engaged. Finally, Darcy proposes again to Elizabeth, who this time accepts.



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Title: A Better Man
Author: Louise Penny
Length: 13 hrs and 8 mins / 448 p
Published: August 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I feel like a broken record when I say that each book is better than the previous, but it's true. I don't know how she manages to make the characters more interesting and layered and the stories more compelling. I want to be part of this world.

From the publisher:
The air is thick with excitement and anxiety as Sûreté du Québec agents gather in the conference room for the Monday morning meeting of the homicide department.

This will be Armand Gamache’s first day back since his demotion from head of the entire force, to head of homicide. Complicating matters, he’ll be sharing the duties with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir.

Amid blistering social media attacks, Gamache sets out on his first assignment – to find a missing woman.

The search for Vivienne Godin is played out against a backdrop of catastrophic spring flooding. Three Pines itself is threatened, as the Rivière Bella Bella breaks its banks. A province-wide emergency is declared and desperate efforts are underway to save towns and cities, dams and bridges.

As Gamache leads the search for Vivienne, he develops a profound empathy for her distraught father. With a daughter of his own, he finds himself haunted by the question, how would you feel, if…

As the rivers rise, and the social media onslaught becomes crueler, a body is discovered. And the victim’s father contemplates a murder of his own.

And the question facing both Gamache and Beauvoir shifts.

What would you do, if… your child’s killer might walk free?






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Title: Blood on the River
Author: Elisa Carbone
Length: 5 hrs and 43 mins / 237 p
Published: September 2007
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My bestie is a 5th grade teacher and she had me read this book to see what I thought. It's really interesting how the historical fact is wrapped into a narrative that engages. Her students will be drawn into the story, for sure. And all the research the author did is fascinating.

From the publisher:
Twelve-year-old Samuel Collier is a lowly commoner on the streets of London. So when he becomes the page of Captain John Smith and boards the Susan Constant, bound for the New World, he can’t believe his good fortune. He’s heard that gold washes ashore with every tide. But beginning with the stormy journey and his first contact with the native people, he realizes that the New World is nothing like he imagined. The lush Virginia shore where they establish the colony of James Town is both beautiful and forbidding, and it’s hard to know who’s a friend or foe. As he learns the language of the Algonquian Indians and observes Captain Smith’s wise diplomacy, Samuel begins to see that he can be whomever he wants to be in this new land.