2020 Reading




*************************************************
Title: Lottery
Author: Patricia Wood
Length: 8 hrs and 48 mins / 310 p
Published: August 2007
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I wasn't sure what to expect from this audiobook. The opening is “My name is Perry L. Crandall and I am not retarded. Gram always told me the L stood for Lucky.” But it wasn't sappy and it wasn't heartless world versus good guy.

From the publisher:
Perry L. Crandall knows what it's like to be an outsider. With an IQ of 76, he's an easy mark. Before his grandmother died, she armed Perry well with what he'd need to know: the importance of words and writing things down, and how to play the lottery. Most important, she taught him whom to trust, a crucial lesson for Perry when he wins the multimillion-dollar jackpot. As his family descends, moving in on his fortune, his fate, and his few true friends, he has a lesson for them: never, ever underestimate Perry Crandall.





*************************************************
Title: The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Length: 12 hrs and 20 mins / 384 p
Published: September 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book. I loved the characters. The fantasy elements prevented me from loving it--it's not my genre. There are elements I enjoyed, like lush descriptions. January, the main character, and her coming of age story are part mystery, part adventure, part fantasy/magic, and even part love story. While I appreciated it, I didn't love it. I'm going to recommend it to all my fantasy-loving friends, though!

From the publisher:
In the summer of 1901, at the age of seven, January Scaller found a Door. You know the kind of door–they lead to Faerie, to Valhalla, to Atlantis, to all the places never found on a map.

Years later, January has forgotten her brief glimpse of Elsewhere. Her life is quiet and lonely but safe on her guardian’s estate, until one day she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds in its pages, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure, and danger. A book that might lead her back to the half-remembered door of her childhood.

But, as January gets answers to questions she never imagined, shadows creep closer. There are truths about the world that should never be revealed.


*************************************************
Title: Tinaca Jones
Author: Matt Boren
Length: 2 hrs and 2 mins
Published: January 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This Audible Original was a hoot! I hope it becomes a series.

From the publisher:
The epic and high-larious deposition of Tinaca Jones (performed by Parks and Recreation and Good Girls star Retta) as she details the theft of her beloved namesake by fame-seeking missile Kelly Smith and her arduous journey to expose Smith for the impostor she is.

What’s in a name? The name Tinaca, for example, has been passed down in the Jones family for generations of women. In fact, the Joneses name a Tinaca every other generation, to let the name breathe a little. To let each Tinaca shine.

And shine is exactly what Tinaca Jones intends to do. A grocery cashier by day and an empire in the making by night, Tinaca Jones has been busy paying her dues, saving coins, and taking business and marketing classes, readying to launch her lifestyle brand for anyone who wants to live like her - that is, intentionally, and fabulously. But when a basic blonde with an even more basic name (Kelly Smith) approaches her register and peeps her nametag, Tinaca’s plans come crashing down all around her....

The next thing Tinaca knows, this basic b has launched herself into overnight fame with a pathetic, old-as-time, red-carpet stunt, using the stage name Tinaca Jones. But Kelly Smith messed with the wrong woman.

What follows is the real Tinaca Jones’ wild and triumphant account of the battle to reclaim her name by any means necessary.

PLEASE NOTE: This content is not for kids. This audio comedy features adult language (hurled especially at one malicious phony Kelly Smith). Discretion is advised.



*************************************************
Title: Olive, Again
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins / 289 p
Published: October 2019
Book Group: School
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Oh, how I loved revisiting Olive--she is curmudgeonly, blunt, cantankerous, a know-it-all, and a busybody. These thirteen stories pick up where the first Olive left off.

From the publisher:
The iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but also the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire moments of transcendent grace.






*************************************************
Title: Only Ever Her
Author: Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Length: 9 hrs and 17 mins / 279 p
Published: May 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Definitely not a nail-biting thriller, but a character-driven story that makes you wonder if anyone is who they seem.

From the publisher:
It was to be the perfect wedding—until the bride disappeared.

Annie Taft’s wedding is four days away, and it will be one of the grandest anyone can remember in her small South Carolina town. Preparations are in order. Friends and family are gathering in anticipation. Everything is going according to plan. Except that Annie herself has vanished. Did she have second thoughts?

Or has something much worse happened to the bride-to-be?

As the days pass, the list of suspects in her disappearance grows. Could it be the recently released man a young Annie misidentified as her mother’s killer? Could it be someone even closer to her?

While her loved ones frantically try to track her down, they’re forced to grapple with their own secrets—secrets with the power to reframe entire relationships, leaving each to wonder how well they really knew Annie and how well they know themselves.



*************************************************
Title: Conviction
Author: Denise Mina
Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins / 376 p
Published: June 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I liked that this is a fast-paced mystery-thriller. Anna, the unreliable, rude, admitted-liar of a narrator is quite an unpleasant character. Mostly, I was annoyed by her. But the book explores the themes of identity, mental illness, and privilege--and that kept my interest.

From the publisher:
The day Anna McDonald's quiet, respectable life explodes starts off like all the days before: packing up the kids for school, making breakfast, listening to yet another true crime podcast. Then her husband comes downstairs with an announcement, and Anna is suddenly, shockingly alone.

Reeling and desperate for distraction, Anna returns to the podcast. Other people's problems are much better than one's own--a sunken yacht, a murdered family, a hint of international conspiracy, but this case actually is Anna's problem. She knows one of the victims from an earlier life, a life she's taken great pains to leave behind, and she is convinced that she knows what really happened.

Then an unexpected visitor arrives on her front stoop; a meddling neighbor intervenes; and life as Anna knows it is well and truly over. The devils of her past are awakened--and in hot pursuit. Convinced she has no other options, she goes on the run, and in pursuit of the truth, with a washed-up musician at her side and the podcast as her guide.



*************************************************
Title: Steamed Open
Author: Barbara Ross
Length: 6 hrs and 48 mins / 265 p
Published: April 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is the 7th installment of the series and the characters are much more fleshed out. It's a fun cozy series and the author gets Maine right.

From the publisher:
It’s summertime in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and the clamming is easy—or it was until a mysterious new neighbor blocks access to the beach, cutting off the Snowden Family Clambake’s supply. Julia Snowden is just one of many townspeople angered by Bartholomew Frick’s decision. But which one of them was angry enough to kill?

Beachcombers, lighthouse buffs, and clammers are outraged after Frick puts up a gate in front of his newly inherited mansion. When Julia urges him to reconsider, she’s the last to see him alive—except the person who stabs him in the neck with a clam rake. As she pores through a long list of suspects, Julia meets disgruntled employees, rival heirs, and a pair of tourists determined to visit every lighthouse in America. They all have secrets, and Julia will have to work fast to expose the guilty party—or see this season’s clam harvest dry up for good.



*************************************************
Title: "Why Won't You Just Tell Us the Answer?": Teaching Historical Thinking in Grades 7-12
Author: Bruce Lesh
Length: 240 p
Published: May 2011
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A really helpful book about teaching through inquiry.

From the publisher:
Every major measure of students’ historical understanding since 1917 has demonstrated that students do not retain, understand, or enjoy their school experiences with history. Bruce Lesh believes that this is due to the way we teach history—lecture and memorization. Over the last fifteen years, Bruce has refined a method of teaching history that mirrors the process used by historians, where students are taught to ask questions of evidence and develop historical explanations. And now in his new book “Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?” he shows teachers how to successfully implement his methods in the classroom.

Students may think they want to be given the answer. Yet, when they are actively engaged in investigating the past—the way professional historians do—they find that history class is not about the boring memorization of names, dates, and facts. Instead, it’s challenging fun. Historical study that centers on a question, where students gather a variety of historical sources and then develop and defend their answers to that question, allows students to become actual historians immersed in an interpretive study of the past.

Each chapter focuses on a key concept in understanding history and then offers a sample unit on how the concept can be taught. Readers will learn about the following:
• Exploring Text, Subtext, and Context: President Theodore Roosevelt and the Panama Canal
• Chronological Thinking and Causality: The Rail Strike of 1877
• Multiple Perspectives: The Bonus March of 1932
• Continuity and Change Over Time: Custer’s Last Stand
• Historical Significance: The Civil Rights Movement
• Historical Empathy: The Truman-MacArthur Debate

By the end of the book, teachers will have learned how to teach history via a lens of interpretive questions and interrogative evidence that allows both student and teacher to develop evidence-based answers to history’s greatest questions.




*************************************************
Title: The Secret, Book, & Scone Society
Author: Ellery Adams
Length: 8 hrs and 31 mins / 224 p
Published: October 2017
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I liked this book--of course the title drew me in. The writing is a bit simplistic but I liked the story. I also didn't realize when I chose it that it's a mystery and the first of a series. I'll check out the others. Although I thought the characters had more dramatic secrets than most people I know have, I appreciated the friendships and the bonds they created.

From the publisher:
Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.

When a visiting businessman reaches out to Nora for guidance, she knows exactly which novels will help. But before he can keep their appointment at Miracle Books, he’s found dead on the train tracks.

Stunned, Nora forms the Secret, Book, and Scone Society, a group of damaged souls yearning to gain trust and earn redemption by helping others. To join the society, members must divulge their darkest secret—the terrible truth that brought each of them to Miracle Springs in the first place.

Determined to uncover the truth behind the businessman’s demise, the women meet in Nora’s cramped and cozy bookstore to share stories and trade support. And as they untangle a web of corruption, they also discover their own courage, purpose, and a sisterhood that will carry them through every challenge—proving it’s never too late to turn the page and start over . . .


*************************************************
Title: A Very French Affair
Author: Sue Roberts
Length: 7 hrs and 21 mins / 274 p
Published: July 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is definitely a feel-good chick lit book. It left me wanting to know what happens to the secondary characters--maybe there will be a series? Light-hearted, romantic fun.

From the publisher:
Life just got a whole lot more complicated for thirty-eight-year-old single mum Liv. Her son Jake is practically perfect in every way, but he’s started asking some difficult questions, and the answers lie in a holiday romance twenty years ago. Back when Liv was staying with her aunt on the French Riviera…

Returning to the Cote d’Azur, with its white sandy beaches, her supportive aunt, and exquisite wine and cheese is harder than it sounds though. Because – if she’s going to give Jake the answers he needs – Liv knows she has to hunt down her first love Andre. And since she’s a professional baker rather than a professional investigator, she doesn’t even have a clue where to start.

At first, finding the one that got away proves even trickier than she thought. And if she succeeds, how will he take the bombshell secret Liv has been keeping? Liv has to do the best thing for her family, but does that mean closing the door on this very French affair?



*************************************************
Title: The Whisper Man
Author: Alex North
Length: 9 hrs and 38 mins / 355 p
Published: August 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This creepy book has some compelling characters that I genuinely cared about. The father and son dynamics were beautifully depicted--multiple relationships are explored. I had to speed up the audio narration because I was so excited to know what was going to happen.

From the publisher:
After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed "The Whisper Man," for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter's crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window...




*************************************************
Title: Crazy Cupid Love (Let's Get Mythical #1)
Author: Amanda Heger
Length: no audio / 406 p
Published: January 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A fun romantic comedy. I can't wait to read more!

From the publisher:
Have you fallen deeply in love,
But get nervous approaching your dove?
Don't be stupid;
Hire a cupid!
'Cause sometimes love needs a shove.


Eliza Herman (a.k.a. The World's Worst Cupid) has spent her entire life carefully avoiding her calling as a Descendant of Eros. After all, happily-ever-afters are nothing but a myth. But when a family crisis requires her to fill in at the local Cupid-for-hire shop, Eliza finds herself enchanting couples under the watchful eye of her assigned mentor, Jake Sanders...the one man she could never get out of her head.

Before long, Eliza is rethinking her stance on romance—until things start going terribly wrong with her enchantments. Now Eliza and Jake must fight to unravel a conspiracy that could destroy thousands of relationships, including their own...and spell the end of Love itself.

No pressure, right?




*************************************************
Title: Louisiana Longshot
Author: Jana DeLeon
Length: 7 hrs and 20 mins / 232 p
Published: June 2012
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The first in a crazy cozy mystery series I can't wait to read more!

From the publisher:
It was a hell of a long shot....
CIA assassin Fortune Redding is about to undertake her most difficult mission ever - in Sinful, Louisiana. With a leak at the CIA and a price placed on her head by one of the world's largest arms dealers, Fortune has to go off-grid, but she never expected to be this far out of her element. Posing as a former beauty queen turned librarian in a small bayou town seems worse than death to Fortune, but she's determined to fly below the radar until her boss finds the leak and puts the arms dealer out of play.

Unfortunately, she hasn't even unpacked a suitcase before her newly inherited dog digs up a human bone in her backyard. Thrust into the middle of a bayou murder mystery, Fortune teams up with a couple of seemingly sweet old ladies whose looks completely belie their hold on the little town. To top things off, the handsome local deputy is asking her too many questions. If she's not careful, this investigation might blow her cover and get her killed. Armed with her considerable skills and a group of elderly ladies the locals dub the Geritol Mafia, Fortune has no choice but to solve the murder before it's too late.



*************************************************
Title: Blanche on the Lam
Author: Barbara Neely
Length: 7 hrs and 41 mins / 304 p
Published: first published in 1992
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The first in a series featuring Blanche White. I will definitely read more. It's a quick read.

From the publisher:
Blanche White is a plump, feisty, middle-aged African-American housekeeper working for the genteel rich in North Carolina. But when an employer stiffs her, and her checks bounce, she goes on the lam, hiding out as a maid for a wealthy family at their summer home. That plan goes awry when there’s a murder and Blanche becomes the prime suspect. So she’s forced to use her savvy, her sharp wit, and her old-girl network of domestic workers to discover the truth and save her own skin. Along the way, she lays bare the quirks of southern society with humor, irony, and a biting commentary that makes her one of the most memorable and original characters ever to appear in mystery fiction.



*************************************************
Title: Such a Fun Age
Author: Kiley Reid
Length: 9 hrs and 58 mins / 320 p
Published: December 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This book has a lot going on. It looks at motherhood, privilege, racism, and growth and even though it tackles a lot of issues, it's a quick read. What I liked was the dialogue--particularly the toddler, Briar, and how she interrupts conversations. What I didn't like were the central characters--particularly Alix, she seemed immature and grasping. And Emira seemed two-faced in a sense or hypocritical--working for Alix whom she seems to dislike.

From the publisher:
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.



*************************************************
Title: Sweet Tea and Sympathy
Author: Molly Harper
Length: 9 hrs and 27 mins / 321 p
Published: November 2017
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A fun fish-out-of-water story. I will probably read more of the series because the secondary characters are so colorful!

From the publisher:
Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town's most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?


*************************************************
Title: The Next Big Thing
Author: Johanna Edwards
Length: None / 321 p
Published: March 2005
Book Group: no
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book because it's about online dating, plus size heroines, and reality TV. But the main character was way too whiny. Ugh.

From the publisher:
Kat Larson figured she had nothing to lose by becoming a contestant on the new reality show From Fat to Fabulous-except maybe a few dozen pounds. Then she'd finally be able to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Nick, the British hunk she met online, who still thinks she's a size four. She'd finally be confident and graceful and thin-and there's that big cash prize, too, to pay for all those slinky new clothes she'd need. She'd finally have the perfect life.




*************************************************
Title: The Midwife's Revolt
Author: Jodi Daynard
Length: 12 hrs and 37 mins / 426 p
Published: April 2015
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I love historical fiction set during the American Revolutionary period. This book didn't disappoint. The home life and struggles were richly depicted. It was a little slow in the middle, but picked up in action again and kept me interested.

From the publisher:
On a dark night in 1775, Lizzie Boylston is awakened by the sound of cannons. From a hill south of Boston, she watches as fires burn in Charlestown, in a battle that she soon discovers has claimed her husband’s life.

Alone in a new town, Lizzie grieves privately but takes comfort in her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams. Soon, word spreads of Lizzie’s extraordinary midwifery and healing skills, and she begins to channel her grief into caring for those who need her. But when two traveling patriots are poisoned, Lizzie finds herself with far more complicated matters on her hands—she suspects a political plot intended to harm Abigail and her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Lizzie becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could not only destroy her livelihood—and her chance at finding love again—but also lead to the downfall of a new nation.


*************************************************
Title: American Dirt
Author: Jeanine Cummins
Length: 16 hrs and 43 mins / 400 p
Published: January 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I've read the controversy surrounding this novel. I understand why this has stirred up such polarized views. I don't know if I would have read this without all the hype. And it's difficult to separate my thoughts about the book from the brouhaha. As a work of fiction, it is exactly that: fiction. If the author had tried to depict any of the secondary characters as more than stereotypes, the book would have been bogged down and would not have been the fast-paced read that it is. Knowing it's a work of fiction and not an expose, I was more forgiving and accepting and less critical.

From the publisher:
Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?


*************************************************
Title: Get a Life, Chloe Brown
Author: Talia Hibbert
Length: 10 hrs and 17 mins / 341 p
Published: November 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

What I really enjoyed about this rom-com is that the titular character, Chloe, is a very real character with very real fibromyalgia. No sugarcoating, no making it manageable--it is an ugly, challenging, and very real condition that is treated in a very real manner. I love Red as a romantic hero.

From the publisher:
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And... do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…





*************************************************
Title: 15 Minutes
Author: Larissa Reinhart
Length: none / 341 p
Published: January 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I cannot wait to get my hands on more in this series. It is so much fun!

From the publisher:
#10days #findthewoman #getthejob #doNOTfallinlove

When ex-teen star Maizie Albright returns to her Southern hometown of Black Pine, Georgia, she hoped to rid herself of Hollywood tabloid and reality show hell for a new career as a private investigator. Instead, Hollyweird follows her home. Maizie’s costar crushing, but now for her gumshoe boss. Her stage-monster mother still demands screen time. Her latest rival wants her kicked off the set, preferably back to a California prison.

By entangling herself in a missing person's case, she must reprise her most famous role. The job will demand a performance of a lifetime. But this time, the stakes are real and may prove deadly.



*************************************************
Title: First Degree
Author: David Rosenfelt
Length: 6 hrs and 40 mins / 231 p
Published: June 2003
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Second installment of this series. A solid mystery. I really enjoyed it.

From the publisher:
No one can separate defense attorney Andy Carpenter from his golden retriever, Tara, and she returns his affection, standing loyally beside him through every investigation, no matter how dangerous or puzzling-and he is about to be confronted with one of his most difficult cases yet.

When a cop's body is found burned and decapitated, the last thing Andy expects is for a stranger to waltz into his office and admit to the crime. For the wisecracking millionaire attorney suffering from "lawyer's block," the case looks like a no-brainer, until the cops pick up another suspect: Andy's lead P.I., Laurie Collins, who happens to be the love of his life. Soon Laurie's case is looking bleak and Andy is becoming increasingly desperate. All he had wanted was a case to sink his teeth into. Now he gets one that's a kick in the head . . . and the heart.




*************************************************
Title: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Length: 12 hrs and 15 mins / 421 p
Published: May 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What a surprising delight this book is! Its diverse characters are smart and funny. The depiction of LGBTQ+ characters was true to my experience with my students and friends. My only complaint is that it's a little bit long.

From the publisher:
What happens when America's First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of the family and state and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to ben? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? , how will history remember you?






*************************************************
Title: This Won't End Well
Author: Camille Pagán
Length: 7 hrs and 35 mins / 295 p
Published: February 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book cracked me up, as in, I chuckled several times. Witty, relatable characters that I want to be friends with. I'm not sure if it's chick-lit or a rom-com, or both--either way it was a lot of fun.

From the publisher:
No new people: that’s Annie Mercer’s vow. It’s bad enough that her boss sabotaged her chemistry career and her best friend tried to cure her with crystals. But after her fiancé, Jon, asks for space while he’s gallivanting around Paris, Annie decides she needs space too—from everyone.

Yet when Harper moves in next door, Annie can’t help but train a watchful eye on the glamorous but fragile young woman. And if keeping Harper safe requires teaming up with Mo, a maddeningly optimistic amateur detective, who is she to mind her own business?

Soon Annie has let not one but two new people into her life. Then Jon reappears—and he wants her to join him in France. She’s pretty sure letting anyone get close won’t end well. So she must decide: Is another shot at happiness worth the risk?




*************************************************
Title: The Last Book Party
Author: Karen Dukess
Length: 6 hrs and 27 mins / 256 p
Published: July 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A coming of age story. Well-told but not breaking new ground. I liked the sense of place--but I'm not sure why it's set in the 1980s.

From the publisher:
In the summer of 1987, 25-year-old Eve Rosen is an aspiring writer languishing in a low-level assistant job, unable to shake the shadow of growing up with her brilliant brother. With her professional ambitions floundering, Eve jumps at the chance to attend an early summer gathering at the Cape Cod home of famed New Yorker writer Henry Grey and his poet wife, Tillie. Dazzled by the guests and her burgeoning crush on the hosts’ artistic son, Eve lands a new job as Henry Grey’s research assistant and an invitation to Henry and Tillie’s exclusive and famed "Book Party"— where attendees dress as literary characters. But by the night of the party, Eve discovers uncomfortable truths about her summer entanglements and understands that the literary world she so desperately wanted to be a part of is not at all what it seems.


*************************************************
Title: Dear Edward
Author: Ann Napolitano
Length: 11 hrs and 36 mins / 352 p
Published: January 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What a lovely, sad, and hopeful book. It was just the right book for me now. Escapism and hope. The narrative shifts from the flight to Edward's life after. I liked that shifting narration. I liked the characters, very much.


From the publisher:
What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them are a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured veteran returning from Afghanistan, a business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a part of himself has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery—one that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other? How do you learn to feel safe again? How do you find meaning in your life?








*************************************************
Title: I'm Fine and Neither Are You
Author: Camille Pagán
Length: 8 hrs and 2 mins / 266 p
Published: April 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a realistic story about finding yourself, friendship, family, and comparing lives. My only complaint is that the main character, Penny, is a bit whiny--although, when she smartens up it's with determination and heart.

From the publisher:
Wife. Mother. Breadwinner. Penelope Ruiz-Kar is doing it all—and barely keeping it together. Meanwhile, her best friend, Jenny Sweet, appears to be sailing through life. As close as the two women are, Jenny’s passionate marriage, pristine house, and ultra-polite child stand in stark contrast to Penelope’s underemployed husband, Sanjay, their unruly brood, and the daily grind she calls a career.

Then a shocking tragedy reveals that Jenny’s life is far from perfect. Reeling, Penelope vows to stop keeping the peace and finally deal with the issues in her relationship. So she and Sanjay agree to a radical proposal: both will write a list of changes they want each other to make—then commit to complete and total honesty.

What seems like a smart idea quickly spirals out of control, revealing new rifts and even deeper secrets. As Penelope stares down the possible implosion of her marriage, she must ask herself: When it comes to love, is honesty really the best policy?





*************************************************
Title: The Stationery Shop
Author: Marjan Kamali
Length: 9 hrs and 13 mins / 320 p
Published: June 2019
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed this story--dual timelines from 1953 and 2013. I liked the historical background and all the references of food and culture. There's an element of sentimentality that's a little too much, and a very convenient ending--but I liked it.

From the publisher:
Roya is a dreamy, idealistic teenager living in 1953 Tehran who, amidst the political upheaval of the time, finds a literary oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood book and stationery shop. She always feels safe in his dusty store, overflowing with fountain pens, shiny ink bottles, and thick pads of soft writing paper.

When Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer—handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi’s poetry—she loses her heart at once. And, as their romance blossoms, the modest little stationery shop remains their favorite place in all of Tehran.

A few short months later, on the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square, but suddenly, violence erupts—a result of the coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future. In the chaos, Bahman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless. With a sorrowful heart, she resigns herself to never seeing him again.

Until, more than sixty years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did he leave? Where did he go? How was he able to forget her?




*************************************************
Title: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes
Author: Anna McPartlin
Length: none / 368 p
Published: June 2014
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I love this book. It shattered me (in a good way)! I laughed and cried and want to be part of Rabbit's family. I don't even know what to say--it's heart-breaking but uplifting at the same time. A wonderful, funny, poignant read.

From the publisher:
Here is a truth that can't be escaped: for Mia "Rabbit" Hayes, life is coming to an end ...

Mia-"Rabbit"-Hayes knows that life is hard for everyone. And she knows that she's one of the lucky ones. She loves her life, ordinary as it is. And she loves the extraordinary people in it: her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colorful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye. Rabbit has big ideas, full of music and love and so much life. She has plans for the world. But the world, it turns out, has other plans for Rabbit: a devastating diagnosis.

Rabbit is feisty. And with every ounce of love and strength in her, she promises that she will overcome. She will fight fight fight. She will be with those who love her for as long as she can, and she will live as long as she can with music and love and so much life. And as her friends and family rally round to celebrate Rabbit's last days, they look to her for strength, support, and her unyielding zest for life. Because she is Rabbit Hayes and she will live until she dies.




*************************************************
Title: Bury the Lead
Author: David Rosenfelt
Length: 5 hrs and 52 mins / 261 p
Published: June 2004
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The third installment in the Andy Carpenter mystery series hooked me from the very beginning. I love that Tara, the golden retriever, features as a character. Looking forward to more!

From the publisher:
...the intrepid lawyer is thrust into the spotlight where he risks becoming a media victim...of the most fatal kind. His streak of murder case acquittals made him a regular on cable talk shows. His recent $22 million inheritance bought him a dog rescue operation named the Tara Foundation after his own beloved golden retriever. Yet after turning down cases left and right, Andy Carpenter thinks he's facing a midlife crisis. When a friend, a newspaper owner, calls in a favor and asks him to protect his star reporter, Andy is less than thrilled. His new client is Daniel Cummings, a journalist who is being used as a mouthpiece by a brutal serial killer. Things only get worse when Daniel is discovered near the body of the murderer's latest victim. And after Andy himself starts collecting anonymous death threats, he hears the news every defense lawyer dreads...and moves to within a dangerous keystroke of becoming tomorrow's obituary.


*************************************************
Title: Almost, Maine: A Novel
Author: John Cariani
Length: no audio / 336 p
Published: March 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Having seen this performed as a play, I was familiar with the stories. I enjoyed the transition to a novel. The atmosphere and remoteness in northern Maine were perfectly captured. The fact that my dear friend wrote it is icing on the cake.

From the publisher:
Welcome to Almost, Maine, a town that’s so far north, it’s almost not in the United States—it’s almost in Canada. And it almost doesn’t exist, because its residents never got around to getting organized. So it’s just . . . Almost.

One cold, clear Friday night in the middle of winter, while the northern lights hover in the sky above, Almost’s residents find themselves falling in and out of love in the strangest ways. Knees are bruised. Hearts are broken. Love is lost and found. And life for the people of Almost, Maine will never be the same.




*************************************************
Title: Restart Again: Volume 1
Author: Adam Ladner Scott
Length: no audio / 222 p
Published: March 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Not my typical genre but an enjoyable fantasy action-adventure. And the author happens to be my nephew.

From the publisher:
All of the stories you've heard are wrong. They always tell you that starting a new life in a fantasy world is an amazing experience, full of magic, adventure, and true love...but they never tell you what happens when it's over. They don't tell you that it just happens again. And again. By the time you start your third new life in a row, all of that initial amazement wears off. That's where Lux finds himself now: Dropped into yet another fantasy world, forced to restart his life all over again. Having lost the people he loved twice over, he wants nothing more than to disappear and live a life of solitude...but it seems the world has other plans for him.




*************************************************
Title: The Book of Longings
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Length: 13 hrs and 27 mins / 432 p
Published: April 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book wasn't what I was expecting. At all. I'm sure there will be plenty of controversies. But readers need to understand it's not a book about Jesus the Savior, it's about Jesus the man. I didn't find it blasphemous at all--it's reverential in its description of him as a human man. But the book isn't so much about Jesus as it's about a fictional account of his wife, Ana. And it's Ana's struggle to find her place in the world that doesn't allow much space for women. She's feisty and a feminist and a beautifully flawed character. The historical research is amazing.

From the publisher:
“I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus.” So begins the new novel from the number one New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings, an extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny in a time of great despair and great hope.

In her fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family in Sepphoris with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, a relentless seeker with a brilliant, curious mind and a daring spirit. She yearns for a pursuit worthy of her life, but finds no outlet for her considerable talents. Defying the expectations placed on women, she engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes secret narratives about neglected and silenced women. When she meets the eighteen-year-old Jesus, each is drawn to and enriched by the other’s spiritual and philosophical ideas. He becomes a floodgate for her intellect, but also the awakener of her heart.

Their marriage unfolds with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, James and Simon, and their mother, Mary. Here, Ana’s pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to the Roman occupation of Israel, partially led by her charismatic adopted brother, Judas. She is sustained by her indomitable aunt Yaltha, who is searching for her long-lost daughter, as well as by other women, including her friend Tabitha, who is sold into slavery after she was raped, and Phasaelis, the shrewd wife of Herod Antipas. Ana’s impetuous streak occasionally invites danger. When one such foray forces her to flee Nazareth for her safety shortly before Jesus’s public ministry begins, she makes her way with Yaltha to Alexandria, where she eventually finds refuge and purpose in unexpected surroundings.

Grounded in meticulous historical research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus’s life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring account of one woman’s bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, place, and culture devised to silence her.





*************************************************
Title: Valentine
Author: Elizabeth Wetmore
Length: 10 hrs and 20 mins / 320 p
Published: March 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I can't believe this is a debut novel. The narratives follow four female voices and weave together this tale of brutality and resilience, of defining women's various roles. Each of the narrators is a mother figure, sinner, and victim of circumstance. And each survives and maybe even thrives. This is not an uplifting story, though, not an easy read--it's brutal and angry and I was frustrated by how women are allowed to be in the 1970s in Texas. And setting is important in this story, almost a character in itself.

From the publisher:
Mercy is hard in a place like this . . .

It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow.

In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field—an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.

Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view of indelible characters who burrow deep in the reader’s heart, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive.




*************************************************
Title: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Author: Erika L. Sánchez
Length: 9 hrs and 41 mins / 344 p
Published: October 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This coming-of-age novel is timely. Dealing with issues and themes of identity, grief, femininity, tradition, family, culture, education and more. Until about a third of the way through, I disliked the main character, Julia because I got tired of her constantly whining about how awful her life is and how unfair her parents are. I got it. Then there is a plot twist that engaged me in Julia. The book includes a lot of information for mental health helplines.

From the publisher:
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

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

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





*************************************************
Title: Eight Perfect Murders
Author: Peter Swanson
Length: 8 hrs and 3 mins / 270 p
Published: March 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book is an homage to crime novel lovers! A book for book lovers. Boston and it's environs are so accurately depicted, it was fun to know the streets and neighborhoods. This was a one-sitting book--and the audio has fantastic narration. I'm adding these books to my TBR pile (some I've already read, but a re-read would be fun).


From the publisher:
A chilling tale of psychological suspense and an homage to the thriller genre tailor-made for fans: the story of a bookseller who finds himself at the center of an FBI investigation because a very clever killer has started using his list of fiction’s most ingenious murders.

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”—chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne's Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox's Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain's Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald's The Drowner, and Donna Tartt's A Secret History.

But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookshop in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move—a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.

To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects—and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead—and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.




*************************************************
Title: A Bachelor Establishment: An Historical Romance
Author: Isabella Barclay
Length: 7 hrs and 21 mins / 206 p
Published: May 2015
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book is a breath of fresh air! Mystery, humor, mayhem, more humor, and some romance.

From the publisher:
Elinor Bascombe, widowed and tied to an impoverished estate, has learned to ask little of life. With no hope of leaving, the years have passed her by. Lord Ryde, exiled abroad after a scandal, has returned to strip his estate and make a new start in America. A chance encounter changes their plans, plunging Elinor and Lord Ryde into adventure and not a little peril until, finally, they are forced to confront the mystery of what happened on That Night, all those years ago. Are they both so entangled in the riddles of the past that they are about to miss this one last opportunity for future happiness?






*************************************************
Title: Mistress of the Art of Death
Author: Ariana Franklin
Length: 13 hrs and 12 mins / 384
Published: February 2007
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

An unusual mystery/thriller with a wonderfully developed cast of characters. And there are moments of true wit, I actually chuckled a few times. It was a bit draggy in places but I'm so glad I kept with it. And it's the first in a series, so there will be more adventures.

From the publisher:
A chilling, mesmerizing novel that combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the detail and drama of historical fiction. In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town's Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry II is no friend of the Jews-or anyone, really-but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily-whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe-and asks for his finest "master of the art of death," an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia-the king has been sent a "mistress" of the art of death. Adelia and her companions-Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor-travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on Crusade with the king. In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king's tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend, or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia's investigation takes her into Cambridge's shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again . .




*************************************************
Title: Sealed Off
Author: Barbara Ross
Length: 6 hrs and 23 mins / 246 p
Published: December 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This 8th installment of the series had me turning pages! I couldn't figure out how all the plots and subplots were going to come together. I figured out whodunit but not the why. There were a couple of threads of dialogue that I wonder if non-Mainers would appreciate.

From the publisher:
Early October is “winding down” time in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, but there’s nothing relaxing about it for Julia Snowden. Between busloads of weekend leaf peepers at the Snowden Family Clambake and a gut renovation of the old mansion on Morrow Island, she’s keeping it all together with a potentially volatile skeleton crew—until one of them turns up dead under the firewood.

When the Russian demo team clearing out the mansion discovers a room that’s been sealed off for decades, Julia’s baffled as to its purpose and what secrets it might have held. Tensions are already simmering with the crew, but when one of the workers is found murdered, things come to a boil. With the discovery of another body—and a mysterious diary with Cyrillic text in the hidden room—the pressure’s on Julia to dig up a real killer fast. But she’ll have to sort through a pile of suspects, including ex-spouses, a spurned lover, and a recently released prisoner, to fish out one clammed-up killer.



*************************************************
Title: Now a Major Motion Picture
Author: Cori McCarthy
Length: no audio / 386 p
Published: April 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Oh, how I loved this book! Feminism, fandom, lots of literary, film, and music references. And Ireland! I want to read more by this author.

From the publisher:
Fandom and first love collide for Iris on the film set for her grandmother’s famous high-fantasy trilogy.

Unlike the rest of the world, Iris doesn't care about the famous high-fantasy Elementia books written by M. E. Thorne. So it's just a little annoying that M. E. Thorne is her grandmother—and that Iris has to deal with the trilogy's crazy fans.

When Iris gets dropped in Ireland for the movie adaptation, she sees her opportunity: if she can shut down production, the Elementia craze won't grow any bigger, and she can finally have a normal life. Not even the rascally-cute actor Eamon O'Brien can get in her way.

But the crew's passion is contagious, and as Iris begins to find herself in the very world she has avoided her whole life, she realizes that this movie might just be amazing…






*************************************************
Title: Beach Read
Author: Emily Henry
Length: 10 hrs and 13 mins / 384 p
Published: May 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This is about writer's block and writing. It's not a rom-com, even though it is kind of packaged that way. There is wit and heart and some darkness. I loved it!

From the publisher:
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They're polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.



*************************************************
Title: When We Believed in Mermaids
Author: Barbara O'Neal
Length: 11 hrs and 55 mins / 352 p
Published: July 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This was a quick read. I was drawn into the story of sisters and lies and unraveling dysfunction. And love and redemption. And the locations make me want to travel.

From the publisher:
Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on the TV news…

Josie Bianci was killed years ago on a train during a terrorist attack. Gone forever. It’s what her sister, Kit, an ER doctor in Santa Cruz, has always believed. Yet all it takes is a few heart-wrenching seconds to upend Kit’s world. Live coverage of a club fire in Auckland has captured the image of a woman stumbling through the smoke and debris. Her resemblance to Josie is unbelievable. And unmistakable. With it comes a flood of emotions—grief, loss, and anger—that Kit finally has a chance to put to rest: by finding the sister who’s been living a lie.

After arriving in New Zealand, Kit begins her journey with the memories of the past: of days spent on the beach with Josie. Of a lost teenage boy who’d become part of their family. And of a trauma that has haunted Kit and Josie their entire lives.

Now, if two sisters are to reunite, it can only be by unearthing long-buried secrets and facing a devastating truth that has kept them apart far too long. To regain their relationship, they may have to lose everything.



*************************************************
Title: The Bright Side of Going Dark
Author: Kelly Harms
Length: 11 hrs and 35 mins / 341 p
Published: May 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a poignant look at families, mental health, social media, and how they all blend together. I couldn't put it down!

From the publisher:
As one of the most popular influencers on social media, Mia Bell has lived her life online for years. With her celebrity dog and gorgeous fiancé, she is planning the ultimate virtual wedding—expensive, elaborate, and entirely paid for by sponsors. But off-camera, her world is far from picture perfect. After being jilted by her fiancé and faking her nuptials to please her sponsors, Mia finally has had enough. She heaves her phone off a cliff, ready to live—and maybe find love—offline for a change.

Mia’s sudden absence doesn’t go unnoticed, especially by techie loner Paige Miller, who hacks Mia’s account and begins impersonating the internet celebrity. Paige has her reasons. Her half sister, Jessica, idolizes Mia and desperately needs something to believe in. If taking over Mia’s online persona is Paige’s only means of connecting to her sister, so be it.

Creating a like-worthy life is more fun than Paige expected. But when she grows too bold and is caught in the act, a fiasco ensues that could forever change Mia, Paige, and the people who love them. Because somewhere amid the chaos is an invaluable lesson—one that only real life can teach.


A warning: this book deals with attempted suicide.




*************************************************
Title: Home for Erring and Outcast Girls
Author: Julie Kibler
Length: 14 hrs and 24 mins / 400 p
Published: July 2019
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A gripping historical novel with a parallel in today's world. I loved the historical fiction sections. The modern part--meh.

From the publisher:
In turn-of-the-20th century Texas, the Berachah Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls is an unprecedented beacon of hope for young women consigned to the dangerous poverty of the streets by birth, circumstance, or personal tragedy. Built in 1903 on the dusty outskirts of Arlington, a remote dot between Dallas and Fort Worth’s red-light districts, the progressive home bucks public opinion by offering faith, training, and rehabilitation to prostitutes, addicts, unwed mothers, and “ruined” girls without forcibly separating mothers from children. When Lizzie Bates and Mattie McBride meet there—one sick and abused, but desperately clinging to her young daughter, the other jilted by the beau who fathered her ailing son—they form a friendship that will see them through unbearable loss, heartbreak, difficult choices, and ultimately, diverging paths.

A century later, Cate Sutton, a reclusive university librarian, uncovers the hidden histories of the two troubled women as she stumbles upon the cemetery on the home’s former grounds and begins to comb through its archives in her library. Pulled by an indescribable connection, what Cate discovers about their stories leads her to confront her own heartbreaking past, and to reclaim the life she thought she'd let go forever. With great pathos and powerful emotional resonance, Home for Erring and Outcast Girls explores the dark roads that lead us to ruin, and the paths we take to return to ourselves.




*************************************************
Title: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Author: Abbi Waxman
Length: 9 hrs and 3 mins / 352 p
Published: July 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I realated to this book about loving books. Nina's struggle with isolation and organization rang true. I would be friends with her. I loved the witty dialog and the secondary characters. And the sweet romance.

From the publisher:
Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own...shell.

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They're all--or mostly all--excited to meet her! She'll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It's a disaster! And as if that wasn't enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn't he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It's time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn't convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It's going to take a brand new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

*************************************************
Title: The Garden of Small Beginnings
Author: Abbi Waxman
Length9 hrs and 51 mins / 368 p
Published: May 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book surprised me.  I figured a novel about a young widow might be sad, but it's a book about re-starting.  There's lots of humor.  I loved the relationship between Lili and her sister, Rachel.  And Lili and her daughters.  I thought it rang true.

From the publisher:
Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, 
At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently, being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.
After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles botanical garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…




*************************************************
Title: The Humans
AuthorMatt Haig
Length8 hrs and 11 mins / 289 p
Published: May 2013
Book Group: School
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I love the premise of this novel--an alien is sent to Earth to thwart a mathematician from solving THE mathematical problem of all time.  His experiences integrating into life on Earth are amusing, challenging, and sometimes poignant.

From the publisher:
Body-snatching has never been so heartwarming . . .
The Humans
Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man--as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son--who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew--the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth.




*************************************************
Title: Sea Wife
Author: Amity Gaige
Length9 hrs and 45 mins / 288 p
Published: April 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book.  I never quite connected with the titular wife, Juliette, though.  The story is told in dual narratives--present-day remembrances by Juliette and the Captain's log flashbacks by Michael.  I liked that Juliette and Michael navigate their political, philosophical, and personality differences in the confined space of their yacht.  And I was on edge for their lack of experience, that tension was well done.  There was a lot of sailing jargon and the experience of self-reliant living off the grid which was interesting.

From the publisher:
Juliet is failing to juggle motherhood and her anemic dissertation when her husband, Michael, informs her that he wants to leave his job and buy a sailboat. The couple are novice sailors, but Michael persuades Juliet to say yes. With their two kids--Sybil, age seven, and George, age two, Juliet and Michael set off for Panama, where their forty-four-foot sailboat awaits them--a boat that Michael has christened the 
The initial result is transformative: their marriage is given a gust of energy, and even the children are affected by the beauty and wonderful vertigo of travel. The sea challenges them all--and most of all, Juliet, who suffers from postpartum depression.
Sea Wife
Exuberant, harrowing, witty, and exquisitely written, 



*************************************************
Title: The Turn Of The Key
Author: Ruth Ware
Length12 hrs and 13 mins / 337 p
Published: August 2019
Book Group: School
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What a twisty, creepy, atmospheric update of Henry James' Turn of the Screw.  It's a rather gothic novel, told in epistolary format.   Through the main character's letters, there's a voyeuristic feel to living in the state-of-the-art, high tech home.  I couldn't put this book down!

From the publisher:
When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.
What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.
Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.
It was everything.
She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.






*************************************************
Title: The Crow Trap
Author: Ann Cleeves
Length14 hrs and 8 mins / 560 p
Published: October 2001
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A new-to-me mystery series that I will devour!  It had an interesting setup, where the main detective (the protagonist of the series) only shows up about half-way through.  The narrative is from different perspectives of characters involved in the events and sometimes there is a repeat of happenings from different points of view.  I would definitely call this a slow burn story.  Tension builds until the very end--with a reveal that is satisfying.

I love the Detective Inspector, Vera Stanhope!  She's a complex and unusual character.

From the publisher:
At the isolated Baikie's Cottage on the North Pennines, three very different women come together to complete an environmental survey. Three women who, in some way or another, know the meaning of betrayal...
For team leader Rachael Lambert the project is the perfect opportunity to rebuild her confidence after a double-betrayal by her lover and boss, Peter Kemp. Botanist Anne Preece, on the other hand, sees it as a chance to indulge in a little deception of her own.
And then there is Grace Fulwell, a strange, uncommunicative young woman with plenty of her own secrets to hide...
When Rachael arrives at the cottage, however, she is horrified to discover the body of her friend Bella Furness. Bella, it appears, has committed suicide - a verdict Rachael finds impossible to accept.
Only when the next death occurs does a fourth woman enter the picture - the unconventional Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope, who must piece together the truth from these women's tangled lives...


*************************************************
Title: Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor
Author: Layla Saad
Length 5 hrs and 19 mins / 256 p
Published: Feb 2020
Book Group: no

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An important and difficult read.  I know I have LOTS of work to do and it isn't easy to admit that I live a very privileged life.  Some of it is unavoidable--living in the whitest state in the union and the oldest per capita population in the union.  But some of it is avoidable and I'm going to challenge myself to change my thoughts, beliefs, and actions.

From the publisher:
Me and White Supremacy
When Layla Saad began an Instagram challenge called #MeAndWhiteSupremacy, she never predicted it would spread as widely as it did. She encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. She was looking for truth, and she got it. Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and over 90,000 people downloaded the Me and White Supremacy Workbook.
The updated and expanded 

Awareness leads to action, and action leads to change. The numbers show that readers are ready to do this work - let's give it to them.



*************************************************
Title: This Tender Land
Author: William Kent Krueger
Length14 hrs and 19 mins / 450 p
Published: September 2019
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

There are echoes in this book of 

Some of my favorite quotes:
“Of all that we're asked to give others in this life, the most difficult to offer may be forgiveness.”

“If we were perfect, the light he shines on us would just bounce right off. But the wrinkles, they catch the light. And the cracks, that’s how the light gets inside us. When I pray, Odie, I never pray for perfection. I pray for forgiveness, because it’s the one prayer I know will always be answered.”

“Ask me, God’s right here. In the dirt, the rain, the sky, the trees, the apples, the stars in the cottonwoods. In you and me, too. It’s all connected and it’s all God. Sure this is hard work, but it’s good work because it’s a part of what connects us to this land, Buck. This beautiful, tender land.”

“We breathe love in and we breathe love out. It's the essence of our existence, the very air of our souls.”

From the publisher:
1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.
Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, 
...a magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression.








*************************************************
Title: The Guest List
Author: Lucy Foley
Length9 hours and 54 minutes / 320 p
Published: May 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I could not put this creepy, atmospheric book down.  I can't say too much about it other than it's twisty and it has a satisfying ending.  The book is split between first and third-person narrative, as well as past and present. The present sections take place the night of the wedding and are told in the third person.

From the publisher:
The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.
And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?





*************************************************
Title: If We Were Villains
AuthorM.L.Rio
Length12 hrs and 50 mins / 368 p
Published: April 2017
Book Group: School
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Growing up as a theater kid/nerd, I liked that this book takes place in an arty college that specializes in Shakespeare.  I loved the theater references and jargon.  I liked how Shakespeare is discussed by the characters--so that I didn't have to have a lot of background in Shakespeare to appreciate what the characters were talking about and doing.

I thought the characters were just pretentious enough.  Cliche enough.  And even though I knew who committed the crime, I was still interested enough to find out the details.  I did think the author tried a bit too hard to be literary, which kind of detracted from the whole experience.

From the publisher:
Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail - for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he's released, he's greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.


*************************************************
Title: The Wedding Date
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Length 8 hrs and 28 mins / 320 p
Published: January 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This was so much fun!  Relatable characters and interesting secondary characters.  I loved that for all the new-romance insecurities, the main characters were kick-ass in their professional lives.  To me, that seemed real.  Totally crushing it professionally, a little nervous personally.  I can't wait to read more in the series!

From the publisher:
A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.
Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn't normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist.
On the eve of his ex's wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend...
After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she's the mayor's chief of staff. Too bad they can't stop thinking about the other...
They're just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century--or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want...






*************************************************
Title: The Jane Austen Society
AuthorNatalie Jenner
Length 9 hours and 55 minutes / 320 p
Published: May 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Perfect escapism for a summer day.  I'm going to re-read some Jane Austen because I think the characters in this book echo characters in Austen's books.  I enjoyed the characters and appreciated that the beginning of the book established each one in detail--but once the action started, it was faster paced.

From the publisher:
Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England's finest novelists. Now it's home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen's legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen's home and her legacy. 

These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.



*************************************************
Title: Fix Her Up
AuthorTessa Bailey
Length9 hrs and 59 mins400 p
Published: June 2019
Book Group: no

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This racy rom-com is racy.  Did I mention it's racy?  Because it's racy.  Almost raunchy.  I feel like a prudish maiden aunt clutching my pearls.  Aside from that, the main characters are both re-inventing themselves.  I liked the sisterhood between Georgie, Bethany, and Rosie.

From the publisher:
Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World... whatever that means.
Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)
Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)
Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)
Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)
Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?
Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there's Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her...





*************************************************
Title: Big Summer
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Length 10 hrs and 54 mins368 p
Published: May 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I don't want to spoil anything about this book so I'll say it's a great look at friendships, what it means to be true--in relationships and to yourself, and what it means to go viral or have "insta-fame".  The complicated friendships, between Daphne, Darshi, and Drue were compelling.  I felt for each of them at times and disliked them at times.  I especially enjoyed Daphne's parents and Bingo.  

I haven't read everything by this author, but this seemed like a departure from what I have read.  I enjoyed it.

From the publisher:
Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.
Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.
A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, 






*************************************************
Title: Deacon King Kong
Author: James McBride
Length 14 hrs and 5 mins / 371 p
Published: March 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book!  I listened to the audio version and the narration is wonderful.  There is a great deal of humor in this book as it makes social commentary about communities, race, integrity, and love.  I feel like there's a specific type of storytelling in this book--one I encounter in Black literature--that completely draws me in.  Different than a character study, yet a character study through the stories and shenanigans that illustrate the characters.  And how the stories overlap and weave together to create the community--wow!  Masterful writing!

From the publisher:
In September 1969, a broken-down former church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffled into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in South Brooklyn, pulled out a .45, and in front of everybody shot the neighborhood drug dealer at point-blank range.
The reasons for this burst of violence and the consequences of it lie at the heart of 
Bringing both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity to the page, James McBride has written a novel that is every bit as involving as 







*************************************************
Title: Frankly In Love
Author: David Yoon
Length10 hrs and 11 mins / 432 p
Published: September 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed this look at the life of Korean-American high school senior Frank Li.
This is a coming-of-age novel that takes a look at racism, identity, family relationships, and complex first love.  The audio version has fantastic narration.

From the publisher:
Two friends. One fake dating scheme. What could possibly go wrong?
Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl--which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.
As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he's forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don't leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he's found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he's left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love--or himself--at all.
In this moving novel, debut author David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.



*************************************************
Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author: Kim Michele Richardson
Length9 hrs and 26 mins / 308 p
Published: May 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and heartbreaking historical fiction.  A fascinating story of the "Blue People" and the prejudice they faced.  A heartbreaking story of poverty and loss.

From the publisher:
In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.
Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government's new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek






*************************************************
Title: Long Way Down
Author: Jason Reynolds
Length1 hr and 43 mins / 306 p
Published: October 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This thought-provoking book is written in verse.  It's a gritty tale of a one-minute elevator ride.  Powerful.

From the publisher:
An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds.


*************************************************
Title: Redhead By The Side Of The Road
Author: Anne Tyler
Length4 hrs and 50 mins/ 192 p
Published: April 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book!  The look at the messiness of life and how Micah tries to contain it while navigating everyday chaos is fun.  I love the secondary characters.  I love the metaphor of the title--Micah can't clearly see what's right in front of him.

From the publisher:
Micah Mortimer is a creature of habit. A self-employed tech expert, superintendent of his Baltimore apartment building, cautious to a fault behind the steering wheel, he seems content leading a steady, circumscribed life. But one day his routines are blown apart when his woman friend (he refuses to call anyone in her late thirties a "girlfriend") tells him she's facing eviction, and a teenager shows up at Micah's door claiming to be his son. These surprises, and the ways they throw Micah's meticulously organized life off-kilter, risk changing him forever. An intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who finds those around him just out of reach, and a funny, joyful, deeply compassionate story about seeing the world through new eyes, Redhead by the Side of the Road is a triumph, filled with Anne Tyler's signature wit and gimlet-eyed observation.





*************************************************
Title: Simon the Fiddler
Author: Paulette Jiles
Length11 hrs and 39 mins/ 352 p
Published: April 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This historical fiction felt quite like a tall tale.  There's not much action.  I wish the characters were more richly fleshed out.  I feel like they were a little flat.  But the storytelling is wonderful.

From the publisher:
The critically acclaimed, bestselling author of News of the World and Enemy Women returns to Texas in this atmospheric story, set at the end of the Civil War, about an itinerant fiddle player, a ragtag band of musicians with whom he travels trying to make a living, and the charming young Irish lass who steals his heart.







*************************************************
Title: Nothing To See Here
Author: Kevin Wilson
Length  / 272 p
Published: October 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What a quirky, unexpected book.  A witty look at family relationships, class, and second chances.  There were times I laughed out loud.

From the publisher:
Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.
Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.
Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?
With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.





*************************************************
Title: The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook: 175 Super Easy Recipes Made Just for You
Author: Joanie Zisk
Length  / 224 p
Published: December 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A surprisingly interesting cookbook that has some tasty inspiration in it.  I struggle with cooking for just myself.  Most of the recipes I saved from this book are pretty simple, with easy ingredients.  There were a few I passed on because I would have no use for some of the ingredients other than the specific recipe.

Spinach Orzo Salad
Italian Pasta Salad
Chicken with Herb-roasted Tomatoes and Garlic
Chicken Fried Rice
and Tomato Bisque are the recipes I saved from this cookbook.

Possible inspiration!

From the publisher:
175 single-serving recipes for every solo chef who just wants a satisfying and delicious home-cooked meal for themselves.



*************************************************
Title: One To Watch
Author: Kate Stayman-London
Length 11 hrs and 42 mins / 424 p
Published: July 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I loved this book.  I couldn't put it down.  It was fun, flirty, and thought-provoking.  And I have been on the receiving end of some of these comments made to women of size.  Granted, some of the men were rather one-dimensional it didn't detract from my enjoyment.

From the publisher:
Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers--and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show 






*************************************************
Title: Strike Me Down
AuthorMindy Mejia
Length: 8 hrs and 35 mins / 337p
Published: April 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


I know nothing of the world of kickboxing.  And I know nothing about Minneapolis (other than Mary Tyler Moore show was set there). And I also know nothing about forensic accounting.  This book made all three seem cool.  I am not sure if it's supposed to be a mystery or thriller or what.  I didn't connect with any of the characters and that kept me from loving it.  I felt it was a little long.  And I figured it out.  The writing is pretty good.  I would read more from this author.  

From the publisher:
Nora Trier catches thieves. As a forensic accountant and partner in her downtown Minneapolis firm, she’s unearthed millions in every corner of the world. She prides herself on her independence, the most essential currency of accounting, until her firm is hired by Strike.

An anti-corporate, feminist athletic empire, Strike is owned by Logan Russo, a brash and legendary kickboxer, and her marketing genius husband, Gregg Abbott. They’re about to host a major kickboxing tournament with twenty million dollars in prize money, and the chance for the champion to become the new face of the company. Gregg suspects his wife already has a new face in mind—a young trainer named Aaden, for whom Logan feels an unexpected connection.

Days before the tournament begins, it’s discovered that the prize money is missing. Gregg hires Nora’s firm to find both the thief and the money but Nora has a secret connection to Strike that threatens her independence. Her partner pressures her into taking the case anyway, hinting he has information about Strike that could change the course of the investigation in a shocking and deadly way.



*************************************************
Title: Just Mercy
Author: Bryan Stevenson
Length 11 hrs and 11 mins / 336 p
Published: October 2014
Book Group: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I saw the movie and expected the book to be like it, but there is so much more to the book! 
From the publisher: 
A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.


*************************************************
Title: Spotless
AuthorCamilla Monk
Length: 11 hrs and 35 mins 334 p
Published: May 2016
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I love a rom-com.  I love a heist. This fit the bill.  It's kind of a screwball comedy.  With a lot of guns.  I cannot wait to read more of this series!  Each chapter's introductory quote made me chortle.

From the publisher:
Island Chaptal — nerdy IT engineer by day, romance novel junkie by night — just walked into her messy New York apartment to find Mr. Right waiting for her. No, wait… Mr. Clean.

A gentleman professional killer with a bad case of OCD and zero tolerance for unsorted laundry, March isn’t there to kill her… yet. He wants the diamond her late mother stole for a sinister criminal organization. Island agrees to help him find it, facing the kind of adversaries who dismember first and ask questions later. Good thing she’s got March to show her the ropes. And the guns. And the knives.

The buttoned-up Island is soon having a blast racing from Paris to Tokyo following the clues in her mother’s will, and for the first time, she’s ready to get close to someone. But falling for a hit man may be the very definition of loving dangerously.…



*************************************************
Title: The Long Call
AuthorAnn Cleeves
Length: 10 hrs and 24 mins 400 p
Published: September 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

 This is the first installment of a new series and I cannot wait to get my hands on more!  The main detective is complex without being over the top.  And I can't wait to learn more about the secondary characters to see how they develop.

From the publisher:

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back to the people and places of his past, as deadly secrets hidden at their hearts are revealed, and his new life is forced into a collision course with the world he thought he’d left behind.




*************************************************
Title: Girls Like Us
AuthorCristina Alger
Length:  8 hrs and 47 mins / 276 p
Published:  July 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

A gripping mystery-thriller that I read in one sitting!  I loved the atmosphere and the characters.  There are several different plotlines and one of them seems to peter out, making me wonder if this is potentially a series where the thread will be picked up later.

From the publisher:
FBI Agent Nell Flynn hasn't been home in ten years. Nell and her father, Homicide Detective Martin Flynn, have never had much of a relationship. And Suffolk County will always be awash in memories of her mother, Marisol, who was brutally murdered when Nell was just seven.

When Martin Flynn dies in a motorcycle accident, Nell returns to the house she grew up in so that she can spread her father's ashes and close his estate. At the behest of her father's partner, Detective Lee Davis, Nell becomes involved in an investigation into the murders of two young women in Suffolk County. The further Nell digs, the more likely it seems to her that her father should be the prime suspect--and that his friends on the police force are covering his tracks. Plagued by doubts about her mother's murder--and her own role in exonerating her father in that case--Nell can't help but ask questions about who killed Ria Ruiz and Adriana Marques and why. But she may not like the answers she finds--not just about those she loves, but about herself.
 







*************************************************
Title: Beating Ruby
AuthorCamilla Monk
Length: 11 hrs and 27 mins 322 p
Published: May 2016
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 This second installment of the series was just as fun as the first.  Fast-paced, action-packed, and funny.  The quirky characters make it so I just can't put the book down.  Lots of violence--gunplay and fighting.

From the publisher:

Life hasn’t been quite the same for computer engineer Island Chaptal since March, an OCD-ridden professional killer, burst into her life to clean her bedroom and take her on a global chase for a legendary diamond. Sadly, the (hit) man doesn’t just break bones; he breaks hearts, too.

Since then, Island has found solace in Alex—the perfect boyfriend—and Ruby, a software project about to revolutionize online banking security…for the worse. When Island’s boss is found dead after allegedly using Ruby to steal a vast fortune, it’s up to her to clear his name and recover the money. Someone else wants answers, though, and this time, Island might be in over her head.

From New York to Zürich, it’s going to take the return of a cleaning expert, a mini-octopus, and Island’s wits to beat Ruby. All while deciding whether to trust a man who already jilted her, or one who may have his own deadly secrets…




*************************************************
Title: Crystal Whisperer
AuthorCamilla Monk
Length: 11 hrs and 43 mins 330 p
Published: November 2016
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

 Book 3 of the series is action-packed but still has humorous moments.  The fake book excerpts that begin each chapter just crack me up.  They set the tone for the book's sexy side, too.  

The ending, though.  Man!  What an ending!  Now I'm on to book 4.

From the publisher:

Perpetually foiled romance heroine Island Chaptal and reformed cleaning expert March —or is it Mr. November?— are enjoying a pleasant break in South-Africa, after brushing death in the inhospitable and platypus-infested mountains of Liechtenstein...

That is, until a commercial flight disintegrates over the Atlantic, killing hundreds, and Island's supervillain dad makes the news as the mastermind behind the attack. Old Lion Dries is now on the run, and he calls upon his last ally —and favorite disciple— March.

From the streets of Venice to the turquoise waters of French Polynesia, March and Island embark on a deadly race against the clock to find out what secrets lie behind Dries’s downfall, and stop the mysterious “Crystal Whisperer” before it’s too late. This time, though, there might just be no winning against futuristic weapons, CIA agents, Roomba cats, (reluctantly) evil henchmen, and dads who won’t let you get your groove on, dammit



*************************************************
Title: Butterfly in Amber
AuthorCamilla Monk
Length: 13 hrs and  14 mins 342 p
Published: May 2017
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Book 4 of the series is much darker than the previous books.  There's a lot more action in this book than previous books.  After the major cliff hanger at the end of Book 3, I'll admit it took me a bit to figure out where this book was starting--and since it didn't have the hilarious chapter introductions, I knew it was going to have a different tone. I couldn't put it down, though! 
From the publisher:
He's waiting for you...

Under a blanket of snow, surrounded by dark woods and a frozen sea, lies an ogre's castle. There lives a little princess, trapped in the maze of her own mind.
On a battlefield where the past meets the present stand a fairy godmother and a pirate, an old ice cream man and a knight in shining clean armor...
The clock is ticking fast, and to pierce the ogre's secrets and defeat him, Island Chaptal will have to fight to remember...and stay alive.

Can the Lions and the Roomba cats be stopped before it's too late?



*************************************************
Title: Island Chaptal and the Ancient Aliens' Treasure
AuthorCamilla Monk
Length: 10 hrs and  38 mins 362 p
Published: May 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars  

The final book in the series is satisfying--loose ends are tied nicely.  Still the humor, action, and romance.
From the publisher:
Okay, so it starts kind of like Hart to Hart.
He’s March November, a self-made millionaire and former legendary hitman, who now runs Struthio Security, a wholly legitimate business catering to high-end clients in serious trouble—think being in the cross-hairs of a Nigerian warlord.
He works with Island Chaptal, his girlfriend and partner. She used to be a computer engineer, but a lot of stuff happened, so now she’s his CTO and hacks poorly-protected devices and fiber optic cables for him, which kind of sounds like she slept her way to the top, but no, actually.
Together, Island Chaptal and Mr. November fight crime. Mostly. This time though, they’re rescuing Joy—Island’s BFF—who ended up in a Cancún jail after nearly killing her boyfriend’s side chica with a three-feet tall birthday cake. Ancient aliens somehow get involved in this mess, and also a guy name Angel Somoza, who hates sloths. There’s gunfights, frenetic capering from Cancún to Cairo, passionate sex, Roomba cats, and a lot of questionable science thrown in.
It’s the final chapter of the Spotless series, and just another Monday for March and Island.


*************************************************
Title: Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing
AuthorAllison Winn Scotch
Length:  10 hrs and 21 mins 328 p
Published:  August 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars  

I really enjoyed this story about truth, consequences, and regret.  Cleo was a likable character--navigating life as a US Senator, single mom, and flawed woman.  Her circle of friends were equally well-developed.  I liked the ins and outs of the political world.

From the publisher:

Cleo McDougal is a born politician. From congresswoman to senator, the magnetic, ambitious single mother now has her eye on the White House—always looking forward, never back. Until an estranged childhood friend shreds her in an op-ed hit piece gone viral.

With seven words—“Cleo McDougal is not a good person”—the presidential hopeful has gone from in control to damage control, and not just in Washington but in life.

Enter Cleo’s “regrets list” of 233 and counting. Her chief of staff has a brilliant idea: pick the top ten, make amends during a media blitz, and repair her reputation. But there are regrets, and there are regrets: like her broken relationship with her sister, her affair with a law school professor…and the regret too big to even say out loud.

But with risk comes reward, and as Cleo makes both peace and amends with her past, she becomes more empowered than ever to tackle her career, confront the hypocrites out to destroy her, and open her heart to what matters most—one regret at a time.


*************************************************
Title: Telling Tales
Author: Ann Cleeves
Length11 hrs and 33 mins / 400 p
Published: October 2006
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This second installment of the series is as compelling as the first.  Vera Stanhope is such a flawed, wonderful character.  There isn't much of her personal life in this book but hopefully, more will be revealed! It's set in a small and relatively isolated community and examines how that impacts life in the village--nothing goes unnoticed.  

From the publisher:
It has been ten years since Jeanie Long was charged with the murder of fifteen-year-old Abigail Mantel. Now residents of the East Yorkshire village of Elvet are disturbed to hear of new evidence proving Jeanie's innocence. Abigail's killer is still at large.

For one young woman, Emma Bennett, the revelation brings back haunting memories of her vibrant best friend--and of that fearful winter's day when she had discovered her body lying cold in a ditch.

As Inspector Vera Stanhope makes fresh enquiries on the peninsula and villagers are hauled back to a time they hoped to forget, tensions begin to mount. But are people afraid of the killer or of their own guilty pasts?

With each person's story revisited, the Inspector begins to suspect that some deadly secrets are threatening to unfurl.


*************************************************
Title: I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids
Author: Kyle Schwartz
Length: 6 hrs and 22 mins / 272 p
Published: July 2016
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I like the concept.  I found the book a little too "humblebrag" for my liking. 

From the publisher:
One day, third-grade teacher Kyle Schwartz asked her students to fill-in-the-blank in this sentence: "I wish my teacher knew _____." The results astounded her. Some answers were humorous, others were heartbreaking-all were profoundly moving and enlightening. The results opened her eyes to the need for educators to understand the unique realities their students face in order to create an open, safe and supportive place in the classroom. When Schwartz shared her experience online, #IWishMyTeacherKnew became an immediate worldwide viral phenomenon. Schwartz's book tells the story of #IWishMyTeacherKnew, including many students' emotional and insightful responses, and ultimately provides an invaluable guide for teachers, parents, and communities.



*************************************************
Title: All the Devils Are Here
AuthorLouise Penny
Length: 13 hrs and 59 mins 448 p
Published: September 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 


I have no idea how Louise Penny manages to write compelling, complex characters in such thrilling mysteries!  I literally read this in one sitting because I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down!  It's set in present-day Paris and I was so excited to have seen the neighborhoods mentioned, the gardens, the hotels, the restaurants, and the landmarks.  Even though I missed Three Pines and the characters I know and love, this was a real study of Armand Gamache and his family.  And I loved every word.

From the publisher:
On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand’s godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man’s life.

When a strange key is found in Stephen’s possession it sends Armand, his wife Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour d’Eiffel, to the bowels of the Paris Archives, from luxury hotels to odd, coded, works of art.

It sends them deep into the secrets Armand’s godfather has kept for decades.

A gruesome discovery in Stephen’s Paris apartment makes it clear the secrets are more rancid, the danger far greater and more imminent, than they realized.

Soon the whole family is caught up in a web of lies and deceit. In order to find the truth, Gamache will have to decide whether he can trust his friends, his colleagues, his instincts, his own past. His own family.

For even the City of Light casts long shadows. And in that darkness devils hide.



*************************************************
Title: The Mountains Wild
Author: Sarah Stewart Taylor
Length10 hrs and 49 mins / 416 p
Published: June 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 I admit I'm biased.  I love all things Ireland.  This book is no exception.  It begins in New York but most of the action takes place in and around Dublin. I loved how the narrative thread follows three different time spans--childhood, the early 20s, middle age.  The growth of the characters is realistic.  Just when I felt that it was dragging, the intensity picked up!  I'm very interested to see where this series goes.  The protagonist, Maggie D'arcy is real.

From the publisher:
Twenty-three years ago, Maggie D'arcy's family received a call from the Dublin police. Her cousin Erin has been missing for several days. Maggie herself spent weeks in Ireland, trying to track Erin's movements, working beside the police. But it was to no avail: no trace of her was ever found.

The experience inspired Maggie to become a cop. Now, back on Long Island, more than 20 years have passed. Maggie is a detective and a divorced mother of a teenager. When the Gardaí call to say that Erin's scarf has been found and another young woman has gone missing, Maggie returns to Ireland, awakening all the complicated feelings from the first trip. The despair and frustration of not knowing what happened to Erin. Her attraction to Erin's coworker, now a professor, who never fully explained their relationship. And her determination to solve the case, once and for all.


*************************************************

Title: The Switch
Author: Beth O'Leary
Length 10 hrs and 11 mins336 p
Published: April 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


There is so much more to this charming book than I expected.  The family dynamics were so vivid.  And the premise is awesome!

From the publisher:
Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena's tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it's time they swapped places...
When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen's house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She'd like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn't offer many eligible gentlemen.
Once Leena learns of Eileen's romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another's shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.
Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn't as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect - and distractingly handsome - school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

    

*************************************************

Title: Anxious People
Author: Fredrik Backman
Length:  9 hrs and 53 mins/ 352 p
Published: September 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


 Oh man, I wish one of my friends would read this so I could talk about it with them!  So many wonderfully quicky, fleshed-out characters.  Such a premise.  Lots of quick chapters that made it easy and quick to read.  I couldn't put it down.  I loved it.

The action begins with a bank robbery that isn't really a bank robbery followed by a hostage situation that really isn't one.  It connects the characters in ways that are unexpected.

From the publisher:
Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers begin slowly opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.

First is Zara, a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else until tragedy changed her life. Now, she’s obsessed with visiting open houses to see how ordinary people live—and, perhaps, to set an old wrong to right. Then there’s Roger and Anna-Lena, an Ikea-addicted retired couple who are on a never-ending hunt for fixer-uppers to hide the fact that they don’t know how to fix their own failing marriage. Julia and Ro are a young lesbian couple and soon-to-be parents who are nervous about their chances for a successful life together since they can’t agree on anything. And there’s Estelle, an eighty-year-old woman who has lived long enough to be unimpressed by a masked bank robber waving a gun in her face. And despite the story she tells them all, Estelle hasn’t really come to the apartment to view it for her daughter, and her husband really isn’t outside parking the car.

As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.


*************************************************
Title: Hidden Depths
AuthorAnn Cleeves
Length: 10 hrs and 53 mins 320 p
Published: November 2007
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 


This third installment of the Vera Stanhope series wasn't as great as the previous entries.  Still very good but not great.  I really enjoyed getting more background on the main character, Vera.  She's such an unusually real character.  I'm anxious to read more!

From the publisher:
On a hot summer on the Northumberland coast, Julie Armstrong arrives home from a night out to find her son murdered. Luke has been strangled, laid out in a bath of water and covered with wild flowers.

This stylized murder scene has Inspector Vera Stanhope and her team intrigued. But now, Vera must work quickly to find this killer who is making art out of death. As local residents are forced to share their private lives, sinister secrets are slowly unearthed.

And all the while the killer remains in their midst, waiting for an opportunity to prepare another beautiful, watery grave…


*************************************************
Title: Troubled Blood
AuthorRobert Galbraith (JK Rowling)
Length:  31 hrs and 51 mins / 944 p
Published: September 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars  

This fifth installment of the Cormoran Strike series is quite a departure from the previous ones.  The mystery is a cold case with a large cast of characters that rotate through the story.  And there are multiple sub-plotlines that don't always resolve.  I was a bit distracted by the different social commentaries woven into the subplots.  And the social references--like the 2014 Malaysian air crash don't move the plot forward in any way I can discern.  

The best parts were Cormoran and Robin Ellacott's interactions.  The development of their relationship is authentically palpable.  They are people I want to root for.  And want to be friends with.

Overall, the resolution is clever and satisfying.  

From the publisher:

Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough — who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974.

Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one forty years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike.

As Strike and Robin investigate Margot's disappearance, they come up against a fiendishly complex case with leads that include tarot cards, a psychopathic serial killer and witnesses who cannot all be trusted. And they learn that even cases decades old can prove to be deadly . . .



*************************************************
Title: Summer Hours at the Robbers Library
AuthorSue Halpern
Length: 10 hrs and  15 mins / 368 p
Published: February 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

9780062678966With the narrative shifting between Kit and Sunny's perspectives, the author is able to play with age and experience.  The voices were distinct and authentic--well done.  

A quote that stuck with me:
“Do you stop reading a book because you don't want to watch the characters you like turn out to be unlikable, or the ones with which you identify denied the happy ending you believe they deserve?”

From the publisher:
People are drawn to libraries for all kinds of reasons. Most come for the books themselves, of course; some come to borrow companionship. For head librarian Kit, the public library in Riverton, New Hampshire, offers what she craves most: peace. Here, no one expects Kit to talk about the calamitous events that catapulted her out of what she thought was a settled, suburban life. She can simply submerge herself in her beloved books and try to forget her problems.

But that changes when fifteen-year-old, home-schooled Sunny gets arrested for shoplifting a dictionary. The judge throws the book at Sunny—literally—assigning her to do community service at the library for the summer. Bright, curious, and eager to connect with someone other than her off-the-grid hippie parents, Sunny coaxes Kit out of her self-imposed isolation. They’re joined by Rusty, a Wall Street high-flyer suddenly crashed to earth.

In this little library that has become the heart of this small town, Kit, Sunny, and Rusty are drawn to each other, and to a cast of other offbeat regulars. As they come to terms with how their lives have unraveled, they also discover how they might knit them together again and finally reclaim their stories.



*************************************************
Title: The Late Bloomers' Club
AuthorLouise Miller
Length: 10 hrs and  1 min 325 p
Published: July 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

This is a sister story.  Nora and Kit have a complex and complicated relationship.  I liked the secondary characters and how the community is also a character.  It's an easy, sweet read.

From the publisher: 
Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie diner, is perfectly happy serving up apple cider donuts, coffee, and eggs-any-way-you-like-em to her regulars, and she takes great pleasure in knowing exactly what's "the usual." But her life is soon shaken when she discovers she and her younger, free-spirited sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town's beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson.

Kit, an aspiring--and broke--filmmaker needs to generate funding for her latest project, and is particularly keen when they find out Peggy was in the process of selling the land to a big-box developer before her death. The people of Guthrie are divided--some want the opportunities the development will bring, while others are staunchly against any change--and they aren't afraid to leave their opinions with their tips.

Time is running out, and the sisters need to make a decision soon. But Nora isn't quite ready to let go of the land, complete with a charming farmhouse, an ancient apple orchard and clues to a secret life that no one knew Peggy had.

Troubled by the conflicting needs of the town, and confused by her growing feelings towards Elliot, the big-box developer, Nora throws herself into solving the one problem that everyone in town can agree on--finding Peggy's missing dog, Freckles.

When a disaster strikes the diner, the community of Guthrie bands together to help her, and Nora discovers that doing the right thing doesn't always mean giving up your dreams.



*************************************************
Title: How Not To Die Alone/ Something To Live For
AuthorRichard Roper
Length: 8 hrs and  52 min / 321 p
Published: May 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

 
I never did find out why the book's title changed from How Not To Die Alone to Something To Live For but I suppose that's not terribly important. Andrew's job investigating unattended deaths to help the city of London bury the deceased or paupers might seem grim.  The respect and dignity he gives these lives make it almost poignant.  I listened to the audio and the narration is fantastic!

From the publisher:
Andrew's day-to-day is a little grim, searching for next of kin for those who die alone. Thankfully, he has a loving family waiting for him when he gets home, to help wash the day's cares away. At least, that's what his coworkers believe.

Andrew didn't mean for the misunderstanding to happen, yet he's become trapped in his own white lie. The fantasy of his wife and two kids has become a pleasant escape from his lonely one bedroom with only his Ella Fitzgerald records for company. But when new employee Peggy breezes into his life like a breath of fresh air, Andrew is shaken out of his routine. She doesn't notice the wall he's been safely hiding behind and their friendship promises to break it down.

Andrew must choose: Does he tell the truth and start really living his life, but risk losing his friendship with Peggy? Or will he stay safe and alone, behind the façade? How Not to Die Alone is about the importance of taking a chance in those moments when we have the most to lose. Sharp and funny, warm and real, it's the kind of big-hearted story we all need.



*************************************************
Title: Iron Lake
Author: William Kent Krueger
Length:  11 hrs and 57 mins / 330 p
Published: August 1998
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars  

This is a great debut mystery.  Gritty and atmospheric.  I felt the cold of the winter scenes, and the roar of the snowmobiles was a familiar sound of winter.  The desolation of the snowstorm, the isolation that comes with it.  I loved the parts about the Indigenous people and their community.  I want to read more!

From the publisher:
Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, Corcoran "Cork" O'Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota. Embittered by his "former" status, and the marital meltdown that has separated him from his children, Cork gets by on heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, and guilt. Once a cop on Chicago's South Side, there's not much that can shock him. But when the town's judge is brutally murdered, and a young Eagle Scout is reported missing, Cork takes on a mind-jolting case of conspiracy, corruption, and scandal.

As a lakeside blizzard buries Aurora, Cork must dig out the truth among town officials who seem dead-set on stopping his investigation in its tracks. But even Cork freezes up when faced with the harshest enemy of all: a small-town secret that hits painfully close to home.



*************************************************
Title: The Vanishing Half
Author: Brit Bennett
Length:  11 hrs and 34 mins / 343 p
Published: June 2020
Book Group: Library & School
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars  


 I finished this book and sat for a moment.  It's a story about identity and there are several plot threads that explore that theme.  To be honest, I don't know enough about the black community to know that passing as white is a thing--this book has made me very eager to explore and learn more.  It's a story about families, secrets, and discovery.  And how those three concepts can turn your world upside down.  I think there will be much to discuss with my book groups.

From the publisher:
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.


*************************************************
Title: The Jetsetters
AuthorAmanda Eyre Ward
Length: 8 hrs and  3 mins / 352 p
Published: March 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 


 This is the story of an estranged family.  Each member has a narrative thread and a distinct voice. I really liked the premise--a lavish Mediterranean cruise, with descriptions of all the stops.

From the publisher:
When seventy-year-old Charlotte Perkins submits a sexy essay to the "Become a Jetsetter" contest, she dreams of reuniting her estranged children: Lee, an almost-famous actress; Cord, a handsome Manhattan venture capitalist who can't seem to find a bride; and Regan, a harried mother who took it all wrong when Charlotte bought her a Weight Watchers gift certificate for her birthday. Charlotte yearns for the years when her children were young and she was a single mother who meant everything to them. When she wins the cruise, the family packs all their baggage—literal and figurative—and spends ten days traveling from sun-drenched Athens through glorious Rome to tapas-laden Barcelona on an over-the-top cruise ship, the Splendido Marveloso. As lovers new and old join the adventure, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the Perkins family is forced to confront the defining choices in their lives. Can four lost adults find the peace they've been seeking by reconciling their childhood aches and coming back to each other?


*************************************************
Title: Confessions on the 7:45
Author: Lisa Unger
Length:  12 hrs and 29 mins / 368 p
Published: October 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars  
 

This is a twisty, twisted story.  The premise is reminiscent of Strangers On A Train and the whole book has a noir quality.  The characters are complex and complicated.  And the story within a story drives the narrative.  Ultimately, it's a story about family: the family you're born into and the family you choose (friends who become family or marriage).  I have to say the ending was satisfying!

From the publisher:
Everyone has a secret… Now she knows yours.

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.




*************************************************
Title: The Women of Brewster Place
Author: Gloria Naylor
Length3 hrs and 7 mins / 192 p
Published: June 1983
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


 These connected stories are poignant, challenging, searing, and human. I could feel the struggle and resignation of the characters.

From the publisher:
In her heralded first novel, Gloria Naylor weaves together the stories of seven women living in Brewster Place, a bleak-inner city sanctuary, creative a powerful, moving portrait of the strengths, struggles, and hopes of black women in America. Vulnerable and resilient, openhanded and openhearted, these women forge their lives in a place that in turn threatens and protects - a common prison and a shared home. Adapted into a 1989 ABC miniseries starring Oprah Winfrey, The Women of Brewster Place is a contemporary classic - and a touching and unforgettable read.


*************************************************
Title: Silent Voices
Author: Ann Cleeves
Length10 hrs and 12 mins / 400 p
Published: March 2010
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

 

This fourth installment of the Vera Stanhope series left me wanting more--so I immediately started the next book.  Vera is a compelling character and in this book, her detecting and leading styles are more on display.  I love that she is a complex and multi-dimensional character.  I had an idea who committed the murder but it was a lucky guess all the way to the twisty ending.  My lingering question is how the title fits.
From the publisher:
When DI Vera Stanhope finds the body of a woman in the sauna room of her local gym, she wonders briefly if, for once in her life, she's uncovered a simple death from natural causes. But a closer inspection reveals ligature marks around the victim's throat - death is never that simple . . . Doing what she does best, Vera pulls her team together and sets them interviewing staff and those connected to the victim, while she and colleague, Sergeant Joe Ashworth, work to find a motive. While Joe struggles to reconcile his home life with the demands made on him by the job; Vera revels being back in charge of an investigation again. Death has never made her feel so alive . . . And when they discover that the victim had worked in social services, and had been involved in a shocking case involving a young child, then it appears obvious that the two are somehow connected. Though things are never as they seem . . .


*************************************************
TitleHealing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection
Author: James Crews, Editor
Length: none / 150 p
Published: April 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


This anthology spoke to me.  Some of the poems challenged me, were outside of my knowledge base.  But each of them stirred me.  My favorite is "Out Of The Mist" by Lahab Assef Al-Jundi, but there were several I want to re-read.  







Out Of The Mist
Lahab Assef Al-Jundi

Out of the mist of a million probable worlds,
Out of the dizziness of a long dream,

Like a bee that found its nectar in a field of stones,
Or a poet who heard his heart's music amid cries of war,

The precision was that of divine intervention,
Art born of deeper beauty,

And just like birds find home after a long winter,
And a smile finds its way to a melancholy face,

I found you.



*************************************************
Title: The Glass Room
Author: Ann Cleeves
Length10 hrs and 54 mins / 373 p
Published: February 2012
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

 

Vera Stanhope is a rather cantankerous, frumpy woman.  She's brilliant at her job.  It's fascinating to read all the layers of this complex character.  I feel like I know her, and sometimes like I am her.  There were a few questions that lingered about the logistics of the setting, but maybe I wasn't paying enough attention when I was reading.  #5 in the series.

From the publisher:
DI Vera Stanhope is not one to make friends easily, but her hippy neighbors keep her well supplied in homebrew and conversation, and somehow bonds have formed. When one of them goes missing, Vera tracks the young woman down to the Writer's House, a country retreat where aspiring authors work on their stories.

Things get complicated when a body is discovered, and Vera's neighbor is found with a knife in her hand. Calling in the team, Vera knows that she should hand the case over. She's too close to the main suspect. But the investigation is too tempting, and she's never been one to follow the rules. Somewhere there is a killer who has taken murder off the page and is making it real....


*************************************************
Title: The Pursuit of Alice Thrift
Author: Elinore Lipman
Lengthnone / 306 p
Published: January 2003
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 


 I don't even know where to start--this book was so much fun!  I loved all the characters, somehow they jumped off the page and I felt like I know them all.  I could relate to Alice's insecurities and how she uses work to compensate.  I could relate to Alice's friends who are frustrated with her using work as an excuse.  It was so funny, I actually laughed out loud a couple of times.  

From the publisher:
Meet Alice Thrift, surgical intern in a Boston hospital, high of I.Q. but low in social graces. She doesn’t mean to be acerbic, clinical, or blunt, but where was she the day they taught Bedside Manner 101? Into Alice’s workaholic and wallflower life comes Ray Russo, a slick traveling fudge salesman in search of a nose job and well-heeled companionship, but not necessarily in that order. Is he a conman or a sincere suitor? Good guy or bad? Alice’s parents, roommate, and best friend Sylvie are appalled at her choice of mate. Despite her doubts, Alice finds herself walking down the aisle, not so much won over as worn down. Will their marriage last the honeymoon? Only if Alice’s best instincts can triumph over Ray’s unsavory ways.



*************************************************
Title: The Second Sleep
Author: Robert Harris
Length9 hrs and 21 mins / 304 p
Published: November 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 


This is a genre-bending book: a post-apocalyptic, speculative-fiction mystery.  If I say too much about it, I'm afraid I'll spoil it.  So--I'll say that it's thought-provoking and timely.  It's about knowledge and the power that comes with knowledge.  As more is revealed, the tension and almost gothic nature create a creepy atmosphere. The main character's philosophical and moral struggles were human and real.  

The title refers to the pre-modern practice of having two sets of sleep times, the first being sunset to about midnight and the second being the morning hours until sunup.  It's a metaphor that works with the theme of being awake to the world around you.

From the publisher:
1468. A young priest, Christopher Fairfax, arrives in a remote Exmoor village to conduct the funeral of his predecessor. The land around is strewn with ancient artifacts--coins, fragments of glass, human bones--which the old parson used to collect. Did his obsession with the past lead to his death?
Fairfax becomes determined to discover the truth. Over the course of the next six days, everything he believes--about himself, his faith, and the history of his world--will be tested to destruction.

The audio narration is fantastic!  One of the best audiobooks I've listened to.


*************************************************
Title: In Five Years
Author: Rebecca Serle
Length6 hrs and 44 mins / 272 p
Published: March 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

 
I wanted to love this book.  Instead, I have a case of like.  I didn't love Dannie Cohan the main character.  At all.  I loved Dannie's people--boyfriend David and bestie Bella.  

From the publisher:
Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.



*************************************************
TitleSnowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland
Author: Heidi Swain
Length: 10 hrs and 3 mins 416 p
Published: November 2018
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


 Just the delightful holiday read I was craving!  It's the fourth of the Wynbridge series that I've read (they're stand-alone) and it's always fun to visit this fantasy village.  I would have liked more about Gabe's backstory-but he's an equal match for Hayley.

From the publisher:
After calling off her engagement, Hayley, the Wynthorpe Hall housekeeper, wants nothing more than to return to her no-strings fun-loving self, avoiding any chance of future heartbreak. Little does she know, Wynbridge’s latest arrival is about to throw her plan entirely off course . . .

Moving into Wynthorpe Hall to escape the town’s gossip, Hayley finds herself immersed in the eccentric Connelly family’s festive activities as they plan to host their first ever Winter Wonderland. But Hayley isn’t the only new resident at the hall. Gabe, a friend of the Connelly’s son Jamie, has also taken up residence, moving into Gatekeeper’s Cottage, and he quickly makes an impression on Wynbridge’s reformed good-girl.

As preparations commence for the biggest event of the season, the pair find themselves drawn ever closer to one another, but unbeknownst to Hayley, Gabe, too, has a reason for turning his back on love, one that seems intent on keeping them apart.

Under the starry winter skies, will Gabe convince Hayley to open her heart again once more? And in doing so, will he convince himself?


*************************************************
Title: The Christmas Pact
AuthorVi Keeland and Penelope Ward
Length2 hrs and 54 mins
Published: December 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


 I loved the premise of this!

From the publisher:
Riley Kennedy’s emails keep getting crossed with her colleague, Kennedy Riley.

The infuriating man forwards them along with his annoying commentary and unsolicited advice. At least she never has to see him in person since they work in different locations…until they come face to face at the office holiday party. As luck would have it, Kennedy turns out to be gorgeous…though still a jerk. Yet somehow he’s able to charm her out on the dance floor—and convince her to participate in his crazy scheme: He’ll go home with Riley for a Christmas party and pretend to be her boyfriend if Riley agrees to be his date to a wedding.

It sounds easy enough. But little by little, the act they’re putting on starts to feel like so much more than a Christmas pact—and Riley’s about to learn there’s more to Kennedy than she ever imagined.


*************************************************
Title: The Christmas Tree
AuthorJulie Salamon
Length: none / 118 p
Published: October 1996
Book Group: no
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I love this story about a little girl and her friend, Tree.  What a tribute to friendship.

From the publisher:
The Christmas Tree is the tale of a little girl named Anna, who is orphaned and sent to live in a convent. The lonely girl befriends, as only a child can, a tiny fir tree. Anna and Tree, as she calls him, grow up together, unlocking the secrets of friendship and sharing the wonders of nature. It is this same profound appreciation and love of nature that the grown-up Anna, now Sister Anthony, passes on to her students.
When Tree is threatened by a winter storm, Sister Anthony, by now an old woman, decides to give up her dearest friend, allowing him to become the most enjoyed and famous tree of all: the tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

*************************************************
TitleIn A Holidaze
Author: Christina Lauren
Length7 hrs and 40 mins 336 p
Published: October 2020
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
This quirky book is based on a strange time loop filled with great secondary characters set in a Christmas backdrop.  There are some funny moments along with some cringe-worthy moments as Mae comes to discover what makes her happy.  We never really find out if Mae continues looping or if she's figured it out once and for all.

I wish there was a little bit of Andrew's point of view, it was hard to get the full picture of how the plot was moving along without his perspective.  

It was a fun read and made me want to join in this family fun.

From the publisher:
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.


*************************************************
Title: 25 Days 'Til Christmas
Author: Poppy Alexander
Length9 hrs and 38 mins 352 p
Published: October 2019
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


Don't be deceived--this is not a fluffy Christmas read.  It's a complicated story.  It's heartwarming but also heartbreaking but being a holiday story, it's ultimately uplifting.  Complicated.  There are several plotlines that offer lighter fare--like the secondary characters, who are very interesting and deserve spin-offs.  

I loved the advent calendar and the prospect of special activities for each day.  And I did enjoy this book, I can see myself returning to it.  It's not my typical holiday fare because of the serious themes.

From the publisher:
Kate Potter used to love Christmas. A few years ago, she would have been wrapping her presents in September and baking mince pies on Halloween, counting down the days and hours to Christmas. But that was before Kate’s husband left for the army and never came home. Now she can hardly stand December at all.

Kate can’t deny she’s lonely, yet she doesn’t think she’s ready for romance. She knows that her son, Jack, needs a Christmas to remember—just like Kate needs a miracle to help her finally move forward with her life. So she’s decided if there isn’t a miracle on its way, she’ll just have to make her own.

As Kate’s advent countdown to the best Christmas ever begins, she soon realizes that even with the best laid plans, you can’t plan for the unexpected. For when the path of the loneliest woman in town crosses with that of the loneliest man, these two destined hearts might find a way to save the holiday for both of them.

*************************************************
Title: Winter Street
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Length: 6 hrs and 51 mins / 249 p
Published: October 2014
Book Group: no
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

 
This is the first book in a series--and I definitely want more.  It's not high literature but there is depth in this story of realizing that family is what matters most.  Lots of characters to keep track of but their stories blend well.  It ends abruptly but I'm sure it picks up there in book 2.

From the publisher:
Kelley Quinn is the owner of Nantucket's Winter Street Inn and the proud father of four, all of them grown and living in varying states of disarray. Patrick, the eldest, is a hedge fund manager with a guilty conscience. Kevin, a bartender, is secretly sleeping with a French housekeeper named Isabelle. Ava, a school teacher, is finally dating the perfect guy but can't get him to commit. And Bart, the youngest and only child of Kelley's second marriage to Mitzi, has recently shocked everyone by joining the Marines.

As Christmas approaches, Kelley is looking forward to getting the family together for some quality time at the inn. But when he walks in on Mitzi kissing Santa Claus (or the guy who's playing Santa at the inn's annual party), utter chaos descends. With the three older children each reeling in their own dramas and Bart unreachable in Afghanistan, it might be up to Kelley's ex-wife, nightly news anchor Margaret Quinn, to save Christmas at the Winter Street Inn.

Before the mulled cider is gone, the delightfully dysfunctional Quinn family will survive a love triangle, an unplanned pregnancy, a federal crime, a small house fire, many shots of whiskey, and endless rounds of Christmas caroling, in this heart-warming novel about coming home for the holidays.