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.

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