2020 Reading




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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.





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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.


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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.



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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.






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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.



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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.



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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.



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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.




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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 . . .


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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?

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