2022 Reading




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Title: You Lucky Dog
Author: Julia London
Length: 11 hrs and 15 mins /  350 pp
Published: August 2020
Book Group: no
Finished: 1/6
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is one of the best meet-cutes!  And the first part of the book is full of fun zingers and funny situations.  But there are a few things that bugged me--the sister, Mia, and her lack of parenting skills and the mother and her cliche relationship with Carly.  I thoroughly enjoyed Max.  He was nerdy and vulnerable and his family relationships were great.  I will check out the next book in the series to see where the story goes.

From the publisher:
Carly Kennedy's life is in a spiral. She is drowning in work, her divorced parents are going through their midlife crises, and somehow Carly's sister convinces her to foster Baxter--a basset hound rescue with a bad case of the blues. When Carly comes home late from work one day to discover that the dog walker has accidentally switched out Baxter for another perkier, friendlier basset hound, she has reached the end of her leash.

When Max Sheffington finds a depressed male basset hound in place of his cheerful Hazel, he is bewildered. But when cute, fiery Carly arrives on his doorstep, he is intrigued. He was expecting the dog walker, not a pretty woman with firm ideas about dog discipline. And Carly was not expecting a handsome, bespectacled man to be feeding her dog mac and cheese. Baxter is besotted with Hazel, and Carly realizes she may have found the key to her puppy’s happiness. For his sake, she starts to spend more time with Hazel and Max, until she begins to understand the appeal of falling for your polar opposite.




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Title: The Ex Hex
Author: Erin Sterling
Length: 7 hrs and 23 mins /  320 pp
Published: September 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 1/8
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I tried to read this around Halloween as it's a holiday-themed rom-com about witches but was on the library waiting list until now.  The secondary characters are a lot of fun.  I wish there was more world-building, that was lacking and would have made it a higher-rated read.  Vivi and Rhys were fun characters and I was cheering them on.  I'll probably read the sequel to see who's highlighted this go around.

From the publisher:
Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.


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Title: A Town Called Solace
Author: Mary Lawson
Length: hrs and 32 mins /  304 pp
Published: February 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 1/9
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 
A truly beautiful book.  It's set in 1972 so it has a bit of a nostalgic feel, although I am not sure why it's set then--other than it was a simpler time, and "stranger danger" wasn't quite the same as it is today and there is no reliance on technology.  With three narrative threads, the complexity of the story is told from youth, middle age, and old age.  The innocence and naivety of Clara are balanced by the almost-jaded perspective of Liam with Mrs. Orchard's reminiscences rounding out the trio.  It's an interesting play on the definition of solace--with comfort given and sought.

From the publisher:
A Town Called Solace--the brilliant and emotionally radiant new novel from Mary Lawson, her first in nearly a decade--opens on a family in crisis: rebellious teenager Rose been missing for weeks with no word, and Rose's younger sister, the feisty and fierce Clara, keeps a daily vigil at the living-room window, hoping for her sibling's return.

Enter thirtyish Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, where he promptly moves into the house next door--watched suspiciously by astonished and dismayed Clara, whose elderly friend, Mrs. Orchard, owns that home. Around the time of Rose's disappearance, Mrs. Orchard was sent for a short stay in hospital, and Clara promised to keep an eye on the house and its remaining occupant, Mrs. Orchard's cat, Moses. As the novel unfolds, so does the mystery of what has transpired between Mrs Orchard and the newly arrived stranger.

Told through three distinct, compelling points of view--Clara's, Mrs. Orchard's, and Liam Kane's--the novel cuts back and forth among these unforgettable characters to uncover the layers of grief, remorse, and love that connect families, both the ones we're born into and the ones we choose. A Town Called Solace is a masterful, suspenseful and deeply humane novel by one of our great storytellers.





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Title: It Ends With Us
Author: Colleen Hoover
Length: 11 hrs and 11 mins / 385 pp
Published: August 2016
Book Group: no
Finished: 1/12
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I went into this book with no preconceived ideas.  I thought it would be a formulaic romance.  But it's a thought-provoking and poignant look at how Lily endures, sacrifices, and ultimately thrives.  I loved the Boston setting.  The secondary characters add a touch of lightness to the serious subject matter.

From the publisher:
Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up
— she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan — her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.



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Title: Hamnet
Author: Maggie O'Farrell
Length12 hrs and 42 mins /  310 pp
Published: March 2020
Book Group: Library
Finished: 1/15
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is masterful storytelling.  I was drawn into the atmosphere.  The narrative is not linear but it is easy to follow--weaving the thread of the plague first afflicting Judith and her twin brother, Hamnet, and the second thread of their parents' passionate love.  Ultimately, it's a family drama: the love story between Agnes and her never-named husband William Shakespeare, the love story between parents and children. And it is the story of love surviving grief.

It's beautiful.  I have to admit I put off reading it because, skeptically, I didn't think it would live up to the hype.  But it did.

From the publisher:
A thrilling departure: A short, piercing, deeply moving new novel from the acclaimed author of I Am, I Am, I Am, about the death of Shakespeare's eleven-year-old son Hamnet--a name interchangeable with Hamlet in fifteenth-century Britain--and the years leading up to the production of his great play.

England, 1580. A young Latin tutor--penniless, bullied by a violent father--falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman: a wild creature who walks her family's estate with a falcon on her shoulder and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer. Agnes understands plants and potions better than she does people, but once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose gifts as a writer are just beginning to awaken when his beloved young son succumbs to bubonic plague.

A luminous portrait of a marriage, a shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, and a hypnotic recreation of the story that inspired one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time, Hamnet is mesmerizing and seductive, an impossible-to-put-down novel from one of our most gifted writers.





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Title: The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music
Author: Dave Grohl
Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins /  376 pp
Published: October 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 1/18
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I was a Nirvana fan back in the day.  And I'm a Foo Fighters fan.  So it's not surprising I enjoyed Dave Grohl's storytelling.  I liked how he tells stories about being a fan of music and musicians instead of name-dropping.  It's not linear, it's thematic so it goes all over the place in time.  But I liked that, it felt like a sit-down conversation over a couple beers or cups of coffee.  I feel like we could be friends.

From the publisher:
So, I've written a book.

Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities ("It's a piece of cake! Just do 4 hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!") I have decided to write these stories just as I have always done, in my own hand. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I've recorded and can't wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child.

This certainly doesn't mean that I'm quitting my day job, but it does give me a place to shed a little light on what it's like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old, to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement. 


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Title: It Started With A Dog
Author: Julia London
Length: 10 hrs and 37 mins /  348 pp
Published: October 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 1/20
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Julia London is fantastic at the meet-cute.  This second in the series had an all-too-real scenario of phone swapping.  I liked the characters Harper and Jonah--both are just the right amount of nerdy and needy.  Plus the dogs are almost characters, too! Although it's a series, it's a stand-alone.  I'm enjoying the trope of dogs bringing couples together.

From the publisher:
All Harper Thompson wants for Christmas is the huge promotion she's worked so hard for--which she should get, as long as her launch of the hip new coffeehouse, Deja Brew, goes according to plan. Jonah Rogers is spending the holiday season trying to save his family's coffee shop, Lucky Star, from going out of business, which will be tough with the brand-new Deja Brew opening across the street.

When Jonah and Harper meet for the first time after accidentally swapping phones, their chemistry is as electric as a strand of Christmas lights. He's a tall, handsome, compassionate hunk of engineer, and she's an entrepreneur whose zest for life is very sexy. They love all the same things, like running, scary movies, greasy food--and most of all, dogs. It's a match made in heaven...until Jonah finds out that Harper's the one about to put him out of business.

Only one coffee shop can survive, and a competition of one-upmanship ensues in a holiday battle of the brews. The paws really come out when the local rescue shelter has a fundraiser where local businesses foster dogs, and patrons donate cash to vote for their favorite pup. Harper takes in an adorable old bulldog on behalf of Deja Brew, while Jonah fosters a perky three-legged dachshund for Lucky Star. When one precious pup is crowned King Mutt, and a For Sale sign goes up in the other shop's window, Harper and Jonah must decide if their connection was all steam or if they are the perfect blend.



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Title: Harlem Shuffle
Author: Colson Whitehead
Length10 hrs and 35 mins /  318 pp
Published: September 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 1/30
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I keep reading about this as a family saga but I don't necessarily agree with that--I think it's a coming-of-age story.  And it's the story of Ray's internal struggle of good and not-so-good.  I don't want to call him evil because he is not evil, he's just making some not-so-good choices.

The dialog is wonderful.  The heist is what drives the narrative.  I like how the author is able to tackle serious topics of the era (the early 60s) and makes them relevant without clubbing the reader over the head.

From the publisher:
From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.

“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…” To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home.

Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.

Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either.

Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the “Waldorf of Harlem”—and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?

Harlem Shuffle’s ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.









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Title: Pretty Little Wife
Author: Darby Kane
Length: 9 hrs and 27 mins /  407 pp
Published: December 2020
Book Group: no
Finished: 2/11
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This was a thrill ride!  Once I got drawn into the story I couldn't put it down.  It was hard to tell if Lila was reliable or who/what to believe.  Most of the story is a cat and mouse game but when I thought I knew the game there was a clever twist I didn't see coming!  There is suggested violence, sexual abuse, and kidnapping but none of it is graphically detailed--it's recounted parts of the story.  I loved the podcast. My only complaint is that about two-thirds of the way through, it got weirdly unrealistic and I definitely had to suspend belief at the ending, but I couldn't put it down.

From the publisher:
Lila Ridgefield lives in an idyllic college town, but not everything is what it seems. Lila isn’t what she seems. A student vanished months ago. Now, Lila’s husband, Aaron, is also missing. At first these cases are treated as horrible coincidences until it’s discovered the student is really the third of three unexplained disappearances over the last few years. The police are desperate to find the connection, if there even is one. Little do they know they might be stumbling over only part of the truth….

With the small town in an uproar, everyone is worried about the whereabouts of their beloved high school teacher. Everyone except Lila, his wife. She’s definitely confused about her missing husband but only because she was the last person to see his body, and now it’s gone.


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Title: On The Way To The Wedding (Bridgertons #8)
Author: Julia Quinn
Length13 hrs  / 496 pp
Published: June 2006
Book Group: no
Finished: 2/21
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This finale to the series is quite a departure as it veers into the suspense realm a bit.  But there is plenty of snappy dialogue and the relationship is sweetly genuine.  There are references and minor interactions with the Bridgerton siblings but not as much interaction.  I enjoyed Lucy and found her to be one of the more believable characters.  The interactions with Gregory are amusing and their romance doesn't have the angsty trauma some of the other books have.

I'm sad to see this series end--it's been fun!

From the publisher: 
A funny thing happened...

Unlike most men of his acquaintance, Gregory Bridgerton believes in true love. And he is convinced that when he finds the woman of his dreams, he will know in an instant that she is the one. And that is exactly what happened. Except...

She wasn't the one. In fact, the ravishing Miss Hermione Watson is in love with another. But her best friend, the ever-practical Lady Lucinda Abernathy, wants to save Hermione from a disastrous alliance, so she offers to help Gregory win her over. But in the process, Lucy falls in love. With Gregory! Except...

Lucy is engaged. And her uncle is not inclined to let her back out of the betrothal, even once Gregory comes to his senses and realizes that it is Lucy, with her sharp wit and sunny smile, who makes his heart sing. And now, on the way to the wedding, Gregory must risk everything to ensure that when it comes time to kiss the bride, he is the only man standing at the altar...


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Title: Born A Crime
Author: Trevor Noah
Lengthhrs and 44 mins /  289 pp
Published: November 2016
Book Group: no
Finished: 2/23
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In all honesty, I didn't know who Trevor Noah was beyond taking over The Daily Show from Jon Stewart. But this award-winning audiobook deserves all the accolades it has received.  I learned a lot about apartheid and life in South Africa. It's an eye-opening book.  It also makes me want to know more about his career.

From the publisher:
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.


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Title: Careful What You Wish For
Author: Hallie Ephron
Lengthhrs and 46 mins /  288 pp
Published: August 2019
Book Group: no
Finished: 2/23
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This was a quick read.  I got sucked in and finished it in one go.  The protagonist is someone I would be friends with.  I like that a viral video of decluttering posted on social media garnered enough of a following to launch a career change.  There were a few too many neat coincidences in the plot that led me to figure it out, but it was enjoyable enough.

From the publisher:
Emily Harlow is a professional organizer who helps people declutter their lives; she’s married to man who can’t drive past a yard sale without stopping. He’s filled their basement, attic, and garage with his finds.

Like other professionals who make a living decluttering peoples’ lives, Emily has devised a set of ironclad rules. When working with couples, she makes clear that the client is only allowed to declutter his or her own stuff. That stipulation has kept Emily’s own marriage together these past few years. She’d love nothing better than to toss out all her husband’s crap. He says he’s a collector. Emily knows better—he’s a hoarder. The larger his “collection” becomes, the deeper the distance grows between Emily and the man she married.

Luckily, Emily’s got two new clients to distract herself: an elderly widow whose husband left behind a storage unit she didn’t know existed, and a young wife whose husband won’t allow her stuff into their house. Emily’s initial meeting with the young wife takes a detour when, after too much wine, the women end up fantasizing about how much more pleasant life would be without their collecting spouses.

But the next day Emily finds herself in a mess that might be too big for her to clean up. Careful what you wish for, the old adage says . . . now Emily might lose her freedom, her marriage . . . and possibly her life.


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Title: Project Hail Mary
Author: Andy Weir
Length16 hrs and 10 mins /  476 pp
Published: May 2021
Book Group: Library
Finished: 2/26
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I liked that the hero is an everyman-type.  He's a middle school science teacher.  As with Weir's debut novel, The Martian, this book is heavy with science.  But once I got used to the language of science, I got caught up in the human side of the story.   Piecing Ryland  Grace's story together through flashbacks almost detracted from the flow because the structure was a bit jarring at times.  I'm not sure how else the backstory would have been fleshed out, though.  

I highly recommend the audio version.  Ray Porter as the narrator is absolutely fantastic.

From the publisher:
Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the Earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn't know that. He can't even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he's been asleep for a very, very long time. And he's just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that's been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it's up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian--while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.





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Title: The Personal Librarian
AuthorMarie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
Length12 hrs and 23 mins /  341 pp
Published: June 2021
Book Group: Both
Finished: 3/1
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What I loved about this book is its history.  It's a story about race and class.  I thought it would be a book about books but she was the personal librarian for JP Morgan;  his collections of books and objets d'art.  

The era is evocatively brought to life and the social mores that went with each class.  And each race.  And Belle da Costa Greene is a witty, bold, fiercely intelligent figure.  Each success threatens to spill her secret of passing as white.  Everything she says and does is under a microscope because she's a woman navigating and thriving in a man's world.  And every nuance is scrutinized and self-contained because she's African-American passing as white.  

I loved the sense of bohemian life that Belle adopts.  I loved her internal struggle of passing as white for the opportunities and safety it affords her versus the moral dilemma of betraying her father--who is prominent as a civil rights activist.  There will be much for my book group to discuss.

From the publisher:
The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan's personal librarian—who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle's complexion isn't dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.
 







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Title: The Girl He Used To Know
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Lengthhrs and 10 mins /  291 pp
Published: April 2019
Book Group: School
Finished: 3/6
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The characters are well developed.  And there's a dual timeline narrative of when Annika and Jonathan meet in college and reconnect ten years later.  There's a sweetness to their romance and I was rooting for them.  Their growth when they reconnect was evident and I wanted a happy ever after.  It's poignant and was about friendship and love.  Overall, I laughed and I cried and I will look for more by this author.

From the publisher:
What if you had a second chance at first love?

Annika Rose likes being alone.

She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way. She just can't read people. She prefers the quiet solitude of books or playing chess to being around others. Apart from Jonathan. She liked being around him, but she hasn't seen him for ten years. Until now that is. And she's not sure he'll want to see her again after what happened all those years ago.

Annika Rose likes being alone.

Except that, actually, she doesn't like being alone at all.




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Title: One Two Three
Author: Laurie Frankel
Length: 14 hrs and 59 mins /  416 pp
Published: June 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 3/17
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

What interesting narrators: triplets Mab, Monday, and Mirabel each have distinctive characteristics and voices.  Mab, the firstborn with a one-syllable name, bears the guilt and burden of being the "normal one," Monday, the second-born with a two-syllable name, is on the autism spectrum and obsessed with truth and being a librarian, and Mirabel, the third-born with a three-syllable name, is brilliant but the severely physically disabled.  

While the setting and situation of the book are dark, a small town reeling from the aftermath of a chemical factory's major pollution and chemical dumping, ultimately it is a hopeful story.  The characters are vivid and the intimacy and claustrophobic feel of small-town life is fully realized.  

I recommend listening to the audio version of the book--the voice actors are adept at creating three individuals.  Plus Mirabel's augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device.

I will say the ending was a little... I've seen it described as Scooby Doo and I think I agree with that.  I had to suspend belief.

From the publisher:
In a town where nothing ever changes, suddenly everything does...

Everyone knows everyone in the tiny town of Bourne, but the Mitchell triplets are especially beloved. Mirabel is the smartest person anyone knows, and no one doubts it just because she can’t speak. Monday is the town’s purveyor of books now that the library’s closed―tell her the book you think you want, and she’ll pull the one you actually do from the microwave or her sock drawer. Mab’s job is hardest of all: get good grades, get into college, get out of Bourne.

For a few weeks seventeen years ago, Bourne was national news when its water turned green. The girls have come of age watching their mother’s endless fight for justice. But just when it seems life might go on the same forever, the first moving truck anyone’s seen in years pulls up and unloads new residents and old secrets. Soon, the Mitchell sisters are taking on a system stacked against them and uncovering mysteries buried longer than they’ve been alive. Because it's hard to let go of the past when the past won't let go of you.

Three unforgettable narrators join together here to tell a spellbinding story with wit, wonder, and deep affection. As she did in This Is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel has written a laugh-out-loud-on-one-page-grab-a-tissue-the-next novel, as only she can, about how expanding our notions of normal makes the world a better place for everyone and how when days are darkest, it’s our daughters who will save us all.


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Title: The Younger Wife
Author: Sally Hepworth
Lengthhrs and 18 mins / 352 pp
Published: April 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 3/19
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a twisty family story.  Each woman in the Aston family has her own dark side that filters the way she interacts with the world--from kleptomania, eating disorders, dementia, sexual trauma, gaslighting, and emotional and physical abuse.  The narrative thread weaves the three unreliable points of view together while relating the year leading up to the wedding scene.

I liked that the women are strong characters.  I liked that the mental disorders are depicted thoughtfully.  I liked that the sisters, Rachel and Tully have a strained relationship that builds into a tight bond.  I liked the relationship between the sisters and the young wife, Heather.  

From the publisher:
THE HUSBAND
A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

THE DAUGHTERS
Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

THE FORMER WIFE
With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

THE YOUNGER WIFE
Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses in all of them?

Thank you NetGalley and MacMillan Audio for allowing me to rate and review this title.


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Title: My Darling Husband
Author: Kimberly Belle
Length: 10 hrs and 8 mins / 336 pp
Published: December 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 3/21
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a fast read; a fast-paced, twisty, thrill.  I wasn't sure how reliable the narrators were as the book opens with a news interview giving Cam's perspective, followed by flash-back chapters narrated by Jade or Sebastian.  I like the author's use of the shifting narrative perspective, explaining the backstory and slowly revealing the lies and deceptions.

Ultimately, Cam and Sebastian make some unbelievably questionable decisions but the reason is all too human.  I didn't connect with any of the characters, although I did have sympathy for Sebastian.  The feisty children, Beatrix and Baxter, are my favorite characters.

From the publisher:
Jade and Cam Lasky are by all accounts a happily married couple, with two adorable kids, a spacious home and a rapidly growing restaurant business. But their world is tipped upside down when Jade is confronted by a masked home invader. As Cam scrambles to gather the ransom money, Jade starts to wonder if they’re as financially secure as their lifestyle suggests, and what other secrets her husband is keeping from her.

Cam may be a good father, a celebrity chef and a darling husband, but there’s another side he’s kept hidden from Jade that has put their family in danger. Unbeknownst to Cam and Jade, the home invader has been watching them and is about to turn their family secrets into a public scandal.


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Title: The Sentence
Author: Louise Erdrich
Length11 hrs and 49mins /  387 pp
Published: November 2021
Book Group: Library
Finished: 3/26
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is one of those books that has me scratching my head--what did I just read?  There is so much going on that I am not sure I can capture all the nuances of the storylines.  There are moments of dark humor--like the bumbling crime that sends the narrator to federal prison, opening the action.  But there are some challenging events--the pandemic and George Floyd's death and the subsequent rioting.  And there are so many books!  And the role of bookstores during the pandemic.  It's a ghost story that delves into the fantastical realm (I admit I struggled with that).

I keep coming back to the title and how it applies to Tookie, the narrator, and the events of the book.  It's a complex story that while taking place during a calendar year, doesn't seem quite linear.  The style of storytelling is not a straightforward narrative.  It's like having a conversation with a friend that sometimes goes off in different directions then comes back around.

This is going to be a great book club discussion.  It is a beautifully rich book.  

From the publisher:
In this stunning and timely novel, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich creates a wickedly funny ghost story, a tale of passion, of a complex marriage, and of a woman's relentless errors.

Louise Erdrich's latest novel, The Sentence, asks what we owe to the living, the dead, to the reader and to the book. A small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted from November 2019 to November 2020 by the store's most annoying customer. Flora dies on All Souls' Day, but she simply won't leave the store. Tookie, who has landed a job selling books after years of incarceration that she survived by reading with murderous attention, must solve the mystery of this haunting while at the same time trying to understand all that occurs in Minneapolis during a year of grief, astonishment, isolation, and furious reckoning.

The Sentence begins on All Souls' Day 2019 and ends on All Souls' Day 2020. Its mystery and proliferating ghost stories during this one year propel a narrative as rich, emotional, and profound as anything Louise Erdrich has written.


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Title: Once There Were Wolves
AuthorCharlotte McConaghy
Lengthhrs and 27 mins / 258 pp
Published: August 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 3/29
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 
One of the things I liked about this book, about the reintegration of wolves in Scotland, was the lingering question of just who is the wild one: the protagonist or the wolves?  All of the characters from Inti and Aggie to their parents to the farmers are consumed with passion for their professions, which I thought bordered on obsession. 

There are heavy themes--ranging from trauma, domestic violence, family bonds, sisterhood, secrets, murder, mystery, destruction, community relations, gossip, assumptions, and romance.  There is a lot going on but the writing is compelling--vivid descriptions and lyrical prose.  

From the publisher:
Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.

Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she’s witnessed—inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?


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Title: How To Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days
Author: K.M. Jackson
Length: 8 hrs and 38 mins /  337 pp
Published: November 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 3/30
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


What a fun rom-com of a book.   I loved Bethany Lu Carlisle and her best friends, I want to be friends with them!  

From the publisher:
Bethany Lu Carlisle is devastated when the tabloids report actor Keanu Reeves is about to tie the knot. What?! How could the world's perfect boyfriend and forever bachelor, Keanu not realize that making a move like this could potentially be devastating to the equilibrium of...well...everything! Not to mention, he's never come face to face with the person who could potentially be his true soulmate—her.
 
Desperate to convince Keanu to call off the wedding, Lu and her ride-or-die BFF Truman Erikson take a wild road trip to search for the elusive Keanu so that Lu can fulfill her dream of meeting her forever crush and confess her undying love. From New York to Los Angeles, Lu and True get into all sorts of sticky situations. Will Lu be able to find Keanu and convince him she's the one for him? Or maybe she'll discover true love has been by her side all along...


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Title: The Maid
Author: Nita Prose
Lengthhrs and 37 mins /  304 pp
Published: January 2022
Book Group: Library
Finished: 4/2
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is going to be a great book club discussion.  I'm disappointed I won't be at the library book group for it.  It's been described as a "heartwarming cozy mystery" which sounds like the oxymoron of the century!  It's accurate though.  I'm also aware of criticism of the portrayal of Molly, the main character's neurodivergent description, seemingly placing her on the spectrum.  But having many neurodivergent students over the course of my teaching career, I found that Molly was quite accurately portrayed.  

At the heart of the story, Molly the Maid discovers Mr. Black dead in his bed in the upscale boutique hotel where she works as an exemplary member of housekeeping.  Once I realized this novel is more likely set in Toronto than in a US city, Gran's British-like speaking patterns made more sense.  It is kind of like an Agatha Christie--where you have a cast of characters ripe with motives.  

The audio is very well narrated, I thoroughly enjoyed the listening experience.

From the publisher:
Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.





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Title: The Love Of My Life
Author: Rosie Walsh
Length: 11 hrs and 28 mins /  384 pp
Published: March 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/7
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book starts out disjointed.  The second part is mostly flashback filling in the backstory which explains the motivation of the main character.  The third part is where the assumptions are blown to smithereens and the twisty parts pull all the pieces together.  The big reveal was not what I expected.  I kept wondering if I was suspending belief or if this could really happen--but you know--sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.  I have to admit I connected more with Leo than Emma.  Leo is a highly regarded obituary writer, Emma is an esteemed marine biologist who's somewhat famous for a BBC documentary.  At the beginning of the story, Emma is getting updated oncology results yet Leo is processing the potential mortality by drafting a "just in case" obituary, where his background digging uncovers information he would rather not know.  I am more than satisfied with the ending.  And I can't wait to read more from this author.

From the publisher:
Emma was quite certain she’d never fall in love again. But then she met an obituary writer, Leo, and within months, they were engaged. Seven years later came Ruby, their daughter, and then John Keats, their rescue dog. Now Emma, a marine biologist, has her perfect little ecosystem. They are happy, crammed into the tiny house her grandmother left her.
Leo was adopted as a baby, and this noisy, joyous little family is the first place he has ever felt he belongs. In fact, everything would be just perfect if Emma was who she said she was. If Emma was even her real name . . .
Because of Emma’s preeminence in her field, Leo is asked to write his own wife’s obituary while she is still alive. That’s when he finds that the woman he thinks he knows doesn’t really exist. As Leo starts to unravel the truth about the stranger in his bed, Emma’s old life breaks out of the carefully cultivated shell she created, threatening to wash away everything she has worked so hard to build.
When the very darkest moments of Emma’s past finally emerge, she must somehow prove to Leo that she really is the woman he always thought she was.
But first, she must tell him about the love of her other life.

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Title: Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience
Author: Brené Brown
Lengthhrs and 29 mins /  301 pp
Published: November 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/9
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I wouldn't categorize this as a self-help book: it's more of a psychology book.  It's a study of human emotions and the nuances between them, like an atlas.  I am glad I listened to it because as Brene Brown reads it, she explains what she's talking about in a conversational manner, making what could be sometimes dry information interesting and timely.  This is the first book of hers that I've read, although I have two or three on my TBR shelf.  

From the publisher:
In Atlas of the Heart, Brown takes us on a journey through eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. As she maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe of new choices and second chances—a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.

Over the past two decades, Brown’s extensive research into the experiences that make us who we are has shaped the cultural conversation and helped define what it means to be courageous with our lives. Atlas of the Heart draws on this research, as well as on Brown’s singular skills as a storyteller, to show us how accurately naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power, it gives us the power of understanding, meaning, and choice.

Brown shares, “I want this book to be an atlas for all of us, because I believe that, with an adventurous heart and the right maps, we can travel anywhere and never fear losing ourselves.”



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Title: The Last Chance Library
Author: Freya Sampson
Lengthhrs and 13 mins / 336 pp
Published: August 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/10
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
June Jones is a quirky character.  I couldn't help but cheer for her.  Her processing through grief was well done. This is a book about the role of libraries in communities; about how libraries offer a haven to everyone.  It's one of the few places left to go that has no fee.  I liked the secondary characters--from precocious children to ornery octogenarians.   

I related to this book.  My earliest childhood memories include trips to the local library.  Filling my wagon with stuffed animals and going to the library for a book haul.

From the publisher:
June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.

Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.

Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer's feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won't believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.

To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she's determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself, too.



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Title: The Love Hypothesis
Author: Ali Hazelwood
Length: 11 hrs and 8 mins 384 pp
Published: September 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/12
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book is a science nerd's rom-com.  I was completely charmed from the meet-cute to the happily-ever-after.  Olive is an adorable, awkward brainiac and Adam is a gorgeous, brooding Mr. Darcy-type.  The secondary characters were great, too--Ahn, Jeremy, Holden, and Malcolm.  It would be great if they got books.

From the publisher:
As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn't believe in lasting romantic relationships--but her best friend does, and that's what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor--and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford's reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive's career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding...six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.


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Title: In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial 
Author: Mona Chollet, Sophie R. Lewis translator
Lengthhrs and 47 mins / 320 pp
Published: March 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/14
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

What a fascinating study!  Realizing that if I had lived in earlier times, I would fit the profile of a witch is what drew me to this book.  It's a sociological study of relations between society's restrictions on women's livelihoods and bodies.  Not something I would recommend unless you have an abiding interest in sociology or women's studies.  There are many references that make for somewhat dry reading.

From the publisher:
Centuries after the infamous witch hunts that swept through Europe and America, witches continue to hold a unique fascination for many: as fairy tale villains, practitioners of pagan religion, as well as feminist icons. Witches are both the ultimate victim and the stubborn, elusive rebel. But who were the women who were accused and often killed for witchcraft? What types of women have centuries of terror censored, eliminated, and repressed?

Celebrated feminist writer Mona Chollet explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: the independent woman, since widows and celibates were particularly targeted; the childless woman, since the time of the hunts marked the end of tolerance for those who claimed to control their fertility; and the elderly woman, who has always been an object of at best, pity, and at worst, horror. Examining modern society, Chollet concludes that these women continue to be harrassed and oppressed. Rather than being a brief moment in history, the persecution of witches is an example of society’s seemingly eternal misogyny, while women today are direct heirs to those who were hunted down and killed for their thoughts and actions.

With fiery prose and arguments that range from the scholarly to the cultural, In Defense of Witches seeks to unite the mythic image of the witch with modern women who seek to live their lives on their own terms.
 


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Title: The Unsinkable Greta James
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Lengthhrs and 15 mins / 320 pp
Published: March 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/16
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This book tackles grief and family dynamics.  Greta is a likable character and her struggles are relatable.  I enjoyed the Alaskan cruise setting--it was unique.

From the publisher:
Greta James's meteoric rise to indie stardom was hard-won. Before she graced magazine covers and sold out venues, she spent her girlhood strumming her guitar in the family garage. Her first fan was her mother, Helen, whose face shone bright in the dusty downtown bars where she got her start—but not everyone encouraged Greta to follow her dreams. While many daydream about a crowd chanting their name, her father, Conrad, saw only a precarious life ahead for his daughter.

Greta has spent her life trying to prove him wrong, but three months after Helen's sudden death, and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes sophomore album, Greta has an onstage meltdown that goes viral. Attempting to outrun the humiliation and heartbreak, she reluctantly agrees to accompany her father on a week-long Alaskan cruise, the very one that her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary.

This could be the James family's last chance to heal old wounds and will prove to be a voyage of discovery for them, as well as for Ben Wilder, a historian also struggling with a major upheaval in his life. Ben is on board to lecture about Jack London's The Call of the Wild, the adventure story Greta's mother adored, and he captures Greta's attention after her streak of dating hanger-ons. As Greta works to build up her confidence and heal, and Ben confronts his uncertain future, they must rely on one another to make sense of life’s difficult choices. In the end, Greta must make the most challenging decision of all: to listen to the song within her or make peace with those who love her.

An indie musician reeling from tragedy reconnects with her estranged father on a week-long cruise in this tale of grief, fame, and love from bestselling author Jennifer E. Smith.



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Title: Two Nights in Lisbon
Author: Chris Pavone
Length15 hrs and 30 mins / 448 pp
Published: May 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/18
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A fast-paced thriller with all kinds of twisty turns.  It was hard to figure out if the narrator was credible, but I liked her so much I wanted to believe her.  I liked the way the author planted little hints throughout the book--I want to read it again to pick up on what I missed!  This would be a great book group discussion: there are characters, settings, plot devices, and lots of cultural references (the Me, Too movement, cancel culture, political power struggles) that would be fun to dissect.

The setting added a layer to the urgency.  As Ariel tries to deal with everyone from the hotel concierge to the police and the American embassy, the desperation builds.  

I really couldn't stop listening to it, I wanted to know what would happen next.  The audio narrator strikes a great tone, she definitely added to the enjoyment.

From the publisher:
You think you know a person . . .

Ariel Pryce wakes up in Lisbon, alone. Her husband is gone—no warning, no note, not answering his phone. Something is wrong.

She starts with hotel security, then the police, then the American embassy, at each confronting questions she can’t fully answer: What exactly is John doing in Lisbon? Why would he drag her along on his business trip? Who would want to harm him? And why does Ariel know so little about her new—much younger—husband?

The clock is ticking. Ariel is increasingly frustrated and desperate, running out of time, and the one person in the world who can help is the one person she least wants to ask.

With sparkling prose and razor-sharp insights, bestselling author Chris Pavone delivers a stunning and sophisticated international thriller that will linger long after the surprising final page.

Thank you NetGalley and MacMillan Audio for allowing me to rate and review this title.

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Title: Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead
Author: Elle Cosimano
Length: 9 hrs and 20 mins / 360 pp
Published: February 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/19
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This second installment of the series is as funny as the first.  Finlay Donovan is struggling to write an overdue manuscript for her next novel when the action picks up.  The premise of this story relies on mixed-up communications on message boards and online forums.  It appears that an anonymous poster to the online forum has placed a hit on Finlay's ex-husband.  Rescuing him is the mission.  There are so many funny and convoluted scenarios--it's just a hoot!  Great secondary characters!

From the publisher:
Finlay Donovan is—once again—struggling to finish her next novel and keep her head above water as a single mother of two. On the bright side, she has her live-in nanny and confidant Vero to rely on, and the only dead body she's dealt with lately is that of her daughter's pet goldfish.

On the not-so-bright side, someone out there wants her ex-husband, Steven, out of the picture. Permanently. Whatever else Steven may be, he's a good father, but saving him will send her down a rabbit hole of hit-women disguised as soccer moms, and a little bit more involvement with the Russian mob than she'd like.

Meanwhile, Vero's keeping secrets, and Detective Nick Anthony seems determined to get back into her life. He may be a hot cop, but Finlay's first priority is preventing her family from sleeping with the fishes... and if that means bending a few laws then so be it.

With her next book's deadline looming and an ex-husband to keep alive, Finlay is quickly coming to the end of her rope. She can only hope there isn't a noose at the end of it...



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Title: People Like Her
Author: Ellery Lloyd
Length10 hrs and 23 mins /  288 pp
Published: January 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/20
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I haven't been this excited by a book in a while--but this is one thrill ride with an epic "WTF" finale!  The inside look at an influencer's "job" interested me.  The whole concept of working from home, as the main character and her husband do, was interesting.  Every time I thought I was ahead of the curve there was another twisty bit that outmaneuvered me!  

Emmy, the Instamum influencer, and her husband, Dan the author struggling with the sophomore slump, are not especially likable.  They're entitled and somewhat arrogant.  But I believed they love each other and their two adorable children.  The triple narrative threads create a suspenseful and fast-paced read. And the title is clever.

From the publisher:
Followed by Millions, Watched by One

To her adoring fans, Emmy Jackson, aka @the_mamabare, is the honest “Instamum” who always tells it like it is. 

To her skeptical husband, a washed-up novelist who knows just how creative Emmy can be with the truth, she is a breadwinning powerhouse chillingly brilliant at monetizing the intimate details of their family life.

To one of Emmy’s dangerously obsessive followers, she’s the woman that has everything—but deserves none of it.  

As Emmy’s marriage begins to crack under the strain of her growing success and her moral compass veers wildly off course, the more vulnerable she becomes to a very real danger circling ever closer to her family.


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Title: The Club
Author: Ellery Lloyd
Lengthhrs and 22 mins /  304 pp
Published: March 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/22
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is the second novel I've read by the author(s) this week.  It's a twisty, locked-room mystery where you know from the start that something big and bad has happened but the fun is in how the narrators unravel the story.  It was a little confusing to keep track of the four narrators and the substantial secondary characters while listening to it.  The narrative threads kept my interest, even when the story bogged down a bit.  I can't wait to read more!

From the publisher:
Everyone's Dying to Join . . .

The Home Group is a glamorous collection of celebrity members' clubs dotted across the globe, where the rich and famous can party hard and then crash out in its five-star suites, far from the prying eyes of fans and the media.

The most spectacular of all is Island Home—a closely-guarded, ultraluxurious resort, just off the English coast—and its three-day launch party is easily the most coveted A-list invite of the decade.

But behind the scenes, tensions are at breaking point: the ambitious and expensive project has pushed the Home Group's CEO and his long-suffering team to their absolute limits. All of them have something to hide—and that's before the beautiful people with their own ugly secrets even set foot on the island.

As tempers fray and behavior worsens, as things get more sinister by the hour and the body count piles up, some of Island Home’s members will begin to wish they’d never made the guest list.

Because at this club, if your name’s on the list, you’re not getting out.


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Title: To Get To The Other Side
Author: Kelly Ohlert
Length: not available /  336 pp
Published: December 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/23
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A fun romantic comedy with a unique meet-cute.  Trixie and Bear make an adorable opposites-attract couple and their friends-to-lovers story has some lighthearted moments; but the stumbling blocks on the path to romance include some toxic parenting, childhood trauma, and trust issues.  Chick-chick the rescued chicken is as much a character as anyone else, which is charming but quirky.  I could easily see this in my mind's eye like a movie--vivid descriptions and bumbling secondary characters that I want to know more about.

From the publisher:
Trixie isn’t exactly sure what she was thinking when she stopped her car in the middle of downtown Chicago, scooped up a chicken struggling to cross the road, and drove off… but she does know that she has to find a new home for herself and her new feathered friend. The landlord at her apartment doesn’t allow pets and has caught Trixie in one too many pet-smuggling attempts in the past.

Bear likes his quiet life with his close-knit family, who own a flower business, but he’s in for a rude awakening when his meddlesome sisters post an ad to rent the spare room in his simple home, without asking his permission. Still, when Trixie responds to the ad, he agrees to let her move in, despite immediate worries about keeping things platonic.

Determined to keep her new room, befriend Bear, and give her rescue chicken the care she deserves, Trixie fights to keep her walls up and resist her romantic feelings for Bear. However, it’s not long before the pair’s proximity and chicken parenting ignite flames that have Trixie and Bear testing the boundaries of their platonic ground rules. They have to figure out how to save a family business, pay for mounting vet bills, and navigate their own emotional baggage if they want to find the love that they all deserve.

Thank you NetGalley and Alcove Press for allowing me to rate and review this e-ARC title.


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Title: The Temple House Vanishing
Author: Rachel Donohue
Lengthhrs and 17 mins /  304 pp
Published: July 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/24
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is an atmospheric, gothic story--it's about the obsession with first love and teenage expectation of love.  It's set at a Catholic school that has two types of students: legacy and scholarship.  The legacy girls look at the scholarship girls as a sociological experiment.  Louisa is the new hot-shot scholarship student, shunned by the legacy girls but befriended by the enigmatic Victoria.  Louisa and Victoria are drawn to the young, handsome bohemian art teacher and each develops a special relationship with him.

There is a dual narrative: Louisa's perspective from 1990 and the journalist who's investigating the mysterious disappearances of both Louisa and Mr. Lavelle.  The journalist becomes enmeshed in the fascinating case and searches for the truth.

I admit I got bogged down in some of the more descriptive passages.  It is not a fast-paced page-turner, but a literary thriller.

From the publisher:
Louisa is the new scholarship student at Temple House, a drafty, imposing cliffside boarding school full of girls as chilly as the mansion itself. There is one other outsider, an intense and compelling student provocateur named Victoria, and the two girls form a fierce bond. But their friendship is soon unsettled by a young art teacher, Mr. Lavelle, whose charismatic presence ignites tension and obsession in the cloistered world of the school.

Then one day, Louisa and Mr. Lavelle vanish without a trace, never to be found. Now, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the disappearance, one journalist—a woman who grew up on the same street as Louisa—delves into the past, determined to uncover the truth. She finds stories of jealousy and revenge, power and class. But might she find Louisa and Mr. Lavelle, too?

Told in alternating points of view, The Temple House Vanishing is tense, atmospheric, and page-turning . . . with a shocking, ingenious conclusion.



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Title: Confess
Author: Colleen Hoover
Length: 7 hrs and 50 mins / 320 pp
Published: March 2017
Book Group: no
Finished: 4/25
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

This book makes me feel old.  Its target audience is "emerging" or "new" adults and the main characters' immaturity reminds me that I am an adult adult.  No longer emerging or new. 😕

I haven't read many books by this author but already I see her formula: insta-love, damsel in distress, unlikable villain, the love interest with a secret, all working toward a big twist of fate reveal at the ending.  The characters were flat, except for the quirky roommate.  Auburn is a very young and inexperienced twenty-one year old, which I found unrealistic.  Owen is a worldly hipster artist with no financial struggles, which I found unrealistic.  Lydia is a manipulative shrew and her son the cop on a power trip, Trey is such a caricature that I eye-rolled.

Am I being too picky?  Maybe.  But it makes me feel old.  I did, however, enjoy the PostSecret-esque confessions linked with the artwork.  The artwork in the book is lovely.

From the publisher:
Auburn Reed is determined to rebuild her shattered life and she has no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to become deeply attracted to the studio’s enigmatic artist, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a chance and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is hiding a huge secret. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything Auburn loves most, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it—but can she do it?


*************************************************
Title: The Road Trip
Author: Beth O'Leary
Length10 hrs and 15 mins /  414 pp
Published: April 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 5/1
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Let's see... how to start... the narrative arc is told from four perspectives from Addie's present, Addie's past, Dylan's present, and Dylan's past, and the narration zings, it was a little confusing keeping track of past and present.  Added to the main protagonists is an ensemble, each with a complex backstory.  So the cast of characters is thrown together in a small-ish car for a 10-hour road trip to an extravagant wedding in Scotland.  This is the formula for a fun, charming story.  But the author tackles heavy themes from alcoholism, homophobia, sexual assault, estranged parents, and depression, all making for a somewhat darker story.  The author seems to be tackling too much with too big of a cast.

From the publisher:
What if the end of the road is just the beginning?

Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry’s enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven’t spoken since.

Today, Dylan’s and Addie’s lives collide again. It’s the day before Cherry’s wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland - he’ll never get there on time by public transport.

So, along with Dylan’s best friend, Addie’s sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart - and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.



*************************************************
Title: Talk Bookish To Me
Author: Kate Bromley
Length: 9 hrs / 320 pp
Published: May 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 5/5
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This rom-com is a reunited love story.  I liked the bookish parts.  I liked the parts about Duke.  I liked the parts about the over-the-top wedding.  I liked the parts about Italy.  I didn't like the parts about Ryan's reason for botching things with Kara.

I have a complicated relationship with this book.  There's lots to like but it left me kind of flat.

From the publisher:
Inspiration can come from the most unlikely - and inconvenient - sources.

Kara Sullivan’s life is full of love - albeit fictional. As a best-selling romance novelist and influential Bookstagrammer, she’s fine with getting her happily-ever-after fix between the covers of a book.

But right now? Not only is Kara’s best friend getting married next week - which means big wedding stress - but the deadline for her next novel is looming, and she hasn’t written a single word. The last thing she needs is for her infuriating first love, Ryan Thompson, to suddenly appear in the wedding party. But Ryan’s unexpected arrival sparks a creative awakening in Kara that inspires the steamy historical romance she desperately needs to deliver.

With her wedding duties intensifying, her deadline getting closer by the second and her bills not paying themselves, Kara knows there’s only one way for her to finish her book and to give her characters the ever-after they deserve. But can she embrace the unlikely, ruggedly handsome muse—who pushes every one of her buttons—to save the wedding, her career and, just maybe, write her own happy ending?


*************************************************
Title: Not A Happy Family
Author: Shari Lapena
Length: 9 hrs and 11 minutes / 352 pp
Published: July 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 5/5
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a wicked twisty book that I could not put down.  The characters are entitled, elitists, living on a whole other level of wealth.  But all is not what it appears to be.  The sibling dynamics are dysfunctional.  The parental dynamics are dysfunctional. The marital dynamics are dysfunctional. The friend dynamics are dysfunctional. This is NOT a happy family. 

I liked the short-chapter format.  I kept turning pages thinking the end of the chapter is right there, I'll finish, but that led to the next chapter.  The shifting narrative also kept me going.

From the publisher:
The new domestic suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door and Someone We Know who has sold more than 7 million copies of her books worldwide

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets. Even the dead.

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets--especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don't come much richer than Fred and Sheila Merton. But even all their money can't protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered the night after an Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you'd know.

Wouldn't you?


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Title: Our Country Friends
AuthorGary Shteyngart
Length12 hrs and 15 mins / 336 pp
Published: November 2021
Book Group: School
Finished: 5/8
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A satirical author's take on the Pandemic--should be wryly funny. I was amused until the fourth section.  Then I just couldn't care.  Living in the compound was an entertaining examination of the friends we choose to have as family, as well as the intricate bonds that are formed over decades-long relationships.  But I didn't like the ending with its stream-of-consciousness far-out dream sequences.  

From the publisher:
It's March 2020 and a calamity is unfolding. A group of friends and friends-of-friends gathers in a country house to wait out the pandemic. Over the next six months new friendships and romances will take hold, while old betrayals will emerge, forcing each character to reevaulate whom they love and what matters most. The unlikely cast of characters include: a Russian-born novelist; his Russian-born psychiatrist wife; their precocious child obsessed with K-pop; a struggling Indian American writer; a wildly successful Korean American app developer; a global dandy with three passports; a young flame-thrower of an essayist, originally from the Carolinas; and a movie star, The Actor, whose arrival upsets the equilibrium of this chosen family.


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Title: Book Lovers
Author: Emily Henry
Length11 hrs and 23 mins /  384 pp
Published: May 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 5/11
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I liked that this book was self-aware about its tropes.  I liked the bantering dialogue.  I liked the male romantic lead, Charlie's vulnerability. I liked a book about books and learning more about editing and publishing.  I liked the book references.  I liked that Nora, the female romantic lead, embraces her stereotype.  I liked the complex family dynamics.  My one complaint is that Nora was a bit overbearing in her martyrdom.  Otherwise, it's a clever homage to romance.  The audio is very well done.

From the publisher:
One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn't see coming....

Nora Stephens' life is books - she’s read them all - and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away - with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again - in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow - what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.


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Title: The Good Wife of Bath (A Mostly) True Story
Author: Karen Brooks
Length19 hrs and 48 mins /  560 pp
Published: January 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 5/15
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I admit I do not know Chaucer's "Wife of Bath" from The Canterbury Tales but this reimagining was recommended to me and it intrigued me so I thought I would read it.  I'm glad I did.  This tale from the Middle Ages is of Eleanor's five very different marriages as each marriage takes her up a rung on the social ladder.  In the Middle Ages, being a wife is the pinnacle of expectation for females.  This turns that prospect on its ear.  

It's a complex story from a time I can't even fathom--the narration is light in tone although it tells a tale that ranges from suffering, heartbreak, and brutality to success, triumph, and love.  Eleanor's chief allies throughout the tale are Geoffrey Chaucer and her most loyal confidante Alyson both of whom encourage her to take advantage of her innate business sense.

My complaints are that it is very long and the trade Eleanor settled on at the end was contrived.

From the publisher:
A provocative, immersive medieval novel starring one of literature's most unforgettable characters in her own words--Chaucer's bold and libidinous Wife of Bath.

In the middle ages, a famous poet told a story that mocked a strong woman. It became a literary classic. But what if the woman in question had a chance to tell her own version?

England, 1364: When married off at aged twelve to an elderly farmer, brazen redheaded Eleanor quickly realizes it won't matter what she says or does, God is not on her side--or any poor woman's for that matter. But then again, Eleanor was born under the joint signs of Venus and Mars, making her both a lover and a fighter.

Aided by a head for business (and a surprisingly kind husband), Eleanor manages to turn her first marriage into success, and she rises through society from a cast-off farm girl to a woman of fortune who becomes a trusted friend of the social-climbing poet Geoffrey Chaucer. But more marriages follow--some happy, some not--several pilgrimages, many lovers, murder, mayhem, and many turns of fortune's wheel as Eleanor pursues the one thing that all women want: control of their own lives.



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Title: The Lives of Edie Pritchard
Author: Larry Watson
Length: 12 hrs and 32 mins /  360 pp
Published: July 2020
Book Group: no
Finished: 5/19
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I was curious about this book: the story of Edie Pritchard's life as told by a man.  But the book is about discovering love and the bonds of family.  Edie's unremarkable life unfolds as she tries living outside the box society places her in, trying to live a life that isn't defined by who she was in the past, a life that isn't controlled by men who seldom look beyond her stunning beauty.  

It's not a page-turner but it's a good story.

From the publisher:
Edie—smart, self‑assured, beautiful—always worked hard. She worked as a teller at a bank, she worked to save her first marriage, and later, she worked to raise her daughter even as her second marriage came apart. Really, Edie just wanted a good life, but everywhere she turned, her looks defined her. Two brothers fought over her. Her second husband became unreasonably possessive and jealous. Her daughter resented her. And now, as a grandmother, Edie finds herself harassed by a younger man. It’s been a lifetime of proving that she is allowed to exist in her own sphere. The Lives of Edie Pritchard tells the story of one woman just trying to be herself, even as multiple men attempt to categorize and own her.


*************************************************
Title: Who Is Maud Dixon?
Author: Alexandra Andrews
Lengthhrs and 11 mins /  336 pp
Published: March 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 5/20
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Oh, but this is a twisty, creepy, noir-ish book!  Ultimately it's a novel about the lengths you would go to to become the person you want to be--if you had no regard for others.

I'm afraid if I say too much about what I liked, spoilers will be revealed and I try not to do spill too much.  

From the publisher:
Florence Darrow is a low-level publishing employee who believes that she's destined to be a famous writer. When she stumbles into a job the assistant to the brilliant, enigmatic novelist known as Maud Dixon — whose true identity is a secret — it appears that the universe is finally providing Florence’s big chance.
 
The arrangement seems perfect. Maud Dixon (whose real name, Florence discovers, is Helen Wilcox) can be prickly, but she is full of pointed wisdom -- not only on how to write, but also on how to live. Florence quickly falls under Helen’s spell and eagerly accompanies her to Morocco, where Helen’s new novel is set. Amidst the colorful streets of Marrakesh and the wind-swept beaches of the coast, Florence’s life at last feels interesting enough to inspire a novel of her own.
 
But when Florence wakes up in the hospital after a terrible car accident, with no memory of the previous night — and no sign of Helen — she’s tempted to take a shortcut. Instead of hiding in Helen’s shadow, why not upgrade into Helen's life? Not to mention her bestselling pseudonym . . .
 
Taut, twisty, and viciously entertaining, Who is Maud Dixon is a stylish psychological thriller about how far into the darkness you’re willing to go to claim the life you always wanted.


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Title: The Marriage Lie
Author: Kimberly Belle
Length: 10 hrs and 28 mins / 334 pp
Published: December 2016
Book Group: no
Finished: 5/25
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I picked this up on the recommendation of The Gal and I'm glad I did!  Not only is it a domestic thriller, but it's also a study of grief.  I liked the tender moments between Will and Iris, such a simple love.  And the secondary characters were great--especially Dave who is Iris's twin.  I had to suspend belief a couple of times.  But the ending was totally worth it.

From the publisher:
Even the perfect marriage has its dark side… 

Iris and Will's marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris's happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane. 

Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core.



*************************************************
Title: Little Comfort
Author: Edwin Hill
Length: 10 hrs and 34 mins /  353 pp
Published: August 2018
Book Group: no
Finished: 5/27
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a mystery series debut that left me intrigued and wanting more! Hester Thursby is a compelling, flawed, funny character.  I want to be friends with her.  Not only is Hester a Harvard librarian, but she is also a part-time missing person locator.  

I'm interested in reading another in the series to see how the secondary characters develop and their role.  I liked Jamie, the wounded veteran, and his story arc.  And Hester's relationship with Kate, the niece she is currently raising, is spot on.  

From the publisher:
Harvard librarian Hester Thursby knows that even in the digital age, people still need help finding things. Using her research skills, Hester runs a side business tracking down the lost. Usually, she’s hired to find long-ago prom dates or to reunite adopted children and birth parents. Her new case is finding the handsome and charismatic Sam Blaine.
 
Sam has no desire to be found. As a teenager, he fled his small New Hampshire town with his friend, Gabe, after a haunting incident. For a dozen years, Sam and Gabe have traveled the country, reinventing themselves as they move from one mark to another. Sam has learned how trusting wealthy people can be—especially the lonely ones—as he expertly manipulates his way into their lives and homes.  In Wendy Richards, the beautiful, fabulously rich daughter of one of Boston’s most influential families, he’s found the perfect way to infiltrate the milieu in which he knows he belongs—a world of Brooks Brothers suits, Nantucket summers, and effortless glamour.
 
As Hester’s investigation closes in on their brutal truth, the bond between Sam and Gabe is tested and Hester unknowingly jeopardizes her own safety. While Gabe has pinned all his desperate hopes of a normal life on Hester, Sam wants her out of the way for good. And Gabe has always done what Sam asks . . .


*************************************************
Title: The Missing Ones
Author: Edwin Hill
Length: 11 hrs and 20 mins /  304 pp
Published: August 2019
Book Group: no
Finished: 5/31
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In this second installment of the Hester Thursby series, Hester is not directly involved in the case until near the end.  I'm not sure how the author manages to make this a complex, compelling mystery and a character study, but he pulls it off.  The Hester of the first novel is reeling from the consequences of that novel in this one.  Not only are those consequences affecting her, but everyone around her.  And it's the development of the secondary characters that made me realize how effectively written and crafted Hester's character is.  

The action begins on a touristy Maine island on the 4th of July with a missing child.  That's when we meet the island's major players: a local deputy in love with the mother of the missing child, a disreputable fisherman, a state detective with a mean streak, and the woman who connects these men together.

From the publisher:
Hester Thursby has given up using her research skills to trace people who don’t want to be found. A traumatic case a few months ago unearthed a string of violent crimes, and left Hester riddled with
self-doubt and guilt. Caring for a four-year-old is responsibility enough in a world filled with terrors Hester never could have imagined before.

Finisterre Island, off the coast of Maine, is ruggedly beautiful and remote—the kind of place tourists love to visit, though rarely for long. But not everyone who comes to the island is welcome. A dilapidated Victorian house has become home to a group of squatters and junkies, and strangers have a habit of bringing trouble with them. A young boy disappeared during the summer, and though he was found safely, the incident stirred suspicion among locals. Now another child is missing. Summoned to the island by a cryptic text, Hester discovers a community cleaning up from a devastating storm—and uncovers a murder.

Soon Hester begins to connect the crime and the missing children. And as she untangles the secrets at the center of the small community, she finds grudges and loyalties that run deep, poised to converge with a force that will once again shake her convictions about the very nature of right and wrong . . .


*************************************************
Title: Second First Impressions
Author: Sally Thorne
Length10 hrs and 20 mins /  352 pp
Published: April 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/1
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed this rom-com more than I thought I would.  All of the characters are well-developed and quirky.  I genuinely liked Ruthie's journey from hiding away from life to embracing it.  It wasn't typical "she takes her glasses off and is beautiful and life is wonderful." I wish Teddy's evolution would have been given as much detail as Ruthie's.

From the publisher:
Distraction (n): an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.


*************************************************
Title: Watch Her
Author: Edwin Hill
Length: 10 hrs and 38 mins /  368 pp
Published: December 2020
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/8
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is the third in the series and it's got me wanting more!  Hester is quirky and funny and relatable. The secondary characters are fleshed out more in this installment--they are equally intriguing as Hester.  It's a complex psychological thriller/mystery.

From the publisher:
While attending a gala at Prescott University’s lavish new campus, Hester Thursby and fellow guest, Detective Angela White, are called to the home of the college’s owners, Tucker and Jennifer Matson. Jennifer claims that someone broke into Pinebank, their secluded mansion on the banks of Jamaica Pond. The more Hester and Angela investigate, the less they believe Jennifer’s story, leaving Hester to wonder why she would lie.

When Hester is asked by the college’s general manager to locate some missing alumni, she employs her research skills on the family and their for-profit university. Between financial transgressions, a long-ago tragedy, and rumors of infidelity, it’s clear that the Matsons aren’t immune to scandal or mishap. But when one of the missing students turns up dead, the mystery takes on new urgency.

Hester is edging closer to the truth, but as a decades-old secret collides with new lies, a killer grows more determined to keep the past buried with the dead. . . .


*************************************************
Title: The No-Show
Author: Beth O'Leary
Length: 10 hrs and 47 mins 341 pp
Published:  April 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/11
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Once again this author has written a heartbreaking, tender, and hopeful story.  At around the 75% mark, I figured out the twist.  It didn't spoil one minute of reading.

From the publisher:
Three women. Three dates. One missing man...

8.52. Siobhan's been looking forward to her breakfast date with Joseph. She was surprised when he suggested it - she normally sees him late at night in her hotel room. Breakfast with Joseph on Valentine's Day surely means something ... so where is he?

14.43. Miranda's hoping that a Valentine's Day lunch with Carter will be the perfect way to celebrate her new job. It's a fresh start and a sign that her grown-up life is finally falling into place: she's been dating Carter for five months now and things are getting serious. But why hasn't he shown up?

18.30. Joseph Carter agreed to be Jane's fake boyfriend at a colleague's engagement party. They've not known each other long but their friendship is fast becoming the brightest part of her new life in Winchester. Joseph promised to save Jane tonight. But he's not here...

Meet Joseph Carter. That is, if you can find him.

The No-Show is the brilliantly funny, heart-breaking and joyful new novel from Beth O'Leary about dating, and waiting, and the ways love can find us. An utterly extraordinary tearjerker of a book, this is O'Leary's most ambitious novel yet.


*************************************************
Title: Play Dead
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 41 mins /  308 pp
Published: May 2007
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/13
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This series is just so darn much fun!  The voice actor is perfect!  And who doesn't love a story featuring golden retrievers?  Andy Carpenter is a clever every-man freely admitting he's not the best lawyer.  Yet he manages to put together defense cases for clients who are out of hope.

The secondary characters are well-developed and they each bring something to the story.  After six books, I feel like they're my friends.

From the publisher:
Few can rival attorney Andy Carpenter's affection for golden retrievers, especially his own beloved Tara. After he astonishes a New Jersey courtroom by successfully appealing another golden's death sentence, Andy discovers that this gentle dog is a key witness to a murder that took place five years before. Andy pushes the boundaries of the law even further as he struggles to free an innocent man by convincing an incredulous jury to take canine testimony seriously. It will take all the tricks Andy's fertile mind can conceive to get to the bottom of a remarkable chain of impersonations and murder, and to save a dog's life - and his own - in the process.


*************************************************
Title: Tell Me Everything: The Story of a Private Investigation
Author: Erika Krouse
Lengthhrs and 35 mins /  288 pp
Published: March 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/15
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a memoir that reads like fiction, including an unreliable narrator.  What's most interesting is the parallel between her investigation of rape culture and her own childhood trauma.  I was most interested in her time as a Private Investigator with no training.

From the publisher:
Part memoir and part literary true crime, Tell Me Everything is the mesmerizing story of a landmark sexual assault investigation and the private investigator who helped crack it open.

Erika Krouse has one of those faces. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” people say, spilling confessions. In fall 2002, Krouse accepts a new contract job investigating lawsuits as a private investigator. The role seems perfect for her, but she quickly realizes she has no idea what she’s doing. Then a lawyer named Grayson assigns her to investigate a sexual assault, a college student who was attacked by football players and recruits at a party a year earlier. Krouse knows she should turn the assignment down; her own history with sexual violence makes it all too personal. But she takes the job anyway, inspired by Grayson’s conviction that he could help change things forever--and maybe she could, too.

Over the next five years, Krouse learns everything she can about P. I. technique, tracking down witnesses and investigating a culture of sexual assault and harassment ingrained in the university’s football program. But as the investigation grows into a national scandal and a historic civil rights case, she finds herself increasingly consumed. When the case and her life both implode at the same time, she must figure out how to help win the case without losing herself.


*************************************************
Title: New Tricks
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 28 mins /  309 pp
Published: August 2009
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/16
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Yet another fun adventure with Andy and Tara.  I stayed up almost all night listening!  I did guess the culprit.

From the publisher:
Few can rival Andy's affection for dogs. However, the playful new friend he just inherited is valued by several people, many of whom are willing to resort to violence to get what they want. It will take more than Andy's usual courtroom theatrics to save this dog, including a little help from his beloved golden retriever, Tara.
Andy soon discovers that anyone around him is in danger, including his long-time girlfriend Laurie, and he will have to muster all of his wits to save those he holds most dear.



*************************************************
Title: Dog Tags
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 9 mins /  360 pp
Published: August 2010
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/17
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The past few books in the series have co-starred Tara.  In this 8th outing, Tara helps a former police German Shepherd navigate the investigation.  The secondary characters bring humor to the mystery and wise-ass Andy is in rare form.  I enjoy his everyman-ness.  I would love to be friends with Andy, Laurie, Tara, and the rest of the gang.  The voice actor is superb!

From the publisher:
A German Shepherd police dog witnesses a murder and if his owner--an Iraq war vet and former cop-turned-thief--is convicted of the crime, the dog could be put down. Few rival Andy Carpenter's affection for dogs, and he decides to represent the poor canine. As Andy struggles to convince a judge that this dog should be set free, he discovers that the dog and his owner have become involved unwittingly in a case of much greater proportions than the one they've been charged with. Andy will have to call upon the unique abilities of this ex-police dog to help solve the crime and prevent a catastrophic event from taking place.


*************************************************
Title: Miracle and Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon
Author: Malcolm Gladwell, Bruce Headlam, and Paul Simon 
Lengthhrs and 6 mins / none pp
Published: November 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/18
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This series of conversations between Malcolm Gladwell and Paul Simon is riveting.  The artistic process is broken into parts.  The musical accompaniment alone is worth the listen.

From the publisher:
What happens when Paul Simon, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in music history, and Malcolm Gladwell, the best-selling author, sit down together, with a tape recorder and a guitar?

Miracle and Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon is part memoir, part investigation, and unlike any creative portrait you’ve ever heard before. Recorded over a series of 30 hours of conversation between Simon, Gladwell, and Gladwell’s oldest friend and co-writer, journalist and Broken Record podcast co-host Bruce Headlam, the conversation flows from Simon’s music, to his childhood in Queens, NY, to his frequent collaborators including Art Garfunkel and the nature of creativity itself. Gladwell and Headlam traveled from the mountains of Hawaii to Simon’s own backyard studio to record an artist they’ve idolized since childhood.

Woven throughout the audiobook is distinctive commentary about Simon’s songwriting alongside archival audio footage and never-before-heard live studio versions and original recordings of beloved hits including “The Boxer", “The Sound of Silence", and “Graceland”. Between conversations, Gladwell deploys his signature blend of historical research and social science in an attempt to understand how a boy from 1940s Queens conjured near-perfect songs over an incredible 65-year career. Along the way, he gathers reflections on Simon’s particular genius from the likes of Sting, Herbie Hancock, Renee Fleming, Jeff Tweedy, Aaron Lindsey, and Roseanne Cash.

The result is an intimate audio biography of one of America’s most popular songwriters. Brimming with music and conversation, Miracle and Wonder is a window into Simon’s legendary career, what it means to be alive as an artist, and how to create work that endures.



*************************************************
Title: One Dog Night
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 10 mins /  387 pp
Published: July 2011
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/20
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I'll admit this is not my favorite Andy Carpenter mystery.  Although it does explain Tara's backstory.

From the publisher:
For six years Noah Galloway has lived with a horrible secret and the fear that his rebuilt life could be shattered at any moment. Now his dread has become a certainty, and he has been arrested for the arson murder of twenty-six people. What he needs now is defense lawyer Andy Carpenter, who most definitely is not in the market for a new client. So Noah plays his hole card: a shared love for Andy's golden retriever, Tara, and the knowledge of what her life was like before Andy rescued her. Because Andy wasn't her first owner Noah rescued Tara first, and when he wasn't able to care for her any longer, he did everything in his power to make sure that she was placed in the right home: Andys. With that knowledge, Andy has little choice but to take Noah on, and he soon learns that the long-ago event that may destroy Noah's life is only the beginning of an ongoing conspiracy that grows more deadly by the day. Andy will have to pull out all of his tricks to get to the bottom of this cold case turned white-hot in the latest in David Rosenfelts popular mystery series.


*************************************************
Title: One Italian Summer
Author: Rebecca Serle
Lengthhrs and 21 mins /  272 pp
Published: March 2022
Book Group: Library
Finished: 6/21
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I couldn't relate to this book.  The mother-daughter relationship was so intense, that I just didn't connect with it.   I loved all the parts that described Italy and the beauty of the Amalfi Coast.  But I found Katie to be whiny, immature, and self-indulgent.

I wonder what my book group will have to say.

From the publisher:
When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.


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Title: Lessons in Chemistry
Author: Bonnie Garmus
Length11 hrs and 55 mins /  400 pp
Published: April 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/22
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I wasn't sure what to expect.  It's certainly a buzzed-about book. Set in the late 50s and early 60s it provides a glimpse of Americana--certainly the cult of domesticity as it resonates into the 20th Century.  It's something I teach my students as we explore the role of women in American history.  Ok, back to the book...

Elizabeth Zott is a rational, no-nonsense character.  I would be intimidated by her and admire her.  I especially like the way she holds on to her ideals, even when society doesn't respect those ideals.  She questions the status quo and pushes the boundaries of societal norms.  Elizabeth would be seen as a trailblazer if the story was contemporary.  And I would still be intimidated by her and admire her.  At times I was frustrated with her--as she crashed into the glass ceiling again and again until it shattered.  And at times my heart broke for her.

The secondary characters are vivid.  I like all the relationships, they are intertwined and connected in fun ways.

I love the role that science plays in this book, too, in the everyday ways we use it.

I really liked this book and think it would make a great book group selection.

From the publisher:
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it's the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with--of all things--her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America's most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth's unusual approach to cooking ("combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride") proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn't just teaching women to cook. She's daring them to change the status quo.




*************************************************
Title: Leader of the Pack
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 59 mins /  360 pp
Published: July 2012
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/27
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The witty banter and Tara, the best dog in the world are back!  This book is about loyalty--Andy's loyalty to his clients, the loyalty of the mafioso, loyalty in friendships, and in love.  There are a few twists in this book that I didn't see coming.

From the publisher:
Over the course of his legal career, Andy Carpenter has lost a few cases. But that doesn't mean he forgets his clients. Andy has always been convinced that Joey Desimone, a man convicted of murder nine years ago, was innocent and believes that Joey's family's connections to organized crime played a pivotal role in his conviction. While there isn't much Andy can do for him while he serves out his prison sentence, Joey suggests that he check up on Joey's elderly uncle. He'd rather not, but as a favor to Joey, Andy agrees to take his dog, Tara, on a few visits.

The old man's memory is going, but when Andy tries to explain why he's there, it jogs something in the man's mind, and his comments leave Andy wondering if Uncle Nick is confused, or if he just might hold the key to Joey's freedom after all this time.

Andy grabs on to this thread of possibility and follows it into a world where the oath of silence is stronger than blood ties, and where people will do anything to make sure their secrets are kept.


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Title: Notes On Your Sudden Disappearance
Author: Alison Espach
Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins 352 pp
Published:  May 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/28
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I'm not sure what to say about this coming-of-age story.  It is a coming-of-age novel centered on sisters.  The younger sister, Sally, is consumed with Kathy, the older sister.  Over the fifteen-year span of this story, Sally wrestles with grief, guilt, and growth.  I liked it but didn't love it.

From the publisher:
For much of her life, Sally Holt has been mystified by the things her older sister, Kathy, seems to have been born knowing. Kathy has answers for all of Sally’s questions about life, about love, and about Billy Barnes, a rising senior and local basketball star who mans the concession stand at the town pool. The girls have been fascinated by Billy ever since he jumped off the roof in elementary school, but Billy has never shown much interest in them until the summer before Sally begins eighth grade. By then, their mutual infatuation with Billy is one of the few things the increasingly different sisters have in common. Sally spends much of that summer at the pool, watching in confusion and excitement as her sister falls deeper in love with Billy—until a tragedy leaves Sally’s life forever intertwined with his.

Opening in the early nineties and charting almost two decades of shared history and missed connections, Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is both a breathtaking love story about two broken people who are unexplainably, inconveniently drawn to each other and a wryly astute coming-of-age tale brimming with unexpected moments of joy.


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Title: Unleashed
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 47 mins /  360 pp
Published: July 2013
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/28
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In this outing, Andy and Tara are called on to defend one of Andy's team: Sam Willis.  I really enjoyed the team's dynamics in this eleventh book.  I especially enjoyed the balance of wacky with a complex plot.  What I missed in this book was Sam and Andy's "song talking" when they work song lyrics into their conversations.

From the publisher:
Andy Carpenter's accountant, Sam Willis, is stunned to receive a phone call out of the blue from Barry Price, a high school friend he hasn't spoken to in years, pleading for help with something too frightening to discuss on the phone.

Barry needs Sam's financial acumen and lawyer Andy Carpenter's legal expertise and he needs them immediately. But when Sam almost runs over an injured dog lying in the road on the way to Barry's house, he can't drive off without waiting for help to arrive. By the time Sam makes it, Barry's already taken off on a private airplane headed who-knows-where. Assuming their help is no longer needed, Sam and Andy turn their full attention to helping the dog Sam found recover from his injuries.

Then they learn that Barry's plane has crashed, and they come to the terrifying realization that Sam was also supposed to have been killed on that plane.

Barry was in far more serious trouble than either of them knew, and for Sam and Andy, the trouble is only beginning.



*************************************************
Title: Hounded
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 52 mins /  313 pp
Published: July 2014
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/29
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This time, Andy's long-time police detective friend Pete Stanton is in the spotlight.  All of the secondary characters come together to help take care of 8-year-old Ricky and his basset hound, Sebastian.  I really liked how Andy and his team rallied around and bonded with Ricky.  My only complaint: too many suspects turn up dead.  

From the publisher:
Andy Carpenter isn't sure what to think when he gets a mysterious phone call from a good friend, policeman Pete Stanton, asking him to drop everything, drive to an unfamiliar address, and bring his girlfriend, Laurie Collins. He certainly isn't expecting to show up at a crime scene. But that's exactly where he arrives--at the house where Pete has just discovered the body of ex-convict Danny Diza. Upstairs are Danny's now orphaned eight-year-old son and basset hound. And that, Andy discovers, is why he and Laurie were called to the scene--Pete wants them to take care of the boy and the dog so they won't get thrown into the "system." This is already asking a lot, but soon Pete needs another big favor from Andy. Pete himself has come under suspicion for Danny's murder, and he needs defense attorney Andy to represent him…and to find out what really happened in Danny's house that day.


*************************************************
Title: The Patron Saint of Second Chances
Author: Christine Simon
Length: 7 hrs and 54 mins 304 pp
Published:  April 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/29
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Oh, this is a summer read--set in Italy, light,  highly implausible, and utterly charming. The characters care so much for their small town and neighbors.  After reading several mysteries it was fun to have a light story.

From the publisher:
The self-appointed mayor of a tiny Italian village is determined to save his hometown no matter the cost in this charming, hilarious, and heartwarming debut novel.
Vacuum repairman and self-appointed mayor of Prometto, Italy (population 212) Signor Speranza has a problem: unless he can come up with 70,000 euros to fix the town’s pipes, the water commission will shut off the water to the village and all its residents will be forced to disperse. So in a bid to boost tourism—and revenue—he spreads a harmless rumor that movie star Dante Rinaldi will be filming his next project nearby.
Unfortunately, the plan works a little too well, and soon everyone in town wants to be a part of the fictional film—the village butcher will throw in some money if Speranza can find roles for his fifteen enormous sons, Speranza’s wistfully adrift daughter reveals an unexpected interest in stage makeup, and his hapless assistant Smilzo volunteers a screenplay that’s not so secretly based on his undying love for the film’s leading lady. To his surprise—and considerable consternation, Speranza realizes that the only way to keep up the ruse is to make the movie for real.
As the entire town becomes involved (even the village priest invests!) Signor Speranza starts to think he might be able to pull this off. But what happens when Dante Rinaldi doesn’t show up? Or worse, what if he does?
*************************************************
Title: Who Let The Dog Out?
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 42 mins /  324 pp
Published: July 2015
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/29
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I'm starting to feel bad for Andy Carpenter--he wants to retire, has the means to retire, and yet he keeps getting drawn into compelling cases so he can't retire.  Andy's family provides the funny banter I've come to expect--especially the developing relationship between Andy and Ricky.

From the publisher:
A lawyer by day-and then only when he's forced to take on new cases-Andy Carpenter's true passion is the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization he runs with his friend Willie Miller. So it's frightening when Willie calls him to say the alarm has gone off at the foundation building, and there's clearly been a break-in. It turns out that a recently rescued dog, nicknamed Cheyenne since her arrival at the foundation, has been stolen. Andy and Willie track the missing dog to a house in downtown Paterson, New Jersey and sure enough, they find the dog...standing right next to a dead body. The man had been gruesomely murdered mere minutes before Andy and Willie arrived. Could it be a coincidence? Or could the dog theft somehow be connected to the killing?

Andy takes Cheyenne safely back to the foundation building, and that should be the end of his involvement, but Andy's curiosity-and his desire to keep the dog from further harm-won't let him stop there. The cops have just arrested a man named Tommy Infante for the murder, but as Andy looks into the circumstances surrounding the break-in and the dog theft, he starts to wonder if Infante might actually be innocent. And when Andy takes Infante on as a client and starts searching in earnest for evidence that will exonerate him, what Andy starts to discover terrifies him. The murder might be just one small cog in a plot with far-reaching implications, and unless Andy can uncover the truth in time, thousands of lives could be in imminent danger.


*************************************************
Title: One Night On The Island
Author: Josie Silver
Length10 hrs and 21 mins /  368 pp
Published: February 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 6/30
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This book snuck up on me.  It's about loving yourself, finding your place in the world, and being the best you can be.  The remote Irish island, Salvation Island, is as much of a character as any people.  This was the right book at the right time for me and it made me laugh and cry.  Definitely a messy, realistic ending.  I would change places with Cleo, the main character in a heartbeat!  

From the publisher:
Spending her 30th birthday alone is not what dating columnist Cleo Wilder wanted, but she plans a solo retreat - at the insistence of her boss - in the name of re-energizing herself and adding a new perspective to her column. The remote Irish island she’s booked is a far cry from London, but at least it’s a chance to hunker down in a luxury cabin and indulge in some self-care while she figures out the next steps in her love life and her career.

Mack Sullivan is also looking forward to some time to himself. With his life in Boston deteriorating in ways he can’t bring himself to acknowledge, his soul-searching has brought him to the same Irish island to explore his roots and find some clarity. Unfortunately, a mix-up with the bookings means both have reserved the same one-room hideaway on exactly the same dates.

Instantly at odds, Cleo and Mack don’t know how they’re going to manage until the next weekly ferry arrives. But as the days go by, they no longer seem to mind each other’s company quite as much as they thought they would.

Written with Josie Silver's signature warmth, charm and insights into the human heart, One Night on the Island explores the meaning of home, the joys of escape and how the things we think we want are never the things we really need.


*************************************************
Title: The Lincoln Highway
AuthorAmor Towles
Length16 hrs and 39 mins / 576 pp
Published: October 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/2
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

To organize my thoughts--the story takes place in ten days.  It's a meandering story; there are multiple events that aren't essential.  There are multiple narrators and the point of view shifts from first to third person, which I thought was interesting based on the characters.  The setting is 1954 when a sense of innocence dominated society: the start of the civil rights movement and the post-war economic boom.  The three boys bonded while in the juvenile correction system and are exploring the cusp of adulthood.  

As a road trip story, the fact that they travel in the opposite direction of their dream destination parallels the storytelling style.  Epic tales of hero journeys are the backdrop.  And much of the book I spent figuring out how characters fit the hero mold.  

I listened to the audio and would recommend it.  The narration is fantastic.  

From the publisher:
In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.

Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.


*************************************************
Title: Outfoxed
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 18 mins /  326 pp
Published: July 2016
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/3
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Since Andy is reluctant to practice law, he and Willie have had a special program at the prison where prisoners train the Tara Foundation dogs.  Until one of the inmates, Brian Atkins, makes a break for it with the dog he's been training, Boomer the foxhound.  Andy and his team work to unravel the tangled mess that Brian has gotten himself into.

From the publisher:
Defense lawyer Andy Carpenter spends as much time as he can working on his true passion, the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization he runs. Lately, Andy has been especially involved in a county prison program where inmates help train dogs the Tara Foundation has rescued to make them more adoptable, benefiting both the dogs and the prisoners. One of the prisoners Andy has been working with is Brian Atkins, who has 18 months left on a 5-year term for fraud. Brian has been helping to train Boomer, an adorable fox terrier the Tara Foundation rescued from a neglectful owner. Brian and Boomer are clearly a terrific match. In fact, Andy hopes that Brian will adopt Boomer himself, once his sentence is up. But one day, Andy arrives at the prison to discover that Brian has used Boomer to make an ingenious escape, and man and dog are both in the wind. The next day, the man on whose testimony Brian was convicted is found murdered. Brian is caught and arrested for the crime, though he forcefully protests his innocence. Suddenly, Andy finds himself with a new client in Brian and a new dog in Boomer. And as he starts to dig deeper into the murder and the events leading up to it, Andy realizes he might be putting them all in far more danger than anyone had realized.


*************************************************
Title: The Gunslinger's Guide to Avoiding Matrimony
Author: Michelle McLean
Length: not available /  368 pp
Published: July 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/4
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I didn't realize this is part of a stand-alone series--and I can't wait to read more.  The wild west is the setting and the characters fit the mold of an old western.  That's what makes the book fun!  The witty banter and the stubborn, independent streak in Nora and Adam lead to a satisfying romance.  The setting is vividly described--creating a mental map of the key places.  And the community's loyalty and camaraderie left me wanting more of these characters and their backstories.  A very fun summer read!

From the publisher:
At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, desperate-to-retire gunslinger Adam Brady has exactly two rules. And one of them is never, ever get married. So he’ll be danged when his dreams of permanently avoiding the bounty hunter on his tail in Desolation, the only town where notorious men like him can find respite, comes with one helluva string attached. The town has a new rule: gunslingers welcome—if they get a job…or marry.

Without realizing it, Adam stumbles into a big town wedding and accidentally marries Nora Schumacher, a sassy-mouthed mountain of a woman with legs as long as his wanted poster. So what’s a gunslinger to do but get himself unhitched and find a job. Any job. Except Adam keeps getting fired, one odd circumstance after another. And he’s running out of options.

Desolation was supposed to be his safe haven. Except, he’s not only running from his past but from the irresistible woman he married. And worse, he’s finding that he rather likes the enticing, if damnably independent, wife of his. But some men just aren’t the marrying kind. Only, if he leaves, his own life won’t be worth living. If he stays, he puts the lives of his newfound family and the woman he loves on the line. So much for Desolation being the answer to all his problems. 

Thank you NetGalley and Entangled: Amara for allowing me to rate and review this e-ARC title.


*************************************************
Title: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird
Author: Josie Silver
Length11 hrs and 51 mins /  369 pp
Published: March 2020
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/5
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is not the light, frothy book I was expecting.  It is a poignant story about moving through grief and how love is transformative.  The narrative shifts from "awake" and "asleep" when Lydia lives dual lives--one where she and her loved ones move through grief or the other where things continue on their original trajectory.  I must confess the "awake" sections were more engaging. I loved Lydia and her sister, Elle.  It is a bit repetitive and I hoped there would be some action to push the story forward but the shift between the two realities was it.  And now I want to visit Croatia.

From the publisher:
Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them.

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade and Lydia thought their love was indestructible. But she was wrong. On Lydia’s twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants is to hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life—and perhaps even love—again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again through the doorway to her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.



*************************************************
Title: The Twelve Dogs of Christmas
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 17 mins /  328 pp
Published: October 2016
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/6
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I want to be friends with Andy Carpenter and his golden Tara.  Quick-witted, self-deprecating, and whip-smart they're just so fun!  It was a little odd to read a Christmas-themed book in July, but the holiday was not really part of the plot so it wasn't too jarring.  I didn't figure it out!

From the publisher:
Defense lawyer Andy Carpenter usually tries to avoid taking on new cases at all costs. But this time, he’s happy—eager, even—to take the case that’s just come his way. Andy’s long-time friend Martha “Pups” Boyer takes in stray puppies that the local dog rescue center can’t handle, raises them until they’re old enough to adopt, and then finds good homes for them. Not everyone admires the work Pups does as much as Andy does, however. With Christmas just around the corner, one of Pups’s neighbors has just reported Pups to the city for having more than the legal number of pets in her home under the local zoning laws.

Andy happily takes Pups’s case, and he feels confident in a positive outcome. Who could punish someone for rescuing puppies, after all, especially at Christmastime? But things get a lot more complicated when Randy Hennessey, the neighbor who registered the complaint against Pups, turns up dead. Pups had loudly and publicly threatened Hennessey after he filed his complaint, and Pups was also the one to find his body. All the evidence seems to point to Pups as the killer, and suddenly Andy has a murder case on his hands. He doesn’t believe Pups could be guilty, but as he starts digging deeper into the truth behind Hennessey’s murder, Andy may find himself facing a killer more dangerous than he ever imagined.

With his trademark wit, larger-than-life characters, and clever plotting, David Rosenfelt delivers another gripping mystery.



*************************************************
Title: Collared
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 2 mins /  324 pp
Published: July 2017
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/8
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This installment finds Andy deciding whether to renew his legal license or not.  Laurie and Ricky tell him to do it--and so he reluctantly does.  Then he gets a new client.  This was a complex case and I didn't figure it out.

From the publisher:
Lawyer Andy Carpenter's true passion is the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization he runs with his friend Willie Miller. All kinds of dogs make their way to the foundation, and it isn't that surprising to find a dog abandoned at the shelter one morning, though it was accompanied by a mysterious anonymous note. But they are quite surprised when they scan the dog's embedded chip, and discover that they know this dog. He is the -DNA dog.-

Two and a half years ago, Jill Hickman was a single mother of an adopted baby. Her baby and dog were kidnapped in broad daylight in Eastside Park, and they haven't been seen since. A tip came in that ID'd a former boyfriend of Hickman's, Keith Wachtel, as the kidnapper. A search of his house showed no sign of the child but did uncover more incriminating evidence, and the clincher that generated Wachtel's arrest was some dog hair, notable since Wachtel did not have a dog. DNA tests showed conclusively that the hair belonged to Hickman's dog. Wachtel was convicted of kidnapping, but the dog and baby were never found.

Now, with the reappearance of the dog, the case is brought back to light, and the search for the child renewed. Goaded by his wife's desire to help a friend and fellow mother and Andy's desire to make sure the real kidnapper is in jail, Andy and his team enter the case. But what they start to uncover is far more complicated and dangerous than they ever expected.


*************************************************
Title: Rescued
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 57 mins /  304 pp
Published: July 2018
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/9
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The solution to the plight of the rescued dogs made me happy.  All the regular characters are here, helping Andy put together a defense.  In this outing, the defendant is none other than Laurie's ex-fiance who admits to a self-defense killing.  I really didn't put this one together--and was surprised by the ending.

From the publisher:
Defense lawyer Andy Carpenter is reluctant to take on any more cases. He'd much rather spend his time working for his dog rescue organization, the Tara Foundation, than find himself back in a courtroom. However, when a truck carrying over seventy dogs from the South to the rescue-friendly northeast turns up with a murdered driver, Andy can't help but get involved.

Of course Andy is eager to help the dogs, many of whom come to the Tara Foundation while awaiting forever homes - it's the man accused of murder who he has a problem defending. The accused just happens to be his wife Laurie's ex-fiance; her tall, good looking, ex-Marine ex-fiance. Even though he acknowledges having argued with the victim, he swears that he is not a killer, and though he would rather not, Andy has to admit he believes he's telling the truth.

For Andy, even with dozens of successful cases behind him, this case that his wife insists he take may prove to be his most difficult.


*************************************************
Title: Deck the Hounds
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 19 mins /  368 pp
Published: October 2018
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/10
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Oh, how I hope the defendant, Don, and his trusty dog Zoey, become regulars.  I love Laurie's enthusiasm for the Christmas holidays--and how Andy pretends to begrudgingly go along with her.  This was another great installment in the series. And I didn't figure it out!

From the publisher:
Reluctant lawyer Andy Carpenter doesn’t usually stop to help others, but seeing a dog next to a homeless man inspires him to give the pair some money to help. It’s just Andy’s luck that things don’t end there. Soon after Andy’s encounter with them, man and dog are attacked in the middle of the night on the street. The dog defends its new owner, and the erstwhile attacker is bitten but escapes. But the dog is quarantined and the man, Don Carrigan, is heartbroken.

Andy’s wife Laurie can’t resist helping the duo after learning Andy has met them before… it’s the Christmas season after all. In a matter of days Don and his dog Zoey are living above Andy’s garage and become two new additions to the family. It’s not until Andy accidentally gives away his guest’s name during an interview that things go awry; turns out Don is wanted for a murder that happened two years ago. Don not only claims he’s innocent, but that he had no idea that he was wanted for a crime he has no knowledge of in the first place. It’s up to Andy to exonerate his new friend, if he doesn’t get pulled into the quagmire first.


*************************************************
Title: Much Ado About Dukes
Author: Eva Devon
Length: not available /  336 pp
Published: August 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/12
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I could not put this down!  The main characters, Beatrice and Will are stubborn yet willing to see the other's point of view.  I loved the examination of women's plight in the Regency era and how Beatrice is smashing the typical role. I was delightedly surprised that Will's character is not the typical bull-headed he-man, but a thoughtful, progressive albeit well-built Duke.  I picked up a lot about the societal expectations of royalty, which I'd never considered even though I read plenty of Regency books.  I loved the witty, quick banter.  The romance and intimacy scenes were well-done: no heaving bosoms.  I'm definitely going to check out others in the series!

From the publisher:
Shakespeare meets Bridgerton in this witty and lively marriage-of-inconvenience romance.

As far as William Easton—the Duke of Blackheath—is concerned, love can go to the devil. Why would a man need passion when he has wealth, a stately home, and work to occupy his mind? But no one warned him that a fiery and frustratingly strong-willed activist like Lady Beatrice Haven could find a way to get under his skin...and that he might enjoy it.

Lady Beatrice is determined to never marry. Ever. She would much rather fight for the rights of women and provoke the darkly handsome Duke of Blackheath, even if he does claim to be forward-thinking. After all, dukes—even gorgeous ones—are the enemy. So why does she feel such enjoyment from their heated exchanges?

But everything changes when Beatrice finds herself suddenly without fortune, a husband, or even a home. Now her future depends on the very man who sets her blood boiling. Because in order to protect his esteemed rival, the Duke of Blackheath has asked for Beatrice’s hand, inviting his once-enemy into his home...and his bed.

Each book in the Never a Wallflower series is STANDALONE:
* The Spinster and the Rake
* Much Ado About Dukes
* The Duke's Secret Cinderella
 

Thank you NetGalley and Entangled: Amara for allowing me to rate and review this e-ARC title.



*************************************************
Title: Bark of Night
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 51 mins /  304 pp
Published: July 2019
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/12
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I'm always intrigued at how self-deprecating, slacker Andy can brilliantly outwit the prosecutors.  There's plenty of funny dialogue and the regulars are quirky and hilarious.  And of course, there's a dog at the center of it--a French bulldog named Truman.  
From the publisher:
When defense lawyer Andy Carpenter’s veterinarian asks to speak to him privately at the checkup of his golden retriever, Tara, the last thing Andy expects is Truman. Tiny, healthy, French bulldog Truman was dropped off days ago with instructions to be euthanized by a man everyone thought was his owner. But now the owner is nowhere to be found.


Andy is furious. Who would want to euthanize a perfectly healthy dog with no explanation? He is willing to whisk Truman away to the Tara Foundation, the dog-rescue organization which is Andy’s true passion. They will find a home for Truman. But that’s not all the vet tells Andy. Thanks to Truman’s chip, it’s discovered that the man wasn’t Truman’s owner at all . . . Truman's real owner was murdered.

It’s now up to Andy – with help from his loyal sidekick Tara, Truman and the rest of the gang – to solve this case. In the latest in the popular Andy Carpenter mystery series, David Rosenfelt’s charmingly clever wit and love of dogs are back and better than ever.


*************************************************
Title: City of Orange
Author: David Yoon
Length11 hrs and 10 mins /  352 pp
Published: May 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/20
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I'm not the biggest fan of speculative fiction.  Having said that, once I got into City of Orange I was hooked.  Beginning with an amnesiac character awakening in a desolate post-apocalyptic landscape, I wondered what I had picked up.  It's a novel about the humanity of grief, loss, acceptance, and connections.  Although much of it felt bleak, there was hope.  As the narrator pieces together his past and figures out the present, the reader is exploring this new reality with him.  Along with the memories that return, there is guilt and regret.  This is not an action-packed book; it is a thoughtful study about the will to survive.

The book was not what I expected, the ending surprised me.  And I'll be thinking about it for a while.

From the publisher:
A man wakes up in an unknown landscape, injured and alone.
 
   He used to live in a place called California, but how did he wind up here with a head wound and a bottle of pills in his pocket?

    He navigates his surroundings, one rough shape at a time. Here lies a pipe, there a reed that could be carved into a weapon, beyond a city he once lived in.

   He could swear his daughter’s name began with a J, but what was it, exactly?

    Then he encounters an old man, a crow, and a boy—and realizes that nothing is what he thought it was, neither the present nor the past.

   He can’t even recall the features of his own face, and wonders: who am I?

    Harrowing and haunting but also humorous in the face of the unfathomable, David Yoon’s City of Orange is a novel about reassembling the things that make us who we are, and finding the way home again.


Thank you NetGalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for allowing me to rate and review this e-ARC title.

*************************************************
Title: Dachshund Through The Snow
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 42 mins /  352 pp
Published: October 2019
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/26
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Once again, Andy is trying to retire but a compelling case draws him back into the courtroom.  Although this book is set during the Christmas season, I read it in July and it didn't seem weird.  It's not a Christmasy story.  The beginning of this book introduces us to Sgt. Corey Douglas a retiring officer that wants his K9 partner to retire with him--I have a feeling we're adding to the cast of regulars in these books!  And what a fun introduction!  Andy's brilliant courtroom performances are on point, but it's the investigative work that is highlighted in this book.  I miss more banter with regular characters--although the interactions with Markus are hilarious.

From the publisher:
Lawyer Andy Carpenter and his wife, Laurie, have started a new Christmas tradition. Their local pet store has a Christmas tree, where instead of ornaments there are wishes from those in need. One poignant wish leads Andy to a child named Danny, whose selfless plea strikes a chord. Danny asked Santa for a coat for his mother, a sweater for his dachshund, Murphy, and for the safe return of his missing father.

It turns out Danny's father doesn't want to be found, he's on the run after just being arrested for a murder that took place fourteen years ago - a murder that Danny's mother swears he didn't commit.

With his trademark humor and larger-than-life characters - including a police officer and his K-9 partner, Simon - Rosenfelt never fails to deliver as Andy and his eccentric crew dash to reunite a family in time for Christmas.

*************************************************
Title: Vladimir
Author: Julia May Jonas
Lengthhrs and 40 mins /  238 pp
Published: February 2022
Book Group: Library
Finished: 7/27
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Get past the cover of this book because it's an incredible piece of writing!  The unnamed central character is a popular literature teacher at a New England college whose husband, the department chair at the college, is being investigated for inappropriate sexual behavior with former students.  As a 58-year-old woman, she is experiencing the effects of aging, comparing herself to her youthful students, and fantasizing about the new hotshot junior professor, Vladimir Vladinski.  The author writes her character with complete honesty.  The novel is about so many issues--feminism, aging, shame, and fidelity.  I just can't get over how interesting this book is and it's a debut.  There are so many passages that spoke to me in so many ways.  I can't wait for my book group to dive in!

From the publisher:
A provocative, razor-sharp, and timely debut novel about a beloved English professor facing a slew of accusations against her professor husband by former students—a situation that becomes more complicated when she herself develops an obsession of her own...

“When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me.”

And so we are introduced to our deliciously incisive narrator: a popular English professor whose charismatic husband at the same small liberal arts college is under investigation for his inappropriate relationships with his former students. The couple have long had a mutual understanding when it comes to their extra-marital pursuits, but with these new allegations, life has become far less comfortable for them both. And when our narrator becomes increasingly infatuated with Vladimir, a celebrated, married young novelist who’s just arrived on campus, their tinder box world comes dangerously close to exploding.

With this bold, edgy, and uncommonly assured debut, author Julia May Jonas takes us into charged territory, where the boundaries of morality bump up against the impulses of the human heart. Propulsive, darkly funny, and wildly entertaining, Vladimir perfectly captures the personal and political minefield of our current moment, exposing the nuances and the grey area between power and desire.


*************************************************
Title: Super Host
Author: Kate Russo
Length: 10 hrs and 45 mins /  368 pp
Published: June 2020
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/30
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This debut novel is about a hapless, has-been painter, Bennett, who rents out his luxurious London home a la Airbnb earning him the designation of Super Host.  The story unfolds in his interactions with his guests, as each chapter focuses on a guest.  Interestingly, each guest is somehow affiliated with the art world.  Not much action takes place, it is character-driven. There's a lot of loneliness in this novel, some sexual violence, and domestic violence, and each character struggles to find purpose in their day-to-day life.  Because there is not a lot of resolution in any of the stories, I was left wanting more.

From the publisher:
Bennett Driscoll is a Turner Prize-nominated artist who was once a rising star. Now, at age 55, his wife has left him, he hasn't sold a painting in two years, and hasn't been reviewed in five. His gallery wants to stop selling his work, claiming they'll have more value retrospectively...when he's dead. So, left with a large West London home and no income, he's forced to move into his artist's studio in the back garden and rent out his house on the popular vacation rental site, AirBed.

A stranger now in his own home, money is finally coming in again and Bennett is getting some of the best reviews of his career, albeit on AirBed. But with his daughter Mia off at art school and any new relationships fizzling out at best, he struggles to find purpose in his day-to-day. That all changes when three different guests--lonely American Alicia; tortured artist Emma; and cautiously optimistic divorcee Kirstie--unwittingly unlock the pieces of himself that have been lost to him for too long.


*************************************************
Title: Muzzled
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 30 mins /  304 pp
Published: July 2020
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/30
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

If only people behaved as well as Tara and her other four-footed friends!  Andy Carpenter would be blissed out!  There wasn't as much courtroom banter but there was a lot of investigation action.  The usual crew is together again--I wish I was part of it.

From the publisher:
Reluctant New Jersey lawyer Andy Carpenter doesn’t call many people friend. So when one comes to him for help, he’s more than willing to listen, and do what he can. Beth reunites lost dogs with their owners. Over the years, she’s helped Andy reunite countless dogs from the Tara Foundation—the dog-rescue foundation that’s Andy’s true passion—with their owners.

A particular case is weighing on Beth. Months of searching for a stray’s owner led to a gruesome discovery: the owner had been murdered. Andy is happy to help, of course the Tara Foundation will find the stray a new home. But that’s not why Beth is there . . . the “murdered” owner contacted Beth, and he wants his dog back.


*************************************************
Title: Silent Bite
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 31 mins /  304 pp
Published: October 2020
Book Group: no
Finished: 7/31
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I love how dogs play a role in this series.  There are a few new players in the cast of secondary characters but they enhance the story.  I wish I had more "aha" moments the way Andy does.  He's a curmudgeon, or at least tries to be!

From the publisher:
Lawyer Andy Carpenter can finally take a breath; he’s back on dry land after a family Caribbean cruise forced on him by his wife, Laurie, to get into the Christmas spirit. Of course the family’s first stop is to the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization that has always been Andy’s true passion.

But when Andy arrives, his partner, Willie Miller, needs his help. Willie’s old cellmate, Glenn Anson, has been arrested for murder. Andy doesn’t necessarily believe in Glenn, but Willie does. And Andy believes in Willie, which is why Andy decides to take the case.

Once again David Rosenfelt puts readers in the Christmas spirit in a tale that is equal parts mystery and holiday cheer."


*************************************************
Title: Dog Eat Dog
Author: David Rosenfelt
Lengthhrs and 30 mins /  304 pp
Published: July 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/1
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was especially excited for this installment since Andy and the crew are in Maine!  I loved the locations and the lobster rolls.  And the dogs.  Andy is as sharp-witted as usual and the cast of characters is growing.  

From the publisher:
Lawyer Andy Carpenter and his golden retriever, Tara, work to free a man who risked it all to help a dog in need

Lawyer Andy Carpenter and his wife, Laurie, enjoy walking their dogs, Tara and Sebastian. By this point in their marriage, it's routine. When out for one of their strolls, their simple ritual isn't so simple anymore. Across the street, a man is mistreating his dog. Three things happen at once: Andy yells, Laurie runs to stop the abuse, and so does a closer passerby, who so thoroughly beats the owner that both are arrested when the cops arrive.

Andy scoops up the dog and takes him to the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization that's always been his true passion. Meanwhile, at the police station, the passerby is identified as Matthew Jantzen, and he's wanted for murder. Andy and Laurie are struck by the fact that Jantzen, a man on the run, would nevertheless intervene to help a dog, and decide to find out more.


*************************************************
Title: 56 Days
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard
Length10 hrs and 39 mins /  305 pp
Published: August 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/2
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This book has a crazy timeline--jumping from past to present and back and forth to tell the story.  Once I got used to it, it was fine and made sense.  There's also a repetitive element of the scene playing out from Oliver's perspective and then the same scene from Ciara's perspective, which I thought was neat.  The time setting is the early days of lockdown of the pandemic but it is the background of the action and puts characters in situations that feel authentic.  It's definitely not a book about the pandemic.  Neither of the main characters is quite who they seem to be and the fun of this domestic thriller is trying to figure out who's who and what's what.  This is a uniquely crafted blend of domestic suspense and murder mystery.  I need to find more books by this author! The audio is very well done.

From the publisher:
No one knew they'd moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who - and what - he really is.

TODAY
Detectives arrive at Oliver's apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?

*************************************************
Title: American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt
Author: Stephanie Marie Thornton
Length: 15 hrs and 27 mins /  448 pp
Published: March 2019
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/5
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I could tell this book was based on diaries, letters, and other personal writings of Alice Roosevelt.  Lots of research went into it.  It was entertaining but a bit long.  I would have liked a few more references to her as being America's Princess by people who would have been fans--especially when she attends events where people would have remembered her that way.  It was good but not great, I wasn't riveted.

From the publisher:
Alice may be the president's daughter, but she's nobody's darling. As bold as her signature color Alice Blue, the gum-chewing, cigarette-smoking, poker-playing First Daughter discovers that the only way for a woman to stand out in Washington is to make waves--oceans of them. With the canny sophistication of the savviest politician on the Hill, Alice uses her celebrity to her advantage, testing the limits of her power and the seductive thrill of political entanglements.

But Washington, DC is rife with heartaches and betrayals, and when Alice falls hard for a smooth-talking congressman it will take everything this rebel has to emerge triumphant and claim her place as an American icon. As Alice soldiers through the devastation of two world wars and brazens out a cutting feud with her famous Roosevelt cousins, it's no wonder everyone in the capital refers to her as the Other Washington Monument--and Alice intends to outlast them all.


*************************************************
Title: To Have And To Hoax
Author: Martha Waters
Length: 10 hrs and 46 mins /  367 pp
Published: April 2020
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/6
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A historical rom-com.  I liked the witty banter and the dialog. I liked how the characters loved each other but didn't know how to express it.  I didn't like the unnecessary repetition of the hoax--I mean, how long can that drag on?  That's my only complaint.  There were a few instances I chuckled and a few eye rolls.  Open door sex scenes that I admit I skimmed over.  One major plot thread was not resolved--wait for book 2 in this series!  I'll read it!  

Definitely a fun, summer read.

From the publisher:
An estranged husband and wife in Regency England feign accidents and illness in an attempt to gain attention—and maybe just win each other back in the process.

Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.

Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.

Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them?

*************************************************
Title: The Golden Couple
Author: Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
Length: 11 hrs and 3 mins /  336 pp
Published: March 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/7
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I would definitely call this a slow-burn thriller.  It had so many red herrings!  I didn't know who to believe.  I didn't put it down.  The shifting narrative worked to create an ominous feel.  Matthew and Marissa are the titular golden couple until they aren't.  They are well-written characters with secrets and deceptions hidden from each other.  It did seem questionable that they would seek out an unlicensed, controversial therapist.  But Avery is a compelling character who makes an interesting case for her methods even if she makes light of losing her credentials. 

My complaint about the book is a subplot that I thought was unnecessary and too neatly wrapped up at the end.  Otherwise, this is well-written and unnerving.  

From the publisher:
Wealthy Washington suburbanites Marissa and Matthew Bishop seem to have it all—until Marissa is unfaithful. Beneath their veneer of perfection is a relationship riven by work and a lack of intimacy. She wants to repair things for the sake of their eight-year-old son and because she loves her husband. Enter Avery Chambers.

Avery is a therapist who lost her professional license. Still, it doesn’t stop her from counseling those in crisis, though they have to adhere to her unorthodox methods. And the Bishops are desperate.

When they glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.


*************************************************
Title: To Love And To Loathe
Author: Martha Waters
Length: 10 hrs and 45 mins /  384 pp
Published: April 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/8
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

This is the second Regency rom-com in the series.  Still lots of witty banter and funny situations.  Having said that, what I didn't like was the mean-girl quality of the main character and her best friends.  They are gossipy which I didn't think was true to their portrayal in the first book of the series.  And the author couldn't seem to decide if the main romantic characters were friends to lovers or enemies to lovers, which became a bit tedious.  

From the publisher:
The widowed Diana, Lady Templeton and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham are infamous among English high society as much for their sharp-tongued bickering as their flirtation. One evening, an argument at a ball turns into a serious wager: Jeremy will marry within the year or Diana will forfeit one hundred pounds. So shortly after, just before a fortnight-long house party at Elderwild, Jeremy’s country estate, Diana is shocked when Jeremy appears at her home with a very different kind of proposition.

After his latest mistress unfavorably criticized his skills in the bedroom, Jeremy is looking for reassurance, so he has gone to the only woman he trusts to be totally truthful. He suggests that they embark on a brief affair while at the house party—Jeremy can receive an honest critique of his bedroom skills and widowed Diana can use the gossip to signal to other gentlemen that she is interested in taking a lover.

Diana thinks taking him up on his counter-proposal can only help her win her wager. With her in the bedroom and Jeremy’s marriage-minded grandmother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Willingham, helping to find suitable matches among the eligible ladies at Elderwild, Diana is confident her victory is assured. But while they’re focused on winning wagers, they stand to lose their own hearts.

*************************************************
Title: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris & Mrs. Harris Goes to New York
Author: Paul Gallico
Length10 hrs and 16 mins /  305 pp
Published: January 1963
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/11
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

What a delightful gem of books!  It was so fun to read about Mrs. Ada Harris' shenanigans and hijinks as she spreads her wisdom and optimism wherever she goes.   Determined to make her dream of owning a Dior gown come true, she proves that determination and hope are a combination that can't be beaten.  The Paris adventure was Mrs. Harris on her own where everything is foreign from her neighborhood and simple, happy life.  The New York adventure finds Mrs. Harris and her bestie Mrs. Butterfield are overwhelmed by the big shiny apple of a city.  In this story, Mrs. Harris is fairy godmother to everyone she encounters.  Another delightful story.

From the publisher:
Mrs Harris is a salt-of-the-earth London charlady who cheerfully cleans the houses of the rich. One day, when tidying Lady Dant's wardrobe, she comes across the most beautiful thing she has ever seen – a Dior dress. She's never seen anything as magical and she's never wanted anything as much.

Determined to make her dream come true, Mrs Harris scrimps, saves and slaves away until one day, she finally has enough money to go to Paris. Little does she know how her life is about to be transformed forever …

Mrs Harris's adventures take her from her humble Battersea roots to the heights of glamour in Paris and New York as she learns some of life's greatest lessons along the way.


*************************************************
Title: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Length13 hrs and 52 mins /  416 pp
Published: July 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/13
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I don't know anything about video games but that didn't stop my enjoyment of this book.  The author created a compelling world of games that made sense, and truth be told kinda makes me want to play a game.  The alternating narrative perspective fleshes out the characters and their inner workings, so they're understandable if not likable.  Each character takes a turn being the villain.  The time span is around thirty years--from Sam and Sadie's childhood meeting, their break, and the reunion, and thus beginning a continuing cycle.  I loved how deeply flawed Sam and Sadie are--making them real.  Marx probably is my favorite character.  I loved reading about the creative process and how artists put everything on the line for ultimate success or complete failure--and keep creating.

It's a story of great love.  Lifelong love.  But not a conventional love story.  I thought the audio was very well done.

From the publisher:
On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn't heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won't protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.



*************************************************
Title: The Cartographers
Author: Peng Shepherd
Length14 hrs and 42 mins /  392 pp
Published: March 2022
Book Group: Library
Finished: 8/14
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is going to be a great book group discussion book!  There's suspense, magical realism, fantasy, murder mystery, thriller, and even a touch of romance.  I wasn't expecting magical realism because it's not really my favorite genre--but this book was just so stinking cool!  The New York Public Library is part of the setting and I loved how it was woven into the story.  I've also always loved looking at maps so the story of the map is fun.  This is such an original story.  It's hard to talk about what I like without spoilers.  

I liked the shifting narratives that helped fill in the backstory and history of this group of friends.  

From the publisher:
What is the purpose of a map?

Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.

But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable and exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence... because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way.

But why?

To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret and discovers the true power that lies in maps...

*************************************************
Title: Coffee Gets Cold Quick
Author: M.L. Bell
Length: not available /   pp
Published: July 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/14
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This little gem of a novel-in-verse was written by a rising freshman at my school.  I was intrigued to pick it up because I know her family (and her), and I'm so glad I did.  There are rich details and a sense of place and time.  Emma is a sympathetic character.  For a debut work of a fourteen-year-old, it's incredible.

From the publisher:
When her family boards the Pacific (Transcontinental) Railroad and heads for Colorado, eight-year-old Emma Clark isn’t sure what to feel, besides a strange mix of resentment, excitement, and curiosity.

Leaving everything she’s ever known behind in Missouri, Emma is forced to adapt to her new life, while still facing the typical challenges associated with growing up. But just when she believes that she has put her struggles behind her, Emma’s mother dies— and her grief-stricken father disappears from her life forever.

Left alone in the world, Emma (now a young woman) must simultaneously cope with her grief and be able to look past her traumatic childhood to make a life for herself in her still secluded, unfamiliar Colorado town— and discover who she really is when there’s no one else to turn to.


*************************************************
Title: The Dead Romantics
Author: Ashley Poston
Length10 hrs and 24 mins /  368 pp
Published: June 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/22
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This was a very fun book full of quirky, charming characters.   

From the publisher:
Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead... but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

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Title: The Latecomer
Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
Length: 16 hrs and 19 mins /  448 pp
Published: May 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/27
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I wasn't sure about this book at first--it's a character study that has a slow build.  But after a few chapters, I was invested in the characters and truly wanted to see what would happen to them.  I'm not sure if they are supposed to be likable characters because they are deeply flawed and disconnected.  There is a lot of detail about each character that seemed overdone but then I realized I actually cared what happened to them.  It's a complex book about loneliness, education, sexual identity, religion, mental illness, guilt, privilege, power, and art.  There would be much to discuss with my book group.

From the publisher:
The Latecomer follows the story of the wealthy, New York City-based Oppenheimer family, from the first meeting of parents Salo and Johanna, under tragic circumstances, to their triplets born during the early days of IVF. As children, the three siblings – Harrison, Lewyn, and Sally – feel no strong familial bond and cannot wait to go their separate ways, even as their father becomes more distanced and their mother more desperate. When the triplets leave for college, Johanna, faced with being truly alone, makes the decision to have a fourth child. What role will the “latecomer” play in this fractured family?

A complex novel that builds slowly and deliberately, The Latecomer touches on the topics of grief and guilt, generational trauma, privilege and race, traditions and religion, and family dynamics. It is a profound and witty family story from an accomplished author, known for the depth of her character studies, expertly woven storylines, and plot twists.


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Title: A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem
Author: Manda Collins
Lengthhrs and 36 mins /  352 pp
Published: November 2020
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/27
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This steamy historical rom-com was fun.  But suspend any historical accuracies, though.  I wasn't expecting a mystery that kept me guessing so that was intriguing.  The characters that interested me the most were Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham and the country estate's host.  There were a couple of continuity and timing issues, but it's a rom-com so not a literary masterpiece.

From the publisher:
An intrepid female reporter matches wits with a serious, sexy detective in award-winning author Manda Collins' fun and flirty historical rom-com!

England, 1865 : As one of England's most notorious newspaper columnists, Lady Katherine Bascomb believes knowledge is power. And she's determined to inform and educate the ladies of London on the nefarious-and deadly-criminals who are preying on the fairer sex. When her reporting leads to the arrest of a notorious killer, however, Katherine flees to a country house party to escape her newfound notoriety-only to witness a murder on her very first night. And when the lead detective accuses Katherine of inflaming-rather than informing-the public with her column, she vows to prove him wrong.

Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham's refusal to compromise his investigations nearly cost him his own career, and he blames Katherine. To avoid bad publicity, his superiors are pressuring him to solve cases quickly rather than correctly. When he discovers she's the key witness in a new crime, he's determined to prevent the beautiful widow from once again wreaking havoc on his case. Yet as Katherine proves surprisingly insightful and Andrew impresses Katherine with his lethal competency, both are forced to admit the fire between them is more flirtatious than furious. But to explore the passion between them, they'll need to catch a killer.


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Title: Counterfeit
Author: Kirstin Chen
Length: 7 hrs and 20 mins /  288 pp
Published: June 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 8/30
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This novel was so much fun!  I love a heist or con and this was entertaining.  Fast-paced, I was immersed in the world of designer handbags.  The characters are delightfully without conscience as they pursue their end game. 

From the publisher:
Money can't buy happiness... but it can buy a decent fake.

Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home--she's built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava's world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn't been used in years, and her toddler's tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point.

Enter Winnie Fang, Ava's enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business--someone who'd never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences.

Swift, surprising, and sharply comic, Counterfeit is a stylish and feminist caper with a strong point of view and an axe to grind. Peering behind the curtain of the upscale designer storefronts and the Chinese factories where luxury goods are produced, Kirstin Chen interrogates the myth of the model minority through two unforgettable women determined to demand more from life.




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Title: Murder in the Maple Woods
Author: Claire Ackroyd
Length: not available /  181 pp
Published: January 2020
Book Group: Library
Finished: 9/5
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This Maine author's mystery is richly descriptive.  I learned a lot about the organic maple syrup business.  Of course, the dog storyline was great!  The setting is as much a character as any of the people.  The intermingling of Maine and Canadian citizens is spot on--crossing and recrossing the border is typical.  

I'm excited about the author's visit to my local library later this month.  And I'm looking forward to my book group's discussion.

From the publisher:
A boy dies in the Maine woods. His death is judged an accident, but suspicions are raised.
Set in the remote maple sugar camps of northwestern Maine, the story unfolds around the maple syrup industry and its producers.


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Title: The Messy Lives of Book People
Author: Phaedra Patrick
Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins /  352 pp
Published: May 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 9/7
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I love books about books--and this one was charming.  I wouldn't say it covered any new ground but it kept me reading and the plot twist surprised me, I mean, I thought about it but talked myself out of it, so it was a nice surprise to get the details.  I liked the character Liv, as an invisible middle-aged woman who's living a humble life.  I could definitely relate to the routine-ness.  I thought Liv's husband, Jake, was kind of overbearing and a bit of a tool, but maybe that's just me.  Actually, all of the men seemed to want to claim prominence in Liv's life, from her sons' neediness to the publishers.

I enjoyed the references to books that Liv was listening to or reading.  They are among my favorites.

From the publisher:
Have you ever wished you were someone else?

Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So she can't believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, mega-bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship.

But when Essie dies suddenly, a devastated Liv is astonished to learn of her last wish: for Liv to complete Essie's final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie's shoes, and as Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women--one that will change Liv's own story forever...

Books mentioned:
  • Garden Spells (Waverly Family #1) by Sarah Addison Allen
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • Heartburn by Nora Ephron

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Title: Oh William!
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Length: 7 hrs  /  256 pp
Published: October 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 9/9
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a meandering, leisurely book that isn't really plot-driven.  But the characters come to life and I was totally invested in their relations.  Elizabeth Strout is masterful.

From the publisher:
Strout's iconic heroine Lucy Barton, of My Name Is Lucy Barton, recounts her complex, tender relationship with William, her first husband--and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidant. Recalling their college years, through the birth of their daughters, the painful dissolution of their marriage, and the lives they built with other people, Strout weaves a portrait, stunning in its subtlety, of a decades-long partnership.

A masterful exploration of human empathy, Oh William! captures the joy and pain of watching children grow up and start families of their own; of discovering family secrets, late in life, that rearrange everything we think we know about those closest to us; and the way people live and love, despite the variety of obstacles we face in doing so. And at the heart of this story is the unforgettable, indomitable voice of Lucy Barton, who once again offers a profound, lasting reflection on the very nature of existence. "This is the way of life," Lucy says. "The many things we do not know until it is too late."



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Title: The Murder Rule
Author: Dervla McTiernan
Length: 9 hrs 19 mins  /  295 pp
Published: May 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 9/11
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This was fast-paced with the last few chapters tension-filled.  It turns The Innocence Project on its ear.  I didn't care for Hannah but I did like her fellow students, Sean and Camilla. The unreliable characters added a great touch as I sussed out who to believe.  I'll have to check out more of this author.

From the publisher:
First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.


They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They're wrong. I’m going to bury him.




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Title: For Your Own Good
Author: Samantha Downing
Length: 10 hrs and 37 mins /  379 pp
Published: July 2021
Book Group: no
Finished: 9/13
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This was a creepy, twisty tale set at a prestigious private school.  Early on, we learn what makes the "villain" of the story take the actions he does.  So, as a mystery, it's not a whodunit but more of a will he be caught?  I thought the high school students were well-developed and layered.  And how they interacted with the teachers seemed about right.  I liked the pacing.  I liked how the characters interacted.  This is definitely a tale where no one is innocent!

From the publisher:
Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn't be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.

It's really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.

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Title: The Soulmate
Author: Sally Hepworth
Length: unknown / 336 pp
Published: April 2023
Book Group: no
Finished: 3/19
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sally Hepworth writes compelling characters.  Even minor, secondary characters are well-developed and realistic.  I couldn't put this book down.  I didn't anticipate much of the action, either.  I loved how the narrative shifted from past and present, character to character.  Seeing how the action unfolded and how the threads tangle kept me turning pages.  I liked the strong female characters.  I liked how mental health drives the story without being cliche or trivialized.  

From the publisher:
Gabe and Pippa Gerard have just moved into their dream house: a cliffside cottage in a sleepy coastal town outside Melbourne. It’s a fresh start to their marriage, and the perfect place to raise their two young daughters. But the house’s perfect façade hides something more sinister: The Spot, where the tall cliffs have become a popular place for those wishing to end their lives. After talking someone down from the ledge, Gabe becomes a local hero, saving person after person… until one night, he doesn’t. And Pippa sees Gabe the moment after it happened, standing alone at the cliff’s edge, arms outstretched, palms facing out.

The death is ruled a suicide— Gabe said it was a stranger devastated over her husband’s infidelity. But when Pippa discovers that Gabe knew the victim, she has more questions than answers. Plus, the woman’s husband swears she wouldn’t have jumped. Why would Gabe lie about not knowing her? Why would she have been at The Spot, if not to jump? And did she really jump… or was she pushed? As Pippa works to uncover the truth, the foundations of the life they’ve built begin to crack and their deepest secrets start to unravel.

The Soulmate is a twisty domestic suspense novel that proves nothing—and no one— is ever as it seems.

Thank you, NetGalley, St. Martin's Press, and Sally Hepworth for allowing me to rate and review this e-ARC title.

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Title: Meredith, Alone
Author: Claire Alexander
Length: unknown /  368 pp
Published: November 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 9/21
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Meredith Maggs has not left her house in over 1,214 days.  But she isn't alone or lonely because she has her ginger cat, Fred.  She has her books and hobbies. She has Sadie, Tom, and Celeste. This is the story of mental health issues: childhood abuse, dysfunctional families, depression, sexual assault, and PTSD. And the author handles these sensitive issues with compassion.   There are dual timelines that tell Meredith's story.  I loved Meredith's journey from crippling, raw fear to fearlessness. I loved the friendships.  Ultimately, this is the story of stepping back into life. This is a story that will stay with me.

From the publisher:
She has a full-time remote job and her rescue cat Fred. Her best friend Sadie visits with her two children.  There's her online support group, her jigsaw puzzles and favorite recipes, her beloved Emily Dickinson, the internet, the grocery delivery man.  Also keeping her company are treacherous memories of an unstable childhood, the estrangement from her sister, and a traumatic event that had sent her reeling.

But something's about to change. Whether Meredith likes it or not, the world is coming to her door.   Does she have the courage to overcome what's been keeping her inside all this time? 

Thank you, NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for allowing me to rate and review this e-ARC title.


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Title: This Must Be The Place
Author: Maggie O'Farrell
Length14 hrs and 44 mins /  402 pp
Published: July 2016
Book Group: no
Finished: 9/24
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book has been on my radar for a while and I'm so glad I finally read it.  The storytelling is detailed and vivid and rich.  The main character, Daniel Sullivan, is slightly oblivious to the world around him and his lack of awareness is what drives the storyline.  It's not a linear narrative--it is told from multiple perspectives and in multiple ways, one chapter is told through the descriptions of items being auctioned off that belonged to Daniel's wife, a reclusive former film sensation.

It's a story about grief and love and family.  It's about places you find yourself both literally and philosophically.  But more than the story is the gorgeous writing.  

From the publisher:
Daniel Sullivan, a young American professor reeling from a failed marriage and a brutal custody battle, is on holiday in Ireland when he falls in love with Claudette, a world-famous sexual icon and actress who fled fame for a reclusive life in a rural village. Together, they make an idyllic life in the country, raising two more children in blissful seclusion—until a secret from Daniel’s past threatens to destroy their meticulously constructed and fiercely protected home. What follows is a journey through Daniel’s many lives told in his voice and the voices of those who have made him the man he is: the American son and daughter he has not seen for many years; the family he has made with Claudette; and irrepressible, irreverent Claudette herself. Shot through with humor and wisdom, This Must Be the Place is a powerful rumination on the nature of identity, and the complexities of loyalty and devotion—a gripping story of an extraordinary family and an extraordinary love.



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Title: This Time Tomorrow
Author: Emma Straub
Lengthhrs and 31 mins / 320 pp
Published: May 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 9/25
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is the love story of a daughter to her father.  I liked this book a lot.  Alice is trying to squeak in more time with her father.  I enjoyed that Leonard is an author of time travel novels.  And I enjoyed the relationship between Alice and her bestie, Sam.  It's significant to note that Alice didn't try to hide or lie to her friends about the ability she discovers.  I also enjoyed that Alice is living a modest, uneventful life; her job isn't flashy and her apartment isn't glamorous.  I enjoyed that Alice tinkers with some facets of her life but doesn't change who she is.  The 90s references and cultural touchpoints were a great touch, too.

From the publisher:
On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn’t exactly the one she expected. She’s happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But her father is ailing, and it feels to her as if something is missing. When she wakes up the next morning she finds herself back in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. But it isn’t just her adolescent body that shocks her, or seeing her high school crush, it’s her dad: the vital, charming, 40-something version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?


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Title: Vacationland
Author: Meg Mitchell Moore
Length12 hrs and 37 mins / 384 pp
Published: June 2022
Book Group: no
Finished: 9/26
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Now, this is a beach read!  Set on the coast of Maine, the atmosphere is spot on.  It's the story of family, illness, and tradition.  Every year Louisa and her family spend summertime at her family's home on the coast of Maine.  This year, Louisa is on a sabbatical from her history professor gig at NYU to write a book that's not happening as steadily as she expected.  Her three children are all dealing with kid issues like boredom, first love, and too much sibling time.  Her husband's start-up podcast company is taking all of his time and causing him to be mostly absent.  Louisa expects this retreat to Maine to solve all her problems but reality has other plans.

The narrative shifts perspectives between Louisa, her children Mattie, Abigail, and Claire, the housekeeper Pauline, and the mysterious newcomer Kristie.  I will say I particularly enjoyed the chapters from the kids' perspectives.  Their take on the adult situations was well-done.

This felt like a coming-of-age novel.  It felt like all of the characters grew and evolved as they ultimately rediscovered the power of forgiveness and the importance of family.

From the publisher:
Louisa has come to her parents' house in Maine this summer with all three of her kids, a barely written book, and a trunkful of resentment. Left behind in Brooklyn is her husband, who has promised that after this final round of fundraising at his startup he will once again pick up his share of the household responsibilities. Louisa is hoping that the crisp breeze off Penobscot Bay will blow away the irritation she is feeling with her life choices and replace it with enthusiasm for both her family and her work.

But all isn't well in Maine. Louisa's father, a retired judge and pillar of the community, is suffering from Alzheimer's. Louisa's mother is alternately pretending everything is fine and not pretending at all. And one of Louisa's children happens upon a very confusing and heartfelt letter referring to something Louisa doesn't think her father could possibly have done.

Louisa's not the only one searching for something in Maine this summer. Kristie took the Greyhound bus from Pennsylvania with one small suitcase, $761, and a lot of baggage. She's got a past she's trying to outrun, a secret she's trying to unpack, and a new boyfriend who's so impossibly kind she can't figure out what she did to deserve him. But she can't keep her various lives from colliding forever.

As June turns to July turns to August, secrets will be unearthed, betrayals will come to light, and both Louisa and Kristie will ask themselves what they are owed and what they owe others.