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?


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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.



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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?


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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.


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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.