2022 books read

Here are the 102 books I read in 2022:


Row 1: Medicare & You 2023 | The Dutch House | What Has Mother Done? | Murder on Display | See Her Hide | Cozy Up to Murder 
Row 2: The Bookstore Sisters | Well-Behaved Wives | Skipping Christmas | The Kidney Donor | A Skeleton in the Closet | The Secret of Wild Boar Woods 
Row 3: The Red Telephone Box | Camino Winds | Urgent Care | Beside Manner | The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo | Murder in the First Edition 
Row 4: Heart Trouble | The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle | Mrs. March | Speak | Summer at the Cape | The Woman in the Library
Row 5: Terns of Endearment | The Only Woman in the Room | The Silent Ones | Walk Like You | Tin Men | Never Meant to Meet You 
Row 6: Uncharted Waters | Winter in the Blood | Black Cake | Lock Every Door | Train Dreams | The Days of Abandonment 
Row 7: Mrs. Dalloway | The Remains of the Day | The Sentence | Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone | The Book Woman's Daughter | Let The Dead Bury Their Dead 
Row 8: Stupid Things I Won't Do When I Get Old | I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir | The Venice Sketchbook | Fairest of All | The Partner Track | The Paper Palace
Row 9: The People We Keep | The Starless Sea | The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek | Hamnet | The Queen's Gambit | Five Tuesdays in Winter 
Row 10: Here for It; Or, How to Save Your Soul in America: Essays | The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir | The Old Cape Magic | The Lottery and Other Stories | How to Sleep: The New Science-Based Solutions for Sleeping Through the Night | Bud, Not Buddy 
Row 11: Call Us What We Carry | Victorian San Francisco Novellas | Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump | The Replacement Wife | The Guncle | The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox 
Row 12: The Power of the Dog | I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer | Me and You | Black Buck | What Are You Going Through | The Midnight Library
Row 13: The Moonlight Child | The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett | The Absolutist | Run Rose Run | The Personal Librarian | The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue 
Row 14: This Is How It Always Is | Black Boy Joy | Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine | Officer Clemmons | Hyperbole and a Half | Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls 
Row 15: A Day Like This | Digital Body Language | What Happened to You? | The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck | Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead | The Heart is a Lonely Hunter 
Row 16: The Member of the Wedding | Clock Without Hands | The Plot | Paper Covers Rock | The Editor | We Have Always Live in the Castle
Row 17: Oona Out of Order | On Earth, We're Briefly Gorgeous | Swimming Lessons | The Grammarians | The Boystown Prequels: Two Nick Nowak Novellas | Not Book Club Material

Ratings legend:

★★★★★ Completely enthralling, couldn’t put it down. and/or More than just entertaining (e.g., educational, enlightening). Would highly recommend.
★★★★☆ Really good book in all respects with perhaps some minor flaws. Would definitely recommend.
★★★☆☆ Average. An entertaining read but probably forgettable. Might or might not recommend.
★★☆☆☆ Finished, but did not like. Would not recommend.
★☆☆☆☆ Abandoned before finishing, usually because it was poorly written or just uninteresting to me.

The books I read in 2022—summary

Clicking on the title of a book will take you to its detailed entry further down on the page, which contains a description of the book and some thoughts I had about it.

Number Title Author Pages Duration Rating Genres
102 Medicare & You 2023 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 128 12/07/22 – 12/07/22 (1 day) ★★★★☆ nonfiction, healthcare
101 The Dutch House Ann Patchett 353 12/05/22 – 12/06/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ fiction, family
100 What Has Mother Done? Barbara Petty 269 12/02/22 – 12/05/22 (4 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, mystery, thriller
99 Murder On Display Luke Christodoulou 286 11/29/22 – 12/01/22 (3 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, mystery, crime
98 See Her Hide Rylie Dark 215 11/28/22 – 11/29/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ fiction, mystery, crime
97 Cozy Up to Murder Colin Conway 277 11/27/22 – 11/27/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ fiction, cozy mystery, thriller
96 The Bookstore Sisters Alice Hoffman 36 11/27/22 – 11/27/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ fiction, short stories, books about books
95 Well-Behaved Wives Amy Sue Nathan 319 11/24/22 – 11/27/22 (4 days) ★★★★☆ historical fiction, women, domestic violence
94 Skipping Christmas John Grisham 242 11/23/22 – 11/23/23 (1 day) ★★★☆☆ fiction, humor, Christmas
93 The Kidney Donor P.,F., Ford 286 11/22/22 – 11/22/22 (1 day) ★★★★☆ fiction, mystery, crime
92 A Skeleton in the Closet P.F. Ford 286 11/20/22 – 11/21/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, mystery, crime, LGBT
91 The Secret of Wild Boar Woods P.F. Ford 240 11/19/22 – 11/20/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, mystery, crime
90 The Red Telephone Box P.F. Ford 258 11/17/22 – 11/19/22 (3 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, mystery, crime
89 Camino Winds John Grisham 292 11/13/22 – 11/15/22 (3 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, mystery, crime
88 Urgent Care D.J. Jamison 240 11/13/22 – 11/13/22 (1 day) ★★★☆☆ fiction, LGBT, M/M romance, medical
87 Bedside Manner Ric Brady 217 11/12/22 – 11/12/22 (1 day) ★★★☆☆ fiction, LGBT, M/M romance, medical
86 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Taylor Jenkins Reid 389 11/11/22 – 11/11/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ historical fiction, romance LGBT, contemporary
85 Murder in the First Edition Lauren Elliott 315 11/09/22 – 11/10/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, mystery, Christmas, books about books
84 Heart Trouble D.J. Jamison 194 11/08/22 – 11/09/22 (2 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, LGBT, M/M romance, medical
83 The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle Matt Cain 400 11/06/22 – 11/08/22 (3 days) ★★★★★ fiction, LGBT, Romance, British literature
82 Mrs. March Virginia Feito 304 10/17/22 – 11/03/22 (18 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, suspense, mystery
81 Speak Laurie Halse Anderson 198 10/10/22 – 10/12/22 (3 days) ★★★★★ fiction, young adult, mental health, teen, high school, abuse, coming of age
80 Summer at the Cape RaeAnne Thayne 322 10/08/22 – 10/09/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, romance, family
79 The Woman in the Library Sulari Gentill 288 10/03/22 – 10/05/22 (3 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, mystery, crime
78 Terns of Endearment Donna Andrews 336 09/28/22 – 10/02/22 (5 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, mystery
77 The Only Woman in the Room Marie Benedict 272 09/25/22 – 09/27/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ historical fiction, World War II, feminism, science
76 The Silent Ones Linda Coles 386 09/24/22 – 09/25/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, mysteries, crime
75 Walk Like You Linda Coles 344 09/18/22 – 09/18/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ fiction, mysteries, crime
74 Tin Men Linda Coles 315 09/17/22 – 09/17/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ fiction, mysteries, crime
73 Never Meant to Meet You Alli Frank & Asha Youmans 320 09/09/22 – 09/16/22 (8 days) ★★★☆☆ womens fiction, romance, African American culture
72 Uncharted Waters Sally Hepworth 49 09/07/22 – 09/08/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ fiction, mysteries, short stories
71 Winter in the Blood James Welch 133 09/03/22 – 09/07/22 (5 days) ★★★☆☆ literary fiction, classics, Native American culture, westerns
70 Black Cake Charmaine Wilkerson 400 08/30/22 – 09/01/22 (3 days) ★★★★☆ literary fiction, classics, westerns
69 Lock Every Door Riley Sager 381 literary fiction, classics, westerns (2 days) ★★★★★ fiction, thriller, mystery, suspense
68 Train Dreams Denis Johnson 116 08/27/22 – 08/27/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ literary fiction, historical, westerns, novella
67 The Days of Abandonment Elena Ferrante 188 08/24/22 – 08/27/22 (4 days) ★★★★☆ literary fiction, womens, Italian culture, feminism
66 Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf 182 08/21/22 – 08/22/22 (2 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, British literature, classic, feminism
65 The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro 258 08/20/22 – 08/21/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ historical fiction, classics, British literature
64 The Sentence Louise Erdrich 416 08/14/22 – 08/20/22 (7 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, mystery, magical realism, books about books, Indigenous culture
63 Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone Brené Brown 208 08/13/22 – 08/14/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ nonfiction, self-help, psychology, spirituality, mental health, sociology
62 The Book Woman’s Daughter Kim Michele Richardson 320 08/12/22 – 08/13/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ historical fiction, books about books, family, race, sequel
61 Let The Dead Bury Their Dead Diane Chamberlain 334 08/09/22 – 08/11/22 (3 days) ★★★★☆ literary fiction, short stories, race, LGBT, African American, southern
60 Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old Steven Petrow 272 08/06/22 – 08/08/22 (3 days) ★★★★★ nonfiction, humor, self-help, memoir, health, psychology
59 I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir Harvey Fierstein 386 07/31/22 – 08/06/22 (7 days) ★★★★★ nonfiction, memoir, LGBT, humor, theater
58 The Venice Sketchbook Rhys Bowen 412 07/24/22 – 07/25/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ historical fiction, romance, mystery, war, Italian culture
57 Fairest of All Serena Valentino 268 07/23/22 – 07/23/22 (1 day) ★★★★☆ fiction, fantasy, young adult, retellings
56 The Partner Track: A Novel Helen Wan 305 07/21/22 – 07/23/22 (3 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, law, romance, diversity
55 The Paper Palace Miranda Cowley Heller 400 07/14/22 – 07/19/22 (6 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, romance, family
54 The People We Keep Allison Larkin 359 07/05/22 – 07/10/22 (6 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, coming of age, music, young adult
53 The Starless Sea Erin Morgenstern 498 07/01/22 – 07/04/22 (4 days) ★★★★★ fiction, fantasy, magical realism, romance, LGBT, books about books
52 The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Kim Michele Richardson 322 06/25/22 – 06/30/22 (6 days) ★★★★☆ historical fiction, books about books, race, education, romance
51 Hamnet Maggie O’Farrell 310 06/24/22 – 06/25/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ historical fiction, literary fiction, British literature
50 The Queen’s Gambit Walter Tevis 266 06/20/22 – 06/21/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ historical fiction, contemporary, chess
49 Five Tuesdays in Winter Lily King 240 06/19/22 – 06/19/22 (1 day) ★★★★☆ fiction, short stories, contemporary
48 Here for It; Or, How to Save Your Soul in America: Essays R. Eric Thomas 272 06/17/22 – 06/18/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ nonfiction, memoir, essays, race, African American, LGBT, humor
47 The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir Jennifer Lewis 339 06/13/22 – 06/16/22 (4 days) ★☆☆☆☆ nonfiction, memoir, African American, humor
46 That Old Cape Magic Richard Russo 274 06/11/22 – 06/12/22 (2 days) literary fiction, family, academia, rom-com
45 The Lottery and Other Stories Shirley Jackson 306 06/10/22 – 06/11/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ fiction, short stories, horror, gothic, literature, classics
44 How to Sleep: The New Science-Based Solutions for Sleeping Through the Night Rafael Pelayo 160 06/09/22 – 06/10/22 (2 days) ★★★☆☆ nonfiction, self-help, health, science, medical
43 Bud, Not Buddy Christopher Paul Curtis 272 06/07/22 – 06/08/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, young adult, historical, classics, African American
42 Call Us What We Carry Amanda Gorman 240 06/06/22 – 06/06/22 (1 day) ★★★★☆ nonfiction, poetry, race, politics, social justice, African American
41 Victorian San Francisco Novellas M. Louisa Locke 273 06/05/22 – 06/05/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ fiction, short stories, historical, mystery
40 Sure, I’ll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump Ben Phillipe 300 06/04/22 – 06/04/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ nonfiction, memoir, race, humor, social justice
39 The Replacement Wife Eileen Goudge 482 05/31/22 – 06/03/22 (4 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, romance, family, illness
38 The Guncle Steven Rowley 336 05/28/22 – 05/30/22 (3 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, family, LGBT, humor
37 The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox Maggie O’Farrell 277 05/26/22 – 05/27/22 (2 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, mystery, Scotland culture, family dysfunction
36 The Power of the Dog Thomas Savage 306 05/24/22 – 05/25/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ literary fiction, westerns, LGBT
35 I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer Michelle McNamara 475 05/20/22 – 05/22/22 (3 days) ★★★★★ nonfiction, true crime, mystery, history
34 Me and You Niccolò Ammaniti 153 05/18/22 – 05/18/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ fiction, Italian literature, young adult, coming of age
33 Black Buck Mateo Askaripour 389 05/15/22 – 05/17/22 (3 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, race, humor, African-American culture
32 What Are You Going Through Sigrid Nunez 210 05/09/22 – 05/13/22 (5 days) ★★★★★ fiction, death, friendship, loss, comfort, memory
31 The Midnight Library Matt Haig 441 05/02/22 – 05/08/22 (7 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, fantasy, magical realism, parallel universes
30 The Moonlight Child Karen McQuestion 343 04/26/22 – 05/01/22 (6 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, thriller, mystery
29 The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett Annie Lyons 372 04/18/22 – 04/25/22 (8 days) ★★★★★ fiction, death, British literature
28 The Absolutist John Boyne 309 04/10/22 – 04/12/22 (3 days) ★★★★★ historical fiction, LGBT, war, romance
27 Run Rose Run Dolly Parton & James Patterson 448 04/07/22 – 04/08/22 (2 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, mystery, thriller, music, romance
26 The Personal Librarian Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray 496 04/02/22 – 04/05/22 (4 days) ★★★★★ historical fiction, art, books about books, race, African American culture
25 The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue V.E. Schwab 448 03/22/22 – 03/31/22 (10 days) ★★★★☆ historical fiction, fantasy, magical realism, romance, LGBT
24 This Is How It Always Is Laurie Frankel 338 03/18/22 – 03/21/22 (4 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, LGBT, family
23 Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood Kwame Mbalia (Editor) 305 03/16/22 – 03/17/22 (2 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, African American culture, short stories, middle grade, fantasy
22 Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine Gail Honeyman 336 03/12/22 – 03/15/22 (4 days) ★★★★★ fiction, mental health, romance
21 Officer Clemmons François S. Clemmons 288 03/09/22 – 03/12/22 (4 days) ★★★★★ nonfiction, memoir, LGBT, race
20 Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened Allie Brosh 371 03/08/22 – 03/08/22 (1 day) ★★★☆☆ nonfiction, humor, graphic novels, short stories, mental health
19 Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls David Sederis 289 03/07/22 – 03/07/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ nonfiction, humor, essays, short stories
18 A Day Like This Kelley McNeil 287 03/07/22 – 03/07/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ fiction, mystery, thriller
17 Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance Erica Dhawan 288 02/28/22 – 03/03/22 (4 days) ★★★☆☆ nonfiction, business, psychology, self-help, leadership
16 What Happened to You? Dr. Bruce Perry 304 02/21/22 – 02/23/22 (3 days) ★★★★★ nonfiction, psychology, self-help, mental health, science
15 The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life Mark Manson 229 02/21/22 – 02/21/22 (1 day) ★★★☆☆ nonfiction, self-help, psychology, philosophy, humor
14 Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead Olga Tokarczuk 274 02/19/22 – 02/20/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ literary fiction, mystery, crime, Polish culture
13 The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers 371 02/14/22 – 02/19/22 (6 days) ★★★☆☆ literary fiction, classic, southern, race
12 The Member of the Wedding Carson McCullers 163 02/13/22 – 02/13/22 (1 day) ★★★★★ literary fiction, classic, southern, coming of age, race
11 Clock Without Hands Carson McCullers 241 02/11/22 – 02/13/22 (3 days) ★★★★☆ literary fiction, classic, race, southern
10 The Plot Jean Hanff Korelitz 317 02/08/22 – 02/09/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ fiction, mystery, thriller, books about books
9 Paper Covers Rock Jenny Hubbard 194 02/06/22 – 02/07/22 (2 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, mystery, boarding school, poetry, young adult
8 The Editor Steven Rowley 308 02/02/22 – 02/06/22 (5 days) ★★★★★ historical fiction, books about books, LGBT
7 We Have Always Lived in the Castle Shirley Jackson 158 01/30/22 – 01/31/22 (2 days) ★★★★★ fiction, horror, Gothic, mystery
6 Oona Out of Order Margarita Montimore 352 01/27/22 – 01/30/22 (4 days) ★★★★★ fiction, time travel, magical realism, LGBT
5 On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous Ocean Vuong 246 01/24/22 – 01/26/22 (3 days) ★★★★★ fiction, poetry, LGBT, contemporary
4 Swimming Lessons Claire Fuller 350 01/19/22 – 01/23/22 (5 days) ★★★★☆ fiction, literary fiction, mystery, family
3 The Grammarians Cathleen Schine 258 01/12/22 – 01/15/22 (4 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, twins, family
2 The Boystown Prequels: Two Nick Nowak Novellas Marshall Thorton 158 01/07/22 – 01/08/22 (2 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, novellas, mystery, LGBT, romance
1 Not Book Club Material Aaron Zevy 152 01/01/22 – 01/05/2 (5 days) ★★★☆☆ fiction, short stories, Jewish culture

The books I read in 2022—details

Book #: 102   Title: Medicare & You 2023
Authors: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 128     Duration: 12/07/22 – 12/07/22 (1 day)
Genres: nonfiction, healthcare
📕10-word summary: What’s new and important, coverage options, cost, enrollment in Medicare.
🖌6-word review: Knows its audience with large print.

Description*: Each year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) releases a handbook titled Medicare & You. The handbook, which is made available to all current and future Medicare beneficiaries, is published in the fall for the upcoming year.
Thoughts: You may be a gentleman of a certain age if this book appears on your radar. It’s 128 pages of quite-the-large print, and it’s a fitting day to read it since it’s the last day of open enrollment for 2023 Medicare benefits. I couldn’t put it down for FOMO. I also love that it makes the table on my web page of the books I’ve read in 2022 end on a completed row.

Book #: 101   Title: The Dutch House
Authors: Ann Patchett     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 353     Duration: 12/05/22 – 12/06/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, family
📕10-word summary: Brother and sister hash through 5 decades of family drama.
🖌6-word review: Inexplicable domestic changes profoundly effect family.

Description*: Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.
Thoughts: I loved this story. I listened to the audiobook version of it, which was read by Tom Hanks. It was a great story, but I’m pretty sure Hanks’ reading of it made it even better to me. Audible Blog said about his reading of this book: “Hanks is the perfect narrator for this story, which calls for a skillful balance of humor, cynicism, and deep emotion.” About halfway through, I thought, “I love this author. I wonder what else she’s written.” And I said, “Ah, no wonder,” when I saw that she was also the author of Bel Canto, which I read in 2020 and absolutely loved, too. I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading another of her books in 2023. This is also the next selection for our Mostly Social Book Club.

Book #: 100   Title: What Has Mother Done?
Authors: Barbara Petty     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 269     Duration: 12/02/22 – 12/05/22 (4 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, thriller
📕10-word summary: Woman with Alzheimer’s is suspected of killing her caregiver husband.
🖌6-word review: Lots of suspects with lots of motives.

Description*: In a small Midwestern town, on a cold, blustery March day, George Prentice plunges to his death off a high, rocky cliff. The woman the police suspect of murdering him is his wife, Daphne. But Daphne has Alzheimer’s and, as she is likely to be incompetent to stand trial, has not been arrested. Daphne’s daughter, Thea Browne, is a trained investigative reporter who is furious that the police haven’t bothered to look any further for a culprit other than her mother. She suspects her stepfather made enemies when meddling in local politics. As Thea follows her own investigation, she discovers a widening circle of suspects, some much closer to home than she expected. Even her best friend from childhood, Annie Biggs, seems to be keeping a deep dark secret that she refuses to share with Thea. More murders push Thea to the point where protecting her mother forces her to put her own life on the line to track down a diabolical killer.
Thoughts: This book did a good job of providing enough information or background on a suspect to make you believe they were possibly the killer. That times at least 4 suspects, and you too, will be glad when the actual one is finally identified. I was thrilled to finish this one, as it made me attain my goal to read 100 books in 2022—with 26 days to spare.

Book #: 99   Title: Murder on Display
Authors: Luke Christodoulou     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 286     Duration: 11/29/22 – 12/01/22 (3 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, crime
📕10-word summary: Separated-by-circumstances police partners work on solving two separate murder mysteries.
🖌6-word review: Two storylines. POV shifts. Oddly organized.

Description*: The sun rises on the picturesque island of Folegandros, revealing a young girl’s headless, mutilated body impaled on an antenna pole for all to see. Lieutenant Ioli Cara is sent to assist with the seemingly open-and-shut case. But, there is more than meets the eye… A mysterious lover, an angry brother, an ex-boyfriend, a special needs classmate… all minute pieces of a greater puzzle. Ioli, wishing she had her former partner Captain Papacosta by her side. But, cancer-ridden Costa is miles away, aboard one of Greece’s finest cruise ships. He, also finds himself with a mystery of his own in his hands. A missing girl and a large pool of blood in the cabin next door, cut his relaxing holiday short.
Thoughts: This book had point-of-view (POV) and organizational issues. With regards to the POV issue, the storyline about the murder on the island is told by a third-person omniscient narrator, but the murder on the ship storyline is told by a first-person narrator. With regards to organization, the book alternated between the two storylines, starting with the third-person storyline, which felt clunky to me. I’d’ve started with the first-person storyline. But, I guess that’s why I’m a reader and not the author of a published book. Or maybe I just can’t stop editing. If both storylines hadn’t been compelling enough to keep me interested, I would’ve given this book 3 stars instead of 4.

Book #: 98   Title: See Her Hide
Authors: Rylie Dark     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 215     Duration: 11/28/22 – 11/29/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, crime
📕10-word summary: A fugitive FBI agent is trying to solve multiple cases.
🖌6-word review: Lots going on. A satisfying read.

Description*: Fugitive FBI Agent Mia North knows that hunting down killers and solving new—and old—cases is the only way to clear her name. When a rash of high-school girls are found murdered, discovered on the soccer field, the case is personal for Mia. Can she find and stop the killer—and figure out who framed her—before she is caught by the U.S. Marshals?
Thoughts: This is one of those not-the-first-book-in-the-series reads that I’ve read without having read the previous book, but as is usually the case with them, there was enough context provided to get it without having read the previous book. The fact that the protagonist was an FBI agent “on the lam” intrigued me, and it just might be enough to get me to read book #3 in the series to see what happens to her.

Book #: 97   Title: Cozy Up to Murder
Author: Colin Conway     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 277     Duration: 11/27/22 – 11/27/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, cozy mystery, thriller
📕10-word summary: Reformed murderer is accused of a murder he didn’t commit.
🖌6-word review: I never suspected the real murderer.

Description*: Today is Owen Hunter’s first day in the coastal city of Costa Buena, California. He’s the new owner of Rockafellers, a vintage record store struggling to find customers. Much of that is due to Headbangers, a competitor with a better product mix and an aggressive owner. There’s also a local do-gooder group who wants Owen to fall in line with their vision for a kinder, gentler Coast Buena. None of that worries Owen, though, because he is determined to be the number one used-music store on the boardwalk—even if that means stepping on a few toes. But when a murder occurs shortly after his arrival, he’s identified as prime suspect number one. Owen Hunter must clear his name fast because he’s a man with a secret. The U.S. government has invested a lot to keep him safe, but his enemies will stop at nothing to find him.
Thoughts: This was an easy-to-read, quick-paced mystery with a likable protagonist in spite of the fact that he was a cold-blooded murderer when he was younger and couldn’t help from doing stupid and dangerous things present day.

Book #: 96   Title: The Bookstore Sisters
Author: Alice Hoffman     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 36     Duration: 11/27/22 – 11/27/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, short stories, books about books
📕10-word summary: Bookstore-owning sisters with bad blood between them reunite to fight.
🖌6-word review: A tight little story that delivers.

Description*: Isabel Gibson has all but perfected the art of forgetting. She’s a New Yorker now, with nothing left to tie her to Brinkley’s Island, Maine. Her parents are gone, the family bookstore is all but bankrupt, and her sister, Sophie, will probably never speak to her again. But when a mysterious letter arrives in her mailbox, Isabel feels herself drawn to the past.
Thoughts: I loved this book. I spent a lot of time thinking about what the writing and editing process might have been like during its creation. At only 36 pages, it packs quite the punch with enough information to empathize with all 3 main characters, understand their history, and believe in how it all came about—and turns out. Interesting aside: The last Alice Hoffman book I read, Turtle Moon, was 27 years ago—in January of 1995—as part of a book club.

Book #: 95   Title: Well-Behaved Wives
Author: Amy Sue Nathan     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 319     Duration: 11/24/22 – 11/27/22 (4 days)
Genres: historical fiction, women, domestic violence
📕10-word summary: The frivolity of etiquette school girls takes a sobering turn.
🖌6-word review: Spoiler alert: Lillian’s excessive smoking’s inconsequential.

Description*: Law school graduate and newlywed Ruth Applebaum is acclimating to life and marriage in a posh Philadelphia neighborhood. She’ll do almost anything to endear herself to her mother-in-law, who’s already signed up Ruth for etiquette lessons conducted by the impeccably accessorized tutor Lillian Diamond. But Ruth brings something fresh to the small circle of housewives—sharp wit, honesty, and an independent streak that won’t be compromised.
Thoughts: I did a lot of eye rolling at the “fluff” of the story for the first half or so of this book, but it did eventually take a turn that, to me, made it light years more interesting and substantial. In fact, I’d estimate that I read the second half of the book 3 times faster than the first half.

Book #: 94   Title: Skipping Christmas
Author: John Grisham     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 242     Duration: 11/23/22 – 11/23/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, humor, Christmas
📕10-word summary: Couple decides to “mix it up” and skip celebrating Christmas.
🖌6-word review: Little too lampoonish for my taste.

Description*: Luther and Nora Krank are fed up with the chaos of Christmas. The endless shopping lists, the frenzied dashes through the mall, the hassle of decorating the tree… where has all the joy gone? This year, celebrating seems like too much effort. With their only child off in Peru, they decide that just this once, they’ll skip the holidays. They spend their Christmas budget on a Caribbean cruise set to sail on December 25, and happily settle in for a restful holiday season free of rooftop snowmen and festive parties. But the Kranks soon learn that skipping the holidays has consequences they didn’t bargain for…
Thoughts: I’d never heard of this John Grisham book, so when my husband mentioned it, and I saw that it was a short book and available for download from the library, and the holidays are upon us, I thought, “Why not?” I forgot the part where he said it wasn’t like any other of John Grisham’s books, and when I got to about 77% done and no murder or espionage or any other untoward thing had materialized, I again thought, “Why not?” And it never did, which is why it’s not like any other of John Grisham’s books. D’oh. Overall, it wasn’t my cup of tea—a little too much (of what I imagine those) Christmas Vacation movies are like, since I’ve never seen any of them. With that said, I am glad I read it and it does count toward my 100-books-read goal, which is now in sight.

Book #: 93   Title: The Kidney Donor
Author: P.F. Ford     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 286     Duration: 11/22/22 – 11/22/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, mystery, crime
📕10-word summary: The suspicious death of a person experiencing homelessness is investigated.
🖌6-word review: 8th in series; plot twists abound.

Description*: When a homeless man is found burned to death in a skip, it seems to police like an open and shut case. But when former Detective Sergeant Dave Slater arrives back from a holiday to Thailand, it’s not long before he and former partner Norman Norman get the distinct whiff that something isn’t quite right. Why has homeless veteran Ryan suddenly gone missing? And why is he so sure that it should have been him in that skip? And why had the dead man recently had a kidney removed?
Thoughts: This, and 3 more books in a series that I’m reading, were free e-books from Amazon. This is book #8 in a 14-book series, and I’ve read books 5, 6, & 7. More of the same characters, a couple now quit or retired from the police force, investigate a suspicious murder of a person experiencing homelessness, and the two now-civilians enlist the help of some of their former colleagues to get the job done. This book, by far, had the most twists and turns in it—with the final one being practically on the the very last page.

Book #: 92   Title: A Skeleton in the Closet
Author: P.F. Ford     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 286     Duration: 11/20/22 – 11/21/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, crime, LGBT
📕10-word summary: Suspicious death of “one of their own” smells like murder.
🖌6-word review: 7th in series; gay character materializes.

Description*: Detective Sergeant Dave Slater returns to work after an injury to find himself embroiled in yet another disciplinary shambles. His interrogation at the hands of the aptly named DI Grimm is interrupted, however, when Tinton Police Station is rocked by an explosion. After rushing to the scene, Slater is shocked to find a bomb blast has killed his friend and colleague—who shouldn’t even have been in the building in the first place. Vowing to find justice for his friend, DS Slater throws himself into the investigation to find the mystery bomber.
Thoughts: This, and 3 more books in a series that I’m reading, were free e-books from Amazon. This is book #7 in a 14-book series, and I’ve read books 5 & 6. More of the same characters, and a few new ones, tackle a new mystery when “one of their own” is murdered. Of the 3 in this series I’ve read now, this one has been my favorite, perhaps because a character of one of the previous two books turned out to be gay.

Book #: 91   Title: The Secret of Wild Boar Woods
Author: P.F. Ford     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 240     Duration: 11/19/22 – 11/20/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, crime
📕10-word summary: The solving of an eight-year-old girl’s death takes several twists.
🖌6-word review: 6th in series; typical crime mystery.

Description*: The case that no police officer ever wants to deal with—a missing eight-year-old girl. When little Chrissy’s body is found curled-up in nearby woodlands, Detective Sergeant Slater and the rest of the team are plunged into an investigation that sees them delve back into history in a bid to solve the mystery of Wild Boar Woods.
Thoughts: This, and 3 more books in a series that I’m reading, were free e-books from Amazon. This is book #6 in a 14-book series, and I’ve only read book 5. It’s a typical crime mystery, with some of the same characters from book 5, now in different situations.

Book #: 90   Title: The Red Telephone Box
Author: P.F. Ford     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 258     Duration: 11/17/22 – 11/19/22 (3 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, crime
📕10-word summary: Time is running out to solve cop’s partner’s complicated kidnapping.
🖌6-word review: 5th in series; typical crime mystery.

Description*: It’s the middle of the night. Dave Slater has just been awakened by the news his work partner’s home is on fire. The partner wasn’t in it, but now he’s missing. Minutes quickly stretch into hours and still there’s no sign. Then, finally, a possible breakthrough. A man, possibly a Russian, has been seen. But is this good news? Or, have things just gone from bad to worse?
Thoughts: This, and 3 more books in a series that I’m going to read, were free e-books from Amazon. This is book #5 in a 14-book series, and I haven’t read books 1-4. It’s a typical crime mystery, with a little work-related drama/romance/tension thrown in for good measure.

Book #: 89   Title: Camino Winds
Author: John Grisham     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 292     Duration: 11/13/22 – 11/15/22 (3 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, crime
📕10-word summary: A mid-hurricane death begins to look a lot like murder.
🖌6-word review: Complex, but understandable storyline. Classic Grisham.

Description*: Just as Bruce Cable’s Bay Books bookstore is preparing for the return of bestselling author Mercer Mann, Hurricane Leo veers from its predicted course and heads straight for the island. The hurricane turns out to be devastating, and one of its apparent victims, Nelson Kerr, is a friend of Bruce’s and an author of thrillers. But the nature of Nelson’s injuries suggests that the storm wasn’t the cause of his death.
Thoughts: It’s been years and years and years (like 20 or more) since I’ve read a John Grisham book, and this was a nice return to his writing. In fact, it was him, a-lawyer-turned-writer, who inspired me to work on (from 1993-1994) a novel, which I eventually abandoned. I read both A Time to Kill and The Firm back in the 90s. Now that I’ve “rediscovered” him, I plan to read more books in his sizable corpus.

Book #: 88   Title: Urgent Care
Author: D.J. Jamison     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 240     Duration: 11/13/22 – 11/13/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, LGBT, M/M romance, medical
📕10-word summary: Xavier and ex reunite and try to avoid a repeat.
🖌6-word review: An excruciating amount of “mind-blowing” sex.

Description*: Nursing student Xavier James is shocked to run into the first man to ever break his heart while at a gay club. His ex is sexier than ever, but Xavier is not going down that road again… only, when they end up working together at an urgent-care clinic, his willpower will be tested.
Thoughts: This is the third book in a series called Hearts and Health. This book picks up with characters from books one and two, Heart Trouble and Bedside Manner, respectively, with two characters from those books rotating into the lead characters in this one. I spent a good part of this book wondering what happened to the dog “the doctor” adopted until I finally realized it was the doctor in book two that adopted a dog. Glad to be done with this series, or I should say done with what I’m going to read of this series since I’m not going to read the remaining 5 books in the series.

Book #: 87   Title: Bedside Manner
Author: D.J. Jamison     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 238     Duration: 11/12/22 – 11/12/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, LGBT, M/M romance, medical
📕10-word summary: Doctor and patient’s relationship moves from the ER to IRL.
🖌6-word review: Story includes a gratuitous dog adoption.

Description*: Dr. Paul Johnston can’t get a set of dark, somber eyes out of his head, and the timing couldn’t be worse. The last thing he needs is to fall for a patient. Not now, when he’s been put on paid leave pending review of a formal complaint that accuses him of sexual impropriety of some kind. It’s possible he let his newfound freedom as a divorced, out-of-the-closet gay man go to his head, but he’s certain—mostly—he didn’t do anything wrong.
Thoughts: This is the second book in a series called Hearts and Health. This book picks up with characters from book one, Heart Trouble, of the series; however, two minor characters of book one become the lead characters in this book. Essentially, it’s “more of the same” as book one.

Book #: 86   Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 389     Duration: 11/11/22 – 11/11/22 (1 day)
Genres: historical fiction, romance LGBT, contemporary
📕10-word summary: Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo chooses an apparent “nobody” as biographer.
🖌6-word review: A paced unraveling of humanity’s complexity.

Description*: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Thoughts: I listened to this 12-hour audiobook in 8 hours due to the 1.5x listening speed at which I listen to audiobooks. I liked that: 1) it essentially had two female protagonists, one of whose character I waffled between admiring and despising, for which I credit good writing, 2) it had an element of the “B” in LGBT, which is rarely focused on and which has its own issues both in and out of our (LGBT) community, and 3) it touched on one’s right to “die with dignity,” which is a topic I’m passionate about.

Book #: 85   Title: Murder in the First Edition
Author: Lauren Elliott     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 315     Duration: 11/09/22 – 11/10/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, Christmas, books about books
📕10-word summary: Dead woman and missing $60,000+ first-edition book instigate an investigation.
🖌6-word review: The writing brought many upturned-corners-of-my-mouth smiles.

Description*: Addie’s getting into the spirit for the upcoming charity auction—especially since she’s got an 1843 copy of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to donate. Her former appraiser colleague has confirmed that its worth runs toward the high-5 figures, which should help with the new pediatric wing. Soon after, Addie heads to the charity fund-raising coordinator’s office at the hospital—and finds the poor woman’s dead body. What she doesn’t find is her valuable first-edition book.
Thoughts: This is a good-enough story and certainly a good “holiday mystery read.” I got confused about who was who at times, especially in the beginning. My 6-word review is a reference to the many, many, many times the author said about a character: “the corners of his/her mouth/lips turned up.” Apparently, they were averse to just “smiling.” This was our Mostly Social Book Club book for December.

Book #: 84   Title: Heart Trouble
Author: D.J. Jamison     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 194     Duration: 11/08/22 – 11/09/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, LGBT, M/M romance, medical
📕10-word summary: ICU nurse and teacher work through their respective relationship baggage.
🖌6-word review: Trust issues abound in man-on-man relationship.

Description*: When Gage Evans gets a look at his hot nurse, he’s smitten immediately. Too bad he’s given the nurse the impression he’s some kind of daredevil. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Gage is a college journalism instructor writing a series of guest columns that require him to jump into new experiences—a fun bucket list, but one that does nothing to convince Ben he’s not an adrenaline junkie. Ben’s lack of trust seriously gets in the way of building a relationship, and Gage will only be patient so long. Can he trust Gage enough to give his heart, or are they destined to have a fling that goes nowhere?
Thoughts: This is the first book in a series called Hearts and Health. I’m not a fan of romance novels—neither gay, straight, nor nonbinary—but 3 books of this series were free downloads from BookBub, and they’ll help me get to my 100-books-read-in-2022 goal.

Book #: 83   Title: The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle
Author: Matt Cain     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 400     Duration: 11/06/22 – 11/08/22 (3 days)
Genres: fiction, LGBT, Romance, British literature
📕10-word summary: Two drastic changes in Albert Entwistle’s life drastically change him.
🖌6-word review: Compelling story with an educational aspect.

Description*: Albert Entwistle is a private man with a quiet, simple life. He lives alone with his cat Gracie. And he’s a postman. At least he was a postman until, three months before his sixty-fifth birthday, he receives a letter from the Royal Mail thanking him for decades of service and stating he is being forced into retirement. At once, Albert’s sole connection with his world unravels.
Thoughts: I loved this story, and it kept me wondering how it was going to end. I did think that some of the points made about gay people were a little heavy-handed, at least to gay people. With that said, they’re important points for straight people who don’t know any gay people or only “know a gay person” (as opposed to “having a gay person as a friend”) and might not know some of those things.

Book #: 82   Title: Mrs. March
Author: Virginia Feito     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 304     Duration: 10/17/22 – 11/03/22 (18 days)
Genres: fiction, suspense, mystery
📕10-word summary: Mrs. March suspects her author-husband’s latest bestseller is about her.
🖌6-word review: Unreliable narrator or descent into madness?

Description*: the venerable but gossipy New York literary scene is twisted into a claustrophobic fun house of paranoia, horror, and wickedly dark humor. George March’s latest novel is a smash. No one is prouder than Mrs. March, his doting wife. But one morning, the shopkeeper of her favorite patisserie suggests that his protagonist is based on Mrs. March herself: “But . . . ―isn’t she . . .’ Mrs. March leaned in and in almost a whisper said, ‘a whore?” Clutching her ostrich-leather pocketbook, she flees, that one casual remark destroying her belief that she knew everything about her husband―as well as herself.
Thoughts: I enjoyed this book, but it took me a long time to read it due to a lot of things going on in my life—namely my 65th birthday and retirement (on the same day) followed by a flight to—and two-day stay in—Albuquerque, then driving to Los Angeles with two-day stops in each of Tucson, Phoenix, and Irvine, followed by a 7-day Mexican Riviera Cruise. Mrs. March is an interesting and quirky character, for sure. With that said, there did get to a point when I was ready to “learn the truth” already. Overall, a satisfying read.

Book #: 81   Title: Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 198     Duration: 10/10/22 – 10/12/22 (3 days)
Genres: fiction, young adult, mental health, teen, high school, abuse, coming of age
📕10-word summary: A dark secret exacerbates Melinda’s being a high school outcast.
🖌6-word review: Writing that kept me taking screenshots.

Description*: Melinda: “I wasted the last weeks of August watching bad cartoons. I didn’t go to the mall, the lake, or the pool, or answer the phone. I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don’t have anyone to sit with. I am an outcast.”
Thoughts: I have a friend who buys books at The Readers Corner (a used book store in Raleigh) and then “releases them into the wild” through BookCrossing. I’ve been a member of BookCrossing for many years, but I can’t remember the last time I “released” a book, probably because I stopped buying books a long, long time ago. At any rate, I was ready for my next book, but none of those in my request queue at the library were available yet, so after seeing my friend post that he’d dropped off several at the Deco Free Book Drop just up from my office, I sauntered up the street and found this one among the 5 in the box. Thanks, Orion! I loved this book. So many lines were so brilliantly uttered by the high school freshman protagonist that I took screen capture after screen capture of them. One of my favorite paragraphs was after noting her shoes were too tight: “When I was in the sixth grade, my mom bought me all these books about puberty and adolescence, so I would appreciate what a ‘beautiful’ and ‘natural’ and ‘miraculous’ transformation I was going through. Crap. That’s what it is. She complains all the time about her hair turning gray and her butt sagging at her skin wrinkling, but I’m supposed to be grateful for a face full of zits, hair in embarrassing places, and feet that grow an inch a night. Utter crap.” I can’t wait to put this book back in a BookCrossing kiosk for someone else to enjoy.

Book #: 80   Title: Summer at the Cape
Author: RaeAnne Thayne     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 322     Duration: 10/08/22 – 10/09/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, romance, family
📕10-word summary: Cami’s called home to save the family’s imminent “glampground” eviction.
🖌6-word review: Easy, predictable read. Everybody finds love.

Description*: As the older sibling to identical twins Violet and Lily, Cami Porter was always the odd sister out. The divide grew even wider when their parents split up—while the twins stayed in Cape Sanctuary with their free-spirited mother, Rosemary, fourteen-year-old Cami moved to LA with her attorney father. Nearly twenty years later, when Cami gets the terrible news that Lily has drowned saving a child’s life, her mother begs her to return home to help untangle the complicated estate issues her sister left behind.
Thoughts: I’m not at all fond of romance novels (like Sweet Savage Love), but although this book is classified in the romance genre, it’s not at all like one of those. There are no heaving bosoms or turgid members anywhere within. There were, however, a lot of furtive glances, desirous longing, and halting heart palpitations. In spite of its predictability and Hollywood ending, I still enjoyed the storyline, and with my goal of reading 100 books this year—with only 3 months left—I appreciated being able to zip through it.

Book #: 79   Title: The Woman in the Library
Author: Sulari Gentill     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 288     Duration: 10/03/22 – 10/05/22 (3 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, crime
📕10-word summary: Four closely sitting library patrons bond over a terrifying scream.
🖌6-word review: Confusing, metatextual plot. Audiobook at fault?

Description*: The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.
Thoughts: I suspect it was because of the audiobook version I was “reading” that I had a hard time following this story. It has 3 narratives going on, and especially at first, I had trouble keeping track of which one I was currently reading. I’ll enumerate them: #1) The epistolary narrative between Leo, an aspiring writer who is critiquing the latest book in progress of Hannah, a famous Australian author. #2) The narrative that is the novel that Hannah is writing, which is the actual murder mystery that this novel is about, and which includes 4 main characters: Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid, Cain, Whit, and Marigold. #3) The narrative of a novel that the Freddie character (in narrative #2) is writing and whose characters she dubs: Handsome Man, Heroic Chin, and Freud Girl who map respectively to Cain, Whit, and Marigold in narrative #2. It’s a lot. To further obfuscate things, Hannah names one of her secondary characters (in narrative #2) Leo, after the Leo in narrative #1. Got it? I’d like to read this again sometime—in a printed version.

Book #: 78   Title: Terns of Endearment
Author: Donna Andrews     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 336     Duration: 09/28/22 – 10/02/22 (5 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery
📕10-word summary: A sleuth family investigates cruise ship shenanigans, possibly comprising murders.
🖌6-word review: The longest stalled 2 days ever.

Description*: Meg’s grandfather has been booked to give lectures on a cruise as part of the education/entertainment itinerary, and he’s arranged for a passel of family members to join him. The passengers’ vacation quickly becomes a nightmare when they wake up to find themselves broken down and in need of repairs. Things get even worse when a crew member announces that a woman has jumped overboard. A note reveals she’s a disliked member of a writers’ group onboard for a retreat, and the group is split on whether this is in-character for her. The captain decides not to investigate, saying he’ll notify American authorities when they reach their destination. But Meg’s father decides they need to look into foul play while the prime suspects are all stuck on board. It’ll be a race against the clock to solve this mystery before they make the necessary repairs and return to shore.
Thoughts: A group that we’re going on a cruise with at the end of October was brainstorming about activities we might want to do while on board, and I thought of the possibility of holding a “book club meeting,” if anyone would commit to reading something prior to sailing. If so, I’d facilitate a discussion of the book some time during our cruise, perhaps on one of our 3 days at sea. To that end, I wanted to read a book set on a cruise ship, and preferably with gay characters or by a gay author. The only one I found that wasn’t a romance novel (I don’t want to read/lead one of those) was about a ship sinking, and I didn’t think that’d be a good choice. I settled on this one even though there’s no gay characters in it nor is it by a gay author. It’s a good enough mystery, with likeable characters, with my only complaint being that I was more than ready for the ship to get power back and move on. One other thing worth mentioning is that in a couple of things I read about this book, it called it “funny,” and in fact, one of the genres listed was “Humor,” and as you can see, I left it off. I really didn’t find this book at all funny.

Book #: 77   Title: The Only Woman in the Room
Author: Marie Benedict     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 272     Duration: 09/25/22 – 09/27/22 (3 days)
Genres: historical fiction, World War II, feminism, science
📕10-word summary: Hollywood siren co-invents a torpedo radio guidance system after hours.
🖌6-word review: Too much war. Too little invention.

Description*: Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich’s plans while at her husband’s side, understanding more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star. But she kept a secret more shocking than her heritage or her marriage: she was a scientist. And she knew a few secrets about the enemy. She had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis… if anyone would listen to her.
Thoughts: Thanks to my husband, I already knew about Hedy Lamarr’s “secret science side,” and her invention was my main interest in reading this book. I’m kind of burnt out on WWII stories, and unfortunately for me, more of this book is about that than about Hedy’s actual invention. I’m not saying it wasn’t pertinent, or even necessary to understand Hedy’s motivation, perseverance, and determination to invent a remote radio guidance system for torpedoes. I slogged through it, though, because it was also a book for our Mostly Social Book Club.

Book #: 76   Title: The Silent Ones
Author: Linda Coles     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 386     Duration: 09/24/22 – 09/25/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, mysteries, crime
📕10-word summary: Chrissy Livingston is determined to find an abandoned baby’s parents.
🖌6-word review: Kinda convoluted. Third of 3 books.

Description*: When a couple holidaying in the small Irish village of Doolan disappear one night, leaving their child behind, Chrissy Livingstone has no choice but to involve herself in the mystery surrounding their disappearance. With the help of her sister, Julie, Chrissy races to uncover what is really happening. Could discovering the truth put more lives at risk?
Thoughts: This is the third book in a 3-book series, and like the second one, it stands on its own with only a few references to things that happened in the second book, which aren’t important in this story, though. There were a handful of editing errors in this one, too, the most egregious one being calling “Lorcan,” one of the fairly main characters, “Lorgan” one time. This book wasn’t as great as the first two were to me. There’s a lot of characters (and a couple of them change their names for necessary reasons, but which doesn’t help), and the unraveling of the mystery is kind of all over the place, never giving you a clear sense of exactly what it is. With that said, I did give it 4 stars, and I’d definitely recommend this whole series if you like mysteries.

Book #: 75   Title: Walk Like You
Author: Linda Coles     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 344     Duration: 09/18/22 – 09/18/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, mysteries, crime
📕10-word summary: Chrissy Livingston uncovers multilevel mystery of lookalikes and stolen identities.
🖌6-word review: Good twists. Second of 3 books.

Description*: London. Private investigator Chrissy Livingstone’s dirty work has taken her down a different path to her family. But when her upper-class sister begs her to locate a friend missing after a horrific train crash, she feels duty-bound to assist. Though when the two dig deeper, all the evidence seems to lead to one mysterious conclusion: the woman doesn’t want to be found. Can Chrissy find the woman before she meets a terrible fate?
Thoughts: This is the second book in a 3-book series, and although it’s always nice to have the background on characters appearing again from the first book, this one would definitely stand on its own, which is how it should be. With only a handful of editing misses, it maximized the number of twists you can get out of mistaken/stolen identities. I read it all in one day, hence the 5-star rating.

Book #: 74   Title: Tin Men
Author: Linda Coles      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 315     Duration: 09/17/22 – 09/17/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, mysteries, crime
📕10-word summary: Chrissy Livingstone uncovers her father’s dark side after his death.
🖌6-word review: Good mystery. First of 3 books.

Description*: Ex-MI5 agent Chrissy Livingstone grieves over her dad’s sudden death. While she cleans out his old things, she discovers something she can’t explain: 7 photos of schoolboys with the year 1987 stamped on the back. Unable to turn off her desire for the truth, she hunts down the boys in the photos only to find out that 3 of the 7 have committed suicide… Will Chrissy put the past to rest, or will the sins of the father destroy her?
Thoughts: This is the “suspenseful first book in the Chrissy Livingstone thriller series,” a first-time read of this author for me, and I’m planning to follow it up with books 2 (Walk Like You) & 3 (The Silent Ones) of the 3-box set that I got as a free download from either BookBub or Amazon Prime Reading. I read this entire book in one day, so it definitely kept my interest and I only found 3 editing misses, two of which were redundancy issues, only one of which I remember—”he was getting a beer gut around his middle.” Knowing this book was the first of a 3-part series, I watched for (and found a couple of) things that were mentioned seemingly only to hint of more on this part later [in the series]. Some of the things I like in stories that were in this book included: uncovering family secrets, detective techniques, and reading other people’s diaries.

Book #: 73   Title: Never Meant to Meet You
Authors: Alli Frank and Asha Youmans     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 320     Duration: 09/09/22 – 09/16/22 (8 days)
Genres: womens fiction, romance, African American culture
📕10-word summary: Marjette navigates her divorce, neighbor’s death, and best friend’s shenanigans.
🖌6-word review: I kept putting this one down.

Description*: Self-appointed fixer of other people’s woes Marjette Lewis is uncharacteristically determined to keep to her side of the driveway when it comes to her flawless neighbor Noa Abrams. Professionally, Marjette has her hands full as she prepares for a new class of kindergarteners and her first year of teaching without her best friend, Judy, as campus “Black-up.” And at home, her son’s budding manhood challenges her expectations, and her vexing ex-husband continues to be a thorn in her side.
Thoughts: I got this book free as part of the September “Amazon First Reads” offering. Womens fiction and romance are two of my least favorite genres—not that there’s anything wrong with either women or romance. It’s hard to pinpoint what didn’t grab me about the story, but it probably has to do with the protagonist taking way too long to get over her divorce. I’m definitely of the ilk: “Pick up the shattered pieces of your life and move on.”

Book #: 72   Title: Uncharted Waters
Author: Sally Hepworth      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 49     Duration: 09/07/22 – 09/08/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, mysteries, short stories
📕10-word summary: Upon meeting, two women share a couple of interesting connections.
🖌6-word review: Interesting premise. Nice twist. Satisfying ending.

Description*: When Ella boards a sumptuous charter off the coast of Australia, she feels… dread. Her husband, Mac, the social butterfly who makes these wellness retreats so much easier to navigate, is stuck at work, leaving her exposed to the other passengers. Luckily, she forms an instant bond with the charismatic Chloe, a newly single woman salving a broken heart. But as the friendship grows, Ella discovers they share more than the need for an escape, and their devastating connection has the power to forever alter their lives.
Thoughts: I got this book free as a “bonus” part of the September “Amazon First Reads” offering. This is a “tight” little short story. I didn’t even realize it was a short story until I turned from page 49 to 50, and it said, “The end.” At the end of 2021, in our Mostly Social Book Club, we read Sally Hepworth’s The Good Sister, and I really enjoyed her writing. This little gem has an interesting premise with an equally interesting twist. And I liked the very subtle ending.

Book #: 71   Title: Winter in the Blood
Author: James Welch      Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 133     Duration: 09/03/22 – 09/07/22 (5 days)
Genres: literary fiction, classics, Native American culture, westerns
📕10-word summary: A young, unnamed, Native American narrator struggles to find himself.
🖌6-word review: Another “perfect, short novel.” Well, short.

Description*: During his life, James Welch came to be regarded as a master of American prose, and his first novel, Winter in the Blood, is one of his most enduring works. The narrator of this beautiful, often disquieting novel is a young Native American man living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. Sensitive and self-destructive, he searches for something that will bind him to the lands of his ancestors but is haunted by personal tragedy, the dissolution of his once proud heritage, and Montana’s vast emptiness.
Thoughts: This is the fourth book I’ve read on a list of “perfect, short novels” that I came across in another book I read recently, and I have to say that, to me, this book was better in retrospect. And by “in retrospect,” I mean after reading a detailed plot summary of it after I’d finished reading it. Also which is to say, I felt loss as to what was actually going on a lot of the time while reading it. I don’t know if it was too lyrical as much as too disjointed, maybe, for me. There’s a reason it took me 5 days to read this very short novel. YMMV, of course.

Book #: 70   Title: Black Cake
Author: Charmaine Wilkerson      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 400     Duration: 08/30/22 – 09/01/22 (3 days)
Genres: literary fiction, classics, westerns
📕10-word summary: A young, unnamed, Native American narrator struggles to find himself.
🖌6-word review: Lotsa characters. Several with multiple names.

Description*: In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a traditional Caribbean black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking journey Eleanor unfolds, revealing secrets she took to her grave, challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their family, and themselves.
Thoughts: There is a lot going on in this book. It’s a frame narrative, and unfortunately, more time was spent on the story within the story, which I found less interesting than the “outer” story. Another struggle I had was that there are 33 characters in this book, and four (of the main ones) had multiple names: from Covey/Coventina/Eleanor to Gibbs Grant/Bert Bennet to Bunny/Etta to Mable/Marble. I did find the story compelling, however, and it certainly dealt with a lot of family dynamics, dysfunction, and secrets, which is always a good time.

Book #: 69   Title: Lock Every Door
Author: Riley Sager      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 381     Duration: 08/28/22 – 08/29/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, thriller, mystery, suspense
📕10-word summary: Young housesitter sleuths around, then harrowingly escapes the sinister Bartholomew.
🖌6-word review: A quickly read, well-done, action-packed page-turner.

Description*: No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.
Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s my first Riley Sager novel, and I’ll most likely read another.

Book #: 68   Title: Train Dreams
Author: Denis Johnson      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 116     Duration: 08/27/22 – 08/27/22 (1 day)
Genres: literary fiction, historical, westerns, novella
📕10-word summary: Day laborer in the American West prevails over personal defeats.
🖌6-word review: Close to a “perfect, short novel.”

Description*: At the start of the 20th century, Robert Grainier, a day laborer in the American West is an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime.
Thoughts: This is the third book I’ve read on a list of “perfect, short novels” that I came across in another book I read recently, and of the 3 it’s the closest to both perfect and short as it’s gotten. And it was compelling enough to have read in a couple of hours.

Book #: 67   Title: The Days of Abandonment
Author: Elena Ferrante      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 188     Duration: 08/24/22 – 08/27/22 (4 days)
Genres: literary fiction, womens, Italian culture, feminism
📕10-word summary: Woman in crisis teeters on the edge coherence and decency.
🖌6-word review: Dark. Dark. Did I mention dark?

Description*: It is the gripping story of a woman’s descent into devastating emptiness after being abandoned by her husband with two young children to care for. When she finds herself literally trapped within the four walls of their high-rise apartment, she is forced to confront her ghosts, the potential loss of her own identity, and the possibility that life may never return to normal.
Thoughts: While certainly not the same story, while reading this one, I found myself often thinking of Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Ms. Ferrante certainly does a fantastic job of “taking you down” with the protagonist as she plummets to the brink of despair, and if it were for that writing alone, I’d’ve given this book 5 stars. But perhaps she was too good at that, because one of the devices to accomplish that was with very, very long and exhausting paragraphs describing what she was doing and feeling to the extent that I sometimes forgot what triggered her this time, and for that I dropped it down to 4 stars. In the notes about the author, I learned that she wrote the book, The Lost Daughter, which was made into a 2021 movie, in a directorial debut for Maggie Gyllenhaal, starring one of Bob’s favorite actors, Olivia Colman, and which he shared his 10-word summary and 6-word review of on his website.

Book #: 66   Title: Mrs. Dalloway
Author: Virginia Woolf      Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 182     Duration: 08/21/22 – 08/22/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, British literature, classic, feminism
📕10-word summary: Dalloway expounds on the day of a party she’s hosting.
🖌6-word review: My second attempt; it takes work.

Description*: Virginia Woolf details Clarissa Dalloway’s preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess, exploring the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life. The novel “contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English,” and that alone would be reason enough to read it.
Thoughts: This was my second attempt at reading this short novel; I abandoned it on my first attempt several years ago. I revisited it because it appeared on a list of “perfect, short novels” in another book I recently read, and which I now obviously think is a stretch. It definitely makes me wonder what qualities comprise “perfect.” To the above description’s adjectives about sentences in this novel, namely: “beautiful, complex, incisive, and idiosyncratic,” I’d add obtuse, convoluted, and at times seemingly wackadoodle. YMMV, of course.

Book #: 65   Title: The Remains of the Day
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 258     Duration: 08/20/22 – 08/21/22 (2 days)
Genres: historical fiction, classics, British literature
📕10-word summary: A butler reviews his life on a late-life road trip.
🖌6-word review: A Carson-character-like Downton Abbey-esque interesting tale.

Description*: The compelling portrait of Stevens, the perfect butler, and of his fading, insular world in post-World War II England. Stevens, at the end of three decades of service at Darlington Hall, spending a day on a country drive, embarks as well on a journey through the past in an effort to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving the “great gentleman,” Lord Darlington. But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington’s “greatness,” and much graver doubts about the nature of his own life.
Thoughts: The name of this book sounded familiar to me, but I didn’t remember it was a 1993 movie until after I finished reading it. I did find myself picturing and “hearing” Carson from Downton Abbey as Stevens, the protagonist in this story. I loved the whole philosophical inquiry into what attributes make a butler “great” and what qualities comprise “dignity.” And I found the conversational volleys exquisite between Stevens and Miss Kenton throughout the book.

Book #: 64   Title: The Sentence
Author: Louise Erdrich      Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 416     Duration: 08/14/22 – 08/20/22 (7 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, magical realism, books about books, Indigenous culture
📕10-word summary: Deceased bookstore’s most annoying customer haunts it for a year.
🖌6-word review: Starts weirdly and veers off track.

Description*: 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.
Thoughts: I really loved the premise of this book, which is succinctly stated in my 10-word summary. However, the beginning of it was so weird that I questioned whether I’d downloaded the correct book. Once it did get to the storyline about the ghost in the bookstore, I got into it. Then it brought up the COVID-19 pandemic, which I at first thought was neat, because it’s the first book that I’ve read with it incorporated into the story. It also reminded me of the first time a character in a book I was reading “logged into Facebook” in the early days of social media, which I also thought was cool. But it spent quite a while on the pandemic and the race riots, which was pretty detailed since the setting was Minneapolis and one of the main characters was a tribal cop. I think both of those things are still a little too raw for me at this point, and I spent most of that part of the book wishing we’d get back to the ghost in the bookstore.

Book #: 63   Title: Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
Author: Brené Brown      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 208     Duration: 08/13/22 – 08/14/22 (2 days)
Genres: nonfiction, self-help, psychology, spirituality, mental health, sociology
📕10-word summary: What it means to belong and how to do it.
🖌6-word review: Easy to “get.” Hard to “implement.”

Description*: A timely and important book that challenges everything we think we know about cultivating true belonging in our communities, organizations, and culture, from the #1 bestselling author of Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection.
Thoughts: Although I’ve heard much about, and quotes from, Brené Brown, this is the first book of hers I’ve read. By far my favorite chapter was chapter 5: Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil. In it, she mentions On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt, “a very small book about the nature of BS, how it’s different from lying, and why we’re all compelled to bullshit on occasion,” which I’ve added to my want-to-read list. And because I’m a person who actually tries to implement—instead of just read—things I learn in self-help books, several gems in here will be keeping me busy for quite a while.

Book #: 62   Title: The Book Woman’s Daughter
Author: Kim Michele Richardson      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 320     Duration: 08/12/22 – 08/13/22 (2 days)
Genres: historical fiction, books about books, family, race, sequel
📕10-word summary: Story of Honey, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek’s daughter.
🖌6-word review: Decent sequel despite lingering ornery mule.

Description*: In the ruggedness of the beautiful Kentucky mountains, Honey Lovett has always known that the old ways can make a hard life harder. As the daughter of the famed blue-skinned, Troublesome Creek packhorse librarian, Honey and her family have been hiding from the law all her life. But when her mother and father are imprisoned, Honey realizes she must fight to stay free, or risk being sent away for good.
Thoughts: This story picks up about 15 years after The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek ended. Honey, a baby at that end of that book is a young teen now. I mention the mule, because I found it annoying in the first book (to the chagrin and opposite of my fellow book club members). It was stubborn and old in that book, and I thought for sure after 15 years, it would be dead. But lo and behold, it showed up on about the second page. It was a satisfying read, and I can easily imagine the two books being made into one movie, not the least of which because it has a nice, Hollywood ending.

Book #: 61   Title: Let The Dead Bury Their Dead
Author: Randall Kenan      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 334     Duration: 08/09/22 – 08/11/22 (3 days)
Genres: literary fiction, short stories, race, LGBT, African American, southern
📕10-word summary: An evocative collection of short stories about Tims Creek, NC.
🖌6-word review: At times honest, brutal, and fantastical.

Description*: Set in North Carolina, these are stories about blacks and whites, young and old, rural and sophisticated, the real and fantastical. Named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, nominated for the 1992 National Book Critics Circle Award, and given the Lambda Award.
Thoughts: They’re a collection of very different stories, including ones like these: “The Pickett house harbors the legend of 3-year-old Clarence, who foretold his neighbors’ fate (whether or not they wanted to hear it) and communicated with the dead until they called him to join them at the age of 5; the rundown Williams shack shelters young Dean Williams, who foolishly agrees to seduce the town’s richest black man in exchange for the promise of a job as a factory foreman; in the Pearsall home, a middle-aged mother unravels to the point of infanticide; and on her own front porch, old Maggie MacGowan Williams tries to come to terms with the fact of her beloved grandson’s homosexuality.” There were just a couple of stories that were too lyrical for my appreciation; but for sure, I appreciated this book recommendation from a friend.

Book #: 60   Title: Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old
Author: Steven Petrow      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 272     Duration: 08/06/22 – 08/08/22 (3 days)
Genres: nonfiction, humor, self-help, memoir, health, psychology
📕10-word summary: 43 things not to do to avoid becoming stereotypically old.
🖌6-word review: It’s only funny ’cause it’s true.

Description*: In Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I’m Old, Petrow candidly addresses the fears, frustrations, and stereotypes that accompany aging. He offers a blueprint for the new old age, and an understanding that aging and illness are not the same. As he writes, “I meant the list to serve as a pointed reminder to myself to make different choices when I eventually cross the threshold to ‘old.’”
Thoughts: I laughed aloud at a lot of these. The book comprises 3 sections: Stupid stuff I won’t do today, Stupid stuff I won’t do tomorrow, and Stupid stuff I won’t do at the end—with 18, 18, & 7 things in each section respectively. Some of my favorites were: I won’t join the “organ recital.” (Talking about your aches & pains & meds) I won’t become a miserable malcontent, a cranky curmudgeon, or a surly sourpuss. (Get off my lawn!) I won’t hoard the butter pats. (or sugar and ketchup packets or jelly “cups”) I won’t be turning my house into a sweat lodge. (What is it about old people that makes them crank up the thermostat to 85°?) I won’t smell like a decrepit old man. (Apparently, it’s the level of 2-nonenal we produce.) I listened to the audiobook version at 1.5x the speed because that most closely matches how fast I read and can process words being read to me—without the reader sounding like one of The Chipmunks.

Book #: 59   Title: I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir
Author: Harvey Fierstein      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 386     Duration: 07/31/22 – 08/06/22 (7 days)
Genres: nonfiction, memoir, LGBT, humor, theater
📕10-word summary: Harvey candidly shares his life, loves, and unexpectedly stellar career.
🖌6-word review: A revealing, poignant, and hilarious memoir.

Description*: Harvey Fierstein’s stellar career has taken him from Broadway to Hollywood and back. He’s received accolades and awards for acting—Hairspray, Fiddler, Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day—and writing: La Cage Aux Folles, Torch Song Trilogy (for which he also won a Tony for acting) and Kinky Boots. But while he is widely known as one of today’s most peerless performers, Harvey has never shared his own story until now.
Thoughts: If you’re a gay gentleman of a certain age (and I am), there’s a lot to relate to in the early part of this book. And I loved reading about how things came to be for each of Harvey’s works—from the connections, collaborations, and considerations, to the ups and downs of producing, rehearsing, and performing, to the jitters of opening nights, the tweaking of things (sometimes mid-run) that didn’t (or stopped) working, and the capricious reactions of audiences and critics.

Book #: 58   Title: The Venice Sketchbook
Author: Rhys Bowen      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 412     Duration: 07/24/22 – 07/25/22 (2 days)
Genres: historical fiction, romance, mystery, war, Italian culture
📕10-word summary: Caroline and her great-aunt Lettie have a lot going on.
🖌6-word review: A compelling-enough unraveling of family mysteries.

Description*: Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper… Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years.
Thoughts: There are a lot of characters in this book, which switched back and forth between the present day and 2 previous generations of the present-day characters, and it took me a while to get them straight in my head, and I still had to work through some of them as the family mysteries of the past were put together by the characters of the present. “Now, who was he again?” “The father or the grandfather?” That sort of thing. While reading this book, I thought at times of The Things We Cannot Say, which I read in late January 2021.

Book #: 57   Title: Fairest of All
Author: Serena Valentino      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 268     Duration: 07/23/22 – 07/23/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, fantasy, young adult, retellings
📕10-word summary: We learn why the evil stepmother’s the way she is.
🖌6-word review: Quick-to-read retelling of classic fairy tale.

Description*: The tale of the young princess and her evil stepmother, the Wicked Queen, is widely known. In fact, the theories about exactly what cause the Queen’s obsessive vanity and jealous rage are too numerous to catalog. This book recounts a version of the story that has remained untold until now. It is a tragic tale of love and loss, and it contains a bit of magic. It is a tale of the wicked queen.
Thoughts: I read this speculative fiction—about the origin of the wickedness of Snow White’s stepmother (a.k.a. The Wicked Queen)—in a matter of hours in one day. It’s certainly not great literature (and that’s fine), and it’s a great reminder of the adage: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” I’d give the storyline itself 3 stars, but since it was such a quick read and did keep me interested enough to finish in a day, I bumped it up to 4 stars.

Book #: 56   Title: The Partner Track: A Novel
Author: Helen Wan      Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 305     Duration: 07/21/22 – 07/23/22 (3 days)
Genres: fiction, law, romance, diversity
📕10-word summary: Ingrid Yung’s climb to partner among “good old boy” lawyers.
🖌6-word review: A little too melodramatic for me.

Description*: In the eyes of her corporate law firm, Ingrid Yung is a “two-fer.” As a Chinese-American woman about to be ushered into the elite rank of partner, she’s the face of Parsons Valentine & Hunt LLP’s recruiting brochures—their treasured “Golden Girl.” But behind the firm’s welcoming façade lies the scotch-sipping, cigar-smoking old-boy network that shuts out lawyers like Ingrid. Ingrid finds herself at odds with her colleagues—including her handsome, golden-boy boyfriend—in a clash of class, race, and sexual politics.
Thoughts: I chose this book mostly because it was “available now” for download when I was ready for my next book. I also liked the idea of reading a book by an Asian American author. I was really in it to find out if Ingrid was going to become the first “female and woman of color” partner in this law firm. There was a little too much about Ingrid’s romance with a fellow lawyer for my taste, especially since “romance” was not even a genre listed for this book—on Goodreads, that is; I added it to my list of genres above. I was surprised to learn, after finishing my reading, that the author used to be a lawyer and is now a diversity and inclusion consultant, because both law and diversity are central to the story, of course, but I wasn’t blown away by any plot elements involving them. I mean they weren’t bad, but I never once thought that she nailed something such that she had to have been a lawyer or a diversity consultant herself.

Book #: 55   Title: The Paper Palace
Author: Miranda Cowley Heller      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 400     Duration: 07/14/22 – 07/19/22 (6 days)
Genres: fiction, romance, family
📕10-word summary: Elle and Jonas—lifelong friends, now secret lovers—bare souls.
🖌6-word review: No shortage of family secrets, dysfunction.

Description*: It is a perfect August morning, and Elle, a 50-year-old happily married mother of three, awakens at “The Paper Palace”—the family summer place which she has visited every summer of her life. But this morning is different: last night Elle and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had sex with each other for the first time, all while their spouses chatted away inside. Now, over the next 24 hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter, and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives.
Thoughts: I chose this book from a list of summer reading recommendations by Wake County Public Library librarians. It had a slow start for me, but it picked up as more and more family dysfunction became apparent and pervasive (loved the characters of both Elle’s & Jonas’ mothers) and dark family secrets were divulged. This story continues to float around in my mind, and it makes me wish I had half-steps in my rating system to go up to 4.5 stars.

Book #: 54   Title: The People We Keep
Author: Allison Larkin      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 359     Duration: 07/05/22 – 07/10/22 (6 days)
Genres: fiction, coming of age, music, young adult
📕10-word summary: April Sawicki seeks a place that actually feels like home.
🖌6-word review: Protagonist infuriated me, so excellent characterization.

Description*: Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a run-down motorhome, flunking out of school, and picking up shifts at the local diner. But when April realizes she’s finally had enough—enough of her selfish, absent father and barely surviving in an unfeeling town—she decides to make a break for it. Stealing a car and with only her music to keep her company, April hits the road, determined to live life on her own terms.
Thoughts: This was a satisfying read. I didn’t like the protagonist, but kudos to the author for drawing a character that infuriated me without making me not care about her. The good news is that this character has a consistent acute stress response. The bad news is that 99.99% of the time, it’s “flight.” This was a Mostly Social Book Club book.

Book #: 53   Title: The Starless Sea
Author: Erin Morgenstern      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 498     Duration: 07/01/22 – 07/04/22 (4 days)
Genres: fiction, fantasy, magical realism, romance, LGBT, books about books
📕10-word summary: A grad student comes upon—and into—an inexplicable book.
🖌6-word review: An indescribably imaginative frame narrative entertains.

Description*: Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a grad student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.
Thoughts: This book is a wild ride thanks to the author’s phenomenally incredible imagination. At times, I found myself alternately thinking about a graduate course I took, EAC 795 Games & Learning Design, in which after we learned about game design, we actually designed one, and playing the adventure text-based game from the 80s, Colossal Cave Adventure. On p. 154 a character mentioned tesseracts, and I immediately thought of A Wrinkle in Time, which was one of the first novels I read and had re-read fairly recently. And then on p. 242: “She has a glass of sparkling wine in one hand and her nose is buried in a book and as Zachary gets closer he can read the cover: A Wrinkle in Time. ‘I was annoyed about not remembering the tesseract technicalities,” Mirabel says[.]” Another coincidence that happened while reading this book was that the daily crossword answer to “Citrusy cognac cocktail” (sidecar) subsequently became the protagonist’s cocktail of choice in the book. This book might serve as a quintessential example of a frame narrative: “A literary technique that serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, where an introductory or main narrative sets the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories. The frame story leads readers from a first story into one or more other stories within it. The frame story may also be used to inform readers about aspects of the secondary narrative(s) that may otherwise be hard to understand.”

Book #: 52   Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author: Kim Michele Richardson      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 322     Duration: 06/25/22 – 06/30/22 (6 days)
Genres: historical fiction, books about books, race, education, romance
📕10-word summary: A blue-skinned “traveling librarian” encounters some grateful, some not, people.
🖌6-word review: Cussy’s wonderful. Her mule is not.

Description*: Cussy’s not only a book woman, she’s also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy’s family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she’s going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.
Thoughts: I found the first third or fourth of this book rather slow-moving, but once it picked up it approached being the “page turner” it was purported to be. I was surprised that Goodreads didn’t list “race” as one of the themes/genres of this book, because it was a lot about that, and it’s why I included it in my list of genres here. One of the things I liked about this book was that it was inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, neither of which I’d ever heard of. It’s always fun to expand your horizons. This was a Mostly Social Book Club book, and I look forward to discussing it with the group.

Book #: 51   Title: Hamnet
Author: Maggie O’Farrell      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 310     Duration: 06/24/22 – 06/25/22 (2 days)
Genres: historical fiction, literary fiction, British literature
📕10-word summary: An unnamed bard writes a great play from great grief.
🖌6-word review: Speculative fiction about Hamlet’s origin story.

Description*: 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.
Thoughts: William Shakespeare, arguably the central figure of this book, is never mentioned by name in it—referred to at times, and among other monikers, as: “the Latin tutor,” “Susanna, Judith, or Hamnet’s father,” “Agnes’s husband,” “the glover’s son,” “John or Mary’s son,” “Eliza, Anne, Richard, Gilbert, or Edmond’s brother,” Bartholomew or Thomas’s brother-in-law,” “Rowan’s son-in-law,” or “Joan’s step-son-in-law,” depending on his relationship to the person talking about him. I very much enjoyed this article by the author on the significance of the names in Hamnet, and as a writer myself, her observation in particular: “To have one of [the characters] without a name creates peculiar lexical hurdles.” All that aside, I spent a lot of time confused about who the characters were in part one of this book—not because of the nameless bard, but because of the large number of characters. I loved part two. The bad news is that part one was 69% of the book and part two was 31% of it. The good news is that the second 31% was good enough to raise my rating from 3 stars to 4 stars for the book overall.

Book #: 50   Title: The Queen’s Gambit
Author: Walter Tevis      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 266     Duration: 06/20/22 – 06/21/22 (2 days)
Genres: historical fiction, contemporary, chess
📕10-word summary: Orphaned female child chess prodigy rises to the worldwide championships.
🖌6-word review: Definite page turner. (I like chess.)

Description*: When she is sent to an orphanage at the age of eight, Beth Harmon soon discovers two ways to escape her surroundings, albeit fleetingly: playing chess and taking the little green pills given to her and the other children to keep them subdued. Before long, it becomes apparent that hers is a prodigious talent, and as she progresses to the top of the US chess rankings she is able to forge a new life for herself. But she can never quite overcome her urge to self-destruct. For Beth, there’s more at stake than merely winning and losing.
Thoughts: I loved this book and listened to the 12-hour audiobook in 8 hours—mostly on 1.5x the speed, but on 1.75x the speed for the final hour’s worth. I spent a lot of time wondering to what extent this author had played chess, feeling like he most certainly had to have played a lot considering the descriptions of the game throughout the book, but I didn’t research it until after I finished the book. I also spent a fair amount of time wondering if people who don’t play chess would find this book as enthralling as I did. I have not seen the Netflix series based on this book and don’t plan to, although I may watch one episode, as 1) we get Netflix, and 2) I’m interested in seeing how they portray what went through the protagonist’s head (which was a lot of the book) while both learning and playing the games. I loved this Vanity Fair interview of Jennifer Shahade, a two-time U.S. women’s chess champion, on “the accuracy of the Netflix series in terms of women in chess, addiction, and rock star prodigies,” and this article, The Man Who Brought ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ to Life, that answered my question about the author’s chess experience.

Book #: 49   Title: Five Tuesdays in Winter
Author: Lily King      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 240     Duration: 06/19/22 – 06/19/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, short stories, contemporary
📕10-word summary: 9 exceptional and innovative short stories of kinds of love.
🖌6-word review: Loved all but the last story.

Description*: Told in the intimate voices of unique and endearing characters of all ages, these tales explore desire and heartache, loss and discovery, moments of jolting violence and the inexorable tug toward love at all costs. A bookseller’s unspoken love for his employee rises to the surface, a neglected teenage boy finds much-needed nurturing from an unlikely pair of college students hired to housesit, a girl’s loss of innocence at the hands of her employer’s son becomes a catalyst for strength and confidence, and a proud nonagenarian rages helplessly in his granddaughter’s hospital room. Romantic, hopeful, brutally raw, and unsparingly honest, some even slipping into the surreal, these stories are, above all, about King’s enduring subject of love.
Thoughts: I loved all of these stories except for the last one, which wasn’t bad, but it’s the one that “slipped into the surreal,” of which I’m not a huge fan. I liked that although all these stories were about (some form of) love, they were all very different stories. And, of course, I liked that one of the stories had gay characters in them. It is Pride Month, after all.

Book #: 48   Title: Here for It; Or, How to Save Your Soul in America: Essays
Author: R. Eric Thomas      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 272     Duration: 06/17/22 – 06/18/22 (2 days)
Genres: nonfiction, memoir, essays, race, African American, LGBT, humor
📕10-word summary: Heartfelt, hilarious, insightful, hopeful, extraordinary memoir about seeing things differently.
🖌6-word review: I chortled, chuckled, and cackled throughout.

Description*: R. Eric Thomas didn’t know he was different until the world told him so. Everywhere he went—whether it was his rich, mostly white, suburban high school, his conservative black church, or his Ivy League college in a big city—he found himself on the outside looking in. In essays by turns hysterical and heartfelt, Eric redefines what it means to be an “other” through the lens of his own life experience.
Thoughts: I loved everything about this book, especially the author’s voice; tone; quick-witted, often-sarcastic, sometime-sardonic humor; incredible vocabulary; and amazing ability to create a particular linguistic expression that’s strikingly clear, appropriate, and memorable—all while educating with oft-self-deprecating, oft-poignant, and always-keen observations. If you’re part of a population who’s ever been “othered,” this material will be very relatable; and if you’re not, you’ll get a good feel for the myriad ways that manifests itself. I chose this as one of our Mostly Social Book Club books.

Book #: 47   Title: The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir
Author: Jennifer Lewis      Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Pages: 339     Duration: 06/13/22 – 06/16/22 (4 days)
Genres: nonfiction, memoir, African American, humor
📕10-word summary: Jennifer Lewis, a “mega diva?” I suspect it was self-proclaimed.
🖌6-word review: Jennifer Lewis boasts about Jennifer Lewis.

Description*: This “Mega Diva” and costar of the hit sitcom black-ish bares her soul in this touching and poignant—and at times side-splittingly hilarious—memoir of a Midwestern girl with a dream, whose journey took her from poverty to the big screen, and along the way earned her many accolades.
Thoughts: I had never heard of Jennifer Lewis before I came upon this book, but at about 20% into it, I tired of hearing how wonderful she found herself and abandoned it.

Book #: 46   Title: That Old Cape Magic
Author: Richard Russo      Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 274     Duration: 06/11/22 – 06/12/22 (2 days)
Genres: literary fiction, family, academia, rom-com
📕10-word summary: Griffin and Joy “face the music” after many years together.
🖌6-word review: Sometimes humorous, sometimes rueful, midlife rom-com.

Description*: Griffin has been tooling around for nearly a year with his father’s ashes in the trunk, but his mother is very much alive and not shy about calling on his cell phone. She does so as he drives down to Cape Cod, where he and his wife, Joy, will celebrate the marriage of their daughter Laura’s best friend. By the end of this perfectly lovely weekend, the past has so thoroughly swamped the present that the future suddenly hangs in the balance. And when, a year later, a far more important wedding takes place, their beloved Laura’s, on the coast of Maine, Griffin’s chauffeuring two urns of ashes as he contends once more with Joy and her large, unruly family, and both he and she have brought dates along. How in the world could this have happened?
Thoughts: I found this story “interesting enough,” but I’d probably only recommend it with caveats, one being it would help if you like the rom-com genre—which isn’t my favorite, and if I’m honest, contributed toward my 3-star rating instead of a 4. The most enjoyable part of the book to me was the setting on The Cape, where we spent a month in October-November of 2020.

Book #: 45   Title: The Lottery and Other Stories
Author: Shirley Jackson      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 306     Duration: 06/10/22 – 06/11/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, short stories, horror, gothic, literature, classics
📕10-word summary: Worth it alone for “My Life with R. H. Macy.”
🖌6-word review: Shirley Jackson’s the “Queen of Quirk.”

Description*: The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. “Power and haunting,” and “nights of unrest” were typical reader responses. This collection, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson’s lifetime, unites “The Lottery” with 24 equally unusual stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson’s remarkable range—from the hilarious to the truly horrible—and power as a storyteller.
Thoughts: I discovered the quirky writing of Shirley Jackson earlier this year with her We Have Always Lived in the Castle. In this collection of short stories, my 4 favorites were: “My Life with R.H. Macy”, “Charles” (link contains spoilers), The Daemon Lover, and “The Tooth.” The purported pièce de résistance in this collection, in the collection title, and saved for last in the collection, is The Lottery, which I actually found anticlimactic.

Book #: 44   Title: How to Sleep: The New Science-Based Solutions for Sleeping Through the Night
Author: Rafael Pelayo      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 160     Duration: 06/09/22 – 06/10/22 (2 days)
Genres: nonfiction, self-help, health, science, medical
📕10-word summary: The part about snoring is worth the price of admission.
🖌6-word review: Science imparted. Myths busted. Practical suggestions.

Description*: Sleep difficulties affect millions of people—and the problem is getting worse. The deluge of sleep advice out there, referred to collectively as “sleep hygiene” rules, consists mostly of isolated recommendations for things not to do, such as: Don’t drink coffee close to bedtime. Don’t watch TV in bed. Despite the popularity of these old rules, Dr. Rafael Pelayo tells us, sleep hygiene alone is rarely effective in helping people with serious sleep problems. We need new rules that reflect the growth of knowledge in sleep science and can effectively improve our health.
Thoughts: I read/listened to the first half of this audiobook, and maybe it was psychosomatic or just a coincidence, but two little nuggets immediately contributed to a better night’s sleep for me. Don’t let the “science-based” part scare you into thinking it’s a dry, vernacular-ridden read. It’s very readable. I liked that it talked about what a lot of things “mean,” such as if you snore, or if you keep waking up all night long. Chapters include: Sleep phases & purpose; Snoring; Insomnia; Sleep disorders; Dreaming; “A day in the (night) life,” including topics: Exercise; Meditation; Sex; Food & drink; Alcohol; Heartburn; Sleeping pills, medications, & supplements; Devices & technology, Bedroom environment (place, temperature, night light, mattress, blankets, pillows, scents, & animals); and Choosing a sleep doctor. There’s a whole section devoted to children’s sleep development & issues, too.

Book #: 43   Title: Bud, Not Buddy
Author: Christopher Paul Curtis      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 272     Duration: 06/07/22 – 06/08/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, young adult, historical, classics, African American
📕10-word summary: Motherless boy goes on the lam to find his father.
🖌6-word review: 10-year-old protagonist actually didn’t annoy me.

Description*: It’s 1936, in Flint Michigan. Times may be hard, and 10-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud’s got a few things going for him: 1) He has his own suitcase full of special things, 2) He’s the author of Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself, and 3) His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!! Bud’s got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road to find this mystery man, nothing can stop him—not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.
Thoughts: I chose this from the day’s list of BookBub recommendations, because it was free, available “now” for the Kindle, and it sounded like fun. I spent a lot of time “mind-yelling” to the 10-year-old protagonist, “Show then the damn flyers already,” which once he finally did, sort of landed with a thud. I’d never heard of this book or author in spite of this work being published 23 years ago and winning the Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, an American Library Association (ALA) Best Book for Young Adults award, an ALA Notable Children’s Book award, an International Reading Association Children’s Book Award, and named to 14 state award lists, and it did pique my interest in other works of his.

Book #: 42   Title: Call Us What We Carry
Author: Amanda Gorman      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 240     Duration: 06/06/22 – 06/06/22 (1 day)
Genres: nonfiction, poetry, race, politics, social justice, African American
📕10-word summary: Poetry by Amanda Gorman—the 2017 National Youth Poet Laureate.
🖌6-word review: Rhythmical language examining heavy, timely themes.

Description*: Formerly titled The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, Amanda Gorman’s remarkable new collection reveals an energizing and unforgettable voice in American poetry. Call Us What We Carry is Gorman at her finest. Including The Hill We Climb, the stirring poem read at the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, and bursting with musical language and exploring themes of identity, grief, and memory, this lyric of hope and healing captures an important moment in our country’s consciousness while being utterly timeless.
Thoughts: There’s no denying that Amanda is a genius with words and rhythm and cadence. There are some poignant poems included about our human collective consciousness while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The only things keeping this from a 5-star rating for me were that 1) I’m not really crazy about poetry, and 2) it wasn’t an audiobook read by the author. If you are a poetry fan, I recommend this book without reservation.

Book #: 41   Title: Victorian San Francisco Novellas
Author: M. Louisa Locke       Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 273     Duration: 06/05/22 – 06/05/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, short stories, historical, mystery
📕10-word summary: Three minor characters from author’s previous books take center stage.
🖌6-word review: Clever. Enjoyable. May read respective prequels.

Description*: This collection brings together three novellas by USA Today bestselling author, M. Louisa Locke: Violet Vanquishes a Villain, Kathleen Catches a Killer, and Dandy Delivers. (Love the alliteration.) These shorter works contain the light romance, humor, and suspense of the novels in her cozy Victorian San Francisco mystery series and are an excellent introduction to the gas-lit world of late 19th-century San Francisco.
Thoughts: I love this idea of taking minor characters from previous work and creating a backstory about them in their own novella. After reading the novella, you’re like, “I had no idea there was so much to the casually mentioned Kathleen in Pilfered Promises!” I liked that this collection of 3 novellas had an introduction in which the author gave just enough context about the characters in the original books in which they appeared. At no time while reading these novellas did I feel like I needed to have read the prequels. And they did pique my interest in possibly reading Locke’s 8-book series, The Victorian San Francisco Mysteries, so as a marketing ploy, it worked.

Book #: 40   Title: Sure, I’ll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump
Author: Ben Phillipe      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 300     Duration: 06/04/22 – 06/04/22 (1 day)
Genres: nonfiction, memoir, race, humor, social justice
📕10-word summary: Ben Philippe shares his remarkable life while educating about race.
🖌6-word review: You will laugh, cringe, and rage.

Description*: Ben takes his role as your new black friend seriously, providing original and borrowed wisdom on stereotypes, slurs, the whole “swimming thing,” how much Beyoncé is too much Beyoncé, Black Girl Magic, the rise of the Karens, affirmative action, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other conversations you might want to have with your new BBFF.
Thoughts: I obviously found this book compelling, reading all 300 pages in one day. I was a little bit put off by the introduction, having not yet warmed up to the author’s “voice,” and it being too long for my taste. But once into the story, I liked being educated while also learning about Ben’s life—a nice interweaving of education and memoir. Unequivocally, this is the book with the most (an astounding, really) number of pop culture references for which I had no resolution—and no, they weren’t all hip-hop references. I learned two stereotypes that Americans have about Black people that I wasn’t aware of: 1) that they can’t swim, and 2) that they all either have weed or can get it for you. I’ll echo what one reviewer said about this book, “There are so many moments of this book that made me laugh, cringe, and rage at the same time.”

Book #: 39   Title: The Replacement Wife
Author: Eileen Goudge      Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 482     Duration: 05/31/22 – 06/03/22 (4 days)
Genres: fiction, romance, family, illness
📕10-word summary: Woman schemes to have a replacement for herself upon death.
🖌6-word review: Won’t be mistaken for serious literature.

Description*: Camille Harte, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after matchmakers, has survived more than her fair share of hardships in life. Her mother died when she was a young girl, leaving her and her sister with an absentee father. Now in her forties, after surviving cancer once and finding out how ill-equipped her husband is to be a single parent, her cancer is back—and this time it’s terminal. So, she decides to put her matchmaking expertise to the test for one final job. Seeking stability for her children and happiness for her husband, Camille sets out to find the perfect woman to replace her when she’s gone.
Thoughts: This is one of those books that makes me wish I had “1/2” options in my ratings scale to give it 3.5 stars instead of 3. I just couldn’t recommend this book without a couple of caveats. At times, to me, it read like a Nicholas Sparks book, of which I’m not overly fond. Maybe too much schmaltz. Maybe too much goo-goo gah-gah I’m-so-in-love. Surely nonsensically romantic. Definitely too “straight.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with being straight. Some of my best friends are straight.) With all that said, if you like Nicholas Sparks books, and generally like romance novel tropes (see The 7 most powerful tropes in romance novels), I would recommend this book to you.

Book #: 38   Title: The Guncle
Author: Steven Rowley      Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 336     Duration: 05/28/22 – 05/30/22 (3 days)
Genres: fiction, family, LGBT, humor
📕10-word summary: Uncle learns as much as he teaches his brother’s kids.
🖌6-word review: Little too schmaltzy for my taste.

Description*: Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is honestly a bit out of his league.
Thoughts: I’m happy I read this book of Rowley’s after I read his book The Editor (which I absolutely loved) or I might never had read that one after this one. I wanted to like this book way more than I did. In retrospect the chapter, or it may have been 2, that I liked the most was one (or two) that didn’t have the kids in them. Several things didn’t work for me: 1) one character had a lisp and his dialogue was written to remind you of this speech affectation, and I hate writing that does that (the same with writing accents or dialect affectations), 2) the guncle (“gay uncle” in case you’re not familiar with the term) talked to the kids about things you’d never expect them to be familiar with and sort of acted shocked or put out that they weren’t familiar with them, and 3) I guess I just don’t like stories with children as central characters. With all that said, many reviews “gush” about how great this book is. I had planned to read Rowley’s first book, Lily and the Octopus, but now I’m rethinking it.

Book #: 37   Title: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
Author: Maggie O’Farrell      Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 277     Duration: 05/26/22 – 05/27/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, Scotland culture, family dysfunction
📕10-word summary: Released after a 61-year asylum stay, great-aunt reveals family secrets.
🖌6-word review: Indeterminate chronology and narrators obscure storyline.

Description*: In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for over sixty years.
Thoughts: This was a great underlying story, but I had a very hard time following the several narrators who took turns sharing “their side of the story,” and it didn’t help that one of them had Alzheimer’s. Pair that with the fact that the story unraveled in a chaotic chronology, and I often didn’t know who was “speaking” and what year in the story we were at any given time. And, finally, I listened to the audiobook version of this book, so if by some chance the typeface in the printed version help discern that characters or year, I didn’t benefit from that.

Book #: 36   Title: The Power of the Dog
Author: Thomas Savage      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 306     Duration: 05/24/22 – 05/25/22 (2 days)
Genres: literary fiction, westerns, LGBT
📕10-word summary: Woman and son exacerbate an already tenuous relationship between brothers.
🖌6-word review: Thomas Hardy-esque storytelling examines grand themes.

Description*: Set in the wide-open spaces of the American West, The Power of the Dog is a stunning story of domestic tyranny, brutal masculinity, and thrilling defiance from one of the most powerful and distinctive voices in American literature. The novel tells the story of two brothers—one magnetic but cruel, the other gentle and quiet—and of the mother and son whose arrival on the brothers’ ranch shatters an already tenuous peace.
Thoughts: From early on, this book reminded me of Thomas Hardy‘s The Mayor of Casterbridge, which is one of my favorite pieces of literary fiction. I think Savage did a great job of covering the gay aspect of this novel, particularly being a western and written in 1967. It was pretty subtle, and I enjoyed piecing it together as I read. I get the impression that it’s much more overt in the film, which I haven’t seen. Many times in this book, I thought about the Marian Keyes quote, “The things we dislike most in others are the characteristics we like least in ourselves.”

Book #: 35   Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer
Author: Michelle McNamara      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 475     Duration: 05/20/22 – 05/22/22 (3 days)
Genres: nonfiction, true crime, mystery, history
📕10-word summary: Author shares life’s work hunting down 70s/80s California serial rapist/killer.
🖌6-word review: Compelling, chilling, psychological, and physical chronicling.

Description*: For more than 10 years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area. Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.”
Thoughts: Every review I read of this book talked about how good it was, and it didn’t disappoint. Michelle McNamara has a way of giving you just enough detail and context of the evidence, stopping before wearing you out with it or becoming overwhelmed by it. I vaguely remember the announcement that this sadistic predator was finally identified in April of 2018. After reading this book, I have a deep appreciation of the enormity of finally tracking him down.

Book #: 34   Title: Me and You
Author: Niccolò Ammaniti      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 153     Duration: 05/18/22 – 05/18/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, Italian literature, young adult, coming of age
📕10-word summary: Boy spends clandestine week in cellar, visited by estranged sister.
🖌6-word review: It’s family dysfunction at its best.

Description*: Lorenzo has a few issues. They include the fact that he doesn’t have, or want, any friends. Because this is making his parents unhappy, he tells them he has been invited on a skiing holiday with a group from school. In fact, he is planning to spend the week happily ensconced in the cellar of their apartment building with a supply of canned tuna. Then his estranged older sister Olivia turns up in the cellar with some issues of her own.
Thoughts: As soon as I saw the premise of this book, I wanted to read it. I’d never heard of this Italian author, Niccolò Ammaniti but he has been described as “the best novelist of his generation” (and he’s easy on the eyes, too). Obviously, with its rating, and the fact that I read it in about 2.5 hours, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Book #: 33   Title: Black Buck
Author: Mateo Askaripour      Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 389     Duration: 05/15/22 – 05/17/22 (3 days)
Genres: fiction, race, humor, African-American culture
📕10-word summary: African-American barista’s genius salesmanship catapults his career in all-white firm.
🖌6-word review: Sad truths; satire that mostly works.

Description*: A crackling, satirical debut novel about a young black man who accidentally impresses a CEO while serving his Starbucks order, catapulting him into the opportunity of a lifetime-a shot at stardom as the lone black salesman at an eccentric, mysterious, and wildly successful startup where, he will soon learn, nothing is as it seems.
Thoughts: This was a fun, quick read that I liked the first half of more than the second. It meets the definition of satire—the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues—touching just about every aspect of that definition. I’m still not sure that the interjection of “sales advice callouts” worked.

Book #: 32   Title: What Are You Going Through
Author: Sigrid Nunez      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 210     Duration: 05/09/22 – 05/13/22 (5 days)
Genres: fiction, death, friendship, loss, comfort, memory
📕10-word summary: Memories of life encounters culminate in a friend’s extraordinary request.
🖌6-word review: Well told, wise, poignant, and insightful.

Description*: A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer. In each of these people the woman finds a common need: the urge to talk about themselves and to have an audience to their experiences. The narrator orchestrates this chorus of voices for the most part as a passive listener, until one of them makes an extraordinary request, drawing her into an intense and transformative experience of her own.
Thoughts: There was something about this book that’s hard to pinpoint regarding why I liked it so much, but I did. I don’t know if it was the particular life experiences the protagonist chose to share, or the way she framed those stories, or what. Perhaps what worked most about this book for me was, as stated in a review I read, “The marvel of this novel is that it encompasses so much sadness yet is not grim.”

Book #: 31   Title: The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig      Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 441     Duration: 05/02/22 – 05/08/22 (7 days)
Genres: fiction, fantasy, magical realism, parallel universes
📕10-word summary: Upon Nora’s self-chosen demise, she experiences parallel-universe lives of hers.
🖌6-word review: At times frustrating, but mostly intriguing.

Description*: Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?
Thoughts: In the past year, I’ve read 2 or 3 other stories similar to this, which is to say involving a kind of time travel, and by comparison, this was my least favorite of them, although I didn’t dislike it. My biggest beef with this one was that when the protagonist was thrown into an alternate life of hers, she didn’t arrive with knowledge of the past in the life to be prepared for it, and the author had to come up with a lot of different ways for the character to learn about what she should have already known at that point in the alternate life. Biggest example was when she arrive in a life in which she was a rock star, and she arrived on stage in the middle of a concert having no idea of what songs she was supposed to know, including never have heard of the one that was a mega hit and the band was about to play (and she sing) as their encore number. This was a Mostly Social Book Club book.

Book #: 30   Title: The Moonlight Child
Author: Karen McQuestion      Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 343     Duration: 04/26/22 – 05/01/22 (6 days)
Genres: fiction, thriller, mystery
📕10-word summary: Nosy neighbors actually end up saving an enslaved child’s life.
🖌6-word review: Melodramatic telling overrides quasi-believable story line.

Description*: On a cold January night, Sharon Lemke heads outside to see a lunar eclipse when she notices something odd at the house behind her backyard. Through her neighbor’s kitchen window, she sees what appears to be a little girl washing dishes late at night. But the Fleming family doesn’t have a child that age, and even if they did, why would she be doing housework at this late hour?
Thoughts: This story kept moving, and I stayed interested in how it was going to play out. My biggest hesitation to move it up to a “definitely would recommend” rating is that I’m not there with the definitely part of “definitely would recommend.”

Book #: 29   Title: The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett
Author: Annie Lyons      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 372     Duration: 04/18/22 – 04/25/22 (8 days)
Genres: fiction, death, British literature
📕10-word summary: Eudora is intent on not leaving her death to chance.
🖌6-word review: Diverse, delightful characters won me over.

Description*: Eudora Honeysett is done with this noisy, moronic world—all of it. She has witnessed the indignities and suffering of old age and has lived a full life. At eighty-five, she isn’t going to leave things to chance. Her end will be on her terms. With one call to a clinic in Switzerland, a plan is set in motion.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. The three main characters (Eudora, Rose, and Stanley) are all very likable, and it’s an interesting look at how situational and perspective-based life can me. This was a Mostly Social Book Club book.

Book #: 28   Title: The Absolutist
Author: John Boyne      Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 309     Duration: 04/10/22 – 04/12/22 (3 days)
Genres: historical fiction, LGBT, war, romance
📕10-word summary: A man with a secret meets his dead buddy’s sister.
🖌6-word review: So many story elements I love.

Description*: It is September 1919, and 21-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War. But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As he recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will–from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain.
Thoughts: I loved so many things about this book—from the treatment of the LGBT aspect of the story, to relating to the absolute inanity of war, to the ending.

Book #: 27   Title: Run Rose Run
Authors: Dolly Parton & James Patterson     
★★★☆☆     Pages: 448
Duration: 04/07/22 – 04/08/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, thriller, music, romance
📕10-word summary: “Don’t-call-me-little” AnnieLee runs from her past seeking country music fame.
🖌6-word review: Even Dolly couldn’t save this one.

Description*: Every song tells a story. She’s a star on the rise, singing about the hard life behind her. She’s also on the run. Find a future, lose a past. Nashville is where she’s come to claim her destiny. It’s also where the darkness she’s fled might find her. And destroy her.
Thoughts: I so wanted to love this book and started off really enjoying it, as it’s hard to not like Dolly, even as a reader of sometimes-stilted, often-clichéd dialogue. But it wore on me as the novel progressed, and the parts (of which there were many) where the characters spoke the words to a song they were actually singing in the story got excruciating. I do see that Dolly recorded an album of the songs in this book, and that I’d certainly take a chance on. I almost went down to a 2-star rating on this one, but I guess I would still recommend it, but only with a lot of caveats, the main one being “if you’re the type that has to hear/read/see everything that Dolly Parton does, then go ahead.” I might also add this one review blurb to set expectations: “The fairy-tale characters and details of the country-music scene are so much fun you won’t mind the silly plot.”

Book #: 26   Title: The Personal Librarian
Authors: Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray     
★★★★★     Pages: 496
Duration: 04/02/22 – 04/05/22 (4 days)
Genres: historical fiction, art, books about books, race, African American culture
📕10-word summary: Despite great personal secret, J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian rises meteorically.
🖌6-word review: Although fictionalized, well-researched protagonist believably characterized.

Description*: 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.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book for several reasons: 1) I’m fascinated with wealth at the level of the J.P. Morgans in the world, 2) I love a good “strong, female protagonist” story, and 3) I’m completely empathetic with having to live your life as someone you’re not. Sometimes I like the historical fiction genre and sometimes I don’t. This was one I enjoyed. I tend to not like the ones that are about war, and although war was mentioned in this novel, it was toward the end, and not at all an integral part of the story. And finally, I really enjoyed the “Historical Note” section at the end of the book about all the research that went into the “endeavor to share the life and legacy of Belle da Costa Greene as accurately as possible, which included a description of how the authors chose when to extrapolate vs. infer vs. dramatizing story lines. This was a Mostly Social Book Club book.

Book #: 25   Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V.E. Schwab     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 448     Duration: 03/22/22 – 03/31/22 (10 days)
Genres: historical fiction, fantasy, magical realism, romance, LGBT
📕10-word summary: Addie and Henry working through their deals with the devil.
🖌6-word review: Not compelling, but an intriguing premise.

Description*: A young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever—and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore, and he remembers her name.
Thoughts: I didn’t realize this was a fantasy and magical realism book, which are not my favorite genres, but I went with it anyway. It’s also one of those books that jumps back and forth in time, and in the last several books I’ve read that have done that, I found myself being equally as interested in both story lines, but that wasn’t the case in this one—at least as first. I was way less interested in “the past” storyline at first, but become more so as it went along, but I always preferred the present story line.

Book #: 24   Title: This Is How It Always Is
Author: Laurie Frankel     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 338     Duration: 03/18/22 – 03/21/22 (4 days)
Genres: fiction, LGBT, family
📕10-word summary: Claude/Poppy and family navigate the sometimes cruel, complex transkid world.
🖌6-word review: Though fiction, great trans issues education.

Description*: This is how a family keeps a secret… and how that secret ends up keeping them. This is how a family lives happily ever after… until happily ever after becomes complicated. This is how children change… and then change the world. This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.
Thoughts: I found this to be a very interesting exploration of the complicated notion of gender and the issues facing families as younger and younger kids get the opportunity to flex it rather than conform to it. In a recent “Trans Equity Workshop,” brought to us by my employer, I learned about puberty blockers, which were an integral part of this story. The only thing that kept me from giving this book 5 stars was that there was a fairly significant “story-within-a-story” aspect to it that didn’t engage me at all.

Book #: 23   Title: Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood
Author: Kwame Mbalia (Editor)     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 305     Duration: 03/16/22 – 03/17/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, African American culture, short stories, middle grade, fantasy
📕10-word summary: A vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about joy.
🖌6-word review: I’d recommend, but with several caveats.

Description*: Celebrate the joys of Black boyhood with stories from seventeen bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors–including Jason Reynolds (the Track series), Jerry Craft (New Kid), and edited by Kwame Mbalia (the Tristan Strong series)! Other contributors include: B. B. Alston, Dean Atta, P. Djèlí Clark, Jay Coles, Lamar Giles, Don P. Hooper, George M. Johnson, Varian Johnson, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Tochi Onyebuchi, Julian Randall, Justin Reynolds, DaVaun Sanders, and Julian Winters
Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It’s not a bad book, but since my 4 rating says “Definitely would recommend,” I had to drop down to a 3. With that said, there are several stories in the collection that are of the fantasy genre, of which I’m not a big fan, and there were a couple that were too “lyrical” for my taste (read: the flowery/poetic language got in the way of my understanding and enjoyment). I was glad to see a few of them having LGBT characters—including both gay boys and a non-binary kid, although the nonbinary kid story in particular was sanguine to the point of being saccharine. (Although, I’m open to the possibility that what I find saccharine, someone else might find joyful.) Overall, I’m glad I read it, but I’d have a lot of caveats with any recommendation.

Book #: 22   Title: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
Author: Gail HoneymanCathleen McCarron (Narrator)     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 336     Duration: 03/12/22 – 03/15/22 (4 days)
Genres: fiction, mental health, romance
📕10-word summary: Eleanor’s delusional self-view is steeped in her horrifically abusive mother.
🖌6-word review: Fantastic language usage without being “lyrical.”

Description*: Eleanor Oliphant is a bit of an odd ball. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. That, combined with her unusual appearance (scarred cheek, sometime wearer of an eczema glove), means that Eleanor has become a bit of a loner – or ‘self-contained entity’ as she calls it. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life and phone chats with ‘Mummy’ (in prison for crimes unknown). Filled with unabashed wit, Eleanor Oliphant follows its quirky and troubled female narrator as she realizes that the only way to survive her current state of mind is to open her heart to friendship.
Thoughts: I chuckled aloud pretty much throughout this book, which is not to say, however, that the subject matter wasn’t tragic a lot of the time. It’s one of those (rare) audiobooks with the perfect narrator (IMHO). And although I generally listen to audiobooks at 1.25x or 1.5x speed, I couldn’t do that with this one because of the accent of the narrator, which was completely appropriate for its Glasgow, Scotland setting. I absolutely loved the way Eleanor spoke, her word choices were fascinating, and that’s what kept me chuckling throughout. And, I thought she did a great job doing both the leading female and male characters’ voices.

Book #: 21   Title: Officer Clemmons
Author: François S. Clemmons     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 288     Duration: 03/09/22 – 03/12/22 (4 days)
Genres: nonfiction, memoir, LGBT, race
📕10-word summary: Clemmons writes about being black, gay, and Fred Rogers’ mentee.
🖌6-word review: Sometimes triumphant, often heartbreaking, always real.

Description*: When he earned the role as “Officer Clemmons” on the award-winning television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Clemmons made history as the first African American actor to have a recurring role on a children’s program. A new, wide world opened for François—but one which also required him to make painful personal choices, and sacrifices.
Thoughts: I came across this book in the March 2022 edition of Booklist Reader, and even though I’ve never seen Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood so had never heard of Officer Clemmons, the fact that he was a gay man on a children’s show and a black man playing a police officer (of all things), piqued my interest enough to want to read his memoir. Growing up gay was hard. Growing up black was hard. Growing up both, well… Clemmons’s insight into Fred Rogers is only less interesting than the insights he gained into himself as a result of his relationship with Mr. Rogers—both the man and the Neighborhood.

Book #: 20   Title: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
Author: Allie Brosh     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 371     Duration: 03/08/22 – 03/08/22 (1 day)
Genres: nonfiction, humor, graphic novels, short stories, mental health
📕10-word summary: Things—in pictures and words—that have happened to author.
🖌6-word review: Viewed some pictures. Read all words.

Description*: I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book: Pictures, words, stories about things that happened to me, stories about things that happened to other people because of me, eight billion dollars*, stories about dogs, the secret to eternal happiness.* (*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!)
Thoughts: This book, but particularly this author, was highly recommended in either the Pride or Transgender & non-binary chat room at work. I’d characterize it as part graphical novel and part novel, and not being a big fan of graphical novels, it really didn’t grab me. At about quarter of the way through, I lost interest in reading the text contained in the majority of the images, mostly because the rhetorical purpose of (e.g., to complement or to supplement) the images seemed inconsistent, which frustrated me enough to stop trying to figure it out. With all that said, I did find the prose between the images quite interesting, if not compelling.

Book #: 19   Title: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
Author: David Sedaris     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 289     Duration: 03/07/22 – 03/07/22 (1 day)
Genres: nonfiction, humor, essays, short stories
📕10-word summary: Stories of David’s life told with panache and dead-pan humor.
🖌6-word review: The audiobook version is a must.

Description*: A guy walks into a bar car and… From here the story could take many turns. When this guy is David Sedaris, the possibilities are endless, but the result is always the same: he will both delight you with twists of humor and intelligence and leave you deeply moved.
Thoughts: This is a collection of short stories about David’s life and times both growing up and as an adult. I found this book in our neighborhood “book nook” where people drop off free books, and it turns out our friend and neighbor, Sam, had donated this one. I started reading it, but then remembering, “D’oh, this is David Sedaris and if there’s an audiobook version of it, you ought to be listening to that,” so I downloaded it from our library using Libby. In addition to being hilarious, David spent several years in Raleigh, so there’s often familiar, local places in his stories and the ones in this collection are no different. I pretty much love everything David Sedaris does, but I do have to say the last 4 stories in this collection didn’t really work for me. He wrote them for a group of people who memorize stories to tell, and they’re not about him. I was glad they were at the end, and short.

Book #: 18   Title: A Day Like This
Author: Kelley McNeil     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 287     Duration: 03/07/22 – 03/07/22 (1 day)
Genres: fiction, mystery, thriller
📕10-word summary: A woman comes to with a drastically different life post-accident.
🖌6-word review: I turned the pages all day.

Description*: Annie Beyers has everything—a beautiful house, a loving husband, and an adorable daughter. It’s a day like any other when she takes Hannah to the pediatrician… until she wakes hours later from a car accident. When she asks for her daughter, confused doctors tell Annie that Hannah never existed. In fact, nothing after waking from the crash is the same as Annie remembers. Five happy years of her life apparently never happened.
Thoughts: This book was such a page-turner to me that I read it all in one day. At times during it, I thought of What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, which I read in 2020, and at other times I thought of the 12-part PBS special Nova: The Elegant Universe, about string theory that aired in 2003.

Book #: 17   Title: Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance
Author: Erica Dhawan     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 288     Duration: 02/28/22 – 03/03/22 (4 days)
Genres: nonfiction, business, psychology, self-help, leadership
📕10-word summary: A purported adaptation of body language for the virtual environment.
🖌6-word review: I stayed mostly annoyed while reading.

Description*: Humans rely on body language to connect and build trust, but with most of our communication happening from behind a screen, traditional body language signals are no longer visible—or are they?
Thoughts: The (at least) 3 editing errors that I came across aside, I completely disagreed with a few of her assertions—the most strongly about this one: “Bottom line: when a friend or colleague ends a text with a period, it’s usually seen as aggressive, a cause for alarm.” I work with people of all ages and from all over the world, and this has never been my experience. And just in general in this book, what she refers to as digital body language, is just good writing and good project management. This was a Mostly Social Book Club book.

Book #: 16   Title: What Happened to You?
Author: Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 304     Duration: 02/21/22 – 02/23/22 (3 days)
Genres: nonfiction, psychology, self-help, mental health, science
📕10-word summary: A physical and neurological exploration of trauma, resilience, and healing.
🖌6-word review: Gained critical insight resulting in empathy.

Description*: Have you ever wondered “Why did I do that?” or “Why can’t I just control my behavior?” Others may judge our reactions and think, “What’s wrong with you?” It’s time we started asking a different question: “What happened to you?” It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma, and it’s one that allows us to understand our past in order to clear a path to our future―opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way.
Thoughts: For me, this was one of those books that hammered home the “you don’t know what you don’t know” aspect of knowledge and learning. Our human body—and specifically in this book, our neurology—is beyond amazing, and the lay person has no idea of its impact on trauma, resilience, and healing. This book also made me infinitely more grateful that I never had kids—and I was already pretty grateful.

Book #: 15   Title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
Author: Mark Manson     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 229     Duration: 02/21/22 – 02/21/22 (1 day)
Genres: nonfiction, self-help, psychology, philosophy, humor
📕10-word summary: “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”
🖌6-word review: Same message couched in the f-word.

Description*: In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.
Thoughts: I’m really not a fan of self-help books, because 1) I’m not unhappy, 2) I’m not “searching” for anything, 3) Too many people just read them (which is the easy part) instead of doing them (which is the hard part), and 4) A lot of them espouse the same advice/points/concepts just using a different analogy or metaphor. With that said, just hearing the word “f*ck” so many times and in so many contexts did afford a chuckle, and some of these reminders were more palatable with my retirement on the horizon. Also, this was a Mostly Social Book Club book.

Book #: 14   Title: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
Author: Olga Tokarczuk     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 274     Duration: 02/19/22 – 02/20/22 (2 days)
Genres: literary fiction, mystery, crime, Polish culture
📕10-word summary: An intriguing tale told by a narrator whose reliability wavers.
🖌6-word review: Is she sane? Or mad? Or…?

Description*: In a remote Polish village, Janina devotes the dark winter days to studying astrology, translating the poetry of William Blake, and taking care of the summer homes of wealthy Warsaw residents. Her reputation as a crank and a recluse is amplified by her not-so-secret preference for the company of animals over humans. Then a neighbor, Big Foot, turns up dead. Soon other bodies are discovered, in increasingly strange circumstances. As suspicions mount, Janina inserts herself into the investigation, certain that she knows whodunit. If only anyone would pay her any mind…
Thoughts: A colleague of mine told me she was reading this book and would be interested in my thoughts on it if I read it, so I did. I found this a well-told story in spite of several aspects of it that I don’t care about—a couple of them being astrology and animal rights to the extent of the narrator’s. Until the very end of the first chapter, I thought the narrator was a man. I mentioned the wavering reliability of the narrator in my 10-word summary and 6-word review, but I actually like that. Admittedly, I’m a little too fond of the whole concept of an unreliable narrator ever since I first read The Turn of the Screw many, many years ago.

Book #: 13   Title: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Author: Carson McCullers     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 371     Duration: 02/14/22 – 02/19/22 (6 days)
Genres: literary fiction, classic, southern, race
📕10-word summary: An examination of the spiritual isolation underlying the human condition.
🖌6-word review: Excessive character count. Gut-wrenching oppressive hopelessness.

Description*: At its center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each one yearns for escape from small town life. When Singer’s mute companion goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the book’s heroine (and loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music.
Thoughts: I’ll admit right up front that I’m probably not giving this book a fair shake. It’s the third in a row of McCullers’ books that I’ve read, and I think I was just tired. There were a ton of characters, and at about the halfway point, I had to look up a character list after thinking one too many times, “Now who is this person again?” Also, most of the situations in this book are dire, which made reading it gut-wrenching—as was the case in the two McCullers novels I read right before this one. With all that said, this book was published when McCullers was only 23, and “she became a literary sensation” over it. “With its profound sense of moral isolation and its compassionate glimpses into its characters’ inner lives, the novel is considered McCullers’ finest work, an enduring masterpiece.”

Book #: 12   Title: The Member of the Wedding
Author: Carson McCullers     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 163     Duration: 02/13/22 – 02/13/22 (1 day)
Genres: literary fiction, classic, southern, coming of age, race
📕10-word summary: Young Frankie’s somewhat manic about her life’s observations and possibilities.
🖌6-word review: Often charismatic, sometimes tragic; teen protagonist.

Description*: Here is the story of the inimitable 12-year-old Frankie, who is utterly, hopelessly bored with life until she hears about her older brother’s wedding. Bolstered by lively conversations with her house servant, Berenice, and her 6-year-old male cousin—not to mention her own unbridled imagination—Frankie takes on an overly active role in the wedding, hoping even to go, uninvited, on the honeymoon, so deep is her desire to be the member of something larger, more accepting than herself.
Thoughts: Seeing this book while writing up my thoughts on Carson McCullers’ Clock Without Hands, I nabbed the audiobook version and thoroughly enjoyed it! The young protagonist’s imagination is off the charts! After reading it, Bob and I watched the movie, which is available in its entirety at no cost on YouTube.

Book #: 11   Title: Clock Without Hands
Author: Carson McCullers     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 241     Duration: 02/11/22 – 02/13/22 (3 days)
Genres: literary fiction, classic, race, southern
📕10-word summary: Themes of institutional segregation, white supremacy, and intimated interracial homosexuality.
🖌6-word review: Worth the interlibrary loan to get.

Description*: Set in Georgia on the eve of court-ordered integration, Clock Without Hands contains McCullers’s most poignant statement on race, class, and justice. A small-town druggist dying of leukemia calls himself and his community to account in this tale of change and changelessness, of death and the death-in-life that is hate.
Thoughts: I came across this book browsing through Libby during Black History Month and it piqued my interest. Infuriating reading at times, it never ceases to amaze me at the blindness of people to their own biases. The only thing keeping this from a 5-star rating for me was that a couple of times I was confused as to who was who in a couple of scenes—mostly, I think, because a couple of the relationships were, let’s say, complicated. I love that it included a character who was questioning his sexuality.

Book #: 10   Title: The Plot
Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 317     Duration: 02/08/22 – 02/09/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, thriller, books about books
📕10-word summary: Previously published writer gets the break he so desperately wanted.
🖌6-word review: Watch out what you wish for.

Description*: Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written—let alone published—anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then… he hears the plot.
Thoughts: I just came across this book browsing through Libby for an available download. It turned out to have quite a plot of its own; although I felt like I was often a few steps ahead of the the next “twist” that was coming. That aside, it was a compelling read—enough to make me finish it in 2 days in spite it being a little longer than my most recent books read in 2 days. This was a Mostly Social Book Club book.

Book #: 9   Title: Paper Covers Rock
Author: Jenny Hubbard     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 194     Duration: 02/06/22 – 02/07/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, mystery, boarding school, poetry, young adult
📕10-word summary: An accident? Or was it? Alex struggles to resolve this.
🖌6-word review: Good story. Intermittent poetry seemed gratuitous.

Description*: Sixteen-year-old Alex has just begun his junior year at a boys’ boarding school when he fails to save a friend from drowning in a river on campus. Afraid to reveal the whole truth, Alex and Glenn, who was also involved, decide to lie. But the boys weren’t the only ones at the river that day . . . and they soon learn that every decision has a consequence.
Thoughts: This story unravels as does the protagonist in a study of guilt, uncertainty, coming-of-age, and existential angst. While reading this book, I at times thought of Crime and Punishment for its inquiry into guilt potentially being more punishment than incarceration. I loved the writing that reeled me into questioning the motives of the English teacher character in this book. I also liked the ending of this book, which is to say it isn’t a “Hollywood ending.”

Book #: 8  Title: The Editor
Author: Steven Rowley     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 308     Duration: 02/02/22 – 02/06/22 (5 days)
Genres: historical fiction, books about books, LGBT
📕10-word summary: New writer’s autobiographical novel picked up by Jackie-O needs work.
🖌6-word review: Compelling story in this book-about-a-book novel.

Description*: After years of struggling as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally gets his big break when his novel sells to an editor at a major publishing house: Jackie Kennedy. Jackie, or Mrs. Onassis as she’s known in the office, has fallen in love with James’s candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book’s forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can’t bring himself to finish the manuscript.
Thoughts: I loved this book. Rowley’s depiction of “Mrs. Onassis” is completely believable as is his depiction of James initially being star struck with her to being employed by her. I also so admire an author who can inject the kind scene that shocks the reader as Rowley does about halfway through the book at the end of chapter 18. This was a Mostly Social Book Club book.

Book #: 7   Title: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Author: Shirley Jackson     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 158     Duration: 01/30/22 – 01/31/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, horror, Gothic, mystery
📕10-word summary: A misanthropic “Merricat” stays just this side of unreliable narrator.
🖌6-word review: It’s a bizarre, macabre, mesmerizing diegesis.

Description*: Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, this is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.
Thoughts: I listened to the audiobook of this novel, which I actually enjoyed listening to. (I often have issues with the narrators of audiobooks.) This book is a wild ride that quite often feels like we’re on the verge of something catastrophic happening. The novel’s narrator, Mary Katherine Blackwood, whose nickname is “Merricat,” maniacally drifts from seemingly delusional, to being a sociopath, to practicing witchcraft—from living on the moon, to wishing people would die, to burying things in the yard—she’s got a lot going on. Amidst all that, these themes are explored: female power, family and gender, bullying, guilt and punishment, isolation, and the relativity of truth. I think “delicious” is a very good adjective for the time spent ingesting this tale.

Book #: 6  Title: Oona Out of Order
Author: Margarita Montimore     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 352     Duration: 01/27/22 – 01/30/22 (4 days)
Genres: fiction, time travel, magical realism, LGBT
📕10-word summary: Oona “leaps”—out of order—through life’s heartbreak and joy.
🖌6-word review: Inventive, magical, heart-wrenching treatment of time.

Description*: It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. But as the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens 32 years in the future in her 51-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order… Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met?
Thoughts: I read this book in 2020 and re-read it now as a Mostly Social Book Club book. Back at that time, several people at work lauded this book as a very favorite, and several of the reviews I glanced through on Goodreads had a comment to the effect of, “I cried through the last 130 pages of this book.” I much prefer books/movies with sad/tragic endings than happy ones, which is another reason I put this one on my list. I didn’t remember the comments about the ending until I got to the penultimate chapter when it all came crashing back to me. I spend a lot of time in books like this checking that there are “consistent rules” about how this particular time travel scenario works and then making sure the author adheres to them. I’m happy to report that I found that to be the case and, bonus, I actually approved of the particular rules set forth in this one. ?

Book #: 5   Title: On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Author: Ocean Vuong     Rating: ★★★★★
Pages: 246     Duration: 01/24/22 – 01/26/22 (3 days)
Genres: fiction, poetry, LGBT, contemporary
📕10-word summary: A son-to-mother epistolary novel to a mother who cannot read.
🖌6-word review: Chapter 9 is so lyrically beautiful.

Description*: Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born—a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam—and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.
Thoughts: It’s hard to describe this book. You just have to read it. Or listen to it. I listened to the audio version, read by the author, and it was beautiful. Chapter 9 blew me away. It’s the chapter the narrator comes out to his mother, and when he’s finished telling her something she doesn’t know, she tells him something he doesn’t know. It reminded me of the incredible things that people shared with me when I came out to them. This is unequivocally the best example of poetic prose that I’ve ever read, including The Golden Gate, a novel in verse composed of 590 Onegin stanzas (sonnets written in iambic tetrameter, with the rhyme scheme following the AbAbCCddEffEgg pattern of Eugene Onegin, which I read in November of 2018.

Book #: 4   Title: Swimming Lessons
Author: Claire Fuller     Rating: ★★★★☆
Pages: 350     Duration: 01/19/22 – 01/23/22 (5 days)
Genres: fiction, literary fiction, mystery, family
📕10-word summary: Long-left wife’s letters to husband hidden in his books hoard.
🖌6-word review: Last few chapters saves this book.

Description*: Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan. Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility.
Thoughts: I was intrigued by this book by the letters being written and placed in books. As it turned out, these “letters” were multiple pages long—each a complete chapter, in fact—and except for the “Dear Gil” and the beginning and the “[Placed in book title, by author, date.]” at the end of each, they read just like a flashback, which made feel duped and made it appear to be some kind of gimmick or “literary device.” I desperately wanted this to be my first 4-star book of 2022, and it only made it with the very compelling revelations in the last 3 or 4 chapters. It added up to quite the story, which saved it.

Book #: 3   Title: The Grammarians
Author: Cathleen Schine     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 258     Duration: 01/12/22 – 01/15/22 (4 days)
Genres: fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, twins, family
📕10-word summary: Twin rivalry complicated by vocabularies that cut deep at times.
🖌6-word review: Kept getting identical twins mixed up.

Description*: “The Grammarians” are Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins who share an obsession with words. They speak a secret “twin” tongue of their own as toddlers; as adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation continues, but this love, which has always bound them together, begins instead to push them apart.
Thoughts: This is the second book that I’ve come to by way of an NPR book review and was subsequently disappointed in. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it or anything, but I wanted to enjoy it much, much more than I did—particularly with the title and me being an editor and all. I had a hard time remembering which twin was which up until the time one of them had a baby. I guess one could argue that that’s good writing since they were identical twins—although an argument that would work better if I’d been looking at them—but in terms of character development, I don’t think that bodes well for the author. I also spent more time than I wanted to thinking, “Now what’s going on here right now?” I’m still waiting for my first book in 2022 that I can rate higher than 3 stars.

Book #: 2   Title: The Boystown Prequels: Two Nick Nowak Novellas
Author: Marshall Thorton     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 158     Duration: 01/07/22 – 01/08/22 (2 days)
Genres: fiction, novellas, mystery, LGBT, romance
📕10-word summary: Gay ex-cop, now private eye, works cases in two novellas.
🖌6-word review: Fewer missed edits than cigarettes smoked.

Description*: Little Boy Dead: Former Chicago police officer turned private investigator, Nick Nowak, takes a temporary job as a driver for Film Fest Chicago. In a very short time, Nick deals with stalking fans, a crowd of protesters, and a critic’s stolen wallet that leads to murder. Little Boy Afraid: Nick gets one of his first jobs working for an openly-gay senate candidate. Allan Grimley has been receiving death threats, a lot of them, and it’s Nick’s job to keep him alive until the election.
Thoughts: The first novella was a little more interesting, and a little better written than the second one, although I had a harder time keeping track of the characters in the first one than the second. The fact that a reader has trouble keeping track of characters in a novella is telling. I saw at least a half-dozen missed edits (e.g., a phrase repeated in a sentence, an article missing before a noun, the word “arrive” that should have been “alive”), which always drops my rating at least one star. And I completely disagree with the “romance” genre pinned to this book. “Sex,” yes. “Romance,” no.

Book #: 1   Title: Not Book Club Material
Author: Aaron Zevy     Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pages: 152     Duration: 01/01/22 – 01/05/22 (5 days)
Genres: fiction, short stories, Jewish culture
📕10-word summary: Collection of an elderly Jewish man’s fictionally autobiographical, sometimes-humorous vignettes.
🖌6-word review: Ran hot and cold at times.

Description*: “Your book,” she said in her completely honest and unfiltered style, “is not book club material.” So begins Aaron Zevy’s new story collection, Not Book Club Material. Stories, memoirs and vignettes which are funny, often poignant, and sometimes thought provoking.
Thoughts: It wasn’t until the 4th chapter that I realized this was a collection of short stories in spite of there being no chapter numbers and each—what I thought were—chapters ending with “The end.” (Obviously, I didn’t read the description of the book before reading it either.) Also, in the process of reading this book, I discovered that the author has a Not Book Club Material podcast, and I listened to Episode 1: Labradoodle, a 7-minute investment that I enjoyed, but it’s not a podcast I see adding to my go-to list.

Go to my books read list for: 2024 | 2023 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 watched some trees cut down, that “feller buncher” @ 4:29 in the video is very cool!