Blanche’s Book Club: 2019 Summer Reading Guide!

Okay, so I know it’s not technically summer just yet, but for me, Memorial Day marks the unofficial kickoff for summer! I spent the weekend getting things done around my apartment, hitting up a few sales, potting some new plants, and making a summer-esque meal which included watermelon.

So, I think a summer reading guide is in order! These are 12 books I’m adding to my to-be-read list. I picked them because… some of them are a little more light and fun, some take place near water, and others just sounded like fantastic opportunities to escape. Here goes!

“The Friend Zone” by Abby Jimenez

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen—especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass. Release date: June 11.

“How to Hack a Heartbreak” by Kristin Rockaway

By day, Mel Strickland is an underemployed help-desk tech at a startup incubator, Hatch, where she helps entitled brogrammers – “Hatchlings” – who can’t even fix their own laptops, but are apparently the next wave of startup geniuses. And by night, she goes on bad dates with misbehaving dudes she’s matched with on the ubiquitous dating app, Fluttr.

But after one dick pic too many, Mel has had it. Using her brilliant coding skills, she designs an app of her own, one that allows users to log harrassers and abusers in online dating space. It’s called JerkAlert, and it goes viral overnight.

Mel is suddenly in way over her head. Worse still, her almost-boyfriend, the dreamy Alex Hernandez – the only non-douchey guy at Hatch – has no idea she’s the brains behind the app. Soon, Mel is faced with a terrible choice: one that could destroy her career, love life, and friendships, or change her life forever. Release date: July 30.

“Waiting for Tom Hanks” by Kerry Winfrey

Annie Cassidy dreams of being the next Nora Ephron. She spends her days writing screenplays, rewatching Sleepless in Seattle, and waiting for her movie-perfect meet-cute. If she could just find her own Tom Hanks—a man who’s sweet, sensitive, and possibly owns a houseboat—her problems would disappear and her life would be perfect. But Tom Hanks is nowhere in sight.

When a movie starts filming in her neighborhood and Annie gets a job on set, it seems like a sign. Then Annie meets the lead actor, Drew Danforth, a cocky prankster who couldn’t be less like Tom Hanks if he tried. Their meet-cute is more of a meet-fail, but soon Annie finds herself sharing some classic rom-com moments with Drew. Her Tom Hanks can’t be an actor who’s leaving town in a matter of days…can he? Release date: June 11.

“Passion on Park Avenue” by Lauren Layne

For as long as she can remember, Bronx-born Naomi Powell has had one goal: to prove her worth among the Upper East Side elite—the same people for which her mom worked as a housekeeper. Now, as the strongminded, sassy CEO of one of the biggest jewelry empires in the country, Naomi finally has exactly what she wants—but it’s going to take more than just the right address to make Manhattan’s upper class stop treating her like an outsider.

The worst offender is her new neighbor, Oliver Cunningham—the grown son of the very family Naomi’s mother used to work for. Oliver used to torment Naomi when they were children, and as a ridiculously attractive adult, he’s tormenting her in entirely different ways. Now they find themselves engaged in a battle-of-wills that will either consume or destroy them…

“Strong characters and relatable situations elevate Layne’s bighearted contemporary…[which] digs into class differences, emotional baggage, and the reality of dealing with aging parents” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). With the sexy combination of charm, heart, and snark, Lauren Layne’s new series is perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne.

“The Rocks” by Peter Nichols

Set against dramatic Mediterranean Sea views and lush olive groves, The Rocks opens with a confrontation and a secret: What was the mysterious, catastrophic event that drove two honeymooners apart so suddenly and absolutely in 1948 that they never spoke again despite living on the same island for sixty more years? And how did their history shape the Romeo and Juliet–like romance of their (unrelated) children decades later? Centered around a popular seaside resort club and its community, The Rocks is a double love story that begins with a mystery, then moves backward in time, era by era, to unravel what really happened decades earlier.

Peter Nichols writes with a pervading, soulful wisdom and self-knowing humor, and captures perfectly this world of glamorous, complicated, misbehaving types with all their sophisticated flaws and genuine longing. The result is a bittersweet, intelligent, and romantic novel about how powerful the perceived truth can be—as a bond, and as a barrier—even if it’s not really the whole story; and how one misunderstanding can echo irreparably through decades.

“Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. 

Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

“Seating Arrangements” by Maggie Shipstead

The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to the impeccably appropriate Greyson Duff. The weekend is full of champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust stir beneath the surface. 

Winn Van Meter, father of the bride, is not having a good time. Barred from the exclusive social club he’s been eyeing since birth, he’s also tormented by an inappropriate crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid, Agatha, and the fear that his daughter, Livia—recently heartbroken by the son of his greatest rival—is a too-ready target for the wiles of Greyson’s best man. When old resentments, a beached whale and an escaped lobster are added to the mix, the wedding that should have gone off with military precision threatens to become a spectacle of misbehavior.

“Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest,Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success… and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend…

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart…and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you—and knows what has the power to hurt you…and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget…one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.

“The Lager Queen of Minnesota” by J. Ryan Stradal

Edith Magnusson’s rhubarb pies are famous in the Twin Cities–they were named the third-best in the state of Minnesota and St. Anthony-Waterside Nursing Home has quickly becomes the hottest dinner ticket in town. Still, she lays awake wondering how her life might have been different if her father hadn’t left their family farm to her sister Helen, a decision that split their family in two. 

With the proceeds from the farm, her sister, Helen Blotz, built her husband Orval’s family soda business into the top selling brewery in Minnesota. She singlehandedly created the light beer revolution and made their corporate motto ubiquitous: “Drink lots, it’s Blotz.” But Helen dismisses IPAs as a fad, and the Blotz fortune begins its inevitable decline. Soon, though, she finds a potential savior that’s surprisingly close to home. . .

Diana Winter earns a shot at learning the beer business from the ground up just as the IPA revolution begins. The stakes couldn’t be higher: just as she’s launching her own brewpub, she’s due to deliver a baby girl. When the unthinkable happens, it’s up to Grandma Edith–and a delightfully surprising cadre of grandmother friends–to secure the next generation’s chances for a better future. Can Grandma Edith’s Rhubarb Pie In A Bottle Ale save Diana’s fledgling brewery, and change their hearts and fortunes forever?

The Lager Queen of Minnesota serves up a cast of lovable, quintessentially Midwestern characters eager to make their mark in a world that’s often stacked against them. In this deeply affecting, humorous, emotional family saga, resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we’re surprised, moved, and delighted.

“Beyond the Point” by Claire Gibson

Three women are brought together in an enthralling story of friendship, heartbreak, and resilience. Set at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, this is an amazing debut novel. 

Duty. Honor. Country. That’s West Point’s motto, and every cadet who passes through its stone gates vows to live it. But on the eve of 9/11, as Dani, Hannah and Avery face four grueling years ahead, they realize they’ll only survive if they do it together.

Everyone knows Dani is going places. With athletic talent and a brilliant mind, she navigates West Point’s predominantly male environment with wit and confidence, breaking stereotypes and embracing new friends. 

Hannah’s grandfather, a legendary Army general, offers a stark warning about the dangers that lie ahead, but she moves forward anyway, letting faith guide her path. When she meets her soul mate at West Point, the future looks perfect, just as planned.

Wild child Avery moves fast and doesn’t mind breaking a few rules (and hearts) along the way. But she can’t outpace her self-doubt, and the harder she tries, the further it leads her down a treacherous path.

The world—of business, of love, and of war—awaits Dani, Hannah, and Avery beyond the gates of West Point. These three women know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But soon, that adage no longer rings true—for their future, or their friendship. As they’re pulled in different directions, will their hard-forged bond prevail or shatter?

Beyond the Point is a heartfelt look at how our closest friends can become our fiercest battle buddies. After all, the greatest battles we fight rarely require a uniform.

“Notes From a Young Black Chef” by Kwame Onwuachi

By the time he was twenty-seven years old, Kwame Onwuachi (winner of the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year) had opened—and closed—one of the most talked about restaurants in America. He had launched his own catering company with twenty thousand dollars that he made from selling candy on the subway, yet he’d been told he would never make it on television because his cooking wasn’t “Southern” enough. In this inspiring memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, he shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age.

Growing up in the Bronx, as a boy Onwuachi was sent to rural Nigeria by his mother to “learn respect.” However, the hard-won knowledge gained in Africa was not enough to keep him from the temptation and easy money of the streets when he returned home. But through food, he broke out of a dangerous downward spiral, embarking on a new beginning at the bottom of the culinary food chain as a chef on board a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship, before going on to train in the kitchens of some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country and appearing as a contestant on Top Chef.

Onwuachi’s love of food and cooking remained a constant throughout, even when he found the road to success riddled with potholes. As a young chef, he was forced to grapple with just how unwelcoming the world of fine dining can be for people of color, and his first restaurant, the culmination of years of planning, shuttered just months after opening. A powerful, heartfelt, and shockingly honest story of chasing your dreams—even when they don’t turn out as you expected—Notes from a Young Black Chef is one man’s pursuit of his passions, despite the odds.

“The Magnificent Esme Wells” by Adrienne Sharp

Esme Silver has always taken care of her charming ne’er-do-well father, Ike Silver, a small-time crook with dreams of making it big with Bugsy Siegel. Devoted to her daddy, Esme is often his “date” at the racetrack, where she amiably fetches the hot dogs while keeping an eye to the ground for any cast-off tickets that may be winners.

In awe of her mother, Dina Wells, Esme is more than happy to be the foil who gets the beautiful Dina into meetings and screen tests with some of Hollywood’s greats. When Ike gets an opportunity to move to Vegas—and, in what could at last be his big break, to help the man she knows as “Benny” open the Flamingo Hotel—life takes an unexpected turn for Esme. A stunner like her mother, the young girl catches the attention of Nate Stein, one of the Strip’s most powerful men.

Narrated by the twenty-year-old Esme, The Magnificent Esme Wells moves between pre–WWII Hollywood and postwar Las Vegas—a golden age when Jewish gangsters and movie moguls were often indistinguishable in looks and behavior. Esme’s voice—sharp, observant, and with a quiet, mordant wit—chronicles the rise and fall and further fall of her complicated parents, as well as her own painful reckoning with love and life. A coming-of-age story with a tinge of noir, and a tale that illuminates the promise and perils of the American dream and its dreamers, The Magnificent Esme Wells is immersive, moving, and compelling.

And there’s my 2019 Summer Reading Guide! I’d love to know what books you have on your list for the next few months — share in the comments!

For more book recommendations, be sure to subscribe to the blog (look to the right) and follow me on Instagram @Orangejulius7 – where I share more of my daily life. Need help with your blog? I can help with all of your digital marketing efforts – just let me know!

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