Category Archives: Light Pulp

BBC: ‘Landline’.

If you’re still at work today, hang in there – Thanksgiving is riiiight around the corner! I’m traveling today, which is a relief, because I always feel like the the days leading up to traveling are so hectic and crazy and then when I finally get on that plane, I can take a nap.

But anyway, let’s get into this week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell. Here is the description from Amazon.com:

As far as time machines go, a magic telephone is pretty useless.

TV writer Georgie McCool can’t actually visit the past — all she can do is call it, and hope it picks up.

And hope he picks up.

Because once Georgie realizes she has a magic phone that calls into the past, all she wants to do is make things right with her husband, Neal.

Maybe she can fix the things in their past that seem unfixable in the present. Maybe this stupid phone is giving her a chance to start over …

Does Georgie want to start over?

From Rainbow Rowell, the New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park andFangirl, comes this heart-wrenching – and hilarious – take on fate, time, television and true love.

Landline asks if two people are ever truly on the same path, or whether love just means finding someone who will keep meeting you halfway, no matter where you end up.

This book had me at “TV writer”, so I was in pretty quick. But I also really liked the concept of this plot, primarily because I think cell phones have ruined us in ways we can’t get back, and I still wish landlines and answering machines were a thing. I hate being “available” 24/7.

But anyway… this is a fun read. It feels like a true story, minus the whole “magic telephone” thing, which even that doesn’t seem so crazy (oddly enough). The book takes a rather common problem: a longtime marriage beginning to fall apart, and adds a twist: the ability to time-travel via landline.

What happens is obviously up to the characters… and fate.

I read this book pretty quickly, and I liked it so much that I’ll definitely be reading some of Rowell’s other books: “Fangirl”, “Carry On”, “Attachments”, and “Eleanor & Park” – they all seem to have that slight, fantasy twist. And let’s face facts, I think we could all use a little break from reality every now and then.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder” by Carolyn Murnick.

Have a great Thanksgiving y’all! Tune in on Friday for a fun surprise 🙂

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Watching: ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’.

Just saw this movie!

Yesterday afternoon, I saw a movie I’ve been eyeing for awhile, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson.

“Three Billboards” is the story of Mildred (McDormand), a passionate mother who is trying to push the local police to continue working on her daughter’s murder case. To spark their interest, Mildred pays rent on three billboards along a seldom-used country road to advertise her case.

The words she plots on the billboards puts Ebbing, Missouri into a tailspin – to say the least. But although what she’s doing is not illegal, the police are willing to do anything (and everything) they can to get her to shut up and remove the billboards.

Although it’s not directly related, Mildred and her billboards highlight the systematic racism within the town of Ebbing, solidified by the police force and their brutal actions (not to mention the words they say).

This movie was very dark, and although their were parts that made me laugh – I felt like the audience was constantly nervous-laughing, because it was so dark, and it was difficult to tell exactly what was going to happen next.

It’s obvious Mildred has never quite fit in, in Ebbing, and the brutal murder of her daughter seemed to harden her even more, creating an even greater distance between her and the town. The conclusion of the film (no spoilers) wraps this up nicely.

Although it was difficult to pinpoint exactly when this film took place, it has a timeless sensibility to it. After all, it’s not a recent problem for missing girls to be found murdered, have their killers on the loose, and for a police department to pick and choose who they go after based on race and/or relationships.

I cannot close this blog post without saying that parts of this movie were very difficult to watch. I had my hands over my face for probably 1/4 of it, and was on the verge of tears for at least half. It’s gut-wrenching.

But, it was well-done, and very unique. A recommendation for crime and mystery lovers.

Naturally, I saw this movie at the Drafthouse, so I treated myself to some fries and a salted caramel shake. YUM.

I was happy to go home afterward and make Christmas ornaments though, and get my mind out of such a dark place.

BBC: ‘The Art of Crash Landing’.

I hate being this person, but can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away?! Yikes! I actually have a Friendsgiving to attend tomorrow, so I’ll get an even earlier start on my turkey + cranberry only diet this holiday season (just kidding, vegan Gods).

Regardless, the holidays are always hit or miss for me, but I’m thinking this year is gonna be a pret-ty good time. More on this at a later date. Anyway, this weekend, I’ve got a few things to do in my Etsy shop (there’s several new items in there already if you haven’t looked lately), I’m going to see a movie, and I think I’ll treat myself to a pedicure while I’m out!

Meanwhile, let’s get into this week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Art of Crash Landing” by Melissa Dicarlo. Here’s the scoop from Amazon:

From a bright new talent comes this debut novel about a young woman who travels for the first time to her mother’s hometown, and gets sucked into the mystery that changed her family forever

Mattie Wallace has really screwed up this time. Broke and knocked up, she’s got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags, and nowhere to go. Try as she might, Mattie can no longer deny that she really is turning into her mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make.

When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother, and it happened here. The harder Mattie digs for answers, the more obstacles she encounters. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own.

Hilarious, gripping, and unexpectedly wise, The Art of Crash Landing is a poignant novel from an assured new voice.

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I came across this book. I’m pretty sure it was the image of this woman putting everything she owns into trash bags that got me hooked, though. And once I started reading, it was an interesting story that almost seemed like a piece of non-fiction. It was oddly relatable and very visual, which is really what makes me like a book.

This one is for fans of unique, non-cookie-cutter stories! The next book we’ll be reading for the book club is “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell. Have a good weekend y’all – stay warm (the “cold front” is bringing us 80 degree weather…)!

Comparing cosmetic primers, II.

Happy Halloween! I am pretty excited for today – oddly – mostly because this means I can take a break from mass-producing Holly Golightly sleep masks for seasonal costumes, and because I love hearing “Thriller” on the radio constantly.

Several months ago, I posted short reviews about cosmetic primers I’ve tried. I got such good advice on new ones to try, that here I am, back after trying FOUR new primers! I’m curious to see what you guys think of this batch.

If you aren’t big on makeup or haven’t tried a primer, it is usually worn under makeup (particularly foundation) and provides a smooth base that helps the makeup stay on longer and look flawless. A primer can come in the form of a gel, spray, powder, cream, oil… it just depends on what type of product you like.

NYX Shine Killer

I love NYX products because they are so affordable, it makes it easy to try new things. The Shine Killer primer is a clear gel and I found it really helped control my shine throughout the day (I did use it along with the NYX matte setting spray).

Details:

  • Foundation primer that prepares skin for silky smooth makeup application
  • Lightweight, colorless gel creates an invisible layer that acts as a buffer to the outside elements
  • Helps makeup stay fresh and color-true for hours, lasting all day and well into the night
  • Moisturize your skin with a daily dosage of Vitamin E
  • Prep your face with this foundation primer before applying face makeup
  • Maintain a matte and fresh face all day

$13.99 for .67 ounces

Laura Geller Spackle Tinted Under Make-up Primer

Over the last year, I have been trying bits and pieces of Laura Geller’s collection and her products are wonderful! This Spackle (in “Champagne”) came in a gift set I got, which are always such great deals. It has a slight glow to it, so it’s perfect to wear under makeup or alone for a dewy look.

Details:

Revive and re-texturize your skin to achieve a flawlessly smooth finish with my Spackle® Tinted Under Make-up Primer in Champagne. This formula has the same features and benefits as the revolutionary best-selling Spackle®, but it shimmers with a champagne glow!

Made with natural plant extracts and the powerful anti-oxidants, White Tea and Centella Asiatica. These ingredients protect the skin along with Aloe Vera Gel. Spackle also helps the skin retain moisture, feel softer and look smoother. It is lush, incredibly lightweight and suitable for all skin types.

$32 for 2 ounces

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Pore Minimizing

I got a sample of this in one of my Birchboxs a few months ago and have been using it over the last few weeks. I love that it has a light tint to it – my skin has some redness (which I’m currently trying to derma-roll out), so I am always looking for FULL coverage products. I also liked the texture of this – it goes on smooth and has a dry, matte finish.

Details:

Smashbox’s Photo Finish Pore Minimizing Foundation Primer is an Allure Best of Beauty winner. It works for all skin types but is ideal for oily and combination skin. It pairs best with liquid or cream foundation. This primer is non-acnegenic and ophthalmologist tested.

Benefits:

  • Dramatically reduces the look of pores
  • Mattifies shine and controls oil all day
  • Smoothes and preps skin for makeup
  • Won’t clog pores or cause breakouts
  • Water-resistant, smooth-glide texture
  • Leaves a soft, even finish
  • Cruelty-free

Formulated without parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, oil, fragrance and talc. Vegan friendly.

$39 for 1 ounce

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Oil

I got this as a sample from the Company Cosmetics Store (I. Love. That. Place!) after buying a Smashbox set that had all sorts of goodies in it. This was my first time trying the oil, and frankly, I am still trying to figure out what I think of it. It definitely does not leave an oily finish, but I might save the rest of it to use during the colder months (like, in December maybe? #Texas) when my skin is dry.

Details:

Smashbox’s Photo Finish Primer Oil is non-acnegenic and dermatologist-tested. Morning and evening application adds increased moisture in just four weeks. Not ideal for oily skin.

Benefits:

  • Preps skin for makeup
  • Moisturizes for seamless makeup application
  • Instantly absorbs and adds radiance
  • Reduces the appearance of dry fine lines
  • Blended with 15 lipid-rich plant extracts and essential oils including moisturizing jojoba + calming chamomile
  • Strengthens the skin’s barrier

Formulated without parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, oil, fragrance and talc. Vegan friendly.

What primers are you using? I am always looking to try new products!

Before I sign off, be sure to check out my Etsy SALE – today only – and you can get 15% off all items in honor of Halloween (and the Great Pumpkin, of course)! As always, there is free shipping on domestic orders.

Have a fun day, y’all!

Another year at the Austin Film Festival!

It’s the 24th Annual Austin Film Festival & Writer’s Conference!

That’s right – I’m coming off a weekend of volunteering at the Austin Film Festival for the second year in a row! After having such a fun and inspiring time last year, I jumped at the chance to volunteer again this year.

I am still nurturing my interest in screenwriting, but have made about ZERO progress on doing much with this interest. I don’t like using the excuse that I’m too busy – but things have been a little crazy lately.

However, I still made time to volunteer. I actually starting volunteering in the spring, going door-to-door passing out advertisements for the Austin Film summer camp for kids. My first official shift during the festival was for the Pitch Competition – where I volunteered 9 hours last year and had so, so much fun!

This year… it was a little more stressful. I hadn’t been at my shift very long when one of the judges needed a cup of coffee (specifically, a medium coffee with 2/3 coffee and 1/3 almond milk). I was sent on the errand.

Of course, the coffee shop in the building was closed. I went back to my station and was told to “go somewhere nearby”…little did my shift manager know that I don’t really KNOW what’s nearby. So, I ventured to the 3rd floor where I heard there was free coffee.

Indeed, there was free coffee, but no almond milk. Only little containers of half and half. So, I moved with a quickness outside. Two blocks away was a giant “Day of the Dead” parade, on top of the Film Fest crowd – everywhere was packed. The first two coffee shops I found were closed. Awesome.

Coffee shop number three was open… but with a huge line. I jumped in line anyway. When it was my turn to order, I was informed they were actually OUT OF COFFEE. How does that happen?

I said I would wait… and about 20 minutes later, I got my order and moved as quickly as possible back to my volunteer station. I apologized for how long it took, but my manager assured me it was ok.

Well, until I looked at my phone to see she’d sent me several frantic messages basically thinking I’d run off downtown with her credit card. Umm what? I confronted her about the messages and she was all, “Ohhh just ignore those!”

Meerkat Moonship!

Regardless, she stuck me on door duty for six hours leaving me uninspired, with tired legs. I don’t think I’d survive in Hollywood.

On Sunday, I arrived at my first-ever shift to volunteer at a theatre! During this shift, I took tallies of how many people were lined up to see the movies, and helped count them into the theatre. I also got to sneak into (with permission) the theatre to see one of the films and enjoyed a free Coke and some free popcorn! Fantastic!

The movie I saw was called “Meerkat Moonship”, created by Hanneke Schutte – who was present for the viewing. Here’s the official description from IMDb:

“Gideonette, a timid and visionary girl, lives with her parents in a small town. Her dad Gideon, battles daily to allay her fears about the curse of the Gideon de La Reys. Throughout their family history every Gideon de La Rey died in a freak accident at a young age. In order to prove everyone wrong, Gideon named his daughter – Gideonette. Although Gideonette has had to endure endless teasing about the curse, her dad has tried to convince her that they’ll both grow old. When he suddenly dies, her worst fears are realized and she retreats into a dark world where her imagination runs wild. Realising that Gideonette needs to get away from the curse her mom sends her to her grandparents. Here Gideonette meets Bhubesi, a deaf boy who’s ‘training’ to become an astronaut. While her grandfather builds Bhubesi a Moonship, the brave boy wins her trust and they embark on a curious journey of wordless friendship that helps her to realise she can’t hide from death. When fate hands her a final blow and her newfound strength is tested, she has to decide whether she’s going to let the curse consume her or defy it.

Gideonette, a timid and visionary girl, lives with her parents in a small town. Her dad Gideon, battles daily to allay her fears about the curse of the Gideon de La Reys. Throughout their family history, every Gideon de La Rey died in a freak accident at a young age. In order to prove everyone wrong, Gideon named his daughter – Gideonette. Although Gideonette has had to endure endless teasing about the curse, her dad has tried to convince her that they’ll both grow old. When he suddenly dies, her worst fears are realised and she retreats into a dark world where her imagination runs wild. Realising that Gideonette needs to get away from the curse her mom sends her to her grandparents. Here Gideonette meets Bhubesi, a deaf boy who’s ‘training’ to become an astronaut. While her grandfather builds Bhubesi a Moonship, the brave boy wins her trust and they embark on a curious journey of wordless friendship that helps her to realise she can’t hide from death. When fate hands her a final blow and her newfound strength is tested, she has to decide whether she’s going to let the curse consume her or defy it.”

This was a BEAUTIFUL movie! I even teared up a few times – ugh! I think people are really going to love the aesthetic of this film, not to mention the message. Wonderful!

All in all, it was another great year with the Film Festival, and yep, I know I’ll be back next year!

BBC: ‘What Made Maddy Run’.

Hey there! We’ve made it through another week, and you know what? This weekend is one of my favorite times here in Austin: it’s the Austin Film Festival and Writer’s Conference! I am volunteering this weekend, and it’s just a great time to see some of the best writers and creators come together and make cool things happen. I’m in need of inspiration, so this is coming at the right (write) time!

It’s also supposed to be a little chilly – FINALLY – this weekend (like, in the low 50s), even though it will warm back up next week. I’ll take what I can get; I am so tired of having my air conditioning running.

But, I’ve got a really fantastic, important book to discuss this week: “What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen” by Kate Fagan. Here is the official description from Amazon:

From noted ESPN commentator and journalist Kate Fagan, the heartbreaking and vital story of college athlete Madison Holleran, whose death by suicide rocked the University of Pennsylvania campus and whose life reveals with haunting detail and uncommon understanding the struggle of young people suffering from mental illness today. 

If you scrolled through the Instagram feed of 19-year-old Maddy Holleran, you would see a perfect life: a freshman at an Ivy League school, recruited for the track team, who was also beautiful, popular, and fiercely intelligent. This was a girl who succeeded at everything she tried, and who was only getting started. 

But when Maddy began her long-awaited college career, her parents noticed something changed. Previously indefatigable Maddy became withdrawn, and her thoughts centered on how she could change her life. In spite of thousands of hours of practice and study, she contemplated transferring from the school that had once been her dream. When Maddy’s dad, Jim, dropped her off for the first day of spring semester, she held him a second longer than usual. That would be the last time Jim would see his daughter.

WHAT MADE MADDY RUN began as a piece that Kate Fagan, a columnist for espnW, wrote about Maddy’s life. What started as a profile of a successful young athlete whose life ended in suicide became so much larger when Fagan started to hear from other college athletes also struggling with mental illness. This is the story of Maddy Holleran’s life, and her struggle with depression, which also reveals the mounting pressures young people, and college athletes in particular, face to be perfect, especially in an age of relentless connectivity and social media saturation.

I added this book to my reading list after seeing Kate Fagan on an episode of “The Daily Show”. The book sounded fascinating, although heartbreaking. I was able to get the book just a few weeks later, and I immediately did something I probably shouldn’t have: I looked up Madison Holleran on Instagram.

And there she was: a seemingly perfect college athlete, a woman I likely would have thought had her life – a beautiful life – all tied together. But obviously that’s not entirely true. And now, her public Instagram profile serves as a bit of a time capsule – even the picture she posted in the last moments of her life is there – neatly filtered and edited.

We’re all guilty of it: we put things into the public that we are only OK with people knowing. When I was reading this book, I blamed this on social media. But, once I was finished with the book, I went back and read some of Fagan’s earlier work and she made a great point: humans have been editing their outward “look” for years – even when we’d write letters to each other, we would only mention the things we wanted people to know.

Remember AOL messenger? It’s going away this December, but I know I made myself look different online – even through AOL. I would put away messages alluding that I was out, partying, leaving my computer idle for days, when in reality I was sitting in my dorm room watching “Sex and the City”.

Of course, Maddy Holleran was going through much more than a social struggle. She was suffering from a mental illness, and was really feeling the pressures of college, on top of being a sought-after athlete. Here are some of the lines from the book I took note of:

  • Many coaches believe these moments are forks in the road, and that choosing to push through the pain – in whatever form that pain comes – is what creates champions.
  • …the more polished and put-together someone seems – everything lovely and beautiful and just as it should be – perhaps the more likely something vital is falling apart just offscreen.
  • Comparing your everyday existence to someone else’s highlight reel is dangerous for both of you.
  • Digital life, and social media at its most complex, is an interweaving of public and private personas, a blending and splintering of identities unlike anything other generations have experienced.
  • And nothing turns enjoyment into dread faster than obligation.

I’ll be honest, there were times I felt sick while reading this book. Partially because I knew what was coming and I had mixed feelings about reading it, and partially because I found a lot of myself in Maddy – and that’s scary.

I think there’s a lot to learn from Maddy’s story, and that’s probably why her family let the author in so much – so other families wouldn’t have to suffer from a similar tragedy.

Despite the darkness of this book, I absolutely loved it. The way it was told was respectable, true, and easy to read. I am recommending this book to my social media lovers, and my true-story obsessors. This is one you won’t be able to put down.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Art of Crash Landing” by Melissa DeCarlo.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

BBC: ‘The Identicals’.

Hey, hey! We made it to Friddaaayyyy – this week has been crazy busy! I’ve been cranking out Holly Golightly Sleep Masks for my Etsy Shop. I’m thankful they are selling, but man, it’s a lot of work!

Anyway, I’m so excited to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “The Identicals” by Elin Hilderbrand. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking. 

Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.

Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She’s also inherited her mother’s questionable parenting skills–Tabitha’s teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode–and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion. 

One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.

After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands–and lives–to save what’s left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.

…This book was like a modern-day “Parent Trap”, and of course it focuses on two adults, not children. I absolutely LOVED this book! I read it almost in a single single sitting. It was completely an escape, thanks to Hilderbrand’s delicious details about Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (neither of which I have been), including sparkling rose, farmer’s market jams, and lobster pot pie.

I would recommend this book to my rom-com lovers, and/or anyone looking for a sweet summery escape before winter hits us all with depression.

The next book we’ll be reading in Blanche’s Book Club is “What Made Maddy Run” by Kate Fagan (!). You’re going to want to read this one with us… Just saying!

Countdown to Christmas!

We’re a week away from this annual tradition!

Yes, I know, we’re not even to Halloween yet! And trust me, I am so not one of those people that puts up a tree early or listens to Christmas music all year long. I follow the wait-until-Thanksgiving rule… But, the Hallmark Channel does not follow that rule.

And I love the movies on the Hallmark Channel; it’s my guilty-not-guilty pleasure. Each year, the Hallmark Channel shows only holiday movies beginning at the end of October all the way through Christmas. It’s sort of annoyingly fantastic.

This year, the holiday movie marathon, also known as “Countdown to Christmas” begins next Friday, October 27. This Sunday however, they are showing a preview of what’s to come, hosted by Candace Cameron, Jodi Sweetin, and Lori Loughlin (airing Sunday evening at 10/9c).

But, I thought I’d round up a little preview of my own (with help from the Hallmark channel website). The titles in green are the ones I’m particularly looking forward to. Let’s DO this:

MARRY ME AT CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Oct. 28, 8/7c
Stars: Rachel Skarsten, Trevor Donovan
Organizing a Christmas wedding is a true treat for bridal boutique owner Madeline Krug. She loves the challenge of finding the perfect dress for the bride and orchestrating an exquisite event. What Madeline didn’t expect was to be swept off her feet by the bride’s gorgeous brother, movie star Johnny Blake. Jonny came to the quirky town of Fool’s Gold to support his sister — not to fall in love. Yet Madeline is the most extraordinary woman he’s ever met. Planning the perfect wedding leads to candlelit dinners and strolls through snow-covered streets. Madeline finds the real Johnny even more captivating than her celebrity crush. Will the action star be brave enough to take on the role of a lifetime?

CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL OF ICE
Premieres: Nov. 4, 8/7c
Stars: Taylor Cole, Damon Runyan, Wendy Crewson
Those years of law school pay off for Emma but not in ways one would expect. When she finds out that her beloved ice-sculpting contest, part of her hometown’s Christmas festival, has been canceled, she springs into action. Determined to keep it going, she enlists sponsors and artists. Nick, the town’s ace artisan, isn’t interested in competing this year, but Emma wants him as her teammate. Considering what she’s managed to accomplish, Nick is impressed and signs on. As Emma and Nick work together, she realizes there’s more to life than legal briefs. And transformed by Emma’s can-do spirit, Nick is invigorated, too. They just might have a shot at winning this very special Christmas contest — and a lot more.

MISS CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 5, 8/7c
Stars: Brooke D’Orsay, Marc Blucas
Holly Kuhn (D’Orsay) is on her annual mission of finding a majestic specimen for The National Tree. While searching for the perfect Christmas fir for the Washington, D.C. Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony, Holly receives a letter from a boy detailing why his town boasts the most beautiful evergreen. Holly travels to the boy’s quaint New England town, where she meets his handsome uncle, Sam McCary (Blucas). Sam owns the land from which it grows and is a protective steward. It holds such deep meaning for Sam that he’s not about to let it be chopped down even for such an honor. Still, Holly finds herself falling for Sam, and they discover the magic that this perfect tree can bring, just in time for the holidays.

THE SWEETEST CHRISTMAS 
Premieres: Nov. 11, 8/7c
Stars: Lacey Chabert, Lea Coco, Jonathan Adams
When struggling pastry chef Kylie Watson (Chabert) learns she’s made it to the finals of the American Gingerbread Competition, she thinks her competitive spirit has finally paid off and hopes the publicity will help her jumpstart her new café. There’s just one problem — the oven she’s supposed to use breaks down right before the contest. Determined to enter, she reaches out to Nick Mazannti (Coco), her old boyfriend from culinary school who gave up his dream of being a pastry chef to take over his family’s pizzeria. Nick allows her to use his industrial pizza oven at night to craft her ambitious gingerbread confections. As the two reminisce about the dreams of their youth, their romance is rekindled. But just as Kylie is on the cusp of taking the grand prize — and embracing true love — things get complicated when her ex-boyfriend takes drastic steps to win her back. Kylie realizes she must embrace the Christmas Spirit or risk losing both the contest and her new love.

ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 12, 8/7c
Stars: Alexa PenaVega, Carlos PenaVega
Weeks before Christmas, interior designer Laura is sent to her hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico to remodel a landmark hotel. As Laura is kept busy with the renovations, her 8-year-old daughter Nicole is introduced to the art of salsa dancing at a local dance studio. Laura is surprised to find that the studio’s owner is Ricardo, her old high school sweetheart and former salsa dance partner. When Laura and Ricardo reconnect, sparks fly on and off the dance floor. The beautiful Christmas traditions of New Mexico become the backdrop for spirited dancing and unexpected romance.

COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 18, 8/7c
Stars: Danica McKellar, Neal Bledsoe
Allie Richfield is at a crossroads when she lands a job as house manager for the exquisite Ashford Estate in the Virginia countryside. While preparing the place for sale, Allie plans one final Christmas Eve gala for the Marley family, though they seem to be a family in name only. There’s Kip Marley, who never met a party he didn’t like; Robert, the handsome but all-business executor of the estate; Sloane, who arrives with her two young children, sans husband, and the 90-year-old matriarch, Pippa, a spitfire who doesn’t want to put the house up for sale at all. As Allie is inserted into the home and the lives of the Marley family, she finds herself drawn to Robert — even as Kip pursues her. Can she navigate her suddenly complicated love life, while helping mend family feuds and maybe teaching all the true spirit of Christmas?

A GIFT TO REMEMBER
Premieres: Nov. 19, 8/7c
Stars: Ali Liebert, Peter Porte, Tina Lifford
An accident between a sweet bookshop worker and a handsome stranger leaves him without his memory. Determined to help him figure out who he is, she finds herself stepping outside of her comfort zone. In the process, she discovers taking risks can sometimes lead to the greatest rewards.

WITH LOVE, CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 22, 8/7c
Stars: Emilie Ullerup, Aaron O’Connell
Ad executive Melanie is teamed up with uptight coworker Donovan to come up with the ultimate Christmas commercial for a new cell phone. To complicate matters, Donovan is also Melanie’s Secret Santa recipient. When Donovan mistakenly assumes another co-worker is his Secret Santa, Melanie must work to show him that she’s the only Santa for him.

THE MISTLETOE INN
Premieres: Nov. 23, 8/7c
Stars: Alicia Witt, David Alpay, Casey Manderson
When aspiring romance novelist Kim Rossi is unceremoniously dumped by her soon-to-be-published romance novelist boyfriend, Kim takes stock and decides to take a leap. She signs up for a romance writing retreat at a quaint Vermont Inn shortly before Christmas, where a top romance novelist is scheduled to attend and read the work of one lucky writer. Shortly after arriving, she crosses paths with Zeke, whom she initially finds to be intrusive and, naturally, ends up being her assignment partner. Worse yet, her ex is also at the retreat. Despite these bumps in the road, Kim steps outside her comfort zone and plunges into the writing exercises, surprising herself. Equally unexpected is the attraction that seems to be building between her and Zeke that promises to take her down a road she never imagined traveling. Based on the book by Richard Paul Evans.

FINDING SANTA
Premieres: Nov. 24, 8/7c
Stars: Jodie Sweetin
Jessica was delighted to start running her New England town’s Christmas events after her mom died. The main event is the parade on Christmas Day when the jolly man in red greets the crowd. For the last 30 years, Henry, owner of a famous Santa School, played St. Nick. When Henry falls ill, and everyone else he has trained is already booked, Jessica’s in a predicament. The only possible replacement is Henry’s son, Ben, an Uber driver who never wanted to follow in his father big black leather boots. Desperate, Jessica sets off 200 miles north to find Ben and lures him to town by hiring him to drive her back. The trek is daunting; the real Kris Kringle makes it around the world easier than Ben and Jessica on their return. Still, once Ben dons the red suit, he feels the spirit of Christmas — and soon begins to realize he may have found the new, real-life Mrs. Claus.

THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN
Premieres: Saturday November 25th, 8/7c
Stars: Dermot Mulroney, Danny Glover, Joan Cusack, Kimberly Williams-Paisley
David Baldacci’s No. 1 New York Times bestseller comes to Hallmark Hall of Fame: A journalist embarks on a cross-country train ride at Christmas having no idea this journey will take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart as he rediscovers people’s goodness, holiday magic, and a love he thought he’d lost.

Note: I am especially excited about this one since this book has been on my reading list for a YEAR now!

SWITCHED FOR CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 26, 8/7c
Stars: Candace Cameron Bure
Just because they are identical does not mean these twins even like each other. Estranged twin sisters get together for an obligatory pre-Christmas lunch, a year after their mother died. Both women are unhappy and frustrated with their own lives. Though not close, each is envious of the other’s life. What’s a twin to do but take advantage of this? And who would be the wiser? They do what any identical twins in need of new outlooks would do — they swap lives until Christmas Day. And by doing so, each woman discovers the true meaning of her life and gains a deeper perspective and appreciation for what she already had.

CHRISTMAS IN EVERGREEN
Premieres: Dec. 2, 8/7c
Starring Ashley Williams, Holly Robinson Peete, Barbara Niven, and Teddy Sears

Snow globes can have a magical, mesmerizing sway over those who concentrate on them. No one knows that better than residents of Evergreen, Vermont. In this bucolic burg, where families have lived for generations and take care of each other, there’s a belief that if you wish upon the snow globe in the local café, that wish will come true. The only catch is the wish must be completely sincere. When the town veterinarian wishes that this will be her most romantic Christmas ever, she figures that will happen with her longtime beau. Stranded in an airport, she befriends a businessman and his daughter, who had made her own wish on the snow globe. The magical Christmas they share turns out to be more than anyone wished for.

CHRISTMAS AT HOLLY LODGE
Premieres: Dec. 3, 8/7c
Starring: Alison Sweeney
Sophie Bennett begins a new holiday tradition of spending every holiday at the Evergreen Inn and Ski Lodge, which she inherited from her parents. Evergreen Inn is a special place filled with people who cannot make it home for the holidays or who have had such wonderful experiences that it has become their home-away-from-holiday-home. This Christmas, Sophie will meet an unforgettable family, and her own life will be forever changed.

CHRISTMAS ENCORE 
Premieres: Dec. 9, 8/7c
Stars: Maggie Lawson, Brennan Elliott
A struggling actress is cast in her last off (off) Broadway show – a modern take on “A Christmas Carol” – before giving up her dream and moving home. Instead, she finds romance with her director and a renewed passion for her craft and the city. But when the historic theater loses its lease and the show is set to fold, she and her cast mates are need of a Christmas miracle.

THE CHRISTMAS SHOP
Premieres: Dec. 10, 8/7c
Anna works for a New York City real estate development company that is trying to buy an old building in a prime location, hoping to flip the property for a profit. Unfortunately, there is one tenant holding out—-the owner of an old-fashioned Christmas shop. Anna has been hoping for a way to step up in her job, and finally she’s been given the golden opportunity to take point on this assignment. Anna approaches the Christmas Shop’s handsome owner, Michael, who is not only protective of his family’s legacy but appreciates what the holiday means to everyone. But with sinking profits, Michael finally gives in to Anna’s attempts to change his mind. Anna will spend one week working in the store, and after that, if she doesn’t realize why this shop is so important, they can talk. When Anna’s company finds out about what’s going on and her career is on the line, she is forced to make a choice, one that will change her forever and make this one of the best Christmases she has ever had.

FATHER CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Dec. 16, 8/7c
Work-obsessed Eric Randall, chief technology officer of a major tech company in Kansas City, is laid off two weeks before Christmas. Divorced and the father of three, this will be Eric’s first Christmas alone with the kids. His ex-wife, Marie, encourages Eric to postpone a job search and instead make Christmas a true family holiday. Unfortunately, he’s better with computers than children. With baby Max strapped into a backpack, Eric is determined to build a sled with son Liam, no small feat for the math-challenged boy. Eric also gets roped into volunteering at daughter Chelsea’s junior cotillion class. At least her teacher, Kate Moore, is lovely. Kate teaches Eric some dance moves, and Eric realizes he’s avoided relationships by burying himself in work. Though enthralled with all old-fashioned romance, Kate finds a lot to like in this digital-age dad while Eric learns that family time does not need to be restricted to Christmas.

CHRISTMAS CONNECTION
Premieres: Dec. 17, 8/7c
It’s not easy being Henry, the only child of divorced parents. Every Christmas, he’s flown cross-country to be with his dad. Because he’s 8, a flight attendant looks after him from gate-to-gate. Henry instantly takes to the engaging Megan, who wears a Santa hat while helping him write a letter to the jolly guy. Megan promises to mail it to the North Pole, but slips the note to Henry’s dad. Henry has already decided Megan and his dad would be a great couple. And with all of the sophistication of a little boy, he tries setting them up. It turns out that Megan has no plans for Christmas dinner. Naturally, Henry invites her over, giving the adults a chance to see that they are perfect for each other.

CHRISTMAS GETAWAY
Premieres: Dec. 23, 8/7c
Travel writer Emory has never had a traditional Christmas. Although her free spirit makes her the perfect travel writer, a surprising breakup with her boyfriend takes her personal life back to square one. Hoping to spend the holiday relaxing and recovering, Emory takes the picturesque Christmas vacation planned for the two of them, alone. Through a mix up on the rental site – or maybe a little Christmas magic – Emory is forced to share the cabin with a handsome widower, his young daughter, and mother-in-law. What begins as an annoying inconvenience blooms into a romance she never knew was possible, and a Christmas they will cherish forever.

A ROYAL NEW YEAR’S EVE
Premieres: Dec. 30, 8/7c
That first kiss of the New Year is special: It’s supposed to signify that special person with whom we’ll spend the next year, and possibly, forever. So it’s wise not to squander those affections. When everyone else just puckers up to the nearest set of lips, Robin has always kept her wits — and her mouth — to herself. An established photographer at a lifestyle website, she’s assigned to work on a New Year’s Eve story with a new hire, Todd. When she confides in Todd that she has never kissed anyone as the clock strikes midnight, he sets about to correct this, by finding someone for Robin to kiss at the magic hour. His theory is a kiss is just a kiss, and she should enjoy the moment. Ultimately, they are both right. Todd finds a man for her to smooch, and Robin does find the right man. And guess who fits the bill?

BBC: ‘The Hate U Give’.

OOoOoOoOoOooooOOO – It’s Friday the 13th! I woke up this morning with my right eye crying and when I looked in the mirror, it was incredibly red. So, I threw on some clothes and went to an urgency care clinic. They basically told me it was just irritated- no pink eye or virus – so I naturally spent $100 for nothing. But hey, better safe than sorry?!

This is the first weekend in a month that I don’t have anything solid on my schedule, which is an awesome feeling and a scary one all at the same time. I foresee some crafting in my future (be on the lookout if you’re following my Etsy store), some reading, cooking, and I definitely have some dance rehearsal I need to get to. You see how these weekends of “nothing” can quickly turn into something?

Anywho, let’s talk about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

I heard about this book on one of my favorite podcasts, “What Should I Read Next?” It was there I learned that yes, this book was inspired by Trayvon Martin’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Tupac’s tattoo “THUG LIFE”.

This is categorized as a YA novel, but it obviously touches on some mature subjects that have since trickled into the lives of young ones.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know by now that equality across cultures, systematic racism, the prison cycle, and Black Lives Matter are my political hot-button issue. I may work in abortion care, but racial injustice is what keeps me up at night.

Needless to say, I had to read this book.

This story was almost like we were getting to see Trayvon’s story from another side. While there were no eye-witnesses to his murder aside from the person who killed him, he was on a phone with a female friend. Starr, in this case, is that female friend. And just like Starr, Trayvon’s friend was put on the witness’ stand, and her words were minced and examined as if they would hold a clue as to why someone would do this to Trayvon, or in Starr’s case, Khalil.

It takes a toll on all involved, and it certainly affects a community. This book shows that from all angles, and at times, it’s gut-wrenching.

I would definitely recommend this book to ANYONE, but I know not everyone feels the way I do about this issue. However, if you have any interest in seeing it from another side, this might just be the book for you.

The next book we’ll be reading is “The Identicals” by Elin Hilderbrand.

I hope y’all have a great weekend!!

Watching: ‘Battle of the Sexes’.

Just saw this movie!

After seeing the previews several times, I saw “Battle of the Sexes” on opening night. While I’m not a sports’ buff, I AM an Emma Stone fan, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this movie isn’t reaallllly about sports.

The movie revolves around a real-life tennis match (that turns out to be an all-out war) between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).

Bobby Riggs, a tennis player, but also a well-known gambler, is determined to show a newly-formed women’s tennis league what’s up when he challenges the #1 female player to a match. The winner takes $100,000.

But for the women, it’s about more than the money. It’s about getting equal pay, especially after they stopped competing against men (who were offered more than six times what women were offered). King wanted to win to show women they could earn equal pay, and to show men that women could draw a crowd and be equal-competitors.

But in 1973, more than just equal pay was at stake for King. She was falling in love with a woman behind the scenes of her big dual.

This movie was touching, and at times sad. We’ve come so far in some ways, but in some ways we haven’t. King didn’t want to come out: she was married to a man she obviously loved, and after all, what would people think of her if she admitted her true feelings?

Emma Stone does a superb job emulating King, and I’d venture to say Sarah Silverman has a breakout role as the women’s team manager, comically getting them a cigarette sponsorship.

Definitely a movie worth seeing, even if you already know who wins the big game 🙂

In other news, I’ve added two new items to the Etsy shop and will be adding more items throughout the week! I have also been making SO many of the Holly Golightly Sleep Masks – if you’re looking for a relevant, easy costume, this might just be the accessory you need for Halloween!

BBC: ‘The Language of Flowers’.

Happy Friday! I’m extra, EXTRA excited for this weekend to begin because my best friend is on a plane as I type this – she’ll be in Austin real soon! We’ve got a fun weekend ahead basically tackling my ATX bucket list, including the bats (!), a solid hike, and Austin City Limits. Wahoooooo!

But, before the fun begins, there’s another type of fun to be had: another installment of Blanche’s Book Club! Our latest read is “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Here’s the description from Amazon:

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

I heard about this book on a podcast I love (“What Should I Read Next”), and I immediately knew this was going to strike a chord with me. Having volunteered with CASA for three years, I learned a lot about the foster care system and what it’s like for the children in it.

The character Victoria brings some spice to the situation and she’s determined to take a different path – even more different than the one she’s been on. She creates her own way, and she’s damn good at it. There’s even a little bit of a love story in there. A great read!

The next book we’re reading is “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

‘Siesta Key’: ‘Juliette’s Midsummer Dream’.

Ugh…

Clever, MTV, real clever with the Shakespeare titles… but YOU GUYS… this was the season finale! I had a hunch it might be, but when I checked the TV guide for the coming weeks, there’s not even repeat episodes on. MTV is dunzo!

Anyway, let’s get into it! The episode starts with Kelsey talking to her mom about what went down between Garrett and Juliette the night before (at Pauley Paul’s concert). Her mom acts concerned, but I know deep down, she probably gives zero shits because the entire reason Kelsey is IN Siesta Key is to help her and she really has done none of that. Just a guess…

Madisson goes to visit Alex at the boat dock and they take a ride and talk about the much-anticipated Julth 4th bash, but Alex is pretty worried about his school status. Alex also gives this weird monologue about how he respects the environment in the water and how important it is to preserve what they have… yet he was also caught shooting sharks?

Madisson asks if he’s going to invite Kelsey to his party; he says yes, but they have nothing in common. It’s a good thing she dumped Garrett for him! Madisson and Alex start going on and on about how great Siesta Key is, and Kelsey just doesn’t understand that since she wants to leave and go to New York. Le sigh.

Juliette is with some of her friends at the pool and she admits she started flirting with Garrett out of spite, but NOW she really likes him and she could see herself being with him. Literally, one of the girls just sits there and says “Exactly” about three times and she KNOWS she’s got her lines right. You go Glen Coco!

Across town, Pauley Paul stops by Chloe’s apartment to thank her for supporting his show the night before. He also offers up a seemingly genuine apology to her. He also says that every single day he looks for ways to better himself – LOLZ.

But Chloe keeps it real (she IS the Clapback Queen) and says she needs to remove toxic people from her life and unfortunately, Pauley Paul is toxic.

Alex is having a conversation with his mom in her closet. Really, she deserves a round of applause for this entire scene – her closet is impeccable, and she’s wearing this fringe cropped top while her hair is up in rollers. She asks Alex about Kelsey and she’s all, “I meant to ask you how your date went but I just hadn’t bumped into you yet.” #MansionProblems

Before the party, Juliette and Chloe are trying to figure out what swimsuits to wear. Chloe already has hers picked – a sheer one-piece that has stars over the nipples. LOVE. The gang shows up at Alex’s… but Garrett makes an entrance when he arrives late and Juliette does a “Baywatch”-style run to his side.

Garrett and Kelsey have an awkward conversation about what she’s been up to. He’s all like “My website launches this week”, and it’s super weird when she asks if the video he made with Juliette is going to be on it.

Later, Pauley Paul tells Chloe she looks like a beached whale. So she grabs her things and jumps in a car to head home.

No one knows why she left or where she went, until Amanda pipes up and makes it clear that Chloe left because of Pauley Paul’s fat jokes. Pauley Paul continues to call Chloe fat and the group tells him they’re sick of it.

On the beach, Alex makes it clear to Kelsey that he’s not interested in dating her. She agrees and is defensively like, “Uh, I’m not trying to date you either!” Hmm…

The next day, Alex and Madisson are picking up trash on the beach. “Gotta give back when you can,” Alex says. Yet another clearly fake scene set up by MTV to make Alex not seems like a horrible human. Alex asks Madisson if she ever could see them getting back together – he likes how well she gets along with his family. He literally says he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Ha!

Later, Juliette talks to Garrett and he admits he’s still coping with baggage from Kelsey. Juliette says they need to stop “focusing on other people.” Then Brandon tells Madisson that he made a playlist of songs that remind him of her – and he busts out the Shawn Mendes like a baller. She tells him about what Alex said, and she also says she sees a better future with him (Brandon). Aww!

And THEN, Kelsey and Garrett meet… and they tell each other that they still love each other. Garrett asks if they should give it another shot…and then there’s this series of really dramatic scenes where Chloe is alone on the dock and she ignores a call from Pauley Paul, and then Juliette is alone floating in her pool, Garret is running alone, and Kelsey is walking on the beach alone… and then it says “Two months later…” with a shot of Alex completely banged up with a giant bandage on his head and then it says, “To be continued…”

SECOND SEASON!!!

But seriously, it’s been a little TOO much fun writing these recaps. I kind of ended up loving this show! I hope you enjoyed the recaps, too 🙂

BBC: ‘My Life in France’.

When it rains, it sure does pour. I know I have vaguely referenced a family emergency I dealt with last week, and frankly, I’m have a really difficult time getting through each day. I’m not big on prayer, but if you are, I’d appreciate some strength and peace my way. I could use good vibes, too.

One day, I’ll get around to writing what’s on my mind, but right now, I’m still just too upset. Thank you so much.

Today, I want to talk about my latest read, “My Life in France” by Julia Child. This book has been on my list for quite awhile, and one day when I didn’t have any library reserves to pick up, I just browsed the shelves and saw that it was there!

I wasn’t sure what to expect reading this book… but the truth is, I LOVED IT! Here’s the description from Amazon:

The bestselling story of Julia’s years in France—and the basis for Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams—in her own words.

Although she would later singlehandedly create a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, Julia Child was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Julia’s unforgettable story—struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took the Childs across the globe—unfolds with the spirit so key to Julia’s success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of America’s most endearing personalities.

I thought it was so cool that Julia didn’t really find her calling until she was in her mid-to-late thirties. Once she found it, she certainly conquered it! She wrote one of the most popular cookbooks of all time, and was given a TV show before TV was even widespread!

I really loved hearing the stories about her cat, “Minuette” (I believe that’s how she spelled it) – there were pictures of the cat, too. She would get scraps from the butcher to feed it and it would growl at animal bones!

“These were the Top Secret Confidential censored pages: our revolutionary recipes for holiandaise, mayonnaise, and buerre blanc.”

Julia and her co-authors kept their recipes top secret because of all the work, research, and testing that went into them. Even though it was recipes for French cooking, they asked for help in the US to get measurements and consistencies right.

“I apologized to the neighbor, and bought little rubber caps for the legs of our chairs, stools, and tables, plus some real French house slippers so that Paul and I could shuffle about life an old bourgeouis couple.”

I simply loved the way this book was written – definitely recommending it to my foodies!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

I’m off to San Antonio this weekend, and I’m hoping I can catch a bit of a distraction from…well, everything.

Thanks again for respecting my space to vent and write and hopefully find inner-peace.

BBC: Fall Reading Guide.

It’s still 95 degrees in Texas, but it’s been officially fall for five days now! There’s no time like the present to round up a good stack of books for the season, and luckily for you, I’ve taken the guess-work out of that task.

I don’t have much strategy when it comes to reading books for the book club – in general, I just read the book that comes up next on my reserve list at the library. But I think the fall season calls for good mysteries, maybe even a few thrillers, and anything that’s going to offer an escape.

I’ve researched on reading lists, publishing schedules, blogs, and Instagram accounts. So, I’ve made a list of the best of the best (at least in my opinion) for your fall reading. Here goes…

*Note: these are listed in no particular order.

“The Blackbird Season” by Kate Moretti

I’ve had this title written down ever since I saw it and it’s description listed on a book blog. I’m anxiously awaiting its arrival at the library! Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing.

“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”

In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.

Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life.

And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate. Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.

Told from the alternating points of view of Alecia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget, The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists and turns.

“There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins

This one’s for the thrill-lovers… official description: It’s been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she’s still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii.

Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.

Stephanie Perkins, bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss, returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng  

Who knew Reese Witherspoon had a bookclub? Apparently she does and this is one of her picks, which I’m guessing means it’s going to be a movie? We’ll see. Here’s the scoop from Amazon:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

 

“Something Like Happy” by Eva Woods

Another find from a book blog, and this one sounds so good (and fitting)! Here’s the description for “Something Like Happy” from Amazon.com:

Annie Hebden is stuck. Stuck in her boring job, with her irritating roommate, in a life no thirty-five-year-old would want. But deep down, Annie is still mourning the terrible loss that tore a hole through the perfect existence she’d once taken for granted—and hiding away is safer than remembering what used to be. Until she meets the eccentric Polly Leonard.

Bright, bubbly, intrusive Polly is everything Annie doesn’t want in a friend. But Polly is determined to finally wake Annie up to life. Because if recent events have taught Polly anything, it’s that your time is too short to waste a single day—which is why she wants Annie to join her on a mission…

One hundred days. One hundred new ways to be happy. Annie’s convinced it’s impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey that will force her to open herself to new experiences—and perhaps even new love with the unlikeliest of men—Annie will slowly begin to realize that maybe, just maybe, there’s still joy to be found in the world. But then it becomes clear that Polly’s about to need her new friend more than ever…and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking.

“The Visitors” by Catherine Burns

This one sounds creepyyyyy…

With the smart suspense of Emma Donoghue’s Room and the atmospheric claustrophobia ofGrey Gardens, Catherine Burns’s debut novel explores the complex truths we are able to keep hidden from ourselves and the twisted realities that can lurk beneath even the most serene of surfaces.

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother John in a crumbling mansion on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to live by John’s rules, even if it means turning a blind eye to the noises she hears coming from behind the cellar door…and turning a blind eye to the women’s laundry in the hamper that isn’t hers. For years, she’s buried the signs of John’s devastating secret into the deep recesses of her mind—until the day John is crippled by a heart attack, and Marion becomes the only one whose shoulders are fit to bear his secret. Forced to go down to the cellar and face what her brother has kept hidden, Marion discovers more about herself than she ever thought possible. As the truth is slowly unraveled, we finally begin to understand: maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side….

“Lie to Me” by JT Ellison

I’m all for a good mystery… here’s the description for “Lie to Me“.

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

“When We Were Worthy” by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Fall is for football and high school stories, right? “When We Were Worthy” sounds like the perfect combination. Here’s the scoop:

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

“The Future She Left Behind” by Marin Thomas 

Cheating husband + Texas? Yep, I’m in! Here’s the description for “The Future She Left Behind“.

Cast aside by her cheating husband, Katelyn Chandler is ready to pack it all in and drive home to Little Springs, Texas. She wants a chance to regroup, reconnect with her mother, and get back to her art.

But Shirley Pratt—master manipulator, elitist snob, and Katelyn’s terror of a live-in monster-in-law—has other ideas. Shirley insists on joining Katelyn’s trip after her son tries to pack her off to a retirement community. Katelyn has no choice but to play peacekeeper between the ornery old woman and the proud matrons of Little Springs. Yet the small town seems to be changing Shirley. And as Katelyn weighs the wisdom of picking up where she left off with Jackson Mendoza, the town bad boy and her high school sweetheart, she must find a way to believe in the strength of her dreams.

“The Best Kind of People” by Zoe Whittal

The Woodburys cherish life in the affluent, bucolic suburb of Avalon Hills, Connecticut. George is a beloved science teacher at the local prep school, a hero who once thwarted a gunman, and his wife, Joan, is a hardworking ER nurse. They have brought up their children in this thriving town of wooded yards and sprawling lakes.

Then one night a police car pulls up to the Woodbury home and George is charged with sexual misconduct with students from his daughter’s school. As he sits in prison awaiting trial and claiming innocence, Joan vaults between denial and rage as friends and neighbors turn cold. Their daughter, seventeen-year-old Sadie, is a popular high school senior who becomes a social outcast—and finds refuge in an unexpected place. Her brother, Andrew, a lawyer in New York, returns home to support the family, only to confront unhappy memories from his past. A writer tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist group attempts to recruit Sadie for their cause.

Provocative and unforgettable, The Best Kind of People reveals the cracks along the seams of even the most perfect lives and the unraveling of an American family.

“The Futures” by Anna Pitoniak

As I said – fall is for school stories, and I have to admit, I am a sucker for Yale University. When I was in college at LSU, I admired one of the first college sex columnists, who wrote for Yale’s paper. So when I saw the description for “The Futures“, I knew this was a perfect pick! Here’s what’s up:

Julia and Evan fall in love as undergraduates at Yale. For Evan, a scholarship student from a rural Canadian town, Yale is a whole new world, and Julia–blond, beautiful, and rich–fits perfectly into the future he’s envisioned for himself. After graduation, and on the eve of the great financial meltdown of 2008, they move together to New York City, where Evan lands a job at a hedge fund. But Julia, whose privileged upbringing grants her an easy but wholly unsatisfying job with a nonprofit, feels increasingly shut out of Evan’s secretive world.

With the market crashing and banks failing, Evan becomes involved in a high-stakes deal at work–a deal that, despite the assurances of his Machiavellian boss, begins to seem more than slightly suspicious. Meanwhile, Julia reconnects with someone from her past who offers a glimpse of a different kind of live. As the economy craters, and as Evan and Julia spin into their separate orbits, they each find that they are capable of much more–good and bad–than they’d ever imagined.

Rich in suspense and insight, Anna Pitoniak’s gripping debut reveals the fragile yet enduring nature of our connections: to one another and to ourselves. THE FUTURES is a glittering story of a couple coming of age, and a searing portrait of what it’s like to be young and full of hope in New York City, a place that so often seems determined to break us down–but ultimately may be the very thing that saves us.

“The Secrets of Roscarbury Hall” by Ann O’loughlin

The sound of this book is regal, which I love – there’s villages, cafes, and SECRETS! Whoooo! Here’s the description for “The Secrets of Roscarbury Hall“:

In a crumbling mansion in a small Irish village in County Wicklow, two elderly sisters, Ella and Roberta O’Callaghan, live alone in Roscarbury Hall with their secrets, memories, and mutual hatred. Long estranged by a dark family tragedy, the two communicate only by terse notes. But when the sisters are threatened with bankruptcy, Ella defies Roberta’s wishes and takes matters into her own hands, putting her baking skills to good use and converting the mansion’s old ballroom into a café.

Much to Roberta’s displeasure, the café is a hit and the sisters are reluctantly drawn back into the village life they abandoned decades ago. But gossip has a long life, and Ella finds herself reliving painful memories when Debbie, an American woman searching for her birth mother, begins working at the café. As the local convent comes under scrutiny, the O’Callaghan sisters find themselves caught up in an adoption scandal that dates back to the 1960s and spreads all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Only by overcoming their enmity and facing up to the past can they face the future together—but can they finally put their differences behind them? An emotionally rich story with flashes of humor, gossip, and tragedy, The Secrets of Roscarbury Hall is a moving debut novel of love both lost and found.

Skyhorse Publishing, as well as our Arcade, Yucca, and Good Books imprints, are proud to publish a broad range of books for readers interested in fiction—novels, novellas, political and medical thrillers, comedy, satire, historical fiction, romance, erotic and love stories, mystery, classic literature, folklore and mythology, literary classics including Shakespeare, Dumas, Wilde, Cather, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Timesbestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

“Best Day Ever” by Kaira Rouda

I saw “Best Day Ever” on the Instagram account @booksonthesubway (check it out for book recs) and it sounded so creepy! Here’s the scoop:

Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?

“Surviving Cyril” by Ramsey Hootman

This is another book I saw on @booksonthesubway – it sounded so real and different, I just had to add it to the list. Here’s the scoop for “Surviving Cyril“:

When Robin Matheson’s husband is killed in Afghanistan, she finds herself suddenly alone: an outsider in a community grieving for the hometown hero it never really knew. Though the thought of spending the rest of her life without Tavis is exhausting, Robin has no choice but to pull herself together for the sake of their son. She finds some satisfaction in cutting ties with Tav’s obnoxious best friend, Cyril—a 500-pound hacker who didn’t even bother to come to the funeral.

Unfortunately, her three-year-old decides Cyril is now his best buddy, and Robin can’t bear to take anything else away from her son. A few hot dogs and video games won’t do any permanent damage… right?

Cyril doesn’t magically transform into a good person—or even a decent one—but he does prove to be a better role model than Robin expected. Gradually, she also begins to realize that Cyril may be the one person who truly understands the magnitude of her loss.

He also knows far more about her husband’s death than he’s been letting on.

“I’ll Have What She’s Having” by Erin Carlson

I saw this book on another good Instagram account for book recs, @anniebjones05 – she is an indie bookstore owner and is always reading something good. Here’s the description for “I’ll Have What She’s Having“:

In I’ll Have What She’s Having entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. With a cast of famous faces including Rob Reiner, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and Billy Crystal, Carlson takes readers on a rollicking, revelatory trip to Ephron’s New York City, where reality took a backseat to romance and Ephron–who always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it–ruled the set with an attention to detail that made her actors feel safe but sometimes exasperated crew members.

Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. Carlson also explores countless other questions Ephron’s fans have wondered about: What sparked Reiner to snap out of his bachelor blues during the making of When Harry Met Sally? Why was Ryan, a gifted comedian trapped in the body of a fairytale princess, not the first choice for the role? After she and Hanks each separatel balked at playing Mail’s Kathleen Kelly and Sleepless‘ Sam Baldwin, what changed their minds? And perhaps most importantly: What was Dave Chappelle doing … in a turtleneck? An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.

“The Child Finder” by Rene Denfeld

Yet another pick I found on Instagram (I look everywhere for books, y’all)! Here’s the description for “The Child Finder“:

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative child, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.

…And there you have it! 15 awesome books to read this fall… better get to it!

PS. The premier of the new season of “Will & Grace” is tomorrow and I’m SO EXCITED! If you’re fan-girling today, check out an oldie-but-goodie post I wrote, “Will & Grace: The best of…” which talks about my favorite episode from each season.

See you guys tomorrow!

‘Siesta Key’: Episode 9.

All piled into Alex;s house, of course…

Whoop! We’re another episode into this (assumingly) fictional drama. The TV guide, and my DVR showed no title for this episode, which was really disheartening. Come on, MTV!

Anyway, let’s get into it! Right off the bat, Juliett and Kelsey are going at it since Juliett took it upon herself about Kelsey and Alex hooking up in last week”s episode. Basically, Juliett says she’s not sorry for telling him the TRUTH – but thanks for stopping by!

Pauly Paul is still recovering from his trip to jail and Alex’s dad is giving him a lecture about where his life is going – because he’s going to keep ending up in jail. However, Pauly Paul says he doesn’t really want to quit smoking weed – instead, he learned not to put it in his car. Mmmkkay.

Later, Chloe and Kelsey are working together and talking about the issue with Juliett. Chloe doesn’t back down and is all, well what do you expect? Your actions have consequences… Yikes.

The group gathers at the beach, and this is where Juliett and Garrett start to get a little closer and he asks her on a date. Nooooooo…

Meanwhile, Madisson and Brandon are getting a little closer and are just about ready to have “the talk”. But Alex is having a difficult time letting her go… He was openly flirting with her at a BBQ, right in front of Kelsey.

Alex and Pauly Paul visit Chloe at work, and she is not happy to see them. Pauly Paul invites her to come to his “Summer in Siesta Key” concert, and Chloe fires back with, “And WHY would I want to do that?” She continues to shut them down with why she is upset and also adds a little bit of, “I do have to work, I’m not a trust fund baby…”

BOOM.

Garrett and Kelsey seem to be getting along great on their date, and she asks him to go to Pauly Paul’s concert with her. He says yes, even though Kelsey is going to be there. Oh boy…

At the concert, even Chloe arrives, and everyone is wondering if Juliett and Garrett really like each other, or if both of them are just out for revenge.

Despite being told twice how the mic works, Pauly Paul didn’t listen and messed up the audio to his songs. He ended up running to his car and crying… And walking off when his friends tried to offer him comfort and assure him he still did a good job.

Chloe convinces him to come back inside and have some fun, so he does. Meanwhile, Kelsey confronts Garrett outside about him kissing Juliett right in front of her, and he’s all “Well at least I waited until after we were broken up to do anything!”

Buuurrnnn….

I have a feeling we’re nearing the end of the season, so this should be an interesting wrap up in these next few episodes (I’m not sure how many are left.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see!