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BBC: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’.

Happy Saturday! I went to two yoga classes right after work yesterday and slept in this morning… I’m feeling rested. I even made some homemade cranberry sauce (with a lil orange zest) for a Friendsgiving I’m going to this evening. The holidays are here!

I also finished reading the latest book from Blanche’s Book Club: “Dear Evan Hansen” by Val Emmich. Here’s the book description from Amazon:

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

I didn’t really know much about this book before reading it; I’d heard people say the Broadway musical was great, but that’s all I knew. From the book’s description, it sounds like the book was written after the musical (but I could be wrong).

It took me a little while to get into this book – it took a turn I didn’t expect. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t LOVE it. It reminded me a little of “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda“, although I think “Simon” is a much better read.

However, I do think it’s an interesting take on the things we do for others (or perhaps for ourselves) and it also touched on a fresh side of dealing with grief.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves YA novels, and to anyone who’s kept secrets to please someone else.

The next book I’m reading is “Blood, Bones, and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton – I wanted to read something foodie over the Thanksgiving holiday.

I do have to work next week, but I’m definitely looking forward to a long weekend… and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

As everyone gears up for the holidays, I’m planning some fun blog posts (including some unique gift guides), so stay tuned. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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BBC: ‘Rush’.

 

Hey everyone – you made it through week #1 of the time change! I keep hearing people talk about it, and I feel like this is the first year it really seems off – I am a little more tired at earlier hours… and it’s still a little more difficult to get out of bed.

And it doesn’t help that pets just don’t understand time changes! Poor Blanche is ready to go to bed much earlier, and I have yet to change the clock on her automatic feeder, so her food drops at a whopping 5am!

Speaking of Blanche, Blanche’s Book Club read a GOODIE this week! I’m talking about “Rush” by Lisa Patton. Before I go any further, here is the book’s description from Lisa Patton’s website:

Set in modern day Oxford, Mississippi, on the Ole Miss campus, bestselling author Lisa Patton’s RUSH is a story about women―from both ends of the social ladder―discovering their voices and their empowerment.

When Lilith Whitmore, the well-heeled House Corp President of Alpha Delta Beta, one of the premiere sororities on campus, appoints recent empty-nester Wilda to the Rush Advisory Board, Wilda can hardly believe her luck. What’s more, Lilith suggests their daughters, both incoming freshman, room together. What Wilda doesn’t know is that it’s all part of Lilith’s plan to ensure her own daughter receives an Alpha Delt bid―no matter what.
 
Cali Watkins possesses all the qualities sororities are looking for in a potential new member. She’s kind and intelligent, makes friends easily, even plans to someday run for governor. But her resume lacks a vital ingredient. Pedigree. Without family money Cali’s chances of sorority membership are already thin, but she has an even bigger problem. If anyone discovers the dark family secrets she’s hiding, she’ll be dropped from Rush in an instant.
 
For twenty-five years, Miss Pearl―as her “babies” like to call her―has been housekeeper and a second mother to the Alpha Delt girls, even though it reminds her of a painful part of her past she’ll never forget. When an opportunity for promotion arises, it seems a natural fit. But Lilith Whitmore slams her Prada heel down fast, crushing Miss Pearl’s hopes of a better future. When Wilda and the girls find out, they devise a plan destined to change Alpha Delta Beta―and maybe the entire Greek system―forever.
 
Achingly poignant, yet laugh-out-loud funny, RUSH takes a sharp nuanced look at a centuries-old tradition while exploring the complex, intimate relationships between mothers and daughters and female friends. Brimming with heart and hope for a better tomorrow, RUSH is an uplifting novel universal to us all.

I added this book to my reading list after seeing it on Kathleen Barnes’ (from “Carrie Bradshaw Lied” Instagram account. She went to Ole Miss, and as I went to LSU, I figured this one would be a good one.I was also in a sorority and went through rush, or Greek Recruitment, so there were many parts of this book that were relatable to me.

This put a fresh perspective on a very old problem – albeit a very visible problem.I am really glad that someone chose to write about this topic, and Lisa Patton did it in a graceful way. I am adding her to my list of authors to keep an eye on – she’s written other books, including: “Southern as a Second Language“, “Yankee Doodle Dixie“, and “Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter“.

I’m recommending “Rush” to anyone who went through rush, and/or joined a sorority, and anyone who’s a fan of southern literature.

The next book I’ll be reading is “Dear Evan Hansen” by Val Emmich (super stoked about this one)!This weekend is the first one in a long time where I have 0 plans – which likely means I’ll be making some Christmas ornaments for my Etsy shop and catching up on all my TV shows 🙂 Have a good one, y’all!

BBC: ‘The Dinner List’.

Howdy! Whew – i was on a mission to get all caught up on my reading and that is exactly what I did! I get a lot of my book recommendations from Instagram, and when I saw my latest read, I knew it was going to be an interesting one.

I’m talking about “The Dinner List” by Rebecca Serle. Here is the book’s description from Amazon:

“We’ve been waiting for an hour.” That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.”

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends with in her utterly captivating novel, THE DINNER LIST, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day, and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.

When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, THE DINNER LIST is a romance for our times. Bon appetit.

For starters, this book made me think about who I’d invite to dinner, given the chance. I immediately thought of celebrities, which then I was like, ok is that who I am? But of course, if given the chance, I’d love to be able to eat dinner with my dad again.

Bbbuuuut, if we’re just talking about celebrities, here’s my list:

  1. Jackie Collins
  2. Truman Capote
  3. Issa Rae
  4. John Mayer
  5. Andy Cohen
  6. Anthony Bourdain
  7. Dave Cullen

I was very strategic with my list in that I chose my favorite romance writer, favorite crime writer, favorite TV writer, favorite musician and lyricist, favorite pop culture writer and commentator, favorite food writer, and favorite investigative journalist.

One thing I noticed about this book is that one of the conflicts was she didn’t consider how everyone would get along at the table – this is one of the first things I thought about. In short, i would absolutely LOVE to see Jackie Collins and Truman Capote (with Andy Cohen chiming in) sitting together, and I also think Issa Rae and Dave Cullen would have some interesting conversations together, all while Anthony Bourdain orders the noodles and local beer, later to narrate the whole thing on “Parts Unknown”.

Sounds fantastic, right? I’d love to hear who YOU would invite to dinner!

I really enjoyed this book for helping me think outside of the box. But it also touched on some interesting topics, and told a romantic love story between the chapters that describe the present. It had a bit of a dark twist, but I still very much enjoyed it.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Rush” by Lisa Patton. Follow me on Instagram @Orangejulius7 to see updates in real time!

BBC: ‘Puddin”.

We made it to Friday, y’all – on top of a ROUGH week at work, some general life stuff, and considering today is Day 5 of having to boil Austin water – let’s praise the higher powers!

I have three non-renewable books due back to the library Sunday, so I really tried to channel any and all of my energy into reading this week. I’m only one book down, but considering it was 400 pages, I’m labeling this as a win.

Plus, I loved this book!

I’m talking about “Puddin‘” by Julie Murphy. Here is the official description from Amazon:

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a little girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream of being a newscaster—and to kiss the boy she’s crushing on.

Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend.

When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing that they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

“Puddin'” is the companion to “Dumplin‘”, which I read earlier this year (read my full review here). The cool thing about a companion book is there’s a little bit of overlapping storyline, but not enough to make reading the other book a requirement.

For starters, I absolutely loved jumping into this world. I have a weak spot for books that fantasize high school, and this one brought me right back to some great memories. I also love that this takes place in a small town in Texas – near Marfa – and even touches a bit in Austin!

But no matter the location, this is a story about seeing who people really are – past all appearances and even a few faults. It really is sweet.

Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it. If I want to call the shots, I have to start acting like it. And when that camera turns on, it’s like someone flips a switch inside me and gives me permission to be the version of myself I only dream of.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves YA novels, especially those in small towns, and to anyone who’s been misunderstood.

Meanwhile, the book “Dumplin'” is being turned into a movie that will be released on Netflix, December 7th! Jennifer Anniston stars in it, and Dolly Parton has at least one song on the soundtrack. Yes!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is “The Dinner List” by Rebecca Serle. Follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 for real-time updates!

Next week on the blog, be on the lookout for my adventures during the Austin Mandatory Water Boil, and an update on my work situation. Have a good weekend, y’all!

BBC: ‘Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win’.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book and it feels so good to be back! I’ve had such a busy few weeks, and I hate when people use that as their excuse for not reading, but this time, it’s true – I promise.

I also said I was going to read a different book next, but when the library says “Not Renewable” – your reading order shapes up pretty quick (I’m currently staring at a stack of three books due back this coming Saturday – whoops!).

So, here we are. And from the looks of things, I’ll have a little more time to read in my near future, so consider Blanche’s Book Club BACK.

Our read this week was “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win” by Jo Piazza, which was a pick on my Summer Reading Guide. Here is the book description from Amazon:

From Jo Piazza, the bestselling author of The Knock Off, How to Be Married, and Fitness Junkie, comes an exciting, insightful novel about what happens when a woman wants it all—political power, a happy marriage, and happiness—but isn’t sure just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it.

Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.

Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

A searing, suspenseful story of political ambition, marriage, class, sexual politics, and infidelity, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is an insightful portrait of what it takes for a woman to run for national office in America today. In a dramatic political moment like no other with more women running for office than ever before, Jo Piazza’s novel is timely, engrossing, and perfect for readers on both sides of the aisle.

I read this book in 24 hours – it was relatable in some ways, but also just a fun world to jump right into. I was curious how I’d feel reading this book post-2016 election, but it was still a unique story, with a very unexpected ending.

I found it entirely refreshing, and since this was my first Jo Piazza book, I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from her.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Puddin‘” by Julie Murphy. Follow me on Instagram @Orangejulius7 and see my thoughts on the book in real time. Have a great Monday!

BBC: 2018 Halloween Reading Guide!

It’s October 1st, and what better way to celebrate the spookiest month of them all than with a list of books meant to scare the daylights out of you?! If you’ve been around these parts for awhile, you know that I don’t do too well with anything scary. What can I say? I’m a wimp!

stephanie

Guest Blogger, Mystery/Thriller Enthusiast Stephanie-Kaye Baker

So, I’ve enlisted a friend, who’s a fellow bookworm and she’s always reading something spooky… it’s Ms. Stephanie-Kaye Baker!

She told me she loves to read because it takes her mind someplace else for awhile. It also relaxes her – her exact quote was, “Let’s be honest, it keeps me sane so I don’t hit people. Ha!”

She also loves dogs and eating vegan food. Her favorite book is “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte. Her favorite book series is Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.

Below is her extensive list of terrorizing titles for your pleasure, with book descriptions from Amazon.com:

‘Sharp Objects’ by Gillian Flynn

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

‘The Blinds’ by Adam Sternbergh

Imagine a place populated by criminals—people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who’ve been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to The Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don’t know if they’ve perpetrated a crime or just witnessed one. What’s clear to them is that if they leave, they will end up dead.

For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace—but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper has his own secrets to protect, so when his new deputy starts digging, he needs to keep one step ahead of her—and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway. It’s simmering with violence and deception, aching heartbreak and dark betrayals.

‘Final Girls’ by Riley Sager

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls: Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit; and Sam, the second Final Girl, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

‘Stranger in the House’ by Shan Lapena

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

‘Woman in the Window’ by AJ Finn

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

‘It Ends with Her’ by Brianna Labuskes

FBI special agent Clarke Sinclair doesn’t give up easily. She’s spent years tracking serial killer Simon Cross, forced to follow his twisted clues and photographs across the country. Clarke knows that Cross selects only redheaded women and that he doesn’t target another victim until Clarke discovers the previous one.

He’s never broken pattern…until now.

A girl has already gone missing in upstate New York when a second one is kidnapped—a blonde. The killer’s MO has changed, sending Clarke back to the drawing board. The closer she gets to the truth, the deeper she’s drawn into an inescapable trap made just for Clarke. Whatever Cross’s ultimate game is, it ends with her.

‘It’ by Stephen King

Note from the author: Really, anything by Stephen King

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

‘Ink and Bone’ by Lisa Unger

Twenty-year-old Finley Montgomery is rarely alone. Visited by people whom others can’t see and haunted by prophetic dreams she has never been able to control or understand, Finley is terrified by the things that happen to her. When Finley’s abilities start to become too strong for her to handle–and even the roar of her motorcycle or another dazzling tattoo can’t drown out the voices–she turns to the only person she knows who can help her: her grandmother Eloise Montgomery, a renowned psychic living in The Hollows, New York.

Merri Gleason is a woman at the end of her tether after a ten-month-long search for her missing daughter, Abbey. With almost every hope exhausted, she resorts to hiring Jones Cooper, a detective who sometimes works with psychic Eloise Montgomery. Merri’s not a believer, but she’s just desperate enough to go down that road, praying that she’s not too late. Time, she knows, is running out.

As a harsh white winter moves into The Hollows, Finley and Eloise are drawn into the investigation, which proves to have much more at stake than even the fate of a missing girl. As Finley digs deeper into the town and its endless layers, she is forced to examine the past, even as she tries to look into the future. Only one thing is clear: The Hollows gets what it wants, no matter what.

‘The Haunting of Ashburn House’ by Darcy Coates

The ancient building has been the subject of rumours for close to a century. Its owner, Edith, refused to let guests inside and rarely visited the nearby town.

Following Edith’s death, her sole surviving relative, Adrienne, inherits the property. Adrienne’s only possessions are a suitcase of luggage, twenty dollars, and her pet cat. Ashburn House is a lifeline she can’t afford to refuse.

Adrienne doesn’t believe in ghosts, but it’s hard to ignore the unease that grows as she explores her new home. Strange messages have been etched into the wallpaper, an old grave is hidden in the forest behind the house, and eerie portraits in the upstairs hall seem to watch her every movement.

As she uncovers more of the house’s secrets, Adrienne begins to believe the whispered rumours about Ashburn may hold more truth than she ever suspected. The building has a bleak and grisly past, and as she chases the threads of a decades-old mystery, Adrienne realises she’s become the prey to something deeply unnatural and intensely resentful.

Only one thing is certain: Ashburn’s dead are not at rest.

‘Interview with the Vampire’ by Anne Rice

Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.

‘Helter Skelter’ by Vincent Bugliosi

In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his “family” of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the proportions of myth. The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era.

Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his enthralling account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only “two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi.” The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor’s view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of the philosophy Manson inculcated in his fervent followers…these elements make for a true crime classic. Helter Skelter is not merely a spellbinding murder case and courtroom drama but also, in the words of The New Republic, a “social document of rare importance.”

‘Hallowe’en Party’ by Agatha Christie

At a Halloween party, Joyce—a hostile thirteen-year-old—boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub.
 
That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the `evil presence’. But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double-murderer…

‘Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder’ by Joanne Fluke

Author’s note: More funny than scary but there are murders. This entire series is hilarious!

No one cooks up a delectable, suspense-filled mystery quite like Hannah Swensen, Joanne Fluke’s dessert-baking, red-haired heroine whose gingersnaps are as tart as her comebacks, and whose penchant for solving crimes–one delicious clue at a time–has made her a bestselling favorite. And it all began on these pages, with a bakery, a murder, and some suddenly scandalous chocolate-chip crunchies. Featuring a bonus short story and brand new, mouthwatering recipes, this new edition of the very first Hannah Swensen mystery is sure to have readers coming back for seconds. . .

Hannah already has her hands full trying to dodge her mother’s attempts to marry her off while running The Cookie Jar, Lake Eden’s most popular bakery. But once Ron LaSalle, the beloved delivery man from the Cozy Cow Dairy, is found murdered behind her bakery with Hannah’s famous Chocolate Chip Crunchies scattered around him, her life just can’t get any worse. Determined not to let her cookies get a bad reputation, she sets out to track down a killer. But if she doesn’t watch her back, Hannah’s sweet life may get burned to a crisp.

‘Amityville Horror’ by Jay Anson

The classic and terrifying story of one of the most famous supernatural events–the infamous possessed house on Long Island from which the Lutz family fled in 1975.

‘The Exorcist’ by William Peter Biatty

Originally published in 1971, The Exorcist is now a major television series on FOX. It remains one of the most controversial novels ever written and went on to become a literary phenomenon: It spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, seventeen consecutively at number one. Inspired by a true story of a child’s demonic possession in the 1940s, William Peter Blatty created an iconic novel that focuses on Regan, the eleven-year-old daughter of a movie actress residing in Washington, D.C. A small group of overwhelmed yet determined individuals must rescue Regan from her unspeakable fate, and the drama that ensues is gripping and unfailingly terrifying.

Two years after its publication, The Exorcist was, of course, turned into a wildly popular motion picture, garnering ten Academy Award nominations. On opening day of the film, lines of the novel’s fans stretched around city blocks. In Chicago, frustrated moviegoers used a battering ram to gain entry through the double side doors of a theater. In Kansas City, police used tear gas to disperse an impatient crowd who tried to force their way into a cinema. The three major television networks carried footage of these events; CBS’s Walter Cronkite devoted almost ten minutes to the story. The Exorcist was, and is, more than just a novel and a film: it is a true landmark.

Purposefully raw and profane, The Exorcist still has the extraordinary ability to disturb readers and cause them to forget that it is “just a story.” Published here in this beautiful fortieth anniversary edition, it remains an unforgettable reading experience and will continue to shock and frighten a new generation of readers.

‘Cross her Heart’ by Sarah Pinborough

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job and her best friend Marilyn.

But when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him, too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it’s time to let her terrifying secret past go.

But when her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see, Lisa’s world explodes.

As she finds everything she has built threatened, and not knowing who she can trust, it’s up to Lisa to face her past in order to save what she holds dear.

But someone has been pulling all their strings. And that someone is determined that both Lisa and Ava must suffer.

Because long ago Lisa broke a promise. And some promises aren’t meant to be broken.

‘The Chalk Man’ by CJ Tudor

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
 
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.
 
That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago. Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

‘Double Whammy’ by Gretchen Archer

Author’s note: Another funny book but has crime.
Davis Way thinks she’s hit the jackpot when she lands a job as the fifth wheel on an elite security team at the fabulous Bellissimo Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. But once there, she runs straight into her ex-ex husband, a rigged slot machine, her evil twin, and a trail of dead bodies. Davis learns the truth and it does not set her free—in fact, it lands her in the pokey. Buried under a mistaken identity, her hot streak runs cold until her landlord Bradley Cole steps in. Make that her landlord, lawyer, and love interest. With his help, Davis must win this high stakes game before her luck runs out.

‘All the Missing Girls’ by Megan Miranda

Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

‘Murder by the Slice’ by Mary Maxwell

Author’s note: Funny!
At this year’s school carnival fund-raiser, the obnoxious president of the Parent Teacher Organization is found stabbed through the heart with Phyllis Newsom’s own knife, with traces of incriminating frosting. Clearing her name will be no piece of cake…

‘Glazed Murder’ by Jessica Beck

Author’s note: The entire series is a fun read. There are murders and a donut maker helps solve them.
Meet Suzanne Hart, owner and operator of Donut Hearts coffee shop in April Springs, North Carolina. After her divorce from Max, an out-of-work actor she’s dubbed “The Great Impersonator,” Suzanne decided to pursue her one true passion in life: donuts. So she cashed in her settlement and opened up shop in the heart of her beloved hometown.

But when a dead body is dumped on her doorstep like a sack of flour, Suzanne’s cozy little shop becomes an all-out crime scene. Now, everyone in town is dropping by for glazed donuts and gruesome details. The retired sheriff warns her to be careful—and they’re all suspects. Soon Suzanne—who finds snooping as irresistible as donuts—is poking holes in everyone’s alibis…

***

There it is – 21 books to get you in the Halloween spirit! Which ones sound good to you? Are there books you’d recommend that aren’t on this list? I think I might pick up a few of the lighter ones… but I also have a copy of “The Final Girls” on my shelf waiting to be read. Happy reading, y’all!

BBC: ‘Ghosted’.

It’s officially FALL, Y’ALL!

Cue the pumpkin patch pictures (say that 5 times fast), pumpkin spice lattes, flannel and plaid everything… I’ll admit I have always loved fall, but mostly because of the crisp air and, in a way, it’s the start of the holiday season.

Speaking of holidays, today I’m spending the day working on Halloween masks to stock in my Etsy store. I made these masks last year and sold almost 20 of them! I made the mistake of making them to order, which meant I was up until 4 am one Monday morning sewing, gluing, and packing handmade masks to ship.

It was stressful (although lucrative), so this year I’ve decided to make all of the masks at once and once they’re sold out, they’re sold out! I have enough supplies to make about 15 masks, so I’ve got a busy day ahead!

Anyway, Blanche’s Book Club breezed right through another book this week: “Ghosted” by Rosie Walsh – a title from our Summer Reading Guide. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened–there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

I was really excited to read this book because… let’s face facts: I’ve been “Ghosted” in the dating world many, many times. If you’re not familiar (then, lucky you), being ghosted is when the person you’re talking to just completely falls off the face off the earth. They ignore your attempts to connect, and it’s absolutely maddening!

This book talks about exactly that, but it’s much more, and loads more creepy. I read this book in a single sitting – I just had to know how the mystery would end! I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves a romance-mystery combo.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Blood, Bones, and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton. If you follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 – you can see real-time updates on the books I’m reading, and today, updates on my Etsy Halloween masks!

Have a great Sunday!

BBC: ‘All We Ever Wanted’.

I got back to Austin yesterday afternoon, took a quick nap, and headed to teach my first blog class of the semester! It was a busy day, but I always enjoy meeting new students. I have today and tomorrow off work, so I slept in this morning and am just getting things moving. It’s supposed to rain this afternoon and I think most of tomorrow, so I might be getting things done indoors… I do have two books to read before Sunday…

Speaking of reading, Blanche’s Book Club plowed through the latest pick, “All We Ever Wanted” by Emily Giffin. Here is the book’s description from Amazon:

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

This book was on my Summer Reading List, mostly because I liked that it was set in Nashville and it seemed like it had something to do with social media.

As the book description says, the family is well off, and something happens that tarnishes their picture-perfect life and just might ruin things for their son. In an interesting way (and without giving anything away) this book touches on racism, classism, and sexual harassment/assault but still remains easy to read, and fitting with the author’s usual style.

Emily Giffin has written dozens of books, and they’re rightfully popular (and I’m just now realizing I haven’t ready many of hers).

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves social media (especially if you’ve made a mistake on it), if you love romance novels with a twist, and of course if you enjoy Emily Giffin’s books!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Bucket List” by Georgia Clark (also from my Summer Reading List). Follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 and get live updates as I read this one – especially today and/or tomorrow.

BBC: ‘Dopesick’.

Hey there! I’m heading to the beach tomorrow, and I have noticed a very strong pattern in myself over the last few years. Whenever I’m getting ready for a trip, the days (and usually the entire week) before I leave is completely INSANE.

That’s the thing when you work freelance, have a digital job, and manage a blog – you have to do ALL the work that was originally going to be done while you’re sitting on the beach! So, this week I’ve basically been doing double the work, telling all (11!) of my freelance clients that I’m heading out of town and cramming in last-minute projects, and writing blogs to publish next week while I’m laying in the sand.

Don’t get me wrong – no complaints here – it just seems like no matter how much I prep, part of me is always running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Amidst all of the craziness this week, I had books to read as they were due back at the library. I had no problem getting through this latest one quickly, so let’s hop to it. I’m talking about “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” by Beth Macy.

In this masterful work, Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America’s twenty-plus year struggle with opioid addiction. From distressed small communities in Central Appalachia to wealthy suburbs; from disparate cities to once-idyllic farm towns; it’s a heartbreaking trajectory that illustrates how this national crisis has persisted for so long and become so firmly entrenched.

Beginning with a single dealer who lands in a small Virginia town and sets about turning high school football stars into heroin overdose statistics, Macy endeavors to answer a grieving mother’s question-why her only son died-and comes away with a harrowing story of greed and need. From the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, Macy parses how America embraced a medical culture where overtreatment with painkillers became the norm. In some of the same distressed communities featured in her bestselling book Factory Man, the unemployed use painkillers both to numb the pain of joblessness and pay their bills, while privileged teens trade pills in cul-de-sacs, and even high school standouts fall prey to prostitution, jail, and death.
 
Through unsparing, yet deeply human portraits of the families and first responders struggling to ameliorate this epidemic, each facet of the crisis comes into focus. In these politically fragmented times, Beth Macy shows, astonishingly, that the only thing that unites Americans across geographic and class lines is opioid drug abuse. But in a country unable to provide basic healthcare for all, Macy still finds reason to hope-and signs of the spirit and tenacity necessary in those facing addiction to build a better future for themselves and their families.

This book was outstanding! I’ve read many addiction memoirs, so I was really looking forward to seeing things from a more holistic view, and this book DELIVERED. Macy’s reporting is flawless, and I cannot imagine how long it took her to research, conduct interviews, and then cull everything down into this book.

The book is told through the stories of families who’ve lost a loved one from opioids. There’s information from every angle, from addicts, dealers, doctors, drug companies, and pharmacies… and frankly, the whole thing was quite creepy. It made me scared to trust prescription meds – although I’m already skeptical and rarely even take Tylenol.

It’s interesting, because there’s definitely fault on doctors and drug companies, but I also feel a certain way about how we (society) have responded to opioid addicts. This book made me want to judge less and learn how to administer narcan.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who’s interested in the opioid crisis in our country, but also to anyone who’s known an addict, and for anyone who loves reading true crime and investigative pieces. This is a must read!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “All We Ever Wanted” by Emily Giffin. Have a great weekend!

BBC: 2018 Beach Reading Guide!

So, perhaps I’m a little late in creating Blanche’s Book Club’s Beach Reading Guide, but I’m heading to the beach on Saturday, and juuuust in case there’s anyone out there that hasn’t ended their summer yet, I thought I’d round up some quality beach reads for your vacation tote.

I’ve spoken, or written, about many times some of the best moments of my life. One of those moments was in Pensacola, Florida, sitting in a lounge chair on the beach with all of my toes stuck in the white sand, sipping on a beer while reading a Nicholas Sparks’ novel. I will never forget it

A beach read is different than a “summer read” for me – it’s got to be fitting for a vacation… a complete getaway. And it’s got to be something without a complicated plot, because I am very much a beach boozer. So here goes…

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Here is the official description from Amazon:

Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love.

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

                       2) A person’s undoing

                       3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

I love an office scandal! Sounds lighthearted but interesting enough for a beach read, and I’m excited to see what else Thorne writes in the future.

SERIES: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve heard so much about this book series, and I want to read it SO bad! Here’s the books (listed in order) in the series and their descriptions:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

P.S. I Still Love You

Given the way love turned her heart in the New York Times bestselling To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, which School Library Journal called a “lovely, lighthearted romance,” it’s no surprise that Laura Jean still has letters to write.

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

Always and Forever

Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

…Don’t these books sound delightful? I feel like I could read these all in one sitting… with a nice crisp wine spritzer!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I’ve read one of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books before and it was SO good! I was relieved to see that she’s published several, and it looks like this one will be just as riveting as her others. Here’s the official description from Amazon:

In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

“Heartbreaking, yet beautiful” (Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is “Tinseltown drama at its finest” (Redbook): a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth.

Nantucket Series by Elin Hilderbrand

I read somewhere that Elin Hilderbrand is the Queen of Summer Reading, so there’s no way I can craft a list of beach reads without including her on it! I’ve read two of her books so far (she has so many) and look forward to reading many more. Here are the books in the Nantucket series (listed in order) with their descriptions from Amazon:

A Summer Affair

Claire has a problem with setting limits. All her life she has taken on every responsibility, assumed every burden, granted every request. Claire wants it all–and in the eyes of her friends, she has it: a devoted husband, four beautiful children, even a successful career as an artist. So when she agrees to chair the committe for Nantucket’s social event of the year, she knows she can handle it. Claire can handle anything.

But when planning the gala propels her into the orbit of billionaire Lock Dixon, unexpected sparks begin to fly. Lock insists on working closely with Claire–often over a bottle of wine–and before long she can’t ignore the subtle touches and lingering looks. To her surprise, she can’t ignore how they make her feel, either. Claire finds the gala, her life, and herself spinning out of control.

A Summer Affair captures the love, loss, and limbo of an illicit romance and unchecked passion as it takes us on a brave and breathless journey into the heart of one modern woman.

The Castaways

Greg and Tess MacAvoy are one of four prominent Nantucket couples who count each other as best friends. As pillars of their close-knit community, the MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers are important to their friends and neighbors, and especially to each other. But just before the beginning of another idyllic summer, Greg and Tess are killed when their boat capsizes during an anniversary sail. As the warm weather approaches and the island mourns their loss, nothing can prepare the MacAvoy’s closest friends for what will be revealed.

The Perfect Couple

It’s Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom’s wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair, The Perfect Couple proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read.

Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon

This is the first time I’ve heard of Hannah McKinnon, but she seems like an author I would really enjoy. Here’s the description for “Mystic Summer” from Amazon:

A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman’s picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel—from the author of The Lake Season.

Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for.

But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.

McKinnon has also written “The Lake Season” and “The Summer House” – and both of these would make great beach reads, too!

There you have it; my beach picks for this year! Did you read any that would make good beach books? Let me know in the comments!

BBC: ‘An American Marriage’.

Happy Labor Day! It’s gloomy here in Austin, so I don’t feel a BIT guilty for planning a day indoors – I’ve got blogs to write and some freelance to do… and I need to make some jewelry for my Etsy store – so, cya summer. Just kidding, that won’t happen until… October?

I skipped over to the library on Saturday to pickup some reserves (two from my summer reading list) and I realized that I definitely have 3 books due back by Friday, soo… #libraryproblems

So, let’s get to Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones. Here is the official description from Amazon:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
 
This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.

This book was an Oprah Book Club selection and was also one of President Obama’s summer reads!

I was sort of wondering where this book was going to go, given that the description reveals a lot… but there’s plenty of twists and turns. I found myself gasping in shock throughout a majority of the first half.

A good chunk of the book is letters back and forth from prison, which are interesting to read – and a unique idea from the author.

This was a good book – uplifting? No. But I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys Southern literature, and/or to anyone who has an interest in black culture.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” by Beth Macy.

I hope you all enjoy your Monday off (at least, I hope you have it off)!

BBC: ‘The President is Missing’.

Hey there! Last week, my boss instructed me to pick a day to work from home this week because I’ve been “doing too much” – so, today is my day!

I am always so jealous of anyone who has a job that lets them regularly work from home (even if it’s just one day a week) or work a flex schedule, because you can get so much done! Some days, my office is busy and can be distracting, but at home I feel like I can get so much done – but I do have to deal with Blanche!

I mean even right now, it’s 7:15 and I’ve already started a load of laundry and am catching up on the season finale of “Very Cavallari”. Work doesn’t technically start until 9! It’s amazing.
Anyway, Blanche’s Book Club has got a new read under its belt that we’ve got to share with you: “The President is Missing” by James Patterson and Bill Clinton. Here is the description from Amazon:

The President Is Missing confronts a threat so huge that it jeopardizes not just Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street, but all of America. Uncertainty and fear grip the nation. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the Cabinet. Even the President himself becomes a suspect, and then he disappears from public view . . .

Set over the course of three days, The President Is Missing sheds a stunning light upon the inner workings and vulnerabilities of our nation. Filled with information that only a former Commander-in-Chief could know, this is the most authentic, terrifying novel to come along in many years.

I am 99% certain this was my first James Patterson book, if not, only my second and obviously the first wasn’t very memorable. The “James Patterson Reader” is a certain type of person – and that person DEVOURS his books, and well, he churns them out.

And I’m not judging here – I’m just fully admitting that I’m not entirely sure James Patterson is for me and I read this book because of Bill Clinton. There. I said it.

The plot in this book moves very quickly (and is easy to read) and honestly, it would make for a great movie. It’s very visual and suspenseful. I will say, though, that even though much of the plot COULD happen, there’s several things in the plot that absolutely would never happen.

I’m completely fine with suspending reality, I’m just saying!

If you’re a James Patterson fan, of course, you should read this. But if you’ve never dipped your toe into the Patterson pond, then read it if you’re into political thrillers, and possibly if you’re interested in cyber terror and data security.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will read is, “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones (which was recently revealed as one of President Obama’s summer reads, and was also an Oprah Book Club pick).

You can get real-time updates of the book on my Instagram Stories @OrangeJulius7 – also, keep your eyes open this week, because I may or may not be planning a jewelry giveaway… Happy Tuesday!

BBC: ‘Leah on the Offbeat’.

Hey there! I am going to jump right into the subject matter today because I waited SO long to get this book in my grubby little paws. Today, I’m talking about “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli. As soon as I read “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda“, I put myself on the library waiting list for the sequel, and well, here we are.

Here is the book’s official description from Amazon:

In this sequel to the acclaimed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—now a major motion picture, Love, Simon—we follow Simon’s BFF Leah as she grapples with changing friendships, first love, and senior year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.

She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.

It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

So… you might have already guessed it, but this book isn’t really about drumming. It’s about high school and all of the twists and turns it brings – especially when you toss love in there.

The characters in this book are in high school, but they are preparing to head to college, so it definitely brought me back to that time in my life. I still remember very vividly my first college visit, and also attending my first frat party while still in high school (complete with lemonade + raspberry vodka – yuuuuck).

Anyway, although the characters in this book are familiar (from reading “Simon), getting to know Leah’s character was fun – she had a different train of thought that is refreshingly funny.

I also really admire Albertalli’s ability to bring to light the experiences of characters who aren’t heterosexual. I don’t know if this was her mission in writing these books, but it’s a nice change, and I’m sure high school students appreciate reading about someone who has experiences more similar to theirs.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who’s read (and liked) “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda”, and also to fans of YA novels, and/or to anyone looking to relive (temporarily) the high school experience.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The President is Missing” by James Patterson and Bill Clinton.

BBC: ‘Big Magic’.

Hey there! I had a fun little Saturday yesterday – I got my hair done (a slightly new cut and a bold red color), went on my weekly “Food Adventure”, where I try a new restaurant (I went to Modern Market for a Blueberry Pesto sandwich), and did some shopping at Trader Joe’s (picked up some cold brew coffee concentrate)!

Today, I’ve been working on some freelance projects while catching up on “Pose” (I think I have three episodes left). I am going to yoga later and am still debating if I should make a trip to Michael’s today – I have a coupon that I might not be able to pass up!

But the real reason I’m writing today is to share with you the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Before I dive in, here is the official book description from Amazon:

“A must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life… I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.” —PopSugar

From the worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love: the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.
 
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration.

She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us.

Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

If you know me, even if only through this blog, you probably can already guess that I LOVED this book! It felt like it was written from the things swirling around in my brain. I have always valued creativity, and I talk extensively about it in my blog class – that we must nurture our brains to be creative, and act upon it when it happens.

I wrote down SO many lines from this book that spoke to me and I’ll share them with you here:

  • Without bravery…they would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of their own capacities. Without bravery, they would never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, their lives would remain small – far smaller than they probably wanted their lives to be.
  • Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?
  • The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.
  • The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.
  • I am talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
  • …When courage dies, creativity dies with it.
  • Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ask questions. Sniff around. Remain open. Trust in the miraculous truth that new ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day.
  • Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you.
  • I don’t want to be afraid of bright colors or new sounds, or big love, or risky decisions, or strange experiences, or weird endeavors, or sudden changes, or even failure.
  • Your own reasons to create are reason enough.
  • I have dedicated my entire life to the pursuit of creativity, and I spend a lot of time encouraging other people to do the same, because I think a creative life is the most marvelous life there is.
  • You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living.
  • I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills.
  • Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.
  • Perhaps creativity’s greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are.
  • Following the scavenger hunt of curiosity can lead you to amazing, unexpected places.

That about sums up the book, right? I feel so lame that I haven’t read any of Gilbert’s any other books – but I’ll be adding them to my list! I’m recommending this book to anyone looking for a push to live their dreams, whether that be making a career change or picking up a new hobby or even taking a trip off the beaten path.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

BBC: ‘The Island’.

Hey there! I feel like I haven’t blogged in forever – I’ve been in a bit of a creative slump and I’ve been so busy with work that I have barely been reading. It’s just all-around lame!

But, yesterday I finished reading a book, so let’s jump right in! Today, I’m talking about “The Island” by Elin Hilderbrand. Here is the official description from Amazon:

A summertime story only Elin Hilderbrand can tell: a family in upheaval after a cancelled wedding fill an island summer with heartache, laughter, and surprises.

Birdie Cousins has thrown herself into the details of her daughter Chess’s lavish wedding, from the floating dance floor in her Connecticut back yard to the color of the cocktail napkins. Like any mother of a bride-to-be, she is weathering the storms of excitement and chaos, tears and joy. But Birdie, a woman who prides herself on preparing for every possibility, could never have predicted the late-night phone call from Chess, abruptly announcing that she’s cancelled her engagement.

It’s only the first hint of what will be a summer of upheavals and revelations. Before the dust has even begun to settle, far worse news arrives, sending Chess into a tailspin of despair. Reluctantly taking a break from the first new romance she’s embarked on since the recent end of her 30-year marriage, Birdie circles the wagons and enlists the help of her younger daughter Tate and her own sister India. Soon all four are headed for beautiful, rustic Tuckernuck Island, off the coast of Nantucket, where their family has summered for generations. No phones, no television, no grocery store – a place without distractions where they can escape their troubles.

But throw sisters, daughters, ex-lovers, and long-kept secrets onto a remote island, and what might sound like a peaceful getaway becomes much more. Before summer has ended, dramatic truths are uncovered, old loves are rekindled, and new loves make themselves known.

This is the second book by Elin Hilderbrand I’ve read. I really enjoyed her book, “The Identicals” last August (almost exactly a year ago to-the-day) as Hurricane Harvey was pounding against Texas (read my full review of the book here). I hadn’t heard of Hilderbrand prior, but looked her up and happily discovered she’s written TONS of books!

I randomly selected “The Island” to be my next book from her, and then I wondered if I mistakenly picked a book from one of her mini series’. Thankfully, no, but if you’re looking for a summer trilogy, she’s got one (she also has a winter series) and this awesome website lists the order in which you should read them.

Okay, so let me get into “The Island”! I really liked the premise of this book, and I loved picturing the old house bringing a family back together. I will always admit that books with several characters (especially complex ones) are sometimes a struggle for me – and at times I found myself getting these characters mixed up. Their names were a bit TOO unique for me.

But, about halfway through I was finally getting everyone straight and it was fine. This was generally a smooth read and it had just the right amount of romance, beach life imagery, and a touch of sadness. A good read!

Perfect happiness existed, but perhaps only in small increments.

– The Island

I’m recommending this book to anyone interested in family drama, particularly sisters. And also to anyone looking for a summer read, especially if you like the New England/Nantucket type of beach life.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Also, just an FYI, if you’re an Amazon Kindle user, you can get up to 80% off top-rated Kindle books this month! The deal ends on August 31, but there’s some goodies for just $1.99!