Howdy! Did anyone else stay up watching The Oscars last night? I did, and I’m not entirely sure why – I never am good at keeping up with the movies that are nominated. I did enjoy when the celebs visited the moviegoers across the street, though.
I also took a much-needed 3-hour nap yesterday, so when midnight rolled around, I still wasn’t really that tired. This all results in me not wanting to be at work today (shocker), wearing the first thing I could find in my closet, and no makeup. Wamp!
I can’t really explain why, but I’ve been reading SO much lately. It might be offering me a bit of an escape, so I’m just going to take it for now. The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is a murder mystery: “The Other Side of Everything” by Lauren Doyle Owens.
This book is pretty new (published January 23, 2018) – I always get excited for new books, because I get most of mine from the library (this one included). It is also Owens’ debut novel. Here’s the description of the book from Amazon.com:
Laura Lippman meets Megan Abbott in this suspenseful literary debut about three generations of neighbors whose lives intersect in the aftermath of a crime.
Bernard White is a curmudgeonly widower who has lived in Seven Springs, Florida for decades and has kept to himself since his wife passed. When his neighbor is murdered, he emerges from his solitude to reconnect with his fellow octogenarians. These connections become a literal lifeline as a second, and then a third, elderly woman is murdered, and “the originals” as they call themselves, realize that they are being targeted.
Amy Unger is an artist and cancer survivor whose emotional recovery has not been as successful as her physical one. After the woman next door is murdered, she begins to paint imagined scenes from the murder in an effort to cope with her own loss. But when her paintings prove to be too realistic, her neighbors grow suspicious, and she soon finds herself in the crosshairs of the police.
And then there’s Maddie Lowe, a teenage waitress whose mother recently abandoned the family. As Maddie struggles to keep her family together and maintain the appearance of normal teenage life, she finds herself drawn to the man the police say is the killer.
As they navigate their increasingly dangerous and tumultuous worlds, Bernard, Amy, and Maddie begin to uncover the connections between them, and the past and present, in a novel that ultimately proves the power of tragedy to spark renewal.
Although a majority of this book focuses on older characters, there’s one teenage character and I loved reading the chapters that focused on her. The entire book was creepy, very descriptive (which I love), and it felt very much like a true story. There were even a few political digs that made me think this was written in its entirely within the past few years.
I’m recommending this book to true crime lovers and mystery readers! The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Hate List” by Jennifer Brown.
Hello! I know I’ve sort of been keeping the blog strictly to book and music reviews lately – I am just not quite ready to blog about things much deeper, yet. I am also very happy to have had some time to read said books and listen to some new (new to me, anyway) music that I can share with you if you’re looking for recommendations. I promise the day will come when there will be more of a variety of things here, like there once was!
But, let’s get into it! I actually didn’t “read” this latest book, but rather, I listened to it during a road trip about a week ago. It still counts, right? I think I’d been putting off reading this book, because it’s the last of the Andy Cohen books – I’ve now read them all!
So yes, the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture” by Andy Cohen. Here’s the description from Amazon:
The man behind the Real Housewives writes about his lifelong love affair with pop culture that brought him from the suburbs of St. Louis to his own television show
From a young age, Andy Cohen knew one thing: He loved television. Not in the way that most kids do, but in an irrepressible, all-consuming, I-want-to-climb-inside-the-tube kind of way. And climb inside he did. Now presiding over Bravo’s reality TV empire, he started out as an overly talkative pop culture obsessive, devoted to Charlie’s Angels and All My Children and to his mother, who received daily letters from Andy at summer camp, usually reminding her to tape the soaps. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that everyone didn’t know that Andy was gay; still, he remained in the closet until college. Finally out, he embarked on making a career out of his passion for television.
The journey begins with Andy interviewing his all-time idol Susan Lucci for his college newspaper and ends with him in a job where he has a hand in creating today’s celebrity icons. In the witty, no-holds-barred style of his show Watch What Happens Live, Andy tells tales of absurd mishaps during his ten years at CBS News, hilarious encounters with the heroes and heroines of his youth, and the real stories behind The Real Housewives. Dishy, funny, and full of heart, the New York Times bestseller, Most Talkative, provides a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the world of television, from a fan who grew up watching the screen and is now inside it, both making shows and hosting his own.
…And in case you’re wondering, the audio version is read by the author, which is fantastic! I cannot explain just how much I love Andy Cohen, and I’ve enjoyed reading all three of his books, and loved being able to see him live with Anderson Cooper.
I have always admired Andy because of his humble beginnings – he grew up like most of us did, and he climbed the ranks old school, and made it big in his 40s. In “Most Talkative”, he explains how TV shaped his life (preach it) and it’s easy to see how his obsession with daytime soaps paved the way for one of his most successful endeavors: The Real Housewives franchise.
The book is also filled with laugh-out-loud moments, from pranks he played on his family to his all-too-real run-ins with celebrities. He even shares his coming out story.
I’m recommending this book to Andy Cohen fans, of course, but also to reality TV fans, and aspiring journalists everywhere.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Ramona Blue” by Julie Murphy.
I certainly have much more on my mind than my latest read, but for now, I’m sticking to my journal until I’m ready to talk about the bigger things swirling around. Besides, I’m trying to post my book reviews ASAP and keep up with my reading list this year!
So, let’s get to it! The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “The Dinner” by Herman Koch. The Amazon description of the book was very garbled, so I found one from NPR:
Food doesn’t matter much in novels. Years will pass in a person’s life without a single description of a snack. Not a moment between adverbs for a taco. No wonder so many characters in contemporary fiction are glum: They’re not hopeless; they’re hungry.
In his new book, The Dinner, Dutch author Herman Koch structures his entire plot around a five-course meal, going from aperitif to digestif. The novel was originally published in the Netherlands in 2009 and went on to become an international best-seller. It’s the story of two couples meeting for dinner in a sophisticated Amsterdam restaurant, the type of place where every item on the menu practically comes with a birth certificate, and in very small portions. As Koch writes, “The first thing that struck you about Claire’s plate was the vast emptiness. Of course I’m well aware that, in the better restaurants, quality takes precedence over quantity, but you have voids and then you have voids. The void here, that part of the plate on which no food at all was present, had clearly been raised to a matter of principle.”
But all the eating is cover for nasty events. The four people at the table, two brothers and their wives, have come together for an uncomfortable conversation. One of the brothers is a famous politician. The other is a retired teacher. They don’t get along, but their sons do, and it turns out the boys have done something awful. Something so upsetting it has shocked the entire nation after footage of their crime turned up on the nightly news. However, the video did not show the boys’ faces, leaving them anonymous for the moment, and now their parents must decide what to do next.
The food-as-a-cover was an interesting and unique approach, however, I felt the book didn’t get to the point (the talk of the boys and their possible involvement in a crime) until the main course, which was more than halfway through the book!
While it was certainly interesting, I was feeling very impatient while reading this book – and I wanted more details upfront. For the first time, in at least awhile, I’m not going to recommend this book to anyone. If you’ve read it, and liked it, I’d love to hear your thoughts! I’d been waiting on this book to come up on my reserve list for awhile, so I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it more.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is, “Most Talkative” by Andy Cohen.
Greetings! It’s so cold in Austin right now – I’m writing this from the comfort of my couch after eating a hot bowl of homemade tomato soup with a grilled cheese (both vegan)! I’m also watching reruns of “The Hills”, and all I can really say is, thank YOU, MTV.
But anyway, I’ve got a ton on my mind, but I’ve also got a giant to-do list and lots of things ahead. I’ll just have to report back later. For now, let’s talk about the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club, “Are You Sleeping?” by Kathleen Barber. Here’s the official description from Amazon:
Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.
The only thing more dangerous than a lie…is the truth.
Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father’s murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.
The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.
When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.
I saw this title on a book list (probably from Pinterest) and as a fan of “Serial” (Okay, more like obsessed), I knew I had to read it. And there’s definitely a taste of “Serial” in this book – it was almost too close for comfort, but the plot kept me interested, and toward the end, it was very suspenseful.
I don’t usually do this, but I took a look at the reviews on Amazon, and just at a glance, it seems people really loved this book and thought Barber creatively ripped a story from the headlines. I’d have to agree – she started with something from pop culture – “Serial” – and added a twist to it, along with a personal side.
I should also add that I’m a pretty big scaredy cat, and this one didn’t bother me at all, so don’t be deterred if you don’t like scary stories. I’m recommending this book to all the fans from “Serial”, along with crime fiction fans.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will read is “The Dinner” by Herman Koch. I’ve had this one on my list forever!
I know I usually post these things on Friday, but since I’m working from literally NO content calendar at this point – and am just blogging whenever I feel like it, I’m just going with it! I finished reading this book yesterday, so I thought I’d go ahead and talk about it 🙂
So, the latest read for Blanche’s Book Club is “The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street” by Karina Yan Glaser. I saw this book on Instagram – I follow several book lovers and I use Instagram as a way to keep up with new books coming out, along with books I want to add to my reading list. When I saw this one, the description said something along the lines of, “You’ll fall in love with this family”… I did no other research and simply added it to my reading list.
I have a bad habit of doing this, don’t I?
I placed this book on my library reserves list and picked it up on my way to the airport a week ago. I was in a hurry so I shoved it into my carry-on and didn’t look at it until I was aboard the plane and ready to read. When I opened the book, it was obvious this book was not… for adults. Ha!
Upon further inspection, the library sticker said “Junior Fiction”…which I’d never heard of. It was not so easy or too easy, and there were chapters, and as I read it, there was a semi-complex plot, and it held my interest. Since I don’t have kids, and am really never around children, I don’t really know what age group this would be best for. Here is the official description from Amazon:
One of The New York Times’ Notable Children’s Books of 2017: “In this delightful and heartwarming throwback to the big-family novels of yesteryear, a large biracial family might lose their beloved brownstone home, but win it back with an all-out charm offensive.”
The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.
Some of the customer reviews said it was good for middle grade readers. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it! There was a B-plot not mentioned in the above description, and it had a slightly darker tone, which made me read the last half of the book very quickly.
This is book 1 in a series – book 2 is slated to be published in September of this year, and it’s called “The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden”.
I definitely enjoyed reading this book, and if you do have children in that “middle grade” range, I’d be interested to see what they thought of it!
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Are You Sleeping” by Kathleen Barber.
Greetings from Harlingen, Texas! I flew in last night and am heading back to Austin in a few hours. I’m writing this from the airport, which smells like a giant toilet, so there’s that (no offense, Rio Grande Valley).
I have MUCH to discuss about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith. So, let’s not waste any time!
“Career of Evil” is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series and it’s also the final one that’s published. Because of this, I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for the better part of a year, waiting for the perfect time to read it, because I just didn’t want to accept that this series would be over.
But, as I was reading chapter three, I got distracted and did some Googling. Turns out, J.K. Rowling (“Galbraith” is her pen name for this series) had recently announced the title for the fourth book! Although there is no publishing date, fans anticipate it will be soon. She also said she had ideas for 6 MORE books!
This news made it much easier for me to fly right through this book. I absolutely love these! My favorite thing about them is how visual the writing is – I feel like I’m put right in with the characters and can almost hear their voices.
If that doesn’t sound psychotic enough for you, I even bought myself some cranberry-orange scones and made tea while I read. There’s nothing quite like pretending you’re in London attempting to solve the case with a private detective and his secretary! Before I get in too deep, here’s the official description of the book, from Amazon:
Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott.
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible–and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on one of the suspects, Strike and Robin delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
I won’t give anything away, but I will say that this one definitely had a more personal twist to it, which I enjoyed. Here we are, in book three, and I am still wondering if anything will ever happen between Robin and Strike (whom I imagine to look like Gerard Butler)?! I was more emotionally invested in this book, and it made me that much more thankful that we’ve got a fourth one on the way.
At least a year ago, BBC announced there would be a TV series based on these books but then I never heard much about it. Upon further investigation, it looks like we’ll be able to watch the series (which is based on all three books) this summer on Showtime – YES!
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Vanderbeekers of 41st Street” by Karina Yan Glaser. I’m actually about to go read some of it now…
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
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 🙂
Hey, hey! It’s been a bit of a rocky week at the office (ugh, I hate saying that), and I’ve taken a lot of enjoyment in having a good book to turn to during my lunch hour and between dance classes. The latest read in Blanche’s Book Club is “Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing” by Jennifer Weiner.
Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com: Jennifer Weiner is many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and an “unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister, a clumsy yogini, and a reality-TV devotee. In this “unflinching look at her own experiences” (Entertainment Weekly), Jennifer fashions tales of modern-day womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Nora Ephron and Tina Fey.
No subject is off-limits in these intimate and honest essays: sex, weight, envy, money, her mother’s coming out of the closet, her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to hearing her six-year-old daughter say the F word—fat—for the first time, Jen dives into the heart of female experience, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world.
I was really excited to get this book from the library (I was on a waiting list for a month or so), because I have read a few of Weiner’s books and have really enjoyed them! I always love hearing the story behind the stories; how/where other writers get their inspiration; and how much of the fiction writing comes from a true place.
In this book, Weiner talks a lot about how she was raised, and it is telling about her fiction writing (particularly the relationship she has with her father). She is also very open about her own relationships (two marriages), her children, and how she came to be a popular, published writer. I really like how she addresses the categorization women’s fiction has received over the years, because it’s something I’ve noticed myself. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
- “It took time before I could take all that pain and use it; transform all that loneliness and isolation and shame into stories.”
- “Maybe I was lucky after all. Maybe the damaged ones, the broken ones, the outcasts and the outsiders end up survivors, and successful, with empathy as their superpower, an extra-sensitivity to other people’s pain, and the ability to spin their own sorrow into something useful.”
- “I would tell myself that I wasn’t lonely, and wouldn’t even think of the shame that was underneath the loneliness and how I felt like a failure and a fraud.”
Weiner also admitted to being an obsessive Tweeter – especially when it comes to episodes of “The Bachelor”.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. If you’re a fan of Weiner’s books, I would definitely recommend this book to you!
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon. You should read it with us! I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – stay cool, and I’ll see you here on Monday!
Let’s throw a party, because I FINALLY finished Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch.” I don’t mean it to sound bad — it was a good book, but it was also very long — and I’ll tell you this: I may have a fantasy about being able to curl up in bed with a good book, but lately? I read two pages and am out like a light.
Blame it on the old age.
Anywho, The Goldfinch. Wow. What a detailed story filled with emotion; it’s very intense! I can’t imagine the research and the time it took Tartt to create such a piece; and I wonder how much of it was just drummed up in her imagination.
I won’t give away any spoilers, but I’ll tell you that The Goldfinch is the story of Theo. He attends an art museum with his mother in New York City, when a terrorist attacks the museum, via bomb. Theo’s mom, doesn’t make it out alive, but her favorite painting — that of a famous goldfinch — does, tucked under Theo’s arm.
The entire book is the remainder of Theo’s story, as a motherless child, and as a theft. It is a tale with many, many twists and turns.
Some of my favorite excerpts:
- I started off loving the bird, the way you’d love a pet or something, and ended up loving the way he was painted.
- Despite what I’d seen — what I knew — somehow I’d still managed to nurture a childish hope that he’d pull through, miraculously, like a murder victim on TV who after the commercial break turns out to be alive and recovering quietly in the hospital.
- Light climbed and burst through the wild desert clouds—never-ending sky, acid blue, like a computer game or a test pilot’s hallucination.
- But when I think of you, it’s as if you’ve gone away to sea on a ship—out in a foreign brightness where there are no paths, only stars and sky.
- A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.
There were so many good lines in this book (many more than what I put here). I’ve been reading this book for so long, it felt a little weird when I finished it around midnight earlier this week. But, there’s a massive list of books I’ve been dying to read, so I’m ready to dive into something fresh.
To find out more on The Goldfinch or its author, Donna Tartt, check out my previous blog post here.