Happy Monday! No, really, I am actually feeling good about this week. Last week, I felt so unmotivated and exhausted; I refuse to blame it on Daylight Savings, but something was definitely off.
But now I’ve had a good weekend, got some rest, had some fun, and I have been reading a TON, so I’ve got so many books from Blanche’s Book Club to review! I have also been thinking a lot about this book club. I know a few of you who are following along and/or using the club as a way to keep up with book recommendations (which is awesome, thank you), but it’s a non-committal club, so I haven’t been offering much else.
Should I? I have always wondered if I should offer book club questions or in-depth reader’s guides, or even recipes that go with the books? If there’s a desire for it, I’ll be happy to beef things up. If there was a sign up + email newsletter, would that be of interest? Just feeling things out here – so if you’re a fan of Blanche’s Book Club, let me know what you’d like to see here.
Anywho, let’s get to my latest read: “There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:
It’s been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she’s still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii.
Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.
Stephanie Perkins, bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss, returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.
Before I get too deep into this, I’ll say that I’m not one for scary stuff. It’s not entirely logical because I do like crime… I loved “CSI”, “Dexter”, and “Killing Fields”, and I devoured the coroner’s reports on Derrick Todd Lee.
But I don’t do scary movies. At all. I can’t even watch the previews on TV. When I was in high school, I loved them. That was during the time of “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, and I saw them all.
Once I moved out on my own, however, things were different. Scary movies weren’t so funny and I realized hey, actually some of this maybe could happen. And now I have timers on my lamps and never leave home without pepper spray.
All of that to say… I’m not entirely sure how this book ended up on my list, but I figured if I’m looking for a distraction, it may as well be murder. And this book DELIVERED.
To my delight, this book was very 90’s horror, and it’s high school setting had me feeling vibes from “The Faculty” SO HARD. Very “We don’t need no education…” – even though this book has absolutely nothing to do with the teachers being alien hosts.
I read this book quickly, but it stuck with me for days. The description of the killer was haunting, enough so to make me a tad frightened any time I entered my apartment at the end of the day. This is a goodie, y’all.
I’m recommending this to horror movie lovers, and anyone who loves a thrill and misses the 90’s. If you’re a seasonal reader, this would be a good one to read in the fall, around Halloween.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is, “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss” by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt.
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!
See? I told you I miiiight have a lot of TV posts this week – promise this will be the last one (until next week’s recap of “Southern Charm”). But, when I saw the previews for Investigation Discovery’s “Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery”, I could not look away.
I don’t like admitting that I LOVE true crime, because really I’m scared of basically everything. But, I get hooked on these sagas, and I know it sounds crazy because there are real people involved.
However, when this case hit the news, I know I wasn’t the only one that just couldn’t look away. I guiltily admit that I watched every minute of “Nancy Grace”, every chance I could get. Bad, I know.
What what it about the Anthony case that had Americans hooked? I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, of course it was the little girl, Caylee. She was so cute, and who would want her killed?
Secondly, it was the obvious (I mean BLATANT) evidence built up against Casey… there was no way she’d be a free woman. Or would she?
So yes, for the past three nights, I’ve sat a little too close to my TV and watched this creepy case unfold before my eyes yet again, and again, I’m shocked. Here’s a blow by blow of the 3-part documentary.
“Lies, Betrayal, and Murder”
Episode one kicks off with a 911 call Cindy Anthony (Casey’s mom) makes to Florida police, saying her daughter has stolen their car, and should be arrested. When police arrive, they quickly find out that Casey’s daughter, Caylee, has been missing for 31 days.
That’s right, 31 days, and Casey hasn’t told anyone because she was afraid. She simply tells police she dropped Caylee off with her nanny, Zanny, and hasn’t seen her since.
Casey takes police to Zanny’s apartment, where police discover she has been lying. Not only is Zanny’s apartment empty, but according to the leasing office, no one has lived in that apartment for 6 months, and no one in the complex goes by that name.
Casey tells police she works at Universal Studios, which also turns out to be false – she even pretends to go to work every day… but she has no job.
Meanwhile, police uncover yet another 911 tape from Cindy Anthony, where she is frantically saying that her daughter’s car smells like a “dead body”. Police recover the vehicle, and find a stained trunk with the stench of body decomposition. They send a piece of the trunk liner, along with two hairs, to the lab for testing.
The results are enough to arrest Casey for murder… and then, thanks to Florida law, we were blessed with those jailhouse tapes. Remember those? Of George and Cindy Anthony visiting their daughter, where she shows no signs of being worried about WHERE Caylee could be? Hmm…
“A Shallow Grave”
Without a body, it would be impossible to prove Casey murdered Caylee. So, it was considered a huge break in the case when an electrical worker came across a small human skull in the woods near the Anthony’s home.
It was Caylee’s, and there was a plastic garbage bag, a laundry bag, and duct tape, also recovered at the scene.
While there was no remaining tissue on the skull or bones, the laundry bag was matched to a bag at the Anthony home, and the duct tape contacted DNA evidence, and would serve as proof that the child was murdered, and did not die from an accidental drowning, as was suggested.
And then… the TRIAL. America was shocked when Casey’s attorney, Jose Baez, opened his defense stating that Caylee drowned in the Anthony pool, that George Anthony actually buried her, and that he had sexually abused his daughter.
“Ten Hours, Forty Minutes”
There was a ton of scientific evidence presented to the jury – including chemical proof that chloroform was used – and it was time for Jose Baez to present his side.
From his perspective, there was no body in the trunk. Instead, it was just old pizza boxes sitting in the sun’s heat. Basically, Baez takes all of the facts from the prosecution, and turns them into alternative facts before that was even a thing.
You probably already know this, but the jury finds Casey Anthony not guilty on all murder charges. She is charged on 4 counts of neglect, but since she had already been in jail for more than three years, she serves 10 more days, and is then a free woman.
The remainder of the documentary talks about what happened after – how she had to file bankruptcy after being sued from so many people, and that she was caught running naked from Jose Baez’s office, and later admitted to paying him with blow jobs instead of cash.
There was a little bit of new information offered, including an interview with George Anthony, where he says what he thinks happened – basically that Casey did kill Caylee, and that he is no longer on speaking terms with his daughter. He is still married to Cindy, who still claims that Caylee drowned in the family pool.
There are only two people who know the truth… and we may never really know.
Hey, hey! We all made it to Friday! I’m actually working from home today, so the fact that I get to stay in my comfy pjs and have the TV on is basically like I’ve already made it to the weekend.
Last night, I finished reading the latest installment in Blanche’s Book Club: “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty. I read “What Alice Forgot” by Moriarty last year and loved it, so I was really excited to read this book, especially before the HBO series on the book begins in mid-February.
Here’s the book’s description from “Big Little Lies”:
Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…
A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?
Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).
Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.
New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
…As you can tell, there’s a lot going on in this book! I don’t want to give anything away, but I’ll say a little about it. 1. The first chapter was a little weird to get into just because I wasn’t really sure what kind of story I was about to jump into. 2. Once things get going, it was a difficult book to put down. 3. This is going to make for a dramaaaaatic TV series!
Without being obvious about it, this book really talks a lot about society in terms of class/financial status, the behavior of children, marriage, and keeping up appearances. I would definitely recommend this book!
So, I’m not sure if this is weird or not, but I actually purchased this book (I usually get all of my books from the library), and since I’m dabbling into minimalism, I was going to put it in my donate pile. But if I’ve got a reader out there that would like my (very gently used copy) – simply become a fan of The Bitter Lemon Facebook page, and leave a comment that includes a book recommendation for me, and I’ll draw a number this weekend for the winner. Cool?
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Today Will Be Different” by Maria Semple. Want to read along with us? Simply start reading and leave comments on the blog, or contact me through social media @OrangeJulius7 to get the book chatter going. The joys of non-committal book clubs!
Before I go for the weekend, I do want to say that I didn’t have enough time this week to gather my thoughts on the passing of the beloved Mary Tyler Moore. My mom has always been a big fan of hers, so I grew up knowing about her and have always loved her as Mary Richards.
Much like any pioneer woman, Mary did things before her time, and normalized the things women take for granted today – like being single, successful, independent, and confident. Here’s a bit of info I wrote about “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in a previous blog post (read the full post here):
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ran for seven seasons, beginning in 1970 — a time when America was going through political change, and women were beginning to experience economic freedom. Feminism was spreading, women were granted the right to vote, and in 1973, women were granted the right to an abortion.
But as the show premiered, the idea of women having freedom was new, so a show about a girl — a single girl — moving out on her own to establish a career was a fresh idea. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was the “Sex and the City” of its time.
Starring Mary Tyler Moore (obviously), Valerie Harper (Rhoda), Cloris Leachman (Phyllis), Ted Knight (Ted Baxter), Edward Asner (Lou), and Gavin MacLeod (Murray), the show is centered around Mary and her adventures in working and dating.
What I love about the show is that, aside from its already shocking plot (single woman on her own!!!), the show covers issues that are relevant today, even 40 years later, including equal pay for women, premarital sex, addiction, homosexuality, divorce, infidelity, prostitution, death, adoption, infertility, and heart health.
She was a voice – in many ways – for women that would come after her. And she always will be.
I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – and don’t forget to comment on the Facebook page if you want the book! See you all Monday – xoxo!
Who can turn the world on with her smile?Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?Well it’s you girl, and you should know itWith each glance and every little movement you show itLove is all around, no need to waste itYou can never tell, why don’t you take itYou’re gonna make it after all.
That’s right, it’s another installment of Blanche’s (non-committal) Book Club! Over the weekend, I finished reading “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling’s pen name), and wow was it a great read!
“The Silkworm” is the second book in the Cormoran Strike series; where there are currently three books. I would definitely not complain if Galbraith cranks out a few more.
The funny thing about reading “The Silkworm” is… I read it on my phone. Le sigh. You see, I purchased it on my iPad through the Nook app, and when my Ipad was stolen over the holidays, I was most sad about losing my eBooks. So, I was thrilled to find them once I downloaded the app on my phone.
I haven’t brought myself to buy a new iPad yet, and I really couldn’t wait to read it, so… I read the whole thing on my phone. Now, if you know J.K. Rowling, it should not come as a surprise that the Cormoran Strike novels are also very detailed and lengthy. It was interesting to plow through it on my phone – it had its pros (being able to read pretty much anywhere) and its cons (reading about one paragraph before having to turn the page and getting distracted by texts and snaps).
But I did it! And, fun fact, J.K. Rowling wrote “Harry Potter” while riding the subway to work… so there’s some motivation for you.
Ok, so “The Silkworm”! From the official website:
A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, The Silkworm is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant Robin Ellacott.
When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.
And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…
While I did say this book was detailed, it wasn’t too detailed, if you know what I mean. I’ve read books before that were just packed with so many pointless details, and it got old really quick. Of course, given that this is a crime/detective novel, the details are pretty necessary.
I love the details about the scenes, too. It’s very London-esque with its gray skies full of rain and snow; and several cozy scenes in pubs, right in the middle of the day. Sounds quite perfect, if you ask me!
Another perfect part about this book series? I totally picture Strike as Gerard Butler, with a little more scruff and incredibly pissed off 24/7.
Word is that the book series will also be a series for the BBC, and possibly HBO – if we’re lucky! I’d love to see this adapted to the screen, big or small.
The interesting thing about the plot of “The Silkworm” is that it focuses around the publishing world – a place familiar to Galbraith/Rowling. I will say, I thoroughly enjoyed the world she created in book one, “The Cuckoo’s Calling” given that it was full of celebrities, rich folk, and illuminati. Obsessed.
The world in “The Silkworm” is dark, made up of has-beens and could-bes, but in general it’s a sad world of characters; with the added murder in question.
If you read “The Cuckoo’s Calling”, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that we get a closer look at Cormoran’s assistant, Robin, and it’s obvious she’s not going anywhere come book three. There’s also a good look at her relationship… and *SPOILER* she is still not married at the end of this book. Could there be a shot with her and Strike? Wink, wink!
And finally, I’ll also say that there are some really fantastic, suspenseful scenes in this book! Especially at the end, I was flipping those digital pages as fast as my fingers would allow.
This book is definitely worth a read; and if you haven’t started the series at all – you’ve got to get in on this! To read a full review of “The Silkworm”, check out this one from The New York Times.
The next book we’ll be reading in Blanche’s Book Club is “What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty. I actually have three of her books, and this will be my first one to read. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the comments, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.