Blog Archives

BBC: Fall Reading Guide.

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

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

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

*Note: these are listed in no particular order.

“The Blackbird Season” by Kate Moretti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng  

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Something Like Happy” by Eva Woods

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

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

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

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

“The Visitors” by Catherine Burns

This one sounds creepyyyyy…

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

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

“Lie to Me” by JT Ellison

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

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

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

“When We Were Worthy” by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

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

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

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

“The Future She Left Behind” by Marin Thomas 

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

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

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

“The Best Kind of People” by Zoe Whittal

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

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

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

“The Futures” by Anna Pitoniak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Best Day Ever” by Kaira Rouda

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

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

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

“Surviving Cyril” by Ramsey Hootman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Child Finder” by Rene Denfeld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you guys tomorrow!

Advertisements

BBC: ‘Sycamore’

What? An installment of Blanche’s Book Club on a Monday? Yep! I had a family emergency that came up on Thursday, which meant I threw my life into a bag and jumped on a plane to get to Tennessee.

I wasn’t able to write on Friday, but I still have a FANTASTIC book to share with you all this week. I’m talking about “Sycamore” by Bryn Chancellor. Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart—most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature—desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope—as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town. 

I saw this book on a blog I like to get book recommendations (check it out here), and was pretty excited to pick it up from the library.

While I know there are many books out there about missing persons, some fiction and some non-fiction, this one stands out for a few different reasons. For starters, the story is sort of one giant flashback, as present-day is many years after this girl has gone missing.

The story jumps forward and backward, moving along with the investigation to get answers about her disappearance.

There is resolve, and I’ll be honest, it was a little difficult to read (because of how graphic it is), but this is also the reason I loved reading this book. It’s beautifully written.

It’s very visual and detailed, which I always appreciate. There were phrases such as, “grapefruit haze of streetlights” and “planets hung back like shy children” that I just loved. It also reads like non-fiction, which I found fascinating. It was a page-turner. I wrote a few lines down from the book that I loved:

  • Though it was cold, they rode with the windows down, drinking gas-station sodas from cups as big as oil cans.
  • She hadn’t imagined the possibility others could find out, or what would happen if they did. Now she could. Vomit on dry carpet. Flying knives and an upside down pie. A car stuffed with black garbage bags. An unlit house. Everyone bloodshot and nauseous and hiding from the world. Secrecy, infidelity, betrayal, forbidden. If it was love, it was the love of Capitol T Tragedies.

I’m recommending this book to my true-crime readers, the thrill seekers, and mystery lovers. I’d love to know what you think of this book!

I’ll still do another installment of Blanche’s Book Club on Friday because I have another great book to discuss, “My Life in France” by Julia Child.

I got back to Austin last night around 11, and my week is packed. In coffee I trust! See y’all tomorrow for that oh-so-anticipated “Siesta Key” recap!

BBC: ‘Into the Water’.

Happy Friday before a holiday!!! Wahoo! What is it about that extra day off that just makes life so great? I’m not going to analyze it, I’m going to TAKE it and run with it. Actually, I’ll probably be in bed, but who cares?

Anywho, let’s get into this week’s read: “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins. Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
 
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
 
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
 
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Ohhhhh man! I was so excited to read this book. When it came out, I immediately put my name on the list for a reserve at the library. I did have to wait awhile, but either way – good deal.

I’m going to say right off the bat that I didn’t end up loving this book as much as I loved “The Girl on the Train”. And, you know, that’s ok. Not every book from an author is going to be the same – obviously.

Is it good? Yes. Chilling? Yes.

I have admitted many times that I don’t do well with lots of characters in a book – it’s just hard for me to concentrate and if they are alike, I get them confused. This was the case for this book. So, you very well may love it!

The reader reviews on the Amazon page for the book has mixed reviews as well. I know it’s easy to assume an author is going to pump out books that are similar and equally likable, but it’s just not that way. Plus, I don’t like it when books are advertised as, “If you liked ‘The Girl on The Train’…” because then you go into thinking it’s going to be just like that and you usually just end up disappointed.

So, there you have it. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Saints for All Occasions” by J. Courtney Sullivan. Read it with us!

Meanwhile, The Bitter Lemon Etsy Shop is having its first S A L E in honor of Labor Day! Enjoy 15% off  (+ FREE shipping anywhere in the US) all of the items in the shop today through Monday!

I’ll be doing a little shopping of my own this weekend – some for myself and some for Hurricane Harvey victims. And hopefully I’ll be making some more jewelry! I’m really enjoying this hobby as it’s a good way to just zone out and have a finished, wearable piece of fun at the end.

So, happy weekend y’all! Do something for Harvey victims – anything. Texas needs your help & get used to see that here. We need to help each other, no matter where you live. Do good.

I’m taking Monday off from the blog, but I’ll be back on Tuesday with a fresh recap of “Siesta Key”! Bye y’all!

BBC: “On Turpentine Lane’.

Congrats – you made it! I feel like I always go into a short week thinking it’s going to be so awesome, but then it ends up being more difficult than a regular week. I don’t know about you, but between getting things back to “normal” after time off, paired with a weird work week and basically NO regular programming on TV, this week was rough!

I don’t know why, but after my trip to Indiana, I was seriously on the struggle bus, until possibly yesterday. I drank everything, ate everything, and barely slept – I can’t believe I stayed up until at least 3 am everyyyyy night on vacation! It’s no wonder I slept for 12 hours a night once I returned.

I went to dance a few times this week, and although it kicked my butt, I definitely think it has helped my brain and body get back on track. I’ll admit, it also encouraged me to walk the rest of my birthday cake right on out to the dumpster. Only clean eating for this girl!

Anyway, it’s another Friday, which means another book to review! I actually saw this one on a Pinterest list and thought it sounded interesting. I ended up seeing it on the audio shelf at the library and listened to it during my road trip to Baton Rouge.

What book? It’s “On Turpentine Lane” by Elinor Lipman. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com:

At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. It’s a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state). And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he’s Chagall. 

When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence . . . 

Elinor Lipman may well have invented the screwball romantic comedy for our era, and here she is at her sharpest and best. On Turpentine Lane is funny, poignant, and a little bit outrageous. 

I’ll admit, the part about her troubled dating life had me hooked when I picked up this book. But once I got into reading it, her fiance became VERY annoying, very quickly. There is nothing at stake if the reader doesn’t have sympathy for its main character… and I definitely don’t have sympathy for someone who puts up with this dude’s shenanigans.
However, there’s a B plot working its way through the book that’s creepy as hell, and keeps this book rolling until the end. Don’t worry, no spoilers! But, if you’re into lite-mysteries, I’d say this one is worth checking out.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is, “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline (yeah, get REALLY excited for this one).
I hope you all have a great weekend – I honestly don’t have too much planned aside from taking a dance class, probably doing some reading, and watching my way through my DVR… shameless, chill weekend! See you right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘Goodnight Nobody’.

Heeyyyoooo! It’s Friday, and it has been a helluva week for many reasons, and you know what? I have to be at work before 9 am tomorrow, so damn. But is it weird that it doesn’t really take away the shine of today STILL being Friday? Cause I’m still pretty happy about it.

Anyway, I’m pretty amped about the latest read in Blanche’s Book Club: “Goodnight Nobody” by Jennifer Weiner. This is the third book of Weiner’s that I’ve read and it’s just as good as the other two – she’s got it!

This book was given to me as a gift, and I was waiting for the perfect time to read it. Here’s the description of the story from Amazon.com: In this “delightfully funny suburban-housewife mystery” (Newsday), New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner tells the story of young mother’s move to a postcard-perfect Connecticut town and the secrets she uncovers there.

For Kate Klein, a semi-accidental mother of three, suburbia’s been full of unpleasant surprises. Her once-loving husband is hardly ever home. The super mommies on the playground routinely snub her. Her days are spent carpooling and enduring endless games of Candy Land, and at night, most of her orgasms are of the do-it-yourself variety.

When a fellow mother is murdered, the unsolved mystery quickly becomes one of the most exciting things to ever happen in Upchurch, Connecticut. Despite the local police chief’s warning that crime-fighting is a job best left to the professionals, Kate launches an unofficial investigation—from 8:45 to 11:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, when her kids are in nursery school.

As Kate is drawn deeper into the murdered woman’s past, she discovers the secrets and lies behind Upchurch’s placid picket-fence façade—and the choices and compromises all modern women make as they navigate between independence and obligation, small towns and big cities, being a mother and having a life of one’s own.

Engrossing, suspenseful, and laugh-out-loud funny, Goodnight Nobody is another unputdownable, timely tale; an insightful mystery with a great heart and a narrator you’ll never forget.

…That’s right, it’s a murder mystery! Only… in the form of a RomCom. It’s actually not like anything I’ve read before, and perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I will say, the murder happens within the first five pages, so there’s no real need to get “into” this book – it happens right away, which I love. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re into marshmallow fiction, and/or lighthearted mysteries.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Superficial: More Adventures from the Andy Cohen Diaries” by Andy Cohen.

This is one of those weekends that feels like it’s already planned for me between a work event and a video shoot for my upcoming dance performance… I may just be sleeping and attempting to binge-watch season three of “Orange is the New Black”. We’ll see – but you’re more than welcome to follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to see if I find myself up to anything interesting.

Cheers!

BBC: ‘Big Little Lies’.

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 it
With each glance and every little movement you show it
 
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can never tell, why don’t you take it
You’re gonna make it after all.

BBC: “Still Life”.

Happy Friday the 13th – Mwahahahaha! It’s my last day at my current job, and on Monday I’ll be skipping to someplace new, and of course, I’ll be sharing the next leg of my journey with you.

But today, I want to talk about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read, “Still Life” by Louise Penny. I heard lots about this book from a podcast (“What Should I Read Next?”) that I listen to each week. The host of the show recommended this book to fans of Robert Galbraith’s (AKA J.K. Rowling) Cormoran Strike series – which I love.

The Louise Penny series – which by the way, I don’t think it’s an actual series as in, I don’t think you have to read them in order (or do you?), but either way, I know you could just pick up any one of the books and read them without having read the ones before it or continuing to read the ones after it.

However, I did start with book one of the group, because I do plan on reading several of them – there are 12 in total, plus a new book that’s coming out in August. Here’s the description for “Still Life” from Amazon.com:

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces–and this series–with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

You can find all of the Chief Inspector Gamache series books here, and this is the order they were published in, just in case you want to tackle them in order: “Still Life”, “A Fatal Grace”, “The Cruelest Month”, “A Rule Against Murder”, “The Brutal Telling”, “Bury Your Dead”, “A Trick of the Light”, “The Beautiful Mystery”, “How the Light Gets In”, “The Long Way Home”, The Nature of the Beast”, and “A Great Reckoning” (the new book coming out in August).

All of the books take place in Three Pines, a small village in Canada. The author, Louise Penny, lives in a small Canadian village, too, so perhaps she took a lot of inspiration from her own life. If you decide to get into the books, there are lots of discussion boards and even recipes inspired by the books posted on the website!

I will admit “Still Life” was a little slow during the first two chapters, but quickly picked up and was a joy to read. I definitely see how fans of the Cormoran Strike series would also enjoy this group of books.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick. I’m so excited to read this book!

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – if you’ve got a three-day weekend then I’m super jealous! I’m going to be cooking some more recipes from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, taking my second pilates class of the week (making it my 7th workout class this week), giving myself a mani and pedi as I prep for my new job, and in general just getting my life together! If you’re following me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7, I’m certain you’ll see it all go down.

See you here on Monday!

BBC: the birthday edition!

Ba-da-da-da-da!!!! Today is kitty Blanche’s 3rd birthday, so naturally, Blanche and I are sleeping off our raging hangovers (she’s 21 in cat years now, y’all).

No, actually, I’m at work and Blanche gets to stay at home, living the life of luxury all day. Lucky duck! To celebrate, Blanche got a special helping of soft food for breakfast. I gave her a gift early, because I just couldn’t wait: a bright yellow stool from IKEA so she can sit on it and watch birds all day.

Blanche's lookout point.

Blanche’s lookout point.

If the point hasn’t been made clear, I’m a total, loud and proud #CatLady – even though I only have one cat. Everything about my life pretty much revolves around my cat, and I’m fine with it. The funny thing about the stool is that, for some odd reason, I let Blanche BORROW my desk stool to sit at the window and bird watch.

But it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t getting it back. So, I bought her one for herself and took back my original desk stool. I may or may not decorate hers with colorful paints and or glitter. We’ll see. She also got a “smartycat” from my friend, which is one of those motion toys that’s really going to get the party started.

Being that Blanche’s birthday is today, I’ve been thinking a lot about our short time together so far. The truth is, Blanche has been the wildest kitty I’ve had as of yet. She’s got long, crazy hair, sharp claws (and teeth), and a very sassy attitude. But, this pretty kitty came into my life when I was dating an emotionally abusive alcoholic. She was there for many nights when I cried myself to sleep, and when he tried to break into my apartment.

She’s been with me through unemployment, retail life, late nights, and of course, our move to Austin (and she was silent a majority of the 7-hour drive). Blanche was a shelter kitty and was discovered with her mom and siblings in the attic of a school in Baton Rouge. In a way, we saved each other. That’s a cat that deserves some spoiling, amiright? Probably not, but we’re rolling with it. So, Happy Birthday to my wild-eyed, beautiful kitty, Blanche Devereaux!

Before I forget, if you entered the contest yesterday, you won! Congrats to Samantha and my mom, Anna! You should expect an email from Green Chef (sent yesterday).

So, that brings us to BBC, Blanche’s Book Club! We’ve finished reading book #2 for the club, and it’s a real success with the whopping two members on board (one of them being Blanche). But, it’s not a popularity contest. So, our latest read was “The Lair, The Bitch and the Wardrobe” by Allie Kingsley.

From the back of the book:

If you’re going to step on people on your way to the top, you might as well do it in stilettos . . .

. . . Or so she’s been told. Lucy Butler, former wallflower, lands her dream job working for her idol, world-famous fashion photographer Stefano Lepres. But in a world where getting doused in coffee for not getting the order right is the new normal, she isn’t getting any closer to her ideal of being behind the camera herself. Then a superstar actress generously takes Lucy under her wing and teaches her the ways of the rich and famous—treating her to racks of designer clothes and introducing her to a life of private planes and penthouse suites. Soon Lucy is dating a rock star, attending the hottest Hollywood parties, and dressing the part.

Lost in the luxury, she loses sight of the things that once mattered most. It’s going to take a hard blow from the high life to send Lucy back to the real life she always wanted.

 I know it’s kind of early in the year to say this, but this would be a great pool/beach read. It’s lite, sexy, glamorous, edgy, and in parts, laugh-out-loud funny. I’ll admit, it took me a few chapters before I really got into this book, but after that, I pretty much finished it in one sitting.

It’s got mixed reviews on Good Reads, but has some interesting books linked with it in the whole “Other readers enjoyed…” including “The Big Bang” by Linda Joffe Hull (think: Desperate Housewives), “At Least You’re in Tuscany: A Somewhat Diastrous Quest for the Sweet Life” is Jennifer Criswell (memoir: moving from NYC to Tuscany), and “Lucy Gets Her Life Back” by Stef Ann Holm (single mom, super drama).

While I’m fairly certain this is Kingley’s only book of her own, she’s worked in the fashion industry for many years, and worked with Nikki Hilton to publish her book – pretty cool. Plus, she’s got gorgeous red hair, and who doesn’t love a red head?

The next book BBC will be reading is “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith, the second book in the Cormoran Strike Series. If you want to contribute to the discussion, leave a comment, email me at Holly@thebitterlemon.com, Snap me or DM me @OrangeJulius7 or whatever you have to do. Or, you can send me a book title to read, but I’m not making any promises, folks. It’s the non-committal book club you’ve always dreamed of!

And what that, I’m signing off until Monday! Prep yourselves for an amazing week of blogs starting right here, on Monday. Muah!

Pic of the Week.

3/7 of us that ESCAPED!

3/7 of us that ESCAPED!

Over the weekend, I’m proud to say that my friends and I completed what’s known as an “Escape Room.”

I won’t give anything about our particular scenario away, but these escape rooms are all over the country (I even saw one in London, too!) and groups of people are setting out to conquer them. I’ve boycotted “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” franchise, but I heard there was an escape room on one of the episodes this season.

Basically, you and a group of people are placed into a fictional scenario and you have a certain amount of time to get out.

Our scenario was that we were kidnapped by a local serial killer, taken to his home, and given 60 minutes to get out before he returns to “consume” us.

The “room” was actually about four rooms, all full of puzzles and riddles that must be solved before continuing to the next part of the room.

I’m happy to say our group was added to the 10% of people that solve ALL of the riddles and make it out before the killer returns — we didn’t have a second to spare — and it was incredibly fun! I love mysteries and CSI, so it was cool to be a part of something similar.

I will openly admit to anyone that I’m scared shitless of everything. I hate Halloween, I cannot watch scary movies (can’t even watch the previews), and I’m terrified of several things that happen in every day life. So, this whole escape room thing took a little convincing.

My friends assured me that no one would be chasing us, no one would be hiding in the room to scare us, and we wouldn’t ever be left alone. It was more about problem solving. I do love a challenge, so I agreed, and I’m so glad I did.

Was I scared at first? Yes. The morning of our appointment, I paced my apartment; told my mom I loved her in case I didn’t make it out; and I fed my cat enough food for a week. Despite having one vodka drink before entering the escape room, my stomach was in knots. But once our time started counting down, I knew there was no time to be scared and I just wanted to help the group.

The cool thing about our group? We all contributed in some way. We didn’t fight, and we all celebrated together, with the 13th Gate Escape Room staff. Afterward, we recounted every single minute of our adventure over mango margaritas.

It was a glorious summer night.

If you live in the Baton Rouge area, check out the Escape Room at The 13th Gate. Live elsewhere? Visit the Escape Room Directory.