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BBC: ‘The Vanishing Year’.

I feel a little bad about posting two book reviews in a row, but this means I’ll be all caught up with Blanche’s Book Club, and I’ll be able to post about my stay-cation plans later in the week!

So, let’s get to it: the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “The Vanishing Year” by Kate Moretti. Here is the description from Amazon:

Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips.

What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her.

As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she—whoever she is—vanishes completely.

A “dark, twisty, edge-of-your-seat suspense” (Karen Robards), The Vanishing Year combines the classic sophistication of Ruth Rendell and A.S.A. Harrison with the thoroughly modern flair of Jessica Knoll. Told from the point-of-view of a heroine who is as relatable as she is enigmatic, The Vanishing Year is an unforgettable new novel by a rising star of the genre.

I will likely never tire of reading about the lives of wealthy people – whether they’re famous, get mailbox money, savvy entrepreneurs, or married into it, I’m here for it.

But of course, Zoe’s story has a dark side to it. Her past is less-than polished, and although it’s not as shocking as I’d hoped, it forms into a nasty twist.

This wasn’t quite an edge-of-seat thriller, but almost. And it does contain sexual violence (trigger warnings included).

There’s a few twists you definitely won’t see coming, and because of this, I’m recommending it to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers and also adoption/birth parent stories (with a twist).

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer” by Michelle McNamara.

I’ll likely be starting this book today, and I’m already terrified, so follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 for up-to-date reviews!

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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!

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!