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the saturday six.

A Civil War veteran shares stories to a group of boys in the 1920s.

• Because this week was the anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking: menus for each passenger class.

• That time Edgar Allan Poe published a Cliffsnotes version of a science textbook.

• SO COOL! A roundup of photographs of early bookmobiles!

• YUM!! These grapefruit doughnuts are raw, vegan, and gluten-free!

• I’ve been on a comic binge again. Vulture recently listed 8 comics to read this April and some of them look really great!

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The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White
Pub. Date: April 11, 2017
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Berkley Books!)
Summary: Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren’t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.

Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.

Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother’s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather’s world.

In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women…
Genre: Southern Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery

Oh, Karen White. My introduction to her work was 2015’s The Sound of Glass and I was so enamored I swore I would jump right into her other novels. When I received an invitation to be a part of the tour for The Night the Lights Went Out, I couldn’t say yes fast enough!

A recent (and ugly) divorce has Merilee moving with her children to Sweet Apple, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. A new change of pace and scenery will do wonders for them all – or so Merilee assumes. What begins as a great new start at life – Merilee rents a cottage from 94-year-old Sugar Prescott who’s still stubborn and full of fire, the kids are doing well in their new, private academy, and Merilee even begins to make friends with the other school moms – quickly goes south when an anonymous blog starts shedding light on scandalous events…including the one that ended her marriage.

I have a feeling this review will be short and sweet – not that there’s not a lot to discuss, but because Karen hit yet another homerun and I just adore her. The juxtaposition of Sugar’s farm and her childhood stories right alongside the Stepfordesque tennis moms and their gated mansions, a setting so vivid I felt like I was there (not surprising, considering Atlanta is White’s hometown!), the blog posts scattered throughout the chapters. It all came together so perfectly. What really stands out in White’s novels, though, are her characters. They’re all so, so wonderfully crafted and feel like real, living, breathing people I could easily come across at the grocery store or while shopping.

The star here is clearly Sugar. 94 and full of spunk, Sugar doesn’t need more friends, thank you very much. In fact, she’s perfectly content with her childhood best friend Willa Faye and her grandson Wade. She lives for her shows and makes a point to get her daily steps in – what, just because she’s old doesn’t mean she doesn’t know what a Fitbit is! Sugar has lived on the farm her entire life and throughout the novel there are snippets of her childhood in the 30s when Mama lost one too many babies and fell into a dark depression, the night a man died on their kitchen table. Naturally I was completely sucked in to the historical aspect, but watching Sugar’s icy facade crumble as her friendship with Merilee evolves over the course of the novel was lovely.

Again, a short review, but don’t let that fool you. Karen White is a master at her craft and I loved The Night the Lights Went Out. A fantastic setting, excellent characters, and a story that swept me away all came together to make one phenomenal book. Fans of Diane Chamberlain and Liane Moriarty are sure to feel right at home with this one – and be prepared to have The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia stuck in your head!

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Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen
Pub. Date: April 18, 2017
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Berkley Books!)
Summary: Hannah Monroe’s boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house. Every call she ever made to him, every text she ever sent, every photo of him and any sign of him on social media have vanished. It’s as though their last four years together never happened.

As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, with humiliation and recriminations whirring through her head, she knows that she’ll do whatever it takes to find him again and get answers. But as soon as her search starts, she realizes she is being led into a maze of madness and obsession. Step by suspenseful step, Hannah discovers her only way out is to come face to face with the shocking truth…
Genre: Contemporary, Psychological Thriller, Unreliable Narrator

Hannah’s day couldn’t be better. Away on a business trip in Oxford, she’s told she’s well on her way to a big-time promotion – one that will not only mean far more money, but she’ll be the youngest director her company has ever had. The 200 miles to get home are torture, she can’t wait to see the look on Matt’s face when she tells him the exciting news…only, when she gets home, his car isn’t there. Initially she doesn’t think anything of it, after all, he had told her he might be late coming home that night. It isn’t until she walks into their house that she suspects something isn’t right: could they have been burgled?

Artwork, pieces of furniture, things are missing and what’s so odd is that what’s gone isn’t necessarily expensive, what kind of person would steal some photographs by the door when the real money is in the entryway table? It isn’t until Hannah takes a closer look that she realizes everything missing belongs to Matt. In fact, the brand-new television he bought when he moved in has been replaced by her fuzzy, old tv that has been gathering dust in storage. The bedding has been changed back to plain white sheets from long ago. Going room-to-room, Hannah realizes every trace of Matt is simply gone – and it’s not just objects, Hannah quickly discovers. His phone number has been wiped from her cell along with any photo, text, or call. It’s clear Matt left, but what Hannah wants to know is why?

Oh dear. Let’s start with the good. Gone Without a Trace was a blindingly fast read that I finished in a single sitting, despite it’s near 400-page length. I was instantly drawn into the story and, like Hannah, wanted to know what on earth happened to Matt. What could have gone so wrong that he would pull this vanishing act and make it appear as though he had never existed?

Unreliable narrators are continuing to have their moment, thanks to those huge bestsellers like Gone Girl and Girl on a Train and, for the most part, I’m okay with it – if done in a believable way. Unfortunately, Gone Without a Trace totally missed the mark to the point where, after the reveal, Hannah felt like a completely different character. Her internal monologue was different, her way of speaking wasn’t the same, this was a wildly new person presented and I couldn’t get behind it.

What really sealed the book’s fate, however, was the absolutely ridiculous reveal. I read this one during a weekend and the entire time I was doing a running commentary for (my own) Matt. As we were getting closer to the truth about what happened, we started coming up with our own theories and, I’ll admit, ours were way more believable and fitting with the story than what really went down and for that, I’m extremely disappointed. This was a novel I actually wouldn’t have finished were it not for just how quick the pace was.

I’m clearly in the minority here as Gone Without a Trace is already receiving scores of high praise and a ton of buzz. While I can certainly see where the love is coming from, I just couldn’t look past the terrible reveal or the out of nowhere personality change for Hannah’s character – she came off as a completely different person and it felt as though it was Torjussen’s way of having a ~shocking and unreliable~ narrator. No thanks. I was also left with several unanswered questions (like exactly how did Matt manage to get into Hannah’s phone to erase every. single. text? Every call? Every e-mail? His own phone number?) I’m sorry to say that this one did nothing for me.

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weekly wrap-up 4/9

• In last week’s the saturday six/weekly wrap-up I mentioned that we had received some bad news and that my pup needed surgery. WELL! Things are beginning to improve to the point where she might not need it and I couldn’t be happier! Nothing’s set in stone yet though, so we’ll go back to the vet one more time for a final decision!

• Ugh winter is trying its best to hang on: despite temperatures in the 70s (and nice long walks!) it randomly snowed a few days ago.

• Matt and I have started redoing one of the bathrooms in our house – and by started, I mean JUST began. I’m excited and overwhelmed but also can’t wait to see what happens…and a little terrified too! Hahaha we have no clue what we’re doing so this could be a total disaster with the entire house collapsing around us.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Jessica Strawser’s debut Almost Missed You was a wild ride that had me hooked from the first page. A couple has the perfect romance with a super sweet fate-had-a-hand-in-it story of how they met, were torn apart, and met again years later. A marriage and a baby later and things couldn’t be better…until Finn abandons Violet while they’re on vacation, taking their son with him. Soon the FBI are involved in the manhunt along with dark secrets that are threatening to be revealed.

My March 2017 recap was a mix of highs and lows: Matt and I got out a lot to see movies and plays…but we also first noticed something about our pup that worried us, leading to this whole possible surgery ordeal. Book-wise, my month was pretty great: out of the 7 novels reviewed, only one was a bit of a letdown!

This week’s the saturday six includes links for using tea and food to naturally dye eggs, old Hollywood, avocado ice cream, Disney, and more!

Duels and Deceptions by Cindy Anstey
Miss Lydia Whitfield already has her future planned out. As heiress to her family’s fortune, she’ll continue running the estate until marrying a man her father had chosen for her, then she’ll happily spend the rest of her days playing wife and mother. But just as a young law clerk begins drafting the marriage contract he’s kidnapped – and Lydia along with him! Despite the kidnapping bit (which you KNOW will serve as a way to bring Lydia and this young law clerk together) this book sounds absolutely adorable and look at the cover! SO cute. Thank you, Swoon Reads!

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the saturday six.

• It’s that time of year! My family makes a big day out of dying eggs and this guide from Adagio looks SUPER simple! More ideas for using fruits, veggies, spices, and tea as dye can be found: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

• I love it when writers know their target audience: take a virtual stroll through Queen Mary’s Garden, aka the garden where Pongo and Perdita met ♥

• Legit starry-eyed over the Royal Mint’s announcement that they’re releasing 4 new Beatrix Potter coins!!!

• This mint chocolate chip avocado ice cream is speaking to me. It’s vegan, ONLY FIVE INGREDIENTS, and no ice cream machine required!!

• Though this article on the man behind some of Hollywood’s most iconic movie posters is on the longer side, it’s definitely worth the read, A club that only accepts new members when a current member passes away, Audrey Hepburn, James Bond, fangirling from Neil Gaiman. I recently picked up a new copy of American Gods and instead of buying the version I already owned but misplaced, I went for the cover with a really striking illustration that looked like some pulpy 70s novel. …turns out a bunch of Gaiman’s novels are being rereleased with new covers done by Robert McGinnis!

• Today is Mary Pickford’s birthday and you all know I love me some old Hollywood. 20 fascinating facts about the Hollywood pioneer!

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March 2017 recap


WHAT I…DID

• Matt & I saw Logan and oh man it was good.

• In additional to movies, Matt and I also hit up my hometown playhouse! My cousin was in a production of Shrek Jr. and did a marvelous job! Hahaha, there’s one song (new to the play, since it definitely was not in the movie) that’s still stuck in my head.

• My mom’s birthday and the beginning of spring were definitely highlights of the month, but there were some major lows too: we found out my pup needed surgery. It won’t take place until later this month and we’re hoping for some good news before then :(

• I’ve been mentioning my company’s Food Truck Fridays any chance I get. A recent one involved vegan hot dogs. HOLY MOLY they were fantastic!

WHAT I…REVIEWED

A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN BY SUSAN MEISSNER completely blew me away – and now has me craving more of Meissner’s work! Told through three voices (with a wonderfully unexpected fourth voice later on in the novel), this story tells the tale of two women fleeing their own troubles during WWII and the woman in the present who finds herself drawn into a mystery. Though there’s talk of a haunted ship, this one isn’t a paranormal novel, and the whole thing works. I highly, HIGHLY recommend this one!

NEVER LET YOU GO BY CHEVY STEVENS was another novel that had me captivated. An abusive ex recently released from prison, little things like keys being moved around, feeling watched, a new boyfriend threatened – this is a Leah novel! Be warned: I rambled on and on about this one. Not only did it remind me of one of my absolute favorite books of 2016, but there was also an aspect that made me angry. Put those two together and you’ve got a review that’s practically a book itself.

WHO KILLED CHRISTOPHER GOODMAN? BY ALLAN WOLF was an interesting read. Though this novel is fiction, it’s heavily inspired by a real crime that took place during the author’s childhood when a classmate was brutally murdered. While I certainly enjoyed this one (and really wanted to know just who did it!) I have to say I expected a little more.

GIRL IN DISGUISE BY GREER MACALLISTER was an absolute delight. This historical mystery follows the very real Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton agent! So little is known about Kate, but Greer brought her to life beautifully – full of grit and guts and flaws. Though I did enjoy this one, it does NOT follow your typical mystery formula: this book is more a fictionalized biography as it follows several cases and Kate’s decade-long career with the Pinkertons.

MARCH’S MINI-REVIEW ROUND UP was mini itself: only two reviews. One, a Middle Grade comic, was fun though it’s something I feel an actual Middle Grade reader would enjoy more (lots of poop jokes). The other novel was one of my most anticipated releases, The Heartbeat of Wing Jones. Sadly, this YA just wasn’t for me. I wanted to know more about the terrible accident Wing’s brother caused and the aftermath, not watch Wing as she flirted with her brother’s best friend. Disappointing.

A DEATH BY ANY OTHER NAME BY TESSA ARLEN is the third novel in her Lady Montfort mystery series, but easily read as a standalone and would be the perfect intro to these books! England on the doorstep of WWI, a castle in the country, a mysterious death of a dinner guest. If there was ever a deliciously wonderful novel for a rainy day, it’s this one.

WHAT I…BLOGGED

RECENTLY ADDED

THE SATURDAY SIX
3/4
3/11
3/18
3/25

WEEKLY WRAP-UPS
3/5
3/12
3/19
3/26

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Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
Pub. Date: March 28, 2017
Source: e-ARC + finished hardback via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery

There are some couples whose How We Met story simply begs to be told. Matt and I definitely had a whirlwind instalove romance ripped straight out of a YA novel – complete with an “it turned out we actually crossed paths before” moment. A good friend of mine was convinced her now-husband would forever be a great friend…until, years after doing the whole friend thing, it turned out they really, really liked each other. In Almost Missed You, Violet and Finn meet on a beach (she, newly single and more than happy to take a ‘mecation’ and he, the awkward man out in a group of ridiculously wealthy wedding guests). Just like randomly running into an acquaintance when you’re both traveling abroad, Violet and Finn realized that, despite being multiple states away from home, they’re actually from the same town. Better yet, they were among the tiny handful of kids who attended an all too shortly lived summer camp.

Unfortunately, a medical emergency caused the two to lose track of one another that night, ultimately leaving their brief spark as just that. Fate intervenes once more when Finn posts a Missed Connections ad on Craigslist. The woman who responds most definitely is not Violet, but shockingly the pair hit it off and wind up madly in love – even engaged.

It takes a tragedy to finally, finally bring the two full circle and, this time, Violet is determined not to let this man slip away again. One wedding and a baby later, and Violet and Finn are that couple. The couple who still gaze adoringly at one another, who still hold hands as they walk down the street, the pair who just seem meant to be. Until the day Finn takes off with their son while on vacation, abandoning Violet in their hotel room and shutting off service on his cell so she’s unable to get in touch.

Instantly I was hooked. Told through alternating chapters (and an alternating time line) Almost Missed You details the night Violet and Finn meet, to the years spent without each other (and with other people) and their meeting once again, to the present day. When Finn leaves, he winds up at Caitlin’s house. Caitlin, his best friend. Caitlin, whose secret he holds and is so desperate for a safe haven that he’s not above blackmailing her. Either give him the security code to her family’s lake-front cabin or he’ll destroy her marriage. Now, it could just be that I’m VERY familiar with thrillers, but this terrible, horrible secret didn’t surprise me in the least. I certainly understood her fears however, and the length she felt she needed to go to in order to appease Finn.

What follows is a manhunt of epic proportions. Because Finn crossed state lines, the FBI have entered the fray. Violet is practically worrying herself sick, unable to move from her son’s bed, imagining how scared he must be, all the while unable to make sense of Finn’s abrupt disappearance. Caitlin is torn between keeping her secret safe – and doing what she knows is right. Finn is dealing with demons of his own which are rapidly spiraling out of control. The moment the stories collide together I couldn’t look away (not that I was able to tear my eyes from the book before!)

I’ll be honest. While I was utterly captivated, once Finn’s motives were revealed, I felt more sad than anything. Sad for Violet, for believing in what turned out to be a huge farce. Don’t let my feelings fool you, I seriously enjoyed this one to the point where, when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and counting down the minutes until I could get back to it. I’m wildly impressed by this debut and can’t wait to see what Strawser does next! As a side note, she’s a Pittsburgh gal! AND she’ll be at my local indie this Thursday! You better believe I’ll be there.