Blog Archives

BBC: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’.

Ugh, I know I said I was reading “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough… and I definitely started reading it, when I realized I had to take another book back to the library within just a few days!

Just to note, I have had my Austin library card for exactly 1 year now, and I haven’t ever had an overdue book or a late fee, and I plan to keep it that way. So, I had to switch things up and read my library book, “HillBilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance, first.

I heard about this book on Instagram (I am always keeping my eyes open for books to add to my reading list), and I added to my library reserve list immediately. After months of waiting, I got it – and then of course had to read it within just a few days – which was actually not an issue because it was so good. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

While this book was published before the 2016 election, there are many, many clues within this book as to why Trump eventually won (despite what we now know about Russian involvement). Right after I finished reading this book, I started looking up reviews for it online and saw a mix – many people loved it, while lots of people said it didn’t represent the people it claims to.

But the author, Vance, says he’s not trying to make assumptions about large groups of people – merely stating what he knows about his family, and those he grew up with.

And if what he’s saying is true, I can 100% understand why Trump is our president now. It doesn’t make it any less sad, or difficult to deal with, but at least now I know. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the culture of various people, and/or politics.

Now, for real, the next book I’ll be reading is “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough. I swear!

BBC: ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’.

Hello! I’m assuming everyone survived the Star Wars’ holiday and is now prepping for margaritas, so happy Friday! And double score for you guys, because I’ve got a great book recommendation to share!

The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Morgan Matson. Another YA novel! Here’s the scoop:

Emily is about to take some risks and have the most unexpected summer ever. Hellogiggles.com says, “Basically I couldn’t be more in love with this book,” from the bestselling author of Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.

Before Sloane, Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. There’s just a random to-do list with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Wait…what?

Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find.

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

* * *

I swear I’m not obsessed with lists or the number 13 (the book club recently read “13 Reasons Why”). Generally speaking, this book is fun and perfect for summer. It has a bit of a “Paper Towns” feel to it in that Emily is following the list in hopes of getting to Sloane somehow.

I’ve never been given a list like this one in the book, but it sure helped Emily have a summer she’ll never forget. A friend and I were just talking about how we love looking forward to summer adventures, and this book offers that same excitement.

I would definitely recommend this book for those who love a little summer fun and/or romance. It will be perfect for those lazy weekend afternoons.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Why We Broke Up” by Daniel Handler. Yes, it’s another YA novel – swear it’ll be the last one for awhile!

Have a great day and a fun weekend, all! I am hoping to tend to my patio garden some and possibly do some crafting and cooking – it’s going to be a weekend full of ME time!

BBC: ‘The Admissions’.

Wahoooo! It’s Friiiiday! That first week back to work after a relaxing week off is sure a doozy, but I made it – my fellow vacationers made it, and I’m so ready for an awesome weekend ahead. I have still been reading a ton, and am really relishing my time spent at the library (I go at least twice per week) – I think the employees are starting to recognize me.

My latest read was one I stumbled upon, although I’ve read another book by this author before – it’s “The Admissions” by Meg Mitchell Moore. Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

The Hawthorne family has it all. Great jobs, a beautiful house in one of the most affluent areas of Northern California, and three charming kids whose sunny futures are all but assured. And then comes their eldest daughter’s senior year of high school . . .

Firstborn Angela Hawthorne is a straight-A student and star athlete, with extracurricular activities coming out of her ears and a college application that’s not going to write itself. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, and like a dog with a chew toy, Angela won’t let up until she’s basking in crimson-colored glory. Except her class rank as valedictorian is under attack, she’s suddenly losing her edge at cross-country, and she can’t help but daydream about a cute baseball player. Of course Angela knows the time put into her schoolgirl crush would be better spent coming up with a subject for her English term paper—which, along with her college essay, has a rapidly approaching deadline.

Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real estate career where she caters to the mega-rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, second-grader Maya, still can’t read; the middle child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and their dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few ill-advised moves put the Hawthorne family on a collision course that’s equal parts achingly real and delightfully screwball—and they learn that whatever it cost to get their lucky lives it may cost far more to keep them.

Sharp, topical, and wildly entertaining, The Admissions shows that if you pull at a loose thread, even the sturdiest lives start to unravel at the seams of high achievement.

At first, the plot seems like the one we’ve all seen before: well-to-do family puts too much pressure on their children to do well in school and in life that the kids hate themselves and are tired of living vicariously through their parents. Right?

That’s how things start out in this book, but I’ll hand it to the author – there’s a few really unexpected twists that kept this story rolling for me. Plus, the characters are easily likable; especially the dad and daughter. I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for something semi-lite; you know, something to ease you into your fall reading.

The other book I’ve read from Meg Mitchell Moore is “The Arrivals“, which is another story based around a tightly-knit family… and just when it seems like there’s going to be an empty nest, everyone comes back for their own reasons. I really enjoyed this book, which is why I was pretty excited to come across “The Arrivals” at the library.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Modern Lovers” by Emma Straub – it took weeks for me to get my hands on this one at the library! If you’d like to read along with us, feel free to chat it up on Twitter, SnapChat or Instagram @OrangeJulius7, post in the comments, or shoot me an email at Holly@thebitterlemon.com. The more, the merrier!

I hope you all have some fun weekends planned! I am definitely going to rest some, but I’m also planning on doing some serious cooking and baking, going to do a little clothes shopping, and I’ve got a season of E.R. I’ve been itching to watch. Catch it all on SnapChat and I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

In memoriam: The Fabulous Jackie.

Jackie and the Reatta.

Jackie and the Reatta.

I learned yesterday that one of my favorite writers, an inspiration, Jackie Collins lost her very private battle with breast cancer after nearly seven years.

A woman as fabulous as Jackie was never defined by age, and so we’ll not mention how young she was, but we’ll just say, she’s left us too soon. What are we supposed to do without the famous Santangelo saga?

My career as a relationship blogger and columnist would be non-existent if it weren’t for Jackie, as she was a trailblazer for women in literature, which is why this blog has mentioned her many times (read this profile on her amazing self), and she will never be forgotten.

Jackie embodied the lifestyle (in some aspects) of the characters she wrote about; she lived a writer’s dream. Her success in writing about the scandals of the Hollywood elite rewarded her with unheard of sales — more than 500 million copies of her books have been sold around the world. She’s published 31 consecutive New York Times Best Sellers, including the wildly famous “Hollywood Wives.”

She was a class act, and fabulous, by every stretch of the word. Her home reflected her success, but her work ethic was as classic as it gets — she wrote all of her work in longhand before handing it over to an assistant to type. She kept every original manuscript bound in leather journals in her home.

What I find most interesting about Jackie is how she kept her cancer journey private, until very recently. In what would become her last interview, she discusses her decision to keep her battle just between her daughters (her sister Joan found out about the diagnosis only weeks before Jackie’s passing).

Sadly, Jackie suffered from cancer many times before she was diagnosed, losing her mother, second husband, and a fiance to the disease.

But nonetheless, she forged on. And she did so with the type of class that’s rarely seen anymore. She was talented and humble; as the Telegraph described her, “a combination of the down-to-earth with the almost unreachably glamorous.”

She was a feminist because she lived that way; not because she talked about it.

What I loved most about Jackie is that she never, ever forgot her readers. She was quick to take up social media to connect with us, and just as I always write an author when I love their book, she always wrote me back. I will forever treasure her words to me.

May she rest in peace; and may her next life be just as glamorous as the one she lived here. I know no female author can ever replace what she’s done for the next batch, but I hope we can at least try.

Whatever you have a passion for, then you must do. If you want to write, write about something you know about. — Jackie Collins

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? 

Cool cover, huh?

This book was one of the first I read using my iPad. “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” was on my reading list for what seemed like forever, and I couldn’t wait to read it.

“Comedy heaven…. This divinely funny, many-faceted novel…leaves convention behind. Instead, it plays to Ms. Semple’s strengths as someone who can practice ventriloquism in many voices, skip over the mundane and utterly refute the notion that mixed-media fiction is bloggy, slack or lazy…. The tightly constructed WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is written in many formats-e-mails, letters, F.B.I. documents, correspondence with a psychiatrist and even an emergency-room bill for a run-in between Bernadette and Audrey. Yet these pieces are strung together so wittily that Ms. Semple’s storytelling is always front and center, in sharp focus. You could stop and pay attention to how apt each new format is, how rarely she repeats herself and how imaginatively she unveils every bit of information. But you would have to stop laughing first.”— Janet Maslin, The New York Times 

Author Maria Semple is also a screenwriter, possibly known for her work on Beverly Hills 90210, Mad About You, and Arrested Development. She has also written a second book, “This One is Mine.” 

“Where’d You Go Bernadette?” is the story of a very peculiar woman — though she is annoyed by a lot of the same things you and I probably are (or maybe it’s just me), which makes the book that much more hilarious.

But aside from just being about Bernadette, it’s a story about family, and it also says a bit about our culture. It’s an updated story of the way things are. I’d definitely recommend this book (I bought a copy for my mom, and she agreed that it was hilarious).

As always, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • You’d think she was the first lady of France, with her silk scarf flung just so and huge dark glasses.
  • One of the main reasons I don’t like leaving the house is because I might find myself face-to-face with a Canadian.
  • If you’re so hell-bent on placing blame, I suggest you look in the mirror.