Blog Archives

BBC: ‘Bachelor Nation’.

I’m heading to the doctor this morning for my annual checkup and blood test. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that last year, I (finally) faced my fears and got my blood tested for all sorts of things… everything turned out fine, so now I am happy to have a comparison and see how things are going. Plus, I’m really not scared! But, I’m still going to treat myself to a fancy pressed juice afterward.

But, wow have I got a T-R-E-A-T for you guys! It’s the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club and it’s juicy: “Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure” by Amy Kaufman. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

For fifteen years and thirty-five seasons, the Bachelor franchise has been a mainstay in American TV viewers’ lives. Since it premiered in 2002, the show’s popularity and relevance has only grown–more than eight million viewers tuned in to see the conclusion of the most recent season of The Bachelor.

The iconic reality television show’s reach and influence into the cultural zeitgeist is undeniable. Bestselling writers and famous actors live tweet about it. Die-hard fans–dubbed “Bachelor Nation”–come together every week during each season to participate in fantasy leagues and viewing parties. 

Bachelor Nation is the first behind-the-scenes, unauthorized look into the reality television phenomenon. Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman is a proud member of Bachelor Nation and has a long history with the franchise–ABC even banned her from attending show events after her coverage of the program got a little too real for its liking. She has interviewed dozens of producers, contestants, and celebrity fans to give readers never-before-told details of the show’s inner workings: what it’s like to be trapped in the mansion “bubble”; dark, juicy tales of producer manipulation; and revelations about the alcohol-fueled debauchery that occurs long before the fantasy suite. 

Kaufman also explores what our fascination means, culturally: what the show says about the way we view so-called ideal suitors, our subconscious yearning for fairy-tale romance, and how this enduring television show has shaped society’s feelings about love, marriage, and feminism by appealing to a marriage plot that’s as old as Jane Austen. 

Okay, soo… I have watched so many freaking episodes of “The Bachelor” (I don’t really enjoy “The Bachelorette”), it’s not even funny. I used to really love it, and then I just kept getting so upset when they wouldn’t pick the woman I thought they should pick… so then I swore it off… and then I watched Arie’s (horrible) season… all of that to say that the addiction is real, but why?

How does a reality show filled with champagne and tea lights hold such power over us, and how has it affected our expectations of romance?

And that’s why I was so excited to read this book! While I enjoy Tweeting along with millions of others during the show, I am not really familiar with the inner circle known as Bachelor Nation. Amy Kaufman really got an inside look, as she used to write recaps of the show, professionally… that is, until she got a little snarky and The Bachelor franchise shut her out.

So she set out to write a book, and used her connections to get the inside scoop from camera men, producers, and contestants. It. Is. Good. Shit.

Now, I’m not naive, so much of what’s in the book wasn’t a total shock, but it was nice to get confirmation of what I’ve been thinking while watching the show.

Reading this book, you’ll get the scoop on how the show chooses contestants, what it’s like to be a contestant, how all of the dates are planned, how the limo/introductions are planned, who gets paid, details on wardrobe and hair/makeup, and info on the Bachelor Mansion, plus more.

There’s even lots of info about specific contestants, infamous hookups and moments on the show, and a complete list of every season and it’s winner.

This book is like a giant box of Godiva truffles and I loved every bite of it. The thing is, what are we supposed to do after we’re handed such rich information? It doesn’t make me want to pick up watching the show, but I do think we have to consider the type of world we live in where people are willing to sacrifice so much for a drip of fame, and possibly romance.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who has ever watched “The Bachelor” – even just one episode. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty.

Advertisements

BBC: ‘Educated’.

Friday is here! I’m back in Austin after my Bucket List trip to Denver – don’t worry, I’ve got a post coming soon of everything I did, travel tips, and what to pack, on the way! I went to Gaby Dalkin’s Cookbook signing last night, and today’s Friday, so I feel like I’m still high on life, and I’m not mad about it!

The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club strays a little bit from the usual, so let’s get into it! It’s “Educated” by Tara Westover. Here is the official description from Amazon.com: Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills” bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father’s junkyard.

Her father distrusted the medical establishment, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when an older brother became violent.

When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes from severing one’s closest ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

…Intense, right? One thing this book doesn’t mention is the influence of religion, and Tara’s family was mormon. She states right in the beginning of the book that it’s not to be taken an opinion on the Mormon faith, but you’ll probably develop one as you read it.

I can stand in this wind, because I’m not trying to stand in it. The wind is just wind. You could withstand these gusts on the ground, so you can withstand them in the air. There is no difference. Except the difference you make in your head.

Even after marinating on this book for a few days, I am still in awe of how successful Tara became all on her own – not having had any sort of formal education and then kicking ass in the Ivy Leagues? Wow.

I know I have talked a little bit on here about modern medicine – and about the confusion and struggles my family had when we found out that my dad wasn’t receiving medical care of any kind before he had surgery. So, parts of this book hit home – the sheer fact of simply ignoring major signs and symptoms of illness, and just using energy and essential oils to cure anything. It’s… a different thought process, that’s for sure (and I’m not saying it’s a bad one).

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I’m recommending it to anyone who loves memoirs/true stories, and/or if you love reading about alternative living and religious cultures.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll keep saying it: follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to see more in-depth chats and thoughts on books from the book club – I’ve been known to provide real-time thoughts and reveal my book stacks #BookNerd

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure” by Amy Kaufman.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week for a Denver trip recap!

BBC: ‘Sometimes I Lie’.

We made it – we made it to Friday! I have been feeling so sluggish, and have still been recovering from either a cold or terrible allergies. I am looking forward to the weekend for so many reasons – getting a hair cut/color, heading to a friend’s birthday party, first pool day of the season, and the premier of “Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance”!

But I’m also excited to share with you the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “Sometimes I Lie” by Alice Feeney. Here is the description from Amazon:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

This book just came out in March, and I had been waiting on the reserve list at the library ever since! This book was on every “must read” list I saw at the beginning of the year, and the book’s description had me hooked.

There is always a moment before an accident when you know you are going to get hurt but there is nothing you can do to protect yourself.

I will admit though, that I haven’t read many psychological thrillers (that I can recall, at least), aside from “Girl on the Train”, and this book did remind me of that in certain ways.

But! “Sometimes I Lie” has SO many twists – it seems like almost every chapter left me sitting there with my jaw hanging open. If you follow me on SnapChat (@OrangeJulius7), you probably saw my reaction when I finished the book earlier this week – I was stunned.

I also loved that this book was very visual; I would not be shocked if this becomes a movie. I also wouldn’t be shocked if there was a sequel.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves psychological thrillers and/or mysteries. It’s also worth noting that this story takes place in the winter, near Christmas – so if you’re someone who likes to read books in season, put it on your winter reading list.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Educated” by Tara Westover. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

BBC: ‘Little Fires Everywhere’.

I’m kind of liking this book review on Sunday thing… I’m taking a break from a DIY project (decorating a jacket) and making some jewelry (you can watch it all on my SnapChat @OrangeJulius7) to tell you about the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club.

It’s “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng. Before I go any further, here is the description from Amazon.com:

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

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.

…I am all about a book that has all things picture-perfect, but under the surface, they’re not really so perfect. That’s one reason I knew I had to read this book – that, and the fact that it was on every book list for 2017 as the book you HAD to read!

I fell for it, and I’m so glad I did, because it was full of twists and turns, and it kept me coming back – I fully enjoyed this book!

If you go to Celeste Ng’s website, you can download a guide for book clubs! I downloaded the one for “Little Fires Everywhere” and found out that the book is set in the same place Ng grew up: Shaker Heights. The book club kit also includes a 90’s playlist, which includes a song from Alanis Morissette. Amazing!

I’m recommending this book to fiction lovers, especially those who love a little mystery, and/or family-esque drama.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Sometimes I Lie” by Alice Feeney. Also, I know I mentioned it before, but I’ve been doing lots of book discussions on my SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 – so follow me there if you want to talk books (or crafts, jewelry, makeup, cooking…)!

BBC: ‘Searching for John Hughes’.

Howdy! I’m feeling so relaxed this morning – finally – after a pretty rough week, but I went to a retreat yesterday, which I’ll write more about later. Today, I’m excited to share the book Blanche’s Book Club just finished!

I’m talking about “Searching for John Hughes” by Jason Diamond. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com:

For all fans of John Hughes and his hit films such as National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, and Home Alone, comes Jason Diamond’s hilarious memoir of growing up obsessed with the iconic filmmaker’s movies—a preoccupation that eventually convinces Diamond he should write Hughes’ biography and travel to New York City on a quest that is as funny as it is hopeless.

For as long as Jason Diamond can remember, he’s been infatuated with John Hughes’ movies. From the outrageous, raunchy antics in National Lampoon’s Vacation to the teenage angst in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink to the insanely clever and unforgettable Home Alone, Jason could not get enough of Hughes’ films. And so the seed was planted in his mind that it should fall to him to write a biography of his favorite filmmaker. It didn’t matter to Jason that he had no qualifications, training, background, platform, or direction. Thus went the years-long, delusional, earnest, and assiduous quest to reach his goal. But no book came out of these years, and no book will. What he did get was a story that fills the pages of this unconventional, hilarious memoir. 

In Searching for John Hughes, Jason tells how a Jewish kid from a broken home in a Chicago suburb—sometimes homeless, always restless—found comfort and connection in the likewise broken lives in the suburban Chicago of John Hughes’ oeuvre. He moved to New York to become a writer. He started to write a book he had no business writing. In the meantime, he brewed coffee and guarded cupcake cafes. All the while, he watched John Hughes movies religiously.

Though his original biography of Hughes has long since been abandoned, Jason has discovered he is a writer through and through. And the adversity of going for broke has now been transformed into wisdom. Or, at least, a really, really good story. 

In other words, this is a memoir of growing up. One part big dream, one part big failure, one part John Hughes movies, one part Chicago, and one part New York. It’s a story of what comes after the “Go for it!” part of the command to young creatives to pursue their dreams—no matter how absurd they might seem at first.

I believe I saw this book on a used-book blog, but then I could never find it in the library or at the bookstore, so I asked for it for Christmas, and my mom got it for me 🙂 John Hughes has written my favorite movies ever: “Home Alone” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and he also wrote “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, which is always a favorite come Christmastime.

No matter the movie’s plot line, I have always enjoyed his depiction of life midwest – mostly spotless, beautiful, and featuring characters that are out to prove their worth.

In “Searching for John Hughes”, Diamond takes things a little further – he pretty much lives his life through Hughes’ movies. Sound sad? In some ways, it is. But he sets his goal to write Hughes’ biography, and in a way, that becomes his purpose.

I took note of a few quotes I liked while reading:

  • His movies offered the sense that things were supposed to be normal where I grew up, that the road could get bumpy, but ultimately it would get better.
  • And that is what makes Ferris Bueller the patron saint of bored suburban youths: He isn’t the quarterback. He’s handsome, but hardly a classic hottie, and he doesn’t have a car. He’s bored going from home to school all the time and just wants something a little more.
  • I had this theory that if you lived in the suburbs long enough they have to give you a Volvo station wagon, the way they give you a watch after you’ve been with a company for 15 years.
  • I was looking for Hughes, but subconsciously I was starting to understand why I felt such a deep connection to his films, and also why I’d decided writing his book was my destiny: I wanted to live in a John Hughes film.

But, he also does what a lot of writers do – they ignore their purpose and do everything they possibly can to ignore it. In Diamond’s case, he considers buying and running a restaurant, despite not knowing much about the food industry, and he even undergoes professional training to become a rabbi – all to avoid sitting down and actually writing.

This is probably the only thing I didn’t enjoy about the book – I kept getting frustrated that Diamond just didn’t DO something. He kept avoiding reality, and it happened more than once. I suppose the reader is feeling the same way Diamond did, but obviously we know he eventually gets published.

On the brighter side, the book is full of nostalgia for the midwest; and for the characters and scenes in Hughes’ movies. It’s a good little trip down memory lane. Because of that, I’m recommending this book to all Hughes fans, but also anyone who grew up in the Midwest (especially if you dreamed of becoming a writer), and anyone who loves 80’s movies in general.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng. If you’re reading it with us, discussions (along with cooking and other shenanigans) are often on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

BBC: ‘Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda’.

What? A blog post on a Sunday?! Yes, I’m living a little, y’all! Actually, I saw the movie “Love, Simon” last night after finishing this book earlier in the week, and I just couldn’t wait any longer to share how awesome it is!

I’m going to get into the book first, and then I’ll talk some about the movie. PS. The last two movies I’ve seen were based on books, and I think that’s just how it should be from now on.

Anyway, so it’s “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli. Here’s the description from Amazon: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Incredibly funny and poignant, this twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming out story—wrapped in a geek romance—is a knockout of a debut novel by Becky Albertalli.

I hadn’t heard much about this book until I started seeing the previews for the movie, but I found out that it was (and still is) a very popular YA novel. So, when I stumbled upon it in Half Price Books, I bought it and pretty much expected to love it. And I did! Here’s a few quotes I took note of while reading:

  • Someone can trigger your sexual identity crisis and not even have a clue they’re doing it.
  • But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.
  • So when the school day ends and nothing extraordinary has happened, it’s a tiny heartbreak. It’s like eleven o’clock on the night of your birthday when you realize no one’s throwing you a surprise birthday party after all.

I think a lot of books, especially YA novels, have depictions of high school, but they aren’t always right. This one brought me there – in the good ways, and bad, and especially in the way of that high school crush. It’s all encompassing, and if (when) it goes south, it can seem as if your entire world is crumbling.

To top it off, Simon is a very lovable character, and you’ll be rooting for him before you know it!

So, when I finished this book, I immediately looked to see the movie, “Love, Simon” was showing in Austin. I was in luck and bought a ticket to see it Saturday night (last night) at the Drafthouse. Yesterday, I drove nearly 30 minutes to get to this particular theatre, but when I got there, I didn’t see it on their marquee.

Great movie!

My ticket said it was in theatre 7, so when I walked to theatre 7, it definitely said “Super Troopers 2”. So, I found an employee and showed them my ticket.

“Yes, you’re in the right theatre,” she said, and started typing into a computer. A few minutes later, she said it was some sort of server malfunction and she apologized that no one contacted me, but “Love, Simon” was not showing at that theatre.

I can’t be too mad, because the Drafthouse staff was really nice and they refunded me my ticket with no hassle, and gave me a pass for a free movie of my choice.

So, I went back to my car and started searching to see if it was showing anywhere else. Luckily, there was a showing one hour later, at a theatre about 10 minutes away. Off I went!

Upon arrival, this AMC was definitely in a MALL. I have not been to a mall since 2014, and I was having serious flashbacks and PTSD from my retail days. There was a Spencer Gifts inside, and I didn’t even know those places still existed! There was also a Cheesecake Factory where I saw lots of high schoolers dressed up for prom.

But the movie theatre had tickets available for “Love, Simon”, so I was glad and also realized I haven’t been to a non-Drafthouse theatre in more than two years. Concession stand? How do those work? It took me forever to settle on food, as I was really hankering for the cauliflower buffalo wings at the Drafthouse. But I decided on soft pretzel bites, chocolate covered raisins, and a Cherry Coke Zero.

When I got to my seat, it was a Lazy Boy! Seriously, it had the leg rest and everything. There was also a bar right outside the theatre, so patrons could bring wine and mixed drinks in.

Anyway, the movie itself was so good! It was definitely different from the book in that if you hadn’t read it, it was still good, but if you HAD read it, there were still some surprising twists. The characters (they left a few out) were mostly how I’d imagined them, and some of the lines seemed like they were pulled directly from the book.

I will admit it, I almost cried a few times, but overall, the movie made me feel happy and excited about life. Cheesy, but true!

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves YA novels, and to anyone who’s looking to feel nostalgic about their high school experience. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Searching for John Hughes” by Jason Diamond.

BBC: ‘The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore’.

It’s not even 11am and I’m only the struggle bus for the day – issues at the office, and y’all KNOW how little tolerance I have for that #WhyDontIWorkForMyself

Anyway, I’ve got another book to share with you from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore” by Kim Fu. Here is the description from Amazon.com:

From the award-winning author of For Today I Am a Boy, a gripping and deeply felt novel about a group of young girls at a remote camp—and the night that changes everything and will shape their lives for decades to come

A group of young girls descend on Camp Forevermore, a sleepaway camp in the Pacific Northwest, where their days are filled with swimming lessons, friendship bracelets, and camp songs by the fire. Filled with excitement and nervous energy, they set off on an overnight kayaking trip to a nearby island. But before the night is over, they find themselves stranded, with no adults to help them survive or guide them home.

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore traces these five girls—Nita, Andee, Isabel, Dina, and Siobhan—through and beyond this fateful trip. We see them through successes and failures, loving relationships and heartbreaks; we see what it means to find, and define, oneself, and the ways in which the same experience is refracted through different people. In diamond-sharp prose, Kim Fu gives us a portrait of friendship and of the families we build for ourselves—and the pasts we can’t escape.

Apparently I’m just going to read books about getting lost in the wild among hungry animals and questionable plants… but really, I was pretty excited to add this one to my list, and I sadly have to admit that I was disappointed.

Part of me thinks I just didn’t connect with the characters enough, and it was very much a book about characters and less about them getting stranded at camp (although this is about half of the book).

The portions about them surviving camp were nearly horrifying, which I liked. So, I enjoyed the parts about survival, but not so much the backstory of the characters.

For that reason, I don’t feel comfortable recommending this book! It wasn’t terrible, but it just wasn’t my jam.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli.

And just in case you’re wondering, I finished out yesterday with 8,091 steps – almost 3x what I had last Monday!

BBC: ‘The Queen of Hearts’.

Another day, another book to read! On Saturday, I went out to lunch with a friend (we had vegan Chinese food) and we went to see Cecile Richards on her book tour. I got home around 5pm, and had one thing on my to-do list: read a book.

This book was due back at the library on Sunday, and it was non-renewable, so I really had no choice but to sit down and read it! So, I made myself a mug of hot chocolate (it was 40 degrees outside), got my electric blanket, and curled up in my reading chair… and basically read this book entirely – I had about 80 pages to finish up Sunday morning.

The book is “The Queen of Hearts” by Kimmery Martin, and before I go any further, here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Southern Living, Elite Daily, and Writer’s Digest 

A debut novel set against a background of hospital rounds and life-or-death decisions that pulses with humor and empathy and explores the heart’s capacity for forgiveness…

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years. 

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.

…Sounds juicy, right?! True to form, I’m not entirely sure how this book got on my list, but it did, and I kept thinking to myself that it would probably be like “Grey’s Anatomy” in book form. And then I heard someone on a podcast refer to it that way, and then randomly, I saw on Kimmery Martin’s Twitter profile, that SHE referred to it that way, too!

One thing I really enjoyed about this was how visual it was – this book would translate well as a movie.

Although parts of the “medical descriptions” made me a bit squimish, I enjoyed the twist that came with the characters being doctors. There were also several layers to the mystery that slowly unfolds, and I appreciated the constant surprises – it was a page-turner, for sure.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves a bit of romance (especially among doctors), and those who love a modern mystery.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore” by Kim Fu.

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out my Etsy Shop – I have been adding all sorts of new styles for spring and summer!

BBC: ‘The Glass Castle’.

Hellooooo! I’m happy to report that I’m back on the giant sleeping pills and those seem to be working for the time-being. I am still very much into reading as my form of escape, but am slowly getting back into some of my favorite creative endeavors. My blog course at UT is back in session, I made some new jewelry for my Etsy shop, and I’m taking the weekend to get into some new adventures.

But, I’m amped about the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. I know I’m about 7 years late to the game on this one, but here is the description from Amazon.com:

The perennially bestselling, extraordinary, one-of-a-kind, “nothing short of spectacular” (Entertainment Weekly) memoir from one of the world’s most gifted storytellers.

The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

The Glass Castle is truly astonishing—a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.

That last line is so true; there were times I just sat with my jaw wide open while reading this book. It’s sometimes difficult to believe it’s a true story. This is a pull-yourself-up tale for an entire family, and they do so in very interesting ways.

I remain amazed at how much Jeannette Walls remembered from her childhood – mainly because I assume trauma would block most of it out. There are graphic details about hunger, the disgusting things they ended up eating, and their incredibly poor living conditions. I can’t say, “I can’t imagine” because Walls described it so well, I could see it vividly in my mind.

This book is so well-written, and the story so layered… there were SO many lines I wrote down in my trusty notebook:

  • I didn’t have the answers to these questions, but what I did know was that I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire.
  • We’d rolled down the windows, and maps and art paper and cigarette ashes were whipping around our heads.
  • Every night for the first few weeks, lying on my cardboard mattress and listening to the sound of rainwater dripping into the kitchen, I dreamed of the desert and the sun and the big house in Phoenix with the palm tree in the front and the orange trees and oleanders in the back.
  • I stirred it as hard as I could and kept stirring even after I knew the paint was ruined, because I also knew that we’d never get more, and instead of a freshly painted yellow house, or even a dingy gray one, we now had a weird-looking half-finished patch job – one that announced to the world that the people inside the house wanted to fix it up but lacked the gumption to get the work done.
  • But a newspaper reporter, instead of holing up isolation, was in touch with the rest of the world. What the reporter wrote influenced what people thought about and talked about the next day; he knew what was really going on. I decided I wanted to be one of the people who knew what was really going on.
  • “And I’ll build the Glass Castle, I swear it. We’ll all live in it together. It’ll be a hell of a lot better than any apartment you’ll find in New York City, I can guaran-goddam-tee that.”

I loved this book. So, now I need to see the movie!

…I’m too late to see it in the theatres, so I may have to wait until it comes out on DVD.

But yes, I’m recommending this to anyone who needs some inspiration right now, to anyone who loves true stories, and to anyone who can relate to a tough childhood.

The next book we’ll be reading is “The Queen of Hearts” by Kimmery Martin.

BBC: ‘Better Than Before’.

You know, for this being Blanche’s Book Club, I realized I don’t really talk much about my reader friend, Miss Blanche!

For background, Blanche is my rescue kitty, and she just recently turned 5! As a Calico, she is very sassy – and she’s equipped with all of her claws (very sharp) and large teeth. She is quick to attack upon hearing “no.”

At times, our relationship has struggled. Whether she’s waking me up at night or ruining all of my belongings, we’ve fought. Over the holidays, Blanche was pretty sick. She had to go to the vet a few times, eat prescription food, and she had to take lots of medicine (guess who had to give it to her?!).

It was a really rough time. When she doesn’t feel good, I don’t feel good, and I often stayed up during the night petting her and trying to make her comfortable enough to sleep in hopes that rest would help her recovery.

She has been feeling better for almost a month now, and I’m hoping we don’t have anymore episodes of illness. Blanche has been suffering from stress – likely because I have been stressed, so we are both working through it.

I have been making an effort to play with Blanche more, and I’m trying to keep my compulsive cleaning to a minimum. Cats like to feel in control of their environment, and when things change, they get nervous.

But over this past month of her good health, she happily sits beside me as I’m reading – sometimes we sit outside on the patio. The other night, I was on the couch reading, and she was in one of her favorite spots, laying inside of a leather tray that’s sitting on my ottoman. I left to go see a movie, and when I returned three hours later, she was still in the same spot having slept the entire time!

Here’s to hoping I don’t jinx her streak of good health! Anyway, let’s get into the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives” by Gretchen Rubin. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

The author of the blockbuster New York Times best sellers The Happiness Project and Happier at Home tackles the critical question: How do we change?

Gretchen Rubin’s answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives. So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?

Better Than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow listeners to understand their habits – and to change them for good. Infused with Rubin’s compelling voice, rigorous research, and easy humor, and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed, Better Than Before explains the (sometimes counterintuitive) core principles of habit formation.

Along the way Rubin uses herself as guinea pig, tests her theories on family and friends, and answers readers’ most pressing questions – oddly, questions that other writers and researchers tend to ignore:

  • Why do I find it tough to create a habit for something I love to do?
  • Sometimes I can change a habit overnight, and sometimes I can’t change a habit no matter how hard I try. Why?
  • How quickly can I change a habit?
  • What can I do to make sure I stick to a new habit?
  • How can I help someone else change a habit?
  • Why can I keep habits that benefit others but can’t make habits that are just for me?

Whether readers want to get more sleep, stop checking their devices, maintain a healthy weight, or finish an important project, habits make change possible. Reading just a few chapters of Better Than Before will make readers eager to start work on their own habits – even before they’ve finished the book.

This is the third book from Rubin that I’ve read. I absolutely LOVED “The Happiness Project” and half-loved its sequel, “Happier at Home”. I was a little skeptical when I picked this one up, but of course I figured, why not?

In short, this one is good, and it’s pretty interesting. Rubin makes it clear that the same habits don’t work for everyone, and that’s just something we have to understand. I think lots of people do things because other people do – whether it’s a certain diet or workout, perhaps trying to get up earlier or go to bed at a certain time. But just because something works for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.

What matters is to be moving in the right direction.

-Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before

So, this book has a lot of information to help you figure out what works for you. Are you a morning or a night person? A starter or a finisher? A spender or a saver?

Although I don’t really think I have any bad habits (at least, none that I can think of), I know there’s better habits I’d like to pick up.

Toward the end of the book, I was starting to get a little annoyed because I just feel like there’s so much pressure for us to be going somewhere all the time or reaching goals or never resting, and sometimes I want to just BE, and I’m an adult and I do what I want. But even Rubin acknowledges this, as she lets herself drink diet soda and has a habit of chewing on plastic coffee stirrers. Hmm.

This is definitely an insightful book, so if you’re looking to change a few habits or pickup some new ones, this may be the book for you!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls.

I hope you all have a great weekend and a fun Easter! See you next week 🙂

BBC: ‘Into the Wild’.

So…who watched the premier of the “Roseanne” revival? Heh, ME!!!! I was overly excited for it, and well, I’m looking forward to seeing what the remainder of the season has to offer. I also whipped up some vegan sloppy joes with rosemary red potatoes, and it was pretty delicious.

I am continuing to roll right on down my reading list and I’m really excited to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club with you! It’s “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and, unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away.  Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless’s short life. Admitting an interest that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the dries and desires that propelled McCandless. Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

When McCandless’s innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions, and hubris. He is said to have had a death wish but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless’s uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity, and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding–and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, Into the Wild is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer’s stoytelling blaze through every page.

I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure just how this book wound up on my reading list. But, as you may have come to realize, when a book becomes available on my reserve list, I drive straight to the library, walk straight to the reserve shelf, check out said book, and I often start reading it without even looking at the cover or anything else.

One Sunday night, I laid into bed and cracked this book open, reading by just a small book light hoping to fall asleep. Well… I actually read almost the entire book and before I realized it, it was 1 am and I had to force myself to close my eyes.

This book HAUNTED me. I am not quite sure what about it gave me the chills, but I think it’s because this entire story is just so far beyond me. I have no dreams of living off of nature or purposefully abandoning myself into the coldest wild. In fact, that sounds like my biggest nightmare.

A few things about this story really struck me. For starters, he really didn’t do much prepping before he crossed the country by way of hitchhiking, and during his travels, he really had an impact on the people he met.

I was also absolutely amazed by his ability to remember things; details that helped him survive as long as he did. And, I won’t give anything away, but he didn’t die in stupidity. This guy was smart – and he lived a lot longer than I think most people would have.

Krakauer’s writing – at times reporting – was incredible to read. So much so, I added some of his other books to my reading list. There is a movie based off this book, but I’m not sure I am ready to watch it. The book shook me so much, I don’t know if I could see it… you know?

I’m recommending this book for adventure lovers and anyone who enjoys true stories. The next book I’ll be reading is “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” by Gretchen Rubin.

Tonight, I’m heading out to see the premier of “Ready Player One” – a movie based on a book I read last summer. I have been counting down the days for this movie to come out! I hope it’s fantastic and I’ll have a review of it tomorrow!

BBC: ‘The Rainbow Comes and Goes’.

Hello! It’s Friday and I’m just rolling right on through my reading list. Usually, I use my library reserve list to choose the order in which I read books (when it comes time to pick up, that’s the book I read next), but given my recent loss, I saw this book was on the shelf and decided to go ahead and read it.

I’m talking about “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss” by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt.

Last year, when the accompanying documentary came out (“Nothing Left Unsaid“), I watched it immediately – I also wrote a review on it. I have always admired Anderson Cooper, have watched him for years on CNN, and saw him in-person with Andy Cohen last year.

Before I go any further, here is the official description of the book from Amazon.com:

A touching and intimate correspondence between Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, offering timeless wisdom and a revealing glimpse into their lives

Though Anderson Cooper has always considered himself close to his mother, his intensely busy career as a journalist for CNN and CBS affords him little time to spend with her. After she suffers a brief but serious illness at the age of ninety-one, they resolve to change their relationship by beginning a year-long conversation unlike any they had ever had before. The result is a correspondence of surprising honesty and depth in which they discuss their lives, the things that matter to them, and what they still want to learn about each other.

Both a son’s love letter to his mother and an unconventional mom’s life lessons for her grown son, The Rainbow Comes and Goes offers a rare window into their close relationship and fascinating life stories, including their tragedies and triumphs. In these often humorous and moving exchanges, they share their most private thoughts and the hard-earned truths they’ve learned along the way. In their words their distinctive personalities shine through—Anderson’s journalistic outlook on the world is a sharp contrast to his mother’s idealism and unwavering optimism.

An appealing memoir with inspirational advice, The Rainbow Comes and Goes is a beautiful and affectionate celebration of the universal bond between a parent and a child, and a thoughtful reflection on life, reminding us of the precious insight that remains to be shared, no matter our age.

The documentary and the book are obviously based on the same collection of information, but the book is the collection of emails between Cooper and Vanderbilt, which was really interesting.

It’s funny to me how much we don’t know about our families, or even our parents – or maybe it’s just me. But even someone as famous as Gloria Vanderbilt had a bit of a mysterious past to her son. Here are some quotes I took note of during my reading:

  • “I know now that it’s never too late to change the relationship you have with someone important in your life… all it takes is a willingness to be honest and to shed your old skin, to let go of the long-standing assumptions and slights you still cling to.”
  • “I’ve often thought of loss as a kind of language. Once learned, it’s never forgotten.”
  • “I no longer imagine a diamond at my secret core. Instead, I see shimmering flashes of moonlight on the calm of a midnight sea.”

One topic they didn’t discuss in-depth was the suicide of Anderson’s brother, which Vanderbilt was witness to. It’s talked about extensively in the documentary.

All in all, it was a great read, and inspiring – get to know people you care about! I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves memoirs, and of course, fans of Anderson Cooper and/or Gloria Vanderbilt.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer.

I hope you all have a great weekend – I have another batch of blogs planned for next week! I think it’s safe to say, I am slowly getting my creativity back. Talk soon!

BBC: ‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’.

Happy Monday! No, really, I am actually feeling good about this week. Last week, I felt so unmotivated and exhausted; I refuse to blame it on Daylight Savings, but something was definitely off.

But now I’ve had a good weekend, got some rest, had some fun, and I have been reading a TON, so I’ve got so many books from Blanche’s Book Club to review! I have also been thinking a lot about this book club. I know a few of you who are following along and/or using the club as a way to keep up with book recommendations (which is awesome, thank you), but it’s a non-committal club, so I haven’t been offering much else.

Should I? I have always wondered if I should offer book club questions or in-depth reader’s guides, or even recipes that go with the books? If there’s a desire for it, I’ll be happy to beef things up. If there was a sign up + email newsletter, would that be of interest? Just feeling things out here – so if you’re a fan of Blanche’s Book Club, let me know what you’d like to see here.

Anywho, let’s get to my latest read: “There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

It’s been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she’s still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii.

Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.
 
Stephanie Perkins, bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss, returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down. 

Before I get too deep into this, I’ll say that I’m not one for scary stuff. It’s not entirely logical because I do like crime… I loved “CSI”, “Dexter”, and “Killing Fields”, and I devoured the coroner’s reports on Derrick Todd Lee.

But I don’t do scary movies. At all. I can’t even watch the previews on TV. When I was in high school, I loved them. That was during the time of “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, and I saw them all.

Once I moved out on my own, however, things were different. Scary movies weren’t so funny and I realized hey, actually some of this maybe could happen. And now I have timers on my lamps and never leave home without pepper spray.

All of that to say… I’m not entirely sure how this book ended up on my list, but I figured if I’m looking for a distraction, it may as well be murder. And this book DELIVERED.

To my delight, this book was very 90’s horror, and it’s high school setting had me feeling vibes from “The Faculty” SO HARD. Very “We don’t need no education…” – even though this book has absolutely nothing to do with the teachers being alien hosts.

I read this book quickly, but it stuck with me for days. The description of the killer was haunting, enough so to make me a tad frightened any time I entered my apartment at the end of the day. This is a goodie, y’all.

I’m recommending this to horror movie lovers, and anyone who loves a thrill and misses the 90’s. If you’re a seasonal reader, this would be a good one to read in the fall, around Halloween.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is, “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss” by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt.

BBC: ‘Hate List’.

I almost didn’t want to post anything today – I know you all are probably sick of reading my book reviews, but I have been reading so much lately! I think I’m using books as a bit of an escape from life, stress, grieving, etc… so I’m just going to go with it.

The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Hate List” by Jennifer Brown. Before I get into this ANY further, here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

I was reading this book thinking, “Wow, this is so timely…” and then I saw it was published in 2010 and realized probably any book written about a mass shooting has been considered “timely” since Columbine.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into politics here, but it did break my heart just a little to realize that, yes, school shootings are so common now that they’re becoming topics in YA novels. Amirite?

I took note of some of my favorite lines from the book:

  • “Bruter’s name was the first of hundreds on the now infamous ‘Hate List’, a red spiral notebook confiscated from Nick Levil’s home just hours after the shooting.”
  • “And then there was the noise. It wasn’t so much a noise in my ears as it was in my brain. It sounded like the whole world was shutting down on me.”
  • “I wanted her to smile, and I wondered if she smiled when she got home and held her kids or if she just came home and sat back in her recliner with a vodka and drank until she couldn’t hear gunshots.”
  • “After your classmates get blown away pretty much everything else in the world – even your father bailing on your family – seems pretty trivial.”

This book did a good job of showing the other side of mass shootings – what happens to the people that knew and loved the person with the gun? It’s not something that is usually covered in the media, but is addressed locally; a funeral often has to be held for the accused as well.

The book also addresses mental health and how we (as humans) digest the things people say to us, such as, were those actual signs? Jokes? Could I have done something to prevent this from happening?

And finally, this story seemed so real; the characters, the school, the high school struggle – I couldn’t help but be completely submerged into this world. A truly fantastic read.

I’m recommending this one to YA novel lovers, and to anyone who enjoys human interest stories.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins.

In other news, I DO have other ideas for blog posts in my mind, but like I said, I’ve simply been trying to just take it easy on myself and do anything that doesn’t feel awful. I had tickets to go to a hockey game last night, but when it came time to get into my car and go, I couldn’t do it. I was worried it would remind me too much of my dad and I’d just end up sitting there crying.

I have started going through some of the things willed to me by my dad and am documenting it on my Instagram account @OrangeJulius7 if you’d like to follow along – it’s part of a bigger project I will eventually reveal.

Happy Friday-eve!

BBC: ‘The Other Side of Everything’.

Howdy! Did anyone else stay up watching The Oscars last night? I did, and I’m not entirely sure why – I never am good at keeping up with the movies that are nominated. I did enjoy when the celebs visited the moviegoers across the street, though.

I also took a much-needed 3-hour nap yesterday, so when midnight rolled around, I still wasn’t really that tired. This all results in me not wanting to be at work today (shocker), wearing the first thing I could find in my closet, and no makeup. Wamp!

I can’t really explain why, but I’ve been reading SO much lately. It might be offering me a bit of an escape, so I’m just going to take it for now. The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is a murder mystery: “The Other Side of Everything” by Lauren Doyle Owens.

This book is pretty new (published January 23, 2018) – I always get excited for new books, because I get most of mine from the library (this one included). It is also Owens’ debut novel. Here’s the description of the book from Amazon.com:

Laura Lippman meets Megan Abbott in this suspenseful literary debut about three generations of neighbors whose lives intersect in the aftermath of a crime.

Bernard White is a curmudgeonly widower who has lived in Seven Springs, Florida for decades and has kept to himself since his wife passed. When his neighbor is murdered, he emerges from his solitude to reconnect with his fellow octogenarians. These connections become a literal lifeline as a second, and then a third, elderly woman is murdered, and “the originals” as they call themselves, realize that they are being targeted.

Amy Unger is an artist and cancer survivor whose emotional recovery has not been as successful as her physical one. After the woman next door is murdered, she begins to paint imagined scenes from the murder in an effort to cope with her own loss. But when her paintings prove to be too realistic, her neighbors grow suspicious, and she soon finds herself in the crosshairs of the police.

And then there’s Maddie Lowe, a teenage waitress whose mother recently abandoned the family. As Maddie struggles to keep her family together and maintain the appearance of normal teenage life, she finds herself drawn to the man the police say is the killer.

As they navigate their increasingly dangerous and tumultuous worlds, Bernard, Amy, and Maddie begin to uncover the connections between them, and the past and present, in a novel that ultimately proves the power of tragedy to spark renewal.

Although a majority of this book focuses on older characters, there’s one teenage character and I loved reading the chapters that focused on her. The entire book was creepy, very descriptive (which I love), and it felt very much like a true story. There were even a few political digs that made me think this was written in its entirely within the past few years.

I’m recommending this book to true crime lovers and mystery readers! The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Hate List” by Jennifer Brown.