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BBC: ‘The Female Persuasion’.

Happy Sunday! I had the best day yesterday – I had a gift certificate to a spa, so I got a 90-minute facial that included a massage, eye and lip treatments, and a detox peel – my skin feels amazing! It was in an area of town that I haven’t explored much, so I took that time to eat lunch and walk around. It was fun, relaxing, and I did a little shopping. Very nice!

Then I came home, took a nap, and started in on season four of “The OC”. I made dinner and then settled in determined to finish the latest read in Blanche’s Book Club: “The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Interestings, an electric novel not just about who we want to be with, but who we want to be.

To be admired by someone we admire – we all yearn for this: the private, electrifying pleasure of being singled out by someone of esteem. But sometimes it can also mean entry to a new kind of life, a bigger world.

Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.

I’ve read Meg Wolitzer before, and loved it, so I was excited to see she had a new book coming out. When it was ready for pickup at the library, I was shocked to see it was thick – hmm!

Within the first 50 pages of the book, we meet Greer, and I could immediately identify with her college struggle – and she quickly finds a group of friends and a cause to fight about. But as we follow Greer, the story takes different turns, focusing on different characters in the book.

At times, I felt it was slow, and I wasn’t sure things were going, but then it would pick up again. I am normally not a fan of books like this – I want books that really grip me from page one and through the end. But, the low points in this book were short-lived, and the good parts were really good, so I’m sticking with it.

This book takes place in the late 90’s and spans into 2010. It covers political issues, particularly women’s issues, including abortion rights. But there are other storylines as well – romance, included. Some of these other storylines I felt could have been entire books on their own.

However, in the end – I’m really glad I read this book. I’m recommending it to fans of Wolitzer’s other work, political activists, and to anyone who’s felt a little lost in their career.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell. I hope you all have a great rest of your weekend!

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BBC: ‘The High Season’.

I’m feeling the PRESSURE – I have several library books at home that need to be read and there’s more reserves waiting to be picked up! What’s a girl to do… lay around and read? Sounds like a plan.

I stayed up until almost midnight last night to finish Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “The High Season” by Judy Blundell. Here is the official description from Amazon:

No matter what the world throws her way, at least Ruthie Beamish has the house. Lovingly renovated, located by the sea in a quiet Long Island village, the house is her nest egg—the retirement account shared with her ex-husband, Mike, and the college fund for their teenage daughter, Jem. The catch? To afford the house, Ruthie must let it go during the best part of the year.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and Ruthie has packed up their belongings for what Jem calls “the summer bummer”: the family’s annual exodus to make way for renters. This year, the Hamptons set has arrived. The widow of a blue-chip artist, Adeline Clay is elegant, connected, and accompanied by a “gorgeous satellite” stepson. But soon Adeline demonstrates an uncanny ability to help herself to Ruthie’s life—her house, her friends, even her husband (okay, ex-husband, but still). And after her job as the director of a local museum is threatened, Ruthie finally decides to fight back.

Meanwhile, away from the watchful eyes of her parents, Jem is tasting independence at her first summer job, but soon finds herself growing up too fast. One of Ruthie’s employees, a master of self-invention named Doe, infiltrates the inner circle of an eccentric billionaire and his wayward daughter. With a coterie of social climbers and Ruthie’s old flame thrown into the mix, the entire town finds itself on the verge of tumultuous change. By the end of one unhinged, unforgettable summer, nothing will be the same.

In a novel packed with indelible characters, crackling wit, and upstairs/downstairs drama, Judy Blundell emerges as a voice for all seasons—a wry and original storyteller who knows how the most disruptive events in our lives can twist endings into new beginnings.

This book starts off beautifully – and it comes across as if Ruthie is getting things figured out for her, her family, and her home. But then… all of these twists come out of nowhere, and frankly, Ruthie comes out of the woodwork and gets a little crazy (in a good way)!

I really enjoyed the unexpected parts of this book, and I found myself chuckling through several chapters. I also enjoyed the imagery and the descriptions of summer foods (because of course I did)!

I’m recommending this to anyone looking for a good summer/beach read, or to anyone who enjoys vacation-type reading with a twist. There’s hints of romance, but would still be enjoyable if you’re not into romance novels.

Blundell also wrote a YA novel, “What I Saw and How I Lied” about a family in the aftermath of World War II.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer.

Follow me on Instagram and SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 for real-time book reviews, and like The Bitter Lemon Facebook page to keep in touch!

BBC: ‘Sociable’.

Happy July 4th! It’s gloomy already in Austin, and the chances of outdoor activity are looking grim… and those were my BIG staycation plans! I bought a ticket for paddle boarding under the fireworks, buuuut I’ve already gotten the obligatory email saying if it rains and the fireworks get cancelled, then you’ll get refunded.

Ugh.

Secondary, indoor holiday plans? Binging on “The OC” season 3? We’ll see.

Meanwhile, I finished reading “Sociable” by Rebecca Harrington – it’s the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club… and I think you guys are going to like this one. Here’s the description from Amazon:

When Elinor Tomlinson moved to New York with a degree in journalism she had visions of writing witty opinion pieces, marrying her journalist boyfriend, and attending glamorous parties with famously perverted writers. Instead, Elinor finds herself nannying for two small children who speak in short, high screams, sleeping on a foam pad in a weird apartment, and attending terrible parties with Harper’s interns wearing shapeless smocks and clogs. So when Elinor is offered a job at Journalism.ly, the digital media brainchild of a Silicon Valley celebrity, she jumps at the chance. Sure, her boyfriend is writing long think pieces about the electoral college for a real website while Elinor writes lists about sneakers and people at parties give her pitying glances when she reveals her employer, but at Journalism.ly Elinor discovers her true gift: She has a preternatural ability for writing sharable content. She is an overnight viral sensation! But Elinor’s success is not without cost. Elinor’s boyfriend dumps her, two male colleagues insist on “mentoring” her, and a piece she writes about her personal life lands her on local television. Destitute, single, and consigned to move to a fifth-floor walkup, Elinor must ask herself: Is this the creative life she dreamed of? Can new love be found on Coffee Meets Bagel? And should she start wearing clogs? With wry humor and sharp intelligence that skewers everyone from grand dame newspaper columnists to content farm overlords to peacoat-wearing lit bros, Sociable is a hilarious tale of one young woman’s search for happiness.

It’s probably best to start by saying, this book is not meant to be taken seriously. It took me about 30 pages to understand that this is supposed to be light and funny – and then I whizzed right through it, and found myself laughing out loud in several parts.

In real life, a person like Elinor would be annoying, but I think there’s at least small parts of her that are relatable on some levels: she wants to be a successful journalist in New York City; her bosses are pressuring her to create viral content overnight (I relate to this SO hard); she posts much of her life on social media; she wants her ex to miss her; and she’s constantly wondering how to spend her last dollars – on an Uber, a latte, or a new pair of underwear to make her feel empowered.

This book had mixed reviews on Amazon, but I felt it was refreshing – I hardly ever laugh while reading, and it was a welcome change. It’s the perfect picture of life in the digital age – even if it’s a bit annoying and hard to understand at times.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves satire, if you love Chad Kultgen’s books, and if you’re looking for a good laugh at today’s society – this one’s for you!

Also, I’m looking into the other books that Harrington has written: “I’ll Have What She’s Having: My Adventures In Celebrity Dating” (A look at how the fit and famous eat; apparently Harrington herself tries celeb diets) and “Penelope” (a fictional story about a girl heading to Harvard).

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The High Season” by Judy Blundell. If you’re following me on SnapChat and/or Instagram (both @OrangeJulius7), I’m trying to get better at posting my latest reads and short reviews as soon as I’m finished.

I’m going to HOPE that my paddle boarding plans don’t get washed out – and I hope you all have a fun, and safe, Fourth of July! Cheers!

BBC: ‘I’ll Be Gone In The Dark’.

Howdy! It’s my first post of my Staycation and I’m constantly feeling like I need to rush to do all of the things on my list and then realizing that no, I’ve got time to rest. I did go to bed early last night and woke up early (of course) this morning and went grocery shopping, which ultimately resulted in a HUNT for vegan whipped topping.

Don’t worry, I found it.

This afternoon, I ventured to the pool with a giant tumbler of jalapeno limeade (Thanks, Trader Joe’s) and I finished reading Blanche’s Book Club’s latest pick – “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” by Michelle McNamara. Here is the book’s description:

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle’s dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.

Before I get into thoughts on this book, it’s important that I mention one weird thing about me (trust me, there are multiple weird things, but) – I love true crime and crime fiction, but I’m a big scaredy cat!

But that’s the thing about fears, right? They aren’t always rational, and this book was flying off the shelves and was all over the internet when they caught the Golden State Killer just a few months ago.

Even if it was scary, I knew I had to read it.

In short, I’m glad I did. This book is phenomenal. It’s less about what he actually did (although there is plenty enough of that to scare anyone) and more about the investigation and the author’s own obsession with her very path to find him.

It might be obvious, but this book does contain triggers, and I’ll also note that I made a rule for myself and only read this book during daylight hours. I also stuffed the rod of my broom handle in the sliding glass door so no one could get into my apartment, so there’s that.

This book is so well-written, it’s almost a shame it’s about someone terrible. However, some of the ideas McNamara comes across in the book are what eventually lead to his capture – the only unfortunate part is that McNamara wasn’t alive to see it and celebrate it on her popular crime blog as I’m sure many would have wished for.

There were two things that I found particularly interesting about this case: 1. It happened for such a long period of time that it passed through multiple detectives, investigators, and technological changes in crime units. Even the term “serial killer” wasn’t popular until the 80s, and testing DNA was a cumbersome chore.

2. This guy committed so many crimes, he had entire cities staying up all night, sleeping in shifts with all of the lights on in their homes. Folks tied tambourines to their doors and windows, and stores sold out of window reinforcements and iron bars – is that not insane? I mean, rightfully so to those who were freaked out, but I can’t imagine living in fear for so long, and likely wondering what the investigators were doing.

This book has been compared to Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (one of my all-time favorites) and of course, it’s a little different in that McNamara wasn’t befriending the Golden State Killer, but it’s similar in that it presents gruesome crime in a different light.

I have never read any of McNamara’s previous work – on her blog or her various published crime articles – but it should also be mentioned that she was a detective in her own right. Of course, she wasn’t on the PD payroll, but she had friendships with detectives, traveled with them to old crime scenes, and poured over files (37 boxes to be exact) that she thought might lead to an arrest.

So yes, I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves true crime, crime fiction, or if you’re interested in CSI history.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Sociable” by Rebecca Harrington. Follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to get real-time reviews and keep up with my Staycation!

BBC: ‘The Vanishing Year’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘One Plus One’.

During my road trip to Marfa, I listened to my first Jojo Moyes’ book: “One Plus One”. I’ll be honest here, I know people love Moyes, but I have never read a description of one of her books that made me really want to read it.

So, I was excited at the sound of “One Plus One”, because I want to like her books! Here’s the description from Jojomoyes.com:

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever. One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.

…That last line is a flat-out LIE. This audio book was 12 hours long. Parts of it were interesting; like when love-interest starts to perk up between Jess and Ed. But in general, I found this really difficult to pay attention to, and I thought it was boring.

If you’re a Moyes’ fan, I’d love to know if there’s a different book I should read, or what I’m missing from her books.

So… I’m not recommending this book, but hey, at least I tried, right?

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Vanishing Year” by Kate Moretti.

Meanwhile, I participated in a Hackathon over the weekend, and it was so much fun! I met some new people, and was able to create a web-to-text chat app for my 9-5 website. I also created a guidelines and policy document that will help train the folks replying to all of the web chats… it’s amazing what can happen when people put their minds together, right?

I am working all this week (a little brutal after a mind-boggling weekend), but am rewarding myself with an ENTIRE week off afterward. I am planning some activities to celebrate my staycation and will share them here, but if you’ve got any good ideas, feel free to let me know – I’ll have 9 whole days without obligation!! #DreamBig

BBC: ‘Leave Me’.

Hey, hey! It’s been a little while since I was here – it has been a crazy few weeks at work, and I didn’t really do any of the reading or writing I thought I was going to do on my trip to west Texas (more on that in a later post).

But, yesterday I finished reading another book from Blanche’s Book Club: “Leave Me” by Gayle Forman. Here is the description from Amazon:

Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.

Surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: she packs a bag and leaves. But, as is often the case, once we get where we’re going we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves.

With bighearted characters–husbands, wives, friends, and lovers–who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing the fears we’re all running from. Gayle Forman is a dazzling observer of human nature. She has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head on and asks, what happens when a grown woman runs away from home?

Funny part about this particular book is that the only copy the library had was the large print version. I really wanted to read it, so I got it anyway, and it was shockingly (and kinda embarrassingly) nice on the eyes, and I also felt like a speed reader. Ha!

Anyway… I loved the idea of this book, but it wasn’t perfect. From the start, it’s pretty obvious that our main character has a family that just seems awful. They are demanding, a little spoiled, and even when she suffers from a heart attack, they don’t understand her need to recover.

So, when she leaves them without notice, it’s nearly impossible to feel bad for them, or hope that she ever returns. I know this is probably something I harp on a lot in my book reviews, but a vital part of a great story is caring about the characters; there has to be push and pull in the book, or else what’s the point?

However, it was pretty cool to “watch” as Maribeth creates a new life for herself, and see what she tries to accomplish on her own. Because of this, I’m recommending this book to anyone who feels like they’ve lost sight of their life.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes.

I’m hoping to have my thoughts/recap on my Marfa trip up tomorrow – or very soon!

BBC: ‘The Missing Hours’.

Today is the day! I’m heading west to Marfa, Texas after years of dreaming about it, and a few weeks of preparing for it!

But, I didn’t want to get behind on Blanche’s Book Club, so I’m sharing our latest read: “The Missing Hours” by Emma Kavanagh. Here’s the description from Amazon:

One moment, Selena Cole is at the playground with her children . . . the next, she has vanished without a trace.

The body of Dominic Newell, a well-respected lawyer, is found on a remote mountain road, blood oozing from the stab wound in his neck.

In the sleepy borderland between England and Wales, sheep outnumber people and serious crimes are rare. Which makes this Tuesday morning, with two calls coming in to the local police station, even more remarkable. Detective Constable Leah Mackay and her brother, Detective Sergeant Finn Hale, begin their respective investigations, but soon find them inextricably linked. And when Selena is found alive and unhurt twenty hours later, the mystery deepens. 

Selena’s work consulting on kidnap and ransom cases has brought her into close contact with ruthless criminals and international drug lords. But now, as Selena walks back into her life wearing a blood-spattered sweater, claiming no memory of the preceding hours, Leah can’t be sure if she is a victim, a liar, or a murder suspect. 

Leah and Finn delve into each case, untangling the secrets and betrayals—large and small—that can lie just beneath the surface of a life, yet unprepared for where both trails will lead.  

With engrossing characters, devilish twists, and evocative prose, The Missing Hours is that rare page-turner—as satisfying and complex as it is unpredictable.

I have always been honest in my book reviews, so it may not come as a shock to know that this book was too complex for a pool read. There were so many characters, and while the description only lists two missing persons – there’s several.

I hate to do it, but I’m not going to recommend this one – I almost didn’t blog about it at all, but I did read it, and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I miiiight have felt differently had I read it curled up on the couch instead of at the pool drinking spritzers, but it just didn’t hook me in like I’d hoped.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “Leave Me” by Gayle Forman.

Follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 for Marfa updates this weekend!

BBC: ‘Dumplin”.

For the past couple of weekends, I’ve had this really weird feeling of not knowing what to do with myself. I don’t know if it’s because I usually have a lot of things planned, or what, but to avoid that, I made a “weekend to-do” list hoping to avoid that lost feeling.

I think it helped – I got a lot done yesterday (some errands and some things around the apartment) and to reward myself, today I’m going to the pool with a giant grapefruit margarita (and a book).

But, I’m thrilled to tell you about the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club, because it’s such a fun one; it’s “Dumplin’” by Julie Murphy.

A few months ago, I read “Ramona Blue” by Julie Murphy and I loved it so much, I looked up all of her other books and started following her on Instagram. The library had a copy of “Dumplin'”, so I immediately added it to my reserves list. Here’s the official description:

For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel with the most fearless heroine—self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson—from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.  

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does.

Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Before I get into it, I’ll say that I kept referring to this book in my mind as “Puddin'”; sometimes even WHILE I was reading it! And then I would think, how would someone get a nickname “Puddin'”, out of “Willowdean”? And then I just thought about how crazy it was that I couldn’t get the title of this book right.

Until I sat down to write this blog post and I see that INDEED Julie Murphy has just released a book called “Puddin'”, that is the companion to “Dumplin'”. Weird, right?

But anyway, “Dumplin'” is all stereotypical things Texas: small town, big hair, beauty pageants, Dolly Parton impersonators, and lifelong locals. I pretty much love all of these things, and Willowdean, or Dumplin’, is just as lovable. Here’s a few quotes I took note of while reading:

  • We’re not off a highway or any major route, so it’s the type of place that can only be found by those who want to find it.
  • For a moment, the pageant makes sense, and I get why my mom devotes half of her life to it and why most of the girls in this city dream of gowns and spotlights when the sky is heavy with stars.
  • To my mom, powdered iced tea is almost as bad as the possibility of being left behind in the wake of the rapture.

I started this book thinking it would revolve around the pageant. And while it does a little, it’s more about Dumplin’ growing up, and balancing being a teenager in a small town, along with her friends and crush.

This book is laugh-out-loud funny, and I’m recommending it to anyone who loves all things Texas, or YA novels.

It’s sort of funny that I read the book now, as I’m preparing to take a road trip to Marfa on Saturday! In the book, the fictional Clover City is located close to Marfa and mentions one of its draws: the Marfa lights.

Anyway, I’ll be talking ALL about Marfa basically all week right here as I prepare for my travels. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Missing Hours” by Emma Kavanaugh.

Enjoy your Sunday!

BBC: ‘A French Wedding’.

Happy Humpday! It’s been such a weird week for me… Sunday night, Austin got a very unexpected storm – it was around midnight and my power kept going out and then coming back on… Probably not a big deal, but every time it would come back on, my stove would beep.

I didn’t fall asleep until at least 2am, so when I had to go to Dallas for work on Monday, I was exhausted. I am not lying when I say I was in bed asleep by 8:30 Tuesday night.

Yesterday, technology was completely against me. I was all ready to get loads of work done, when my laptop kept giving me the beach ball of death for more than two hours! I even restarted it several times and deleted lots of old files thinking that was the issue. I gave up and moved over to my iPad, and even IT was moving slow and some of my apps weren’t working. So, I worked from my phone… Ugh.

Anyway, let’s get into the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club (which I read entirely at the pool) which is “A French Wedding” by Hannah Tunnicliffe. Here is the description from Amazon:

Max is a washed-up rock star who’s about to turn forty and feeling nostalgic for his university days. All he says he wants for his birthday is to host his old friends at his house in the French countryside for a weekend of good food and reminiscing. But he has an ulterior motive: Finally ready to settle down, this is his chance to declare his undying love to his best friend, Helen.

Max’s private chef, Juliette, has just returned to her hometown after a nasty breakup and her parents’ failing health move her to sell her dream restaurant in Paris. Still reeling, Juliette throws herself into her job, hoping that the peace and quiet it offers will be the perfect cure for her broken heart.

But when Max’s friends arrive, the introverted, dreamy Juliette finds herself drawn out of her orderly kitchen and into their tumultuous relationships. A weekend thinking about the past spurs more than one emotional crisis, as the friends take stock of whether they’ve lived up to their ideals. Together for the first time in years, it’s not long before love triangles, abandoned dreams, and long-held resentments bubble over, culminating in a wedding none of them ever expected.

I’ve had this book on my list for awhile, and I finally picked it up because I needed a light break from the crime fiction I’ve been devouring. I also thought it would fulfill my craving for anything even close to the royal wedding.

This was the perfect pool book, and it offers some serious escapism in the form of beautiful scenes and very delicious-sounding food.

I will say that this book talks briefly about cancer, and if you’re anything like me, cancer is a trigger at the moment (I feel like it’s everywhere), so I’m just putting that out there, just in case.

Regardless, this was a fun summer read, and still has me craving fresh seafood dunked in clarified butter…yum!

I am recommending this book to anyone who loves romantic memories, or to anyone looking for a French escape!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Dumplin'” by Julie Murphy. Follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to get up-to-date book reviews and reactions.

BBC: ‘Almost Missed You’.

Rolling right on through my library reserves… If you follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 you know that I picked up two crime fiction novels two weeks ago, both about missing persons. That’s the risk you take with, what I like to call, the Russian Roulette of Reserves.

Of course, it’s like, way less risky… given that the worst thing that’s happened to me is two crime fiction novels in a row, but I’m dramatic. So, let’s get to it!

The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Almost Missed You” by Jessica Strawser. Here is the official description:

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.

As the suspenseful events unfold through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a page turning story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

Nothing like having a buzz on the beach and coming back to the hotel to see that your family is missing! As mentioned, this book flips between perspectives, which is sometimes confusing, but it works here.

Around the 100-page point (this has been my assessment mark lately), I started to wonder where this was going. I was into it, but I didn’t feel invested in the characters… until about 14 pages later, and my jaw was hanging. After that, I read it fairly quickly.

I’m recommending this to modern true crime lovers, and also anyone that has a fascination with Craiglist’s Missed Connections… weird, but you’ll understand why if you read it!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “A French Wedding” by Hannah Tunnicliffe (I chose this one to read before reading my next crime fiction book) purely because I’m still on a high from the royal wedding.

This weekend, and pretty much until it gets too hot, I’m planning on being at the pool. And when it’s dark out? Parked in front of my TV – summer is here, y’all!

BBC: 2018 Summer Reading Guide!

Memorial Day has come and gone, and that means it’s officially summer! I went through the archives from Blanche’s Book Club and was SHOCKED to see that I’ve never offered a Summer Reading Guide! Shame on me!

I always offer a Fall Reading Guide and a Holiday Reading Guide, but if you’re anything like me, I read tons of books in the summer months because I’m out by the pool or heading on beach vacations. So, I’m really excited to share 9 NEW books that are perfect, light reads for days by the pool, afternoons on the beach, or even just an hour on the patio. Let’s get into it!

Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen

I’ll be honest, I saw the cover of this book on the shelf at the library and it caught my attention enough to stop and read the back of it. Here’s the description:

During the heady years of the tech boom, incorrigibly frank Sophia Young lucks into a job that puts her directly in the path of Scott Kraft, the eccentric CEO of Treehouse, a studio whose animated films are transforming movies forever. Overnight, Sophia becomes an unlikely nerd whisperer. Whether her success is due to dumb luck, savage assertiveness, insightful finesse (learned by dealing with her irrational Chinese immigrant mother), or a combination of all three, in her rarified position she finds she can truly shine.

As Scott Kraft’s right-hand woman, whip-smart Sophia is in the eye of the storm, sometimes floundering, sometimes nearly losing relationships and her health, but ultimately learning what it means to take charge of her own future the way the men around her do. But when engineer/inventor Andre Stark hires her to run his company’s investor relations, Sophia discovers that the big paycheck and high-status career she’s created for herself may not be worth living in the toxic environment of a boys-club gone bad. 

This book is already out (order it here) and is getting good reviews! I am always a fan of reading about women in tech – go figure.

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

I am SO excited for this one! Author Lauren Weisberger brought us “The Devil Wears Prada”, along with other goodies, including a favorite, “Last Night at Chateau Marmont”. Here’s the description:

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Weisberger returns with a novel starring one of her favorite characters from The Devil Wears Prada–Emily Charlton, first assistant to Miranda Priestly, now a highly successful image consultant who’s just landed the client of a lifetime.

Welcome to Greenwich, CT, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant, does not do the suburbs. She’s working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

Karolina Hartwell is as A-list as they come. She’s the former face of L’Oreal. A mega-supermodel recognized the world over. And now, the gorgeous wife of the newly elected senator from New York, Graham, who also has his eye on the presidency. It’s all very Kennedy-esque, right down to the public philandering and Karolina’s arrest for a DUI–with a Suburban full of other people’s children.

Miriam is the link between them. Until recently she was a partner at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. But when Miriam moves to Greenwich and takes time off to spend with her children, she never could have predicted that being stay-at-home mom in an uber-wealthy town could have more pitfalls than a stressful legal career.

Emily, Karolina, and Miriam make an unlikely trio, but they desperately need each other. Together, they’ll navigate the social landmines of life in America’s favorite suburb on steroids, revealing the truths–and the lies–that simmer just below the glittering surface. With her signature biting style, Lauren Weisberger offers a dazzling look into another sexy, over-the-top world, where nothing is as it appears.

A continuation of “The Devil Wears Prada”? YES. PLEASE. THANK YOU. This book comes out June 5, and you can pre-order it here.

The Bucket List by Georgia Clark 

I read Georgia Clark’s debut novel, “The Regulars” last year and loved it – so I’m excited to see how the new book reads. Here is the description:

From the author of the critically acclaimed “lively and engrossing parable for women of all generations” (Harper’s Bazaar) The Regulars­ comes a deeply funny and thoughtful tale of a young woman who, after discovering she has the breast cancer gene, embarks on an unforgettable bucket list adventure.

Twenty-five-old Lacey Whitman is blindsided when she’s diagnosed with the BCRA1 gene mutation: the “breast cancer” gene. Her high hereditary risk forces a decision: increased surveillance or the more radical step of a preventative double mastectomy. Lacey doesn’t want to lose her breasts. For one, she’s juggling two career paths; her work with the prestigious New York trend forecaster Hoffman House, and her role on the founding team of a sustainable fashion app with friend/mentor, Vivian Chang. Secondly, small-town Lacey’s not so in touch with her sexuality: she doesn’t want to sacrifice her breasts before she’s had the chance to give them their hey-day. To help her make her choice, she (and her friends) creates a “boob bucket list”: everything she wants do with and for her boobs before a possible surgery.

This kicks off a year of sensual exploration and sexual entertainment for the quick-witted Lacey Whitman. The Bucket List cleverly and compassionately explores Lacey’s relationship to her body and her future. Both are things Lacey thought she could control through hard work and sacrifice. But the future, it turns out, is more complicated than she could ever imagine.

Featuring the pitch-perfect “compulsively delicious” (Redbook) prose of The Regulars, The Bucket List is perfect for fans of Amy Poeppel and Sophie Kinsella.

This book is already out and you can purchase it here.

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli 

After reading “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” and LOVING it, anything Becky Albertalli releases is going to be on my reading list. This book is a double win because it is the sequel to “Simon”. Here is the description:

In this sequel to the acclaimed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—now a major motion picture, Love, Simon—we follow Simon’s BFF Leah as she grapples with changing friendships, first love, and senior year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.

She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.

It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

This book is already on shelves and you can get it here.

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand has written SO many books, and I’m behind the game having only read one (but it was really good); some book reviewers have even dubbed her the “Queen of Summer Novel” – what?! Her new book sounds vvvvery promising:

From New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand, comes a novel about the many ways family can fill our lives with love…if they don’t kill us first. 

It’s Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom’s wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair, The Perfect Couple proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read.
This book is released on June 19 and you can pre-order it here.

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

So, I feel embarrassed to say that I’m 99% sure I have never read a book by Emily Giffin. Argh! I have seen the covers in bookstores over the years and I just feel like they are usually about babies? I don’t know, BUT this one sounds so good! Here’s the description:

In the riveting new novel from the #1 bestselling author of Something Borrowed andFirst Comes Love, three very different people must choose between their families and their most deeply held values. . . .

“A gripping, thought-provoking journey.”—Jodi Picoult

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. 

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

I also like the fact that it’s set in Nashville – so many of these types of books only take place in New York or Los Angeles. This book comes out June 26, but you can pre-order it here.

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

I haven’t read anything from Jo Piazza yet, although her books have been on my list! This one sounds fitting for the times…

From Jo Piazza, the bestselling author of The Knock Off, How to Be Married, and Fitness Junkie, comes an exciting, insightful novel about what happens when a woman wants it all—political power, a happy marriage, and happiness—but isn’t sure just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it.

Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.

Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

A searing, suspenseful story of political ambition, marriage, class, sexual politics, and infidelity, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is an insightful portrait of what it takes for a woman to run for national office in America today. In a dramatic political moment like no other with more women running for office than ever before, Jo Piazza’s novel is timely, engrossing, and perfect for readers on both sides of the aisle.

This book comes out on July 24, and you can pre-order it here.

Playing With Matches by Hannah Orenstein 

This book is about matchmaking… and it’s written by a matchmaker! It sounds fun (and funny) – here is the description:

In the tradition of Good in Bed and The Assistants comes a funny and smart comedy about a young matchmaker balancing her messy personal life and the demands of her eccentric clients.

Sasha Goldberg has a lot going for her: a recent journalism degree from NYU, an apartment with her best friend Caroline, and a relationship that would be amazing if her finance-bro boyfriend Jonathan would ever look up from his BlackBerry. But when her dream career falls through, she uses her family’s darkest secret to land a job as a matchmaker for New York City’s elite at the dating service Bliss.

Despite her inexperience, Sasha throws herself into her new career, trolling for catches on Tinder, coaching her clients through rejection, and dishing out dating advice to people twice her age. She sets up a TV exec who wanted kids five years ago, a forty-year-old baseball-loving virgin, and a consultant with a rigorous five-page checklist for her ideal match.

Sasha hopes to find her clients The One, like she did. But when Jonathan betrays her, she spirals out of control—and right into the arms of a writer with a charming Southern drawl, who she had previously set up with one of her clients. He’s strictly off-limits, but with her relationship on the rocks, all bets are off.

Fresh, sweet, and laugh-out-loud funny, Playing with Matches is the addictive story about dating in today’s swipe-heavy society, and a young woman trying to find her own place in the world.

This book will be released on June 26 and you can pre-order it here.

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

This title sold me alone because I have been ghosted soooo many times and it’s the worst thing ever, when it comes to dating. Finally, a book on it! Here’s the description:

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened–there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

This book comes out July 24, and you can pre-order it here.

There’s my round up of summer reads! I’d love to know what books you’re looking forward to, or what books you’ve recently read that I should add to my list. Happy reading!

BBC: ‘The Husband’s Secret’.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend! I took a dance class yesterday, did some serious outlet shopping (I got so many beauty products – ahh!), and have been working on a few new items for my Etsy store (there is currently a big sale happening, check it out here). I am about to pack a cooler and head to the pool for the afternoon, but I wanted to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club with you!

I actually read most of it at the pool last weekend, so if you’ve got similar plans today, this may be the one for you – it’s “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty. Here is the official book description from Amazon:

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read…
 
My darling Cecilia,
If you’re reading this, then I’ve died…
 
Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not only the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. And then imagine that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…
 
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. But that letter is about to change everything—and not just for her. There are other women who barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they, too, are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

This is the 4th book by Moriarty that I’ve read, and she must have a successful formula, because all of them have been great reads (although “What Alice Forgot” remains to be my favorite).

I will admit this was a little slow to start – but once things got rolling, I read the book almost in one sitting. There are many twists and turns and my jaw was hanging!

My mom read this book and then gave it to me and once I read it, she asked if I stumbled across a letter that said “Read this when I die” but the person was still alive, would I read it? Um, heck yes I would rip it open right away, no questions asked.

What about you?

I would definitely recommend this book if you’ve read Moriarty’s other work and liked it, or if you are a fan of “suburban fiction” with a mystery twist.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Almost Missed You” by Jessica Strawser. Don’t forget to follow me on SnapChat for updates on books I’m reading (I have been doing 100-page updates and library hauls), Etsy shop creations, and general Blanche snaps 🙂 @OrangeJulius7

I hope you all have a great, fun and safe Memorial Day Weekend – be on the lookout for some summer reading recommendations right here later in the week! Cheers!

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.

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!