Blog Archives

BBC: ‘The Hate U Give’.

OOoOoOoOoOooooOOO – It’s Friday the 13th! I woke up this morning with my right eye crying and when I looked in the mirror, it was incredibly red. So, I threw on some clothes and went to an urgency care clinic. They basically told me it was just irritated- no pink eye or virus – so I naturally spent $100 for nothing. But hey, better safe than sorry?!

This is the first weekend in a month that I don’t have anything solid on my schedule, which is an awesome feeling and a scary one all at the same time. I foresee some crafting in my future (be on the lookout if you’re following my Etsy store), some reading, cooking, and I definitely have some dance rehearsal I need to get to. You see how these weekends of “nothing” can quickly turn into something?

Anywho, let’s talk about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

I heard about this book on one of my favorite podcasts, “What Should I Read Next?” It was there I learned that yes, this book was inspired by Trayvon Martin’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Tupac’s tattoo “THUG LIFE”.

This is categorized as a YA novel, but it obviously touches on some mature subjects that have since trickled into the lives of young ones.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know by now that equality across cultures, systematic racism, the prison cycle, and Black Lives Matter are my political hot-button issue. I may work in abortion care, but racial injustice is what keeps me up at night.

Needless to say, I had to read this book.

This story was almost like we were getting to see Trayvon’s story from another side. While there were no eye-witnesses to his murder aside from the person who killed him, he was on a phone with a female friend. Starr, in this case, is that female friend. And just like Starr, Trayvon’s friend was put on the witness’ stand, and her words were minced and examined as if they would hold a clue as to why someone would do this to Trayvon, or in Starr’s case, Khalil.

It takes a toll on all involved, and it certainly affects a community. This book shows that from all angles, and at times, it’s gut-wrenching.

I would definitely recommend this book to ANYONE, but I know not everyone feels the way I do about this issue. However, if you have any interest in seeing it from another side, this might just be the book for you.

The next book we’ll be reading is “The Identicals” by Elin Hilderbrand.

I hope y’all have a great weekend!!

Advertisements

BBC: ‘Sycamore’

What? An installment of Blanche’s Book Club on a Monday? Yep! I had a family emergency that came up on Thursday, which meant I threw my life into a bag and jumped on a plane to get to Tennessee.

I wasn’t able to write on Friday, but I still have a FANTASTIC book to share with you all this week. I’m talking about “Sycamore” by Bryn Chancellor. Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart—most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature—desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope—as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town. 

I saw this book on a blog I like to get book recommendations (check it out here), and was pretty excited to pick it up from the library.

While I know there are many books out there about missing persons, some fiction and some non-fiction, this one stands out for a few different reasons. For starters, the story is sort of one giant flashback, as present-day is many years after this girl has gone missing.

The story jumps forward and backward, moving along with the investigation to get answers about her disappearance.

There is resolve, and I’ll be honest, it was a little difficult to read (because of how graphic it is), but this is also the reason I loved reading this book. It’s beautifully written.

It’s very visual and detailed, which I always appreciate. There were phrases such as, “grapefruit haze of streetlights” and “planets hung back like shy children” that I just loved. It also reads like non-fiction, which I found fascinating. It was a page-turner. I wrote a few lines down from the book that I loved:

  • Though it was cold, they rode with the windows down, drinking gas-station sodas from cups as big as oil cans.
  • She hadn’t imagined the possibility others could find out, or what would happen if they did. Now she could. Vomit on dry carpet. Flying knives and an upside down pie. A car stuffed with black garbage bags. An unlit house. Everyone bloodshot and nauseous and hiding from the world. Secrecy, infidelity, betrayal, forbidden. If it was love, it was the love of Capitol T Tragedies.

I’m recommending this book to my true-crime readers, the thrill seekers, and mystery lovers. I’d love to know what you think of this book!

I’ll still do another installment of Blanche’s Book Club on Friday because I have another great book to discuss, “My Life in France” by Julia Child.

I got back to Austin last night around 11, and my week is packed. In coffee I trust! See y’all tomorrow for that oh-so-anticipated “Siesta Key” recap!

BBC: ‘Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud’.

Hey there! Here we are on another Friday – and yep, I’m still pretty excited about a weekend full of… not much. I’m doing some volunteering tomorrow morning, but other than that, I’m planning on making a few more items for my Etsy store and shipping off a few (I had six orders this week!).

I also have some books to pick up at the library – so that’s never a bad thing. But let’s jump right into this week’s book, ’cause I got LOTS to say about it! It’s “Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman” by Anne Helen Peterson.

Here’s the official description from Amazon.com: From celebrity gossip expert and BuzzFeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen comes an accessible, analytical look at how female celebrities are pushing boundaries of what it means to be an “acceptable” woman. 
 
You know the type: the woman who won’t shut up, who’s too brazen, too opinionated—too much. She’s the unruly woman, and she embodies one of the most provocative and powerful forms of womanhood today. In Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, Anne Helen Petersen uses the lens of “unruliness” to explore the ascension of pop culture powerhouses like Lena Dunham, Nicki Minaj, and Kim Kardashian, exploring why the public loves to love (and hate) these controversial figures. With its brisk, incisive analysis, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud will be a conversation-starting book on what makes and breaks celebrity today.  

The book takes a look at these celebrities: Serena Williams (too strong), Melissa McCarthy (too fat), Abbie Jacobson and Ileana Glazer (too gross), Nicki Minaj (too slutty), Madonna (too old), Kim Kardashian (too pregnant), Hillary Clinton (too shrill), Caitlyn Jenner (too queer), Jennifer Weiner (too loud), and Lena Dunham (too naked).

…And then it offers up examples and research as to how they fit their tag “too slutty, too fat” etc. This book really opened my eyes. I do consider myself someone who pays attention – I’m WOKE y’all – but this was so much more. I work in a feminist industry, so I read articles on subjects like this all the time, but this was so well put together, and unfortunately true.

Here’s a few quotes I liked from the book:

  • …it was no coincidence that as audiences watched Kardashian’s preparations for labor, Wendy Davis was filibustering against anti-choice laws in the Texas state legislature. When the body becomes public property, as the pregnant body has indubitably become, it not only liberates the populace at large to comment and cast judgment on it, but the (male-dominated)legislature to institute legal controls over it.
  • It’s Clinton’s defining character trait: her understanding of her worth is so strong that she’s refused, at every point in her life and career, to let men define her.
  • Trump’s victory signals the beginning of a backlash that has been quietly brewing for years, as unruly women of various forms have come to dominate the cultural landscape.
  • Their power and charisma invigorated the world of tennis, but the Williamses rejected the presumed posture of gratitude and humility.
  • Minaj is unapologetic about who she is and how she chooses to live – exercising a form of self-determination that has been almost entirely unavailable to black women in America.

I’m recommending this book to ALL my lovely feminasty women out there – even if it’s in secret. This one will open your eyes and have you burning your bra! Ok not quite, but you get it (Blanche was all, “Joke’s on you I don’t even wear bras!).

The next book we’re reading is “Sycamore” by Bryn Chancellor – and this one is perfect for Halloween, as it’s a novel about a missing girl…OoOoOoOo!

Have a great weekend everyone – I’ll be back here on Monday (I promise)!

BBC: ‘Saints for All Occasions’.

Hey guys! Immediate apologies are in order, for posting this so LATE – yes it’s Friday at 10:15 pm and I’m finally sitting down to post today’s blog. But, I have so many books on my list of recommendations, there’s just no way I could skip an installation of “Blanche’s Book Club!

Also, thank you for all of the kind messages I got yesterday after posting my raw feelings; it’s scary putting something like that out there, and it’s nice to know people care. I really appreciate it, and I’m feeling much better after letting it all out.

I even talked to my boss about some of my work stress and she let me work from the comfort of my bed today, and for just a half day. It felt really nice!

I also dropped off all of the donations I bought last weekend for Harvey evacuees today, did my laundry, and even did my grocery shopping. I’m on a roll!

And so, the latest read – it’s “Saints for All Occasions” by J. Courtney Sullivan and here is the official description from Amazon.com:

A sweeping, unforgettable novel from The New York Times best-selling author of Maine, about the hope, sacrifice, and love between two sisters and the secret that drives them apart.

Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand.

Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, quietly preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora’s favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont.

Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together.

… I’m going to be honest here about a few things: 1. I saw this book on the shelf at a bookstore and FREAKED out because I love J. Courtney Sullivan, so 2. I immediately looked to see if the library had a copy and they did, so I put it on reserve, and 3. I read it without reading the description.

I don’t know if I would have picked this up if I’d read the description… I mean, I’m not really into catholicism or nuns. But, I read it, and I actually liked it. No, it’s not my favorite book by Sullivan (I love Maine), but it definitely sends you on a journey and made me think about something that I’d never thought of before (what it’d be like to be a nun).

I’d recommend this book if this AT ALL sounds interesting… because there’s no question Sullivan can write well.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman” by Anne Helen Peterson.

This morning, I added another new style to my Etsy shop (I’ve added 4 new styles this week), so check it out if you haven’t! I don’t have many plans this weekend – I could really use some rest, to be honest. I’m heading to dance in the morning, and will probably spend lots of time making some more jewelry – it’s proving to be pretty therapeutic!

I hope you all have a safe and fun weekend – if ANY of my readers live in Irma’s path – I’m sending you love and good vibes. Until Monday…xoxo

BBC: ‘Into the Water’.

Happy Friday before a holiday!!! Wahoo! What is it about that extra day off that just makes life so great? I’m not going to analyze it, I’m going to TAKE it and run with it. Actually, I’ll probably be in bed, but who cares?

Anywho, let’s get into this week’s read: “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins. Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
 
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
 
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
 
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Ohhhhh man! I was so excited to read this book. When it came out, I immediately put my name on the list for a reserve at the library. I did have to wait awhile, but either way – good deal.

I’m going to say right off the bat that I didn’t end up loving this book as much as I loved “The Girl on the Train”. And, you know, that’s ok. Not every book from an author is going to be the same – obviously.

Is it good? Yes. Chilling? Yes.

I have admitted many times that I don’t do well with lots of characters in a book – it’s just hard for me to concentrate and if they are alike, I get them confused. This was the case for this book. So, you very well may love it!

The reader reviews on the Amazon page for the book has mixed reviews as well. I know it’s easy to assume an author is going to pump out books that are similar and equally likable, but it’s just not that way. Plus, I don’t like it when books are advertised as, “If you liked ‘The Girl on The Train’…” because then you go into thinking it’s going to be just like that and you usually just end up disappointed.

So, there you have it. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Saints for All Occasions” by J. Courtney Sullivan. Read it with us!

Meanwhile, The Bitter Lemon Etsy Shop is having its first S A L E in honor of Labor Day! Enjoy 15% off  (+ FREE shipping anywhere in the US) all of the items in the shop today through Monday!

I’ll be doing a little shopping of my own this weekend – some for myself and some for Hurricane Harvey victims. And hopefully I’ll be making some more jewelry! I’m really enjoying this hobby as it’s a good way to just zone out and have a finished, wearable piece of fun at the end.

So, happy weekend y’all! Do something for Harvey victims – anything. Texas needs your help & get used to see that here. We need to help each other, no matter where you live. Do good.

I’m taking Monday off from the blog, but I’ll be back on Tuesday with a fresh recap of “Siesta Key”! Bye y’all!

BBC: ‘Gone Girl’.

Greetings, from Texas, i.e. Hurricane Harvey’s final destination! It’s been a crazy week – I was so worried about getting everything prepped for the Quesoff (which is scheduled for tomorrow), I finalized my recipe (will share next week), made a sign, bought a festive tablecloth, made business cards to give out, and dug out my table and extension cords… and now, I’m not even sure it’s happening!

As far as I know, this event is outside, and even though I live in central Texas, we are in a flash flood zone, not to mention all the rain that’s coming our way in just a few hours. I don’t particularly want to be serving queso under hurricane rain… But, I also know the Austin Food Bank could use our donations.

If my original weekend plans get rained out, go ahead and picture me in the apartment eating said queso with Blanche. There will probably be lots of reading, organizing, and trying not to open the fridge once the power goes out. Stay tuned.

Anyway, Blanche’s Book Club is behind the times BUT we finally got around to reading “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn.

Now, before we get into it, I’ll say that I let this book sit on my shelf for months (and more months) because everyone I know that read it didn’t really have good things to say about it. So, I was in no rush. I’ll also let you in on a little secret: I don’t really like books that are REAL popular (“The Fault in Our Stars” was an absolute exception).

While I was waiting on my library reserves, I decided to finally pick up this book. Here’s the description from Amazon:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 

Don’t worry, I’m not going to give anything away! But, I’ll say the way the first half of the book is written was definitely grasping at straws to frame the husband as the killer. Being a true-crime nut, I knew this just wasn’t going to be the case.

Naturally, the book has a pretty crazy twist or two, and I liked it. I read this book FAST, and I even stayed up until like 4am or something weird to finish it. It was easy to read, and definitely creepy as hell. A page-turner. If you’re in Texas right now and need plans to hold you over in the dark, grab your bag of tea lights and this book, and settle right in.

I saw the movie was also airing on TV around the time I was reading the book, so I recorded it and watched it within hours of putting the book down. I’m not a fan of Ben Affleck (he plays the husband), but the movie was a great adaptation of the book.

So, there you have it. I liked it. I liked it so much I want to check out Flynn’s other books: “Dark Places” and “Sharp Objects“.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one!

Have a good weekend everyone – if you’re in Harvey’s path, I’m wishing you luck and safety! See y’all next week 🙂

BBC: ‘Some Kind of Happiness’.

Hello, hello! I hope you guys have had a great week – it’s been pretty good on my end. I don’t know about you, but… I’m starting to feel ready for fall. Living in Texas, I’ve got a little while before any sort of chill hits the air, but it rained all night a few nights ago and in the morning it felt soooo nice out!

The feeling disappeared by lunch and we were back to nasty, humid, heat. Of course, I spend most of my days in the office, so it’s whatever – but I find myself longingly staring at my flannel shirts in the closet, and waiting for the day when it’s acceptable to make chili. Le sigh…

But, let’s talk about the activity I’m doing ALL YEAR: reading for Blanche’s Book Club! Great transition, I know. So, this week we’re talking about “Some Kind of Happiness” by Claire Legrand. Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

Reality and fantasy collide in this “beautiful and reflective tale” (Booklist, starred review) for fans of Counting by 7s and Bridge to Terabithia, about a girl who must save a magical make-believe world in order to save herself.

Things Finley Hart doesn’t want to talk about:
-Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
-Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
-Never having met said grandparents.
-Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real—and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

…I added this book to my reading list after seeing a post about it on Instagram (I get lots of book recommendations from Instagram). The post said it was a YA novel about a girl with a mental illness.

Now, if I hadn’t read that prior, I never really would have thought she had a mental illness. Of course, I don’t do lots of digging into subtext when I read (guilty). It is obvious, however, that she’s going through a pretty tough time and she’s looking for an escape – an escape she’s made up in her mind. Don’t kids do that?

Anyway, this was different than other YA novels I’ve read – it wasn’t lite and fluffy, and definitely wasn’t based around love. However, it was relatable and I enjoyed the fresh take. I’m recommending this book to YA lovers, especially in the fantasy genre.

The next book we’ll be discussing is “This is Just My Face” by Gabourey Sidibe. Feel free to read it with us and join the discussion, right here on the blog or on social media @OrangeJulius7!

This weekend, I’m really trying to be productive – finally going to drop off some bags of clothes to donate in hopes of making my closet look neater! I’m also going to do some cooking, take a dance class, of course do some reading, and I am going to a boat party Saturday night. Should be a fun time! Have a good one, y’all!

BBC: ‘The Arrangement’.

Hello, hello! I’ve had a pretty good week over here – hope you all can say the same! I DID take three dance classes last night though, so I’m definitely sore today. However, I needed it!

But let’s jump right into the book review, because this one is a GOODIE. Here’s the official description from Amazon for “The Arrangement” by Sarah Dunn:

Lucy and Owen, ambitious, thoroughly-therapized New Yorkers, have taken the plunge, trading in their crazy life in a cramped apartment for Beekman, a bucolic Hudson Valley exurb. They’ve got a two hundred year-old house, an autistic son obsessed with the Titanic, and 17 chickens, at last count. It’s the kind of paradise where stay-at-home moms team up to cook the school’s “hot lunch,” dads grill grass-fed burgers, and, as Lucy observes, “chopping kale has become a certain kind of American housewife’s version of chopping wood.”

When friends at a wine-soaked dinner party reveal they’ve made their marriage open, sensible Lucy balks. There’s a part of her, though-the part that worries she’s become too comfortable being invisible-that’s intrigued. Why not try a short marital experiment? Six months, clear ground rules, zero questions asked. When an affair with a man in the city begins to seem more enticing than the happily-ever-after she’s known for the past nine years, Lucy must decide what truly makes her happy-“real life,” or the “experiment?”

I saw this on a Pinterest list (ugh, guilty) and I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant to pick it up. I’m really sensitive to any entertainment/pop culture that doesn’t respect women, or even discusses ideas that would degrade a woman.

But, it says the woman makes the decision to have an open marriage! So, I read it and I’m so glad I did. This book really takes a look at modern relationships, and how they might really turn out.

This was a quick, easy read, and it had just the right bit of sex appeal, while still highlighting some good writing. I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves a good romance novel – with a twist, of course.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Some Kind of Happiness“, a YA novel by Claire Legrand.

I have got an entire weekend of NOTHING planned – although I do need to work on my queso skills. You might recall I entered myself in a queso contest and it’s officially two weeks away and I have done nothing to prepare. Yikes!

Other than that, it might just be me, in bed, watching made-for-Hallmark Channel movies. I am not ashamed! I hope you guys have some fun out there; I’ll be right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘Hungry Heart’.

Hey, hey! It’s been a bit of a rocky week at the office (ugh, I hate saying that), and I’ve taken a lot of enjoyment in having a good book to turn to during my lunch hour and between dance classes. The latest read in Blanche’s Book Club is “Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing” by Jennifer Weiner.

Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com: Jennifer Weiner is many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and an “unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister, a clumsy yogini, and a reality-TV devotee. In this “unflinching look at her own experiences” (Entertainment Weekly), Jennifer fashions tales of modern-day womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Nora Ephron and Tina Fey.

No subject is off-limits in these intimate and honest essays: sex, weight, envy, money, her mother’s coming out of the closet, her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to hearing her six-year-old daughter say the F word—fat—for the first time, Jen dives into the heart of female experience, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world.

I was really excited to get this book from the library (I was on a waiting list for a month or so), because I have read a few of Weiner’s books and have really enjoyed them! I always love hearing the story behind the stories; how/where other writers get their inspiration; and how much of the fiction writing comes from a true place.

In this book, Weiner talks a lot about how she was raised, and it is telling about her fiction writing (particularly the relationship she has with her father). She is also very open about her own relationships (two marriages), her children, and how she came to be a popular, published writer. I really like how she addresses the categorization women’s fiction has received over the years, because it’s something I’ve noticed myself. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “It took time before I could take all that pain and use it; transform all that loneliness and isolation and shame into stories.”
  • “Maybe I was lucky after all. Maybe the damaged ones, the broken ones, the outcasts and the outsiders end up survivors, and successful, with empathy as their superpower, an extra-sensitivity to other people’s pain, and the ability to spin their own sorrow into something useful.”
  • “I would tell myself that I wasn’t lonely, and wouldn’t even think of the shame that was underneath the loneliness and how I felt like a failure and a fraud.”

Weiner also admitted to being an obsessive Tweeter – especially when it comes to episodes of “The Bachelor”.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. If you’re a fan of Weiner’s books, I would definitely recommend this book to you!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon. You should read it with us! I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – stay cool, and I’ll see you here on Monday!

BBC: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Born a Crime’.

Hey yoooo! I have been on a waiting list at the library for MONTHS for my latest read. I guess everyone wanted to get their paws on Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood”.

I will admit I wasn’t jumping for joy at first about this book, but I do watch “The Daily Show” religiously, so I was looking forward to learning more about this daily host. Here’s the scoop on the book from Amazon.com:

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

…Now I will say, I wouldn’t describe this book as “hilarious”, but it did include some funny stories. Was it gripping and unable to put down? No. But I will also admit I’m not really a fan of short stories.

If you’re interested in South African history, or the tales of Trevor Noah, add this book to your list!

The book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading next is “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough.

And I know said I loved three-day weekends, but this four-day week sure did kick my ass! Maybe it was all of the adventures I had last weekend? I feel a whole lotta loungin’ coming on… see you all on Monday!

BBC: ’13 Reasons Why’.

Eeeek! I am so, so excited to share my latest read from Blanche’s Book Club with you! I know this plot is a popular subject (or at least it seems to be in my world), so let’s get to it.

The book is “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. I had this book on my reserve list for at least two months at the library, and just got it about a week ago. The odd thing is, as soon as I picked it up, I started hearing lots of people talk about it – at the dance studio, on the radio – because it’s also a series on Netflix.

Anyway, here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

You can’t stop the future. 
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
               
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Sounds a little creepy, right? I’ll admit, it was a little eery to read, but I whipped right through it. I’ll be honest, when the reasons for Hannah’s suicide start cropping up – I was a little skeptical – really? I know, it sounds terrible. But, I also remember high school was like, and it ain’t easy. And as the book progressed, her reasons grew darker – and it was sadly relatable.

One thing that was really interesting is the way this book is set up. It moves quickly, tape-by-tape, and although you almost don’t want to know what Hannah is going to say next, you DO at the same time.

At the end of the book, the author included a Q&A where he talks a lot about the inspiration for the book, and he said he got the idea for the cassette tapes after visiting a museum and visiting an exhibit that had an audio component (complete with headphones). He said that although cassettes are dated, he didn’t want to include technology/social media because it was too fast-paced and we wouldn’t necessarily be able to live in the past.

Fascinating, right?! It really works in this story. I am DEFINITELY recommending this book to anyone and everyone – I loved it, and I hope you do, too.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Morgan Mastson. Read it with us!

As you read this, I’m already in Vegas, so I hope you’re having an equally wild, fun, and free weekend – catch you later!

BBC: ‘My Year With Eleanor’.

Hellooooo! I know it’s technically a holiday, so perhaps you’re reading this from the comfort of your bed? Or the beach? Here’s to hoping!

I’m at the office today, but we have spent a majority of the week packing, since the movers are coming tomorrow to put all of our work things in a new building. I checked out the place yesterday, and it’s nice, but very corporate. I’ll report there on Monday, so we’ll see how that goes.

I am really excited to talk about the last book I read: “My Year With Eleanor” by Noelle Hancock.

This book has been on my reading list for quite awhile, and I went to several bookstores looking for it. My mom eventually ordered it from a far away Half-Price Books, and I’ve just been waiting for the exact right time to read it. I knew it was going to be inspiring, and well, I’m in need of some inspiration! Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

In the tradition of My Year of Living Biblically and Eat Pray Love comes My Year with Eleanor, Noelle Hancock’s hilarious tale of her decision to heed the advice of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and do one thing a day that scares her in the year before her 30th birthday. Fans of Sloane Crosley and Chelsea Handler will absolutely adore Hancock’s charming and outrageous chronicle of her courageous endeavor and delight in her poignant and inspiring personal growth.

While I’m not a huge fan of the loads of Eleanor Roosevelt quotes out there, I can definitely appreciate a person willing to step out on a ledge for an entire year.

When you think about it, doing something every day that scares you seems like a really terrible task – despite all the growth, of course. But, Noelle Hancock mixes it up and does some really terrifying things (gets in a shark cage, flies a fighter jet, and goes skydiving), and she does some things that are less scary, but leave room for embarrassment (sings karaoke, does stand up comedy, and visits her ex boyfriends).

Naturally, she saves one giant task for last, and I won’t spoil it.

I know there’s lots of books out there like this, and while I haven’t read “Eat, Pray, Love”, I’ve heard it’s pretentious, and that’s exactly what I loved about Noelle’s story. It was honest, and although she shared all of the cool things she learned from her journey, she was also willing to show the dark side – think: sleeping pills, snotsicles, and an empty checking account.

I’m definitely, 100% recommending this book to anyone who feels like they’re in a rut, or perhaps feel like they haven’t lived their full potential yet. Who knows, maybe this book will inspire your “Year of Fear”!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is… drumroll… “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. Read along with us by simply commenting here on the blog, or following me on social media @OrangeJulius7.

And so, it’s Easter weekend! I am not religious, but I treated myself to a Marshmallow Milky Way (YAS), and I’m pretty sure I’m going to make this Sunday a Funday, complete with eggs and mimosas… because, Easter.

Have a fun on, y’all!

Season Review: ‘Big Little Lies’.

I finally watched HBO’s ‘Big Little Lies’.

Well, I F-IIIII-nally watched HBO’s limited series, “Big Little Lies” this weekend! I was in such a hurry to read the book (check out my review, here) before the series came out, and then week after week, I simply recorded it and just now got around to watching it.

After the finale, everyone was talking about it so much, I felt like I had to stay on alert to avoid the spoilers. However, after reading the book – there really weren’t any spoilers, as it was almost exactly like the book (in a good way!).

Here’s the scoop from HBO.com: In the tranquil seaside town of Monterey, California, nothing is quite as it seems. Doting moms, successful husbands, adorable children, beautiful homes: What lies will be told to keep their perfect worlds from unraveling?

Told through the eyes of three mothers – Madeline, Celeste and Jane – Big Little Lies paints a picture of a town fueled by rumors and divided into the haves and have-nots, exposing the conflicts, secrets and betrayals that compromise relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and friends and neighbors.

Based on the New York Times number-one bestseller of the same name by Liane Moriarty, this seven-part limited series is a subversive, darkly comedic drama that weaves a tale of murder and mischief as it explores society’s myth of perfection and the contradictions that exist beneath our idealized façade of marriage, sex, parenting and friendship.

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, for which he received an editing Oscar nomination; Wild; Demolition), Big Little Lies is written for television and created by David E. Kelley (seven-time Emmy winner for Picket Fences, LA Law, The Practice and Ally McBeal; Goliath).

The stellar cast includes Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott, James Tupper, Jeffrey Nordling, Santiago Cabrera, P.J. Byrne and Virginia Kull.

Executive produced by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, David E. Kelley, Bruna Papandrea (Gone Girl; Wild; the Oscar nominee Milk), Per Saari (Rabbit Hole, The Family Fang, Monte Carlo), Jean-Marc Vallée, Nathan Ross (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild, Demolition) and Gregg Fienberg (four-time Emmy-nominee; HBO’s True Blood and Deadwood), and produced by Barbara A. Hall (Ray, Milk) and Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies is a Pacific Standard/Blossom Films/David E. Kelley Productions production for HBO Films.

…First thing’s first, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley SHINE in this series! I would watch the two of them for days.

The other thing I’ll note is that, while the book had some scenes including domestic violence, seeing it in the series is very difficult – wow. I enjoyed seeing the book come to life, but it’s not something I’d ever watch again because of these tough scenes.

The cool thing about the series – much like the book – is that it offers you a taste of the ending right at the beginning, so you’re sort of aware of what’s to come.

What’s surprising to me about the book and the series is that, minus the murder, this is a story that I’d bet many, many people can relate to; but it hasn’t really been told.

I enjoyed it, but I’m also really glad I waited until I had all of the episodes recorded so I could watch them all at once.

This weekend, I also got my butt in gear – sort of – and cleaned out my car (I vacuumed it and even washed the floor mats), did my laundry, cooked, cleaned my apartment, read, went to the library, and in-general, just tried to get my life in order pre-vacation.

But, I hope today is treating you well! Don’t be shocked if the blog is full of TV talk this week; my DVR is full and I’ve got lots to say about it.

BBC: ‘The Unexpected Everything’.

Hey, hey! We made it to the end of the week! I still have a busy day ahead, but I’m a big fan of the Friday energy, so I’ll take it. I’m excited to tell you about this book I read, so I’ll jump right in.

It’s a YA novel called, “The Unexpected Everything” by Morgan Matson. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com:

Andie must learn to embrace the beauty in chaos in this New York Times bestselling novel about friendship, finding yourself, and all the joys in life that happen while you’re busy making other plans.

Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.

Future? A top-tier medical school.
Dad? Avoid him as much as possible (which isn’t that hard considering he’s a Congressman and he’s never around).
Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby—pretty much the most awesome people on the planet, who needs anyone else?
Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.

So it’s no surprise that Andie has her summer all planned out too.

Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all—working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?

Dun, dun dun! I’ll be honest, I didn’t even read the description before I put myself on the reserve list at the library for this one. I stumbled across it on a reading list from Lauren Conrad, and since I L O V E her, I wanted to read it right away.

What the book ended up being was a fun, breezy ride through a summer romance amidst clouds of teenage chaos. I’ve been running down memory lane a lot lately, and this book catered to my homesick self. It was a fun read, with a well-crafted plot.

Morgan Matson is also the author of “Since You’ve Been Gone“, and I’m adding this one to my list of books that will be acceptable to read while at the pool. I certainly enjoyed “The Unexpected Everything” so much, that I think her other book would be good, too.

I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves YA novels, and especially if you liked John Green’s “Paper Towns”.

The next book the Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin“. I just started reading this book last night, and wow am I excited to get INTO it! I hope you’ll read it along with me this week.

And that’s that! I have a busy weekend planned, but I’m looking forward to some fun. I hope you’ve got some good stuff lined up, and I’ll catch you on the flip side.