Blog Archives

BBC: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘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.

BBC: ‘Settle for More’.

Hey there! This week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club might be a little unexpected, or at least that’s what my friends were telling me when I told them what book I was reading. It’s “Settle for More” by Megyn Kelly.

Before I get into WHY I wanted to read it, I’ll give you the scoop from Amazon.com:

Whether it’s asking tough questions during a presidential debate or pressing for answers to today’s most important issues, Megyn Kelly has demonstrated the intelligence, strength, common sense, and courage that have made her one of today’s best-known journalists, respected by women and men, young and old, Republicans and Democrats.

In Settle for More, the anchor of The Kelly File reflects on the enduring values and experiences that have shaped her—from growing up in a family that rejected the “trophies for everyone” mentality, to her father’s sudden, tragic death while she was in high school. She goes behind-the-scenes of her career, sharing the stories and struggles that landed her in the anchor chair of cable’s #1 news show. Speaking candidly about her decision to “settle for more”—a motto she credits as having dramatically transformed her life at home and at work—Megyn discusses how she abandoned a thriving legal career to follow her journalism dreams.

Admired for her hard work, humor, and authenticity, Megyn sheds light on the news business, her time at Fox News, the challenges of being a professional woman and working mother, and her most talked about television moments. She also speaks openly about Donald Trump’s feud with her, revealing never-before-heard details about the first Republican debate, its difficult aftermath, and how she persevered through it all.

Deeply personal and surprising, Settle for More offers unparalleled insight into this charismatic and intriguing journalist, and inspires us all to embrace the principles—determination, honesty, and fortitude in the face of fear—that have won her fans across the political divide.

So, there you have it! I didn’t know much about Ms. Kelly before all of the publicity Trump gave her, but I saw a feature on her on “Sunday Morning”, and I really appreciated the fact that she’d come up through the journalism ranks in an honest way. Many journalists you see on TV didn’t earn their spot.

The book indeed dives into Kelly’s issues with Trump, which started well before the primary debate she moderated, and continued for nearly an entire year afterward. The book also covers her personal and family life, her initial career as a lawyer, and how she transitioned into the world of journalism. It also (briefly) touches on the her allegations against Roger Ailes for sexual assault.

Kelly left Fox news in January, also leaving her nightly show “The Kelly Files”, behind for NBC. However, there is no official start date for her (per an article in the Washington Examiner dated March 15).

The only thing I don’t like about Kelly? That she’s very clear on NOT being a feminist, especially when she doesn’t seem to even understand the concept, and she’s in the perfect position to be one!

But, I’d still definitely recommend this book if you’re at all a fan of journalism, or if you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look at what happened between her and Trump (she has scanned emails in there).

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Unexpected Everything” by Morgan Matson. Read it with us by simply reading it and hitting me up on social media @OrangeJulius7 and/or commenting right here on the blog!

I hope you all have a fantastic, fun weekend. I am thinking about seeing “Beauty & the Beast”, and I know I’ve got loads of “Big Little Lies” to catch up on. Catch y’all on the flipside!

BBC: ‘Two by Two’.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I almost ran out and bought a box of Lucky Charms last night so I could eat it today for good luck – but I know I legit just wanted anything sugary because sometimes you just have to treat yourself. I didn’t (I had egg whites and spinach instead), but the day isn’t over.

In other news, my latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Two by Two” by Nicholas Sparks! This book came out in October of last year, and I’ve pretty much been on a waiting list at the library ever since – that’s how much everyone loves Nicholas Sparks. Here’s the scoop:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with an emotionally powerful story of unconditional love, its challenges, its risks and most of all, its rewards.

At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear…and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down. In a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to a new and baffling reality. Throwing himself into the wilderness of single parenting, Russ embarks on a journey at once terrifying and rewarding-one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined.

…Sounds basically like every other Nicholas Sparks’ book, right? Kinda. I’m being serious when I say I love Nicholas Sparks. He’s obviously found a formula that works, as he has published what – 20 books – or so? And I also like that I pretty much know what I’m going to get when I settle in with one of his stories.

The chances are likely that it will be the story of a man and a woman, and will involve a third-party of some sort. The main characters will be too good to be true – nice, gorgeous, hard-working, etc. The third-party will be an asshole, a drunk, a gold digger, or an abusive prick. The story will be punctuated with homemade dinners, wine, and late nights, and yes, there will be a sad part.

“Two by Two” meets this mold to a degree. But I’ll be honest, at first, the lead male was really ticking me off. He was definitely not perfect, and he painted his wife out to be a whiny, superficial B. But why?!???!

I present to you, Exhibit A: an excerpt from a People magazine article, dated January 6, 2015:

There will be no storybook ending for Nicholas Sparks and his wife Cathy – the woman who inspired so many of the best-selling author’s novels.

The king of the love story, who has penned 17 romantic novels – nine of which, including The Notebook, have been made into movies – is splitting from his wife of 25 years.

So, bitter much?! Now that Sparks is single (or, no longer married), he’s going to paint the women in his books to be greedy whores!

In all honesty, this was probably the lengthiest book in Sparks’ collection, and I read 95% of it one day. So, it still makes for a laid-back, easy read that moves quickly. And yes, it would make a great movie.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Settle for More” by Megyn Kelly (oohhh ahhhhh…). I hope you’ll read it with us!

And to all, I hope you have a happy and safe weekend. I’ll be… trying not to eat an entire box of Lucky Charms in a single sitting.

BBC: ‘Goodnight Nobody’.

Heeyyyoooo! It’s Friday, and it has been a helluva week for many reasons, and you know what? I have to be at work before 9 am tomorrow, so damn. But is it weird that it doesn’t really take away the shine of today STILL being Friday? Cause I’m still pretty happy about it.

Anyway, I’m pretty amped about the latest read in Blanche’s Book Club: “Goodnight Nobody” by Jennifer Weiner. This is the third book of Weiner’s that I’ve read and it’s just as good as the other two – she’s got it!

This book was given to me as a gift, and I was waiting for the perfect time to read it. Here’s the description of the story from Amazon.com: In this “delightfully funny suburban-housewife mystery” (Newsday), New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner tells the story of young mother’s move to a postcard-perfect Connecticut town and the secrets she uncovers there.

For Kate Klein, a semi-accidental mother of three, suburbia’s been full of unpleasant surprises. Her once-loving husband is hardly ever home. The super mommies on the playground routinely snub her. Her days are spent carpooling and enduring endless games of Candy Land, and at night, most of her orgasms are of the do-it-yourself variety.

When a fellow mother is murdered, the unsolved mystery quickly becomes one of the most exciting things to ever happen in Upchurch, Connecticut. Despite the local police chief’s warning that crime-fighting is a job best left to the professionals, Kate launches an unofficial investigation—from 8:45 to 11:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, when her kids are in nursery school.

As Kate is drawn deeper into the murdered woman’s past, she discovers the secrets and lies behind Upchurch’s placid picket-fence façade—and the choices and compromises all modern women make as they navigate between independence and obligation, small towns and big cities, being a mother and having a life of one’s own.

Engrossing, suspenseful, and laugh-out-loud funny, Goodnight Nobody is another unputdownable, timely tale; an insightful mystery with a great heart and a narrator you’ll never forget.

…That’s right, it’s a murder mystery! Only… in the form of a RomCom. It’s actually not like anything I’ve read before, and perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I will say, the murder happens within the first five pages, so there’s no real need to get “into” this book – it happens right away, which I love. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re into marshmallow fiction, and/or lighthearted mysteries.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Superficial: More Adventures from the Andy Cohen Diaries” by Andy Cohen.

This is one of those weekends that feels like it’s already planned for me between a work event and a video shoot for my upcoming dance performance… I may just be sleeping and attempting to binge-watch season three of “Orange is the New Black”. We’ll see – but you’re more than welcome to follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to see if I find myself up to anything interesting.

Cheers!

BBC: ‘The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl’.

Hello! Happy Weekend Eve! You guys… I took a new fitness class on Wednesday night, which kicked my ass so hard I thought I was going to puke… and despite being so sore yesterday, I still went to two dance classes last night. So today I basically want to die.

But, hey everything is always okay on a Friday, right? Anyway, I finished reading another book for the book club, one that I was just SO excited to read: “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” by Issa Rae. Here’s the description from Amazon:

In this universally accessible New York Times bestseller named for her wildly popular web series, Issa Rae—“a singular voice with the verve and vivacity of uncorked champagne” (Kirkus Reviews)—waxes humorously on what it’s like to be unabashedly awkward in a world that regards introverts as hapless misfits and black as cool.

I’m awkward—and black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. That someone was right. Where do I start?

Being an introvert (as well as “funny,” according to the Los Angeles Times) in a world that glorifies cool isn’t easy. But when Issa Rae, the creator of the Shorty Award-winning hit seriesThe Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, is that introvert—whether she’s navigating love, the workplace, friendships, or “rapping”—it sure is entertaining. Now, in this New York Timesbestselling debut collection written in her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cybersexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself—natural hair and all.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a book no one—awkward or cool, black, white, or other—will want to miss.

I’ve basically had a girl crush on Miss Rae since the debut of her HBO series “Insecure” last fall. Little did I know that the chick was not only the lead actress in the show, but also the lead writer of it, having based the whole series on her successful YouTube show.

But her collection of stories was published before anything happened with HBO, so it’s definitely a different side of Issa. There are some pretty funny bits in there – particularly about how she was Catfishing people online before it was a thing, and well before she could drive.

There are several stories about her childhood, her family, and in general, her observations of black culture – despite the fact that she’s never wanted to be a voice on the “black experience”.

The story that stuck out to me the most was a simple one about her being robbed – nearly all of her film and computer equipment was stolen, including lots of work she’d already accomplished for film school. It took lots of time for her to get back on her feet (it was thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment), and that’s essentially how she came up with the idea for her YouTube series – she just wanted to share the story of her life, and how awkward she felt at all times.

This is why I love Issa so much – she’s cool as hell, but thinks she so awkward or insecure. When, in reality, we basically all feel that way (right??). It’s the great equalizer… well, minus Olivia Palermo. Pretty sure she’s never felt awkward or insecure in her whole life.

If you’re a fan of Issa, or comedians, this would be a good book to check out. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for literary critics.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Goodnight Nobody” by Jennifer Weiner. Feel free to read along with me next week by giving me a shout on social media @OrangeJulius7 – I’d love to hear from you!

This weekend, I’m looking forward to tackling a few dance rehearsals (I’m performing on stage at the end of the month), and hitting up a romance reading event at a nearby library. I am also totally planning to watch the Grammy red carpet, but not the actual Grammy’s, given that no one good is performing. Yeah I said it, Bey.

Anyway – I’ll catch you all on the flipside!

BBC: ‘Scrappy Little Nobody’.

Howdy! Is anyone else still having trouble adjusting back to life post-holidays? I’m not sure what my deal is, but I’m still finding I can’t quite get things together – it’s a slow process, and it just might be February before I’m fully ready to tackle 2017.

But, I am having a pretty good time getting back into the groove of reading, and I think you’ll really enjoy the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like PitchPerfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

Sounds good, right? I know there are people out there who are OBSESSED with Anna Kendrick. I’ve never really understood this, until I read this book.

She’s pretty, funny, talented, and seems pretty damn real and humble. She’s just like us!! Her on-screen humor is definitely read on the page, as well. The book is essentially a collection of short stories from her life, all strung together in an organized way.

I’ll admit, I completely forgot she was in “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, and had absolutely no clue that she got started on Broadway, let alone at 12 years old! Damn, girl!

I’m basically obsessed with her take on men and dating, presented in the “Boys” chapter: “If a guy can convince me he has the answers or a better plan than me, I will follow him anywhere.”

Hells yes! Totally adding her to my list of spiritual leaders (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Trevor Noah, Anderson Cooper…).

I think my favorite part of the book (although there were many to choose from) was when Kendrick admitted to not really enjoying award shows, but relishing in getting home afterward, keeping her borrowed diamonds on, while sitting in her sweatpants and eating mac n’ cheese. Sounds pretty awesome!

So yes, definitely add this book to your list if you’re even the slightest bit of an Anna Kendrick fan – or really just interested in the stories behind successful actresses.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty, in preparation for the HBO limited series based on the book! The series premiers on February 19, and looks pretty awesome. Here’s the trailer:

I’m on the road today, heading to the Rio Grande Valley for the weekend, and I packed the book for (hopefully) some relaxing down time. You can follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to see all the adventures I come across.

I hope you all have a great weekend, whatever you end up doing! See you right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘A Man Called Ove’.

So, the holidays are officially over (I think now is the appropriate time to stop saying ‘Happy New Year!’ to everyone, right?), but it’s Friday and I’m sure this week was a struuuuggggle for everyone involved. I actually didn’t hate my life too much on Tuesday morning, but as each morning passed, I hit the snooze button more and more. Ugh.

But, Blanche’s Book Club has been on a roll (read: I’ve been taking many hot baths and enjoy reading while doing so), and we just finished a book that was on my library reserve list for about four months, “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman.

I heard about this book on “What Should I Read Next?” (a podcast), and it got mixed reviews – some people really loved it, while others said it took them awhile to get through it (although those readers said it was better in the audio version). So, I took the risk and added it to my list – considering the waiting time was so long I feel like a lot of people enjoyed this book. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. “If there was an award for ‘Most Charming Book of the Year,’ this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down” (Booklist, starred review).

I don’t know if I would call this a “feel good story” by any means, as Ove is pretty cranky, and he is very sad – considering we meet him on the day he is planning to kill himself.

But Ove’s story is a deep one – he acts the way he does because of the life that’s behind him, although the story that lies ahead is a little brighter.

I enjoyed this book, but I’m definitely not running out and looking for more reads from Backman, but that’s just me. Afterall, it got 4.5 stars on GoodReads, AND its being made into a movie! Here’s the trailer:

Looks pretty good!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Still Life” by Louise Penny, a murder mystery! I’ve been so excited to read this one – if you’d like to read along with us, simply comment on the blog, or hit me up on social media @OrangeJulius7.

What is everyone up to this weekend? I am definitely going to be cooking something from Chrissy’s cookbook, as I mentioned yesterday. And I’ve got a season of “Orange is the New Black” that I need to watch before it’s due back at the library (story of my life), and I’m planning to watch the Golden Globes on Sunday.

I hope you have a great weekend – stay warm – and I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘The Nest’.

Happy Thanksgiving! I am up early this morning, as I’m about to prep my turkey, and really, I just couldn’t wait to get this day started. Is it just me or is there something glorious about still waking up early when you don’t have to work or tend to other, serious obligations?

My only goals for the day are: 1. get the turkey and pie cooked and baked, respectively, and 2. don’t miss the parade (thanks, DVR). And that’s it!

I’m definitely going to be doing a lot of reading on this long, chilly weekend, so I’m excited to share with you the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “The Nest” by Cynthia Sweeney. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the futures they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.

…So, yeah. I put this book on my reserve list after it was suggested to me from Amazon. It sounded interesting. I’ll say this is a thick book, but it’s very descriptive in a good way – I could really picture all of the scenes, which I enjoyed.

Also, I feel like this is a subject that’s not visited much – at least the “inheritance” part, and how it would affect a family and their relationships with each other. This was Sweeney’s debut novel, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for her next release.

I know we’re also not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it, we all do it, and this book is gorgeous! It’s got an embossed cover, and the paper its printed on is really thick and textured. It felt regal just reading it.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “99:Stories of the Game” by Wayne Gretsky. Whoop! I’ve been waiting for this one. Read it with us by commenting on the blog, or finding me on social media @OrangeJulius7.

Speaking of which, I’m sure I’ll be cooking a ton on my SnapChat today, so maybe I’ll see you there! Happy Thanksgiving!

BBC: ‘Orange is the New Black’.

It should come as NO surprise that I haven’t watched “Orange is the New Black” yet, because 1. I am always behind on the cool stuff, and 2. I don’t have Netflix. And yes, I know it’s cheap – it’s not even about that, so spare me.

I really wanted to read the book before I watched any of the series, because it’s a true story, and the series is based on the book. So, this has been on my list for awhile, and I’m so happy it’s finally a part of the Book Club!

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” was written by Piper Kerman and published in 2010. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com:

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

ke_all-new_associate_300x250For starters, I’ll say I was shocked for what Kerman was jailed for. I know it’s not necessarily “normal” for people to stumble upon friendships with drug dealers, but she seemed fairly innocent in the entire ordeal. Once she gets to prison, some of the things her fellow inmates are locked up for was also a shock to me – I know it’s a minimum security prison, so the crimes are non-violent, but still. I had no idea people went to jail for eBay fraud, and I had to Google “Check Kiting” as I’d never heard of it.

Since the book was written by Kerman, she skates over just how privileged she is. She talks about how she has money on the outside and she has people that care for her, but it’s much more than that. Who, out there, could honestly go to jail for 15 months and have a job waiting for them? Her friends even set up a website for her while she was in the slammer to get mail while inside. She also had visitors every single weekend – her fiance sometimes leaving work early or even flying from New York to Chicago to see her for a few hours. Like daaamn girl.

Other than that, though, I really enjoyed – I’ll nearly say I loved – reading this book. I read it in just two days; I was hooked! Of course, the subject matter is interesting; a look inside a world most of us have never seen.

But it’s also about the characters – the women she meets in Danbury; their stories, the work they do, their families, and what they have to look forward to (if anything) once they get out. I loved all of the detail Kerman put into this book and wondered if she wrote these stories while in prison.

Her talk about all of the little things that got her through the day – yoga class, learning how to make “prison cheesecake”, getting mail, and finally being able to purchase a radio so she could listen to the local college station. My favorite scene of the entire book was when an inmate treats her to a rootbeer float from the commissary when her account money hadn’t cleared yet. It was so simple and sweet; I just loved it.

Despite the heavy topic of the book, things remained fairly sunny, and that’s probably because Kerman knew she was getting out, she had a job, and she had family and a fiance waiting for her return. I’m sure if we read something from someone with a much harsher sentence, the tone would have been different.

I’m really excited to watch the series now, and see how the show treats these characters and how they take on the issue of time. There’s at least four seasons of the show (right?), and Kerman is only in for 13 months of her sentence. We’ll see! I was at the library over the weekend and season one was checked out, so I might have to add it to my list of reserves.

If you’ve read the book, I’d love to know what you think about it and how it compares to the Netflix series. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Nest” by Cynthia D. Sweeney. We’d love for you to read it with us, just find us on social media @OrangeJulius7.

Have a fantastic, safe, and fun weekend everyone! I’ll see you right back here on Monday, and hey, it’ll almost be Thanksgiving time!

BBC: ‘Modern Romance’.

I know I say this every Friday, but seriously, this time I mean it: I’m SO glad I’ve made it to Friday! Between my blog class, the film festival, prepping for the dance showcase next weekend, and general business at the office, it has been a CRAZY month that has not allowed much time for rest. Whew!

Although I do have a few things to accomplish this weekend (hair cut and color, scheduling a spray tan, dance rehearsal, and general errands), I am planning on setting aside some quality chunks of time to lay in bed – and watch some “House of Cards” and catch up on some HBO goodies.

But anyway, we’re here to talk about books! I am so excited to share with you the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club, because it’s by funny guy Aziz Ansari, his book, “Modern Romance“. I had this book on reserve at the library for several weeks and I was ecstatic when I got the text saying it was ready for pickup. Here’s the scoop:

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?” 

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

I know it’s long, but I wanted you to have all the details. This book is pretty genius in that it combines Ansari’s humorous tone, with actual facts and experiences. And while reading the book doesn’t change the current dating landscape for us singletons, it does explain WHY we go through what we do, and more importantly, that we’re not alone in this.

While I loved reading this whole book, there were two takeaways I found really interesting. The first was the research done about how dating was before technology came along. The book provides charts and graphs to show just how many people dated and married those within their neighborhood – and most people did.

Why? Well, because marriage was seen as a way out. People, especially women, weren’t moving out of their parents’ homes just because – they moved out once they were married. And, many times, women weren’t pursuing educations or careers – so it was marriage and then creating a family.

Once people started going to school and focusing on their careers, marriage started happening later and later in life, and it placed people further apart, physically, which is why less people marry within their hometowns.

FASCINATING.

Interesting takeaway two: Straightwhiteboystexting.org

Thank you, Aziz, for sharing this with me, as I didn’t know it existed prior. And it is a gift from the universe, in the same way that @Textsfromyourex on Instagram is. It is glorious.

Straight White Boys Texting is a submission-based website that captures and publishes the agony that is being a woman having to deal with dudes in today’s dating world. We get gems like:

emisonislifeok

…And there’s many more where that came from on the site.

Modern romance at its finest! You’ve got to read this book if you’re dating today, or if you’ve been dating within the last ten years. It’ll all start to make a little more sense (and keep us all inside for eternity).

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial” by Rabia Chaudry. We’d love for you to read it with us! Simply start reading and reach out for discussion at your leisure – after all, it’s the non-committal book club.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!