Advertisements

Blog Archives

BBC: ‘Sociable’.

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

Ugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

BBC: ‘Dumplin”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your Sunday!

BBC: ‘Little Fires Everywhere’.

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

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

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

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. 

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Into the Wild’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Rainbow Comes and Goes’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Ramona Blue’.

Happy Hump Day! We’re already halfway through the week, plus I’m so excited to share Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read – it’s a goodie!

Today, we’re talking about “Ramona Blue” by Julie Murphy. Here is the description from Amazon.com:

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi.

But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool.

But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke.

Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

I went into this book thinking it would be focused on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but it was more about family, friendship, and love. I absolutely adored the way it was written – very descriptive and visual.

In fact, about halfway through the book, I checked my library to see if they had any more books written by Murphy. They did, her other two titles, and I’ve got them on my reserve list!

I wrote down some quotes I loved from this book:

  • “Something about the moon makes us a little braver.”
  • “Sometimes catastrophes split you in half, even if all the pieces are there, they might not ever fit back together.”
  • “Folks in Eulogy don’t use years to measure time. They use storms, and I guess I’m just waiting for the next big one.”
  • “I know what it feels like to revisit something from your childhood and find that the mysterious magic it once held has evaporated.”
  • “We always joke about Vermont, but maybe we don’t have to wait until we’re old ladies with fifty cats, making maple syrup.”

This book had ups and downs, and at times, seemed real instead of fiction. I loved it! This one is for all the YA lovers, Katrina survivors, and fans of teenage nostalgia.

The next book we’ll be reading is “The Other Side of Everything” by Lauren Doyle Owens.

BBC: ‘The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street’.

I know I usually post these things on Friday, but since I’m working from literally NO content calendar at this point – and am just blogging whenever I feel like it, I’m just going with it! I finished reading this book yesterday, so I thought I’d go ahead and talk about it 🙂

So, the latest read for Blanche’s Book Club is “The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street” by Karina Yan Glaser. I saw this book on Instagram – I follow several book lovers and I use Instagram as a way to keep up with new books coming out, along with books I want to add to my reading list. When I saw this one, the description said something along the lines of, “You’ll fall in love with this family”… I did no other research and simply added it to my reading list.

I have a bad habit of doing this, don’t I?

I placed this book on my library reserves list and picked it up on my way to the airport a week ago. I was in a hurry so I shoved it into my carry-on and didn’t look at it until I was aboard the plane and ready to read. When I opened the book, it was obvious this book was not… for adults. Ha!

Upon further inspection, the library sticker said “Junior Fiction”…which I’d never heard of. It was not so easy or too easy, and there were chapters, and as I read it, there was a semi-complex plot, and it held my interest. Since I don’t have kids, and am really never around children, I don’t really know what age group this would be best for. Here is the official description from Amazon:

One of The New York Times’  Notable Children’s Books of 2017: “In this delightful and heartwarming throwback to the big-family novels of yesteryear, a large biracial family might lose their beloved brownstone home, but win it back with an all-out charm offensive.”

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home. 

Some of the customer reviews said it was good for middle grade readers. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it! There was a B-plot not mentioned in the above description, and it had a slightly darker tone, which made me read the last half of the book very quickly.

This is book 1 in a series – book 2 is slated to be published in September of this year, and it’s called “The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden”.

I definitely enjoyed reading this book, and if you do have children in that “middle grade” range, I’d be interested to see what they thought of it!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Are You Sleeping” by Kathleen Barber.

BBC: ‘Sourdough’.

Hey there! It seems sort of pointless now to keep apologizing for not writing on a more regular basis like I have been for so long. I really can’t explain much else aside from simply saying that I feel like the last 3 months of 2017 really knocked the wind out of my sails.

Even in the last week, I recovered from the flu, and then had to take my kitty to the vet, and we’ve both been in bed watching season one of “The OC” (for the first time). But things are coming together, and I even got to work on my list of 2018 resolutions today! Look for those on the blog by Jan 1!

Anyway, let’s just get to the book! I lied and totally haven’t read the book I promised you, but I’ve got something else instead: it’s “Sourdough” by Robin Sloan. Here’s the description from Amazon:

In his much-anticipated new novel, Robin Sloan does for the world of food what he did for the world of books in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her―feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

Leavened by the same infectious intelligence that made Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore such a sensation, while taking on even more satisfying challenges, Sourdough marks the triumphant return of a unique and beloved young writer.

I’m all about a book that combines technology with food – and this book made me HUNGRY when I read it! I particularly just wanted to get a giant loaf of sourdough – and coincidentally some arrived in my Blue Apron box that week (a recipe for grilled cheese on sourdough) – so that’s when you know the stars have aligned.

This was truly a fun read, and I’m recommending it to my techies, my start-up lovers (and the haters, too), and foodies alike.

Next week, I promise, we’ll be reading “Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances” by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

I hope you all have a FUN and safe New Year’s Eve – and I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned for 2018! Cheers!

BBC: ‘Five Days at Memorial’.

Hey, hey! It finally got chilly in Austin last week (yes, it even snowed!), and I’ve been SO paranoid that this would be year #3 of having the Christmas Mouse come for a visit. Blanche started meowing at my coat closet door on Wednesday, and ever since then I’ve been so paranoid (not to mention I had a nightmare about a mouse flying out of the closet, and then woke up convinced there was a mouse on the kitchen floor – it was a dust bunny).

I proactively set mouse traps, and spent a good part of 2017 scouring my place for any holes that would allow unwanted guests – and filling said holes. I was confident, but it’s starting to slip. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t sleeping with my hallway light on tonight.

I need sleep. And this weekend was set not up to not be forgiving in that area… wah! But, ’tis the season, right? I know everyone is busy as heck this time of year.

So, let’s slow things down a bit and talk about this week’s book from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” by Sheri Fink. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina – and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.

In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and maintain life amid chaos.

After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several of those caregivers faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. 

Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.

In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.

I heard about this book on a podcast and I was sold when I heard: true story + Hurricane Katrina. This book uses sold investigative journalism to look into the days leading up to a criminal investigation in one of New Orleans’ most historic institutions.

It’s a glimpse into public health and the issues any hospital would face as a storm approaches – Do they stay or go? What about the patients? How could they logistically get everyone out safely and in time? What if the weather alert is really nothing to worry about?

The questions get deeper when you start to consider patients on life support. Will the generators hold up? How long might we be without power?

But the real question the doctors inside Memorial hospital faced in those five days were moral questions of life, death, and ethics.

This story is a chilling one, but it’s fantastically written. I’m recommending this to my true crime lovers, any students of public health, and all who love the great city of New Orleans.

The next book we’ll be reading is “Watch Me Disappear” by Janelle Brown.

I stayed up late last night baking cookies and finally watching “Home Alone” for the first time of the season. I was able to bake everything I wanted… minus the meringues. This is my second attempt ever making them and I can never seem to get the texture right. Anyone got any advice? I miiiight try it one more time before i just give up – they just look so pretty in the pictures!

Anyway, I’ve got another packed week ahead, but I’m going to try and squeeze in some more holiday movies before the holiday season flies by!

BBC: ‘Landline’.

If you’re still at work today, hang in there – Thanksgiving is riiiight around the corner! I’m traveling today, which is a relief, because I always feel like the the days leading up to traveling are so hectic and crazy and then when I finally get on that plane, I can take a nap.

But anyway, let’s get into this week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell. Here is the description from Amazon.com:

As far as time machines go, a magic telephone is pretty useless.

TV writer Georgie McCool can’t actually visit the past — all she can do is call it, and hope it picks up.

And hope he picks up.

Because once Georgie realizes she has a magic phone that calls into the past, all she wants to do is make things right with her husband, Neal.

Maybe she can fix the things in their past that seem unfixable in the present. Maybe this stupid phone is giving her a chance to start over …

Does Georgie want to start over?

From Rainbow Rowell, the New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park andFangirl, comes this heart-wrenching – and hilarious – take on fate, time, television and true love.

Landline asks if two people are ever truly on the same path, or whether love just means finding someone who will keep meeting you halfway, no matter where you end up.

This book had me at “TV writer”, so I was in pretty quick. But I also really liked the concept of this plot, primarily because I think cell phones have ruined us in ways we can’t get back, and I still wish landlines and answering machines were a thing. I hate being “available” 24/7.

But anyway… this is a fun read. It feels like a true story, minus the whole “magic telephone” thing, which even that doesn’t seem so crazy (oddly enough). The book takes a rather common problem: a longtime marriage beginning to fall apart, and adds a twist: the ability to time-travel via landline.

What happens is obviously up to the characters… and fate.

I read this book pretty quickly, and I liked it so much that I’ll definitely be reading some of Rowell’s other books: “Fangirl”, “Carry On”, “Attachments”, and “Eleanor & Park” – they all seem to have that slight, fantasy twist. And let’s face facts, I think we could all use a little break from reality every now and then.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder” by Carolyn Murnick.

Have a great Thanksgiving y’all! Tune in on Friday for a fun surprise 🙂

BBC: ‘The Art of Crash Landing’.

I hate being this person, but can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away?! Yikes! I actually have a Friendsgiving to attend tomorrow, so I’ll get an even earlier start on my turkey + cranberry only diet this holiday season (just kidding, vegan Gods).

Regardless, the holidays are always hit or miss for me, but I’m thinking this year is gonna be a pret-ty good time. More on this at a later date. Anyway, this weekend, I’ve got a few things to do in my Etsy shop (there’s several new items in there already if you haven’t looked lately), I’m going to see a movie, and I think I’ll treat myself to a pedicure while I’m out!

Meanwhile, let’s get into this week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Art of Crash Landing” by Melissa Dicarlo. Here’s the scoop from Amazon:

From a bright new talent comes this debut novel about a young woman who travels for the first time to her mother’s hometown, and gets sucked into the mystery that changed her family forever

Mattie Wallace has really screwed up this time. Broke and knocked up, she’s got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags, and nowhere to go. Try as she might, Mattie can no longer deny that she really is turning into her mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make.

When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother, and it happened here. The harder Mattie digs for answers, the more obstacles she encounters. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own.

Hilarious, gripping, and unexpectedly wise, The Art of Crash Landing is a poignant novel from an assured new voice.

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I came across this book. I’m pretty sure it was the image of this woman putting everything she owns into trash bags that got me hooked, though. And once I started reading, it was an interesting story that almost seemed like a piece of non-fiction. It was oddly relatable and very visual, which is really what makes me like a book.

This one is for fans of unique, non-cookie-cutter stories! The next book we’ll be reading for the book club is “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell. Have a good weekend y’all – stay warm (the “cold front” is bringing us 80 degree weather…)!

BBC: ‘What Made Maddy Run’.

Hey there! We’ve made it through another week, and you know what? This weekend is one of my favorite times here in Austin: it’s the Austin Film Festival and Writer’s Conference! I am volunteering this weekend, and it’s just a great time to see some of the best writers and creators come together and make cool things happen. I’m in need of inspiration, so this is coming at the right (write) time!

It’s also supposed to be a little chilly – FINALLY – this weekend (like, in the low 50s), even though it will warm back up next week. I’ll take what I can get; I am so tired of having my air conditioning running.

But, I’ve got a really fantastic, important book to discuss this week: “What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen” by Kate Fagan. Here is the official description from Amazon:

From noted ESPN commentator and journalist Kate Fagan, the heartbreaking and vital story of college athlete Madison Holleran, whose death by suicide rocked the University of Pennsylvania campus and whose life reveals with haunting detail and uncommon understanding the struggle of young people suffering from mental illness today. 

If you scrolled through the Instagram feed of 19-year-old Maddy Holleran, you would see a perfect life: a freshman at an Ivy League school, recruited for the track team, who was also beautiful, popular, and fiercely intelligent. This was a girl who succeeded at everything she tried, and who was only getting started. 

But when Maddy began her long-awaited college career, her parents noticed something changed. Previously indefatigable Maddy became withdrawn, and her thoughts centered on how she could change her life. In spite of thousands of hours of practice and study, she contemplated transferring from the school that had once been her dream. When Maddy’s dad, Jim, dropped her off for the first day of spring semester, she held him a second longer than usual. That would be the last time Jim would see his daughter.

WHAT MADE MADDY RUN began as a piece that Kate Fagan, a columnist for espnW, wrote about Maddy’s life. What started as a profile of a successful young athlete whose life ended in suicide became so much larger when Fagan started to hear from other college athletes also struggling with mental illness. This is the story of Maddy Holleran’s life, and her struggle with depression, which also reveals the mounting pressures young people, and college athletes in particular, face to be perfect, especially in an age of relentless connectivity and social media saturation.

I added this book to my reading list after seeing Kate Fagan on an episode of “The Daily Show”. The book sounded fascinating, although heartbreaking. I was able to get the book just a few weeks later, and I immediately did something I probably shouldn’t have: I looked up Madison Holleran on Instagram.

And there she was: a seemingly perfect college athlete, a woman I likely would have thought had her life – a beautiful life – all tied together. But obviously that’s not entirely true. And now, her public Instagram profile serves as a bit of a time capsule – even the picture she posted in the last moments of her life is there – neatly filtered and edited.

We’re all guilty of it: we put things into the public that we are only OK with people knowing. When I was reading this book, I blamed this on social media. But, once I was finished with the book, I went back and read some of Fagan’s earlier work and she made a great point: humans have been editing their outward “look” for years – even when we’d write letters to each other, we would only mention the things we wanted people to know.

Remember AOL messenger? It’s going away this December, but I know I made myself look different online – even through AOL. I would put away messages alluding that I was out, partying, leaving my computer idle for days, when in reality I was sitting in my dorm room watching “Sex and the City”.

Of course, Maddy Holleran was going through much more than a social struggle. She was suffering from a mental illness, and was really feeling the pressures of college, on top of being a sought-after athlete. Here are some of the lines from the book I took note of:

  • Many coaches believe these moments are forks in the road, and that choosing to push through the pain – in whatever form that pain comes – is what creates champions.
  • …the more polished and put-together someone seems – everything lovely and beautiful and just as it should be – perhaps the more likely something vital is falling apart just offscreen.
  • Comparing your everyday existence to someone else’s highlight reel is dangerous for both of you.
  • Digital life, and social media at its most complex, is an interweaving of public and private personas, a blending and splintering of identities unlike anything other generations have experienced.
  • And nothing turns enjoyment into dread faster than obligation.

I’ll be honest, there were times I felt sick while reading this book. Partially because I knew what was coming and I had mixed feelings about reading it, and partially because I found a lot of myself in Maddy – and that’s scary.

I think there’s a lot to learn from Maddy’s story, and that’s probably why her family let the author in so much – so other families wouldn’t have to suffer from a similar tragedy.

Despite the darkness of this book, I absolutely loved it. The way it was told was respectable, true, and easy to read. I am recommending this book to my social media lovers, and my true-story obsessors. This is one you won’t be able to put down.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Art of Crash Landing” by Melissa DeCarlo.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

BBC: ‘The Identicals’.

Hey, hey! We made it to Friddaaayyyy – this week has been crazy busy! I’ve been cranking out Holly Golightly Sleep Masks for my Etsy Shop. I’m thankful they are selling, but man, it’s a lot of work!

Anyway, I’m so excited to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “The Identicals” by Elin Hilderbrand. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking. 

Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.

Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She’s also inherited her mother’s questionable parenting skills–Tabitha’s teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode–and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion. 

One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.

After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands–and lives–to save what’s left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.

…This book was like a modern-day “Parent Trap”, and of course it focuses on two adults, not children. I absolutely LOVED this book! I read it almost in a single single sitting. It was completely an escape, thanks to Hilderbrand’s delicious details about Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (neither of which I have been), including sparkling rose, farmer’s market jams, and lobster pot pie.

I would recommend this book to my rom-com lovers, and/or anyone looking for a sweet summery escape before winter hits us all with depression.

The next book we’ll be reading in Blanche’s Book Club is “What Made Maddy Run” by Kate Fagan (!). You’re going to want to read this one with us… Just saying!

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!!