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BBC: ‘Dopesick’.

Hey there! I’m heading to the beach tomorrow, and I have noticed a very strong pattern in myself over the last few years. Whenever I’m getting ready for a trip, the days (and usually the entire week) before I leave is completely INSANE.

That’s the thing when you work freelance, have a digital job, and manage a blog – you have to do ALL the work that was originally going to be done while you’re sitting on the beach! So, this week I’ve basically been doing double the work, telling all (11!) of my freelance clients that I’m heading out of town and cramming in last-minute projects, and writing blogs to publish next week while I’m laying in the sand.

Don’t get me wrong – no complaints here – it just seems like no matter how much I prep, part of me is always running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Amidst all of the craziness this week, I had books to read as they were due back at the library. I had no problem getting through this latest one quickly, so let’s hop to it. I’m talking about “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” by Beth Macy.

In this masterful work, Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America’s twenty-plus year struggle with opioid addiction. From distressed small communities in Central Appalachia to wealthy suburbs; from disparate cities to once-idyllic farm towns; it’s a heartbreaking trajectory that illustrates how this national crisis has persisted for so long and become so firmly entrenched.

Beginning with a single dealer who lands in a small Virginia town and sets about turning high school football stars into heroin overdose statistics, Macy endeavors to answer a grieving mother’s question-why her only son died-and comes away with a harrowing story of greed and need. From the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, Macy parses how America embraced a medical culture where overtreatment with painkillers became the norm. In some of the same distressed communities featured in her bestselling book Factory Man, the unemployed use painkillers both to numb the pain of joblessness and pay their bills, while privileged teens trade pills in cul-de-sacs, and even high school standouts fall prey to prostitution, jail, and death.
 
Through unsparing, yet deeply human portraits of the families and first responders struggling to ameliorate this epidemic, each facet of the crisis comes into focus. In these politically fragmented times, Beth Macy shows, astonishingly, that the only thing that unites Americans across geographic and class lines is opioid drug abuse. But in a country unable to provide basic healthcare for all, Macy still finds reason to hope-and signs of the spirit and tenacity necessary in those facing addiction to build a better future for themselves and their families.

This book was outstanding! I’ve read many addiction memoirs, so I was really looking forward to seeing things from a more holistic view, and this book DELIVERED. Macy’s reporting is flawless, and I cannot imagine how long it took her to research, conduct interviews, and then cull everything down into this book.

The book is told through the stories of families who’ve lost a loved one from opioids. There’s information from every angle, from addicts, dealers, doctors, drug companies, and pharmacies… and frankly, the whole thing was quite creepy. It made me scared to trust prescription meds – although I’m already skeptical and rarely even take Tylenol.

It’s interesting, because there’s definitely fault on doctors and drug companies, but I also feel a certain way about how we (society) have responded to opioid addicts. This book made me want to judge less and learn how to administer narcan.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who’s interested in the opioid crisis in our country, but also to anyone who’s known an addict, and for anyone who loves reading true crime and investigative pieces. This is a must read!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “All We Ever Wanted” by Emily Giffin. Have a great weekend!

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BBC: ‘The Island’.

Hey there! I feel like I haven’t blogged in forever – I’ve been in a bit of a creative slump and I’ve been so busy with work that I have barely been reading. It’s just all-around lame!

But, yesterday I finished reading a book, so let’s jump right in! Today, I’m talking about “The Island” by Elin Hilderbrand. Here is the official description from Amazon:

A summertime story only Elin Hilderbrand can tell: a family in upheaval after a cancelled wedding fill an island summer with heartache, laughter, and surprises.

Birdie Cousins has thrown herself into the details of her daughter Chess’s lavish wedding, from the floating dance floor in her Connecticut back yard to the color of the cocktail napkins. Like any mother of a bride-to-be, she is weathering the storms of excitement and chaos, tears and joy. But Birdie, a woman who prides herself on preparing for every possibility, could never have predicted the late-night phone call from Chess, abruptly announcing that she’s cancelled her engagement.

It’s only the first hint of what will be a summer of upheavals and revelations. Before the dust has even begun to settle, far worse news arrives, sending Chess into a tailspin of despair. Reluctantly taking a break from the first new romance she’s embarked on since the recent end of her 30-year marriage, Birdie circles the wagons and enlists the help of her younger daughter Tate and her own sister India. Soon all four are headed for beautiful, rustic Tuckernuck Island, off the coast of Nantucket, where their family has summered for generations. No phones, no television, no grocery store – a place without distractions where they can escape their troubles.

But throw sisters, daughters, ex-lovers, and long-kept secrets onto a remote island, and what might sound like a peaceful getaway becomes much more. Before summer has ended, dramatic truths are uncovered, old loves are rekindled, and new loves make themselves known.

This is the second book by Elin Hilderbrand I’ve read. I really enjoyed her book, “The Identicals” last August (almost exactly a year ago to-the-day) as Hurricane Harvey was pounding against Texas (read my full review of the book here). I hadn’t heard of Hilderbrand prior, but looked her up and happily discovered she’s written TONS of books!

I randomly selected “The Island” to be my next book from her, and then I wondered if I mistakenly picked a book from one of her mini series’. Thankfully, no, but if you’re looking for a summer trilogy, she’s got one (she also has a winter series) and this awesome website lists the order in which you should read them.

Okay, so let me get into “The Island”! I really liked the premise of this book, and I loved picturing the old house bringing a family back together. I will always admit that books with several characters (especially complex ones) are sometimes a struggle for me – and at times I found myself getting these characters mixed up. Their names were a bit TOO unique for me.

But, about halfway through I was finally getting everyone straight and it was fine. This was generally a smooth read and it had just the right amount of romance, beach life imagery, and a touch of sadness. A good read!

Perfect happiness existed, but perhaps only in small increments.

– The Island

I’m recommending this book to anyone interested in family drama, particularly sisters. And also to anyone looking for a summer read, especially if you like the New England/Nantucket type of beach life.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Also, just an FYI, if you’re an Amazon Kindle user, you can get up to 80% off top-rated Kindle books this month! The deal ends on August 31, but there’s some goodies for just $1.99!

BBC: ‘Limelight’.

Another week is upon us, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I realized that I go into every weekend hoping to relax and get things done around my apartment or for the blog, as most of my weekdays are filled with work and dance classes… but you know what? It’s really hard for me to truly relax.

This has been an issue for me as long as I can remember, but why not just embrace it? I still allow myself to sleep in on the weekends, and the “work” is different – this weekend, I cleaned and posted things on eBay while watching episodes of “The OC” (I’m almost done with season 4). It’s still kind of relaxing, right?

Anyway, I also read a ton this weekend as I’m trying to work through my stack of summer reading. So, let’s get into the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “Limelight” by Amy Poeppel.

I follow a few bookstore owners on Instagram, and that’s where I heard about this book. But before I get into what she said (and why I ultimately put it on my list), here is the description from Amazon:

Allison Brinkley—wife, mother, and former unflappable optimist—discovers that a carefully weighed decision to pack up and move her family from suburban Dallas to the glittery chaos of Manhattan may have been more complicated than she and her husband initially thought.

Allison learns that New York is unruly and bewildering, defying the notions she developed from romantic movies and a memorable childhood visit. After a humiliating call from the principal’s office and the loss of the job she was counting on, Allison begins to accept that New York may not suit her after all.

When Allison has a fender-bender, witnessed by a flock of mothers at her son’s new school, she is led to the penthouse apartment of a luxurious Central Park West building and encounters a spoiled, hungover, unsupervised teenager who looks familiar. It doesn’t take long to recognize him as Carter Reid—a famous pop star who has been cast in a new Broadway musical. Through this brush with stardom, Allison embraces a unique and unexpected opportunity that helps her find her way in the heart of Manhattan.

In a book that delivers laughs, warmth, and delightful wish fulfillment, Poeppel dives into celebrity culture and modern motherhood with her trademark “quick-witted and razor-sharp” (Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Maybe in Another Life) style.

Okay, so the bookstore owner said this book included a “Justin Bieber-esque character” and naturally, I added it to my list. However, I’m hoping this character, Carter Reid, isn’t modeled after Justin Bieber, because he’s a massive prick. Author Poeppel also put in her own two cents about Bieber putting a line like, “Does anyone take Justin Bieber seriously anymore?” – not appreciated.

In a broad sense, I really enjoyed reading this book. I am always in awe of New York City (I am embarrassed to say I’ve never been there), and I like fantasizing about it. This was sort of everyone’s dream they didn’t know they had – stumbling upon celeb life and getting to see the grit and glam of it all. It’s a fun take on a world most of us can only imagine.

However, there were some character flaws in Allison that kept bothering me – like, she didn’t recognize Carter Reid, but she was a regular reader of gossip tabloids, and also knew designer clothes (and how much they cost) upon first glance. She was also very clueless has to any celeb lifestyle and kept wondering where Reid’s parents were – I think most people are aware of the child star story, right?

Other than that, though, this was a fun one, and I am interested in Poeppel’s other book, “Small Admissions“, which revolves around school admissions and getting over a breakup.

I’m recommending “Limelight” to fans of Broadway, and celeb culture. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Amy, My Daughter” by Mitch Winehouse. Read along with me by following me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 – see you there!

BBC: ‘The Female Persuasion’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The High Season’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘I’ll Be Gone In The Dark’.

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

Don’t worry, I found it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Sometimes I Lie’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Little Fires Everywhere’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great movie!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Glass Castle’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Better Than Before’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What matters is to be moving in the right direction.

-Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Into the Wild’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Rainbow Comes and Goes’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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