Blog Archives

BBC: ‘Rest In Power’.

I heard about this book, “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin” when Trayvon Martin’s parents appeared as guests on a recent episode of “The Daily Show”. They’d taken their story, which started when Trayvon was born, and put it into print for all to read.

And I immediately added my name to the reserve list at the library. It took a few months for my name to be at the top of the list, but it finally happened, and I read a majority of this book in one day. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Trayvon Martin’s parents take readers beyond the news cycle with an account only they could give: the intimate story of a tragically foreshortened life and the rise of a movement.

On a February evening in 2012, in a small town in central Florida, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was walking home with candy and a can of juice in hand and talking on the phone with a friend when a fatal encounter with a gun-wielding neighborhood watchman ended his young life. The watchman was briefly detained by the police and released. Trayvon’s father—a truck driver named Tracy—tried to get answers from the police but was shut down and ignored. Trayvon’s mother, a civil servant for the city of Miami, was paralyzed by the news of her son’s death and lost in mourning, unable to leave her room for days. But in a matter of weeks, their son’s name would be spoken by President Obama, honored by professional athletes, and passionately discussed all over traditional and social media. And at the head of a growing nationwide campaign for justice were Trayvon’s parents, who—driven by their intense love for their lost son—discovered their voices, gathered allies, and launched a movement that would change the country.

Five years after his tragic death, Travyon Martin’s name is still evoked every day. He has become a symbol of social justice activism, as has his hauntingly familiar image: the photo of a child still in the process of becoming a young man, wearing a hoodie and gazing silently at the camera. But who was Trayvon Martin, before he became, in death, an icon? And how did one black child’s death on a dark, rainy street in a small Florida town become the match that lit a civil rights crusade?

Rest in Power, told through the compelling alternating narratives of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, answers, for the first time, those questions from the most intimate of sources. It’s the story of the beautiful and complex child they lost, the cruel unresponsiveness of the police and the hostility of the legal system, and the inspiring journey they took from grief and pain to power, and from tragedy and senselessness to meaning. 

While reading this book made my heart break all over again for Trayvon, for his family, his friends, and for the live he didn’t get to live, it opened my eyes to a lot of new details I didn’t know before: like just how secretive the Sanford Police Department was to his family; and how many of the “facts” in the case simply don’t add up.

A friend of my questioned why I was reading this book. For one, I am very sensitive to racial injustice, and it is one of the topics that gets me most fired up because to me, it is very obvious that we are surrounded by institutional racism, and I feel it is my job as a woman with white privilege to speak out against what I know is wrong.

But I also know that even at his core, Trayvon is innocent. He was victim-blamed, despite not being armed at all, his school records were subpoenaed even though he was a minor, and many people talked about his past – maybe he stole this or maybe he smoked weed. But walking while black is not a crime, and he died for it.

I am very thankful for Trayvon’s parents for having the courage to write this book, along with the bravery to continue to fight for justice for their son, and for many, many others who have fallen in the name of unjustified violence. Although we still have a very long way to go, the conversation is forever changed, and I know Trayvon will never be forgotten.

I absolutely would recommend this book to anyone, especially if you didn’t pay attention to this case (or any that followed). The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “My Year With Eleanor” by Noelle Hancock.

I hope you have a fun, fantastic weekend – make it a great one, and do something good for someone else! I’ll see you all on the flipside!

Have yourself a merry little Christmas…

You're the Charlie Browniest.

You’re the Charlie Browniest.

You guys! It’s Christmas Eve, EVE! I just got inside from vacuuming out my car with a little car vac I got for Christmas earlier this week – its gold, and it has little attachments so you can get every nook and cranny, and it even has a pressure gauge so you can air up your tires!

You see, I celebrated my Christmas on Wednesday, when my mom was in town. She got in late Friday night, and we did a whirlwind of Christmas activities, despite it being bitterly cold in Austin. She helped me with some last minute gifts, we stomped down Austin’s Trail of Lights, saw a hockey game, ate Vietnamese food (yummm), saw “La La Land” (more on this later), and watched several Christmas movies.

She had to leave yesterday, so we had our traditional Christmas Wednesday, so now I’m left “playing” with my Christmas loot – like a car vacuum, eyeing my new collection of glass tupperware, and eating bags of sour gummy cat heads. Because that’s what Christmas is all about, right?

I haven’t decided how I’ll spend ACTUAL Christmas day yet, although I have tons of food in my fridge + a few bottles of wine, so I may just get boozed and allow myself to watch one more round of Christmas flicks before I put them away for the year. I do have some gifts from friends that I have yet to open, so I have that going for me.

I don’t have to be back at work until Tuesday, so I’m really looking forward to a few more days of rest and random scheduling – I took a nap yesterday and have already taken one today! It’s all the same things I enjoyed about Christmas break as a kid, really.

I have a small to-do list – some are chores, and some are things like “Read the 2 books on my counter before they’re due back to the library on the 27th”. Whoops!

What are you guys planning to do over the holiday? Whatever it is, I truly hope you get the Christmas (or Hannukah) you’ve been dreaming about this year. I know we could all use some happy times, and probably some laughter, and even a little rest. So, may all of those things come your way + some cool gifts, because even though that’s not the reason for the season, it sure doesn’t hurt!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

And yes, I’ll be right back to regular posting on Monday, although I’m 99% sure “Mariah’s World” isn’t airing Sunday night, I know I’ll have something else to blog about. See you then!

BBC: ‘The Nest’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Regulars’.

Hey, hey! What a week this has been, right? I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to have a book review for you guys today because I’ve been recovering from a cold all week, and given the Tuesday night depression, I really just wanted to soak in my bathtub and cry until… well, until the next presidential election.

But, I am feeling better on all fronts, and last night, I cozied up with my book and a mug of cinnamon tea and I finished it around 9 pm. A win all around!

If you recall, the Book Club’s latest read, “The Regulars” by Georgia Clark was on my Fall Reading List – I immediately added it to my queue at the library and just picked it up a few weeks ago. I was looking forward to reading it, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it quite as much as I actually did. Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

Best friends Evie, Krista, and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls, with average looks and typical quarter-life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.

Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well…gorgeous. Like, supermodel gorgeous. And it’s certainly not their fault if the sudden gift of beauty causes unexpected doors to open for them.

But there’s a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-day Cinderellas, there’s just one question left:

What would you sacrifice to be Pretty?

Wildly irreverent, blatantly sexy, and observed with pitch-perfect wit, The Regulars is fresh “compulsive reading from a bright new voice” (Brenda Bowen, author of Enchanted August) in fiction, perfect for fans of Jennifer Close and Kevin Kwan.

Sounds like a fun story, right? And it is. What I initially loved about this book was its ability to combine something I think most people wonder – what would it be like to be perfectly pretty? – with a bit of fantasy: a potion that makes average women modelesque and gorgeous for seven days.

Sure, fiction is fiction, but this was fantasy that we have probably wished for at one time or another, with a bit of realism, sex, and even humor (there are parts of this book that are laugh-out-loud funny).

Naturally, this book ties things off in a pretty little lesson, but it’s not cheesy or silly, it’s nice, and I believe it would be a realistic outcome, if we were all given this same chance of beauty and physical perfection.

I was surprised to learn that this is Clark’s debut adult novel (she’s previously published YA novels), and I’m already excited to see what she’s got up her sleeve – I would definitely pick up another book of hers, and would not be surprised if we saw these same characters in another storyline. It would be fantastic!

I am happily recommending this book to any lover of female fiction, or anyone looking for a tiny escape.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” by Piper Kerman. I haven’t watched any of the Netflix series because I wanted to read the book first! I am so, so excited to read this one, and you know I’ll be reporting the scoop right here next week.

Want to read it with me? I’d love to hear from you! Simply leave a comment on this blog, or find me on social media @OrangeJulius and let’s chat about it. After all, it’s the non-committal book club!

What is everyone up to this weekend? I am happily doing a whole-lotta nothin’ after six weeks of dance rehearsals, five weeks of teaching my blog class, and two weeks of volunteering, I am going to RELAX this weekend! I will probably do some reading, catch up on my DVR goodies, and do some cooking (I’m thinking enchiladas).

Happy Friday, all – have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing you right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘Adnan’s Story’.

I am so excited to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club with you all! I’ll preface this by saying that the month of October was SO, so busy that sometimes reading felt like a chore to me, and that is a feeling I hate.

But, after this weekend, my schedule is clearing up more, and I’m looking forward to more leisurely reading time like I was used to during the summer months. I went to the library last weekend and spent a few minutes wandering through the stacks, instead of just running to the shelf of reserves and running back out – and I saw so many NEW, good-looking books that I immediately added to my list of bookmarks on my account. Having a full reading list makes me so happy; it’s unexplainable.

Anyway, the latest read is for all of my “Serial” podcast lovers – it’s “Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial” by Rabia Chaudry. If you recognize Chaudry’s name, it’s because she’s the co-host on the “Undisclosed” podcast, which started shortly after “Serial” and also shared details surrounding Anan Syed’s case during its first season.

Chaudry is a close, family friend to the Syeds, and much like the rest of the community, was shocked when Anan was arrested and charged for murder. As an attorney (though not Adnan’s), Chaudry has always worked to seek Adnan’s justice and finally see him live a free life. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon:

In early 2000, Adnan Syed was convicted and sentenced to life plus thirty years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland. Syed has maintained his innocence, and Rabia Chaudry, a family friend, has always believed him. By 2013, after almost all appeals had been exhausted, Rabia contacted Sarah Koenig, a producer at This American Life, in hopes of finding a journalist who could shed light on Adnan’s story. In 2014, Koenig’s investigation turned into Serial, a Peabody Award-winning podcast with more than 500 million international listeners

But Serial did not tell the whole story. In this compelling narrative, Rabia Chaudry presents new key evidence that she maintains dismantles the State’s case: a potential new suspect, forensics indicating Hae was killed and kept somewhere for almost half a day, and documentation withheld by the State that destroys the cell phone evidence — among many other points — and she shows how fans of Serialjoined a crowd-sourced investigation into a case riddled with errors and strange twists. Adnan’s Story also shares Adnan’s life in prison, and weaves in his personal reflections, including never-before-seen letters. Chaudry, who is committed to exonerating Adnan, makes it clear that justice is yet to be achieved in this much examined case.

I don’t want to give anything away, but if you listened to “Serial”, this book presents that evidence and much, much more. In fact, the evidence in this case is compelling, and really makes me feel like this is a man that should not be behind bars.

And I’ll also say that I’m not someone who thinks everyone should be exonerated. Amanda Knox, Steven Avery? I’m not so much on their sides. But this case, Adnan’s case – it’s incredible the very small amount of evidence that was used against him, which was debunked from every angle.

This book also shows handwritten letters, scanned files, and the infamous cell phone records. All for you to see with your own eyes. Even though I knew how the story ended this time, I was hooked.

Currently, Adnan has served 16 years in prison, and is awaiting his retrial, which was granted in June of this year – big thanks to “Serial”. You can read the update here.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Regulars” by Georgia Clark. Want to read it with us? Contact me on social media @OrangeJulius7 and chat it up! There really are no rules in our tiny, non-committal bookclub.

As always, I hope you all have a great weekend planned. I’m performing in two shows on Sunday, so I’ll be practicing and weaving in hair extensions on Saturday, hosting a ladies’ night for my fellow stiletto performers, and rehearsing all day on Sunday prior to curtain call.

I took Monday off work to recover and give my brain a much-needed break. But don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging – you know I’d miss it too much not to. See y’all on Monday!

BBC: ‘Sweetbitter’.

Whew! Another crazy week is in the books, y’all – and I’m exhausted! I’ve got a semi-busy weekend ahead at the Austin Film Festival, but am looking forward to some quality time on the couch and perhaps a movie. I have a decent stack of books I’ve been wanting to read, so maybe I can make a dent there.

But first, the Book Club’s latest read! It’s “Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler, which I heard about on a podcast. It sounded like the book about restaurant life I’ve always wanted – the gritty truth about that lifestyle, while featuring the beautiful side of it: learning about the finer foods and wine. Here is the book’s description from Amazon.com:

Twenty-two, and knowing no one, Tess leaves home to begin her adult life in New York City. Thus begins a year that is both enchanting and punishing, in a low-level job at “the best restaurant in New York City.” Grueling hours and a steep culinary learning curve awaken her to the beauty of oysters, the finest Champagnes, the appellations of Burgundy. At the same time, she opens herself to friendships—and love—set against the backdrop of dive bars and late nights.  As her appetites sharpen—for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging—Tess is drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle that will prove to be her most exhilarating and painful lesson of all. 
 
Stephanie Danler deftly conjures the nonstop and purely adrenalized world of the restaurant—conversations interrupted, phrases overheard, and suggestions below the surface. Evoking the infinite possibility of being young in New York with heart-stopping accuracy, Sweetbitter is ultimately about the power of what remains after disillusionment, and the wisdom that comes from experience, sweet and bitter.

So… as you can see from the description, this book was not what I’d originally planned. It was more about her relationships and sexcapades than it was about food, wine, and life as a waitress in New York City.

I’ll be honest here, this book hit a little too close to home. And because of that, it was difficult for me to get through. I’ve worked as a waitress, and in different forms of food service, and I’ve also worked as a bartender.

This book brought me right back to that world, which can be very dark at times. It’s an industry all its own, and there’s the people you work with who are right in that same world, and there’s the people you meet at the bar/restaurant.

There’s often drugs, heavy drinking, late nights, and early afternoons; there’s shift drinks, and meals from the chef and tip share and shift work. I had some great times in the industry, but I can’t say I would ever go back. So, I’m proud of myself for finishing this one.

It was well-written, there’s no doubt about that, it just wasn’t surrounded with food like I’d hoped – I was looking for another round of “No Reservations”-style writing. But, if the restaurant world, and the relationships that come with it interest you – this is your book!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “All The Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven. Want to read it with us? Simply message me via social media @OrangeJulius7, comment here on the blog, or shoot me an email at Holly@thebitterlemon.com and let’s chat it up! I love talking books.

In other news, is anyone watching the latest season of “Real World”? I know, I’m like, way too old for this, but I couldn’t help myself. It started Wednesday night and… it. is. so. good. Juicy! I’m telling you, DVR it, save it for the winter months, and when you’re snowed in, turn that shit on. Good stuff.

Okay – have a fantastic weekend everyone! I’ve got another batch of fun stuff lined up for next week, so I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘The Girl’s Guide to Moving On’.

I “read” the latest book club selection, “A Girl’s Guide to Moving On“, by way of audiobook; and I’ll say that I’m pretty picky about audiobooks – I have to enjoy the voice(s) of the reader(s) and it’s got to keep my interest, and this one is a goodie!

I’d never heard of author Debbie Macomber until I watched the Hallmark television series “Cedar Cove”, which was adapted from her series of books. While the Cedar Cove series is around 12 books in bulk, she’s written dozens of books outside of that! It’s pretty impressive. Here’s what her website says about her:

Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 950 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Ten of these novels hit the number one spot.

A devoted grandmother, Debbie and her husband Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington (the town in which her Cedar Cove novels are based) and winter in Florida.

I was looking for an audiobook to keep my interest for a road trip, and I’ll admit, I liked the cover of this one, but then I read the back:

When Nichole discovers that her husband, Jake, has been unfaithful, the illusion of her perfect life is indelibly shattered. While juggling her young son, a new job, and volunteer work, Nichole meets Rocco, who is the opposite of Jake in nearly every way. Though blunt-spoken and rough around the edges, Rocco proves to be a dedicated father and thoughtful friend. But just as their relationship begins to blossom, Jake wagers everything on winning Nichole back—including their son Owen’s happiness. Somehow, Nichole must find the courage to defy her fears and follow her heart, with far-reaching consequences for them all.

Leanne has quietly ignored her husband’s cheating for decades, but is jolted into action by the echo of Nichole’s all-too-familiar crisis. While volunteering as a teacher of English as a second language, Leanne meets Nikolai, a charming, talented baker from Ukraine. Resolved to avoid the heartache and complications of romantic entanglements, Leanne nonetheless finds it difficult to resist Nikolai’s effusive overtures—until an unexpected tragedy tests the very fabric of her commitments.

An inspiring novel of friendship, reinvention, and hope, A Girl’s Guide to Moving On affirms the ability of every woman to forge a new path, believe in love, and fearlessly find happiness.

Good, right? And yes, I know it sounds a liiiiitle far fetched – two women, related by marriage, find out their husbands are unfaithful around the same time… but that is the beauty of fiction! I really liked the fact that the story was told by both perspectives – Nichole and Leanne – because they are very different in age and career, so it makes for a well-rounded story.

I don’t want to spoil it and tell you what happens, but you can probably guess… right?

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler. If you want to read it with us, we’d love to have you! Feel free to send comments via this blog, on social media (Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat) @OrangeJulius7 or email me at Holly@thebitterlemon.com.

I hope you guys have fantastic weekends lined up! I’m heading out tonight to see “The Girl on the Train” – and I am SO looking forward to this one! I’m also spending a good chunk of my weekend as a volunteer for the Austin Film Festival. I’m so excited to be a small part of this huge event, and seeing what it’s all about. I’ll definitely report back on all of my adventures. Cheers!

BBC: Fall Reading Guide.

Books to cozy up with this fall.

Books to cozy up with this fall.

I have always wanted to read certain types of books during particular times of the year, and I’m sure to some degree, we all do it without realizing it: reading light, marshmellow books in the summer, and heaver, darker books in the winter. But I’ve never paid attention to reading guides or actually planned to read certain books ahead of time. But this year, I’m on my game!

I’ve found 15 books that looks awesomely interesting – many of which are new releases – so when it’s raining outside (here in Texas), or it’s too chilly outside to even bother (for my Midwest and Northern readers), you’ve got a good reason to stay indoors.

1“Darling Days” by iO Tillett Wright – You guys. My jaw dropped when I saw this book was coming out. I have a bit of an obsession with activist iO Tillett Wright, and I cannot wait to see what she’s got to say in her memoir. From Amazon.com:

Born into the beautiful bedlam of downtown New York in the eighties, iO Tillett Wright came of age at the intersection of punk, poverty, heroin, and art. This was a world of self-invented characters, glamorous superstars, and strung-out sufferers, ground zero of drag and performance art. Still, no personality was more vibrant and formidable than iO’s mother’s. Rhonna, a showgirl and young widow, was a mercurial, erratic glamazon. She was iO’s fiercest defender and only authority in a world with few boundaries and even fewer indicators of normal life. At the center of Darling Days is the remarkable relationship between a fiery kid and a domineering ma—a bond defined by freedom and control, excess and sacrifice; by heartbreaking deprivation, agonizing rupture, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

Darling Days is also a provocative examination of culture and identity, of the instincts that shape us and the norms that deform us, and of the courage and resilience it takes to listen closely to your deepest self. When a group of boys refuse to let six-year-old, female-born iO play ball, iO instantly adopts a new persona, becoming a boy named Ricky—a choice iO’s parents support and celebrate. It is the start of a profound exploration of gender and identity through the tenderest years, and the beginning of a life invented and reinvented at every step. Alternating between the harrowing and the hilarious, Darling Days is the candid, tough, and stirring memoir of a young person in search of an authentic self as family and home life devolve into chaos.

This book will be released on September 27, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

2“Leave Me” by Gayle Forman – I’ve never heard of this author, but the description made it sound so different, that I had to add it to the list. From Amazon.com:

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

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

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

This book was released YESTERDAY, so it’s hot off the press!

3“Today Will be Different” by Maria Semple – I picked this book mostly because of its author. Maria Semple wrote “Where’d You Go, Bernadette“, which I absolutely loved, and I am always keeping my eyes open for her next book… and it’s finally here! From Amazon.com:

Eleanor knows she’s a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won’t swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action-life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother’s company. It’s also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office-but not Eleanor-that he’s on vacation. Just when it seems like things can’t go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.

TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.

This book will be released on October 4, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

4“The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling – I know this one isn’t new, but I got it for my birthday and knew it was just going to be too serious of a read for summer, so I’ve saved it for the chilly months. From Amazon.com:

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations? A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

5“Dear Mr. M” by Herman Koch –  I chose this one purely based on the description, and it makes me want to check out the other books by Herman Koch. From Amazon.com:

Once a celebrated writer, M had his greatest success with a suspense novel based on a real-life disappearance. It told the story of a history teacher who went missing one winter after having a brief affair with a beautiful student of his. The teacher was never found. Upon publication, M’s novel was a runaway bestseller, one that marked his international breakthrough. That was years ago, and now M’s career is fading. But not when it comes to his bizarre, seemingly timid neighbor who keeps a close eye on him and his wife. Why?
 
From alternating points of view, where no one is to be trusted, Herman Koch weaves together an intricate tale of a writer in decline, a teenage couple in love, a missing teacher, and a single book that entwines all of their fates. Thanks to M’s novel, supposedly a work of fiction, everyone seems to be linked forever, until something unexpected spins the “story” off its rails. With ever increasing tension, his signature sardonic wit and world-renowned sharp eye for human failings, Herman Koch once again spares nothing and no one in his gripping new novel, a barbed performance that suspends readers in the mysterious space between fact and fiction. 

This books was released YESTERDAY, so maybe you’ll be one of the first ones to read it!

6“99: Stories of the Game” by Wayne Gretzky – Hockey season hits in October, and I am pretty pumped for it to get here. So, why not celebrate by reading a book from one of the best? From Amazon.com:

From minor-hockey phenomenon to Hall of Fame sensation, Wayne Gretzky rewrote the record books, his accomplishments becoming the stuff of legend. Dubbed “The Great One,” he is considered by many to be the greatest hockey player who ever lived. No one has seen more of the game than he has—but he has never discussed in depth just what it was he saw.

For the first time, Gretzky discusses candidly what the game looks like to him and introduces us to the people who inspired and motivated him: mentors, teammates, rivals, the famous and the lesser known. Weaving together lives and moments from an extraordinary career, he reflects on the players who inflamed his imagination when he was a kid, the way he himself figured in the dreams of so many who came after; takes us onto the ice and into the dressing rooms to meet the friends who stood by him and the rivals who spurred him to greater heights; shows us some of the famous moments in hockey history through the eyes of someone who regularly made that history. Warm, direct, and revelatory, it is a book that gives us number 99, the man and the player, like never before.

This book will be released on October 18, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

7“The Regulars” by Georgia Clark – While the cover of this book is cute,  the description reminds me a little bit of a modern-day “Heathers”, “Mean Girls”, or even “Jawbreaker”… see for yourself! From Amazon.com:

Best friends Evie, Krista, and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls, with average looks and typical quarter-life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent. Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well…gorgeous. Like, supermodel gorgeous. And it’s certainly not their fault if the sudden gift of beauty causes unexpected doors to open for them.

But there’s a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-day Cinderellas, there’s just one question left: What would you sacrifice to be Pretty? Wildly irreverent, blatantly sexy, and observed with pitch-perfect wit, The Regulars is fresh “compulsive reading from a bright new voice” (Brenda Bowen, author of Enchanted August) in fiction, perfect for fans of Jennifer Close and Kevin Kwan.

8“Swear on This Life” by Renee Carlino – As a writer, I am definitely drawn to books about writing and writers, but this one sounds good for the masses, too. From Amazon.com:

From USA TODAY bestselling author Renée Carlino (Before We Were Strangers), a warm and witty novel about a struggling writer who must come to grips with her past, present, and future after she discovers that she’s the inspiration for a pseudonymously published bestselling novel. When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J. Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio. That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending. The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

9“Still Life” by Louise Penny – This is the first book in a series of many, that is often recommended on one of the podcasts I listen to: “What Should I Read Next?” I have this one on my shelf already, but was waiting for a rainy day to start it, as it is a mystery series said to be very similar to the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbrath. From Amazon.com:

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces–and this series–with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

10“Everything We Keep” by Kerry Lonsdale – This book was on the Wall Street Journal’s Bestseller List, and it sounds so good! From Amazon.com:

A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.

As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

11“American Dreamer: My Life in Fashion & Business” by Tommy Hilfiger – When I think of Tommy Hilfiger, I think of 90’s fashion. But truth be told, he is one of the best American designers of our time, and has been able to capture the spirit of our country in his classic lines of clothing. And his book finally tells his life’s story, and I am pretty excited for it. From Amazon.com:

Few designers have stayed on top of changing trends the way Tommy Hilfiger has. Fewer still have left such an indelible mark on global culture. Since designing his first collection of “classics with a twist” three decades ago, Tommy Hilfiger has been synonymous with all-American style—but his destiny wasn’t always so clear. Growing up one of nine children in a working-class family in Elmira, New York, Tommy suffered from dyslexia, flunked sophomore year of high school, and found himself constantly at odds with his father. Nevertheless, this self-described dreamer had a vision and the relentless will to make it a reality. At eighteen he opened his own clothing store, parlaying his uncanny instinct for style into a budding career as a fashion designer. Through decades of triumph and turmoil, Tommy remained doggedly optimistic. To this day, his approach to commerce is rooted in his positive view of the world.

American Dreamer brims with anecdotes that cover Tommy’s years as a club kid and scrappy entrepreneur in 1970s New York as well as unique insights into the exclusive A-list personalities with whom he’s collaborated and interacted, from Mick Jagger and David Bowie to Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. But this is more than just a fashion icon’s memoir—it’s a road map for building a brand, both professionally and personally. Tommy takes us behind the scenes of every decision—and every mistake—he’s ever made, offering advice on leadership, business, team-building, and creativity. This is the story of a true American original, told for the first time in his own words, with honesty, humor, and the insatiable appetite for life and style that proves that sometimes you have to dream big to make it big.

This book will be released on November 1, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

12“Love Her Madly” by Elizabeth Lee – Okay, we all do it, right? I totally judged this book by its cover, and then I read the back of it, and thought it sounded eerily good! From Amazon.com:

Fans of Kimberly McCreight’s Reconstructing Amelia and Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl will devour this stunning debut novel about two college girls whose friendship implodes right before one of them disappears. Told in first person by the girl left behind, Love Her Madly is a fascinating exploration of the twists and turns of an intense female friendship gone awry.

Glo never expected to become best friends with a girl like Cyn. Blonde, blue-eyed, and a little wicked, Cyn is the kind of girl other girls naturally envy—yet, surprisingly, she embraces Glo like a sister after they transfer to the same tiny college in Florida. With a fresh start at a new school and Cyn as her best friend, Glo finds what she has been waiting for her whole life: excitement, acceptance, and the joys of female friendship.

Until she and Cyn fall for the same guy. It’s Cyn who talks Glo into sharing Raj. Half the time he’ll be Cyn’s boyfriend, the other half he’ll be Glo’s. Glo reluctantly accepts the proposition—how can she say no without jeopardizing her friendship?—and for a while, everything goes smoothly. Until Glo realizes that she doesn’t know her BFF as well as she thinks. Until the simmering tension between Glo and Cyn boils over during a study abroad trip to Costa Rica. Until Cyn disappears into the jungle of a secluded island, leaving Glo searching for answers.

Until, seven years later, Glo spots a familiar pair of blue eyes behind a sweep of blonde hair in the streets of New York City. Is it really Cyn, or is the guilt of survival catching up with Glo? And has Glo told us everything we need to know?

13“We Know it Was You” by Maggie Thrash – I love a good mystery series, and this is the first book that kicks things off. From Amazon.com:

Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars in acclaimed author Maggie Thrash’s new Strange Truth series. It’s better to know the truth. At least sometimes.

Halfway through Friday night’s football game, beautiful cheerleader Brittany Montague—dressed as the giant Winship Wildcat mascot—hurls herself off a bridge into Atlanta’s surging Chattahoochee River. Just like that, she’s gone. Eight days later, Benny Flax and Virginia Leeds will be the only ones who know why.

This book will be released on October 4, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

14“Don’t I know You” by Marni Jackson – It’s been a long time since I’ve read fan fiction, but this book takes it to a new level, and with a twist. From Amazon.com:

What if some of the artists we feel as if we know―Meryl Streep, Neil Young, Bill Murray―turned up in the course of our daily lives?

This is what happens to Rose McEwan, an ordinary woman who keeps having strange encounters with famous people. In this engrossing, original novel-in-stories, we follow her life from age 17, when she takes a summer writing course led by a young John Updike, through her first heartbreak (witnessed by Joni Mitchell) on the island of Crete, through her marriage, divorce, and a canoe trip with Taylor Swift, Leonard Cohen and Karl Ove Knausgaard. (Yes, read on.)

With wit and insight, Marni Jackson takes a world obsessed with celebrity and turns it on its head. In Don’t I Know You?, she shows us how fame is just another form of fiction, and how, in the end, the daily dramas of an ordinary woman’s life can be as captivating and poignant as any luminary tell-all.

This book will be released on September 27, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

15“What Light” by Jay Asher – Given that this book takes place around the holidays, you should time it just right, as in, just before Blanche releases her Winter Reading Guide. From Amazon.com:

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other. 

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love. What Light is a love story that’s moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

This book will be released on October 18, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

…And there you have it, Blanche’s Book Club’s official fall reading guide. Don’t worry, we’ll be throwing in some surprises along the way. Think there’s something we need to read? Leave it in the comments!

BBC: ‘Girls In White Dresses’.

Whoop! Blanche’s Book Club runs a tight ship! …Just kidding, the book club run by my cat is full of watermelon wine spritzers and requires pajama pants. After reading such a fun memoir by Andy Cohen, I was ready to continue down a path of simple, summer reading.

So, I was really excited to pull “Girls In White Dresses” by Jennifer Close off my shelf – because it’s been there for awhile, admittedly! A description of the book from Amazon.com:

Isabella, Mary, and Lauren feel like everyone they know is getting married. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, collect ribbons and wrapping paper, eat minuscule sandwiches and cakes. They wear pastel dresses and drink champagne by the case, but amid the celebration these women have their own lives to contend with: Isabella is working a dead-end job, Mary is dating a nice guy with an awful mother, and Lauren is waitressing at a midtown bar and wondering why she’s attracted to the sleazy bartender.

With a wry sense of humor, Jennifer Close brings us through those thrilling, bewildering years of early adulthood as she pulls us inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a wedding, but there was a section of my life where it seemed like I was either in, or going to, a lot of marital-related events – I’m sure many of us have been there! Weddings, I’m sure at any age, bring about a mix of emotions: of course there’s happiness for the couple of the day, and there’s all the people there to celebrate (new friends and old), and then there’s the introspection. For me, I am always at a wedding wondering if that is ever going to happen to me – so if you see me crying at a wedding, you know why!

But all of these reasons made me really excited to read this book, as it seemed to touch on that interesting point in all our lives when we’re celebrating the future of our friends, while feeling the pressure to sort out our own.

I liked the fact that this book didn’t have too many characters, and they were all different enough to keep the story entertaining. I could relate the most to Isabella with her job woes, and also Lauren, as I’ve dated many a sleazy bartender. Yuck.

After I read a book, I’ve started getting into the habit of checking it out on Good Reads to see what other people thought of it. This book had VERY mixed reviews – the people that hated it said it had no plot, and it shined a light on everything women “today” do to sabotage relationships.

In a way, I can see how these readers felt this way – but, I also think that’s why the book is so relatable. We’ve all messed up in dating, or made mistakes as we learned the way, or hell, dated the wrong person for years.

One thing many of the reviewers on Good Reads could agree on, was that Jennifer Close has a voice that’s very readable. And I will say, YES – I read this book quickly – it seemed to fly by without much of a notice.

While I’d hate to recommend a book with such mixed reviews, I will say this may not be the book you fall in love with, but it’s full of these little moments that are very illustrated, and I just love that.

One of those moments is with Lauren and her friend Shannon, and she’s dating a man who is very, very into politics. In fact, he’s so into politics that he quits his job and volunteers to help the current presidential candidate and his campaign (which is never named, but it seems blatantly to be President Obama).

Anyway, Close creates a fantastic dialogue and scene when Lauren is out walking with Shannon one night, and a boy with a clipboard stops them and asks them if they have a minute for the candidate:

“I have given the Candidate weeks-no, months-of my life. No, I don’t have a minute for him. You want to know why? My boyfriend has left to travel around with him. He quit his job to work for the campaign, and I haven’t seen him in a month. A month! I’m not sure if he’s ever coming back, and the thing is, he doesn’t even care! He doesn’t care because all he wants is to work on this godforsaken campaign that is just so important. More important than anything else, including me!” 

…The rant continues for nearly two pages, and it’s equally sad and hilarious, and it was one of my favorite parts of the book. The cool thing is, when I looked up other books by Close, I found that her other one has a premise that seems to be based off this very idea! The book is “The Hopefuls“:

A brilliantly funny novel about ambition and marriage from the best-selling author of Girls in White Dresses, The Hopefuls tells the story of a young wife who follows her husband and his political dreams to Washington, DC, a city of idealism, gossip, and complicated friendships among the young aspiring elite. 

When Beth arrives in DC, she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn’t work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy, and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunches, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, the couples’ friendship—and Beth’s relationship with Matt—is threatened by jealousy, competition, and rumors. A glorious send-up of young DC and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers.

I am definitely adding that book to my list! However, the next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs, which is my first check-out from my local library! Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

Love Blanche’s Book Club? Me too! You can keep up with all of our past reads right here, or by clicking on Blanche’s selfie in the right-hand column of the screen. Happy reading!

BBC: ‘What Alice Forgot’.

That’s right, Blanche’s Book Club is rolling right on with the summer reads! Over the weekend, I finished reading “What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty. And where do I begin with this one? It was SO good!

From Amazon.com (and also the back of the book), “Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over…”

The interesting part about the way this book is written, is that the reader meets Alice as she’s coming to on that gym floor, having forgotten 10 years of her life. So, the reader is discovering Alice at the same time Alice is. It’s a very interesting take!

There is a reader’s guide in the back of the book, so I really looking forward to utilizing that to guide this blog post. But when I looked at all of the questions – I didn’t really like them. So, screw that. But there are a few things I’d like to discuss.

One thing I took note of in this book was the sense of time. The entire book (about 450 pages in length) takes place over the course of about a week. And within that week, we learn about Alice’s forgotten 10 years, along with the stories of her friends, neighbors, and families. It’s a lot of information, all at once, but it’s delicately placed and easy to take in.

When Alice comes to, she doesn’t recognize ANYTHING about her life. She doesn’t understand why she’d be at the gym, or why her gym bag is packed with beautiful clothes, or why she is so thin, or HOW she possibly has three children.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately; mostly how it seems to slip by when you don’t want it to, but when you’re sitting at work waiting for 5:30 to come, it moves so slow. This book got me thinking a lot about the person I’ve become over the course of the years… so much so, that I’m sure I’ll touch on this more in a post later this week.

But in short, I’ll say that I think it’s really easy to wake up one morning – any morning – and wonder how your life came to be the way it is; whether those were good decisions or bad, or moves that were totally out of your control. Is it how we thought we’d end up? Or totally different?

I looked up reviews for the book once I finished reading, just to see what other readers were saying, and the reviews were very mixed. Many people didn’t like Alice, or some liked her younger self instead of her older self. Interesting thoughts. Lots of people found self-reflection in this book, and although I can’t relate to most of the topics discussed – marriage, divorce, motherhood, infertility – I thought a lot about myself and my friends (over the years).

Two things I will say is that my favorite character was Tom, Alice’s son. His quotes often made me laugh out loud, and I felt Moriarty truly captured the different personalities of children in Alice’s kids. I will also say that I wish we got to learn more about Gina – Alice’s best friend – more throughout the book, instead of just in the very end.

“What Alice Forgot” is slated for film, with Jennifer Anniston supposedly in talks to play Alice – which I think would be perfect!

Since this was my first book of Moriarty’s (I have already purchased two others), I wanted to look up a little info on her. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that she started off in the corporate world as a marketing manager, then moved to be a freelance writer, and of course, now she’s a New York Times Bestseller! Inspiring!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

That 3-day weekend tho.

Whew! It’s sucky because it’s kind of like a Monday, but it’s a little less painful knowing it’s Tuesday, and in just four short days, I’ll be running out of the office a la Kevin McCallister on Christmas Eve yet again. I hope you all had a fabulous weekend – I know I did!

I pretty much did everything on my list; I got started a little early and hit up a taco truck Thursday night. I got two beef tacos, complete with pico and fresh lime, along with some nacho chips. I walked a few blocks home and scarfed them down with a few glasses of Chenin Blanc + Voigner by Pine Ridge.

Friday, I left work and hit the wine shop and found a bottle of Rose that looked delicious (Mulderbosch 2015 – perfect for red wine lovers). Then, I went home and made bacon-burgers with tomato jam and slaw. YUM!

On Saturday, I enjoyed a leisurely morning with coffee (of course), did a few hours of freelance work, and enjoyed a nap. I also cleared out a few hours of TV from my DVR, including “The People’s Couch”, “The Voice”, “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” and “Real World: Go Big or Go Home”.

Then, I drove to Round Rock to see my first Express baseball game – versus the Reno Aces. For starters, the stadium is really nice. I had a third row seat, which meant, I was really close and could see the players nice and well, just in case any of them were cute.

Patrick Cantwell.

Patrick Cantwell.

A few innings in, and I’ll be honest, I was starting to miss the excitement of the Texas Stars games. But then they called up Patrick Cantwell, catcher for the Express, to the plate. His walk out song was “PYT” by Michael Jackson (which is one of my favorite songs), and his number is 3 (my lucky number). Hmm… I flipped to his page in the program. From New York.

Perfect! He is sooooo freaking cute, I thought (pay no mind to the fact that he’s only 26). And then he cracked the bat, scoring the first homer for the Express. They ended up winning 5-4.

I wasn’t really hungry during the game, but I had been thinking about a hot dog all day. So, I swung by Sonic on my way home and got a coney dog and one of those Turtle Pecan blasts – holy shit, those are good!

On Sunday, I had a decent amount of freelance work to get done, so I got up and tackled it for about 4 hours while I watched the Indy 500 in its entirety. I also gave myself a pedicure, and then headed to the Drafthouse to see “Neighbors 2”, where I enjoyed a “Blood & Honey” on draft and another cheeseburger. I told you I was going to eat this weekend!

The movie was pretty funny; very similar to the first one, of course. Zac Efron looked fan-fucking-tastic – nearly too buff, but I’d still take him, no questions asked. I finished up my night with a few glasses of wine in bed and a little TV.

On Monday, I slept in, and stayed in bed as late as possible, out of sheer principle that it was Monday, and I wasn’t at my desk. Glory to God in the highest!

I had my coffee, and I finally ventured onto my patio to get a few things done. I planted the remaining seeds I’d boughten weeks ago – filling two pots with soil for wild flowers, two more pots with soil for cat grass (this is a regular thing I do for Blanche), and filling a final pot with soil for a packet of seeds I got online – tulips! I swept my patio and got things looking clean.

That’s when I realized that it was totally supposed to rain all day Monday and it was sunny, and hot as hell. So, I packed my new beach bag and headed to the pool for THE FIRST TIME. I was surprised to see that there were only a few people there,  so I lounged with my book (“What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty) and my white wine spritzer (yeah, I said it) for around 3 hours. It was fantastic!

I got home, got cleaned up, and cooked some chicken, had some wine, and watched “JAWS” – which is the first time I’ve watched it in awhile and it’s definitely interesting seeing it as an adult.

What were you up to this weekend?

BBC: ‘Kitchen Confidential’.

Introducing… drumroll… Blanche’s Book Club! I have been thinking for a few months that maaaaybe I should join a book club. After all, it would serve as a way to meet people AND read a few books.

But then I realized, finding the right book club actually takes work, and what if they read books that I don’t want to read? Plus, there’s that whole commitment thing, and I’m not really into it.

So, my genius friend was all, “Why don’t you just have your own book club and you pick the books?” Uh, YEAH. So, Blanche is hosting the book club, but we’re only going to read books I approve of.

We’ve already read one book, and it’s up for discussion until I finish reading the next book on my list (which I’ll mention at the end of this post in case you want to read it, too). Did I mention this book club is completely non-committal?

If you want to contribute to the discussion, leave a comment, email me at Holly@thebitterlemon.com, Snap me or DM me @OrangeJulius7 or whatever you have to do. Or, you can send me a book title to read, but I’m not making any promises, folks.

So, the first book of BCC is “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” by Anthony Bourdain.

Even if you’re not a foodie, you may recognize the name from TV: “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” …yes?

Bourdain is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and served as the Executive Chef for many kitchens, but is most well-known for his work at Brasserie Les Halles, which is based in Manhattan.

His book, “Kitchen Confidential” (published in 2000) was wildly popular,  and I was really amped when I came across it in the Half Price Books just down the street from my apartment a few weeks ago.

It’s written from the standpoint that, professional kitchens are not a joke and they aren’t often the places we imagine them to be, or see in the movies. According to Bourdain, they are hectic, often unpleasant, and full of characters.

Bourdain has often been pegged as the rebel of the culinary world – he’s not afraid to tell it like it is, and has been known to bash some of the more popular chefs we all know, for not being authentic to the food world.

But, his sense of adventure is why I enjoy watching him! He’ll eat anything, and he’s got an interesting way of looking at the world.

Grilled Oysters with Spiced Tequila Butter

Grilled Oysters with Spiced Tequila Butter

One of my favorite parts of the book was when Bourdain described the first time he had a raw oyster. He was a child, and he ate it as a challenge – he was determined to eat whatever was passed his way. To this day, a raw oyster remains one of Bourdain’s favorite foods.

Because of this, I’ve included a recipe for Grilled Oysters with Spiced Tequila Butter just for you, in case raw oysters aren’t your thing. If you’ve never tried them – you should!

“Kitchen Confidential” became a New York Times Bestseller, and also has a sequel, “Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook“. In 2001, Bourdain was named “Food Writer of the Year” by Bon Appetit Magazine for “Kitchen Confidential”.

While I’ll definitely be adding “Medium Raw” to the BBC reading list, that’s not our next book. Instead, we’ve started reading, “The Liar, The Bitch & The Wardrobe” by Allie Kingsley. It’s a book I’ve had for way too long and it’s time to read it, and report back! We’d love to have you join us, but it’s non-committal, so no pressure.

Pic of the Week.

So, it’s only been officially summer for… what… a week? But now that July 4 is right around the corner, I all of the sudden feel like the summer is about to end! Summers in my previous life — when I had a desk job that allowed for free weekends — meant hours at the pool, reading.

In those days, I’d load up a cooler, put on my swimsuit, and walk to my apartment complex’s pool from about 10 am until the sun went down. I went through 1-2 books a week, and over the course of the year, I’d read around 30 books.

It was one (of many) luxuries I took for granted.

In these last 8 months, I haven’t had mush time to read, so I’ve been stuck reading Donna Tartt’s, “The Goldfinch,” — which is very good, but also, very long.

But, like many businesses, freelance writing gigs slow down a little in the summer. And while that means less money, it also means less work, and more free time. So, I’ve decided to pick up my old habits, and although I haven’t spent hours at the pool, I’ve cracked open “The Goldfinch,” and can at least see the ending is near.

I also took a look at my reading list. There are books in my apartment I’ve yet to read — books I’ve borrowed, books given to me, and books from Santa. And in my email was also a Christmas gift remaining from my mom: a Barnes and Noble gift card!

So, I used the gift card to treat myself to two books I hope to read before the summer sun sets: The Husband’s Secret by Lynne Moriarty and The Silkworm by Roberth Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).

Here’s what the back of “The Husband’s Secret says, “At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that is not meant to be read…

My darling Cecilia,
If you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not only the life you have built together, but the lives of others as well. And then imagine that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything—and not just for her. There are other women who barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they, too, are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.”

And here’s the info on “The Silkworm” from the back of the book, “

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days–as he has done before–and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives–meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…
A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.”
So… they both sound mysteriously AWESOME! I’m hoping my two new purchases will force me to make some time for myself to read, even if it’s just 30 minutes each day. What are you reading this summer?

Maine.

I picked up a copy of Maine during a library trip — I had written down a list of authors I wanted to check out and J. Courtney Sullivan was definitely one of them.

Maine is Sullivan’s second novel (the first one is Commencement), and it’s got all the good stuff rolled into one: the story of a multi-generational family, each with its own set of problems. What brings them together, aside from family, is the family-owned beach property, purchased decades prior.

The book is divided into chapters (naturally), but each chapter is told by the perspective of a different family member — I LOVE it when authors do this! The New York Times book review of Maine does a great job of wrapping the characters up in a neat little package:

Alice, the widowed, 83-year-old matriarch, a devoted Catholic and fierce but lonely woman who is haunted by a tragedy in her past; Alice’s granddaughter Maggie, a fiction writer living in Brooklyn whose first collection of stories was about “love gone awry” (and who, though she was supposed to arrive in Maine with her boyfriend, has instead shown up solo, and pregnant, love having gone awry yet again); Maggie’s mother, Kathleen, the black sheep of the family, who on hearing of her daughter’s predicament hops a plane from California even though she vowed after her father’s death that she would never visit Maine again; and Ann Marie, the fastidious, tightly wound wife of Kathleen’s brother, Patrick, whose carefully constructed marriage is not all it seems to be.

Because of the different-character chapter setup, the story really dives into the lives and the history of each character, which is really interesting.

I found an interesting article in Real Simple where Sullivan answered questions about the book. In one, she discussed the deeper meaning of Maine:

Maine is a novel about the roles we play within a family—in the eyes of the Kellehers, Kathleen will always be a mess. But to people in the worm farming and AA communities, she’s something of a leader. And the same is true for Alice. Her kids see her as someone who is too old to be trusted alone, a mean drunk, a racist. But through her church, she prays each day, she visits the sick, she fights to keep her hometown parish alive. Her church community sees her as she wants to be seen. As both Alice and Kathleen show, sometimes it’s much easier to be graceful and generous to outsiders than to your own family.

Fascinating! I have to admit, I didn’t even think about it this way when I was reading the book. Truthfully, I picked up the book, because I have always loved the idea of a beach home that’s shared by a big family — the memories and the drama surrounding it. Plus… beach picnics. With wine.

I am really looking forward to reading other books by Sullivan, including Commencement (a sparkling tale of friendship and a fascinating portrait of the first generation of women who have all the opportunities in the world, but no clear idea about what to choose), The Engagements (an exhilarating novel about Frances Gerety, the real pioneering ad woman who coined the famous slogan “A Diamond is Forever,” and four unique marriages that will test how true—or not—those words might be), and Dating Up (a guide for women everywhere who have worked hard to get where they are in their lives and their careers and deserve to be challenged, excited, and supported).