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BBC: ‘Ghosted’.

It’s officially FALL, Y’ALL!

Cue the pumpkin patch pictures (say that 5 times fast), pumpkin spice lattes, flannel and plaid everything… I’ll admit I have always loved fall, but mostly because of the crisp air and, in a way, it’s the start of the holiday season.

Speaking of holidays, today I’m spending the day working on Halloween masks to stock in my Etsy store. I made these masks last year and sold almost 20 of them! I made the mistake of making them to order, which meant I was up until 4 am one Monday morning sewing, gluing, and packing handmade masks to ship.

It was stressful (although lucrative), so this year I’ve decided to make all of the masks at once and once they’re sold out, they’re sold out! I have enough supplies to make about 15 masks, so I’ve got a busy day ahead!

Anyway, Blanche’s Book Club breezed right through another book this week: “Ghosted” by Rosie Walsh – a title from our Summer Reading Guide. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened–there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

I was really excited to read this book because… let’s face facts: I’ve been “Ghosted” in the dating world many, many times. If you’re not familiar (then, lucky you), being ghosted is when the person you’re talking to just completely falls off the face off the earth. They ignore your attempts to connect, and it’s absolutely maddening!

This book talks about exactly that, but it’s much more, and loads more creepy. I read this book in a single sitting – I just had to know how the mystery would end! I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves a romance-mystery combo.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Blood, Bones, and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton. If you follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 – you can see real-time updates on the books I’m reading, and today, updates on my Etsy Halloween masks!

Have a great Sunday!

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BBC: ‘The Bucket List’.

Hey there! It’s about 11 on Tuesday night, and while I normally would be tucked in bed by now, I’ll admit I’ve got some nerves keeping me awake. In the morning, I’m heading to a dermatologist to have my skin examined for signs of cancer.

Right before I went on vacation, I was putting on my daily dose of lip liner when I noticed a tiny, dark brown freckle. I’ve got other freckles along my lip line, but I think this one is new and it looks darker than others. So, I made an appointment.

While a huge part of me thinks it’s nothing, I can’t ignore it. I’m almost embarrassed to say this appointment will be my first time getting a full “body scan” for any questionable signs. I figured this was as good a time as any to get a baseline, and maybe even a little education on what to look for. No one in my family has ever had skin cancer – in fact, my dad was the first person to have any kind of cancer – but I know that even those statistics can’t keep everyone safe.

Whatever happens, I’ll report back!

On that same note, Blanche’s Book Club read “The Bucket List” by Georgia Clark! Here’s the official description from Amazon:

Twenty-five-old Lacey Whitman is blindsided when she’s diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene mutation: the “breast cancer” gene. Her high hereditary risk forces a decision: increased surveillance or the more radical step of a preventative double mastectomy. Lacey doesn’t want to lose her breasts. For one, she’s juggling two career paths; her work with the prestigious New York trend forecaster Hoffman House, and her role on the founding team of a sustainable fashion app with friend/mentor, Vivian Chang. Secondly, small-town Lacey’s not so in touch with her sexuality: she doesn’t want to sacrifice her breasts before she’s had the chance to give them their hey-day. To help her make her choice, she (and her friends) creates a “boob bucket list”: everything she wants do with and for her boobs before a possible surgery.

This kicks off a year of sensual exploration and sexual entertainment for the quick-witted Lacey Whitman. The Bucket List cleverly and compassionately explores Lacey’s relationship to her body and her future. Both are things Lacey thought she could control through hard work and sacrifice. But the future, it turns out, is more complicated than she could ever imagine.

I read Georgia Clark’s “The Regulars” and I loved it, so I was really excited for this one. I will admit that part of me was super paranoid while reading this book – I kept wondering if I had the BRCA1 gene mutation.

But the other part of me just couldn’t help but get lost in Lacey’s world – there was high fashion, designers, hot guys, (dare I say it) saucy sex scenes, and some genuine romance sprinkled in. There was also friendship and some bits of – what felt like real life – it was a great balance. There was so much detail, I feel like this would make a great movie, and it could even be a series of books!

I’m recommending this book to anyone who wants to live life to the fullest, and to anyone who enjoys reading about life-changing events, although I would say that if you’re sensitive about breast cancer, this book may contain triggers.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Ghosted” by Rosie Walsh. Wish me luck!

BBC: ‘All We Ever Wanted’.

I got back to Austin yesterday afternoon, took a quick nap, and headed to teach my first blog class of the semester! It was a busy day, but I always enjoy meeting new students. I have today and tomorrow off work, so I slept in this morning and am just getting things moving. It’s supposed to rain this afternoon and I think most of tomorrow, so I might be getting things done indoors… I do have two books to read before Sunday…

Speaking of reading, Blanche’s Book Club plowed through the latest pick, “All We Ever Wanted” by Emily Giffin. Here is the book’s description from Amazon:

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

This book was on my Summer Reading List, mostly because I liked that it was set in Nashville and it seemed like it had something to do with social media.

As the book description says, the family is well off, and something happens that tarnishes their picture-perfect life and just might ruin things for their son. In an interesting way (and without giving anything away) this book touches on racism, classism, and sexual harassment/assault but still remains easy to read, and fitting with the author’s usual style.

Emily Giffin has written dozens of books, and they’re rightfully popular (and I’m just now realizing I haven’t ready many of hers).

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves social media (especially if you’ve made a mistake on it), if you love romance novels with a twist, and of course if you enjoy Emily Giffin’s books!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Bucket List” by Georgia Clark (also from my Summer Reading List). Follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 and get live updates as I read this one – especially today and/or tomorrow.

BBC: 2018 Beach Reading Guide!

So, perhaps I’m a little late in creating Blanche’s Book Club’s Beach Reading Guide, but I’m heading to the beach on Saturday, and juuuust in case there’s anyone out there that hasn’t ended their summer yet, I thought I’d round up some quality beach reads for your vacation tote.

I’ve spoken, or written, about many times some of the best moments of my life. One of those moments was in Pensacola, Florida, sitting in a lounge chair on the beach with all of my toes stuck in the white sand, sipping on a beer while reading a Nicholas Sparks’ novel. I will never forget it

A beach read is different than a “summer read” for me – it’s got to be fitting for a vacation… a complete getaway. And it’s got to be something without a complicated plot, because I am very much a beach boozer. So here goes…

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Here is the official description from Amazon:

Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love.

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

                       2) A person’s undoing

                       3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

I love an office scandal! Sounds lighthearted but interesting enough for a beach read, and I’m excited to see what else Thorne writes in the future.

SERIES: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve heard so much about this book series, and I want to read it SO bad! Here’s the books (listed in order) in the series and their descriptions:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

P.S. I Still Love You

Given the way love turned her heart in the New York Times bestselling To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, which School Library Journal called a “lovely, lighthearted romance,” it’s no surprise that Laura Jean still has letters to write.

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

Always and Forever

Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

…Don’t these books sound delightful? I feel like I could read these all in one sitting… with a nice crisp wine spritzer!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I’ve read one of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books before and it was SO good! I was relieved to see that she’s published several, and it looks like this one will be just as riveting as her others. Here’s the official description from Amazon:

In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

“Heartbreaking, yet beautiful” (Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is “Tinseltown drama at its finest” (Redbook): a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth.

Nantucket Series by Elin Hilderbrand

I read somewhere that Elin Hilderbrand is the Queen of Summer Reading, so there’s no way I can craft a list of beach reads without including her on it! I’ve read two of her books so far (she has so many) and look forward to reading many more. Here are the books in the Nantucket series (listed in order) with their descriptions from Amazon:

A Summer Affair

Claire has a problem with setting limits. All her life she has taken on every responsibility, assumed every burden, granted every request. Claire wants it all–and in the eyes of her friends, she has it: a devoted husband, four beautiful children, even a successful career as an artist. So when she agrees to chair the committe for Nantucket’s social event of the year, she knows she can handle it. Claire can handle anything.

But when planning the gala propels her into the orbit of billionaire Lock Dixon, unexpected sparks begin to fly. Lock insists on working closely with Claire–often over a bottle of wine–and before long she can’t ignore the subtle touches and lingering looks. To her surprise, she can’t ignore how they make her feel, either. Claire finds the gala, her life, and herself spinning out of control.

A Summer Affair captures the love, loss, and limbo of an illicit romance and unchecked passion as it takes us on a brave and breathless journey into the heart of one modern woman.

The Castaways

Greg and Tess MacAvoy are one of four prominent Nantucket couples who count each other as best friends. As pillars of their close-knit community, the MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers are important to their friends and neighbors, and especially to each other. But just before the beginning of another idyllic summer, Greg and Tess are killed when their boat capsizes during an anniversary sail. As the warm weather approaches and the island mourns their loss, nothing can prepare the MacAvoy’s closest friends for what will be revealed.

The Perfect Couple

It’s Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom’s wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair, The Perfect Couple proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read.

Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon

This is the first time I’ve heard of Hannah McKinnon, but she seems like an author I would really enjoy. Here’s the description for “Mystic Summer” from Amazon:

A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman’s picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel—from the author of The Lake Season.

Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for.

But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.

McKinnon has also written “The Lake Season” and “The Summer House” – and both of these would make great beach reads, too!

There you have it; my beach picks for this year! Did you read any that would make good beach books? Let me know in the comments!

BBC: ‘An American Marriage’.

Happy Labor Day! It’s gloomy here in Austin, so I don’t feel a BIT guilty for planning a day indoors – I’ve got blogs to write and some freelance to do… and I need to make some jewelry for my Etsy store – so, cya summer. Just kidding, that won’t happen until… October?

I skipped over to the library on Saturday to pickup some reserves (two from my summer reading list) and I realized that I definitely have 3 books due back by Friday, soo… #libraryproblems

So, let’s get to Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones. Here is the official description from Amazon:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
 
This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.

This book was an Oprah Book Club selection and was also one of President Obama’s summer reads!

I was sort of wondering where this book was going to go, given that the description reveals a lot… but there’s plenty of twists and turns. I found myself gasping in shock throughout a majority of the first half.

A good chunk of the book is letters back and forth from prison, which are interesting to read – and a unique idea from the author.

This was a good book – uplifting? No. But I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys Southern literature, and/or to anyone who has an interest in black culture.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” by Beth Macy.

I hope you all enjoy your Monday off (at least, I hope you have it off)!

BBC: ‘The President is Missing’.

Hey there! Last week, my boss instructed me to pick a day to work from home this week because I’ve been “doing too much” – so, today is my day!

I am always so jealous of anyone who has a job that lets them regularly work from home (even if it’s just one day a week) or work a flex schedule, because you can get so much done! Some days, my office is busy and can be distracting, but at home I feel like I can get so much done – but I do have to deal with Blanche!

I mean even right now, it’s 7:15 and I’ve already started a load of laundry and am catching up on the season finale of “Very Cavallari”. Work doesn’t technically start until 9! It’s amazing.
Anyway, Blanche’s Book Club has got a new read under its belt that we’ve got to share with you: “The President is Missing” by James Patterson and Bill Clinton. Here is the description from Amazon:

The President Is Missing confronts a threat so huge that it jeopardizes not just Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street, but all of America. Uncertainty and fear grip the nation. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the Cabinet. Even the President himself becomes a suspect, and then he disappears from public view . . .

Set over the course of three days, The President Is Missing sheds a stunning light upon the inner workings and vulnerabilities of our nation. Filled with information that only a former Commander-in-Chief could know, this is the most authentic, terrifying novel to come along in many years.

I am 99% certain this was my first James Patterson book, if not, only my second and obviously the first wasn’t very memorable. The “James Patterson Reader” is a certain type of person – and that person DEVOURS his books, and well, he churns them out.

And I’m not judging here – I’m just fully admitting that I’m not entirely sure James Patterson is for me and I read this book because of Bill Clinton. There. I said it.

The plot in this book moves very quickly (and is easy to read) and honestly, it would make for a great movie. It’s very visual and suspenseful. I will say, though, that even though much of the plot COULD happen, there’s several things in the plot that absolutely would never happen.

I’m completely fine with suspending reality, I’m just saying!

If you’re a James Patterson fan, of course, you should read this. But if you’ve never dipped your toe into the Patterson pond, then read it if you’re into political thrillers, and possibly if you’re interested in cyber terror and data security.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will read is, “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones (which was recently revealed as one of President Obama’s summer reads, and was also an Oprah Book Club pick).

You can get real-time updates of the book on my Instagram Stories @OrangeJulius7 – also, keep your eyes open this week, because I may or may not be planning a jewelry giveaway… Happy Tuesday!

BBC: ‘Leah on the Offbeat’.

Hey there! I am going to jump right into the subject matter today because I waited SO long to get this book in my grubby little paws. Today, I’m talking about “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli. As soon as I read “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda“, I put myself on the library waiting list for the sequel, and well, here we are.

Here is the book’s official description from Amazon:

In this sequel to the acclaimed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—now a major motion picture, Love, Simon—we follow Simon’s BFF Leah as she grapples with changing friendships, first love, and senior year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.

She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.

It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

So… you might have already guessed it, but this book isn’t really about drumming. It’s about high school and all of the twists and turns it brings – especially when you toss love in there.

The characters in this book are in high school, but they are preparing to head to college, so it definitely brought me back to that time in my life. I still remember very vividly my first college visit, and also attending my first frat party while still in high school (complete with lemonade + raspberry vodka – yuuuuck).

Anyway, although the characters in this book are familiar (from reading “Simon), getting to know Leah’s character was fun – she had a different train of thought that is refreshingly funny.

I also really admire Albertalli’s ability to bring to light the experiences of characters who aren’t heterosexual. I don’t know if this was her mission in writing these books, but it’s a nice change, and I’m sure high school students appreciate reading about someone who has experiences more similar to theirs.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who’s read (and liked) “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda”, and also to fans of YA novels, and/or to anyone looking to relive (temporarily) the high school experience.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The President is Missing” by James Patterson and Bill Clinton.

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: ‘How to Party With an Infant’.

Happy Sunday! I took off Friday and Monday from work because… I needed to get my life together. I have been so busy with work (work, work, work, work) that I was feeling really scatter-brained, exhausted, and even little, daily tasks were starting to pile up.

So, I spent Friday running errands – getting my laundry done, getting groceries, going to yoga, I met a friend for coffee, and treated myself to lunch at a new restaurant, and I went to bed early after cleaning my living room.

On Saturday, I did a few hours of writing work and client calls before I cleaned out what I’ve come to call, “The craft closet”. There’s this hallway from my kitchen to my bathroom that has a small coat closet and a bigger “closet” where a washer and dryer would go. I don’t have either of those, so I have been using the closet to house a craft table and all of my supplies.

When I moved to Austin into this apartment that didn’t come with a washer/dryer, I told myself I’d go to a laundromat until I hated doing it. Well, that time has come, my friends. I find myself getting so annoyed that I have to “plan” to do laundry, I hate packing up my car, and I really hate how loud the laundromat is – there’s kids running around, TVs blaring, and a few weeks ago, I almost had a psychotic episode when a grown man was whistling, singing, and performing air guitar at the washer next to me.

I knew the universe was speaking to me when a coworker told me she would sell me her dryer for a small fee. I agreed, and I’m looking for a used washer – but in the meantime, I needed to make space for both!

I made some really great progress yesterday, and I was even able to cook some dinner and finish reading a book (which I’m getting to). I still have plenty of things to do tomorrow – more cleaning and I’m going to post some stuff for sale on Poshmark and eBay. And I’ve got a few boxes of donations to take to Goodwill. There’s something so satisfying about getting rid of stuff, you know?

Okay, let’s get to the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club, because it took me LONG enough to read it! I have been such a zombie lately, that all of my usual “reading” time has been spent laying on my couch mindlessly watching TV.

Today, I’m discussing “How to Party With an Infant” by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Here is the description from Amazon:

“Mommyhood gets hilariously tricky in this novel from the author of The Descendents” (Cosmopolitan). How to Party With an Infant follows a quirky single mom who finds friendship and love in this “smart, funny send-up of modern motherhood, San Francisco-style” (San Francisco Chronicle).

When Mele Bart told her boyfriend Bobby she was pregnant with his child, he stunned her with an announcement of his own: he was engaged to someone else.

Fast forward two years, Mele’s daughter Ellie is a toddler, and Bobby and his fiancée want Ellie to be the flower girl at their wedding. Mele, who also has agreed to attend the nuptials, knows she can’t continue obsessing about Bobby and his cheese making, Napa-residing, fiancée. She needs something to do. So she answers a questionnaire provided by the San Francisco Mommy Club in elaborate and shocking detail and decides to enter their cookbook writing contest. Even though she joined the group out of desperation, Mele has found her people: Annie, Barrett, Georgia, and Henry (a stay-at-home dad). As the wedding date approaches, Mele uses her friends’ stories to inspire recipes and find comfort, both.

I was pretty excited to jump into this book, but I’m going to be honest, it was much different than I pictured. I thought it was going to be funny and more about cooking and life in San Fran – but it was really not about that at all. It was more of a “mom’s book” and I just can’t relate to that. At all.

So, if that sounds up your alley, go for it! But this was just not my cup of tea.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Island” by Elin Hilderbrand.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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: ‘Eleanor & Park’.

Hey, hey! I am slowly, but surely making it through my stack of library books – work and my freelance clients have kept me busy lately, but I’m reading when I can. If you’re a fan of YA novels, I think you’ll love the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club, so let’s get into it!

It’s “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell. Here is the description from Amazon.com:

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits-smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love-and just how hard it pulled you under.

I read “Landline” by Rowell earlier this year and wanted to check out her other books (she has several others). I looking into reading “Attachments” next.

This one seemed like a popular choice, and I’m never one to shy away from a YA romance.

Eleanor and Park seem to come from opposite backgrounds, and while in one way it seems to pull them together, it’s also the reason they can’t have a smooth relationship.

The book doesn’t give everything away in the beginning; instead, the backgrounds of these characters slowly unfolds over the course of the book, as they are learning about each other.

Overall, it’s a bittersweet story, and was very easy to read (I read it in a single day). I really did enjoy these characters and it was fun getting to know them.

I’m recommending this book to fans of YA novels and young love, especially if you’re in the mood for a bit of a hardship twist.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “Limelight” by Amy Poeppel.

Follow along with me on Instagram (I’m trying to post more real-time book reviews on Instagram stories) @OrangeJulius7 – talk to you guys soon!

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: ‘Sociable’.

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

Ugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Vanishing Year’.

I feel a little bad about posting two book reviews in a row, but this means I’ll be all caught up with Blanche’s Book Club, and I’ll be able to post about my stay-cation plans later in the week!

So, let’s get to it: the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “The Vanishing Year” by Kate Moretti. Here is the description from Amazon:

Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips.

What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her.

As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she—whoever she is—vanishes completely.

A “dark, twisty, edge-of-your-seat suspense” (Karen Robards), The Vanishing Year combines the classic sophistication of Ruth Rendell and A.S.A. Harrison with the thoroughly modern flair of Jessica Knoll. Told from the point-of-view of a heroine who is as relatable as she is enigmatic, The Vanishing Year is an unforgettable new novel by a rising star of the genre.

I will likely never tire of reading about the lives of wealthy people – whether they’re famous, get mailbox money, savvy entrepreneurs, or married into it, I’m here for it.

But of course, Zoe’s story has a dark side to it. Her past is less-than polished, and although it’s not as shocking as I’d hoped, it forms into a nasty twist.

This wasn’t quite an edge-of-seat thriller, but almost. And it does contain sexual violence (trigger warnings included).

There’s a few twists you definitely won’t see coming, and because of this, I’m recommending it to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers and also adoption/birth parent stories (with a twist).

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer” by Michelle McNamara.

I’ll likely be starting this book today, and I’m already terrified, so follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 for up-to-date reviews!

BBC: ‘One Plus One’.

During my road trip to Marfa, I listened to my first Jojo Moyes’ book: “One Plus One”. I’ll be honest here, I know people love Moyes, but I have never read a description of one of her books that made me really want to read it.

So, I was excited at the sound of “One Plus One”, because I want to like her books! Here’s the description from Jojomoyes.com:

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever. One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.

…That last line is a flat-out LIE. This audio book was 12 hours long. Parts of it were interesting; like when love-interest starts to perk up between Jess and Ed. But in general, I found this really difficult to pay attention to, and I thought it was boring.

If you’re a Moyes’ fan, I’d love to know if there’s a different book I should read, or what I’m missing from her books.

So… I’m not recommending this book, but hey, at least I tried, right?

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Vanishing Year” by Kate Moretti.

Meanwhile, I participated in a Hackathon over the weekend, and it was so much fun! I met some new people, and was able to create a web-to-text chat app for my 9-5 website. I also created a guidelines and policy document that will help train the folks replying to all of the web chats… it’s amazing what can happen when people put their minds together, right?

I am working all this week (a little brutal after a mind-boggling weekend), but am rewarding myself with an ENTIRE week off afterward. I am planning some activities to celebrate my staycation and will share them here, but if you’ve got any good ideas, feel free to let me know – I’ll have 9 whole days without obligation!! #DreamBig