Blog Archives

BBC: ‘Little Fires Everywhere’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BBC: ‘The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Queen of Hearts’.

Another day, another book to read! On Saturday, I went out to lunch with a friend (we had vegan Chinese food) and we went to see Cecile Richards on her book tour. I got home around 5pm, and had one thing on my to-do list: read a book.

This book was due back at the library on Sunday, and it was non-renewable, so I really had no choice but to sit down and read it! So, I made myself a mug of hot chocolate (it was 40 degrees outside), got my electric blanket, and curled up in my reading chair… and basically read this book entirely – I had about 80 pages to finish up Sunday morning.

The book is “The Queen of Hearts” by Kimmery Martin, and before I go any further, here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Southern Living, Elite Daily, and Writer’s Digest 

A debut novel set against a background of hospital rounds and life-or-death decisions that pulses with humor and empathy and explores the heart’s capacity for forgiveness…

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years. 

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.

…Sounds juicy, right?! True to form, I’m not entirely sure how this book got on my list, but it did, and I kept thinking to myself that it would probably be like “Grey’s Anatomy” in book form. And then I heard someone on a podcast refer to it that way, and then randomly, I saw on Kimmery Martin’s Twitter profile, that SHE referred to it that way, too!

One thing I really enjoyed about this was how visual it was – this book would translate well as a movie.

Although parts of the “medical descriptions” made me a bit squimish, I enjoyed the twist that came with the characters being doctors. There were also several layers to the mystery that slowly unfolds, and I appreciated the constant surprises – it was a page-turner, for sure.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves a bit of romance (especially among doctors), and those who love a modern mystery.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore” by Kim Fu.

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out my Etsy Shop – I have been adding all sorts of new styles for spring and summer!

BBC: ‘The Other Side of Everything’.

Howdy! Did anyone else stay up watching The Oscars last night? I did, and I’m not entirely sure why – I never am good at keeping up with the movies that are nominated. I did enjoy when the celebs visited the moviegoers across the street, though.

I also took a much-needed 3-hour nap yesterday, so when midnight rolled around, I still wasn’t really that tired. This all results in me not wanting to be at work today (shocker), wearing the first thing I could find in my closet, and no makeup. Wamp!

I can’t really explain why, but I’ve been reading SO much lately. It might be offering me a bit of an escape, so I’m just going to take it for now. The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is a murder mystery: “The Other Side of Everything” by Lauren Doyle Owens.

This book is pretty new (published January 23, 2018) – I always get excited for new books, because I get most of mine from the library (this one included). It is also Owens’ debut novel. Here’s the description of the book from Amazon.com:

Laura Lippman meets Megan Abbott in this suspenseful literary debut about three generations of neighbors whose lives intersect in the aftermath of a crime.

Bernard White is a curmudgeonly widower who has lived in Seven Springs, Florida for decades and has kept to himself since his wife passed. When his neighbor is murdered, he emerges from his solitude to reconnect with his fellow octogenarians. These connections become a literal lifeline as a second, and then a third, elderly woman is murdered, and “the originals” as they call themselves, realize that they are being targeted.

Amy Unger is an artist and cancer survivor whose emotional recovery has not been as successful as her physical one. After the woman next door is murdered, she begins to paint imagined scenes from the murder in an effort to cope with her own loss. But when her paintings prove to be too realistic, her neighbors grow suspicious, and she soon finds herself in the crosshairs of the police.

And then there’s Maddie Lowe, a teenage waitress whose mother recently abandoned the family. As Maddie struggles to keep her family together and maintain the appearance of normal teenage life, she finds herself drawn to the man the police say is the killer.

As they navigate their increasingly dangerous and tumultuous worlds, Bernard, Amy, and Maddie begin to uncover the connections between them, and the past and present, in a novel that ultimately proves the power of tragedy to spark renewal.

Although a majority of this book focuses on older characters, there’s one teenage character and I loved reading the chapters that focused on her. The entire book was creepy, very descriptive (which I love), and it felt very much like a true story. There were even a few political digs that made me think this was written in its entirely within the past few years.

I’m recommending this book to true crime lovers and mystery readers! The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Hate List” by Jennifer Brown.

BBC: ‘Are You Sleeping?’

Greetings! It’s so cold in Austin right now – I’m writing this from the comfort of my couch after eating a hot bowl of homemade tomato soup with a grilled cheese (both vegan)! I’m also watching reruns of “The Hills”, and all I can really say is, thank YOU, MTV.

But anyway, I’ve got a ton on my mind, but I’ve also got a giant to-do list and lots of things ahead. I’ll just have to report back later. For now, let’s talk about the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club, “Are You Sleeping?” by Kathleen Barber. Here’s the official description from Amazon:

Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.

The only thing more dangerous than a lie…is the truth.

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father’s murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.

The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.

I saw this title on a book list (probably from Pinterest) and as a fan of “Serial” (Okay, more like obsessed), I knew I had to read it. And there’s definitely a taste of “Serial” in this book – it was almost too close for comfort, but the plot kept me interested, and toward the end, it was very suspenseful.

I don’t usually do this, but I took a look at the reviews on Amazon, and just at a glance, it seems people really loved this book and thought Barber creatively ripped a story from the headlines. I’d have to agree – she started with something from pop culture – “Serial” – and added a twist to it, along with a personal side.

I should also add that I’m a pretty big scaredy cat, and this one didn’t bother me at all, so don’t be deterred if you don’t like scary stories. I’m recommending this book to all the fans from “Serial”, along with crime fiction fans.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will read is “The Dinner” by Herman Koch. I’ve had this one on my list forever!

BBC: ‘The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Let it Snow’.

After nearly two weeks off from work – I’ve officially survived the first four days back (it was not without struggle)! We’re here and I’ve got a really great book to share with you all: “Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances” by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

This book has been on my list for at least a year as part of my mission to read all things John Green, and ta-da! Just like that, I have.

“Let it Snow” is a compilation of three short stories (each about 100 pages or so) that are all slightly connected. The connection? A massive blizzard! Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Now, I definitely wanted to read this book before the holidays, but such is life, and I read it this week instead. But hello, Bomb Cyclone or whatever the heck it’s called – it’s timely without even planning for it! If you’re snowed in currently, go ahead and download this little gem today, because it’s got all the Waffle House references (i.e. scattered and smothered hash browns), holiday references (the collectible Christmas village), and the nostalgia of teenage, holiday romance. It’s really quite perfect.

Of course, I really enjoyed John Green’s story, but this book also introduced me to two authors I hadn’t heard of.

Maureen Johnson has written a ton of books, including three series sets: The Shades of London Series, The Scarlett Series, and The Blue Envelope Series. She’s also written several stand-alone books such as “Girl at Sea” and “Devilish“, among many others. I am adding some of these to my library list!

Lauren Myracle has also written a good array of books, including some for middle school readers and some young adult novels. She’s written “The Infinite Moment of Us” and “Kissing Kate“, and has also authored a four-book series completely made of text messages!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is “Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith – sure to be a goodie if you’re reading the Cormoran Strike series!

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – stay warm if you’re in the path of the bomb cyclone thing… I am not, but i may as well be, because I’m not planning on leaving the house. I’ve got waaayyy too much TV to catch up on and my bed is just too comfortable. See you next week!

BBC: ‘Sourdough’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Watch Me Disappear’.

Howdy! I’m currently on my couch, winding down after a weekend packed with holiday goodness. I went to some holiday markets (saw the best handmade goodies), enjoyed some sushi, sake, and yakitori (for the first time), bought and wrapped aaaallll of my gifts to donate to a nursing home (an annual tradition), and even stumbled upon the cutest brunch spot ever (where I ate aged meats and kale)!

Of course, I crammed some chores in there as well – I had to clean and get all of my laundry done in preparation for family arriving this week, and I went grocery shopping (x2) to get my fridge full for all the cooking and baking that’s about to commence!

But still, there’s a book from Blanche’s Book Club to be discussed! This week, we’re talking about “Watch Me Disappear” by Janelle Brown.

Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. Her body was never found, just a shattered cellphone and a solitary hiking boot. Her husband and teenage daughter have been coping with Billie’s death the best they can: Jonathan drinks as he works on a loving memoir about his marriage; Olive grows remote, from both her father and her friends at the all-girls school she attends.

But then Olive starts having strange visions of her mother, still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he understood about his wife. Who was the woman he knew as Billie Flanagan?

Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, but also about themselves, learning, in the process, about all the ways that love can distort what we choose to see. Janelle Brown’s insights into the dynamics of intimate relationships will make you question the stories you tell yourself about the people you love, while her nervy storytelling will keep you guessing until the very last page.

I was so, so excited to read this one – and had to wait awhile to pick it up at the library. It was a little eery at first, but it quickly becomes quite the page-turner as you’ll want to help solve the mystery of Billie’s location.

I loved it and am recommending it to my mystery and crime lovers – a very fresh take on the genre. The even MORE awesome part is that Janelle Brown has lots of other books to indulge in!

The next book we’ll be reading is “Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances” by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

PS. I know I’m going to be cooking and baking a ton over the weekend, so I used that as an excuse to buy only frozen dinners… excuse me while I go eat endless mac n’ cheese…

BBC: ‘The Hot One’.

Howdy! Even after taking Monday off work to recover from my holiday travels, this week was a bit of a struggle – am I alone here? Yikes! I think this weekend is my last one that’s sort of empty (as far as plans go) before all of the holiday parties and activities go into full swing, so I’ll definitely be taking advantage of that.

I’m planning on taking a few dance classes (naturally), getting lots of reading done (I currently have three books checked out from the library and they’re due next weekend), and I’m headed to the Drafthouse to see “Christmas Vacation” for the zillionth time!

Last year, they hosted a cheese pizza party with a viewing of “Home Alone”, which was a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to whatever surprises they have in store for this holiday favorite.

Anyway, let’s jump into this week’s book from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder” by Carolyn Murnick. Boy, that title just makes you feel warm and cozy, doesn’t it? Here’s the description from Amazon:

A gripping memoir of friendship with a tragic twist—two childhood best friends diverge as young adults, one woman is brutally murdered and the other is determined to uncover the truth about her wild and seductive friend.

As girls growing up in rural New Jersey in the late 1980s, Ashley and Carolyn had everything in common: two outsiders who loved spending afternoons exploring the woods. Only when the girls attended different high schools did they begin to grow apart. While Carolyn struggled to fit in, Ashley quickly became a hot girl: popular, extroverted, and sexually precocious.

After high school, Carolyn entered college in New York City and Ashley ended up in Los Angeles, where she quit school to work as a stripper and an escort, dating actors and older men, and experimenting with drugs. The last time Ashley visited New York, Carolyn was shocked by how the two friends had grown apart. One year later, Ashley was stabbed to death at age twenty-two in her Hollywood home.

The man who may have murdered Ashley—an alleged serial killer—now faces trial in Los Angeles. Carolyn Murnick traveled across the country to cover the case and learn more about her magnetic and tragic friend. Part coming-of-age story, part true-crime mystery, The Hot One is a behind-the-scenes look at the drama of a trial and the poignancy of searching for the truth about a friend’s truly horrifying murder.

…ok. So, I have to admit that I found this book on a book list (probably off Pinterest), and it sounded good, so I placed it on reserve. I clearly wasn’t paying too much attention because I didn’t realize it was a true story until I started reading it. Duh.

But yes, it’s a true story and even has an odd little twist involving Ashton Kutcher (as in pre-trucker hat), but still. It was an interesting, and downright creepy read, but I know there’s some true-crime lovin’ readers out there, and this one’s definitely for you.

The next book we’ll be reading is “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” by Sheri Fink.

After totally pigging out during Thanksgiving, I was really happy to get back into my vegan lifestyle this week, and I made two new recipes, Cincinnati chili over whole wheat spaghetti and “chick”-en nuggets made from bread crumbs and pureed chickpeas! I served it with mixed veggies and sweet potato tots and it was delish. I’ll be whipping up two more new recipes this weekend and I’m pretty pumped about it.

Have a great weekend, y’all!

BBC: 2017 Holiday Reading Guide.

Cozy up with a holiday read!

Well, Thanksgiving is over and it’s officially the holiday season! I have always wanted to read a Christmas-themed book during this time of year, but have never gotten my life together in time to do so… until THIS YEAR! Over the weekend, I picked up my first holiday book (a pick from last year’s holiday reading guide), “Winter Street” by Elin Hilderbrand. I read a book of her’s earlier this year, and I absolutely loved it – plus, I found out that “Winter Street” is actually the first book in a mini-series, so if I like it, there’s three more books for my list (I put the sequel in this year’s list). So, here goes:

“The Christmas Town” by Donna VanLiere 

Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

“The Mistletoe Inn” by Richard Paul Evans 

Signing up for a writing retreat to assuage a broken heart after one too many romantic disappointments, 32-year-old Kimberly Rossetti looks forward to meeting a favorite writer and bonds with a fellow aspirant who gives her insight into her writing while gradually revealing his dark past.

“Winter Stroll” by Elin Hilderbrand 

The Quinn family celebrates their most dramatic Christmas yet in this enchanting sequel to Elin Hilderbrand’s bestselling Winter Street. 

Christmas on Nantucket finds Winter Street Inn owner Kelley Quinn and his family busily preparing for the holiday season. Though the year has brought tragedy, the Quinns have much to celebrate: Kelley has reunited with his first wife Margaret, Kevin and Isabelle have a new baby; and Ava is finally dating a nice guy. But when Kelley’s wife Mitzi shows up on the island, along with Kevin’s devious ex-wife Norah and a dangerously irresistible old fling of Ava’s, the Inn is suddenly overrun with romantic feuds, not to mention guests. With jealousy, passion, and eggnog consumption at an all-time high, it’s going to take a whole lot more than a Christmas miracle to get the Quinns–and the Inn–through the holidays intact.

For readers of Richard Paul Evans and Greg Kincaid comes The 13th Gift, a heartwarming Christmas story about how a random act of kindness transformed one of the bleakest moments in a family’s history into a time of strength and love.

After the unexpected death of her husband, Joanne Huist Smith had no idea how she would keep herself together and be strong for her three children—especially with the holiday season approaching. But 12 days before Christmas, presents begin appearing on her doorstep with notes from their “True Friends.” As the Smiths came together to solve the mystery of who the gifts were from, they began to thaw out from their grief and come together again as a family. This true story about the power of random acts of kindness will warm the heart, a beautiful reminder of the miracles of Christmas and the gift of family during the holiday season.

“Christmas at Little Beach Street” by Jenny Colgan 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… and the perfect moment to escape to a charming English village! From the beloved author whose novels are “sheer indulgence from start to finish” (SOPHIE KINSELLA) comes a delightful holiday story — funny, heartfelt, romantic and packed with recipes — perfect for the winter months. – In the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne, the Christmas season has arrived. It’s a joyous time for family, friends, and feasting, as decorations sparkle along the town’s winding streets and shop windows glow with festive displays. And in Polly’s Little Beach Street Bakery, the aroma of gingerbread cookies and other treats tempts people in from the cold. – Though Polly is busy keeping up with the demands of the season, she still makes time for her beekeeper boyfriend, Huckle. She’s especially happy to be celebrating the holiday this year with him, and can’t wait to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve. – But holiday bliss soon gives way to panic when a storm cuts the village off from the mainland. Now it will take all of the villagers to work together in order to ensure everyone has a happy holiday. – Full of heart and humor, Jenny Colgan’s latest novel is an instant Christmastime classic.

“Mr. Dickens and His Carol” by Samantha Silva

Laced with humor, rich historical detail from Charles Dickens’ life, and clever winks to his work, Samantha Silva’s Mr. Dickens and His Carol is an irresistible new take on a cherished classic.

Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money. While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.

Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs. As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever.

…Ta-da! There are SO many books out there with Christmas plots at the center. Got one that’s not listed? I’d love to hear about it (although I may not get to it until next year…). I hope your holiday reading is festive this year!

BBC: ‘Landline’.

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

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

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

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

And hope he picks up.

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

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

Does Georgie want to start over?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Art of Crash Landing’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Hate U Give’.

OOoOoOoOoOooooOOO – It’s Friday the 13th! I woke up this morning with my right eye crying and when I looked in the mirror, it was incredibly red. So, I threw on some clothes and went to an urgency care clinic. They basically told me it was just irritated- no pink eye or virus – so I naturally spent $100 for nothing. But hey, better safe than sorry?!

This is the first weekend in a month that I don’t have anything solid on my schedule, which is an awesome feeling and a scary one all at the same time. I foresee some crafting in my future (be on the lookout if you’re following my Etsy store), some reading, cooking, and I definitely have some dance rehearsal I need to get to. You see how these weekends of “nothing” can quickly turn into something?

Anywho, let’s talk about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

I heard about this book on one of my favorite podcasts, “What Should I Read Next?” It was there I learned that yes, this book was inspired by Trayvon Martin’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Tupac’s tattoo “THUG LIFE”.

This is categorized as a YA novel, but it obviously touches on some mature subjects that have since trickled into the lives of young ones.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know by now that equality across cultures, systematic racism, the prison cycle, and Black Lives Matter are my political hot-button issue. I may work in abortion care, but racial injustice is what keeps me up at night.

Needless to say, I had to read this book.

This story was almost like we were getting to see Trayvon’s story from another side. While there were no eye-witnesses to his murder aside from the person who killed him, he was on a phone with a female friend. Starr, in this case, is that female friend. And just like Starr, Trayvon’s friend was put on the witness’ stand, and her words were minced and examined as if they would hold a clue as to why someone would do this to Trayvon, or in Starr’s case, Khalil.

It takes a toll on all involved, and it certainly affects a community. This book shows that from all angles, and at times, it’s gut-wrenching.

I would definitely recommend this book to ANYONE, but I know not everyone feels the way I do about this issue. However, if you have any interest in seeing it from another side, this might just be the book for you.

The next book we’ll be reading is “The Identicals” by Elin Hilderbrand.

I hope y’all have a great weekend!!

BBC: ‘The Language of Flowers’.

Happy Friday! I’m extra, EXTRA excited for this weekend to begin because my best friend is on a plane as I type this – she’ll be in Austin real soon! We’ve got a fun weekend ahead basically tackling my ATX bucket list, including the bats (!), a solid hike, and Austin City Limits. Wahoooooo!

But, before the fun begins, there’s another type of fun to be had: another installment of Blanche’s Book Club! Our latest read is “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Here’s the description from Amazon:

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

I heard about this book on a podcast I love (“What Should I Read Next”), and I immediately knew this was going to strike a chord with me. Having volunteered with CASA for three years, I learned a lot about the foster care system and what it’s like for the children in it.

The character Victoria brings some spice to the situation and she’s determined to take a different path – even more different than the one she’s been on. She creates her own way, and she’s damn good at it. There’s even a little bit of a love story in there. A great read!

The next book we’re reading is “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!