Blog Archives

BBC: ‘The Night We Said Yes’.

Hellooooo – I’m back! I apologize for being gone this week – I was on a little vacation and didn’t have my life together enough to schedule posts or really even *think* about the blog. But I haven’t forgotten you!

While I have a ton of things on my mind to discuss, I’ll have to save it because we’re REAL behind on the book club updates! The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “The Night We Said Yes” by Lauren Gibaldi. Here’s the official book description from Amazon.com:

What happens when Matt and Ella reunite one year after their breakup? Are second chances really possible?

Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over her ex-boyfriend and graduate high school—simple as that. But Matt—the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player—was never part of that plan. And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying “yes” to every crazy, fun thing they could think of.

But then Matt leaves town, breaking Ella’s heart. And when he shows up a year later—wanting to relive the night that brought them together—Ella isn’t sure whether Matt’s worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future.

I love reading YA novels in the summer! This one had an interesting layout in that one chapter would take place in the now, while the next chapter would be from the past. The entire book also takes place in a single night – particularly, the night they decided to say yes.

That’s right, they said yes to everything someone suggested, provided it wasn’t too outrageous. This story reminded me of a night over the summer I had in high school, and it was really fun. This book brought me back in the best way. Plus, it was a breeze to read and sometimes you just need that.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “On Turpentine Lane” by Elinor Lipman.

I know we’re coming up on a holiday weekend – but I definitely have to work on Monday, so there’s that. I’m celebrating my 32nd birthday this weekend, even though I feel like I’ve been 32 for possibly two years already.

I’ll plan on posting Monday, skipping Tuesday, and then we’ll be back to normal around here. After all, I still have to fill you in on the season finale of “Southern Charm” (which, yes, I’ve already watched) and my trip to Indiana!

Have a safe and fun weekend!

BBC: ‘Settle for More’.

Hey there! This week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club might be a little unexpected, or at least that’s what my friends were telling me when I told them what book I was reading. It’s “Settle for More” by Megyn Kelly.

Before I get into WHY I wanted to read it, I’ll give you the scoop from Amazon.com:

Whether it’s asking tough questions during a presidential debate or pressing for answers to today’s most important issues, Megyn Kelly has demonstrated the intelligence, strength, common sense, and courage that have made her one of today’s best-known journalists, respected by women and men, young and old, Republicans and Democrats.

In Settle for More, the anchor of The Kelly File reflects on the enduring values and experiences that have shaped her—from growing up in a family that rejected the “trophies for everyone” mentality, to her father’s sudden, tragic death while she was in high school. She goes behind-the-scenes of her career, sharing the stories and struggles that landed her in the anchor chair of cable’s #1 news show. Speaking candidly about her decision to “settle for more”—a motto she credits as having dramatically transformed her life at home and at work—Megyn discusses how she abandoned a thriving legal career to follow her journalism dreams.

Admired for her hard work, humor, and authenticity, Megyn sheds light on the news business, her time at Fox News, the challenges of being a professional woman and working mother, and her most talked about television moments. She also speaks openly about Donald Trump’s feud with her, revealing never-before-heard details about the first Republican debate, its difficult aftermath, and how she persevered through it all.

Deeply personal and surprising, Settle for More offers unparalleled insight into this charismatic and intriguing journalist, and inspires us all to embrace the principles—determination, honesty, and fortitude in the face of fear—that have won her fans across the political divide.

So, there you have it! I didn’t know much about Ms. Kelly before all of the publicity Trump gave her, but I saw a feature on her on “Sunday Morning”, and I really appreciated the fact that she’d come up through the journalism ranks in an honest way. Many journalists you see on TV didn’t earn their spot.

The book indeed dives into Kelly’s issues with Trump, which started well before the primary debate she moderated, and continued for nearly an entire year afterward. The book also covers her personal and family life, her initial career as a lawyer, and how she transitioned into the world of journalism. It also (briefly) touches on the her allegations against Roger Ailes for sexual assault.

Kelly left Fox news in January, also leaving her nightly show “The Kelly Files”, behind for NBC. However, there is no official start date for her (per an article in the Washington Examiner dated March 15).

The only thing I don’t like about Kelly? That she’s very clear on NOT being a feminist, especially when she doesn’t seem to even understand the concept, and she’s in the perfect position to be one!

But, I’d still definitely recommend this book if you’re at all a fan of journalism, or if you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look at what happened between her and Trump (she has scanned emails in there).

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Unexpected Everything” by Morgan Matson. Read it with us by simply reading it and hitting me up on social media @OrangeJulius7 and/or commenting right here on the blog!

I hope you all have a fantastic, fun weekend. I am thinking about seeing “Beauty & the Beast”, and I know I’ve got loads of “Big Little Lies” to catch up on. Catch y’all on the flipside!

BBC: ‘Today Will Be Different’.

Hellooo! With my new job, I’m actually allowed to take a lunch hour (imagine that!) and since I get off work at 5 instead of 5:30, I’ve had so much more time to read for the book club! It’s really the small things in life, isn’t it?

The latest read for the book club is one I had on my Fall Reading List, and I actually got it for Christmas! Ever since Maria Semple blew me away with her debut novel, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” I couldn’t wait to read something else by her.

That’s why I couldn’t wait for the release of “Today Will Be Different“, although when I went to look up reviews for the book, I saw she indeed had released another book without my knowing – so that shows how on top of things I am.

PS. If you want to check out the book it’s called, “This One is Mine” and here’s the description: “Violet Parry is living the quintessential life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills with David, her rock-and-roll manager husband, and her darling toddler, Dot. She has the perfect life–except that she’s deeply unhappy. David expects the world of Violet but gives little of himself in return. When she meets Teddy, a roguish small-time bass player, Violet comes alive, and soon she’s risking everything for the chance to find herself again. Also in the picture are David’s hilariously high-strung sister, Sally, on the prowl for a successful husband, and Jeremy, the ESPN sportscaster savant who falls into her trap. For all their recklessness, Violet and Sally will discover that David and Jeremy have a few surprises of their own. THIS ONE IS MINE is a compassionate and wickedly funny satire about our need for more–and the often disastrous choices we make in the name of happiness.”

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

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

One thing I’ll say right off the bat is that Maria Semple certainly has a knack for making her characters interesting, and at times, very funny in a way I haven’t seen before.

Buuut “Today Will Be Different” is… well, different. Sure, there are some parts where I was literally LOL-ing. But there are other parts of this book that are pretty serious – serious in a way I didn’t expect. I found a book review from The New York Times that explains this perfectly – that Semple won us all over with “Bernadette”, and then got serious in “Today”.

But delivering laughs does not turn out to be her primary purpose as a novelist. Her new book, “Today Will Be Different,” can be outrageously funny. But it cuts closer to the bone than “Bernadette” did, and its main character’s problems feel more real. This time Ms. Semple delivers less satire and more soul.

Eleanor’s son, Timby, is certainly the winning character in this book, and I think you’ll like following him around on this adventure of a day. If you’re looking for something different – in terms of structure and plot twists, this is the book for you.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” by Issa Rae (!).

And one more thing before I go for the weekend, have you guys seen the commercial for the Apple Airbuds? I always see it on Comedy Central when I’m watching “The Daily Show” and I absolutely love it (even though I’m entirely against Bluetooth earbuds).

Anyway, have a great weekend everyone! I’m looking forward to staying offline and trying to relax… cheers!

BBC: ‘Scrappy Little Nobody’.

Howdy! Is anyone else still having trouble adjusting back to life post-holidays? I’m not sure what my deal is, but I’m still finding I can’t quite get things together – it’s a slow process, and it just might be February before I’m fully ready to tackle 2017.

But, I am having a pretty good time getting back into the groove of reading, and I think you’ll really enjoy the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like PitchPerfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

Sounds good, right? I know there are people out there who are OBSESSED with Anna Kendrick. I’ve never really understood this, until I read this book.

She’s pretty, funny, talented, and seems pretty damn real and humble. She’s just like us!! Her on-screen humor is definitely read on the page, as well. The book is essentially a collection of short stories from her life, all strung together in an organized way.

I’ll admit, I completely forgot she was in “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, and had absolutely no clue that she got started on Broadway, let alone at 12 years old! Damn, girl!

I’m basically obsessed with her take on men and dating, presented in the “Boys” chapter: “If a guy can convince me he has the answers or a better plan than me, I will follow him anywhere.”

Hells yes! Totally adding her to my list of spiritual leaders (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Trevor Noah, Anderson Cooper…).

I think my favorite part of the book (although there were many to choose from) was when Kendrick admitted to not really enjoying award shows, but relishing in getting home afterward, keeping her borrowed diamonds on, while sitting in her sweatpants and eating mac n’ cheese. Sounds pretty awesome!

So yes, definitely add this book to your list if you’re even the slightest bit of an Anna Kendrick fan – or really just interested in the stories behind successful actresses.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty, in preparation for the HBO limited series based on the book! The series premiers on February 19, and looks pretty awesome. Here’s the trailer:

I’m on the road today, heading to the Rio Grande Valley for the weekend, and I packed the book for (hopefully) some relaxing down time. You can follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to see all the adventures I come across.

I hope you all have a great weekend, whatever you end up doing! See you right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘A Man Called Ove’.

So, the holidays are officially over (I think now is the appropriate time to stop saying ‘Happy New Year!’ to everyone, right?), but it’s Friday and I’m sure this week was a struuuuggggle for everyone involved. I actually didn’t hate my life too much on Tuesday morning, but as each morning passed, I hit the snooze button more and more. Ugh.

But, Blanche’s Book Club has been on a roll (read: I’ve been taking many hot baths and enjoy reading while doing so), and we just finished a book that was on my library reserve list for about four months, “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman.

I heard about this book on “What Should I Read Next?” (a podcast), and it got mixed reviews – some people really loved it, while others said it took them awhile to get through it (although those readers said it was better in the audio version). So, I took the risk and added it to my list – considering the waiting time was so long I feel like a lot of people enjoyed this book. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. “If there was an award for ‘Most Charming Book of the Year,’ this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down” (Booklist, starred review).

I don’t know if I would call this a “feel good story” by any means, as Ove is pretty cranky, and he is very sad – considering we meet him on the day he is planning to kill himself.

But Ove’s story is a deep one – he acts the way he does because of the life that’s behind him, although the story that lies ahead is a little brighter.

I enjoyed this book, but I’m definitely not running out and looking for more reads from Backman, but that’s just me. Afterall, it got 4.5 stars on GoodReads, AND its being made into a movie! Here’s the trailer:

Looks pretty good!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Still Life” by Louise Penny, a murder mystery! I’ve been so excited to read this one – if you’d like to read along with us, simply comment on the blog, or hit me up on social media @OrangeJulius7.

What is everyone up to this weekend? I am definitely going to be cooking something from Chrissy’s cookbook, as I mentioned yesterday. And I’ve got a season of “Orange is the New Black” that I need to watch before it’s due back at the library (story of my life), and I’m planning to watch the Golden Globes on Sunday.

I hope you have a great weekend – stay warm – and I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘One True Loves’.

Oh here we are, another week down, another Friday is upon us! Is it just me, or has this week been ROUGH? I I am hoping to get in some quality rest this weekend – I’m exhausted.

But in the meantime, I am happy to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “One True Loves” by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I stumbled upon this one online – I believe I saw it on some sort of list, and saved it for a rainy day. When I found it in the library, I read the back of it, and was HOOKED. Here’s what it says:

From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

Does that not sound SO GOOD?! Not only was I excited to check this one out, but I saw a few other titles from this same author and read their descriptions, as well, and they all sound just as great. Don’t you love it when you find a new author to binge-read?

Once I got started, it was really easy to get into, and the story moves rather quickly, while still providing enough detail to image the scenes.

I loved that the story was a bit adventurous – I mean her husband was lost at sea, for godssake – but it really makes you think about how something like that would make you feel. Who would you choose? Once I got about 3/4 of the way through the book, I was really curious who she would end up with.

No spoilers here – but I’d definitely recommend this book if you’re into a little romcom. There’s a few wintry scenes if you’re looking for something relative (bbbrrr!).

The next book the book club is reading is “The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels — A Love Story“. Read it with us and shoot me a note on social media @OrangeJulius7 to get the conversation started!

I’ll be in the kitchen, baking this weekend, and generally trying to stay warm. I’m also hoping to get some rest, lots and lots of rest. Happy Friday, y’all!

BBC: Holiday Reading Guide.

Nothing like reading by the fire.

Nothing like reading by the fire.

I’ve always thought it would be so cool to be reading a book with a holiday or Christmas plot, during the ACTUAL season. But that would involve planning, and actually being on top of things, right?

Well, this year! This year, I put my tree up much earlier, started watching seasonal movies much sooner, and hey, I might just be on top of it this year!

So, I’ve created a list of books that have a plot surrounding the holidays, in case you’re looking for something festive, aside from children’s books or the classic, “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham (but if you haven’t read it, you should).

If holiday reading isn’t your style, feel free to hop over to my Fall Reading Guide – where there’s still some pretty cool reads waiting for you.

“Christmas Letters” by Debbie Macomber – Of course, Debbie Macomber has several books circling around the holidays, but I picked “Christmas Letters” because I thought it sounded a little different. Here’s the book’s description:

Katherine O’Connor often spends her days at a cozy café on Blossom Street in Seattle—where she writes Christmas letters for other people. She’s good at making their everyday lives sound more interesting. More humorous. More dramatic.

But for Dr. Wynn Jeffries, who also frequents the café, Christmas means lies and deception. In fact, the renowned child psychologist recommends that parents “bury Santa under the sleigh.” Katherine, however, feels that his parenting philosophy is one big mistake—at least, based on her five-year-old twin nieces, who are being raised according to his “Free Child” methods.

She argues with Wynn about his theories, while he argues that her letters are nothing but lies. They disagree about practically everything—and yet, somehow, they don’t really want to stop arguing. As the days—and nights—move closer to Christmas, Katherine and Wynn both discover that love means accepting your differences. And Christmas is about the things you share….

Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, & Maureen Johnson – I’m kind of really disappointed in myself for not reading this one yet – but I had no clue John Green had any sort of part in a holiday book! Here’s the scoop on “Let it Snow“:

Three interconnected stories from three bestselling authors: John Green (Paper Towns, The Fault in our Stars), Maureen Johnson (The Name of the Star), and Lauren Myracle (The Internet Girls series.)

Major motion picture in the works!

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.

“Winter Street” by Elin Hilderbrand – I saw this on a list on GoodReads and thought it sounded most like the holidays – because what’s the holiday season without a story of family dysfunction? Here’s the description for “Winter Street“:

Kelley Quinn is the owner of Nantucket’s Winter Street Inn and the proud father of four grown children: Patrick, a hedge fund manager; Kevin, a bartender; Ava, a school teacher; and Bart, who has recently shocked everyone by joining the Marines. As Christmas approaches, Kelley looks forward to spending the holidays with his family at the inn. But when he walks in on his wife Mitzi kissing another man, utter chaos descends, and things only get more interesting when Kelley’s ex-wife, news anchor Margaret Quinn, arrives on the scene.

Before the mulled cider is gone, the delightfully dysfunctional Quinn family will survive a love triangle, an unplanned pregnancy, a federal crime, and endless rounds of Christmas caroling in this heart-warming novel about coming home for the holidays.

“Christmas Jars” by Jason F. Wright – I’ll admit, I saw the cover of this online and it got me to click for the description, which sold me. Here’s the scoop on “Christmas Jars“:

Rising newspaper reporter Hope Jensen uncovers the secret behind the “Christmas Jars” glass jars filled with coins and bills anonymously given to people in need. But Hope discovers much more than she bargained for when some unexpected news sets off a chain reaction of kindness and brings above a Christmas Eve wish come true.

“The Christmas Train” by David Baldacci – I pretty much cannot pass up a story about a journalist, but this one really had me with the added train ride. I took a train from New Orleans to Chicago a few years ago, and it was so much fun! I’m always down for a good story, especially when it includes a “ridiculous cast of characters”! Here’s the description for “The Christmas Train“:

Tom Langdon, a weary and cash-strapped journalist, is banned from flying when a particularly thorough airport security search causes him to lose his cool. Now, he must take the train if he has any chance of arriving in Los Angeles in time for Christmas with his girlfriend.

To finance the trip, he sells a story about a train ride taken during the Christmas season. Thereupon begins one of the most hilarious-and heartwarming-journeys ever told. Along the way, Tom encounters a ridiculous cast of characters, unexpected romance, and an avalanche that changes everyone’s Christmas plans. As the mighty Southwest Chief chugs along, Tom learns what really makes the holiday special in a remarkable novel that will charm all who read it.

“Dashing Through the Snow” by Mary & Carol Higgins Clark – This one’s for the mystery lovers! I couldn’t make my holiday reading guide complete without a little secret adventure to tackle, right? Here’s the scoop on “Dashing Through the Snow“:

From beloved mother-daughter duo Mary Higgins Clark, America’s Queen of Suspense, and Carol Higgins Clark, author of the hugely popular Regan Reilly mystery series, comes Dashing Through the Snow, a holiday treat you won’t want to miss.

In the picturesque village of Branscombe, New Hampshire, the townsfolk are all pitching in to prepare for the first (and many hope annual) Festival of Joy. The night before the festival begins, a group of employees at the local market learn that they have won $160 million in the lottery. One of their co-workers, Duncan, decided at the last minute, on the advice of a pair of crooks masquerading as financial advisers, not to play. Then he goes missing. A second winning lottery ticket was purchased in the next town, but the winner hasn’t come forward. Could Duncan have secretly bought it?

The Clarks’ endearing heroes — Alvirah Meehan, the amateur sleuth, and private investigator Regan Reilly — have arrived in Branscombe for the festival. They are just the people to find out what is amiss. As they dig beneath the surface, they find that life in Branscombe is not as tranquil as it appears. So much for an old-fashioned weekend in the country. This fast-paced holiday caper will keep you dashing through the pages!

And there you have it, Blache’s Book Club’s Holiday Reading Guide. Of course, there are tons of novels that have Christmas at the centerpoint of the plot; these are just a few. Got a favorite? I’d love to hear it! Happy Reading!

BBC: ’99: Stories of the Game’.

I feel like every single day this week kicked my behind – it was the holiday, the chilly weather, and yeah, I just wanted to stay in bed! At least it’s Friday, because I’ve got huge plans to sleep in this weekend and make tortellini soup. How cool am I?

Basically, it’s the perfect season to read a book about HOCKEY. And that’s exactly what Blanche’s Book Club did, as we just finished “99:Stories of the Game” by Wayne Gretsky.

I was really excited when I saw this book on the shelf in the library, because it was just released in November! I snatched it right up and got to reading. Here’s the official description from Amazon:

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

For the first time, Gretzky discusses candidly what the game looks like to him and introduces us to the people who inspired and motivated him: mentors, teammates, rivals, the famous and the lesser known. Weaving together lives and moments from an extraordinary career, he reflects on the players who inflamed his imagination when he was a kid, the way he himself figured in the dreams of so many who came after; takes us onto the ice and into the dressing rooms to meet the friends who stood by him and the rivals who spurred him to greater heights; shows us some of the famous moments in hockey history through the eyes of someone who regularly made that history.

Warm, direct, and revelatory, it is a book that gives us number 99, the man and the player, like never before.

As the description says, this isn’t really a book about Gretsky, but moreso a book about the game of hockey and its history. It’s loaded with interesting tidbits – about how long players went before even considering to play while wearing helmets, how the size of the rink affects the game, and how the league was formed.

Of course, there is plenty of information about Gretsky’s story; I had no idea his first professional team was in Indianapolis (Hooooosiers!), and that he spent lots of time practicing on a frozen river, learning to play while dodging frozen sticks and uneven ice… and he often wore skates that were many sizes too small, just for a certain edge in the game.

What I love about sports stories is that they’re really inspirational. There’s lots of hard work; tough stories, and often hard-fought victories. And while coaches and players can often move us with their voices, sports writing is another craft.

I will not say this book is phenomenally written, because it isn’t. But the stories are really interesting and worth the read – perhaps if you’re into audio books, it’s available in that format (check it out, here). Besides, who better to explain the history and the best moments of the game than Gretsky himself?

If you’re a hockey fan, or even just a sports fan, this is definitely a book you’re going to want to check out. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “One True Loves” by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Read it with us by following me on social media @OrangeJulius7 and chatting!

Have a great, great weekend everyone, and I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘The Nest’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Adnan’s Story’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Admissions’.

Wahoooo! It’s Friiiiday! That first week back to work after a relaxing week off is sure a doozy, but I made it – my fellow vacationers made it, and I’m so ready for an awesome weekend ahead. I have still been reading a ton, and am really relishing my time spent at the library (I go at least twice per week) – I think the employees are starting to recognize me.

My latest read was one I stumbled upon, although I’ve read another book by this author before – it’s “The Admissions” by Meg Mitchell Moore. Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

The Hawthorne family has it all. Great jobs, a beautiful house in one of the most affluent areas of Northern California, and three charming kids whose sunny futures are all but assured. And then comes their eldest daughter’s senior year of high school . . .

Firstborn Angela Hawthorne is a straight-A student and star athlete, with extracurricular activities coming out of her ears and a college application that’s not going to write itself. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, and like a dog with a chew toy, Angela won’t let up until she’s basking in crimson-colored glory. Except her class rank as valedictorian is under attack, she’s suddenly losing her edge at cross-country, and she can’t help but daydream about a cute baseball player. Of course Angela knows the time put into her schoolgirl crush would be better spent coming up with a subject for her English term paper—which, along with her college essay, has a rapidly approaching deadline.

Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real estate career where she caters to the mega-rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, second-grader Maya, still can’t read; the middle child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and their dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few ill-advised moves put the Hawthorne family on a collision course that’s equal parts achingly real and delightfully screwball—and they learn that whatever it cost to get their lucky lives it may cost far more to keep them.

Sharp, topical, and wildly entertaining, The Admissions shows that if you pull at a loose thread, even the sturdiest lives start to unravel at the seams of high achievement.

At first, the plot seems like the one we’ve all seen before: well-to-do family puts too much pressure on their children to do well in school and in life that the kids hate themselves and are tired of living vicariously through their parents. Right?

That’s how things start out in this book, but I’ll hand it to the author – there’s a few really unexpected twists that kept this story rolling for me. Plus, the characters are easily likable; especially the dad and daughter. I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for something semi-lite; you know, something to ease you into your fall reading.

The other book I’ve read from Meg Mitchell Moore is “The Arrivals“, which is another story based around a tightly-knit family… and just when it seems like there’s going to be an empty nest, everyone comes back for their own reasons. I really enjoyed this book, which is why I was pretty excited to come across “The Arrivals” at the library.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Modern Lovers” by Emma Straub – it took weeks for me to get my hands on this one at the library! If you’d like to read along with us, feel free to chat it up on Twitter, SnapChat or Instagram @OrangeJulius7, post in the comments, or shoot me an email at Holly@thebitterlemon.com. The more, the merrier!

I hope you all have some fun weekends planned! I am definitely going to rest some, but I’m also planning on doing some serious cooking and baking, going to do a little clothes shopping, and I’ve got a season of E.R. I’ve been itching to watch. Catch it all on SnapChat and I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘Lost Girls’.

The latest read for Blanche’s Book Club is for all the true-crime lovers out there! I saw this book on a reading blog I have liked for years, and I added it to my list. I love true crime books, but I have to be in the mood to read them, and frankly, this has been the summer of marshmallow reads.

But then I had lunch with someone who’d read this book and said I would absolutely love it. And they were RIGHT. The book? “Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery” by Robert Kolker. Here is the description from Amazon.com:

“Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a haunting and humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, in a compelling tale of unsolved murder and Internet prostitution.

One late spring evening in 2010, Shannan Gilbert, after running through the oceanfront community of Oak Beach screaming for her life, went missing. No one who had heard of her disappearance thought much about what had happened to the twenty-four-year-old: she was a Craigslist prostitute who had been fleeing a scene—of what, no one could be sure. The Suffolk County Police, too, seemed to have paid little attention—until seven months later, when an unexpected discovery in a bramble alongside a nearby highway turned up four bodies, all evenly spaced, all wrapped in burlap. But none of them Shannan’s.

There was Maureen Brainard-Barnes, last seen at Penn Station in Manhattan three years earlier, and Melissa Barthelemy, last seen in the Bronx in 2009. There was Megan Waterman, last seen leaving a hotel in Hauppage, Long Island, just a month after Shannan’s disappearance in 2010, and Amber Lynn Costello, last seen leaving a house in West Babylon a few months later that same year. Like Shannan, all four women were petite and in their twenties, they all came from out of town to work as escorts, and they all advertised on Craigslist and its competitor, Backpage.

In a triumph of reporting—and in a riveting narrative—Robert Kolker presents the first detailed look at the shadow world of escorts in the Internet age, where making a living is easier than ever and the dangers remain all too real. He has talked exhaustively with the friends and family of each woman to reveal the three-dimensional truths about their lives, the struggling towns they came from, and the dreams they chased. And he has gained unique access to the Oak Beach neighborhood that has found itself the focus of national media scrutiny—where the police have flailed, the body count has risen, and the neighbors have begun pointing fingers at one another. There, in a remote community, out of sight of the beaches and marinas scattered along the South Shore barrier islands, the women’s stories come together in death and dark mystery. Lost Girls is a portrait not just of five women, but of unsolved murder in an idyllic part of America, of the underside of the Internet, and of the secrets we keep without admitting to ourselves that we keep them.”

“Lost Girls” tells the stories of five women, all living seemingly normal lives, until they fall on difficult times – whether financial, situational, or emotional – and end up working as prostitutes.

Some of them start of in traditional escort houses, but all of them eventually end up online, particularly on Craigslist, because they make more money, don’t have to deal with a pimp, and most of all, they don’t have to stand on street corners to wait for clients.

What lures them into the business is the same thing that keeps them there – fairly easy money, big pay, the ability to provide for their families, and freedom.

That is, until they all get out of the business in the same way: cold blooded murder.

I loved this book for many reasons. Yes, it was a little scary and reading it after dark was not really an option (which is probably why I read most of it in one sitting on Sunday). However, Kolker really digs to find the stories of these women, who were basically forgotten by… everyone except their families.

Without blatantly saying it, Kolker tells another story: about how we (meaning society) tend to treat people in the sex industry, mainly based on stereotypes, and that is what I found to be most fascinating about this book.

My only disappointment? That this is Kolker’s first and only book! I’ll definitely be on the lookout for his next one (if it ever happens).

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

BBC: ‘The Friday Night Knitting Club’.

I’m writing this while watching all of the #BlackLivesMatter rallies and marches across the country – between CNN and Periscope, I feel like I’m right there, fighting for justice, and I really appreciate all of those who are speaking out against these senseless acts of murder.

Don’t worry, I am working on a separate blog post to sort out all of my heartache and frustrations surrounding what’s happened in these last few days, and I look forward to sharing it. But for now, I’m happy to say that Blanche’s Book Club has finished yet another book: “The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs.

Here is the description of the book from Amazon.com, “Once a week, an eclectic group of women comes together at a New York City yarn shop to work on their latest projects—and share the stories of their lives…

At the center of Walker and Daughter is the shop’s owner, Georgia, who is overwhelmed with juggling the store and single-handedly raising her teenage daughter. Happy to escape the demands of her life, she looks forward to her Friday Night Knitting Club, where she and her friends—Anita, Peri, Darwin, Lucie, and KC—exchange knitting tips, jokes, and their deepest secrets. But when the man who once broke Georgia’s heart suddenly shows up, demanding a role in their daughter’s life, her world is shattered.

Luckily, Georgia’s friends are there for encouragement, sharing their own tales of intimacy, heartbreak, and miracle-making. And when the unthinkable happens, these women will discover that what they’ve created isn’t just a knitting club: it’s a sisterhood.” 

I’ll start by saying that this book has been on my reading list for years! I’m not sure why it took me so long to finally get around to reading it, but when I saw it on the library shelf a few weeks ago, I was pretty excited to finally have it in my hands.

I’m not a knitter, but I know knitting is stereotypically an activity for older folks – and I will say that the characters in the book are older. However, it doesn’t make the story any less interesting, as it still focuses around romance, family, and friendship.

Like any good book, all of the chracters have really developed backstories and the plot focuses more on these (much more) than it does on any type of knitting projects – though those are there, too.

I enjoyed various parts of Georgia’s story; as well as Anita’s – their lives intersected during the book and they both had very different plotlines, but were able to find a meaningful friendship.

This book is the first of three books in a series, and I will say that this book had a pretty surprising ending, so I’m definitely going to have to read the next book to see how the author manages to continue the story.

A small part in the book was Georgia’s daughter; she loved to bake, and she tried out many of her recipes on the ladies during the knitting club. The author even included one of her recipes in the back of the book, which I wanted to share with you.

Dakota’s Oatmeal, Blueberry, and Orange Muffins

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup plain rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
  • Grated rind of one large orange
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup liquid pasteurized honey
  • 3 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar
  • Juice 1 orange and add water to make 1 cup of liquid (I did 1 1/2 oranges because I didn’t get a lot of juice out of mine)
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with paper cups. combine the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl; oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the coconut flakes and orange rind to the dry ingredients. Get a separate bowl and beat the egg. Then incorporate the wet ingredients: honey, oil, vinegar, juice, and water. Add teh wet ingredients to the dry mix and stir until just moist. Fold in the blueberries. Pour batter into muffin cups, being careful not to let any batter spill onto the tin. Bake in a preheated oven 20-25 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

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

I hope you all have a great, SAFE, weekend – I’ll be doing a little relaxing, but was actually able to get a few freelance jobs as I continue to work to tackle my taxes. I will also be working on the blog a TON, and prepping the next newsletter. I’d love to see you online! Until then, see you right here on Monday.

Living Singlish!

I am so excited to share a new book with you guys today! I actually had the opportunity to read this a few months ago, as I worked with the author, Marne, to edit and polish the final product. Many of you know I do lots of editing on the side, and while I love getting to read and edit pretty much any book, it’s even better when it’s a book about empowering women – and that’s exactly what “Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way” is about!

From the back of the book: “Embrace Singlish living and live your best life! Modern life is daunting. It’s easy to see why many young women feel overwhelmed and unprepared for making decisions about their relationships, career, family, and future. Though it’s easy to fall victim to the belief that you need someone beside you as you make important life decisions, author Marne Platt, VMD, MBA, knows that single women can not only survive – they can thrive! Like a great conversation with a good friend or older sister, Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way will empower you to figure out who you are, what you want, and how to get it – without replying on a romantic partner.”

While the book is full of tips and tricks on how to live Singlish (from “How I got here” to “Presence and Style”, and even “Personal Finance”), I want to share some of my favorites with you:

  1. The Singlish AttituteHaving a Singlish attitude means taking control of your own life and taking responsibility for how much enjoyment you get out of it. Singlish women choose the life they want , and then take the steps to build it. I love this because being Singlish isn’t about whether you’re with someone or not, it’s about doing what you want, and living the life you’ve always dreamed of.
  2. Fun and Entertainment – This section of the book is all about venturing out to do the things you want, whether with friends, or even by yourself (love it!) – from going to the movies, a museum, or even traveling around the world! There’s also tips on entertaining at your home.
  3. It’s Not All Wine And Roses – This part of the book talks about how, invetably, there will be some days that won’t be as great as the others, and how to cope with them. It discusses how to deal with loneliness, how to tackle the more difficult things alone, and dealing with the sometimes awkward comments people make about Living Singlish.

Aside from all of this great advice, the book also holds tools to help you get started Living Singlish – there’s a template for a budget, and a template for planning for your first home, and there’s even a few recipes for your at-home entertaining! Who doesn’t love that?

Why wait to get started? Sitting and thinking about how scary the future is will never make you stronger. Don’t let life get ahead of you. Start living the Singlish way. Make your own decisions, create the life you want. Start now…join the Singlish world!

So, perhaps you’re interested in Living Singlish, or you know someone who could use a pep in their single steps. I absolutely love what this book stands for and I’m going to continue Living Singlish…well, forever!