Blog Archives

BBC: ‘This is Just My Face’.

Hey there! I did NOT want to get out of bed this morning…ugh. For the past three weeks, I’ve been taking three hours of dance on Thursday nights – a body drop cardio class, beginning hip hop, and broadway jazz. I absolutely love these classes, so it’s pretty easy for me to power through them, but I am sore and TIRED today.

Dear coffee, please halp. Thx.

So anyway, the latest read in Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “This is Just My Face” by Gabourey Sidibe. I heard about it on “The Daily Show” and added it to my library list immediately. Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

Gabourey Sidibe—“Gabby” to her legion of fans—skyrocketed to international fame in 2009 when she played the leading role in Lee Daniels’s acclaimed movie Precious. In This Is Just My Face, she shares a one-of-a-kind life story in a voice as fresh and challenging as many of the unique characters she’s played onscreen. With full-throttle honesty, Sidibe paints her Bed-Stuy/Harlem family life with a polygamous father and a gifted mother who supports her two children by singing in the subway. Sidibe tells the engrossing, inspiring story of her first job as a phone sex “talker.” And she shares her unconventional (of course!) rise to fame as a movie star, alongside “a superstar cast of rich people who lived in mansions and had their own private islands and amazing careers while I lived in my mom’s apartment.” 
 
Sidibe’s memoir hits hard with self-knowing dispatches on friendship, depression, celebrity, haters, fashion, race, and weight (“If I could just get the world to see me the way I see myself,” she writes, “would my body still be a thing you walked away thinking about?”). Irreverent, hilarious, and untraditional, This Is Just My Face will resonate with anyone who has ever felt different, and with anyone who has ever felt inspired to make a dream come true. 

I wouldn’t consider myself a “fan” of Gabby’s necessarily – I’ve got nothing against her – but I also don’t know that much about her (until I read this book, obviously). Still, I was absolutely blown away by chapter 1 – no spoilers here, but she’s got a story about a fashion a-lister that had my jaw on the ground.

Anywho, there were a few awesome quotes I took note of while reading:

  • Feelings aren’t an absence of strength
  • I know that if I had a boyfriend or, even worse, a husband, I’d spend my Friday nights compromising. I don’t really think I want to do that yet.
  • I can be anywhere in the world at any time and it’s really only my business. I like that kind of freedom.

Preeeeeeach!

But yeah, this is an easy read, fairly short, and Gabby definitely has an interesting story about how she came into being an actress and becoming fame-lite. Plus, her humor is spot-on.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. I know, I know, I’m super late to the game on this one, buuuut better late than never.

I have an entire stack of books to get to this weekend, on top of my FINAL prep for the 7th annual Quesoff (which is next weekend), and I’m also going to a special viewing of “Patti Cake$” with a live Q&A from the cast – yippee! Here’s the preview if you haven’t seen it yet:

Have a great weekend, y’all!

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BBC: ‘Hungry Heart’.

Hey, hey! It’s been a bit of a rocky week at the office (ugh, I hate saying that), and I’ve taken a lot of enjoyment in having a good book to turn to during my lunch hour and between dance classes. The latest read in Blanche’s Book Club is “Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing” by Jennifer Weiner.

Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com: Jennifer Weiner is many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and an “unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister, a clumsy yogini, and a reality-TV devotee. In this “unflinching look at her own experiences” (Entertainment Weekly), Jennifer fashions tales of modern-day womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Nora Ephron and Tina Fey.

No subject is off-limits in these intimate and honest essays: sex, weight, envy, money, her mother’s coming out of the closet, her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to hearing her six-year-old daughter say the F word—fat—for the first time, Jen dives into the heart of female experience, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world.

I was really excited to get this book from the library (I was on a waiting list for a month or so), because I have read a few of Weiner’s books and have really enjoyed them! I always love hearing the story behind the stories; how/where other writers get their inspiration; and how much of the fiction writing comes from a true place.

In this book, Weiner talks a lot about how she was raised, and it is telling about her fiction writing (particularly the relationship she has with her father). She is also very open about her own relationships (two marriages), her children, and how she came to be a popular, published writer. I really like how she addresses the categorization women’s fiction has received over the years, because it’s something I’ve noticed myself. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “It took time before I could take all that pain and use it; transform all that loneliness and isolation and shame into stories.”
  • “Maybe I was lucky after all. Maybe the damaged ones, the broken ones, the outcasts and the outsiders end up survivors, and successful, with empathy as their superpower, an extra-sensitivity to other people’s pain, and the ability to spin their own sorrow into something useful.”
  • “I would tell myself that I wasn’t lonely, and wouldn’t even think of the shame that was underneath the loneliness and how I felt like a failure and a fraud.”

Weiner also admitted to being an obsessive Tweeter – especially when it comes to episodes of “The Bachelor”.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. If you’re a fan of Weiner’s books, I would definitely recommend this book to you!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon. You should read it with us! I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – stay cool, and I’ll see you here on Monday!

BBC: ‘Born a Crime’.

Hey yoooo! I have been on a waiting list at the library for MONTHS for my latest read. I guess everyone wanted to get their paws on Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood”.

I will admit I wasn’t jumping for joy at first about this book, but I do watch “The Daily Show” religiously, so I was looking forward to learning more about this daily host. Here’s the scoop on the book from Amazon.com:

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

…Now I will say, I wouldn’t describe this book as “hilarious”, but it did include some funny stories. Was it gripping and unable to put down? No. But I will also admit I’m not really a fan of short stories.

If you’re interested in South African history, or the tales of Trevor Noah, add this book to your list!

The book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading next is “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough.

And I know said I loved three-day weekends, but this four-day week sure did kick my ass! Maybe it was all of the adventures I had last weekend? I feel a whole lotta loungin’ coming on… see you all on Monday!

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!

Finding pride in the soles of shoes.

Nice collection, girl.

**The following is a piece of original writing I entered into an essay contest. It didn’t win, but I like it, and I thought you might, too. Happy Humpday, y’all!**

Each employee was to schedule a meeting with our new manager to discuss our job roles, challenges, and goals. My meeting was set for a Thursday afternoon, and I’d taken a few notes on my iPad before heading downstairs to her office.

But when I entered her mahogany kingdom, I was met with an employee from Human Resources. My new manager and I weren’t going to be discussing my job, but rather, the fact that my “services” were no longer needed.

For nearly seven years leading up to that day, I’d served as the Web Editor for a large, state university. I’d written stories for the website, reorganized departmental sites, led national advertising campaigns, and created social media strategies for the brand. I’d just received the largest raise in the office due to my hard work over the years.

That day, my previous work, all of my experience – it meant nothing.

“Any questions?” my boss asked.

There were papers to sign in front of me, and I was given strict instructions to pack up my office (do not touch your computer or any other university property, they said), and would be escorted out of the building and was never to return to campus.

“Yes,” I said, working to move my jaw. “Why is this happening?”

I was told that it was an “at-will” termination, which meant that according to state law, I could be terminated for any reason, at any time, without warning, and without being told of the reason.

So, I went to my office where there were empty boxes waiting to be filled. I was watched as I packed, and escorted to my car, walking past the offices of my former fellow employees.

I’d built my life around my job, which had become my career. I’d stayed in the city, 15 hours from where I grew up, for this job, and had little intent to leave. I lived in a coveted loft, a place I would soon come to resent given the high rent and my lack of funds.

The next day, I started applying for jobs. I applied for jobs like my life depended on it – because, in a way, it did. I applied all over the country, for all sorts of positions that sounded remotely interesting. When weeks passed without so much as a phone call, I started looking for short-term work as well.

The holidays were approaching, so I applied for retail positions that would at least get me out of the apartment and I could earn a paycheck.

Around Thanksgiving, I accepted a position as a part-time associate at a shore store near my apartment. My first shift was scheduled for five hours, but a few hours in, I was asked if I could stay until the store closed, making it a 14-hour shift. I said yes.

It was hard work; I was on my feet, and I only got a 30-minute break. The store was constantly busy, and I quickly learned shoe style numbers, sizing, and how to reasonably make a sale. The pay was only $8 an hour, so I’d packed a peanut butter sandwich in order to avoid the food court.

That night, I cried on my short drive home. I was fairly certain my feet had never hurt quite so bad, and I wondered how long this was going to be my life. My next shift at the store was scheduled to start in just eight hours.

I quickly missed the comfort of my desk, my office, and the luxury of simply knowing how to do my job. But I kept on, working as many shifts as I was allowed and picking up extras for fellow employees when they needed time off. I wasn’t going home for the holidays that year, so I could just keep working.

As the days passed, I sometimes saw friends or old coworkers in the store. It was awkward having to explain my situation. Even a few family members turned on me, making condescending comments about how I was “just a shoe salesman at the mall” now.

For a moment, I hung my head in shame. But, my friend who worked in Human Resources for an ad agency and often served as my workout partner, offered some wisdom.

“Head up,” he said. “Everyone has a job to do.”

He was right. There are all sorts of jobs that are less-then-glamorous, and they are held by employees doing what they need to do to get by in this life. It doesn’t really matter if it’s part of their passion or their intended journey, it was a job that needed to be filled in order for the ways of the world to keep going.

No, I didn’t go to college to work at a shoe store, but I was making an honest living, and I was applying for other jobs during my time off. I also accepted two additional retail jobs, and got a promotion at the shoe store, making my work week at least 60-hours.

I learned how to operate three different cash register systems, memorized the opening and closing procedures for each job, and started to find joy in the little things – greeting and helping customers, getting to know my coworkers (despite our 10-year age difference), and going to bed each night knowing I’d done everything I could that day.

That year, I spent Christmas alone. In fact, Christmas Day was my only day off in weeks, since it was the only day all of the stores were closed. I found comfort on my couch, with my heating pad, and my decorated tree that I’d reluctantly pulled from my closet in November.

It took me eight months to find a job that fit my career path and offered a salary with benefits. The job was in another state, and I worked my retail jobs until the day I moved.

There’s no doubt that it was the most difficult eight months of my life – there were very few days off, no health insurance, and a very tight budget I had to follow. But, I’d somehow made it work. I kept my loft until moving day, never missed a bill, and I learned how to juggle the schedules of three jobs.

I also learned a lot about pride and hard work. At most job interviews, they ask how you’d describe yourself. I’d said I was a hard worker before, but now I’ve truly lived it. I’ve worked when I thought I couldn’t even stand, I’ve done jobs that some people wouldn’t even consider, and I’ve smiled when people from my career-life would whisper, “What are you doing here?

There are days when even my current salaried gig isn’t all I dreamt of during my long shifts in the retail stores. But no matter what job I have, at any point in my life, I know I’m going to do it with my head held high.

Take pride in the ability to get up each day, and do whatever it is you have to do to keep going. Find joy in the walk to the office, the people you see each shift, or the discovery of all the new things you’ve learned.

Almost two years after unexpectedly losing my job, I still carry fears that it will happen again, but then I remember that I made it work. Sure, it wasn’t easy, but I did it, and I found some good in that chapter of my journey.

Looking back, my job at the university had its perks, and it looked really good on my resume. But it wasn’t challenging, and there was no room for growth, meaning I would have had to leave eventually. How it happened wasn’t any sort of dream scenario, but it forced me out of my comfort zone, and into the reality of another person’s shoes.

BBC: ‘Superficial’.

Whoop – it’s Friiidaaaaay! I’m excited for the weekend because my dance studio is hosting it’s semi-annual showcase on Sunday and I’m really looking forward to the performance, and seeing all of my other friends rock their dances, too.

Each weekend I’ve been spending some quality time reading, and I hope to get a few hours in this weekend, too, because I’m just loving all of the books flying off my reserve list at the library lately. So, let’s talk about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “Superficial: More Adventures From the Andy Cohen Diaries” by Andy Cohen. Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

The megapopular host of Watch What Happens: Live and executive producer of The Real Housewives franchise is back, better than ever, and telling stories that will keep his publicist up at night.

Since the publication of his last book, Andy has toured the country with his sidekick Anderson Cooper, hit the radio waves with his own Sirius station, Radio Andy, appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher despite his mother’s conviction he was not intellectually prepared, hosted NBC’s Primetime New Year’s Eve special, guest edited Entertainment Weekly, starred in Bravo’s Then & Now with Andy Cohen, offended celebrities with his ongoing case of foot-in-mouth disease, and welcomed home Teresa “Namaste” Giudice, from a brief stint in jail. Hopping from the Hamptons to the Manhattan dating world, the dog park to the red carpet, Cardinals superfan and mama’s boy Andy Cohen, with Wacha in tow, is the kind of star that fans are dying to be friends with. This book gives them that chance.

If The Andy Cohen Diaries was deemed “the literary equivalent of a Fresca and tequila” by Jimmy Fallon, Superficial is a double: dishier, juicier, and friskier. In this account of his escapades―personal, professional, and behind-the-scenes―Andy tells us not only what goes down, but exactly what he thinks of it.

So, basically after writing “The Andy Cohen Diaries”, Andy said he just kept writing about his life, daily, and pitched it to his publisher, even though they said they didn’t want it. But of course, they published it and that’s how this book came to be.

On the one hand, if you’re an Andy Cohen fan, or really just a fan of pop culture in general, this book is punctuated by a lot of events you already know about – Joan Rivers’ funeral, Sarah Jessica Parker’s look for the Met Ball, and the outcome of the World Series.

But of course, Andy gives us a look into the parts of his life that we wouldn’t otherwise know: the extensive renovation of his New York City apartment, the start of his relationship with #BrazilianAndySamberg, how his XM radio channel was born, the idea for touring the country with Anderson Cooper, and his summer adventures following The Grateful Dead with John Mayer.

Per usual, there were a few scenes in the book that had me laughing out loud – a la, Andy making the hugest deal ever out of Sean Avery and his “overbuttered” pancakes.

This book was a little slow to start for me, but I soon was hooked. However, I will admit that I love Andy. I’m not sure this book would translate to the non-fans, but check it out – especially if you love Bravo!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is, “Truly Madly Guilty” by Liane Moriarty. I think this one was on my reserve list for at least three months – until now!

Aside from dancing all weekend, I’ll be doing lots of cooking/meal prep. Follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to see what’s on my stove. Have a great weekend y’all!

BBC: ‘The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl’.

Hello! Happy Weekend Eve! You guys… I took a new fitness class on Wednesday night, which kicked my ass so hard I thought I was going to puke… and despite being so sore yesterday, I still went to two dance classes last night. So today I basically want to die.

But, hey everything is always okay on a Friday, right? Anyway, I finished reading another book for the book club, one that I was just SO excited to read: “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” by Issa Rae. Here’s the description from Amazon:

In this universally accessible New York Times bestseller named for her wildly popular web series, Issa Rae—“a singular voice with the verve and vivacity of uncorked champagne” (Kirkus Reviews)—waxes humorously on what it’s like to be unabashedly awkward in a world that regards introverts as hapless misfits and black as cool.

I’m awkward—and black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. That someone was right. Where do I start?

Being an introvert (as well as “funny,” according to the Los Angeles Times) in a world that glorifies cool isn’t easy. But when Issa Rae, the creator of the Shorty Award-winning hit seriesThe Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, is that introvert—whether she’s navigating love, the workplace, friendships, or “rapping”—it sure is entertaining. Now, in this New York Timesbestselling debut collection written in her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cybersexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself—natural hair and all.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a book no one—awkward or cool, black, white, or other—will want to miss.

I’ve basically had a girl crush on Miss Rae since the debut of her HBO series “Insecure” last fall. Little did I know that the chick was not only the lead actress in the show, but also the lead writer of it, having based the whole series on her successful YouTube show.

But her collection of stories was published before anything happened with HBO, so it’s definitely a different side of Issa. There are some pretty funny bits in there – particularly about how she was Catfishing people online before it was a thing, and well before she could drive.

There are several stories about her childhood, her family, and in general, her observations of black culture – despite the fact that she’s never wanted to be a voice on the “black experience”.

The story that stuck out to me the most was a simple one about her being robbed – nearly all of her film and computer equipment was stolen, including lots of work she’d already accomplished for film school. It took lots of time for her to get back on her feet (it was thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment), and that’s essentially how she came up with the idea for her YouTube series – she just wanted to share the story of her life, and how awkward she felt at all times.

This is why I love Issa so much – she’s cool as hell, but thinks she so awkward or insecure. When, in reality, we basically all feel that way (right??). It’s the great equalizer… well, minus Olivia Palermo. Pretty sure she’s never felt awkward or insecure in her whole life.

If you’re a fan of Issa, or comedians, this would be a good book to check out. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for literary critics.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Goodnight Nobody” by Jennifer Weiner. Feel free to read along with me next week by giving me a shout on social media @OrangeJulius7 – I’d love to hear from you!

This weekend, I’m looking forward to tackling a few dance rehearsals (I’m performing on stage at the end of the month), and hitting up a romance reading event at a nearby library. I am also totally planning to watch the Grammy red carpet, but not the actual Grammy’s, given that no one good is performing. Yeah I said it, Bey.

Anyway – I’ll catch you all on the flipside!

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: ‘Black Heels to Tractor Wheels’.

Hey, hey! I am back at the office today, and wow is that whole come-down after Christmas ROUGH. It’s like this month-long build up for a single day and then, it’s over. It’s honestly how I imagine me meeting John Mayer for the first time, only on a 16-year scale, with devastating disappointment (don’t tell him I said that though).

The good news is, there’s another long weekend on the horizon, so there’s that to look forward to – wow, my life isn’t pathetic or anything.

But! I did get some reading done over my lil Christmas break, and I’m really excited to talk about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read, “The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels” by Ree Drummond.

I’ve had this book on my list for awhile, but I sort of forgot about it until I stumbled upon it at the library when I was looking for something else. I couldn’t put off reading it any longer; I figured I could probably use a good (and TRUE) love story in my life. Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

Wildly popular award-winning blogger, accidental ranch wife, and #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) tells the true story of her storybook romance that led her from the Los Angeles glitter to a cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma, and into the arms of her real-life Marlboro Man.

I came across Ree, or “The Pioneer Woman”, for the first time on Food Network, and I came to absolutely love watching her show, “The Pioneer Woman”. She lives on a gorgeous ranch in Oklahoma, and she makes fairly simple (yet delicious) dishes for her family and friends. I’ve made her enchiladas many times, and they never fail to delight!

Her husband, Lad, makes some appearances on the show, and he is very handsome, and he seems really genuine and kind. So, I wasn’t surprised when I read this book and heard the many times she described him as such, only she referred to him as the “Marlboro Man”.

In fact, the book reflected what I assume to be her real-life personality, because it was just how she acts on the show. However, true fans of this Pioneer Woman may have been just as surprised as I was to learn that she was once a big city gal, living in Los Angeles, working in corporate America, drooling over high-end designer clothes, and spending her nights out guzzling martinis. Who would have thought?!

But she did, until her life took an unexpected turn and she ran into this Marlboro Man one night in her home town. A month later, they went on a date… and they’ve basically been inseparable ever since. This is really a love story that touched my heart; one that I really needed to read.

One theme that’s brought up a lot in this book is something I’m still learning and trying to understand about love: that it doesn’t matter how much you embarrass yourself, how silly you are, whether or not your mascara is perfect, or in Ree’s case, just how much you sweat through a gorgeous suit, the one you’re meant to be with is still going to LOVE you.

I’m really glad I got to read this lesson in this way – because Ree’s story is really beautiful, and the way she tells it is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

Another cool part about the book is that, of course, Ree talks a lot about food! While it doesn’t quite explain how she got involved in her cooking blog and her show, she discusses the meals she made for Lad when they were dating – many of which she flubbed due to nerves, or simply because she wasn’t an experienced home cook yet.

The back of the book contains recipes for most of the recipes she mentioned, but one stuck out to me the most – the Tagliarini Quattro Formaggi from Intermezzo in West Hollywood. Since angel hair is my FAVORITE form of pasta, I knew I was going to have to replicate this dish… so don’t be shocked if you see it on my social media feed in the near future. But, just in case you want to make it, too, here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS: 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 pound of tagliarini or angel hair pasta, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup of grated fontina cheese, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of grated romano cheese,  4 ounces of goat cheese, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1 garlic cloved, halved.

DIRECTIONS: warm the cream in a saucepan over low heat. Prepare the pasta according to package direction, but undercook it just a little so it’s al dente. Drain the pasta and return to the pot and add butter. Next, add the warm cream, and all of the cheeses. Stire gently, allowing the cheese to melt and coat the noodles. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add the nutmeg. Stir to combine. Rub the bowls you’re serving in with the garlic, before scooping the pasta into the bowls. Yum!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. Read it with us by following and chatting right here on the blog or on social media @OrangeJulius7. Happy reading, y’all!

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: ‘Orange is the New Black’.

It should come as NO surprise that I haven’t watched “Orange is the New Black” yet, because 1. I am always behind on the cool stuff, and 2. I don’t have Netflix. And yes, I know it’s cheap – it’s not even about that, so spare me.

I really wanted to read the book before I watched any of the series, because it’s a true story, and the series is based on the book. So, this has been on my list for awhile, and I’m so happy it’s finally a part of the Book Club!

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” was written by Piper Kerman and published in 2010. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com:

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

ke_all-new_associate_300x250For starters, I’ll say I was shocked for what Kerman was jailed for. I know it’s not necessarily “normal” for people to stumble upon friendships with drug dealers, but she seemed fairly innocent in the entire ordeal. Once she gets to prison, some of the things her fellow inmates are locked up for was also a shock to me – I know it’s a minimum security prison, so the crimes are non-violent, but still. I had no idea people went to jail for eBay fraud, and I had to Google “Check Kiting” as I’d never heard of it.

Since the book was written by Kerman, she skates over just how privileged she is. She talks about how she has money on the outside and she has people that care for her, but it’s much more than that. Who, out there, could honestly go to jail for 15 months and have a job waiting for them? Her friends even set up a website for her while she was in the slammer to get mail while inside. She also had visitors every single weekend – her fiance sometimes leaving work early or even flying from New York to Chicago to see her for a few hours. Like daaamn girl.

Other than that, though, I really enjoyed – I’ll nearly say I loved – reading this book. I read it in just two days; I was hooked! Of course, the subject matter is interesting; a look inside a world most of us have never seen.

But it’s also about the characters – the women she meets in Danbury; their stories, the work they do, their families, and what they have to look forward to (if anything) once they get out. I loved all of the detail Kerman put into this book and wondered if she wrote these stories while in prison.

Her talk about all of the little things that got her through the day – yoga class, learning how to make “prison cheesecake”, getting mail, and finally being able to purchase a radio so she could listen to the local college station. My favorite scene of the entire book was when an inmate treats her to a rootbeer float from the commissary when her account money hadn’t cleared yet. It was so simple and sweet; I just loved it.

Despite the heavy topic of the book, things remained fairly sunny, and that’s probably because Kerman knew she was getting out, she had a job, and she had family and a fiance waiting for her return. I’m sure if we read something from someone with a much harsher sentence, the tone would have been different.

I’m really excited to watch the series now, and see how the show treats these characters and how they take on the issue of time. There’s at least four seasons of the show (right?), and Kerman is only in for 13 months of her sentence. We’ll see! I was at the library over the weekend and season one was checked out, so I might have to add it to my list of reserves.

If you’ve read the book, I’d love to know what you think about it and how it compares to the Netflix series. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Nest” by Cynthia D. Sweeney. We’d love for you to read it with us, just find us on social media @OrangeJulius7.

Have a fantastic, safe, and fun weekend everyone! I’ll see you right back here on Monday, and hey, it’ll almost be Thanksgiving time!

Hand-Picked: Tulle skirts & big cities!

In front of the Real World Chicago house.

In front of the Real World Chicago house.

The summer between my junior and senior year in high school, I went to Chicago with my best friend and our moms. We got makeovers, went shopping, visited the front door of the house featured in Real World, season 11, Chicago (which aired in 2002, and was taped during the September 11 attacks), and we also saw John Mayer, with Guster as the opening act.

It was not the first time I’d seen him perform live, but it was my first (of I think a dozen) concert with him as the headliner. He was not very popular at the time, and the convert was in sort of an open parking lot area. It was the first I’d ever heard his song, “Comfortable” [above] – and it is a moment I will never forget.

LA map.

LA map.

I went to Los Angeles, California, for the first time the summer before I graduated from college. I went by myself, stayed at a hotel downtown, and it was the longest flight I’d ever been on. LA is a city of dreamt of since I was in 5th grade, and I have always wanted to live there. I’d gotten a contact through a story I wrote for my journalism course, a guy who owned a public relations company for independent artists. I told him I was heading to LA for a few days to check it out, if he wanted to meet.

He agreed, and I met him and his wife at The Knitting Factory in West Hollywood to see one of the bands he promoted. I took the metro from my hotel to West Hollywood, and saw Mann’s Chinese Theatre. I was in awe.

Thinking back on it, it was a pretty daring thing for me to do all of the by myself, and perhaps not smart to meet someone I didn’t really know. But, it all worked out, and it was a memorable trip. I did the Hollywood walk, and took the Hollywood Homes tour. It was everything I’d hoped it would be!

So sweet!

So sweet!

About four years ago, it seemed like pretty much everyone I knew was getting married. I was in a few weddings, and attended many others – all fun. But there was one weekend that I literally went to one wedding on a Friday night, got up early the next morning, and flew to Florida for a bachelorette weekend. I’d missed night one of the festivities, but the ladies had rented a very Real World-esque loft (complete with colored lights in the shower) and we spent the days on the beach, and the nights out. It was a complete blast!

Invitation from a fancy New Orleans wedding I was in.

Invitation from a fancy New Orleans wedding I was in.

Ah, wedding season. Looking back on it, it was pretty fun, although expensive. But I think now, pretty much everyone I know is married. We should just drink and eat cake anyway, right?

Happy birthday to me!

Happy birthday to me!

Again, you can tell it’s 2003 because of my Tiffany’s… and my terrible haircut. Ha! Truthfully, my 18th birthday (and the summer surrounding it), was a little rough. But, my best friend lit the candles and sang me Happy Birthday a little after midnight, and all was good. And by the way, the cake was German chocolate… my favorite.

Senior prom!

Senior prom!

I remember a very popular senior told me during my junior year that wearing a big, fluffy dress was “not the senior thing to do”. She wore a mermaid dress, and well, I wore a big, fluffy one. But I loved it, and even though I had to ask my date, and I think we didn’t really get along, I had a blast stomping around Circle Centre mall in this thing. After wearing it to prom, and later to a sorority formal, I took lots of pictures of it, and donated it to the Cinderella Project, which allows girls to choose from donated gowns, and alter them if they choose. While I love it the way it is, I think it would look cool shorter in the front, and long in the back. I will never know the fate of the dress, but we sure had some good times.

BBC: Fall Reading Guide.

Books to cozy up with this fall.

Books to cozy up with this fall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘The Secret Life of Cowboys’.

Happy Humpday! Blanche’s Book Club chose the latest read at random, among the shelves in the library. I really did sort of stumble up on it, thought the title was cool, and then saw a quote of praise on the back from Michael Perry, author of “Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren At A Time“, which is a book I absolutely LOVED. Just in case the title sounds interesting to you, here is the description from Amazon:

Welcome to New Auburn, Wisconsin, where the local vigilante is a farmer’s wife armed with a pistol and a Bible, the most senior member of the volunteer fire department is a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both of whom work at the only gas station in town), and the back roads are haunted by the ghosts of children and farmers. Against a backdrop of fires and tangled wrecks, bar fights and smelt feeds, Population: 485 is a comic and sometimes heartbreaking true tale leavened with quieter meditations on an overlooked America.

So, anyway, the book I picked up and read was “The Secret Life of Cowboys” by Tom Groneburg. Here is the description from Amazon:

In this classic memoir, a young man facing a future he doesn’t want to claim has an inspiration—Go West. Tom Groneberg leaves behind friends and family, follows his heart, and heads to a resort town in the Colorado Rockies, where he earns his spurs as a wrangler leading tourists on horseback. Later, Groneberg moves to Montana, where he works for wages at a number of ranches before buying his own ranch. Demystifying the image of cowboys as celluloid heroes,The Secret Life of Cowboys is a coming-of-age story as stunning as the land itself and a revealing look at America’s last frontier. 

Okay, yes, Tom Groneburg leaves behind his family and his friends – he leaves traditional college life as we know it and learns to be a proper ranch hand, by being thrown into the work and simply doing it every single day. But, Groneburg did have the love of his life by his side, so he wasn’t alone in that sense.

A few scenes in this book really got me – like when Groneburg learned to build a fence for cattle, and it took him hours to simply dig a hole, get the post in, and then start threading wires. He learned to lead horse trail rides for tourists, and dig a well to get water to his freezing cabin. The guy lived off barely any money, worked at all hours, and even learned how to ride a rodeo horse in an arena, decades after most people should.

I loved the courage in this book, despite the fact that I could relate to barely anything in it. A review from David Abrams in January Magazine sums it up nicely:

The Secret Life of Cowboys is a first-rate account of men and women whose lives revolve around hard land and stubborn animals. Through his portraits of ranchers, wranglers and rodeo champs, Groneberg goes beneath the stereotype of saddles, saloons and sagebrush.

Good-bye, John Wayne. So long, Gary Cooper. It’s time for you to ride into the sunset of mythology. This a book that tells it like it is, showing both the joys and the dark agonies of life in the modern American West. What Frank McCourt did for Irish poverty, Groneberg does for Montana ranching.

Truth be told, this book is not so much about the hidden secrets of cowboys as it is about Tom Groneberg, disillusioned kid from Chicago who goes west in search of purpose. “I chased a dream and it kicked me in the teeth,” he writes. “Yet I find myself falling for it again and again.” It’s a cliché from the Me Generation, but Groneberg does”find himself” in the hard work, the unforgiving land, and the company of horses.

If you’ve ever ridden a horse, fantasized about the west, or hell, been fascinated by a sunset – this book is for you.

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 birthday edition!

Ba-da-da-da-da!!!! Today is kitty Blanche’s 3rd birthday, so naturally, Blanche and I are sleeping off our raging hangovers (she’s 21 in cat years now, y’all).

No, actually, I’m at work and Blanche gets to stay at home, living the life of luxury all day. Lucky duck! To celebrate, Blanche got a special helping of soft food for breakfast. I gave her a gift early, because I just couldn’t wait: a bright yellow stool from IKEA so she can sit on it and watch birds all day.

Blanche's lookout point.

Blanche’s lookout point.

If the point hasn’t been made clear, I’m a total, loud and proud #CatLady – even though I only have one cat. Everything about my life pretty much revolves around my cat, and I’m fine with it. The funny thing about the stool is that, for some odd reason, I let Blanche BORROW my desk stool to sit at the window and bird watch.

But it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t getting it back. So, I bought her one for herself and took back my original desk stool. I may or may not decorate hers with colorful paints and or glitter. We’ll see. She also got a “smartycat” from my friend, which is one of those motion toys that’s really going to get the party started.

Being that Blanche’s birthday is today, I’ve been thinking a lot about our short time together so far. The truth is, Blanche has been the wildest kitty I’ve had as of yet. She’s got long, crazy hair, sharp claws (and teeth), and a very sassy attitude. But, this pretty kitty came into my life when I was dating an emotionally abusive alcoholic. She was there for many nights when I cried myself to sleep, and when he tried to break into my apartment.

She’s been with me through unemployment, retail life, late nights, and of course, our move to Austin (and she was silent a majority of the 7-hour drive). Blanche was a shelter kitty and was discovered with her mom and siblings in the attic of a school in Baton Rouge. In a way, we saved each other. That’s a cat that deserves some spoiling, amiright? Probably not, but we’re rolling with it. So, Happy Birthday to my wild-eyed, beautiful kitty, Blanche Devereaux!

Before I forget, if you entered the contest yesterday, you won! Congrats to Samantha and my mom, Anna! You should expect an email from Green Chef (sent yesterday).

So, that brings us to BBC, Blanche’s Book Club! We’ve finished reading book #2 for the club, and it’s a real success with the whopping two members on board (one of them being Blanche). But, it’s not a popularity contest. So, our latest read was “The Lair, The Bitch and the Wardrobe” by Allie Kingsley.

From the back of the book:

If you’re going to step on people on your way to the top, you might as well do it in stilettos . . .

. . . Or so she’s been told. Lucy Butler, former wallflower, lands her dream job working for her idol, world-famous fashion photographer Stefano Lepres. But in a world where getting doused in coffee for not getting the order right is the new normal, she isn’t getting any closer to her ideal of being behind the camera herself. Then a superstar actress generously takes Lucy under her wing and teaches her the ways of the rich and famous—treating her to racks of designer clothes and introducing her to a life of private planes and penthouse suites. Soon Lucy is dating a rock star, attending the hottest Hollywood parties, and dressing the part.

Lost in the luxury, she loses sight of the things that once mattered most. It’s going to take a hard blow from the high life to send Lucy back to the real life she always wanted.

 I know it’s kind of early in the year to say this, but this would be a great pool/beach read. It’s lite, sexy, glamorous, edgy, and in parts, laugh-out-loud funny. I’ll admit, it took me a few chapters before I really got into this book, but after that, I pretty much finished it in one sitting.

It’s got mixed reviews on Good Reads, but has some interesting books linked with it in the whole “Other readers enjoyed…” including “The Big Bang” by Linda Joffe Hull (think: Desperate Housewives), “At Least You’re in Tuscany: A Somewhat Diastrous Quest for the Sweet Life” is Jennifer Criswell (memoir: moving from NYC to Tuscany), and “Lucy Gets Her Life Back” by Stef Ann Holm (single mom, super drama).

While I’m fairly certain this is Kingley’s only book of her own, she’s worked in the fashion industry for many years, and worked with Nikki Hilton to publish her book – pretty cool. Plus, she’s got gorgeous red hair, and who doesn’t love a red head?

The next book BBC will be reading is “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith, the second book in the Cormoran Strike Series. If you want to contribute to the discussion, leave a comment, email me at Holly@thebitterlemon.com, Snap me or DM me @OrangeJulius7 or whatever you have to do. Or, you can send me a book title to read, but I’m not making any promises, folks. It’s the non-committal book club you’ve always dreamed of!

And what that, I’m signing off until Monday! Prep yourselves for an amazing week of blogs starting right here, on Monday. Muah!