Hellooooo! I’m happy to report that I’m back on the giant sleeping pills and those seem to be working for the time-being. I am still very much into reading as my form of escape, but am slowly getting back into some of my favorite creative endeavors. My blog course at UT is back in session, I made some new jewelry for my Etsy shop, and I’m taking the weekend to get into some new adventures.
But, I’m amped about the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. I know I’m about 7 years late to the game on this one, but here is the description from Amazon.com:
The perennially bestselling, extraordinary, one-of-a-kind, “nothing short of spectacular” (Entertainment Weekly) memoir from one of the world’s most gifted storytellers.
The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.
The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.
The Glass Castle is truly astonishing—a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.
That last line is so true; there were times I just sat with my jaw wide open while reading this book. It’s sometimes difficult to believe it’s a true story. This is a pull-yourself-up tale for an entire family, and they do so in very interesting ways.
I remain amazed at how much Jeannette Walls remembered from her childhood – mainly because I assume trauma would block most of it out. There are graphic details about hunger, the disgusting things they ended up eating, and their incredibly poor living conditions. I can’t say, “I can’t imagine” because Walls described it so well, I could see it vividly in my mind.
This book is so well-written, and the story so layered… there were SO many lines I wrote down in my trusty notebook:
- I didn’t have the answers to these questions, but what I did know was that I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire.
- We’d rolled down the windows, and maps and art paper and cigarette ashes were whipping around our heads.
- Every night for the first few weeks, lying on my cardboard mattress and listening to the sound of rainwater dripping into the kitchen, I dreamed of the desert and the sun and the big house in Phoenix with the palm tree in the front and the orange trees and oleanders in the back.
- I stirred it as hard as I could and kept stirring even after I knew the paint was ruined, because I also knew that we’d never get more, and instead of a freshly painted yellow house, or even a dingy gray one, we now had a weird-looking half-finished patch job – one that announced to the world that the people inside the house wanted to fix it up but lacked the gumption to get the work done.
- But a newspaper reporter, instead of holing up isolation, was in touch with the rest of the world. What the reporter wrote influenced what people thought about and talked about the next day; he knew what was really going on. I decided I wanted to be one of the people who knew what was really going on.
- “And I’ll build the Glass Castle, I swear it. We’ll all live in it together. It’ll be a hell of a lot better than any apartment you’ll find in New York City, I can guaran-goddam-tee that.”
I loved this book. So, now I need to see the movie!
…I’m too late to see it in the theatres, so I may have to wait until it comes out on DVD.
But yes, I’m recommending this to anyone who needs some inspiration right now, to anyone who loves true stories, and to anyone who can relate to a tough childhood.
The next book we’ll be reading is “The Queen of Hearts” by Kimmery Martin.
Hello! It’s Friday and I’m just rolling right on through my reading list. Usually, I use my library reserve list to choose the order in which I read books (when it comes time to pick up, that’s the book I read next), but given my recent loss, I saw this book was on the shelf and decided to go ahead and read it.
I’m talking about “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss” by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt.
Last year, when the accompanying documentary came out (“Nothing Left Unsaid“), I watched it immediately – I also wrote a review on it. I have always admired Anderson Cooper, have watched him for years on CNN, and saw him in-person with Andy Cohen last year.
Before I go any further, here is the official description of the book from Amazon.com:
A touching and intimate correspondence between Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, offering timeless wisdom and a revealing glimpse into their lives
Though Anderson Cooper has always considered himself close to his mother, his intensely busy career as a journalist for CNN and CBS affords him little time to spend with her. After she suffers a brief but serious illness at the age of ninety-one, they resolve to change their relationship by beginning a year-long conversation unlike any they had ever had before. The result is a correspondence of surprising honesty and depth in which they discuss their lives, the things that matter to them, and what they still want to learn about each other.
Both a son’s love letter to his mother and an unconventional mom’s life lessons for her grown son, The Rainbow Comes and Goes offers a rare window into their close relationship and fascinating life stories, including their tragedies and triumphs. In these often humorous and moving exchanges, they share their most private thoughts and the hard-earned truths they’ve learned along the way. In their words their distinctive personalities shine through—Anderson’s journalistic outlook on the world is a sharp contrast to his mother’s idealism and unwavering optimism.
An appealing memoir with inspirational advice, The Rainbow Comes and Goes is a beautiful and affectionate celebration of the universal bond between a parent and a child, and a thoughtful reflection on life, reminding us of the precious insight that remains to be shared, no matter our age.
The documentary and the book are obviously based on the same collection of information, but the book is the collection of emails between Cooper and Vanderbilt, which was really interesting.
It’s funny to me how much we don’t know about our families, or even our parents – or maybe it’s just me. But even someone as famous as Gloria Vanderbilt had a bit of a mysterious past to her son. Here are some quotes I took note of during my reading:
- “I know now that it’s never too late to change the relationship you have with someone important in your life… all it takes is a willingness to be honest and to shed your old skin, to let go of the long-standing assumptions and slights you still cling to.”
- “I’ve often thought of loss as a kind of language. Once learned, it’s never forgotten.”
- “I no longer imagine a diamond at my secret core. Instead, I see shimmering flashes of moonlight on the calm of a midnight sea.”
One topic they didn’t discuss in-depth was the suicide of Anderson’s brother, which Vanderbilt was witness to. It’s talked about extensively in the documentary.
All in all, it was a great read, and inspiring – get to know people you care about! I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves memoirs, and of course, fans of Anderson Cooper and/or Gloria Vanderbilt.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer.
I hope you all have a great weekend – I have another batch of blogs planned for next week! I think it’s safe to say, I am slowly getting my creativity back. Talk soon!
When it rains, it sure does pour. I know I have vaguely referenced a family emergency I dealt with last week, and frankly, I’m have a really difficult time getting through each day. I’m not big on prayer, but if you are, I’d appreciate some strength and peace my way. I could use good vibes, too.
One day, I’ll get around to writing what’s on my mind, but right now, I’m still just too upset. Thank you so much.
Today, I want to talk about my latest read, “My Life in France” by Julia Child. This book has been on my list for quite awhile, and one day when I didn’t have any library reserves to pick up, I just browsed the shelves and saw that it was there!
I wasn’t sure what to expect reading this book… but the truth is, I LOVED IT! Here’s the description from Amazon:
The bestselling story of Julia’s years in France—and the basis for Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams—in her own words.
Although she would later singlehandedly create a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, Julia Child was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Julia’s unforgettable story—struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took the Childs across the globe—unfolds with the spirit so key to Julia’s success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of America’s most endearing personalities.
I thought it was so cool that Julia didn’t really find her calling until she was in her mid-to-late thirties. Once she found it, she certainly conquered it! She wrote one of the most popular cookbooks of all time, and was given a TV show before TV was even widespread!
I really loved hearing the stories about her cat, “Minuette” (I believe that’s how she spelled it) – there were pictures of the cat, too. She would get scraps from the butcher to feed it and it would growl at animal bones!
“These were the Top Secret Confidential censored pages: our revolutionary recipes for holiandaise, mayonnaise, and buerre blanc.”
Julia and her co-authors kept their recipes top secret because of all the work, research, and testing that went into them. Even though it was recipes for French cooking, they asked for help in the US to get measurements and consistencies right.
“I apologized to the neighbor, and bought little rubber caps for the legs of our chairs, stools, and tables, plus some real French house slippers so that Paul and I could shuffle about life an old bourgeouis couple.”
I simply loved the way this book was written – definitely recommending it to my foodies!
The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.
I’m off to San Antonio this weekend, and I’m hoping I can catch a bit of a distraction from…well, everything.
Thanks again for respecting my space to vent and write and hopefully find inner-peace.
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!
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!
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!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.
I’ve been reading the same book for, like, seven months. And it’s not a thick book, it’s an easy, fun read. I’ve just only looked at it about twice.
And why? Let me explain that I used to read ALL. THE. TIME. There were years, not long ago, where I read 25 books a year. As a writer, I feel it is my job to keep up with other writers. And, when I was learning to write, a great writer once told me that in order to BE a great writer, you must read great writing.
So, I’ve read a ton of books. But there’s a ton more out there I want to read. It’s not that I don’t want to read. I blame my lack of reading on last year, when I was constantly (and I do mean constantly) working to make ends meet.
But this year is different! So, I’m ready to finish reading that book I started last year (The Liar, The Bitch, and The Wardrobe by Allie Kingsley), and start (and finish) a bunch of others.
I’ve had this goal in mind for awhile because, like I said, I really do love reading. I also love curling up on my couch, getting lost in a great book. It’s the perfect escape and I’m ready to get back to it. I even got a few bookstore gift cards for Christmas, so I’ve already started my stockpile.
You may recall that last year, I treated myself to two books: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith and The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Well, I still haven’t read them, so those are still on my list (it’s sad, I know).
But, here are some others I’m hoping to read this year:
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible–and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
In the New York Times bestseller that the Washington Post called “Lean In for misfits,” Sophia Amoruso shares how she went from dumpster diving to founding one of the fastest-growing retailers in the world.
A murder…A tragic accident…Or just parents behaving badly? Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive. What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.
In a series of linked cyanide capsules, Legends of the Chelsea Hotel tells the odd, funny, and often tragic truth of the writers, artists, and musicians; the famous and the obscure alike; who have fallen prey to the Chelsea.
Jennifer Weiner’s talent shines like never before in this collection of short stories, following the tender, often hilarious, progress of love and relationships over the course of a lifetime. The Guy Not Taken demonstrates Weiner’s amazing ability to create characters who “feel like they could be your best friend” (Janet Maslin) and to find hope and humor, longing and love in the hidden corners of our common experiences.
What books are you reading right now, or looking forward to reading this year? I’d love to add to my list!