Blog Archives

BBC: ‘Saints for All Occasions’.

Hey guys! Immediate apologies are in order, for posting this so LATE – yes it’s Friday at 10:15 pm and I’m finally sitting down to post today’s blog. But, I have so many books on my list of recommendations, there’s just no way I could skip an installation of “Blanche’s Book Club!

Also, thank you for all of the kind messages I got yesterday after posting my raw feelings; it’s scary putting something like that out there, and it’s nice to know people care. I really appreciate it, and I’m feeling much better after letting it all out.

I even talked to my boss about some of my work stress and she let me work from the comfort of my bed today, and for just a half day. It felt really nice!

I also dropped off all of the donations I bought last weekend for Harvey evacuees today, did my laundry, and even did my grocery shopping. I’m on a roll!

And so, the latest read – it’s “Saints for All Occasions” by J. Courtney Sullivan and here is the official description from Amazon.com:

A sweeping, unforgettable novel from The New York Times best-selling author of Maine, about the hope, sacrifice, and love between two sisters and the secret that drives them apart.

Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand.

Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, quietly preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora’s favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont.

Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together.

… I’m going to be honest here about a few things: 1. I saw this book on the shelf at a bookstore and FREAKED out because I love J. Courtney Sullivan, so 2. I immediately looked to see if the library had a copy and they did, so I put it on reserve, and 3. I read it without reading the description.

I don’t know if I would have picked this up if I’d read the description… I mean, I’m not really into catholicism or nuns. But, I read it, and I actually liked it. No, it’s not my favorite book by Sullivan (I love Maine), but it definitely sends you on a journey and made me think about something that I’d never thought of before (what it’d be like to be a nun).

I’d recommend this book if this AT ALL sounds interesting… because there’s no question Sullivan can write well.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman” by Anne Helen Peterson.

This morning, I added another new style to my Etsy shop (I’ve added 4 new styles this week), so check it out if you haven’t! I don’t have many plans this weekend – I could really use some rest, to be honest. I’m heading to dance in the morning, and will probably spend lots of time making some more jewelry – it’s proving to be pretty therapeutic!

I hope you all have a safe and fun weekend – if ANY of my readers live in Irma’s path – I’m sending you love and good vibes. Until Monday…xoxo

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BBC: ‘Gone Girl’.

Greetings, from Texas, i.e. Hurricane Harvey’s final destination! It’s been a crazy week – I was so worried about getting everything prepped for the Quesoff (which is scheduled for tomorrow), I finalized my recipe (will share next week), made a sign, bought a festive tablecloth, made business cards to give out, and dug out my table and extension cords… and now, I’m not even sure it’s happening!

As far as I know, this event is outside, and even though I live in central Texas, we are in a flash flood zone, not to mention all the rain that’s coming our way in just a few hours. I don’t particularly want to be serving queso under hurricane rain… But, I also know the Austin Food Bank could use our donations.

If my original weekend plans get rained out, go ahead and picture me in the apartment eating said queso with Blanche. There will probably be lots of reading, organizing, and trying not to open the fridge once the power goes out. Stay tuned.

Anyway, Blanche’s Book Club is behind the times BUT we finally got around to reading “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn.

Now, before we get into it, I’ll say that I let this book sit on my shelf for months (and more months) because everyone I know that read it didn’t really have good things to say about it. So, I was in no rush. I’ll also let you in on a little secret: I don’t really like books that are REAL popular (“The Fault in Our Stars” was an absolute exception).

While I was waiting on my library reserves, I decided to finally pick up this book. Here’s the description from Amazon:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 

Don’t worry, I’m not going to give anything away! But, I’ll say the way the first half of the book is written was definitely grasping at straws to frame the husband as the killer. Being a true-crime nut, I knew this just wasn’t going to be the case.

Naturally, the book has a pretty crazy twist or two, and I liked it. I read this book FAST, and I even stayed up until like 4am or something weird to finish it. It was easy to read, and definitely creepy as hell. A page-turner. If you’re in Texas right now and need plans to hold you over in the dark, grab your bag of tea lights and this book, and settle right in.

I saw the movie was also airing on TV around the time I was reading the book, so I recorded it and watched it within hours of putting the book down. I’m not a fan of Ben Affleck (he plays the husband), but the movie was a great adaptation of the book.

So, there you have it. I liked it. I liked it so much I want to check out Flynn’s other books: “Dark Places” and “Sharp Objects“.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one!

Have a good weekend everyone – if you’re in Harvey’s path, I’m wishing you luck and safety! See y’all next week 🙂

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!

BBC: ‘The Arrangement’.

Hello, hello! I’ve had a pretty good week over here – hope you all can say the same! I DID take three dance classes last night though, so I’m definitely sore today. However, I needed it!

But let’s jump right into the book review, because this one is a GOODIE. Here’s the official description from Amazon for “The Arrangement” by Sarah Dunn:

Lucy and Owen, ambitious, thoroughly-therapized New Yorkers, have taken the plunge, trading in their crazy life in a cramped apartment for Beekman, a bucolic Hudson Valley exurb. They’ve got a two hundred year-old house, an autistic son obsessed with the Titanic, and 17 chickens, at last count. It’s the kind of paradise where stay-at-home moms team up to cook the school’s “hot lunch,” dads grill grass-fed burgers, and, as Lucy observes, “chopping kale has become a certain kind of American housewife’s version of chopping wood.”

When friends at a wine-soaked dinner party reveal they’ve made their marriage open, sensible Lucy balks. There’s a part of her, though-the part that worries she’s become too comfortable being invisible-that’s intrigued. Why not try a short marital experiment? Six months, clear ground rules, zero questions asked. When an affair with a man in the city begins to seem more enticing than the happily-ever-after she’s known for the past nine years, Lucy must decide what truly makes her happy-“real life,” or the “experiment?”

I saw this on a Pinterest list (ugh, guilty) and I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant to pick it up. I’m really sensitive to any entertainment/pop culture that doesn’t respect women, or even discusses ideas that would degrade a woman.

But, it says the woman makes the decision to have an open marriage! So, I read it and I’m so glad I did. This book really takes a look at modern relationships, and how they might really turn out.

This was a quick, easy read, and it had just the right bit of sex appeal, while still highlighting some good writing. I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves a good romance novel – with a twist, of course.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Some Kind of Happiness“, a YA novel by Claire Legrand.

I have got an entire weekend of NOTHING planned – although I do need to work on my queso skills. You might recall I entered myself in a queso contest and it’s officially two weeks away and I have done nothing to prepare. Yikes!

Other than that, it might just be me, in bed, watching made-for-Hallmark Channel movies. I am not ashamed! I hope you guys have some fun out there; I’ll be right back here on Monday!

BBC: “On Turpentine Lane’.

Congrats – you made it! I feel like I always go into a short week thinking it’s going to be so awesome, but then it ends up being more difficult than a regular week. I don’t know about you, but between getting things back to “normal” after time off, paired with a weird work week and basically NO regular programming on TV, this week was rough!

I don’t know why, but after my trip to Indiana, I was seriously on the struggle bus, until possibly yesterday. I drank everything, ate everything, and barely slept – I can’t believe I stayed up until at least 3 am everyyyyy night on vacation! It’s no wonder I slept for 12 hours a night once I returned.

I went to dance a few times this week, and although it kicked my butt, I definitely think it has helped my brain and body get back on track. I’ll admit, it also encouraged me to walk the rest of my birthday cake right on out to the dumpster. Only clean eating for this girl!

Anyway, it’s another Friday, which means another book to review! I actually saw this one on a Pinterest list and thought it sounded interesting. I ended up seeing it on the audio shelf at the library and listened to it during my road trip to Baton Rouge.

What book? It’s “On Turpentine Lane” by Elinor Lipman. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com:

At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. It’s a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state). And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he’s Chagall. 

When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence . . . 

Elinor Lipman may well have invented the screwball romantic comedy for our era, and here she is at her sharpest and best. On Turpentine Lane is funny, poignant, and a little bit outrageous. 

I’ll admit, the part about her troubled dating life had me hooked when I picked up this book. But once I got into reading it, her fiance became VERY annoying, very quickly. There is nothing at stake if the reader doesn’t have sympathy for its main character… and I definitely don’t have sympathy for someone who puts up with this dude’s shenanigans.
However, there’s a B plot working its way through the book that’s creepy as hell, and keeps this book rolling until the end. Don’t worry, no spoilers! But, if you’re into lite-mysteries, I’d say this one is worth checking out.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is, “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline (yeah, get REALLY excited for this one).
I hope you all have a great weekend – I honestly don’t have too much planned aside from taking a dance class, probably doing some reading, and watching my way through my DVR… shameless, chill weekend! See you right back here on Monday!

BBC: ‘The Night We Said Yes’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a safe and fun weekend!

BBC: ‘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: ‘Bittersweet’.

Happy Friday/Holiday-weekend Eve! Don’t you love that Friday feeling – knowing that you’re about to do whatever the heck you want for three whole days? Yep, that’s a great feeling. I always look forward to Memorial Day weekend – it’s festive in a no-pressure kind of way, and it’s the true sign that summer is coming.

Speaking of summer, the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club – “Bittersweet” by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore – is perfect for the season! Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Suspenseful and cinematic, Bittersweet exposes the gothic underbelly of an idyllic world of privilege and an outsider’s hunger to belong.

On scholarship at a prestigious East Coast college, ordinary Mabel Dagmar is surprised to befriend her roommate, the beautiful, wild, blue-blooded Genevra Winslow. Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer at Bittersweet, her cottage on the Vermont estate where her family has been holding court for more than a century. Mabel falls in love with midnight skinny-dipping, the wet dog smell that lingers near the yachts, and the moneyed laughter that carries across the still lake while fireworks burst overhead. Before she knows it, she has everything she’s ever wanted: friendship, a boyfriend, access to wealth, and, most of all, for the first time in her life, the sense that she belongs.

But as Mabel becomes an insider, a terrible discovery leads to shocking violence and reveals what the Winslows may have done to keep their power intact–and what they might do to anyone who threatens them. Mabel must choose: either expose the ugliness surrounding her and face expulsion from paradise, or keep the family’s dark secrets and make Ev’s world her own.

This book randomly grabbed my attention – I found it on Pinterest about a month ago. I have always liked this idea of elite families, especially the ones with old money and Vermont estates. This book has that, plus a few very dark twists that I didn’t expect. I found this book to be very visual while reading it, which is one of my favorite things about reading.

Mabel’s character is easily relatable, while Ev is that girl we all know – very slender, fashion-forward, money-rich, and looking for love in all the wrong places. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a little bit of a mysterious escape.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah, from “The Daily Show”. Should be an interesting one!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hoping to scoot out of the office a little early and get this weekend started! My original plans of lounging by the pool all weekend have been squashed by the prediction of less than stellar weather. Instead, I made a list of indoor activities to keep me busy, including: seeing “Baywatch”, shopping, two dance classes (one is for charity and I cannot wait!), hair appointment, and of course, cooking up some new recipes! And okay… maybe I’ll add in some TV time, too.

I hope you all have a fun, safe weekend! I’m going to give myself Monday off from blogging, but I’ll be right back here on Tuesday!

BBC: ‘Rest In Power’.

I heard about this book, “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin” when Trayvon Martin’s parents appeared as guests on a recent episode of “The Daily Show”. They’d taken their story, which started when Trayvon was born, and put it into print for all to read.

And I immediately added my name to the reserve list at the library. It took a few months for my name to be at the top of the list, but it finally happened, and I read a majority of this book in one day. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Trayvon Martin’s parents take readers beyond the news cycle with an account only they could give: the intimate story of a tragically foreshortened life and the rise of a movement.

On a February evening in 2012, in a small town in central Florida, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was walking home with candy and a can of juice in hand and talking on the phone with a friend when a fatal encounter with a gun-wielding neighborhood watchman ended his young life. The watchman was briefly detained by the police and released. Trayvon’s father—a truck driver named Tracy—tried to get answers from the police but was shut down and ignored. Trayvon’s mother, a civil servant for the city of Miami, was paralyzed by the news of her son’s death and lost in mourning, unable to leave her room for days. But in a matter of weeks, their son’s name would be spoken by President Obama, honored by professional athletes, and passionately discussed all over traditional and social media. And at the head of a growing nationwide campaign for justice were Trayvon’s parents, who—driven by their intense love for their lost son—discovered their voices, gathered allies, and launched a movement that would change the country.

Five years after his tragic death, Travyon Martin’s name is still evoked every day. He has become a symbol of social justice activism, as has his hauntingly familiar image: the photo of a child still in the process of becoming a young man, wearing a hoodie and gazing silently at the camera. But who was Trayvon Martin, before he became, in death, an icon? And how did one black child’s death on a dark, rainy street in a small Florida town become the match that lit a civil rights crusade?

Rest in Power, told through the compelling alternating narratives of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, answers, for the first time, those questions from the most intimate of sources. It’s the story of the beautiful and complex child they lost, the cruel unresponsiveness of the police and the hostility of the legal system, and the inspiring journey they took from grief and pain to power, and from tragedy and senselessness to meaning. 

While reading this book made my heart break all over again for Trayvon, for his family, his friends, and for the live he didn’t get to live, it opened my eyes to a lot of new details I didn’t know before: like just how secretive the Sanford Police Department was to his family; and how many of the “facts” in the case simply don’t add up.

A friend of my questioned why I was reading this book. For one, I am very sensitive to racial injustice, and it is one of the topics that gets me most fired up because to me, it is very obvious that we are surrounded by institutional racism, and I feel it is my job as a woman with white privilege to speak out against what I know is wrong.

But I also know that even at his core, Trayvon is innocent. He was victim-blamed, despite not being armed at all, his school records were subpoenaed even though he was a minor, and many people talked about his past – maybe he stole this or maybe he smoked weed. But walking while black is not a crime, and he died for it.

I am very thankful for Trayvon’s parents for having the courage to write this book, along with the bravery to continue to fight for justice for their son, and for many, many others who have fallen in the name of unjustified violence. Although we still have a very long way to go, the conversation is forever changed, and I know Trayvon will never be forgotten.

I absolutely would recommend this book to anyone, especially if you didn’t pay attention to this case (or any that followed). The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “My Year With Eleanor” by Noelle Hancock.

I hope you have a fun, fantastic weekend – make it a great one, and do something good for someone else! I’ll see you all on the flipside!

BBC: ‘The Unexpected Everything’.

Hey, hey! We made it to the end of the week! I still have a busy day ahead, but I’m a big fan of the Friday energy, so I’ll take it. I’m excited to tell you about this book I read, so I’ll jump right in.

It’s a YA novel called, “The Unexpected Everything” by Morgan Matson. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com:

Andie must learn to embrace the beauty in chaos in this New York Times bestselling novel about friendship, finding yourself, and all the joys in life that happen while you’re busy making other plans.

Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.

Future? A top-tier medical school.
Dad? Avoid him as much as possible (which isn’t that hard considering he’s a Congressman and he’s never around).
Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby—pretty much the most awesome people on the planet, who needs anyone else?
Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.

So it’s no surprise that Andie has her summer all planned out too.

Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all—working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?

Dun, dun dun! I’ll be honest, I didn’t even read the description before I put myself on the reserve list at the library for this one. I stumbled across it on a reading list from Lauren Conrad, and since I L O V E her, I wanted to read it right away.

What the book ended up being was a fun, breezy ride through a summer romance amidst clouds of teenage chaos. I’ve been running down memory lane a lot lately, and this book catered to my homesick self. It was a fun read, with a well-crafted plot.

Morgan Matson is also the author of “Since You’ve Been Gone“, and I’m adding this one to my list of books that will be acceptable to read while at the pool. I certainly enjoyed “The Unexpected Everything” so much, that I think her other book would be good, too.

I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves YA novels, and especially if you liked John Green’s “Paper Towns”.

The next book the Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin“. I just started reading this book last night, and wow am I excited to get INTO it! I hope you’ll read it along with me this week.

And that’s that! I have a busy weekend planned, but I’m looking forward to some fun. I hope you’ve got some good stuff lined up, and I’ll catch you on the flip side.

BBC: ‘Two by Two’.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I almost ran out and bought a box of Lucky Charms last night so I could eat it today for good luck – but I know I legit just wanted anything sugary because sometimes you just have to treat yourself. I didn’t (I had egg whites and spinach instead), but the day isn’t over.

In other news, my latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Two by Two” by Nicholas Sparks! This book came out in October of last year, and I’ve pretty much been on a waiting list at the library ever since – that’s how much everyone loves Nicholas Sparks. Here’s the scoop:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with an emotionally powerful story of unconditional love, its challenges, its risks and most of all, its rewards.

At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear…and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down. In a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to a new and baffling reality. Throwing himself into the wilderness of single parenting, Russ embarks on a journey at once terrifying and rewarding-one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined.

…Sounds basically like every other Nicholas Sparks’ book, right? Kinda. I’m being serious when I say I love Nicholas Sparks. He’s obviously found a formula that works, as he has published what – 20 books – or so? And I also like that I pretty much know what I’m going to get when I settle in with one of his stories.

The chances are likely that it will be the story of a man and a woman, and will involve a third-party of some sort. The main characters will be too good to be true – nice, gorgeous, hard-working, etc. The third-party will be an asshole, a drunk, a gold digger, or an abusive prick. The story will be punctuated with homemade dinners, wine, and late nights, and yes, there will be a sad part.

“Two by Two” meets this mold to a degree. But I’ll be honest, at first, the lead male was really ticking me off. He was definitely not perfect, and he painted his wife out to be a whiny, superficial B. But why?!???!

I present to you, Exhibit A: an excerpt from a People magazine article, dated January 6, 2015:

There will be no storybook ending for Nicholas Sparks and his wife Cathy – the woman who inspired so many of the best-selling author’s novels.

The king of the love story, who has penned 17 romantic novels – nine of which, including The Notebook, have been made into movies – is splitting from his wife of 25 years.

So, bitter much?! Now that Sparks is single (or, no longer married), he’s going to paint the women in his books to be greedy whores!

In all honesty, this was probably the lengthiest book in Sparks’ collection, and I read 95% of it one day. So, it still makes for a laid-back, easy read that moves quickly. And yes, it would make a great movie.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Settle for More” by Megyn Kelly (oohhh ahhhhh…). I hope you’ll read it with us!

And to all, I hope you have a happy and safe weekend. I’ll be… trying not to eat an entire box of Lucky Charms in a single sitting.

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: ‘Today Will Be Different’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘Big Little Lies’.

Hey, hey! We all made it to Friday! I’m actually working from home today, so the fact that I get to stay in my comfy pjs and have the TV on is basically like I’ve already made it to the weekend.

Last night, I finished reading the latest installment in Blanche’s Book Club: “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty. I read “What Alice Forgot” by Moriarty last year and loved it, so I was really excited to read this book, especially before the HBO series on the book begins in mid-February.

Here’s the book’s description from “Big Little Lies”:

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…
A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly?  
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

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.

…As you can tell, there’s a lot going on in this book! I don’t want to give anything away, but I’ll say a little about it. 1. The first chapter was a little weird to get into just because I wasn’t really sure what kind of story I was about to jump into. 2. Once things get going, it was a difficult book to put down. 3. This is going to make for a dramaaaaatic TV series!

Without being obvious about it, this book really talks a lot about society in terms of class/financial status, the behavior of children, marriage, and keeping up appearances. I would definitely recommend this book!

So, I’m not sure if this is weird or not, but I actually purchased this book (I usually get all of my books from the library), and since I’m dabbling into minimalism, I was going to put it in my donate pile. But if I’ve got a reader out there that would like my (very gently used copy) – simply become a fan of The Bitter Lemon Facebook page, and leave a comment that includes a book recommendation for me, and I’ll draw a number this weekend for the winner. Cool?

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Today Will Be Different” by Maria Semple. Want to read along with us? Simply start reading and leave comments on the blog, or contact me through social media @OrangeJulius7 to get the book chatter going. The joys of non-committal book clubs!

Before I go for the weekend, I do want to say that I didn’t have enough time this week to gather my thoughts on the passing of the beloved Mary Tyler Moore. My mom has always been a big fan of hers, so I grew up knowing about her and have always loved her as Mary Richards.

Much like any pioneer woman, Mary did things before her time, and normalized the things women take for granted today – like being single, successful, independent, and confident. Here’s a bit of info I wrote about “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in a previous blog post (read the full post here):

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ran for seven seasons, beginning in 1970 — a time when America was going through political change, and women were beginning to experience economic freedom. Feminism was spreading, women were granted the right to vote, and in 1973, women were granted the right to an abortion.

But as the show premiered, the idea of women having freedom was new, so a show about a girl — a single girl — moving out on her own to establish a career was a fresh idea. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was the “Sex and the City” of its time.

Starring Mary Tyler Moore (obviously), Valerie Harper (Rhoda), Cloris Leachman (Phyllis), Ted Knight (Ted Baxter), Edward Asner (Lou), and Gavin MacLeod (Murray), the show is centered around Mary and her adventures in working and dating.

What I love about the show is that, aside from its already shocking plot (single woman on her own!!!), the show covers issues that are relevant today, even 40 years later, including equal pay for women, premarital sex, addiction, homosexuality, divorce, infidelity, prostitution, death, adoption, infertility, and heart health.

She was a voice – in many ways – for women that would come after her. And she always will be.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – and don’t forget to comment on the Facebook page if you want the book! See you all Monday – xoxo!

Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it’s you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it
 
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can never tell, why don’t you take it
You’re gonna make it after all.

BBC: “Still Life”.

Happy Friday the 13th – Mwahahahaha! It’s my last day at my current job, and on Monday I’ll be skipping to someplace new, and of course, I’ll be sharing the next leg of my journey with you.

But today, I want to talk about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read, “Still Life” by Louise Penny. I heard lots about this book from a podcast (“What Should I Read Next?”) that I listen to each week. The host of the show recommended this book to fans of Robert Galbraith’s (AKA J.K. Rowling) Cormoran Strike series – which I love.

The Louise Penny series – which by the way, I don’t think it’s an actual series as in, I don’t think you have to read them in order (or do you?), but either way, I know you could just pick up any one of the books and read them without having read the ones before it or continuing to read the ones after it.

However, I did start with book one of the group, because I do plan on reading several of them – there are 12 in total, plus a new book that’s coming out in August. Here’s the description for “Still Life” 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.

You can find all of the Chief Inspector Gamache series books here, and this is the order they were published in, just in case you want to tackle them in order: “Still Life”, “A Fatal Grace”, “The Cruelest Month”, “A Rule Against Murder”, “The Brutal Telling”, “Bury Your Dead”, “A Trick of the Light”, “The Beautiful Mystery”, “How the Light Gets In”, “The Long Way Home”, The Nature of the Beast”, and “A Great Reckoning” (the new book coming out in August).

All of the books take place in Three Pines, a small village in Canada. The author, Louise Penny, lives in a small Canadian village, too, so perhaps she took a lot of inspiration from her own life. If you decide to get into the books, there are lots of discussion boards and even recipes inspired by the books posted on the website!

I will admit “Still Life” was a little slow during the first two chapters, but quickly picked up and was a joy to read. I definitely see how fans of the Cormoran Strike series would also enjoy this group of books.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick. I’m so excited to read this book!

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – if you’ve got a three-day weekend then I’m super jealous! I’m going to be cooking some more recipes from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, taking my second pilates class of the week (making it my 7th workout class this week), giving myself a mani and pedi as I prep for my new job, and in general just getting my life together! If you’re following me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7, I’m certain you’ll see it all go down.

See you here on Monday!