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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: ‘Modern Lovers’.

I’m still coming off the summer reads, and at times I feel like by the time I get around to my “fall” reading, it’ll be winter! Oh well – it’s Friday, and that’s basically all that’s on my mind…

My latest read is “Modern Lovers” by Emma Straub, who you may recognize from her very popular first book, “The Vacationers.” Initially, I didn’t have a huge interest in reading “Modern Lovers”, but I kept noticing that it was ALWAYS checked out at the library!

Two things to note here: 1. Yes, I go to the library that often where I notice when certain things are missing on the shelf, and 2. It’s true, we always want what we can’t have. So, I finally got it. Here’s the scoop:

Back in the 1980s at Oberlin College, in Ohio, Elizabeth, Andrew, Zoe, and Lydia had a band called Kitty’s Mustache. Elizabeth wrote a song called “Mistress of Myself”; Lydia sang it and made it famous, but she died of a heroin overdose at age 27. Two decades later, Elizabeth and Andrew are married and have a son, Harry.

Living nearby in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park neighborhood are Zoe and her wife, Jane, with their daughter, Ruby. They own a neighborhood restaurant called Hyacinth. Midlife crises are roiling both marriages: Zoe and Jane are considering divorce; Andrew, the scion of wealthy parents, has never held a meaningful job and is now bemoaning his failure to find fulfillment, and Elizabeth sells real estate in Ditmas and feels responsible for everyone.

To further complicate matters, teenagers Harry and Ruby suddenly discover sex. Into this volatile mix comes a Hollywood producer who’s making a movie about Lydia and urgently needs the former band members to sign over their rights to the iconic song.

Straub (The Vacationers) spins her lighthearted but psychologically perceptive narrative with a sure touch as she captures the vibes of midlife, middle-class angst and the raging hormones of youth. Straub excels in establishing a sense of place: the narrative could serve as a map to gentrified Brooklyn; it’s that detailed and visually clear. Events move at a brisk pace, and surprises involving resurgent passion enliven the denouement. Readers will devour this witty and warmly satisfying novel.

If you can’t tell from the book’s description, there’s a lot going on in this book – that’s my fair warning. I’ll admit I didn’t love this book as a whole. There were portions of it that I really enjoyed – particularly the romance between Harry and Ruby. But, other parts of it moved slow, and this may be my own failing, as I’m not very good with books that have lots of characters, especially similar ones.

This book got rave reviews from critics, but equally mixed reviews from us normal folk – so it could very well be a tossup. I’d recommend this book to anyone who thinks they may be able to relate, and hey, I’m still not going to give up on Straub, as “The Vacationers” sounds pretty awesome.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Girl’s Guide to Moving On” by Debbie Macomber. Want to read it with us? Hit me up on SnapChat, Twitter, and Instagram @OrangeJulius7, leave a comment here, or shoot me an email at Holly@thebitterlemon.com to chat about it!

Meanwhile, I got home last night to find four giant houseflies in my apartment – YUCK! Where the hell did they come from is what I want to know, or do I? I was able to catch 3/4 in my bathroom, close the doors, and swatted at the suckers with a twisted towel. Killed them all and laughed like a psychopath, until I had to clean up the mess.

I then hunted around the apartment to see if I could spot any areas that may be contributing to the problem. I didn’t see anything of the obvious, but I wiped down my trashcans and cleaned out my garbage disposal. Any ideas out there? I’m hoping it was a one-time issue and that I won’t come home from work today to find MORE flies – ugh! I had a minor mosquito infestation just a few weeks ago that had me up at 3 am with my swatter. I ended up cleaning off my patio thinking perhaps there was some secret spot they were breeding.

Damn you, Texas, and your critters!

Anyway, I hope you all have a fantastic weekend ahead – I have a busy October planned, so I’m taking advantage of these final days of relaxation, and will probably be rolled up in my comforter for most of it… and I’ll be damned if I hear a fly buzzing overhead.

The Goldfinch.

I see you, Goldfinch.

I see you, Goldfinch.

Let’s throw a party, because I FINALLY finished Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch.” I don’t mean it to sound bad — it was a good book, but it was also very long — and I’ll tell you this: I may have a fantasy about being able to curl up in bed with a good book, but lately? I read two pages and am out like a light.

Blame it on the old age.

Anywho, The Goldfinch. Wow. What a detailed story filled with emotion; it’s very intense! I can’t imagine the research and the time it took Tartt to create such a piece; and I wonder how much of it was just drummed up in her imagination.

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I’ll tell you that The Goldfinch is the story of Theo. He attends an art museum with his mother in New York City, when a terrorist attacks the museum, via bomb. Theo’s mom, doesn’t make it out alive, but her favorite painting — that of a famous goldfinch — does, tucked under Theo’s arm.

The entire book is the remainder of Theo’s story, as a motherless child, and as a theft. It is a tale with many, many twists and turns.

Some of my favorite excerpts:

  • I started off loving the bird, the way you’d love a pet or something, and ended up loving the way he was painted.
  • Despite what I’d seen — what I knew — somehow I’d still managed to nurture a childish hope that he’d pull through, miraculously, like a murder victim on TV who after the commercial break turns out to be alive and recovering quietly in the hospital.
  • Light climbed and burst through the wild desert clouds—never-ending sky, acid blue, like a computer game or a test pilot’s hallucination.
  • But when I think of you, it’s as if you’ve gone away to sea on a ship—out in a foreign brightness where there are no paths, only stars and sky.
  • A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.

There were so many good lines in this book (many more than what I put here). I’ve been reading this book for so long, it felt a little weird when I finished it around midnight earlier this week. But, there’s a massive list of books I’ve been dying to read, so I’m ready to dive into something fresh.

To find out more on The Goldfinch or its author, Donna Tartt, check out my previous blog post here