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Birthday goodies!

Happy birthday girl.

That’s right, I celebrated a birthday earlier this month. While I don’t like to make a big scene about my birthday, I was really excited to be surrounded by cakes, balloons, and I even got sung to, twice! Lucky, lucky girl right here.

I usually spend my birthday with reflection heavy on the brain, but this year, I lounged by the pool and sipped on a peach + wine slushee (get the recipe here). And honestly, I got some pretty cool gifts! I know, I know, that’s not what birthdays are about, but I thought I’d share some of my favorites in case you’re looking to shop for someone on your list.

Laura Geller Summer Goddess Collection – I have gotten a few Laura Geller samples in my monthly Birchbox and continue to be impressed with the quality of this makeup. So, I was pretty amped to get this four-piece collection of full-size products! It comes with Spackle Tinted Make-Up Primer in Champagne (sheer soft gold), Baked Body Frosting Face & Body Glow in Tahitian Glow (mélange of swirled tan, cream and pearly pink), Dramalash Maximum Volumizing Mascara in Black, and Fifty Kisses Lip Locking Liquid Color in Beige Bite (rich nude).

So far, I’ve used the bronzer and the lip color – both I love. The bronzer is the perfect mix of color and highlighter, and even helps to cover redness. The lip color is good for every day, and stays on ALL day with a matte finish. I love it! You can purchase this collection at Ulta.

Q&A a Day 5-Year Journal – This was such a surprise gift, and kind of just what I needed without really knowing it! I’ve always had trouble keeping up with a diary, or a journal, but I’ve read so much recently about the benefits of doing so. This journal is good for five years, and provides a simple question for you to answer each day. This means you can keep a record of your years, but with less of a hassle – I love it! I started writing in it a week ago, and I’m excited to keep it going and then look back at my entries. You can get this journal on Amazon.

Rhinestone Trinket Box – Earlier this year, I met my mom and best friend in Vegas. For my birthday, my mom surprised me with a small, sparkly trinket box in the shape of a fortune cookie, which she bought in Vegas (this isn’t the exact one, but it’s really close). It’s gold, which goes with pretty much everything I own, not to mention that I love keeping my fortunes – especially if they have my lucky numbers on them.

Girl and Dragon Malbec – As a wine lover, any occasion for gifts brings an opportunity for wine. I will always drink wine, and if you’re ever in questions as to what to get me, it’s wine. I will never get enough and I’m always look to taste something new. So, I was pumped when I got a bottle of Girl and Dragon Malbec, which had a cool label (because of course), and later, I found out they’ve won loads of awards. I drank it with homemade vegetarian lo mein and it was scrumptious. You can purchase a bottle on their website.

“The Year of Voting Dangerously” by Maureen Dowd – I don’t often ask for books or buy books because I borrow so many from the library. But this book in particular, has been on my list, and isn’t available at the library. Here’s the description from AmazonTrapped between two candidates with the highest recorded unfavorables, Americans are plunged into The Year of Voting Dangerously. In this perilous and shocking campaign season, The New York Times columnist traces the psychologies and pathologies in one of the nastiest and most significant battles of the sexes ever. Dowd has covered Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton since the ’90s. She was with the real estate mogul when he shyly approached his first Presidential rope line in 1999, and she won a Pulitzer prize that same year for her penetrating columns on the Clinton impeachment follies. Like her bestsellers, Bushworld and Are Men Necessary?, THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY will feature Dowd’s trademark cocktail of wry humor and acerbic analysis in dispatches from the political madhouse. If America is on the escalator to hell, then THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY is the perfect guide for this surreal, insane ride. …And now I can officially add it to my reading list!

Miss Spa facial masks – Much like wine, face masks are another thing I can’t get enough of. If you’re ever wondering what I’m up to, the chances are very likely that I’m sitting in my bed, watching trashy TV, with some sort of clay, sheet, or bee venom mask on my face in hopes I’ll wakeup with radiant skin. Don’t stop believin’! When I was gifted a STACK of Miss Spa facial masks of different varieties, I was excited to add them to my stash. You can get them on Amazon.

Perhaps these awesome gifts I got can serve up some ideas for someone in your life, or heck, maybe you just need to treat yoself. Cheers!

BBC: ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’.

Hello! I’m assuming everyone survived the Star Wars’ holiday and is now prepping for margaritas, so happy Friday! And double score for you guys, because I’ve got a great book recommendation to share!

The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Morgan Matson. Another YA novel! Here’s the scoop:

Emily is about to take some risks and have the most unexpected summer ever. Hellogiggles.com says, “Basically I couldn’t be more in love with this book,” from the bestselling author of Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.

Before Sloane, Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. There’s just a random to-do list with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Wait…what?

Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find.

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

* * *

I swear I’m not obsessed with lists or the number 13 (the book club recently read “13 Reasons Why”). Generally speaking, this book is fun and perfect for summer. It has a bit of a “Paper Towns” feel to it in that Emily is following the list in hopes of getting to Sloane somehow.

I’ve never been given a list like this one in the book, but it sure helped Emily have a summer she’ll never forget. A friend and I were just talking about how we love looking forward to summer adventures, and this book offers that same excitement.

I would definitely recommend this book for those who love a little summer fun and/or romance. It will be perfect for those lazy weekend afternoons.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Why We Broke Up” by Daniel Handler. Yes, it’s another YA novel – swear it’ll be the last one for awhile!

Have a great day and a fun weekend, all! I am hoping to tend to my patio garden some and possibly do some crafting and cooking – it’s going to be a weekend full of ME time!

BBC: ‘Who Do You Love’.

Truth be told, my interest in author Jennifer Weiner piqued when I saw her on an episode of “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills”. I’ve read one of her books before (Best Friends Forever) and absolutely loved it, and even bought another one (The Guy Not Taken) but haven’t read it yet. Why hadn’t I added her to my reading this this summer?

When I ventured to the library, as I do at least once a week, I was pleasantly surprised to see that she’s written lots of books, and the library has most of them, including her latest: “Who Do You Love“, so I swiped it right up. Here’s the description from Barnes & Noble:

Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are just eight-years-old when they meet one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenial heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she’s intrigued by the boy who shows up alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy’s taken back to a doctor and Rachel’s sent back to her bed, they think they’ll never see each other again.

Yet, over the next three decades, Andy and Rachel will meet again and again—linked by chance, history, and the memory of the first time they met, a night that changed both of their lives.

A sweeping, warmhearted, and intimate tale, Who Do You Love is an extraordinary novel about the passage of time, the way people change and change each other, and how the measure of a life is who you love.

I thought the description sounded interesting enough, but was going to read it regardless. One thing it doesn’t mention is just how different Rachel and Andy are. They come from completely different worlds, which adds to their relationship, but also brings challenges.

Let me just say, I really loved this book! It was easy to read, the characters were interesting, and I was always really excited to see exactly HOW they were going to meet next. When the book begins, Rachel is a mom in her 40s, and then the entire book is a flashback of her entire life, taking us then to present day and linking everything together.

Now, let’s take a look at Jennifer Weiner. Here’s her “About” info from her website:

A #1 New York Times bestselling author, Jennifer Weiner’s books have spent over five years on the New York Times bestseller list with over 11 million copies in print in 36 countries.

She is the author of the novels Good in Bed (2001); In Her Shoes (2002), which was turned into a major motion picture starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine; Little Earthquakes (2004); Goodnight Nobody (2005); the short story collection The Guy Not Taken (2006); Certain Girls (2008); Best Friends Forever (2009); Fly Away Home (2010); Then Came You (2011); The Next Best Thing (2012); All Fall Down (2014) and Who Do You Love (August 2015).

Jennifer Weiner grew up in Connecticut and graduated with a degree in English literature from Princeton University. She worked as a newspaper reporter in central Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Philadelphia, where she wrote a series of popular columns for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

What, a journalist turned novelist? There IS hope! I’d also like to note that Ms. Weiner has a memoir, Hungry Heart, coming out in October.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “If I Forget You” by Thomas Christopher Greene. 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: ‘Girls In White Dresses’.

Whoop! Blanche’s Book Club runs a tight ship! …Just kidding, the book club run by my cat is full of watermelon wine spritzers and requires pajama pants. After reading such a fun memoir by Andy Cohen, I was ready to continue down a path of simple, summer reading.

So, I was really excited to pull “Girls In White Dresses” by Jennifer Close off my shelf – because it’s been there for awhile, admittedly! A description of the book from Amazon.com:

Isabella, Mary, and Lauren feel like everyone they know is getting married. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, collect ribbons and wrapping paper, eat minuscule sandwiches and cakes. They wear pastel dresses and drink champagne by the case, but amid the celebration these women have their own lives to contend with: Isabella is working a dead-end job, Mary is dating a nice guy with an awful mother, and Lauren is waitressing at a midtown bar and wondering why she’s attracted to the sleazy bartender.

With a wry sense of humor, Jennifer Close brings us through those thrilling, bewildering years of early adulthood as she pulls us inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a wedding, but there was a section of my life where it seemed like I was either in, or going to, a lot of marital-related events – I’m sure many of us have been there! Weddings, I’m sure at any age, bring about a mix of emotions: of course there’s happiness for the couple of the day, and there’s all the people there to celebrate (new friends and old), and then there’s the introspection. For me, I am always at a wedding wondering if that is ever going to happen to me – so if you see me crying at a wedding, you know why!

But all of these reasons made me really excited to read this book, as it seemed to touch on that interesting point in all our lives when we’re celebrating the future of our friends, while feeling the pressure to sort out our own.

I liked the fact that this book didn’t have too many characters, and they were all different enough to keep the story entertaining. I could relate the most to Isabella with her job woes, and also Lauren, as I’ve dated many a sleazy bartender. Yuck.

After I read a book, I’ve started getting into the habit of checking it out on Good Reads to see what other people thought of it. This book had VERY mixed reviews – the people that hated it said it had no plot, and it shined a light on everything women “today” do to sabotage relationships.

In a way, I can see how these readers felt this way – but, I also think that’s why the book is so relatable. We’ve all messed up in dating, or made mistakes as we learned the way, or hell, dated the wrong person for years.

One thing many of the reviewers on Good Reads could agree on, was that Jennifer Close has a voice that’s very readable. And I will say, YES – I read this book quickly – it seemed to fly by without much of a notice.

While I’d hate to recommend a book with such mixed reviews, I will say this may not be the book you fall in love with, but it’s full of these little moments that are very illustrated, and I just love that.

One of those moments is with Lauren and her friend Shannon, and she’s dating a man who is very, very into politics. In fact, he’s so into politics that he quits his job and volunteers to help the current presidential candidate and his campaign (which is never named, but it seems blatantly to be President Obama).

Anyway, Close creates a fantastic dialogue and scene when Lauren is out walking with Shannon one night, and a boy with a clipboard stops them and asks them if they have a minute for the candidate:

“I have given the Candidate weeks-no, months-of my life. No, I don’t have a minute for him. You want to know why? My boyfriend has left to travel around with him. He quit his job to work for the campaign, and I haven’t seen him in a month. A month! I’m not sure if he’s ever coming back, and the thing is, he doesn’t even care! He doesn’t care because all he wants is to work on this godforsaken campaign that is just so important. More important than anything else, including me!” 

…The rant continues for nearly two pages, and it’s equally sad and hilarious, and it was one of my favorite parts of the book. The cool thing is, when I looked up other books by Close, I found that her other one has a premise that seems to be based off this very idea! The book is “The Hopefuls“:

A brilliantly funny novel about ambition and marriage from the best-selling author of Girls in White Dresses, The Hopefuls tells the story of a young wife who follows her husband and his political dreams to Washington, DC, a city of idealism, gossip, and complicated friendships among the young aspiring elite. 

When Beth arrives in DC, she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn’t work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy, and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunches, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, the couples’ friendship—and Beth’s relationship with Matt—is threatened by jealousy, competition, and rumors. A glorious send-up of young DC and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers.

I am definitely adding that book to my list! However, the next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs, which is my first check-out from my local library! 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.

Love Blanche’s Book Club? Me too! You can keep up with all of our past reads right here, or by clicking on Blanche’s selfie in the right-hand column of the screen. Happy reading!