Blog Archives

BBC: ‘This is Just My Face’.

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

Dear coffee, please halp. Thx.

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

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

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

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

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

Preeeeeeach!

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

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

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

Have a great weekend, y’all!

BBC: ‘Some Kind of Happiness’.

Hello, hello! I hope you guys have had a great week – it’s been pretty good on my end. I don’t know about you, but… I’m starting to feel ready for fall. Living in Texas, I’ve got a little while before any sort of chill hits the air, but it rained all night a few nights ago and in the morning it felt soooo nice out!

The feeling disappeared by lunch and we were back to nasty, humid, heat. Of course, I spend most of my days in the office, so it’s whatever – but I find myself longingly staring at my flannel shirts in the closet, and waiting for the day when it’s acceptable to make chili. Le sigh…

But, let’s talk about the activity I’m doing ALL YEAR: reading for Blanche’s Book Club! Great transition, I know. So, this week we’re talking about “Some Kind of Happiness” by Claire Legrand. Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

Reality and fantasy collide in this “beautiful and reflective tale” (Booklist, starred review) for fans of Counting by 7s and Bridge to Terabithia, about a girl who must save a magical make-believe world in order to save herself.

Things Finley Hart doesn’t want to talk about:
-Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
-Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
-Never having met said grandparents.
-Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real—and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

…I added this book to my reading list after seeing a post about it on Instagram (I get lots of book recommendations from Instagram). The post said it was a YA novel about a girl with a mental illness.

Now, if I hadn’t read that prior, I never really would have thought she had a mental illness. Of course, I don’t do lots of digging into subtext when I read (guilty). It is obvious, however, that she’s going through a pretty tough time and she’s looking for an escape – an escape she’s made up in her mind. Don’t kids do that?

Anyway, this was different than other YA novels I’ve read – it wasn’t lite and fluffy, and definitely wasn’t based around love. However, it was relatable and I enjoyed the fresh take. I’m recommending this book to YA lovers, especially in the fantasy genre.

The next book we’ll be discussing is “This is Just My Face” by Gabourey Sidibe. Feel free to read it with us and join the discussion, right here on the blog or on social media @OrangeJulius7!

This weekend, I’m really trying to be productive – finally going to drop off some bags of clothes to donate in hopes of making my closet look neater! I’m also going to do some cooking, take a dance class, of course do some reading, and I am going to a boat party Saturday night. Should be a fun time! Have a good one, 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: ‘Ready Player One’.

I have been reading SO much lately, and the book we’re talking about today is seriously so good! I have to say that the week before I picked up this book, I spent an afternoon scouring the library shelves for a book that would give me an escape.

Sure, I’ve been reading books this year that are good, but nothing that really pulls me so much that I can’t put it down, or can’t WAIT to pick it back up. And then I got the text that “Ready Player One” was waiting for me to pick up.

When I checked it out at the library, the librarian kindly informed me that the author, Ernest Cline, actually lives in Austin, and that they were turning the book into a movie. Uh, cool! Here’s the book’s official description from Amazon.com:

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines–puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win–and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. I’m not really into futuristic-type things, and although I do love a good session of video games, I don’t know much about them, especially newer ones.

But color me wrong, because this book was freaking AWESOME! It was so visual, which I love, and had enough action to keep things rolling. Don’t know video games? Totally doesn’t matter. There are even loads of 80’s references in there (including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Some of my favorite lines from the book are:

  • “It was the dawn of new era, one where most of the human race now spent all of their free time inside a video game.”
  • “But I fell forward instead of down, and the stars seemed to fall with me.”
  • “We’re going to have the world’s top five gunters together in one chat room. Who’s gonna sit that out?”
  • “I would abandon the real world altogether until I found the egg.”
  • “Like any classic video game, the Hunt had simply reached a new, more difficult level.”

If you’re following me on Twitter (@OrangeJulius7), you may have seen some of these lines, as I love to live Tweet my reading. As I was doing so, a podcast reached out to me because yes, it’s a podcast about “Ready Player One”! It’s called Get to the Good Part, and although I haven’t listened to it yet, I’m pretty sure they’re reading and discussing the book, chapter by chapter.

As for the movie, all I know so far (according to IMDb) is that it’s coming out next year, is being directed by Steven Spielberg, and TJ Miller is in it. Can’t wait!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Hungry Heart” by Jennifer Weiner.

It’s supposed to rain all weekend in Austin, so I’m looking forward to hunkering down inside and getting some quality cooking and reading done. I hope y’all have a good one!

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: ‘Head for the Edge, Keep Walking’.

Happy Friday! It has been a busy week on my end, and I’m sort of in a race to the finish – the finish being my flight to Indianapolis a week from today. Before then, I’ve got a lot on my plate and I feel like I’m running on some serious adrenaline, but hey, it’s all good!

I still had some time to read this week, and finished my book sale find ($1) “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Jill Beech’s nine-year relationship is over. She covers the sadness with madness, going dancing with her off-beat friends and attempting a series of hilariously bad internet dates. Then life is flipped on its head again by some shocking news. Adrift in her mid-thirties, no-one does lost quite like Jill. Wry, witty, resilient but bewildered, she is left asking, what does it take to stay sane in this life? And why does it look easier for everyone else? While her friends are preoccupied with pregnancy, Jill looks elsewhere for meaning. Will she find happiness with a kitten called Cyril? A job she can finally believe in? Or a charming ex-snowboard champion who wants to settle down? Events force Jill to head for the edge—will she fall headlong or turn things around and keep walking?

When I read the back of the book, I felt like “Omigosh, this sounds exactly like me” – minus that whole 9-year relationship thing. But when I read the book, her problems weren’t exactly as the book jacket described.

Yes, she was trying to find her life again, trying to find little bits of joy in her job, and see some sort of meaning in the endless cycle of going out each night. But she was also faced with some semi-serious health issues, on top of attempting to date and find love.

It was a good read – just a little bit different than I expected, and I’ll admit, I often don’t understand British humor.

The next book I’ll be reading is “The Night We Said Yes” by Lauren Gibaldi.

I hope you all have a great weekend – I’ll be doing some baking tonight, so if you want to see it you can catch it on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7. Tomorrow, I’m road-tripping it to Louisiana, and I’ve got a Dispatch album in my console, along with an audio book!

See y’all on Monday!

BBC: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’.

Ugh, I know I said I was reading “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough… and I definitely started reading it, when I realized I had to take another book back to the library within just a few days!

Just to note, I have had my Austin library card for exactly 1 year now, and I haven’t ever had an overdue book or a late fee, and I plan to keep it that way. So, I had to switch things up and read my library book, “HillBilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance, first.

I heard about this book on Instagram (I am always keeping my eyes open for books to add to my reading list), and I added to my library reserve list immediately. After months of waiting, I got it – and then of course had to read it within just a few days – which was actually not an issue because it was so good. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

While this book was published before the 2016 election, there are many, many clues within this book as to why Trump eventually won (despite what we now know about Russian involvement). Right after I finished reading this book, I started looking up reviews for it online and saw a mix – many people loved it, while lots of people said it didn’t represent the people it claims to.

But the author, Vance, says he’s not trying to make assumptions about large groups of people – merely stating what he knows about his family, and those he grew up with.

And if what he’s saying is true, I can 100% understand why Trump is our president now. It doesn’t make it any less sad, or difficult to deal with, but at least now I know. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the culture of various people, and/or politics.

Now, for real, the next book I’ll be reading is “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough. I swear!

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: ‘The Secret Life of Cowboys’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Who Do You Love?” by Jennifer Weiner. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

BBC: ‘Lost Girls’.

The latest read for Blanche’s Book Club is for all the true-crime lovers out there! I saw this book on a reading blog I have liked for years, and I added it to my list. I love true crime books, but I have to be in the mood to read them, and frankly, this has been the summer of marshmallow reads.

But then I had lunch with someone who’d read this book and said I would absolutely love it. And they were RIGHT. The book? “Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery” by Robert Kolker. Here is the description from Amazon.com:

“Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a haunting and humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, in a compelling tale of unsolved murder and Internet prostitution.

One late spring evening in 2010, Shannan Gilbert, after running through the oceanfront community of Oak Beach screaming for her life, went missing. No one who had heard of her disappearance thought much about what had happened to the twenty-four-year-old: she was a Craigslist prostitute who had been fleeing a scene—of what, no one could be sure. The Suffolk County Police, too, seemed to have paid little attention—until seven months later, when an unexpected discovery in a bramble alongside a nearby highway turned up four bodies, all evenly spaced, all wrapped in burlap. But none of them Shannan’s.

There was Maureen Brainard-Barnes, last seen at Penn Station in Manhattan three years earlier, and Melissa Barthelemy, last seen in the Bronx in 2009. There was Megan Waterman, last seen leaving a hotel in Hauppage, Long Island, just a month after Shannan’s disappearance in 2010, and Amber Lynn Costello, last seen leaving a house in West Babylon a few months later that same year. Like Shannan, all four women were petite and in their twenties, they all came from out of town to work as escorts, and they all advertised on Craigslist and its competitor, Backpage.

In a triumph of reporting—and in a riveting narrative—Robert Kolker presents the first detailed look at the shadow world of escorts in the Internet age, where making a living is easier than ever and the dangers remain all too real. He has talked exhaustively with the friends and family of each woman to reveal the three-dimensional truths about their lives, the struggling towns they came from, and the dreams they chased. And he has gained unique access to the Oak Beach neighborhood that has found itself the focus of national media scrutiny—where the police have flailed, the body count has risen, and the neighbors have begun pointing fingers at one another. There, in a remote community, out of sight of the beaches and marinas scattered along the South Shore barrier islands, the women’s stories come together in death and dark mystery. Lost Girls is a portrait not just of five women, but of unsolved murder in an idyllic part of America, of the underside of the Internet, and of the secrets we keep without admitting to ourselves that we keep them.”

“Lost Girls” tells the stories of five women, all living seemingly normal lives, until they fall on difficult times – whether financial, situational, or emotional – and end up working as prostitutes.

Some of them start of in traditional escort houses, but all of them eventually end up online, particularly on Craigslist, because they make more money, don’t have to deal with a pimp, and most of all, they don’t have to stand on street corners to wait for clients.

What lures them into the business is the same thing that keeps them there – fairly easy money, big pay, the ability to provide for their families, and freedom.

That is, until they all get out of the business in the same way: cold blooded murder.

I loved this book for many reasons. Yes, it was a little scary and reading it after dark was not really an option (which is probably why I read most of it in one sitting on Sunday). However, Kolker really digs to find the stories of these women, who were basically forgotten by… everyone except their families.

Without blatantly saying it, Kolker tells another story: about how we (meaning society) tend to treat people in the sex industry, mainly based on stereotypes, and that is what I found to be most fascinating about this book.

My only disappointment? That this is Kolker’s first and only book! I’ll definitely be on the lookout for his next one (if it ever happens).

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Who Do You Love?” by Jennifer Weiner. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

BBC: ‘Paris, He Said’.

I’ll say this right now, I am not a big fan of just going to the library, getting lost among the stacks, and stumbling upon books I want to read. For years, I have kept a reading list of books I want to read – and it’s only gotten more intense over the last 6 months as I listen to podcasts and hear people talk about books they’ve read.

I keep my running list, and each time I go to the library (which is usually once each week), I look to see what books are in. And for the first time a few weeks ago, they didn’t have any of the books on my list. I hate to leave empty-handed, so I started roaming the aisles.

And somehow, I stumbled upon the BBC’s latest read, “Paris, He Said” by Christine Sneed. I was drawn in by the watercolors on the spine, and then I read the back:

“Jayne Marks is questioning the choices she has made in the years since college and is struggling to pay her bills in Manhattan when she is given the opportunity to move to Paris with her wealthy lover and benefactor, Laurent Moller, who owns and operates two art galleries, one in New York, the other in Paris. He offers her the time and financial support she needs to begin her career as a painter and also challenges her to see who and what she will become if she meets her artistic potential.

Laurent, however, seems to have other women in his life and Jayne, too, has an ex-boyfriend, much closer to her own age, whom she still has feelings for. Bringing Paris gloriously to life,Paris, He Said is a novel about desire, beauty, and its appreciation, and of finding yourself presented with the things you believe you’ve always wanted, only to wonder where true happiness lies.”

I mean who doesn’t want a wealthy man to promise them a life in Paris? Yes, please! This book opens up a world to the arts, as Jayne is a painter, and Laurent owns the art galleries, where he wants Jayne to display her work.

So, she gets to paint during the day, and spend any spare time exploring Paris. But soon enough, she catches on to Laurent’s lifestyle – with other women, and although she doesn’t seem too bothered by it, I found it difficult to relate to Jayne, because that would really piss me off.

It makes you wonder, though, to what extend of bullshit would you put up with to essentially live your dreams? On one hand, I feel like I’d do a lot to live expense-free, and write all day, while exploring a cool city. But would I be able to lay in bed next to a man that was off with other women? No. No, no.

And for that, I can’t say this book was a favorite. However, Sneed is also the author of another book, “Little Known Facts“, which has really great reviews. Here’s the description:

“The people who orbit around Renn Ivins, an actor of Harrison Ford–like stature―his girlfriends, his children, his ex-wives, those on the periphery―long to experience the glow of his flame. Anna and Will are Renn’s grown children, struggling to be authentic versions of themselves in a world where they are seen as less-important extensions of their father. They are both drawn to and repelled by the man who overshadows every part of them.

Most of us can imagine the perks of celebrity, but Little Known Facts offers a clear-eyed story of its effects―the fallout of fame and fortune on family members and others who can neither fully embrace nor ignore the superstar in their midst. With Little Known Facts, Christine Sneed emerges as one of the most insightful chroniclers of our celebrity-obsessed age, telling a story of influence and affluence, of forging identity and happiness and a moral compass; the question being, if we could have anything on earth, would we choose correctly?”

I think I’ll add it to my list, although I don’t know if the library carries it – which will most likely send me into a tailspin.

And just to note, I actually reserved my first book on Sunday. I didn’t want to start reserving things, because I feel like I’m taking them away from other people that want to read the book. But there is this ONE book that’s been on my list and it’s always checked out. Not anymore!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery” by Robert Kolker. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

BBC: ‘The Widow’s Guide to Sex & Dating’.

One woman I’ve really come to admire over these last few years is Carole Radziwill. Sure, there’s a possibility you recognize her name from “The Real Housewives of New York” – that’s how I have come to know her, too – but, of course, she’s much more than a reality television personality.

Radzi, as she’s often called, started her career in journalism at ABC, where she covered stories on abortion, gun control, foreign policy, and war. She’s won three Emmy’s for her work. On August 27, 1994, she married fellow ABC News producer Anthony Radziwill in East Hampton, New York. Anthony Radziwill died on August 10, 1999 at age forty after a five-year battle with cancer.

Radziwill went on to write a book about losing her husband, along with stories of her work at ABC, called, “What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love“.

…I really wanted to read that book first, as it was the first book she wrote. But the library didn’t have it, as in, they don’t even have it in their system, so I went with her second book, “The Widow’s Guide to Sex & Dating“.

Truthfully, I was excited to read it – it sounded really good! Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

“A deliciously smart and funny debut novel about loss, libido…and true love. A decade ago, Claire Byrne, now thirty-two, put her biggest career aspirations and deepest personal desires on hold when she became the wife of Charlie Byrne, the famous sexologist and man about town. Equal parts Alfred Kinsey and Warren Beatty, Charlie is charming yet pompous, supportive yet unfaithful, a firm believer that sex and love can’t coexist. When Charlie is killed one day, in an absurd sidewalk collision with a falling sculpture (a Giacometti, no less!), his death turns Claire’s world upside down. She misses Charlie. She needs to reinvent herself. As unseemly as it may be to admit it, she longs to lose her ‘widow’s virginity.’ And she wants love.”

Right off the bat, this book reminded me of Candace Bushnell’s “One Fifth Avenue”, which I absolutely LOVED. So, Charlie is killed by this falling sculpture, which is tragic, but also oddly comical, and there is a brief investigation surrounding the event – which involves interviewing all of those who live in the building where the sculpture fell.

Speaking of Candace Bushnell, on the cover of the book there is a quote from her regarding “Widow’s Guide” that says something along the lines of Claire being a “Modern day” Holly Golightly. Umm, I love you Candace, but no. Ms. Golightly was a straight up hooker, though classy as shit, but Claire Byrnes is not… not at all! She’s a modern woman trying to find love after loss – I’d venture to say the character of Claire wasn’t straying too far from Radziwill’s very own experience in dating post-loss.

In the book, the reader gets to follow Claire along in her adventures of dating, which seems a little more fabulous than how it really is – or perhaps dating in New York is just fabulous in general. But the men sound hot, and there’s lots of fancy restaurants with dressy cocktails. Yum!

All in all, this was a great book to read; very fun and flirty, and it made me like Radziwill even more than I already do. To read more about “Widow’s Guide”, check out the official review from the New York Times.

I actually spent a few hours this weekend searching two used book stores trying to find Radziwill’s first book (picture me, literally digging through bookshelves), but had no luck. It’s not at the library, as I mentioned, so I might just have to hit up Amazon.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Paris, He Said” by Christine Sneed. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

BBC: ‘The Andy Cohen Diaries’.

I was really excited when Blanche’s Book Club decided to read “The Andy Cohen Diaries” by Andy Cohen, because I’m going to SEE Mr. Cohen LIVE, along with Anderson Cooper tomorrow night, right here in Austin! And… I’m SO excited! You can definitely expect a recap of the event right here next week.

So, the book! “The Andy Cohen Diaries” is Cohen’s second book, and I sadly have yet to read the first one. In “Diaries”, Cohen explains the book was meant to model “The Andy Warhol Diaries“, which was released in the early 90’s, and was considered to be shocking and controversial, given Warhol’s commentary of the celeb-elite.

A description from Amazon.com, “A year in the whirlwind life of the beloved pop icon Andy Cohen, in his own cheeky, candid, and irreverent words. As a TV Producer and host of the smash late night show Watch What Happens Live, Andy Cohen has a front row seat to an exciting world not many get to see. In this dishy, detailed diary of one year in his life, Andy goes out on the town, drops names, hosts a ton of shows, becomes codependent with Real Housewives, makes trouble, calls his mom, drops some more names, and, while searching for love, finds it with a dog. We learn everything from which celebrity peed in her WWHL dressing room to which Housewives are causing trouble and how. Nothing is off limits – including dating. We see Andy at home and with close friends and family (including his beloved and unforgettable mom). Throughout, Andy tells us not only what goes down, but exactly what he thinks about it. Inspired by the diaries of another celebrity-obsessed Andy (Warhol), this honest, irreverent, and laugh-out-loud funny book is a one-of-a-kind account of the whos and whats of pop culture in the 21st century.”

Of course, Cohen is no Warhol, but one thing I definitely noticed about Cohen’s book – he is out and about every single day/night! He’s always heading off to a party, dinner with friends, or pool-hopping in the Hamptons. Frankly, his life sounds pretty damn fabulous! And you can’t forget his almost-daily massages he gets before bed, right in his apartment. I need a job at Bravo, or wherever will pay me that much cash.

I also realized that Cohen is really close with Sarah Jessica Parker, so there’s some dish on her (nothing bad, of course), Kelly Ripa, and… drumroll… John Mayer! I was really happy to hear that when John invited Andy out to Montana, he cooked him breakfast everyday. I would die. D-I-E.

The book is written diary-style, in that there is nearly an entry every single day for the course of one year. Of course, there’s a decent amount of Real Housewives dish – which I found entertaining, and it also felt like I was getting let in on a big secret.

A large part of the book is also about Cohen and his journey in adopting a dog – whom we eventually come to know as Wacha! Their relationship is really cute, and it’s funny how serious Cohen takes his moments with Wacha, and his Instagram posts.

When writing this post, I came across an interesting article from Time magazine, “Andy Cohen’s Memoir Is the Frankest Book About Gay Life In Years”, which talks about Cohen’s documented struggle with fitness and weight loss:

It’s in the latter category that the book becomes resonant and sadder than the author may even realize. Each day is either a victory or a defeat for Cohen, measured alternately in hours at the gym or hors d’oeuvres eaten and drinks consumed. At one point, he meets his goal weight, and then revises that goal weight yet again lower; a litany of fattening foods he is ashamed to have eaten at a party hilariously and tragically includes the addendum “and a Popsicle.”

Many readers might not treat ice pops as a shameful indulgence. And yet many readers aren’t trying to prove their value in a marketplace in which superheroic body proportions win the day. Cohen’s obsession with his appearance — endless documentations of squats and the inevitable “two-hour massage” that follows — are of a piece with a wealthy, urban, privileged gay life that more intellectual or explicitly political novels are loath to expose in such detail. Cohen’s world is not that of most or even of many gay people, but it’s one that really exists and that hasn’t recently gotten this much attention in print.

In the beginning of the book, Cohen talks about feeling pressure to lose weight, and struggles with his lifestyle – it’s tough to lose weight when you’re in a culture of going out to eat and having cocktails with celebs on the daily – in order to drop a few pounds. He does hit the gym pretty religiously, which does not seem to be an issue for him, even when he’s admittedly hungover.

I had no idea his stories were, in any way, representative of “privileged gay life” – and it kind of makes me love him that much more! If you’re at all a pop culture junkie, or a fan of Bravo, and/or, Andy Cohen, I would definitely recommend this book.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Girls In White Dresses” by Jennifer Close. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

BBC: ‘What Alice Forgot’.

That’s right, Blanche’s Book Club is rolling right on with the summer reads! Over the weekend, I finished reading “What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty. And where do I begin with this one? It was SO good!

From Amazon.com (and also the back of the book), “Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over…”

The interesting part about the way this book is written, is that the reader meets Alice as she’s coming to on that gym floor, having forgotten 10 years of her life. So, the reader is discovering Alice at the same time Alice is. It’s a very interesting take!

There is a reader’s guide in the back of the book, so I really looking forward to utilizing that to guide this blog post. But when I looked at all of the questions – I didn’t really like them. So, screw that. But there are a few things I’d like to discuss.

One thing I took note of in this book was the sense of time. The entire book (about 450 pages in length) takes place over the course of about a week. And within that week, we learn about Alice’s forgotten 10 years, along with the stories of her friends, neighbors, and families. It’s a lot of information, all at once, but it’s delicately placed and easy to take in.

When Alice comes to, she doesn’t recognize ANYTHING about her life. She doesn’t understand why she’d be at the gym, or why her gym bag is packed with beautiful clothes, or why she is so thin, or HOW she possibly has three children.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately; mostly how it seems to slip by when you don’t want it to, but when you’re sitting at work waiting for 5:30 to come, it moves so slow. This book got me thinking a lot about the person I’ve become over the course of the years… so much so, that I’m sure I’ll touch on this more in a post later this week.

But in short, I’ll say that I think it’s really easy to wake up one morning – any morning – and wonder how your life came to be the way it is; whether those were good decisions or bad, or moves that were totally out of your control. Is it how we thought we’d end up? Or totally different?

I looked up reviews for the book once I finished reading, just to see what other readers were saying, and the reviews were very mixed. Many people didn’t like Alice, or some liked her younger self instead of her older self. Interesting thoughts. Lots of people found self-reflection in this book, and although I can’t relate to most of the topics discussed – marriage, divorce, motherhood, infertility – I thought a lot about myself and my friends (over the years).

Two things I will say is that my favorite character was Tom, Alice’s son. His quotes often made me laugh out loud, and I felt Moriarty truly captured the different personalities of children in Alice’s kids. I will also say that I wish we got to learn more about Gina – Alice’s best friend – more throughout the book, instead of just in the very end.

“What Alice Forgot” is slated for film, with Jennifer Anniston supposedly in talks to play Alice – which I think would be perfect!

Since this was my first book of Moriarty’s (I have already purchased two others), I wanted to look up a little info on her. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that she started off in the corporate world as a marketing manager, then moved to be a freelance writer, and of course, now she’s a New York Times Bestseller! Inspiring!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

Pic of the Week.

So, it’s only been officially summer for… what… a week? But now that July 4 is right around the corner, I all of the sudden feel like the summer is about to end! Summers in my previous life — when I had a desk job that allowed for free weekends — meant hours at the pool, reading.

In those days, I’d load up a cooler, put on my swimsuit, and walk to my apartment complex’s pool from about 10 am until the sun went down. I went through 1-2 books a week, and over the course of the year, I’d read around 30 books.

It was one (of many) luxuries I took for granted.

In these last 8 months, I haven’t had mush time to read, so I’ve been stuck reading Donna Tartt’s, “The Goldfinch,” — which is very good, but also, very long.

But, like many businesses, freelance writing gigs slow down a little in the summer. And while that means less money, it also means less work, and more free time. So, I’ve decided to pick up my old habits, and although I haven’t spent hours at the pool, I’ve cracked open “The Goldfinch,” and can at least see the ending is near.

I also took a look at my reading list. There are books in my apartment I’ve yet to read — books I’ve borrowed, books given to me, and books from Santa. And in my email was also a Christmas gift remaining from my mom: a Barnes and Noble gift card!

So, I used the gift card to treat myself to two books I hope to read before the summer sun sets: The Husband’s Secret by Lynne Moriarty and The Silkworm by Roberth Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).

Here’s what the back of “The Husband’s Secret says, “At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that is not meant to be read…

My darling Cecilia,
If you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not only the life you have built together, but the lives of others as well. And then imagine that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything—and not just for her. There are other women who barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they, too, are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.”

And here’s the info on “The Silkworm” from the back of the book, “

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days–as he has done before–and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives–meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…
A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.”
So… they both sound mysteriously AWESOME! I’m hoping my two new purchases will force me to make some time for myself to read, even if it’s just 30 minutes each day. What are you reading this summer?