Y'all know I've been giving myself a little extra space lately to enjoy a life well-lived instead of viewed through a screen so much. Hard when you're trying to make it as a blogger, yet I know I need it. I started giving myself Friday afternoons during Harlow's nap time to relax and read, maybe even catch a nap if I can. One of the luxuries of being a SAHM is that I have that option even though I still feel TONS of guilt about actually taking time for me. I'm working on that. Between my Friday ritual and stepping back a bit I've found a new ease and enjoyment of my everyday that before felt like nothing but a series of to-do's and tasks. And boy have I really gotten to do a LOT of reading and I'm loving the heck out of it!
These books I'm really excited about because they span all sorts of genres and time periods. You like a complicated romance? I got you. A fictional who-dun-it? Got that, too, set in 19th century London. Think Downton Abbey meets Law and Order. There's good variety in this reading list, something I crave when going from book to book. Unless I'm totally sucked into a good series (which I am, you'll see below!), I like to switch genres when I go from one book to the next. I just think it keeps me more interested and my mind more engaged.
Anyways, here's my reading list! Let me know if you've read any of them and what you thought! NO spoilers though!!!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
I just finished this one and to be honest, about halfway through I just wasn't sure I was that into it. It wasn't exactly what I thought it would be. The story looks back at the life of a 1950s Hollywood bombshell, her career, and all her marriages as she tells it, with all the skeletons in her closet. As someone who finds the true story of pre-paparazzi Hollywood fascinating, this one had me really intrigued. And it was that, just in a different way than I thought.
When I got to the end, though, I really did like it. I loved the character of Evelyn and how complicated she is. She's conniving, manipulative, sad, powerful, beautiful, hard, smart, and desperate to be loved by both filmgoers and one person in particular. It's a really compelling look at the price of fame and what defines true happiness. I realized two things: I bet a LOT of what's written about in this novel actually happened during the early ages of Hollywood; and, I wish Evelyn Hugo was real because I'm absolutely fascinated by her.
The Penny Green Series
1 | Limelight: A Penny Green Novel
2 | The Rookery
3 | The Maid's Secret
4 | The Inventor
Okay y'all this is the series I'm currently obsessed with and devouring a book a week. It follows a reporter named Penny Green through late 19th century London as she tries to solve crimes and murder mysteries. The plots wind you through a double jeopardy murder, a serial killer loose in the slums, and an undercover position in a rich family's household. She delves into the world of theater, politics, news media and more, with historical facts and figures interlaced into her fictional tales.
I'm totally enchanted with Gilded Age London and the recurring characters that pop up in every book. Penny Green herself is adorable, smart as a whip, and a little before her time. As a female journalist she certainly fell into the minority within the industry and encountered hostility and doubt that she could do her job well purely because she's a woman. The author does a great job keeping the female voices strong and clearly on the rise without overpowering her primary focus of solving the murder mystery.
On that account, these are good murder mysteries albeit not very complicated ones, and not too gruesome or scary at all. I LOVE following along with Penny and reading the descriptions of London life in the late 1800s. I keep ordering them because I found myself wanting to dive back in to Penny's world and see what happens with the complicated relationship between her and James, her detective partner/friend. The 'will they/won't they?' romance gets me every time ;)
The Rookery: A-
The Maid's Secret: B
The Inventor: TBD
Okay THIS one makes me SO excited because it's the sequel (of sorts) to my recent fave book Southern Solstice which I discussed in my last book review.
Southernmost follows a tangential character of the original story named Kayla, who's basically the baby mama of Jackson Winslow's daughter. She moves to Charleston from rural Alabama so her daughter can live the upscale Charleston life her daddy's family enjoys, with all its privileges and perks. But Kayla herself feels like a fish out of water having to navigate a new town, new people, and the old complicated relationship between her and Jackson. Lots of layers here, but so fun reading along as they begin to peel away and reveal themselves.
Confession: I cried as I finished this book. Not because of the plot so much as the attachment I formed to the characters, particularly the elder matriarch of the Ashby family known as Lil. Sarah Sadler writes characters you KNOW, with experiences, emotions, strengths and flaws I recognize on a deeply personal level. I'm not wealthy beyond belief like the characters in Southern Solstice, nor am I from a trailer park in nowheresville like Kayla. But the way they all feel and think is very relatable.
And also this: these books make me proud to be southern. Sadler writes so descriptively you feel like you're standing on the dock, feeling the sun, and smelling the salt air. It makes me aware of how much I love the south, for its physical beauty, its etiquette, its food! (Beware: Kayla cooks a lot in this book and will leave you craving crab meat and cornbread like crazy!) The older characters read so purely southern in their genteel charm and back porch wisdom that I find I'm soothed and strengthened reading what they have to say. Lil and Martha, the two grandmother figures, have that special blend of poise and spunk we southerners revere in our elders. They just have a way of knowing the world for all its faults and loving it all the same. They believe in people. I just wish they were real so I could meet them!
The bookmark I received with my copy of Southernmost reads this: 'No pressure, no diamonds. No grit, no pearl.' The author expounds on the thought with this beautiful passage that brought me to tears:
"The pearl is a symbol of adaptation. It represents accepting not only the things that happen to us, but accepting the things that happen through us."
Have you ever felt so moved to put on your grandmother's pearls in your life??
Please Sarah Sadler, keep sharing your gift with the world. I just don't know how long I can make it without your pearls of written wisdom.
COMING UP NEXT
The Song of Achilles
I love mythology and took a class in college in which we read and discussed The Odyssey, The Iliad, and The Aeneid. I have a decent grasp on Greek mythology but always wish I knew more...so many names and complicated relationships though. So that's what drew me to this book and I'll be honest, so far A) there's a lot more to Achilles's story pre-Trojan War I did NOT know about, and B) the pace is a mite slow and I'm hoping it picks up soon. It already has a little bit so I'm gonna stick with it. The same author wrote current best seller, Circe, too, and I wanted to give this a shot first. We'll see, jury's still out.
The fourth book in the Penny Green series that I'm just dying to crack open! I love this series so much as I've already described in plenty of detail. This time Penny fears there's a crime hidden behind the guise of a suicide and she's got to convince James and the police to investigate it. Problem is, the underworld she uncovers is beyond their reach. I don't know what that means exactly but I can't wait to find out! And, as always, I'm soooo excited to see what happens between Penny and James themselves.
When Life Gives You Lululemons
I mean, this is the sequel of sorts to The Devil Wears Prada. I feel like that's all that needs to be said haha! This time the story follows Miranda Priestly's assistant, Emily (played by Emily Blunt in the movies), as she takes on the wealthy housewives of Greenwich, CT, and unearths loads of scandal. I feel like it'll take one weekend to read this because I won't be able to put it down.
Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing The Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant To Be
Is this title not hysterical?? It's both hilarious and empowering before you even read what it's about! She starts each chapter with lie that she's told herself about her own self-worth, her life, her body, and her relationships...and then speaks with honesty and kindness about how to lift women out of these self-deprecating cycles that destroy their confidence and motivation. I just listened to Julie Solomon's podcast with Rachel Hollis (the author) and I was totally mesmerized by her strength, authenticity, and sense of humor. I found myself saying "YES!" out loud to so many things she said. I'm already a fan and can't wait to read her book.
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
Okay all you true crime fiends, this one has your name written all over it. This is the story of William Desmond Taylor's unsolved murder right as Hollywood was taking off in a big way in the 1920s. It opens up with the discovery of his body juxtaposed with a mysterious woman speeding off in her car up the Pacific Coast Highway. Then you start meeting the cast of characters, the players so to speak: actresses, producers, valets, thugs, fame seekers, and people desperate to keep the real story of what happened coming out to star-struck Americans.
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Book Review No. 2
Book Review No. 1