Books I've Read

I love getting lost in a book!  Admittedly my reading comes in waves, I'll feverishly read for a stretch of time and then not pick anything up for a month or two.  Such is life these days.  Here are the books I've read recently (because I'm always looking for good reads).  Make sure you check back in from time to time for updates!


Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin - Warning, the first 30 pages or so are a tough read with a very upsetting event setting the table for the rest of the book.  That being said, this book is one of the best, most original stories that I've read in quite a while.  It's the story of Max who is an intersex teen. The story is told through the eyes of Max, his Mom, brother, doctor, girlfriend and his Dad pops in a time or two as well.  The changing perspective is interesting and benefits in a lot of ways.  Though I will say I wish she had featured the Dad more and not featured the brother at all.  Be prepared to feel a lot when reading this book, it's an important story about coming of age and what gender means.

This Year I Will...: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True by M.J. Ryan - ongoing...

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion - Fun book!  The main character, Don is a professor who may or may not have Asperger's (it's sort of implied but never totally confirmed).  That being said he's so literal, a creature of routine and all about efficiency.  Then Rosie comes into his life and his world is turned upside down.  It's a story about unexpected love.  It's like a wacky rom-com movie in book form.  I highly recommend it!

Most Talkative by Andy Cohen - Oh I LOVE Andy Cohen, I just want him to be my bff.  I love him even more after this book.  The book is like sitting down and having him tell you stories about his life and his path to where he is now.  The Housewives section was very interesting, how that franchise has evolved from the original OC ladies.  He's just a likable guy.  If you love Bravo then pick this up!

Jemima J by Jane Green - A fluffy, chick-lit beach read.  Nothing deep here.  It's about a girl who is 100 lbs overweight and her transformation inside and out after deciding to drop the pounds.  Very predictable.  However sometimes you just need a book like this, it's like a bag of Doritos, sometimes they just hit the spot.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub - So much hype around this book.  I was excited to read it, waited for 2+ months on the wait list at the library.  Read it in two days flat.  I was so disappointed that I will use my Facebook status review as the review.  It's the literary equivalent of picking up a glass of what you think is Sprite, taking a sip and realizing it's water.  The book is about a family on a vacation on Mallorca (but it might as well be in the basement of their house), the husband has cheated, the son is an overgrown child, the daughter has a maturity level of a 12 year old.  Miserable characters and pointless story.  Don't believe the hype.

I Want To Be Her by Andrea Linett - True confession, I bought this purely for the cover, but ended up really liking it.  It's a book you can hammer out in like half a day.  Andrea Linett, if you remember, was one of the founding employees of Lucky magazine.  It's a collection of stories/descriptions of various women whose style she admires and helped shape her ideas about personal style.  I loved it!

Roots of Style: Weaving Together Life, Love, and Fashion by Isabel Toledo - Beautiful book in every way!  I love hearing about how designers go about their craft and how they took the path they took.  I love her story and how she told it.  Her background is so interesting (interning at The Met's Costume Institute under Diana Vreeland, etc).  It's beautifully illustrated by her husband, those illustrations alone were worth the price of the book.  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Ms. Toledo or fashion.

The Beach House by Jane Green - Perfect chick-lit beach read.  Nothing life changing, nothing deep, just fluffy fun and a happy ending.  Perfect for a vacation.

Slimed!:  An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein - When I ordered this book (if I can't get a book at the library then I order used copies on Amazon - so I never flipped through a copy) I didn't really expect it to be laid out the way it was.  Basically it was just snippets from different people on various topics.  It got super confusing, I had to refer to "The Cast of Characters" section in the back of the book all. the. time.  So it made the read a bit choppy.  That being said, it was a great trip down memory lane, so much so that I queued up a bunch of old favorite shows on YouTube.  If you have no interest in old school Nickelodeon or TV then skip this one, it will mean nothing.

The Girl's Guide to Kicking Your Career Into Gear by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio - I've had this book for a couple of years and I finally sat down and read it.  Some of the info is a bit dated (websites and resources), but overall, they've done a great job.  I would say this is a perfect book if you are just starting out or at a crossroads in which way you want to go in your career.  A lot of the information was stuff I already knew because I had experienced the situations/issues in my own career and the advice they give as to how to approach these situations/issues is solid.  If you've just started in the workplace or have only experienced a couple of workplaces then pick this up, it's worth your time!

The Circle by Dave Eggers - The story of a young woman who starts a new job at a company that's like Google/Apple/Facebook/Amazon.  A lot of people have been saying it's about social media, which is part of it, but I think the book is more about privacy and what/how much you should share and who do you trust with your personal information, as well as information and information overload.  It's a cautionary tale that had a bit of a surprise ending.  His character development needs work because no one was likable.  A great book?  No.  But worth a read because of it's subject matter.

Searching for Beauty by Cherie Burns - A biography of Millicent Rogers, a Standard Oil heiress.  She was hugely influential in fashion and style, she pioneered the mix of high and low (which back then was more of couture quality made from pedestrian fabrics - she wore denim skirts when that was simply unheard of) as well as the Southwest "look" with all the turquoise and silver jewelry, she brought that into the mainstream.  She knew everyone who was everyone in fashion, art, decorating, Hollywood, etc.  Her life was a whirlwind and she packed a lot of living in her 50 years, she died young due to lifelong complications stemming from a childhood illness.  This book gives great insight into her life and influences.

Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller - LOVED this book so much.  It's her memoir about growing up with parents that are hoarders (mostly her father, but her mother enabled).  She did such a wonderful job of describing her horrifying childhood living conditions not in a judgmental way, but in a matter-of-fact, this is what I knew way.  It's heartbreaking/moving/thought provoking story.  But it's not gloom and doom, it's a story about the literal and figurative "stuff" we all have and how we deal with it.  I highly recommend this book, it's a great companion to Daring Greatly (scroll down for review on that one).

Gold by Chris Cleave - This book was okay.  Nothing to write home about. It's the story of two women, Zoe and Kate, who are the top cyclists in Great Britain, it's about their rivalry/friendship.  The issue is that the only character that is even remotely likable is Kate's daughter Sophie.  Zoe is a monster and Kate is so bland. I found myself not even caring by the end.  You can tell he is a good writer (I'm going to try and pick up some of his other books), but this was a story I'm not sure needed to be told.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - If you consider yourself an introvert, then read this book ASAP!  It is a revelation!  I learned so much about myself and how I am while reading this.  She takes the subject of "introversion" and spins it in a new light, showing through studies how the qualities of introverts are actually pretty desirable in many areas of life and work.  Extroversion is so coveted in this world of ours that us introverts can sometimes feel a little overlooked or left out.  Loved this book so much!!!

Beach House Memories by Mary Alice Monroe - The sequel to The Beach House (scroll down to the 2012 book reviews), I loved this one more than the first book.  Lovie (the mother in the first book) is the focus of this book, specifically the Summer of 1974.  It tells the story of meeting her true love, but she's married with kids and things get "complicated".  It's a heartbreaking, heartwarming, upsetting, etc.  You will love and hate Lovie, but even when you want to reach into the book and wring her neck you always empathize with her struggles.  This is a great Summer read!

The One and Only by Emily Giffin - Just a warning before reading this book, don't think about the situation the main character is in too much, otherwise you will be skeeved out (at least I was).  Basically it's the story of Shea, a girl whose life revolves around college football, her bff's dad is a big time college football coach and she works in the football department and eventually moves into journalism.  I can't go into more of it because it will give too much away but I will say I found Shea grating and again the whole book kind of creeped me out if I thought about it too much.  I wish Ms. Giffin had tweaked the story a bit, it would have been so much better.  It's an okay read, if you haven't read her other books, I would recommend those before this one.

The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank - No one writes about the South Carolina Lowcountry like Ms. Frank, I love that about her.  This is her latest book and not her best work.  It wasn't bad, it just didn't have the heart that many of her earlier works do.  It's the story of three generations of women in a family where secrets are glossed over and communication has been lacking (with an undercurrent of domestic violence woven in - nothing graphic it's just part of their story).  I was a little disappointed, however I will say it's a super fast read and perfect for the beach.

The Good House by Ann Leary - This book was so well reviewed that I had high hopes, however I was seriously unsatisfied.  It felt like it was going in one direction (one that it should have gone in IMO), but then went in a completely different direction that was much less interesting.  Basically it's the story of Hildy, a 60 year old Realtor/alcoholic in a small town in Massachusetts (near Salem).  I wish it were more interesting than that.  Hildy is irritating and I felt zero connection or interest in her or her story.  The plot was weak, the story bland and the writing less than engaging.  I would skip this one.  (side note:  Ann is Dennis Leary's wife)

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior - Anyone who is a parent must read this book.  It's a "parenting" book that looks at the effects of being a parent on the parents and not on the children.  It's not a book about solutions to problems, it's a book about the history and evolution of what being a "parent" means.  There are a lot of "a-ha" moments, tons of research and first hand accounts.  If the last chapter doesn't make you cry then you have no soul ;o)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - Finally, I finished this monster of a book!  This is the story of Theo a boy who loses his mother in a terrorist explosion at The Met and the direction his life takes after that.  First, let me say it's a beautifully written book full of vivid descriptions.  The story, however, fell a little flat with me.  I really didn't like it at all, in the middle I had no idea where this lady was taking things and by the end I was just over it.  Should you read it?  I can't say yes or no.  It's like a big old bowl of okay.

White Girl Problems by Babe Walker - Chick Lit at it's best, a fun, mindless read that had me lol'ing. First of all if you don't like rough language, obscene situations or satire then this isn't the book for you. For me it was like sorbet between courses.

Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois - Okay, let me say if you had any interest in the Amanda Knox case then this is the book for you.  I did not have any interest so this book felt like a bad episode of "Law and Order" - ripped from yesterday's headlines.  A good writer wasting time with this pointless, too-soon-to-tell story that was unsatisfying on every level.

The Honest Life by Jessica Alba - Let me start by saying that I've never been a fan of Jessica (I think she's a mediocre actress at best) so I started the book with a little negativity.  I was happily surprised and am pleased to say that this is a really good book.  Full of great information, handy reference guides and a non-pretentious attitude.  She is all about helping and not judging or preaching.  She covers everything from food to cleaning to decorating to style.  If you are just wanting to get your feet wet in how to live a little more "green" then this is the book for you!

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo - A very interesting/creepy/engrossing book about the Chinese beliefs of the afterlife.  It's about a girl living in Malaysia in the late 19th century who has been selected to be a "ghost bride" (basically a living person getting married to someone who is dead).  And the story goes from there.  It's not what I expected at all, but I found it really hard to put down.  The ending left me a little flat and her writing was a bit odd (I mean I've not run across a book with the word "thrice" in it, in quite sometime) but if you want a book that is like nothing you've read before, then pick this one up!

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty - Wow!  I can't do an in depth review without giving too much away, but this book is amazing.  It's a story that follows a few people and how their lives intertwine and how actions can cause wide ranging effects.  Fascinating, gripping, upsetting and thoroughly enjoyable!  Highly recommended!

Learning to Fly: The Autobiography by Victoria Beckham - Oh yes I did. I bought a used copy and indulged.  I was surprised at how down-to-earth and sweet she sounds - and funny!  It was very hard putting together her public "no smile" persona with the person who wrote this.  Refreshingly honest about how hard she had to work, that she wasn't one of her performing art school's best of anything, how she struggled with body issues, food, feeling like she belonged.  She even put some not so flattering pictures of herself in the book with funny captions.  She just came across as an every girl. Though it's very dated (written in 2000/early 2001), she and David only had Brooklyn and she was still concentrating on her singing career, I still found it very enjoyable!

Return to Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank - This is a sequel to Sullivan's Island, taking place 10 years after the end of the first book.  This time it centers on Beth and her adventures in the family house all on her own.  I liked this better than the first book, but it still was not Ms. Frank's best outing.  The characters weren't as fleshed out as I would have liked.

Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank - Probably the least favorite book by Ms. Frank.  The book follows Susan Hayes, her cheating husband, their daughter Beth and her childhood through flashbacks.  I usually love her books, but this one was a little annoying in tone. Enjoyable and she always does a great job of getting that Lowcountry vibe rolling, but read her other books first!

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer - The story follows six friends that met at Summer camp back in the 70's.  Lots of flashbacks, flash forwards, focusing mainly on the character named Jules.  I blew through it in a weekend, it's not a light/breezy read though, at times like climbing a mountain.  The author sometimes gets bogged down in unnecessary details and language, I felt she had a very specific point of view/agenda which was a bit maddening at times. Worth your time especially if you love a vivid, character driven story.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella - I really liked this book, a light, fluffy read. It's basically a wacky ghost story.  If you like any of Sophie Kinsella's previous books then this is a must read!

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - It took me long enough to pick this up and read it (I read the 10th anniversary edition).  It's a short/quick read that took me two nights.  This is a book not so much about character development or in-depth descriptions but about the story and the lessons within the story.  You'll find yourself thinking about them even after you've finished the book.  It's worth picking up!

That Extra Half an Inch by Victoria Beckham - I kind of got this as sort of a "let's-see-what-she's-got-to-say" read (I bought a used copy).  Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised!  She came off as super likable, relatable and actually did give some very good style/life advice.  This was written/revised for US in 2007, so it's around the time she started seriously going in the direction of her clothing line.  It's a beautiful book too, with lots of pretty pictures and illustrations as well as a page for notes at the end of each chapter.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown– I don’t say this often, but this is a book that every single person should read.  It’s about vulnerability, shame and how they can (even if you aren't aware) affect your life.  It is such an eye opening read, it’s really made me aware of how I approach my thinking and interactions.  Mixing personal stories and data from her years of research, it's a good read!

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters by Jon Acuff – Such a great read.  I’m guilty of being one of those people that has a million things that I want to do but never quite know how to take that first step.  Hello, a million things are A LOT of things.  This book was a great guide for how and what to start doing and encouraging you to just START.  I can't recommend this book enough!

DIY DYE by Loren Lankford (copy received for review via Ulysses Press) – If you have ever had questions about how to dye your hair at home without going the traditional box color route, then this book is for you! Review post here.

The One Hundred by Nina Garcia - Another one of Nina Garcia's style books that are just so gorgeous (thanks to the Ruben Toledo illustrations).  Basically this one lists Nina's 100 must have items that you should have in your wardrobe.  Her books are extremely informative and get to the point without a lot of blah, blah, blah.  Worth picking up!


The Astronauts Wives Club by Lily Koppel - Extremely interesting subject matter here, focusing on the wives of the first astronauts.  Their trials, worries and how their lives changed after their husbands became the symbols of the dawn of the Space Age.  First thing I was surprised to learn was how controlling NASA was about what was presented to the world in regards to the families and the second thing was just how many of those guys cheated on their wives, I mean it was full on "Mad Men" up in there. Sheesh.  I found it an easy read, though the writing got confusing and rushed in parts (especially the end).  Keeping up with the ladies got really confusing especially since some had the same first name.  But overall, I found it really worth my time.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker - I love, love, loved this book.  It's one of those books that stays with you long after you finish it.  It's sad, upsetting, hopelessly hopeful (if that makes sense).  Basically the Earth's rotation starts to slow and the days and nights stretch out.  The story is told through the eyes of tween Julia.  The effects of the slowing are wide reaching and extremely hard to deal with.  That's the upsetting part, it's something that is completely out of control of humans, no one can explain or fix it.  But meanwhile, life goes on and the unusual becomes the norm (and vice versa).  My only complaint was that the ending was a bit rushed and I craved more information.  Read this for sure!

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Melton - I had heard glowing things about this book, so I was eager to dig in.  I got about halfway through before I could read no more.  I'm not into the "I'm a woman who can't cook or clean and am a bumbling idiot" shtick.  We get it Glennon, you are like the rest of us, insecure, imperfect, etc. Her attempts at being funny aren't funny, they are vapid and childish.  In her eagerness to tell us how imperfect she and her life is, she only paints a portrait of aw, shucks perfection.  Shut. Up.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander - This is a super quick read, it's not a long book at all.  But it packs a lot of information in the pages.  The author is an accomplished Neurosurgeon whose brain was attacked by a very rare form of bacterial meningitis.  His description of what he experienced when he was in a coma for a week was really interesting and thought provoking.  I really loved what he had to say and what the ultimate message is.  The scientific language kind of bogs the book down towards the end, but it's worth your time!

Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett - I picked this up on a whim at the library and was happy I did.  Amy is (or was) a successful writer who's now in middle age.  One day she falls and hits her head on a birdbath which sets off a chain of events that are hilarious, terrifying and life changing in almost every way.  She gets jolted out of her rut and reconnects with people and herself.  The description of Amy's fear of flying hit so close to home, I mean it's exactly how I feel about flying.  This book is funny, poignant and worth picking up!

Life by Keith Richards - I gave up on this one after about 80 pages, it was so hard to read.  I may try and pick it up again at some point.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - Oh man, I really liked this book.  It's heartbreakingly (is that a word?) funny.  I loved the banter and how the characters interacted.  I'm big in finding humor in pain.  But there is a lot of pain and that's a bummer, but not enough to not make this one of the best books I've read in a while.  Go and read this one!

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro - A fictionalized account of the 1990 art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.  A fast paced, extremely interesting read (it's referred to as a "thriller" but I wouldn't call it that).  I learned so much about painting and about how paintings are forged/copied, that's really the beauty of this book. Ms. Shapiro did a lot of research and it shows in the descriptions of how the paintings are created.  I really enjoyed the ride!

The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles - This book plunges you into the Manhattan of the late 1930's with the main character Kate Kontent and her weaving in and out of New York's social elite while staying grounded.  Mr. Towles style of writing takes getting used to (not a quotation mark to be seen, so conversations can get confusing) but he paints a vivid picture of the city at that time.  This book wasn't a home run but it was an interesting read worth your time.

Mom, Inc.: The Essential Guide to Running a Successful Business Close to Home by Meg Mateo Ilasco and Cat Seto - I got this book a few months ago and have been reading it in bits and pieces ever since. While it really doesn't apply to me (I'm not looking to start a full-on home based business or anything other than just growing this blog) I still found this to be an extremely interesting read.  If you are thinking about starting a home based business in any way, or looking to grow a hobby into income then this book has some really valuable information.  It's basic, but really full of helpful tips and tricks.  Totally worth the money!

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman - Heloise seems just like your typical wealthy, suburban, soccer mom and widow, but she's hiding a secret life as a madame and her secret is in danger of coming out.  It's an interesting story, digging into Heloise's past and her story, a bit dark and sad at times.  It's not an amazing read, but it's still worth your time.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter - I really enjoyed this book.  It's a story that starts out in Italy in 1962 then switches to the present, then back and forth.  As much as that sounds confusing, it's not.  It ends up knitting together a story that's about friendship, love, what could have been, what will be. It's fascinating and touching.  Highly recommended!

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg - I was fully prepared to hate her and this book after all the hubbub surrounding it when it came out.  But after I finished reading it (in 24 hours!) I was blown away, inspired, enlightened and refreshed.  I would call this book a must read for any woman out there.  The issues she covers apply to every woman in or out of the workplace.  Though she does concentrate on matters in the workplace, I found it applicable in my work-at-home life.  I wish I had read something like this when I was in my 20's.  I wish my daughter were old enough right now to read it and learn from it.  Run out and read this book - seriously!

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan - This was a good read, the main character, Clay finds an overnight job at Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore.  However this isn't a normal bookstore and the customers that come in don't buy, they borrow mysterious books from the massive stacks in the back.  Clay gets curious about what the heck is going on, he starts digging and adventure ensues!  A great mix of technology, secret societies and books.

Something Blue by Emily Griffin - The fun sequel to Something Borrowed. This book picks up where Something Borrowed left off, but switching to Darcy's perspective.  Watch out you may end up liking Darcy after finishing (I didn't want to, I swear). Perfect vacation/beach read, especially if you enjoyed the first book!

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - I LOVED this book!  It's a story told in a sort of journal style mixed in with letters, emails and documents as assembled by Bernadette's 15-year-old daughter Bee.  Bernadette is a complex woman, who while smart and funny, is almost a recluse riddled with anxiety who just disappears one day.  Once a very accomplished architect on the rise, something happened that shut her down.  It's really a story about finding oneself (or someone else) both literally and figuratively. A super fast read and at times, laugh out loud funny, I completely recommend this book!

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg - A very well written novel about a suburban Chicago family and their complicated relationships with each other and food.  At times it's depressing, at times it's sad, and at times it's hopeful, but overall it's a glimpse into real life family issues and no family is perfect.  I enjoyed the characters (didn't necessarily like any of them, but their stories are compelling) and I enjoyed the past/present/future style of her writing.  My only complaint is it ended quite abruptly.  Pick this up for a quick, engrossing read!

Lucky Break by Esther Freud - A dull, confusing, shallow, forgettable read. I had read so many glowing reviews of this book and was supremely disappointed.  Basically the story follows a group of actors from the beginning of drama school through their various career paths.  Don't bother with this one.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe - A surprisingly well written and fascinating autobiography.  He talks about his unhappy childhood and the move from Ohio to California with his mother and brothers.  Touches on his mother's struggle with mental illness. And of course, talks about the ups and downs of his career.  He comes across as incredibly likable and humble.  What I liked the most is his perspective on the Hollywood "system".  Two thumbs up!

Blog, Inc. by Jo Deangdeelert Cho - I did a post with my review

The Surprising Life of Constance Spry by Sue Shepard - A very comprehensive book about the life of floral designer Constance Spry.  Famous for her unorthodox floral arrangements and a cook book that is still in print (and popular, especially in her native England).  She was an extremely interesting person and I loved finding out more about her, though the book gets a little boring/dry in places.  She was extraordinarily influential in floral design and the use of plants/flowers/foliage that were just not used at that time.  She rose from a very humble childhood to doing the flowers for Queen Elizabeth's coronation.  If you have any interest in floral design at all then pick up this informative read.

Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington - I breezed through this book in two nights, it's a beautifully done book with lots of photos and her fab illustrations.  Now, I'm going to warn you that she tends to ramble and skip around a lot and if you aren't a fashion magazine a-holic then you might not get too much out of it.  I've been a student of fashion magazines for as long as I can remember and I studied them to the point of obsession so I can remember most of the American Vogue editorials she refers to, as well as the models, photographers, etc.  She really lived an extraordinary life and has met and worked with some of the most influential people in the fashion world.  Needless to say I was glued to every page, I just loved it!  I was also super pleased that she dedicated a chapter to my personal hero Liz Tilberis the late Editor-In-Chief of Harper's Bazaar.  They were best friends from their years at British Vogue.  I love Grace, but I worship Liz, so this was a treat for me (on a side note about Liz, I highly recommend her memoir No Time To Die written in 1998 before she passed away from ovarian cancer).  Bottom line, if you are a fashion history buff, then dive in.  If not, then you may not love it.

Sleeping with the Enemy:  Coco Chanel's Secret War by Hal Vaughan - First of all I should say I have read a lot of Chanel biographies/books/etc. and what I already knew about Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel going into this book was that she loved to tell stories.  And by "stories" I mean lies.  Or maybe the nicer thing would be to say she embellished or omitted bits of her past to make it sound more mysterious or glamorous or whatever worked for who she was telling it to and what she could get from it.  She wasn't a woman to admire as a person and this book solidified that for me tenfold.  Meticulously researched with lots of pictures and about 50 pages of notes at the end, the evidence of Chanel's work as a Nazi spy during the war as well as her romantic involvement with a German officer and spy, not to mention her anti-Semitism (which unfortunately was rampant among the upper crust of Europe at the time) and homophobia is overwhelming.  She really only escaped any post-war prosecution because of her long friendship with Winston Churchill.  Now in my opinion this information doesn't diminish her work, let's remember she basically created the look of the modern woman, and besides her business was sold to the Wertheimer family in 1954 (they had previously been majority owners in the Chanel perfume business since 1924 - there was a petition by Chanel during the war to try and take back full ownership of the perfume business because the Wertheimers were Jewish and she used her position as an "Aryan" to gain full ownership, which the Wertheimers had anticipated. They had previously transferred legal ownership of the company to a Christian, French businessman until the war was over.)   The Wertheimers still own the house of Chanel, they really took the house to the next level and made "Chanel" the "Chanel" brand of today.  Bottom line the book was very interesting and disturbing.  The writing was a bit confusing and dry at times, but if you are interested in Coco Chanel or World War II then it's worth your time.  There was a quote in the book from Michel Deon, the author she commissioned to write her memoirs (which she ultimately ditched) that I think really sums Chanel up as a person: "Chanel had a childhood fear of abandoning the world of her dreams and confronting the realities of existence." 

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin - I've been wanting to read this book for quite and while.  I've heard some good buzz and let's face it, who doesn't want to be happier (or at least read about someones journey towards more happiness)?  Bottom line, it's totally worth your time.  You may not have the same happiness journey (in fact she points out that you probably won't), but it will help you to think about your own keys to happiness and what you can do to help make yourself happier.  I really liked how she didn't sugarcoat or shy away from being self aware enough to point out her flaws/weaknesses/what she wanted to work on.  I could totally relate to the whole "being snappy, yelling and nagging" issue she had.  I loved that the book made me stop and think a lot and I'm going to work on my own resolutions, mindfulness and happiness.  Totally and completely recommend this book!


Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon - A story about a woman of a certain age who is looking to get out of her rut/midlife crisis/whatever and decides to participate in an online marriage survey.  Interesting things ensue.  I had high hopes for this book.  It was pretty good, a well written, very relatable story.  A little hokey and predictable in the end but not a waste of time.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Dude, prepare yourself for a story that is quite unexpected.  I don't want to give too much away, but it's about a married couple and the wife disappears on the day of their 5th wedding anniversary.  Was she kidnapped or something even more sinister?  I won't say, but I will say that I always believe that the true monsters aren't the ones you usually suspect.  A must read!

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See - The sequel to Shanghai Girls (review below).  A soberingMad Men.  When you read this, compare the two and you actually will shake your head at how completely insane that feels.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See - First of all I want to let you know that this book has a sequel.  I say this so that if you read it, you won't get to the end and be all like "Hey, wait.  Lisa don't leave me hanging like this!"  Because the end certainly sets things up nicely for a sequel.  That being said this is a sweeping novel about two sisters and their lives beginning in 1937 Shanghai and following them through some harrowing, gut wrenching, challenging times as they eventually make their way and establish themselves in Los Angeles finishing in 1957.  Not easy, breezy reading that's for sure, there's some deep stuff in here.  That being said I finished the book in less than a week.  I really enjoyed the historical perspective and I'm getting ready to dig into the sequel.

Once Upon a Secret by Mimi Alford - This is her account of her secret 18 month affair with President Kennedy when she was a 19 year old White House intern.  She did a good job of telling her story without going into extreme details.  I found it interesting that the "relationship" really haunted her relationships and her life in general.  She really came off as extremely naive and I personally felt she was seriously victimized.  I'll go so far as calling JFK a predator and disgusting.  Look I've never been on board with the "Camelot" thing (it's not a fairy tale when your husband is trying to bang every female that walks by) so I don't think this tarnished his image any more than it's already been tarnished.  Mostly I felt bad for her 19 year old self and I really wanted her to just say "he was a jerk" but she never did.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead - Well, I was really excited to read this book because of the strong reviews, but I hate to say I was supremely disappointed.  I'll give the writing a B+ and the story/characters D.  It's hard to get into a story where you hate every. single. character.  It was not "hilarious" or "deeply moving"(as advertised) - not in the least.  Maybe it's because I'm older and the older I get the less I suffer fools gladly.  I found it souless and sad, pretty much like every character.  I think the moral of the story (if there was one) was to appreciate what you have.  I guess, I don't know.  Mercifully, it was a fast read (3 nights for me).  My point to this whole review is that I think and want Ms. Shipstead to do better, she's a good writer, but needs to dig deeper for a better, more meaningful story.

Eiffel's Tower by Jill Jonnes - A sweeping account of the building of the Eiffel Tower and the World's Fair that it was built for.  A surprisingly easy and quick read considering the amount of information contained within.  The book not only covered Gustave Eiffel (and his genius) but also Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, the van Gogh brothers, Paul Gauguin and James Whistler among others.  Extremely fascinating and I honestly came away with a new respect for not only Eiffel but Annie Oakley (that was one strong and modern lady).  Well worth your time!

Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster - A collection of short stories about her life.  She's so funny and relatable especially if you grew up in the 80's.  It was a super fast read, perfect for Summer.

A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham (aka Sophie Kinsella) - I bought this as a "bargain book" at Walmart so that should tell you something.  I usually love her books but this was a weak one.  Not awful, but it certainly felt like the first half was fully developed and then she rushed to just finish it up and move on to the next book.  It was okay for a beach read and I wasn't heartbroken I spent $4 on it.  But don't pay full price ;o)

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson - A very interesting and insightful read about the life of Steve Jobs.  I think everyone should read it even if you aren't an Apple "person".  I don't identify myself as an operating system, I use both Apple and Microsoft products and am perfectly happy with both so I went into the book as a neutral.  I came out of the book as a neutral.  But I will say that I understand his thought process in regards to design and functionality.  He pushed his people to do better and think differently and for that we all should be thankful for the products that resulted.  And I should mention that Walter Isaacson is such a great writer that even though the book is huge, it was an easy read.

The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe - Another one of those "Southern Fiction" books along the lines of those by Dorothea Benton Frank.  Set on the Isle of Palms in South Carolina, it's a story about the mending of the relationship between mother and daughter throughout one Summer at the family's beach cottage.  I love how the nesting and hatching of the loggerhead turtles is an important part of the story helping to bring everyone closer together and bridging the generations.  A perfect beach read!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - Book 3 of the Hunger Games series.  The sort of rushed conclusion of the Hunger Games.  Quick read for sure.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - Book 2 of the Hunger Games series and my personal favorite of the bunch.  Really easy, quick read.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Well, I think everyone in the free world has already read this book.  If you haven't read this series, do it.  I will be honest though, this book was so hard to get into, it took me a good 3 weeks to even get midway through and then it flew by.  Keep in mind it's a Young Adult novel so read it as such.  Not a knock against it by any means.

The Land of Mango Sunsets by Dorothea Benton Frank - I love her books when I need a quick, fun read. This one is in my top 2 favorites from her, it was a really great story about mending relationships and transformation of self.  I love that the main character is a woman of a certain age and I always love her description of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Great beach read!

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks - Lord have Mercy I hate Nicholas Sparks.  There I got that out.  I got this book as kind of a joke gift and ended up not hating it.  It's a bit darker than his previous books and I really didn't like the characters.  But if you like his books then this one is worth a read.  Look, I didn't barf after I read it so that's like a four star review from me ;o)


Bringing Home The Birkin by Michael Tonello - If you have any interest at all in this whole Hermes Birkin craze, then run out at get this book.  An fascinating insight into cracking the Hermes code.  Spoiler alert - the waiting list is basically a myth.  After reading this book obtaining a Birkin became a lot less desirable to me.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan - It's a novel based on Frank Lloyd Wright's 7 year affair with Mamah Cheney, a married woman in Oak Park. The people and bones of the story are real, but it's a fictionalized account of their time together. It was a hard book to get into, but once it gets going it's totally worth it. It's one of those stories where you are empathetic to Frank and Mamah's situation, but not necessarily sympathetic. It's very complicated and moving - total emotional journey, not light reading, but I totally recommend it!

Style A to Zoe by Rachel Zoe - It was a good book, but I wanted more out of it - I wanted more tips and more of a step-by-step thing.  The illustrations were a bit cheesy in my opinion.  I love Rachel, but I honestly get more out of watching her show than I did this book.  I'm glad I got it on sale.

The Style Strategy by Nina Garcia (with gorgeous illustrations by Ruben Toledo) - LOVED this book.  She packs a lot of useful information in a relatively small book.  This book has a heavy emphasis on "use what you have" which is a great message for right now. 

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn -  This is a novel about a family of carnival "freaks". It's disturbing, upsetting, at times repulsive and heartbreaking. Yet you absolutely can't put the book down because the characters are so vivid and amazing. My husband actually lent the book to me when we were dating, otherwise I might never have read it. Totally worth your time, it's hard to forget.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant - A novel voiced by Jacob's daughter Dinah (from the Book of Genesis in the Bible). It's a fascinating glimpse of how life was for women in ancient times. Love this book!

Bombshell: The Life and Death of Jean Harlow by David Stenn - Pretty much the biography to read if you want to know all about the life and untimely death of Jean Harlow. It's fascinating. To think she died at 26 is mind boggling.

Any of Louise Rennison's Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series (there are 10 books in all). These are for young adults (aka - teen girls) but I enjoyed them immensely. Georgia is a 14 year old English girl who has a 3 year old sister, crazy cat and wacky parents. The books are written like a diary (sort of a teen Bridget Jones, but I think funnier). These books are a zip to read and laugh out loud funny between her antics and lingo. I have every one and each one is perfection.

Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie - As with every other Jennifer Crusie book, it's a breezy beach read.  I really liked this book. 

Momzillas by Jill Kargman - A funny take on the Moms of  the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it was a fun read but can get annoying.  The whole competitive mom thing grates on me, but we all have run across those types and can relate on some level to the mom-types she describes.  The Glossary of terms in the front of the book is worth the read.

Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber by Adele Lang - A bitchier version of Bridget Jones Diary and not in the best way.  I would skip this one.


  1. Lol on the Nicholas Sparks review! I couldn't get through the one and only book of his I've ever picked up. I love the movies though...I think that makes me a bur of a sap.

  2. Just read "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann -- really, really good. And WAAAAY better than Nicholas Sparks ;)

  3. LOVE the Red Tent, despise Nicholas Sparks. My hubs handed me one of this books, and I swore to never read another. HATE gratuitous tear jerkers. Read the Hunger Games but have no desire for the rest. I need a book I can fall into and get lost for a weekend. Just haven't found it yet!

  4. Thanks for the recos! A few I haven't seen before and will definitely pick up.

  5. Are you on Goodreads? Because you should be.
    Dying to read Gone Girl. On the top of my list right now!

  6. Highly recommend "Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles. Read while drinking G&T or a mai tai, if at all possible.

  7. Have read lots of your "pre-2013" reads but none after that!
    I'm reading Cutting for Stone, When God was a Rabbit and another book I can't think of the name of {never good} right now and struggling to get through them!!!

    Also know that I STILL haven't read Gone Girl which has been on my list since the beginning of the year. Yikes.

  8. whoa!! i feel like a slacker!! i only read a few last year. just seriously no time


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