Happy Monday! How was everyone’s weekend? Mine got off to a rough start—the exhaustion from New York City caught up with me and I ended up at an urgent care getting tested for strep. The results came back negative, but I was still under the weather, so I called it an early night around 7pm. (A real rager!) Around 11pm, I woke up to a few text messages and checked the score of the UVA game—only to find us down 15 in the second half to UMBC. After that, I certainly wasn’t going back to sleep, so I stayed up to watch our historic loss, which was pure torture. I still love the Hoos, but y’all, this loss is going to hurt for a long time—maybe even a lifetime.
On a brighter note, I’ve read a lot of good books so far in 2018, and I am excited to share some great stories with you today. You can see all my on my nightstand posts here, and you can keep up with what I’m reading in real time over on Goodreads. If you’ve read anything lately you think I might like, please drop me a note in the comments below!
THE SECRET TO SOUTHERN CHARM // KRISTY WOODSON HARVEY
Last fall, I read Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey and fell in love with Ansley, and her daughters, Caroline, Sloane, and Emerson. (You can read my recap of that book here.) Luckily for me, the gals are back in this second installment of the Peachtree Bluff Series, entitled The Secret to Southern Charm. This book picks up where the last one left off—Sloane’s husband, Adam, is missing in action in Iraq, which leaves her depressed and unable to get out of bed. Her sisters, Caroline and Emerson, who are both dealing with their own struggles, work to convince her she must rally for her young children and follow her passion for painting. At the same time, their beloved Grandmother seems to be losing her marbles and they begin to notice their mother might be hiding something about her relationship with her high school sweetheart, Jack. This story is heartwarming, and had me flipping its pages late into the night.
(As an aside in the spirit of transparency—after I shared my thoughts on Slightly South of Simple here on the blog, Kristy reached out to me and asked if she could send me an advanced copy of The Secret to Southern Charm—which I so excited to accept! I was under no obligation to post about about the book, and all opinions are my own.)
Would I recommend it? YES! But make sure you read Slightly South of Simple first.
WHITE HOUSES // AMY BLOOM
I am lucky enough to have Random House send me books from time to time, and White Houses was one they sent me this December. I was under no obligation to post about it, but wanted to share since I thoroughly enjoyed this fictional take on Eleanor Roosevelt’s relationship with reporter Lorena “Hick” Hickock. Prior to picking up this book, I knew very little about Eleanor Roosevelt or Hick, and while this story could easily be a short read, it took me several weeks to work through it because I spent a lot of time researching both women and the historical events mentioned in the book as I read.
A great character study, White Houses explores Hick’s impoverished upbringing in South Dakota to how she reinvents herself as a reporter who ultimately meets Eleanor on FDR’s Presidential Campaign in 1932. The story follows how their love is tested by both extraordinary and ordinary forces, Hick’s time in the White House, and how the pair cope with FDR’s untimely death. It’s beautifully written and goes deep without being hard to read.
Would I recommend it? Definitely—especially if you like historical fiction.
UPSTAIRS AT THE WHITE HOUSE // J. B. WEST
My dad came across an excerpt of this memoir in a magazine and forwarded it to me because he thought I might be interested—and he was right. J. B. West was the chief usher at the White House who served from the Roosevelt administration to the early days of the Nixon administration. In this memoir, he describes in-depth what it was like to work for each family, how each First Lady ran the house differently, and covered all the major White House renovations that occurred during that era.
Each administration had a different section in the book, then each section had eight chapters—as such, this book was long. I almost wish I had read about one administration, taken a break to read another book, and then come back to read about another administration. That being said, West does write in a really captivating way and I’m glad I carved out the time to read more about “America’s House.” Furthermore, prior to reading this book, I wasn’t very familiar with the any of the Presidents or First Ladies of this era except for the Kennedys, and I really enjoyed learning more about Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, and Mamie Eisenhower especially.
Would I recommend it? Yes—especially if you liked Clint Hill’s memoirs.
NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT // KRISTAN HIGGINS
I’ve been slowly working my way through Kristan Higgins’ books, and was excited to pick up her most recent title, Now That You Mention It. I think this might be her best book yet—I read it in less than 48 hours because I couldn’t put it down! The book starts when Boston doctor Nora gets hit by a car and dumped by her boyfriend. She decides to move home to her small coastal town in Maine that she hasn’t visited for nearly 15 years. While she’s there, she’s forced to confront issues from her past—her sister’s incarceration, her father’s absence from her childhood, and the “big bad event” she had to undergo while living in Boston. This book wasn’t as predictable as I thought it would be when I picked it up, but I still love how everything ended.
Would I recommend it? 100%! Especially if you’re in need of an easy spring break read.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE // KRISTAN HIGGINS
Another Kristan Higgins read, this one was a nice, light read—but not as deep as Now That You Mention It. Too Good to Be True follows the story of Grace, who’s ex-fiancé falls for her sister. In an effort to play off the fact that she’s cool with their new relationship, she makes up a fake relationship. Most of her family falls for it, except her older sister can see right through the lies. While keeping up with the charade, she begins to realize she is falling for her new next door neighbor, Callahan O’Shea. Even though you can see where this predictable ending goes, it’s a cute read and would be a great for a day at the beach.
Would I recommend it? Sure—but I think there are better Kristan Higgins books.
TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE // MITCH ALBOM
Even though I’ve known about Tuesdays With Morrie for a long time, my interest in the book really piqued when I was listening to Oprah’s Super Soul podcast conversation with Mitch Albom. On that episode of the podcast, he was reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the book, and when he talked about what Morrie taught him about aging, I knew I needed to read it.
For those of you that don’t know, Morrie Schwartz was Mitch’s professor in college. He was diagnosed with ALS in his 70s, and while he was dying, Mitch would visit him every Tuesday to interview Morrie about the greatest lessons he had learned in life. Each week, Morrie had physically deteriorated, but his mind and his spirit were strong—even as he approached death.
Mitch published the book after Morrie’s death as their “final thesis” together, and really thought it would only make enough money to cover Morrie’s medical expenses. If you’ve read it, you know why this turned into a cultural phenomenon and what I consider a “universal read”—there is so much wisdom found in this short book. I wanted to end with my favorite nugget of advice found in its pages:
“The truth is, part of me is every age…I’ve been through all of them, I know what it’s like. I delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it’s appropriate to be a wise old man. Think of all I can be! I am every age, up until my own…how can I be envious of where you are when I’ve been there myself?”
Would I recommend it? EVERYONE—AND I MEAN EVERYONE—SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!
Yay! Thank you so much for reading The Secret to Southern Charm. I’m so happy you enjoyed it and really appreciate your sharing! I really want to read Upstairs at the White House! It’s fun to throw a little non-fiction in there every now and then. Thanks a ton!! xo Kristy
Thanks for writing it, Kristy! I think you’d love upstairs at the White House!