One of the best things about spending so much time at home, has been the chance to reintroduce one of my favorite pastimes… reading! Since I was an only-child for 16 years, books were oftentimes my best friends. I love nothing more than getting lost in a story, and can’t tell you the number of times I’ve stayed up all night to finish one.
Books always seem to take a backseat for me when life gets busy…but 2020 changed all that, ha! I think I read more books last year than in the last 10 years combined! I shared my first book review post HERE, and not only did y’all love it, but you also gave the best recommendations for new reads!
My reading streak has slowed a little, but only because we’ve been watching more shows. And with all the drives back-and-forth to the lake, I added Audible books to the mix, too.
So here’s a look at what I’ve been reading, watching, and listening to lately…
Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
The third and final book in the Paradise trilogy, I devoured Troubles in Paradise the week it came out! No one does beach reads better than Elin Hilderbrand, and this one is no different. Rather than being set in Nantucket, like the majority of her stories, the Paradise series takes place in St. John, Virgin Islands.
It’s the story of Irene Steele, an empty-nester from the midwest, in a comfortable marriage, who’s biggest concern is what color drapes she wants in her Victorian home remodel. Until her husband dies in a helicopter crash in the Virgin Islands, and she discovers he’d been living a double life.
There’s love and romance, a little bit of mystery, and lots of vacation vibes. Perfect for these cold days dreaming of tropical escapes!
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
From a leading voice on racial justice, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness is an honest account of growing up black, Christian…and female in America.
Austin Brown’s parents intentionally gave her a white, male name to ensure she had the best chances of success on paper…to at least get her in the door. And the response when people discover she’s actually a black female broke my heart, and opened my eyes.
She tells her story of growing up in the middle-class suburbs, in mostly white schools and churches, in a non-judgmental tone that’s neither accusatory nor angry, but simply truth. I saw myself in so many of the ‘best intentions’, and it opened my eyes in a whole new way.
Sea of Memories by Fiona Valpy
Stories based on real events of WW2 are some of my favorites, and I love how Fiona Valpy writes them from the perspective of strong women. I was a huge fan of The Dressmaker’s Gift, so was excited to dive in to another of her stories.
Sea of Memories takes place in both modern and WW2 time, as Kendra’s ailing grandmother, Ella, tells her the story of growing up in 1930s France and Scotland. We’re first swept up in the idyllic island of Île de Ré, as 17-year-old Ella falls in love with charismatic and creative, Christophe.
But the outbreak of war sends her back home to Scotland, and Christophe to the battlefield. This is when the story lost me for a bit, and I actually put it down for several weeks. But I was invested enough in Ella, and her love story, that I finally picked it back up.
It wasn’t my favorite of WW2 stories, but it was interesting to read a completely different perspective…that of a woman left behind in a mostly-peaceful country, while losing those she loved most.
Up next on my nightstand: Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First. by Laura Tremaine
The Queen’s Gambit // Netflix
I don’t know a lick about chess, but Mr. SP and I couldn’t get enough of this show, and watched it in record time. Beth is a troubled child prodigy, growing up in a Kentucky orphanage, and thanks to a kind janitor, discovers she has a knack for chess.
The story follows her over several decades as she seeks to first gain, then conquer dominance in the male-dominated world of chess. It’s less of a sports underdog story, and more of a super heroine’s coming of age and learning to believe in herself.
It’s smart and clever, and the fashion is fun, too! Oh, and the story is fully-told in one mini-series season, so not a long-term time investment.
Emily in Paris // Netflix
Little Miss and I binged this show over a weekend! We poked fun at its cheesiness for the first couple of episodes, but were quickly pulled in by the charm and couldn’t turn it off!
Emily moves to Paris for her dream job (with the cutest wardrobe!), only to find her French colleagues aren’t too excited for her American ‘help.’ She meets a dreamy French guy, and begins to find her way…all while looking absolutely adorable and stylish.
And of course the whole thing is set in Paris, what’s not to love!?
Ted Lasso // Apple TV
This is hands-down one of my favorite shows ever!! And yes, it’s about soccer, but it’s really about so much more! It’s hilarious (I’m talking laugh out loud funny), and sweet, and uplifting and charming…all the best things!
We loved it so much, we’re already watching it a second time. The accents are a little thick for some of the characters, and the dialog moves fast, so we’re catching all new stuff this time around, ha! We watch it as a family, but there is quite a bit of language so it’s more for older teens and up.
Yellowstone // Paramount & Amazon
This show could also be called testosterone, because there is more than enough to go around! Set in stunning Montana, and starring Keven Costner, Yellowstone follows the dysfunctional Dutton family as they fight to keep their Montana ranch and way of life.
There’s corruption, violence, sex, and a little bit of love. Each of the characters is their own bag of hot mess, and Kevin Costner plays the patriarch perfectly.
Currently Watching: Bridgerton on Netflix
Open Book by Jessica Simpson
There’s something about hearing a person’s life story, their heartaches and successes, in their own voice, that is absolutely mesmerizing. And Jessica Simpson did not hold anything back in her story, Open Book.
She dishes about growing up as the breadwinner of her family, life behind the cameras of her marriage to Nick Lachey, and allll the dirt on her torrid affair with John Mayer.
Her rise to stardom was rocky, filled with haters and bad luck, and her voice often breaks when recounting those days. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and it’s impossible not to root for her. This isn’t a story for Jessica Simpson fans, but for women fighting to love themselves.
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Okay, so I’m not a big Matthew McConaughey fan, and I found myself rolling my eyes a few times during this book, but there’s no question he’s an incredible storyteller. And he’s lived an incredibly interesting life thus far!
Raised in a volatile family (his parents married and divorced each other three times!), with an almost-accidental fall in to movies, Matthew tells the stories of his youth and what it was like rising to stardom. And yes, even the story behind what really happened with the naked bongo playing.
Greenlights is one part biography, and one part motivation…with quite a few insightful takeaways. But you may find yourself rolling your eyes at his self-assuredness.
In my headphones now: Tom Browns Body podcast
I subscribed to Kindle Unlimited last year and have found so many great reads that way! It’s less than $10 a month, so it pays for itself after one book! There are literally 1000s of titles to choose from, and new ones added every day.
Audible is a great way to listen to books, and it’s so easy to grab little snippets in the car, on walks, or cleaning around the house.
Okay…your turn! Comment, share, discuss… what have you read, watched, listened to lately? What are your thoughts on any of these titles? What should I add to my list for spring!?