30 May 2019

Michelle's Summer Reading List

Every year I have friends that have more time to read during the summer months and they always ask me what they should read.  Today I have put my picks of this year together on a summer reading list for you.  My tastes are primarily Historical Fiction, so read the books on my list or make your own...it doesn't matter as long as you read.  :)

1.  Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid-this book is written in the vein of a Rolling Stone magazine interview.  You get a chance to see all the band and the lead singer. You experience how they came together and how drugs and alcohol made them into things some liked, some loathed.  There was a twist near the end that I did not expect and I enjoyed it so much.

2.   The Gown by Jennifer Robson-A beautiful story about the girls who embroidered the top-secret gown of Princess Elizabeth (Lillibet and the future Queen of England).  Ann and Miriam, along with a whole team of girls create a famous wedding dress and try to keep it a secret as they are working.  After I finished this one I had to Google the dress and look at the detail, you may want to do that also as it is quite exquisite.

3.  Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin  This book left me speechless.  I had heard of the main characters, Claude and Blanche Auzello, but had never known anything about them.  I was
quite surprised by the things they were able to get accomplished in a hotel mostly occupied by German officials. Blanche was my favorite character in the book even though she didn't have a ton of redeeming qualities...what she had did for the war effort, her husband, her friend and the hotel kind of shocked me given the way she treated people before the occupation.  The little twisty thing at the end had me running to Google to check the facts. 

4.  When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton   Beatriz's story made me want to pump my fists in the air and say, "girl power".  Beatriz would not only use her body, but also her mind to try and bring her Cuba back to what it was so she could go home.  Her desire to go home borders on an obsession because of that she is often a tad careless in achieving that end result...HOME.  I loved the book and felt like a reader could pick up this book without reading Next Year In Havana (but I think you should read that too).  The characters overlap a bit, but there is no continuation of a story, what you have here are two very different stories.

5.  The American Princess by Stepanie Marie Thornton  Being a Presidential junkie there was no way I was going to pass on this book.  TR is my third favorite President, but his family rates first in terms of First Families I like to read about.  His children are little mischevious kiddos in every sense of the word.  Here we learn about Alice, his firstborn.  Actually, Alice and the rest of the children have different mothers.  Alice's mom was Alice Lee and she died a couple days after giving birth to little Alice.  Teddy loved Alice (the mom) fiercely and he grieved for a long time over her death.  Teddy could not cope with the child because he saw Alice in her face so he started traveling and left her in the care of relatives.   He was kind of aloof to her from then on....now you read this tale and you see what a spitfire Alice (the daughter) was.  Teddy could not control her (or maybe want to) at all.  Here we learn of her teenage years, her marriage and the raising of her child.  It is all quite scandalous and fun read.

6.  The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff  It wasn't the most perfect read, but it was a very good story that starts off in Grand Central Station.  There a woman named Grace will find a suitcase and it will help her find a will to keep on going even though she has lost something dear to her.  It is very hard to tell you more about this book without giving away some of the plots.  The plot is full of drama and twists, featuring tales of murder, intrigue, mystery and nail-biting moments.

7. Any book by Harper Lin    I am a big fan of Harper Lin and I read every single book that she writes.  While none of them will make a bestseller list or a movie, the books are fun and a perfect way to spend on a summer day reading by the pool, traveling in the car or just because you wanted something to read where you didn't have to think just enjoy yourself.  I am showing you a photo of the first book in the Pink Cupcake series because I think this series is my favorite of all, but don't take my word for it, download a couple and make your own assumptions.   This is the only book on my list not published in 2019. 

8. Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen  This one is all about the rise of Helen Gurley Brown as the editor of Cosmo.  It was a fun ride to see how she fought to change the face of the magazine and kept it from folding. Everything is told through the eyes of her secretary, Alice (Ali). I didn't feel it was like the Devil Wears Prada except in the vibe that it is set in the fashion industry. Helen did not treat Ali like the Devil did. Helen takes Ali under her wing and teaches her about love, sex and how to succeed at work.

9.  The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey  I adored this story.  It was a tale about Fiona whose fiance is missing during WWII.  Fiona is not sure if he is alive or dead and so she clings to his letters of love.    She joins up with the Red Cross Club in an effort to do her part and in hopes of getting stationed on the continent so she can look for her fiance.  In the process, she finds a little romance but mainly she finds friendship with two other girls that changes so much for her life.  While the girls are fictitious, there really was a Red Cross Club and I enjoyed learning about it.  As for the fiance, you have to read and find out what happened.

10. The Beautiful Strangers by Camille De Maio    Imagine spending the summer working at the Hotel del Coronado, where a little movie called Some Like it Hot is being filmed and staying in the hotel is Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis! What a summer that would be!  While you are working at the Hotel del Coronado you very well might fall in love and possibly fall under the spell of a spirit.   Just imagine it.  Read this book and you will see this is exactly what Kate did, but also you will see Kate solve a family mystery and get a visit from a ghost of the past.  This was such a fun story.

Categories of older books that I enjoyed that are worthy of your time:

For those that watched Fosse/Verdon- Fosse by Sam Wasson

For the classic film fan- The Forgotten Flapper by Laini Giles

 For the high school drama fan- Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

 An emotional roller coaster- The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (my pick book of 2018)

True Crime drama- The Girl on the Velvet Swing by Simon Baatz

The Cookbook- Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines

Southern fun- Whiskey in My Teacup by Reese Witherspoon

A book with a beautiful layout- The War Brides Scrapbook by Caroline Preston

Books I cannot wait to read (most have a "to be released" status):

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams
The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
The Summer Country by Lauren Willig
Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor
The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner (waiting for my turn for the library book)
The Girl in the White Gloves by Kerri Maher
The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin
The Girl in the White Gloves by Kari Maher
Go See the Principal by Gerry Brooks

28 May 2019

Review: Mistress of the Ritz

Mistress of the Ritz Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For most of this book I was in my usual place of WWII a little romance, survival mode of the characters in the face of the invading Nazi government, and some spy adventures to boot. This one takes place primarily inside the Ritz hotel. Lush decor, plump cushions, white gloved treatment, gourmet meals, an answer to your every whim, I mean who would not want to go there? Not during this time you would not! There was lots of deception going on, rations, spies and lots of folks terrified that the next step would be the last.

In a hotel you know that the cast of characters could be quite large. Coco Chanel was present (I have yet to read anything enduring about her behavior while living at the Ritz), Hemingway makes an appearance as does Marlena Dietrich and plenty of Nazi soldiers. The primary characters would be Claude and Blanche Auzello. I may have heard of them before and did not retain their names or any of their actions. As a matter of a fact, I had to look them up early on to verify they were real people. For the most part they behaved as I expected them to in a Nazi occupied France/hotel...but there was a twist I never saw coming. Well two twists. I am not going to spoil either of them, but I was shocked. With the last third of the book this tale advanced to one of my pick books of the year!!!!

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26 May 2019

Review: Of All the Gin Joints: A Cocktail Drinker's Guide to Hollywood Hijinks and Mayhem

Of All the Gin Joints: A Cocktail Drinker's Guide to Hollywood Hijinks and Mayhem Of All the Gin Joints: A Cocktail Drinker's Guide to Hollywood Hijinks and Mayhem by Mark Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was full of cocktail recipes and Hollywood drama, exactly what I need on a Saturday night. Some of the stories I had heard before because the folks were super famous, but there were some folks that I had barely heard of that had stories that could ONLY happen in Hollywood.

I was looking for a book that would leave me entertained and not requiring any thinking on my part, this did fit that bill, but also left me intrigued. I found myself looking things up with reading. Very glad to have found this one.

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Review: Park Avenue Summer

Park Avenue Summer Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My only regret is that this journey to NYC was over so quickly. I was loving being in the office with Helen Gurley Brown and seeing how Cosmo became the Cosmo that I know. HGB isn't the main character, but she is a very big fixture of the book. The main character is Ali (Alice) who moved to NYC to fulfill both her dream and the dream of her mom. We see Ali experience love, betrayal, and learn how a small town girl can survive in the big city. There was also a twist to Ali's story that I did NOT see coming, but I thought it was fabulous.

I adored the setting, the characters, and the fashion...my only regret is that I could not transport myself into the book to experience it firsthand.

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08 May 2019

Review: Fosse

Fosse Fosse by Sam Wasson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wanted to re-read this book because I am completely digging the series on FX. I have always adored Fosse. I didn't quite know much about Gwen except what I had read here and that she was Lola. On t he second reading of this book I decided to do the audio and I simply adored the narrator's voice. I still stand by the fact that any Fosse fan should read this. He may have been a genius in his work, but he was a man full of flaws, faults and seriously troubled. I do like how the series mimics the chapter titles counting down the years until his death. When I first read this book I thought that was fabulous. I don't think I have ever seen that done before.

old review:

Fosse and all that Jazz! I loved this book! It was the Fosse I knew, the Fosse I love.

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04 May 2019

Review: Betty Grable: The Girl with the Million Dollar Legs

Betty Grable: The Girl with the Million Dollar Legs Betty Grable: The Girl with the Million Dollar Legs by Tom McGee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book a long time ago. I remember it was paperback, I remember loving it. I did not remember the details because I took no notes on it, so I am very glad to read it again. I had forgotten that this book made Betty (and maybe she was) a great person. A person who was still humble even though for a time she was the most popular lady in America. Famed for her gorgeous legs, many forget that she was also a gifted actress. One of my favorite films ever is Pin-Up Girl, it is fun and this book gave us a peek into Betty's life as she was making the film. I am glad I stumbled upon this book later on in life after I had seen many of Betty's films and could really appreciate her contributions to the great world of classic movies.

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