Friday, July 23, 2010

Good Books: Summer Reading Binge!

Back from vacation, tanned and happy -- and with a bunch of new books read that I can tell you about! I spent a ton of time stretched out on the sand in my beach chair last week, plowing through books -- reading on the beach is just the best, isn't it? I love how the sound of the waves sort of mutes everything and helps you focus. (Maybe I need to get one of those "ocean sounds" CDs to help me focus at work!)

So I finished three books at the beach, though I was pretty far into one of them before I got there. That one was Middlemarch by George Eliot -- one of the "classic" books I've been challenging myself to read more of. (Might as well use that liberal arts degree, huh?)

I'm not going to lie -- this one was a tough read, and not just because it was almost 800 pages long! George Eliot doesn't write in light, satirical prose like Jane Austen or in rich, emotional language like the Bronte sisters. She tries hard for realism in her books, which makes some parts of the book really dry and technical, especially the sections on religious and medical disputes. And don't look for happily ever afters or romantic relationships here -- she shows us what can really happen after people get married and discover what their spouses are really like.

But there were some really great characters in the book, too, especially some of the more minor characters. My favorite, I think, was one of the vicars, Mr. Farebrother. He's criticized by his parishioners because he likes to gamble a wee bit too much, but he ends up being one of the more morally sound and kind characters in the whole novel. And the tension-filled relationship between Dorothea and Will was also fascinating -- I really liked that I couldn't tell right away what their motives or intentions were.

The book I actually bought to take with me on vacation was Elin Hilderbrand's A Summer Affair -- the cover just makes it look like a good beach read, doesn't it? Plus, it's set in Nantucket, and I really love the Nantucket/Martha's Vineyard/Cape Cod area.

The novel itself was just okay as far as romances go -- I have to admit that I wasn't really very invested in the "affair" of the book's title. I was more interested in some of the side details, like Claire's glassblowing efforts and the snippy back-biting that went on between the members of a committee trying to put on a big charity event. So, if you're looking for a quick read that's not too absorbing, this one might fit the bill.

Book number three was The Women of Windsor by Catherine Whitney. As you might have guessed from the cover, this one was about some of the female members of the British royal family: the Queen Mum, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Princess Anne. Interestingly enough, it was also written by an American -- unusual as most books about the royals, appropriately enough, seem to be written by Brits.

I learned some new things about the royal ladies in this book, especially Princess Anne and the Queen Mum. I wish there had been more focus on them, though, and less on Princess Diana and the Camilla/Charles/Diana mess. Word of caution: if you really like Princess Di, this probably isn't the book for you -- the author really is not a fan. Mostly, this just made me want another royal wedding ASAP! (Get on it, Wills and Kate!)

So that's the update on the prose I've devoured recently. Now I'm working on another classic book: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I love a good mystery!

(P.S.: I've added a widget for my GoodReads account, where I keep track of what I've read and what I'm currently reading. If you have a GoodReads account, feel free to add me as a friend!)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Style Inspiration: Tennis WAG Kim Sears

Hooray -- I'm headed to the beach on Saturday! Can't wait to get my toes in the sand and a tan on my skin! :) I've been trying to figure out what outfits to bring, and I've been taking inspiration from one of my new fave ladies: Kim Sears, British Tennis WAG (that's an acronym for "Wives and Girlfriends, for those of you who don't follow British sports obsessively like I do, LOL!).

Kim is the on-and-off girlfriend of Andy Murray, the great Scottish hope of British tennis. She's always in the stands watching her man, and she's got great style. Here are some of Kim's courtside essentials that I love:

Loooooving her aviators -- these are probably Kim's signature piece. I've got a pair, and they are definitely my favorite sunglasses for the summer. During the winter, I rock a big pair of over-sized Hollywood shades, but these are just so cool for the hot weather.

Kim wears stripes a lot, and so do I -- nothing is preppier or more classic than a navy shirt with white stripes. So nautical and so summery!

She also pairs her stripes quite frequently with good, old-fashioned cardigans. I'm one of those annoying people who is cold all the time, so I always wear layers, and cardis are a regular part of my wardrobe, too!

Love this dressier floral frock as a fancier alternative for a match -- paired once again with a cute cardigan! The pleats are too cute.

I'm seeing these big statement necklaces everywhere lately -- love the orange-and-purple combo in this one. I probably wouldn't wear one of these with jean shorts, but I think one would be super cute with one of my solid-colored dresses for work!

I'm a big fan of jackets with T-shirts and jeans for a more dressed-up casual look -- so much more pulled together than a hoodie! (But I don't wear a ton of T-shirts with designs or slogans in public -- I like solid colors. Boring? Classic? Whatever it is, that's me!) :)

And finally -- my favorite -- an adorable pashmina! Every outfit looks better with a scarf casually draped around your neck, if you ask me. I need this particular one in my closet, like, yesterday!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Five Friday Faves

(Still working on the "better me" plan -- the skin care stuff is going great, BTW! -- and I've been thinking that one area I need to work on is staying more positive in my outlook on life. So, to remind myself of all of the good things around me, I'm going to start doing five of my favorite things every Friday!)

1. Fireworks!

My very favorite part of the Fourth of July holiday is always the fireworks displays -- I love the shiny, bright, booming, beautiful lights in the sky! My favorites are the all-white fireworks that explode into the huge bursts that trickle down like waterfalls. So amazing!

2. Applebee's Perfect Margarita

Indulged in one of these the other night, and it really is perfection! (Well, minus the olive, I must admit -- it may be served in a martini glass, but it's not a martini!) Love that they bring out the shaker so you can refill your own glass, LOL! :)

3. Bath & Body Works "Deep Aqua" Lotion

My local Bath & Body Works was having a big discount sale this week, so I picked up a new lotion scent to try, and I absolutely love it. It really smells like summertime!

4. The Wizard of Oz

Love Dorothy and her ruby reds -- Turner Classic Movies is showing the film tonight!

5. Wimbledon

Goooo, Andy Murray! (He's playing Nadal right now.) Most of the time, I cheer for the American players (or Federer, because he's just so hunky), but I'd love to see Murray overcome the curse and finally have a Brit win Wimbledon!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Good Books: Eleanor Herman's "Sex with Kings"

It's probably pretty clear from the title of my blog that I love love love to read! What better opportunity than a blog, then, to tell you about the books I'm reading?

This week, I read an awesome book by historian Eleanor Herman called Sex with Kings. If the title wasn't provocative enough, here's the cover of the paperback version:

Scandalous! :) The book, as you've probably figured out, is about royal mistresses throughout history -- the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

I read a lot about royalty -- I love the British royal family, especially the Queen and Prince William (and his girlfriend, Kate, too -- if they would just get married already, LOL!). But this was a side of royalty I didn't know much about. We always joked in history class in college about the number of illegitimate children some monarchs produced -- Charles II had 12 or 13, I think! -- but I had never really thought much about the women behind the word "mistress."

I was shocked at how complicated the world of the royal mistress was. The title is a little ironic, because sex was only really a minor part of the role a mistress played. She had to be beautiful, witty, interesting, loyal, smart, and, most of all, power hungry. Royal mistresses ran wars and sat in on political meetings; they also dictated fashions and accrued fortunes and titles.

But it definitely wasn't an easy role to play -- Herman writes about how the mistress always had to be on guard to watch for other women who wanted to take her place. And when a royal mistress fell out of favor, she could lose everything!

I was initially not sure I was going to love this book, but the second I cracked it open, I was completely fascinated. If you, like me, are interested in history that isn't just about wars fought by men, I think you'll like this one, too!

If you're interested in purchasing the book, here's a link to Amazon:

Sex with Kings : 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge (P.S.)

(If you buy the book through that link, I get a little percentage of the profits for referring you! Pretty cool, no?)

Next up: Middlemarch by George Eliot -- it's been a slog so far, but I'm hoping things improve soon!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Camelot Goes Dawson's Creek...

Along with the venerable Audrey, another of my favorite ladies has always been Jackie O. The dark hair! The perfect jewelry! The fascinating life! The Kennedys were as much sordid soap as they were shining heroes, but I love 'em anyway.

Anyway: Jackie. The History Channel is making a new eight-hour miniseries about the family called The Kennedys, and the first pictures from the set came out today. Greg Kinnear looks super-dashing as JFK:

Perfect sunglasses, perfect hair: I believe he's going to negotiate major political deals during the day and sneak off with Marilyn Monroe at night.

But then, as Jackie, they've cast:

JOEY POTTER. You've got to be kidding me! Beyond a basic resemblance -- dark hair, dark eyes -- she seriously just looks like Katie Holmes in a wig. I hope she proves me wrong, but I don't think she's going to be able to pull off Jackie's sort of aloof coolness. I have a feeling I'll be sitting there for eight hours, watching the miniseries and wishing it was a no-name actress playing the part rather than our old friend Joey.

Maybe they'll cast Pacey as RFK?

You've Got a Friend in Me

I went with some friends to see the latest Toy Story movie last night -- it wasn't a film that was really on my list, but one of them was really excited for it. I have to say, even though I hadn't seen the second one, the third was a really clever and sentimental movie. The theme of moving on from childhood was so touching, and I was definitely wiping my eyes when the end credits rolled! We went out for drinks afterward, and I was afraid that everyone was going to think I was crazy with my red post-movie-crying eyes! :)

(Also, I had to crack up -- I definitely had that exact Ken doll back in the late '80s, blue leopard print shirt and all! LOL!)