poolside reading
poolside reading

Vacation reading is the best reading, isn’t it? Oh, to be able to luxuriate somewhere warm with a cold drink and a book for hours on end! Heaven. Luckily, I had some good reads for company this time. First, I tackled Kevin Kwan’s Rich People Problems, which I had been saving for weeks precisely for this vacation. It’s the third and final book in the Crazy Rich Asians series. I LOVED the first book, and enjoyed the follow-up, China Rich Girlfriend. To be honest, it’s a case of diminishing returns but the characters are so darn engaging that I don’t mind the increasingly soap opera-ish plot. I mean, the plot was always inherently over-the-top, but something about Rich People Problems was just … tired. With that said, I still enjoyed the heck out of it and would probably happily read another 3 sequels. I can’t get enough of the Youngs, Leongs, Chens, Shangs, Bings, Khoos, and all the rest. I am also super pumped for the new movie that’s about to start filming. I can’t wait to see all the action (and fashion p*rn) on the big screen.

The second book I read was Rosamund Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers. I believe I picked this up after I saw it recommended by Adrien on Looks Good From The Back. Pilcher is not an author I’ve read before, but I greatly enjoyed this book. The writing is so satisfying — like a great comfort food meal. I loved Penelope and Olivia, and wished the book had spent even more time with each of them and less with Noel and Nancy, whom I despised, and Danus and Antonia, who bored me. It was strange that, by the way; without wanting to give away any spoilers, Danus and Antonia’s plotlines had every mark of something that would appeal to me, but they somehow felt like much less substantial and interesting characters than Penelope and Olivia, who practically leapt off the page. I found myself wishing for a friend like Penelope, in particular. Is it possible to fall in (platonic) love with a character? Asking for, um, a friend.

Lastly, I also managed to get through most of a Phryne Fisher mystery (The Castlemaine Murders), which I then promptly finished at home. It was good, like most books from the series. I enjoyed reading more about Lin Chung’s (Phryne’s Chinese lover) family and background, especially his role as “paterfamilias” and what that would have meant back then. The books (and the show, to perhaps a lesser extent) do such a good job of incorporating diversity into its plots. I still miss the show, by the way. I am ready for season 4 to begin, like, yesterday.

And that’s it, folks. I didn’t spend much time on the internet on my vacation, except to Google maps of the Palm Springs area and restaurant reviews. I did manage to catch a documentary about the Salton Sea on YouTube, which I would recommend if you are interested in Atlas Obscura-worthy travel destinations. It’s called the Plagues & Pleasures of the Salton Sea, and it’s narrated by none other than John Waters. More on that next week, when I will recap my Palm Springs adventures.

Edited to add: this Racked article is a must-read if, like me, you have ever been obsessed with the whole effortless French chic ideal.

As always, leave your book/Netflix/article recc’s in the comments, and have a happy Friday!

18 Comments on What I Read: Vacation Edition

  1. You should read, Coming Home, by Rosamunde Pilcher. Thank you for the recommendations, I’m always looking for new authors. Have you read Jacqueline Winspears books? They take place around the Second World War. (The Maisie Dobbs series).

      • I think Coming Home is my favorite of all her books! I very much agree with you about the characters in The Shell Seekers – Penelope and Olivia are the best.

  2. Adina, have you ever read the Outlander series? I assume that you have… but just checking 🙂 I read the first three while on vacation in Mexico and it was the BEST poolside read.

    • Not yet … I keep resisting, not sure why but I keep telling myself it’s not my thing, lol. I will eventually succumb, and then probably fall madly in love with it.

  3. I can never take the French thing entirely seriously because my most sustained exposure to French culture all comes from reading about the Dreyfus affair and Algeria. ( And living there for a summer while learning French, I guess). It’d be like trying to sell people on NYC style without ever mentioning racism or income inequality. It’s nice that French women wear matching lingerie, I guess, but maybe not the most germane set of facts about France? That sort of cultural fetishization only exists by whitewashing a whole lot about the history and culture of the place. It is interesting, though, which cultures get to whitewash their pasts in international marketing.

    In general, I get a little irritated with the whole “be European, you disgusting American slob” marketing shtick, which is basically how French chic is sold here. Not because I disagree with a lot of the critiques of American life underpinning it but because A) it’s a totally romanticized vision of Europe and B) it couches as lifestyle choices things that would need much bigger infrastructure and policy changes to make possible. I live in NYC. It’s really easy to stay relatively thin by integrating exercise into your daily life because the city is built in such a way that you can walk 4-6 miles a day as a matter of course. You’d have to rebuild most of the country to make that possible in other places. And yet it’s often pitched as a lifestyle choice that the French just know how to do better.

    Anyway, on books, I read two recently you might like. One is Romantic Outlaws. It’s a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. The other is Love and Capital, which is a biography of Karl and Jenny Marx. Both were really fun reads and seem like the sort of thing you might like.

    • You raise some really great and thought-provoking points. I think there is a whole race/class aspect to the “fetishization” of French girls that makes me very uncomfortable when I stop to think about it. I should also mention that my own experience is slightly different; I grew up reading French literature and viewing France as the epitome of culture. Before Communism took over, my country used to have strong cultural ties with France (Paris, in particular). Our capital used to be known as the “Paris of the Balkans” back in the early 1900s. So there was always an admiration of all things French, not necessarily limited (or even focused on) style. So now, living here in the West, the North American fascination with French chic is layered over that whole thing. For me, I think, there is definitely an inferiority complex that this whole trend is speaking to — first as an Eastern European (for centuries, less desirable than Western Europeans or the “right kind” of Europeans), and second as an immigrant and outsider to N. America. Which makes this sort of marketing really insidious and effective; even though I know I *should* reject it for being, at the very least, super elitist if not worse, I still find myself going “hmmm, maybe I need another red lipstick in my life…”

      P.S. thanks for the book recc’s — they definitely sound right up my alley.

  4. I love Shellseekers too. Check out September also by Rosamund Pilcher. Spoiler alert, Noel is in it but he has matured and is a better person. Characters are good in it, but Penelope is still the best one.

    • I saw that one on Amazon, and as soon as I read that Noel was in it, I was like, nope! But maybe I’ll have to reconsider …

    • She was just so … relatable to me, I guess. Not perfect, but kind and interesting and vibrant. She’s almost like this life-long friend you just remembered.

  5. I liked Crazy Rich Asians, and am also excited for the wardrobe in the movie adaptation = )
    Along a similar vein of book – have you ever read The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan? I loved it.

    Also, that Racked article is great, and reminded me of related thought I’ve been having, about the obsession with Bridget Bardot and Jane Birkin as style icons. They are often mentioned as the wardrobe-inspiration standard, and until a few years ago I assumed they were both deceased, until I looked it up (they are not). It feels strange for people to constantly cite the person (Jane and Bridget) as wardrobe inspirations when in fact they are really only referring to a small portion of that person’s wardrobe, from when they young and waifish. Presumably they have both changed and matured a lot on their own personal style journey, but for some reason everyone focuses on this small moment in time from which to draw endless inspiration. Maybe simplification of a theme is helpful or necessary in order to be used as an inspiration, but it all feels sort of limiting.


    • I agree with you on the simplification that’s involved in “creating” a style icon. Maybe it’s because I see clothing as an extension of the self and a mode of self-expression, but I always chafe at limitations of that sort; I am not a one-dimensional person, so wearing the same outfit over and over makes me feel like I’m reducing myself in the process. I think there are lots of people who don’t have that relationship with clothes, and who then don’t understand this aspect of the experience for people like me. There are people who look at dressing as this annoying mundane task (like brushing one’s teeth) that needs to be done every day but that takes away from more interesting/important things. I just can’t fathom that … just as they probably can’t fathom my mindset.

  6. I especially love reading anything by Elin Hilderbrand in the summer! I’m on my third one already this season. She specializes in stories based in the Cape Cod area of the US, and they just seem so well suited to summer reading. They’re not terribly “heavy lifting” but not vapid, if you know what I mean?

  7. I just finished “China Rich Girlfriend” while I was on vacation and while I liked it, I am growing tired with how perfect Rachel is. She never does anything wrong and eventually everyone just loves her. It’s tiresome and predictable. I do love Astrid, though!