Southern Ladies Book Club Reads

Y'all, I've been having so much fun with my new book club! Here's what we've been up to...

In November, we read the recent release Never Have I Ever. This is the Amazon synopsis:

Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.
Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did. 
When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.
To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins. 
A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.

It was right up my alley being a psychological thriller. Side note, Max thinks it's hilarious that I enjoy psychological thrillers because in real life, he says I live on a pink cloud where only good things happen. Similarly, he thinks it's bizarre that I'm obsessed with The Real Housewives shows since all they do is fight and I'm uber conflict adverse, but that's a different story. Anyway, back to the book. It was the story that kept on giving. Twists and turns kept being introduced, and while our book club agreed that the main character wasn't necessarily likable, you still rooted for her. A big plot point went unanswered which I hate, but it was interesting to see the different takes we all had on what we thought had happened. Pick this book up and I promise, you won't be able to put it down!

My Rating: 4.4/5
Amazon: 4.2/5 stars

Our January read was 2015's Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. Y'all, this book club meeting was epic. Kitchens of the Great Midwest revolves around food, and our book club did the story proud by recreating the most important dishes in the book for our get-together. January's hostess came up with the entire idea. She even reached out to the author who offered up his own questions on the book to us via instagram, how cool is that? Here's the Amazon synopsis:

When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter—starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life—its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.

Oh my word, this. book. It was like nothing I've ever read. First, it's brutal. I threw it across the bed at least three times while reading it, proclaiming to Max that it was terrible. When he asked if it was poor writing or a boring story, I cried that, no, it was just pulling at my heart strings and deeply, deeply sad. Some of the scenarios that played out just tore me, but I kept reading and I'm so happy I did because the novel was so clever and overall wonderful. 

Spoiler alert - each chapter of Kitchens of the Great Midwest is told from a different character's point of view - all in chronological order, but they leave you guessing where the main character (Eva) is and how everyone relates to her. Characters come rolling in and out and the final chapter ends with an amazing meal, because yes, food is in every fiber of every sentence. The book will make you want to hop into a kitchen and get cooking. It takes "foodie culture" to an extreme, which we semi poked fun at when creating our book club menu. I was responsible for the Caesar Salad with "Imported Parmesan, House Made Dressing with Local Pastured Eggs, and House Made Croutons Hand Shaken with Minced Garlic" - I need the crying laughing emoji, but you will totally get it if you read the book. Our commemoration meal was all sorts of incredible! 

My Rating: 4.7
Amazon: 4/5 stars

Next month's book, Southern Lady Code, is actually a collection of very short essays that I breezed my way through this past week while Max was on travel. Each chapter was a perfect little tidbit to read (and have me laughing out loud) before bed. 

Helen Ellis has a mantra: "If you don't have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way." Say "weathered" instead of "she looks like a cake left out in the rain." Say "early-developed" instead of "brace face and B cups." And for the love of Coke Salad, always say "Sorry you saw something that offended you" instead of "Get that stick out of your butt, Miss Prissy Pants." In these twenty-three raucous essays Ellis transforms herself into a dominatrix Donna Reed to save her marriage, inadvertently steals a $795 Burberry trench coat, witnesses a man fake his own death at a party, avoids a neck lift, and finds a black-tie gown that gives her the confidence of a drag queen. While she may have left her home in Alabama, married a New Yorker, forgotten how to drive, and abandoned the puffy headbands of her youth, Helen Ellis is clinging to her Southern accent like mayonnaise to white bread, and offering readers a hilarious, completely singular view on womanhood for both sides of the Mason-Dixon.

I found the stories extra hilarious actually living in Alabama now, though I took great offense to the line where the author says that you haven't let yourself go until your wedding rings don't fit. Y'all. My wedding rings do not fit. The same thing happened after I gave birth to Parker and I couldn't wear them again until after his first birthday and after I stopped nursing... so let's hope that happens again. I tried to slip them on after reading that line and just about got them stuck so I won't be trying again any time soon. 

My rating: 3.8
Amazon: 4.1/5 stars

Finally, Talk Southern to Me is the book that I picked up at our Secret Santa book club exchange. It's more of a coffee table type book with cute little sayings and advice on living in the South. Really, I needed this book five years ago when we moved here, haha! 

The hilarious book that the South’s very own Dolly Parton described as “fun, informative, and oh-so Southern,” Talk Southern To Me is a love letter to the South, y’all. Essays ’bout charm, beauty and style, chewin’ the fat, love, parenting, and more―full of yes ma’ams and no sirs, casseroles and cheese balls, taffeta and pom-poms . . .  plus more Southern phrases than you can shake a stick at. 
If you’re not from the South, bless your heart, pay attention cause there’s a ton of wisdom to be found in these heartfelt, humorous ways. Southerners speak their own unique version of the English language, and you’ll come to understand it in these pages. It’s a linguistic art. And it’s gooder than grits, y’all. 
South Carolina native, Julia Fowler, is the creator of YouTube’s Southern Women Channel, home of the viral video series, Sh%t Southern Women Say. She is an actor, writer, and producer who has worked in television, film, and on Broadway. She currently resides in Venice Beach, California, and is generally irritated that it’s void of proper fried okra. Visit her at

If you love the South, or, if you're like me and are moving there after a lifetime of being a West Coaster, this one's for you!

My Rating: 3.7
Amazon: 4.8/5 stars


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