The original version of this newsletter was sent out on Tuesday, May 21.

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Hello, fellow bookworms!

This “May gray” weather we’ve been having lately always puts me in the mood to curl up and read. I haven’t had a ton of extra time recently, so I definitely plan to take advantage of this weather for some relaxing, cozy vibes.

As we’re getting to the halfway point of 2024 (!), I thought it’d be fun to look back at my reading list from the year so far and pick out some highlights.

Credit: Courtesy

Starting off with an unusual one, we have Cheese Sex Death: A Bible for the Cheese Obsessed by Erika Kubick, cheesemonger and self-proclaimed “cheese preacher.” In her hilarious style with plenty of mouthwatering descriptions, Kubick covers everything from the history of cheesemaking to the different types of cheese, pairings with food and alcohol, and recipes to enthusiastically guide even the most rank beginners to worship at the altar of Cheesus.

While I’m far from a foodie, I stumbled across Kubick’s Instagram and was immediately intrigued by her knowledge and funny teaching style. I had no idea there was such a culture (pun intended) around cheese, and I found myself happy to learn more. (Anyone who can describe burrata as “bulging bosoms bouncing in brine” gets a laugh from me.) I definitely plan to try out some of her amazing-sounding recipes at future dinner parties — baked brie with honey, garlic, and rosemary, anyone?

Credit: Courtesy

For my favorite book I’ve read so far this year, we have Stephanie Clifford’s The Farewell Tour, the story of Lillian Waters, a jaded, alcoholic country-music star setting out for her last tour in the 1980s. Told in dual timelines, the novel outlines Lillian’s upbringing during the Great Depression and her fiercely ambitious rise to fame, juxtaposed between her last turn in the saddle as she grapples with the legacy she’s leaving and the world she’s helped make for future female artists coming up behind her.

As someone who adores both country music and stories about complicated women, The Farewell Tour absolutely stunned me. The whiplash-inducing low lows and high highs of Lillian’s career and life story all add up to a character who feels so painfully real I wish I could attend one of her shows.

Credit: Courtesy

Before the events of Game of Thrones, there was the Targaryen dynasty — from Aegon the Conqueror, through the centuries of kings and queens vying for the Iron Throne, and all the way to the deaths of the last dragons. George RR Martin’s Fire & Blood provides a history, recounted by the maesters of the Citadel, of the most powerful family in Westeros, from their rise to power to the civil war that became their downfall.

Is anyone else looking forward to the new season of HBO’s House of the Dragon? I decided to brush up on the lore and what might come next by rereading Fire & Blood, which I read for the first time before seeing the show, but believe me, there’s so much detail that I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Martin’s choice to frame the book as a written history may seem like an unusual choice, but the established world of Westeros and the subjective nature of differing recollections only made it more intriguing in my opinion. History is tangled, and the history of the Targaryen dynasty is certainly no exception. I would definitely encourage fans of the show to pick up the book as well — if you don’t mind spoilers!

Credit: Courtesy

When Salma Lowe was a teenager, her famous, beautiful sister, Tawney, Hollywood’s “Hurricane Blonde,” was found dead beside the pool of her L.A. mansion, and the case remains unsolved. As an adult, Salma has tried to stay out of the limelight, but the discovery of another dead young woman at the house that was once Tawney’s pulls her back into the mystery — and the chance to figure out what really happened to her sister, and to make the world a little safer for all the women preyed upon by Hollywood.

I love a good story — fictional or true — about the dark side of fame, and Hollywood has no shortage of them. Halley Sutton’s The Hurricane Blonde brings it all together: the glitz and glamour, the beauty of filmmaking, and the subjectiveness of art, as well as the abuse of power and the pressure on women to succeed at all cost. Sutton weaves a complicated web that I found myself eagerly devouring to get to the mystery of what really happened to the Hurricane Blonde.

Have you read any of these books, or are you now considering picking one of them up? I’d love to hear from you! No matter how you spend the rest of these May gray days, happy reading.



Below, you will find a few bookish events coming up in Santa Barbara. If you are hosting a bookish event in Santa Barbara, be sure to submit the event to our online events calendar.

Bookvan Stop: Storke Community Center
Wednesday, May 22, 10:30 a.m. | Storke Community Center, UCSB

Bilingual Songs & Stories for Kids
Wednesday, May 22, 11 a.m. | Franklin Elementary School

Baby & Me Storytime
Wednesday, May 22, 5 p.m. | Sunken Gardens at the S.B. County Courthouse

An Evening with Amy Tan: Backyard Bird Chronicles
Thursday, May 23, 7:30 p.m. | Fleischmann Auditorium, S.B. Museum of Natural History

Baby & Me Storytime
Friday, May 24, 10:30 a.m. | Goleta Valley Library

Bookvan Stop: Friendship Manor
Friday, May 24, 1 p.m. | Friendship Manor

Online Seminar Series: The Golden Bough
Saturday, May 25, noon | Virtual

The Mission Poetry Series: Three Poets in Spring
Saturday, May 25, 1 p.m. | Virtual

Mission Poetry Series
Saturday, May 25, 1 p.m. | Virtual | Free with no registration required

Preschool Story Time
Monday, May 27, 10 a.m. | Carpinteria Community Library 5141 Carpinteria Avenue, Carpinteria

Bookvan Stop: UCSB Children’s Center
Tuesday, May 28, 10 a.m. | UCSB Early Childhood

Montecito Book Club
Tuesday, May 28, noon | 1469 E. Valley Rd., Montecito

Mystery Book Club: Mother-Daughter Murder Night
Tuesday, May 28, 5:30 p.m. |  Goleta Valley Library

Storytime at Solvang Library
Wednesday, May 29, 10:30 a.m. | Solvang Library

Bilingual Songs & Stories for Kids
Wednesday, May 29, 11 a.m. | Franklin Elementary School

Baby & Me Storytime
Wednesday, May 29, 5 p.m. | Sunken Gardens at the S.B. County Courthouse

Book Talk: Ivor Davis: Up Close and Personal on The Devil in My Friend
Wednesday, May 29, 6:30 p.m. | The Museum of Ventura County

Bookvan Stop: Perfect Park
Thursday, May 30, 11:15 a.m. | Perfect Park

Bookvan Stop: Sea Lookout Park
Thursday, May 30, 1:45 p.m. | Sea Lookout Park

Baby & Me Storytime
Friday, May 31, 10:30 a.m. | Goleta Valley Library

Online Seminar Series: What Is Life
Saturday, June 1, noon | Virtual

Bookvan Stop: I.V. Elementary School
Friday, May 31, 1 p.m. | Isla Vista Elementary School

Online Seminar Series: The Laws by Plato
Sunday, June 2, noon  | Virtual

Preschool Story Time
Monday, June 3, 10 a.m. | Carpinteria Community Library

Wiggly Storytime
Monday, June 3, 10:30 a.m. | Buellton Library

Online Seminar Series: Transcendentalism
Monday, June 3, noon  | Virtual


We at the Independent get many books sent to us by local authors, sometimes too many! It’s practically impossible for us to read and review them all, but just because we are busy bees does not mean that they aren’t worth the attention. In an attempt to not completely drop the ball, we have compiled a list of books here that have a local spin. They are all either written by a local author, feature someone in our community, or have another tie to Santa Barbara. I urge you to look through this list. Perhaps you will find your new favorite read!

The following are the most recent titles that have been sent to us. Click here for a more comprehensive list.

My Olympic Story: Rome 1960 by Jeff Farrell

The Lehrer-Skoss Russian Legacy by Seymour Lehrer

Pastoral Memories of a Child of Kent: Poetry, Prose, and Paintings by Christina M. Pagès

The Devil in My Friend: The Inside Story of a Malibu Murder by Ivor Davis and Sally Ogle Davis

Unlocking the Moon’s Secrets: From Galileo to Giant Impact by James Lawrence Powell

Mysteries of the Deep: How Seafloor Drilling Expeditions Revolutionized Our Understanding of Earth History by James Lawrence Powell

Scar Songs: Stories by W. Royce Adams

Escaping Nazi Germany: A Jewish Family’s Story by RB Dickinson

If you are a local author and would like us to feature your book in this section, please email with the subject line “Local Author Spotlight.”

Book Reviews Courtesy of CALIFORNIA REVIEW OF BOOKS*

Thanks to the generous contributions of David Starkey, Brian Tanguay and their team of reviewers at California Review of Books, we are able to provide a steady stream of book reviews via our content partnership. Recent reviews at include: 

Come & Get It by Kelly Reid; review by George Yatchisin

*At the present time, all of the Independent’s book reviews are provided in collaboration with California Review of Books ( 

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