March 10, 2017

Quick Lit: February 2017

One of my worst blogging habits is my inability to write about what I've read in a timely manner. So, I'm trying something new: recapping what I read at the end of each month and linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy. I feel like "traditional" reviews have declined in popularity, although I'll still be writing some every month, so I'm hoping this will be a fun way to share what I'm reading. The exception will be review books that I can't discuss yet! 

If you missed it, in February I recommended seven recent adult contemporary releases: Results May Vary by Bethany Chase, We Were on a Break by Lindsey Kelk, My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella, Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane, The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell, Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld and The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I also reviewed The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, which was lovely. 

I'll have reviews for three more books - Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu, Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley and Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce - coming up later in the month.

LAB GIRL BY HOPE JAHREN | I'm not a science person, but Lab Girl was on my radar due to all the excellent reviews I'd seen. I was so excited to listen to it on audiobook, and it didn't disappoint! This memoir highlights a passion for the world around us, a dedication to uncovering mysteries at the tiniest level and the way a friends can push each other towards greatness and become family in the process. Jahren's love for science is interwoven with the story of her life, and it made for fascinating reading. It was outside my comfort zone, but I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the science, the sense of adventure and Jahren's narration. And I'll never look at plants quite the same way again! It was a little tedious at times, but I So Enjoyed It overall.

HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION BY LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA AND JEREMY MCCARTER | At the end of 2016, I finally caved to the hype and listened to Hamilton. Y'all, I get it now. Can you say obsessed? I've had the Original Broadway Cast Recording and the Mixtape on repeat ever since, so the only logical next step was the dive into the book. I spent a few weeks slowly reading through it, and I have a whole new appreciation for the musical now! I was already astounded by Miranda's talent, but the book just reinforced his creative genius. I loved learning about his writing process and inspiration, and it was amazing to see how everyone brought his vision to life on stage. I So Enjoyed It, and now I'm dying to go to New York City to be in the room where it happens!

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY BY MARY ANN SHAFFER AND ANNIE BARROWS | The first time I read this book was long before I started blogging. I remember loving everything about it! I'm not a huge fan of epistolary novels in general, but the format just works so perfectly for this story. I knew it was time for a re-read and settled on audio based on reviews. That was an excellent decision! The audiobook has multiple narrators, and they're all fantastic and brought the story to life in a whole new way. I felt like I was the one receiving the letters! I loved these quirky and lovable characters, the charming Guernsey setting, the format and the picture of how stories bring people together. What a delight, and I'm So Obsessed With It.

THE NIGHTINGALE BY KRISTIN HANNAH | I've owned this book since it came out in February 2015, but I never made it past the first chapter whenever I'd pick it up. There isn't anything wrong with the beginning - I'd just always set it aside and think Maybe later. But when the audiobook became available at my library, I decided to try again. And this time, I was hooked! I could not stop listening to the story - the narrator was wonderful, but it was the story that was absolutely unforgettable. Vianne and Isabelle are living in France during WWII, and they both fight to survive in different ways. I laughed, I cheered, I gasped, I cried... it was an emotional reading experience, to say the least! This was a riveting and heartbreaking read, and I'm So Obsessed With It.

THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE BY JOSHILYN JACKSON | The first book I read by Joshilyn Jackson was a total bust, and I never finished the second one I attempted. But I was determined to try one more time! Jackson's writing is engaging and her characters are vivid, but there was still something about the story that wasn't quite right for me. Paula Vauss is a divorce attorney in Atlanta who is still dealing with scars from her childhood. The blend of Southern storytelling and Hindu mythology and the shifts between the present day and Paula's past were occasionally frustrating. That being said, I did enjoy the way it explored family, guilt, forgiveness and new beginnings. It was an odd read, but I thought about it long after I'd finished. So, I'd say I So Liked It.

DARK MATTER BY BLAKE CROUCH | Last year, I signed up for Book of the Month Club because they had a special offer that I couldn't resist. I thought it would be a fun way to read something that I might not pick up otherwise. This title definitely falls into that category! It's a blend of thriller and sci fi, and it reminded me of a darker and more twisted version of Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It's gotten rave reviews, and I definitely couldn't put it down once I started! I liked the main character, Jason, and was caught up in his race to uncover the truth of what's happened to him. Try to avoid spoilers for this one! Although the science element went over my head, I loved the relational aspects of the story. I So Enjoyed It but found the ending unsatisfying.

THE HIDDEN GALLERY BY MARYROSE WOOD | I read the first book in this series, The Mysterious Howling, last year because I loved the cover. The summary sounded cute, sure, but I truly picked it up for superficial reasons. Thankfully, it turned out to be utterly delightful! I knew I wanted to continue the series and was thrilled to see the audiobook available through my library. It's read by Katherine Kellgren, and I can honestly say she's my absolute favorite narrator. The book is delightful on its own, but she added so much to it! Although the plot is a bit thin and the mystery at the heart of the series is unfolding a little too slowly, the characters are so engaging and the writing is so clever. This book was just so much fun, and I So Enjoyed It!

FINDING AUDREY BY SOPHIE KINSELLA | After falling in love with Kinsella's latest adult release, My Not So Perfect Life, I decided to try this book next. I bought the hardcover at a bargain bookstore but ended up borrowing the audiobook from the library. It's narrated by Gemma Whelan, and I thought she did a nice job. This book is the story of a girl, Audrey, who is suffering from social anxiety and is trying to face her fears and move forward with her life. The subject matter was more serious than I would have expected from Kinsella, but I felt she handled it really well. But there was also her trademark humor, which I loved, and a quirky and endearing cast of characters. I was rooting for Audrey from the very start! This was such a gem, and I So Enjoyed It.

What have you been reading lately?

March 6, 2017

February 2017: Recap + On My Shelves

February is one of my favorite months, even though the weather is usually dreary, because my birthday is on the first and Nick's is on the twenty-ninth. And y'all, I'm blaming all my book acquisitions on my birthday... Oops!

1. Celebrating My Birthday - This isn't a great picture, so I hope you'll forgive me! I spent the morning of my birthday hanging out with my boys, then we met my mom and Grammy for lunch.,and they took our little peanut home with them for the afternoon. So, Nick took me shopping, and I got some awesome goodies.

2. Beatriz Williams, Amber BrockKaren White Book Signing - I recently discovered FoxTale Book Shoppe and immediately put this signing on my calendar. I've only read one book by Beatriz Williams, even though I own all of them (I KNOW), but I've been hoping I'd be able to meet her. What a bonus to meet Karen and Amber, too!

3. Enjoying the Gorgeous Weather - Honestly, it didn't even feel like February! Sure, there were some cold and/or rainy days... but the month overall was so lovely. We took advantage of the weather and visited the park, went on walks around the neighborhood and hung out on a blanket in the backyard. It was heavenly.

4. Setting Up My Desk - I mentioned to Nick recently that I wanted my own desk because I often end up blogging at the kitchen table (and then it's a mess). I wanted my own space and realized that I already had the perfect area - it just needed a refresh! That became my project in February, and I'm thrilled with the result.

Read 12 Books | Favorites:
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

Honorable Mentions:
Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu
The Hidden Gallery by MaryRose Wood
“Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume,
and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.”
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

“Her grandmother had once told her that one could blame ugliness on one's genes
and ignorance on one's education, but there was absolutely no excuse whatsoever for being dull.”
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this:
in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“The world was full of us, the leftovers and the leavers, the bereaved and the broken.”
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

“I can't help thinking that we're more than the sum total of our choices,
that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.”
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

“[A]s Agatha Swanburne once said, 'To be kept waiting is unfortunate,
but to be kept waiting with nothing interesting to read is a tragedy of Greek proportions.”
The Hidden Gallery by MaryRose Wood
I kicked off the month by recapping January 2017, and then I finally finished the 2016 End of the Year Book Survey. I love that post once it's done, but I always put off answering the questions! Then, I posted Will You Be My Valentine? and highlighted seven swoony books for any mood. It was fun to talk about some recent adult contemporary releases that I'd recommend! I followed that up with So Obsessed With: The Winter 2017 Edition. It's so fun talking about seasonal favorites for my beauty, my closet and my entertainment. Finally, I reviewed The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan and featured it in the most recent edition of Buy the Book
1. 30 Things I Learned by 30 by Kelly from Belle of the Literati - I always love posts that are reflective, so it's practically a given that I was going to bookmark this post from my sweet friend, Kelly. I've learned some of these lessons myself, and it made me pause and think about what I'd add to her list. That's the best kind of post!

2. Guess What! by Morgan from The Bookish Beagle - This was one of THE BEST announcements in February! I just love Morgan and think she brings so much to the bookish and blogging world, so I'm ecstatic that she's launching her own blog. SUBSCRIBE, Y'ALL. She'll have you fangirling alongside her in no time!

3. Your Afternoon Chat: Books! Books! Books! by Jessica from Go Fug Yourself - The Fug Girls talked about books again in February, and I loved reading through the comments. It was fun to see people recommend books that I already love and find new books I want to check out. My TBR just keeps growing.

Favorite Song: "Body Like a Back Road" by Sam Hunt
I discovered Sam Hunt years ago (when he only had a mixtape you could download for free), 
and I've been obsessed ever since. I listened to this song a lot in February!

Favorite Playlist: All Out 00s by Spotify
I was browsing Spotify playlists one day, came across this one with hits from the 2000s 
and ended up spending a lot of time reminiscing on high school and college! 

The Light Between Oceans (2016) starring Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender - All I wanted to do on my birthday evening was order BBQ from my favorite local place and watch this movie. I hadn't been able to see it in theaters and bought it as soon as it was released. I enjoyed the book and adore Alicia Vikander, so I had high hopes. I loved it, but it was a terrible choice for my birthday -- I cried my eyes out watching it! 

Book Depository: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

Bought at Signing: Overseas by Beatriz Williams and A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock

Bought with Gift Cards: Not Just Jane by Shelley DeWees, On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins, The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams, My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella, The Hidden Gallery by MaryRose Wood, Gemina by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee and Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

Book Outlet: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller, The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson, A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab and The Unseen Guest by MaryRose Wood

Bargain Buys: The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig, Wolf by Wolf and Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

From My Mom: The Gateway to Storyland by Watty Piper

From Cassie: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (not pictured)

From Kelly: The Perfect Stranger and The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie and The Secret by Julie Garwood 

For Review: Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson, Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue, The Emperor's Ostrich by Julie Berry and Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Audible Deals + First-in-Series Sale: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, Ross Poldark by Winston Graham, Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin and Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Caved to Kindle Deals: After Hello by Mhairi McFarlane, A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn, and A Fatal Grace and The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

February 23, 2017

Buy the Book / No. 7

Buy the Book is a monthly feature where I share a gift guide inspired by something I've read. It's a little play on "by the book" since all of the gifts come directly from quotes or scenes in the book featured and, you know, since it's all stuff you can buy. I'm including a snippet from the book for each item so you'll know why I picked it!

"Let me guess," said Mr. Quinlan, getting up and going over to the gramophone.
"'The Very Thought of You,' Al Bowlly?"
Laura smiled. "It was their song."
"Of course. Anthony told me the story."

1. Al Bowlly The Very Thought of You CD ($2) - Anthony and Therese's love story is at the heart of this book, so it seems fitting to include "their song." It's the soundtrack to Laura's plan to fulfill Anthony's personal mission.

This was definitely the job for her. She would chain herself to one of the filing cabinets if necessary to secure it. Fortunately it wasn't. The fact that she had seen The Great Escape and was a fan was apparently enough.

2. The Great Escape Blu-Ray ($24) - Eunice and Bomber bond over his love for this movie, and it's the perfect start to their professional relationship and becomes a shared passion in their lifelong friendship.

Charles Bramwell Brockley was traveling alone and without a ticket on the 14:42 from London Bridge to Brighton. The Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin in which he was traveling teetered precariously on the of the seat as the train juddered to a halt at Haywards Heath.

3. Huntley and Palmers Set of 3 Tins (£15) - This book has such a surprising opening that I actually read it twice to be sure I'd comprehended it correctly. The biscuit tin is one of the most important things Anthony finds!

"Right. Let's look at the clue again -- a pen in a biscuit tin."
"Not just any pen -- Anthony's best, beloved Conway Stewart fountain pen; red-and-black marbled shaft with an eighteen-karat gold nib," Laura added.
"Thank you, Miss Marple, but does that really help our investigation?"
"Well, it was the pen that Anthony used to write his stories."

4. Conway Stewart Dandy Burgundy Ripple Fountain Pen ($390) - The lost items inspire Anthony to write again, and I adored the short stories throughout the book. So, his pen had to be included in my gift guide!

"Perhaps she didn't realize that her story resembled someone else's. Perhaps it was simply an unfortunate coincidence."
It was a no ball.
"Nice try, Ma, but it's called Lady Clatterly's Chauffeur..."

5. Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence ($17) - Bomber's sister is determined to publish a book... if only she had an original idea. I laughed so much at her different proposals (and at the one that finally sticks).

The little blue enameled clock had stopped again; 11:55 and no ticking. Every day it stopped at the same time.

6. Cartier Antique Enamel Silver Miniature Mantel Clock ($3,300) - There's a bit of a mystery and some hints of magic in this story, and the enamel clock is the perfect example. Why does it stop every day at the same time?

Anthony's fingers traced the edges of the jigsaw piece in the palm of his hand and he wondered whose life it had once been a tiny part of. Or perhaps not so tiny. Perhaps its loss had been disproportionately disastrous to its size, causing tears to flow, tempers to flare, or hearts to break. So it had been with Anthony and the thing he had lost so long ago.

7. The Hay Wain Jigsaw Puzzle (£15) - This is just one of the many things Anthony finds over the years, but I loved the way it caused him to reflect on a lost object's importance in the life of its owner.

She sat down on the wooden bench facing the park and breathed a sigh of contentment. A job well done -- almost. The final item on the wooden slats beside her was a bone china cup and saucer painted with gold and violets.

8. Violets Fine Bone China Cup & Saucer Set of 4 ($106) - This is another found object - and the story of how it was lost caught me totally by surprise! And keep an eye out for this character to reappear later in the book.

She was named after St. Therese of the Roses and so he planted the garden as a gift to her. [...] and when it was all done and they stood close together in the spectral drear of a winter twilight, she kissed him softly on the lips and placed something small and round into his cold-bruised hand. It was a picture of St. Therese of the Roses framed in gold metal and glass in the shape of a medallion.

9. Oval Sterling Silver St. Therese Pendant with Real Flowers ($22) - Anthony's love for Therese was so moving, and it's so heartbreaking that he loses her so early in their romance. It changes the course of his life forever.

"We should buy a souvenir for each of them," she said, holding up the striped bag.
In one of the kiosks on the pier, they found a key ring in the shape of a donut for Douglas.

10. Donut Keychain ($15) - And I had to include something in honor of Douglas, the most darling and protective dog with a deep love for iced buns. Baby Jane was sweet, too, but she didn't compare to Douglas!

February 22, 2017

If Found, Please Return To...

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Release Date: February 21, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins; William Morrow
Pages: 288 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; ARC
Add on Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost. 

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made. 

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?

Thoughts on The Keeper of Lost Things
It seems fitting that a book about a man who collects lost things, hoping to return them to their rightful owners, would arrive on my doorstep as a surprise. I hadn't requested a copy for review - or, truthfully, even heard anything about the book. But a kind publicist thought it might be a good fit and sent it my way. I have no idea if I would have discovered The Keeper of Lost Things on my own, but I'm so happy I had the opportunity to read it! It's a quiet novel, but it contains a magical and meaningful story about the things that connect us.

Many years ago, Anthony Peardew lost a cherished keepsake and the love of his life on the same day. Both losses have haunted him ever since, though he has managed to find some healing by rescuing misplaced objects that he finds. As he nears the end of his life, he realizes that his personal mission - to reunite the objects with their owners - is still unfulfilled. So, he bequeaths his estate and his collection to his assistant, Laura. She's a lost thing in her own right - recovering from a bad divorce and brokenhearted about the way her life has turned out. Anthony's home is a safe haven, and his "assignment" just might be the push she needs.
"When he had started gathering lost things all those years ago, he hadn't really had a plan. He just wanted to keep them safe in case one day they could be reunited with the people who had lost them. Often he didn't know if what he had found was trash or treasure. But someone somewhere did. And then he had started writing again; weaving short stories around the things he found. Over the years he had filled his drawers and shelves with fragments of other people's lives, and somehow they had helped to mend his -- so cruelly shattered -- and make it whole again. Not picture-perfect; of course not after what had happened. A life still scarred and cracked and misshapen but worth living nonetheless."
Anthony's story of his lost love and Laura's mission to return the objects make up the bulk of the book, but there's another storyline that plays a vital role in the drama that's unfolding. Eunice has her own story of something lost and something found, and it's woven throughout The Keeper of Lost Things. Every few chapters or so, the story jumps back in time to Eunice's life. I found myself looking forward to each flashback because she was my favorite character! There's a line early on that perfectly describes it:
"This was definitely the job for her. She would chain herself to one of the filing cabinets if necessary to secure it. Fortunately it wasn't."
I felt that way when I met Eunice - she was definitely the character for me, and I would chain myself to her side if necessary to get to know her better. I loved her job, her friendship with Bomber and the adorable dogs they cared for, her sense of humor and her loyalty to the people she loved. She was so full of life!

Laura paled a bit in comparison. She's lost her way, and I think Anthony hopes that becoming the keeper of lost things will be as healing for her as it was for him. I'll let you decide for yourself whether or not it is! There's a blossoming romance for her, which was sweet but fell flat for me. I just wasn't invested in it, but it's a minor quibble because Eunice's friendship with Bomber and Anthony's love for his fiancée more than make up for it!

I figured out the connection between the characters early on, but I don't think it's really supposed to be a mystery. The magic of this book is watching the two stories come together and exploring the lives of the people who have lost things along the way. There are stories scattered throughout the book - brief descriptions of an object with notes on where and when Anthony found it followed by a story of how it was lost. I couldn't wait to get to each one because I'd immediately find myself invested and longing to know more about what happened next. The stories had the potential to seem gimmicky or distracting, but they ended up bringing so much depth to the book. In fact, those stories are what I'll remember most.

My only real concern involves the young girl, Sunshine, who lives next door to Laura. Sunshine has Down syndrome and possesses somewhat of a sixth sense when it comes to the lost objects. I believe the "magical disability" is often a harmful trope, so this representation might be problematic. Other readers may be able to offer greater insight into the representation in this book, but I did think it was worth mentioning.

In many ways, this book reminded me of a British version of Sarah Addison Allen (and I love her!). It had similar elements - the comforting setting, the quirky but loveable characters, the pinch of magic, and the heartwarming emotions. Despite the moments of grief and pain, there's so much laughter and joy in these pages. Hogan's writing is just so lovely!  The Keeper of Lost Things is a testament to love, a celebration of life after loss and a moving depiction of friendship that I found utterly charming.

So Quotable
"Her grandmother had once told her that one could blame ugliness on one's genes and ignorance on one's education, but there was absolutely no excuse whatsoever for being dull."
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

February 16, 2017

So Obsessed With: The Winter 2017 Edition

Some of my favorite posts are ones where bloggers highlight the products they're loving lately or the things they're currently coveting. Posts like that always put new products on my radar and give me great ideas for gifts. I love this kind of content so much that I decided to start incorporating it into my blog by highlighting my loves and lusts and each season. Rather than give it a creative name, I thought my blog name was more fitting. So, here's what I'm so obsessed with this winter:

1. Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm in Lemon ($8) - My lips get so dry and cracked during the winter, and then I make them worse by picking at them. I recently bought this lip balm to help, and it's so good!

2. Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb ($38) - I recently asked a Sephora employee for her recommendation on choosing a new moisturizer, and she suggested this one. I'm in love - my normal/dry skin is soaking it up!

3. LUSH Lovestruck Bubble Bar ($9) - There's nothing like a hot bath at the end of the day for a little rest and relaxation. It's my favorite, especially if I have anything from LUSH on hand. I'm dying to buy this emoji bar.

4. Simple Micellar Cleansing Water ($9) - I hadn't heard of micellar cleansing water before my mom gave me a bottle, but I'm totally on board now. I love that it removes all of my makeup without any oiliness or residue.

5. Thayer's Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner ($11) - Toner has never been a part of my skincare regimen, but someone recommended it recently. I bought this one based on reviews and have been really pleased. 

6. c.Booth Peppermint Vanilla Body Lotion ($8) - This was a total impulse purchase while wandering at the grocery store. It just smelled so lovely! I keep it by my bed and use a little every night before going to sleep.

7. Betsey Johnson Women's Brow Bridge Sunglasses ($20) - I have a pair of Ray-Bans that I love, but I wanted a pair of slightly funkier sunglasses just for fun. When I found these at Nordstrom Rack, I scooped them up!

8. Monica Vinader Riva Diamond Hoop Ring ($250) - So, I don't own this ring... yet. It caught my eye while I was browsing on Nordstrom recently, and I can't stop thinking about it. Maybe I'll treat myself with birthday money?

9. Merona Women's Ultimate Tee ($12) - I bought a ton of these Ultimate Tees at Target a few months ago, and they're my go to lately. They're perfect with a cute scarf or under a sweater, which is why I gravitate to them.

10. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Sneaker in Polar Blue ($30) - My feet grew while I was pregnant, so I needed a new pair of tennis shoes (or two). I got a pair of plain Nikes but couldn't resist these Converse in this color, too!

11. Frye Harness 12R Leather Boot ($278) - These boots were probably my most coveted shoes EVER, so opening them up on Christmas morning was beyond exciting. I wear them all the time with pretty much everything.

12. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella - This was my last book of 2016, and I haven't stopped thinking about it. It was so adorable! I finally have the hardcover in my hands and am already contemplating a re-read.

13. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn Audiobook - I've been on a major audiobook binge lately, and this was one of my favorites! It's such a delightful story, and the narrator was absolutely fantastic.

14. Grantchester: Season 2 ($20) - Nick and I rang in the New Year with the second season of this show, which was so much fun. I love James Norton as Sidney Chambers, the crime-solving vicar in a small English village.

15. A United Kingdom - I keep seeing ads for this movie on PBS, so I'm dying to go see it in theaters. I've had a soft spot for Rosamund Pike ever since she played Jane Bennet and narrated Pride and Prejudice.

16. Donut Shop Coffee K-Cup Pods ($20) - In the Fall 2016 Edition, I mentioned that I was obsessed with Starbucks. My coffee addiction is still here - to the point that I'm now making multiple cups at home. Oops! 

17. Echo EP from VÉRITÉ ($4) and ÷ (Deluxe) from Ed Sheeran ($13) - I've been streaming VÉRITÉ's music lately and am enjoying it. And I cannot wait for Ed Sheeran's new album because I love what I've heard so far.

What have you been so obsessed with this winter?

February 14, 2017

Will You Be My Valentine?

Some people love Valentine's Day, others hate it... I'm mostly indifferent. But you know what I adore? A good love story! There are plenty of other readers who would agree, and what better time to recommend a few romantic reads that I loved recently? Whatever your romantic situation or mood, these seven books will keep you up late and leave you swooning. Because, as they say, book lovers never go to bed alone. 

Results May Vary by Bethany Chase asks the question, Can you ever really know the person you love? And it does so with an incredibly heartbreaking premise - Caroline Hammond discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man. It's a revelation that upends everything she thought she knew about her past, loves about her present and expected for her future. From the very first page, Chase drew me into this story. I experienced an entire range of emotions along with Caroline - the anger, the grief, the sense of betrayal, the confusion about what to do and how to move forward. I can't praise Chase's writing enough! I loved getting to know Caroline's support system, seeing her in her element as a museum curator, and watching her navigate all of the changes in her life. From the dialogue to the setting, everything felt realistic and fully fleshed out. It's an emotionally heavy read, especially since I'm recommending love stories, but it ought to be on your radar. It looks at love through an unexpected lens, and I couldn't put it down. If you want to see a smart and strong woman rebuild her life after everything seems to fall apart, then you need to pick up Results May Vary! I So Loved It and think you will, too. 

If the title of We Were On A Break by Lindsey Kelk makes you think of that famous and unforgettable phrase in Friends, you're not alone. And that might give you an idea of what to expect in this book! Liv and Adam are in love, and they're supposed to get engaged soon. Well, that's according to Liv's best friend... but she's married to Adam's brother, so the information seems legit. However, on the night Liv is expecting Adam to propose, he suggests they take a break. It blindsides her! Where is this coming from? We Were on a Break is written from both perspectives, which made for some very funny - and very frustrating - moments. My main complaint is that the slightly slower pace made the question of whether or not Adam and Liv would sort out their issues start to drag near the end. But the characters were relatable, the dialogue was funny and the setting was interesting, though I might be biased because I want to live in England. If you're someone who yells at characters, "Just talk to each other already!," this might not be for you. But if you can handle a little miscommunication (that felt realistic), consider reading this book. I So Liked It, and it's a great choice if you're craving a light romantic comedy.

I can't remember the last time I read a book by Sophie Kinsella, but the cover of My Not So Perfect Life caught my eye on NetGalley and I couldn't resist. That was an excellent decision because this book is a gem! Katie Brenner may look like she has the perfect life, but that isn't the truth of the matter. She shares a tiny flat in London with terrible roommates, isn't valued at work and can barely afford her already frugal lifestyle. She keeps hoping things will change, and they finally do - just not in the way she hoped. Her glamorous boss, Demeter, fires her, and she has to move back home to help her dad set up a glamping business. An opportunity to get back at her boss presents itself... what will Katie do? Honestly, this book was a joy to read. It's got a little bit of everything - workplace drama, supportive family relationships, charming setting, hilarious situations, an adorable romance and an empowering message. The romance wasn't the main story, though it was a wonderfully swoony addition, and I appreciated that Katie's personal growth was the focus. Plus, I loved the way the book dealt with the filtered and idealized version of life versus the messy reality. I'm So Obsessed With It and can't recommend it highly enough!

At this point, I think it's safe to say I'm a Mhairi McFarlane fangirl. I've loved all of her books, and her most recent release, Who's That Girl?, is no exception. In fact, it just might be my favorite so far! Edie is good friends with her colleague Jack, but then he kisses her on his wedding day... and his new wife sees them. All of the blame falls on Edie, she's shunned by pretty much everyone she knows and becomes the target of online bullying. As you can imagine, it makes her office environment super tense. To diffuse the situation, her boss sends her back home to Nottingham to ghostwrite an autobiography for a hot new actor, Elliot Owen. Edie can tell Elliot's going to be a total pain, which just adds to the stress of moving back in with her widowed father and lazy sister! I loved Edie - she's smart, capable, and funny but she doesn't really know who she is and value what she brings to the world. And if you love "normal girl falls for famous guy" stories, pick up this book! The romance isn't the focus, but it's done so well. McFarlane's trademark wit and humor can be found throughout, but it still tackles some serious themes in a thoughtful way. If you want a book about discovering your worth, this is it! I'm So Obsessed With It.

Truthfully, The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell isn't a swoony read. Yes, I know that makes the subtitle of this post misleading, but I didn't want to change it and had to include this book. Hear me out! Set in a small town in Louisiana, it's the story of four friends who have each other's back through thick and thin. They're muddling through different romantic situations: one is a newlywed, one is a new parent, one is in a new relationship and one still holding out that her love will finally commit. Although they're in different places in their lives, what I loved is that they all have similar lessons to learn. Their growth (both individually and together) is at the heart of the story. Each of the four girls gets their own point of view, which was initially confusing but got better over time. It's a character-driven story with engaging writing and an interesting Southern setting. The plot sometimes felt a little far-fetched, but the characters' journeys were worth reading. Their romantic relationships aren't really the point - because honestly, almost every man in here is awful. But this is the book to pick up if you're looking for female friendships and women learning who they are and what they want out of life. I So Liked It, and I couldn't put it down once I started it.

As a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice, I was more than a little nervous starting Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. A modern retelling of my favorite book from an author that I've DNF-ed in the past? I wasn't expecting great things. But honestly, I was pleasantly surprised! Liz, a magazine writer in her late thirties, and her older sister Jane, a yoga teacher, return home from New York after their father's health scare to discover their childhood home is practically falling apart. Kitty and Lydia are too absorbed in their CrossFit workouts, and Mary is spending all her time working on her third master's degree online. And Mrs. Bennet, of course, is obsessed with marrying off her daughters. That's when we meet Chip Bingley, a handsome doctor who recently appeared on a Bachelor-esque dating show, and his friend Fitzwilliam Darcy. You can predict some of what happens next, but Sittenfeld updated the story in a way that made sense, felt fresh and was overall quite enjoyable to read. I thought the writing was clever and matched the playful tone. The romance was nice, though it pales in comparison to the original, but the family dynamics were spot on. However, you might want to skip it if you're an Austen purist! It won't work for everyone, but I So Enjoyed It.

I knew nothing about The Hating Game by Sally Thorne when I requested it for review last year. If you've spent any time on bookish Twitter lately, there's a good chance you've already heard rave reviews for it - but let me add mine to the mix! Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other with a passion, which makes work a challenge since they are executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. When they learn they're up for the same promotion at work, all that anger comes to ahead. But is all that butting heads and bickering covering up another kind of tension between these two? I think you can probably guess the answer to that question, but you still need to pick up this book to see it for yourself. I've always had a soft spot for hate-to-love romances (Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables, anyone?), and this was definitely a new favorite for me. The characters completely charmed me, even when they were being exasperating. There were so many moments that made me laugh out loud, and I even read a few passages to my husband because he was dying to know what I thought was so funny. I So Loved It for the banter, the tension and the quirkiness of both the main characters.

What book are you in the mood for this Valentine's Day?

*I received a copy of several of these books from publishers for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the books or my review.

February 9, 2017

2016 End of the Year Survey

Created & Hosted by Jamie from Perpetual Page-Turner
I always look forward to these end of year recap posts for because there's something I love about reflection. It's nice to stop, think back over what's happened this year and gather my thoughts before starting the new year! EXCEPT OOPS IT'S ALREADY FEBRUARY 2017, SO I AM A TOTAL FAILURE. 
1. Number of Books You Read: 93 books
2. Number of Re-Reads: 8 re-reads
3. Genre You Read the Most From: Contemporary (29 books)
1. Best book you read in 2016?

Contemporary: Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane (but there are like five more I could name!)
Fantasy: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Historical Fiction: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Middle Grade: A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Non-Fiction: Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf

Honestly, there are so many other books I could have listed. So keep reading...

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn't?
There are two memoirs that I couldn't wait to read in 2016 because I love the authors: The Magnolia Story by Joanna & Chip Gaines and Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham. Unfortunately, they ended up being majorly disappointing for largely the same reasons: lackluster writing and not enough content.

3. Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book of 2016?
There are a few books that fall into this category, but I'm going to choose Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. I didn't have high hopes for this Pride and Prejudice retelling, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It wasn't a perfect read, but I enjoyed the way my favorite book was updated for modern times!

4. Book you "pushed" the most people to read in 2016?
I don't feel like I "pushed" many books in 2016. It's not that I didn't read books worth recommending - I just didn't spent very much time blogging or tweeting last year! But I've pushed Mhairi McFarlane on a bunch of friends because all of her books (especially Who's That Girl?, her 2016 release) are fantastic.

5. Best series you started in 2016? Best sequel of 2016? Best series ender of 2016? Best series overall in 2016?
The best series I started was Disruption by Jessica Shirvington, best sequels were A Court of Mist and Fury and Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas, and best series ending was The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski. And favorite series overall goes to Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo!

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?
I highlighted ten favorite new-to-me authors in this Top Ten Tuesday post, and it's hard for me to pick one for this question! I think I'm going to go with Beatriz Williams - not because A Hundred Summers was my favorite book from a new-to-me author but because I'm most excited about reading through her backlist!

7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read?
I was struggling to chose my answer to this question because of lot of my 2016 reads were from my go-to genres, but I rarely pick up self-help books so I think Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes fits the bill! This memoir with a dose of self help was an inspiring, unforgettable and new favorite non-fiction read.

8. Most action-packed, thrilling, unputdownable book in 2016?
I think Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo were two of the most unputdownable reads that I picked up in 2016. I was so glad I waited to read this duology until both books were published because I didn't want to stop once I started! I was on the edge of my seat while reading and had no idea how it would end.

9. Book you read in 2016 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
I'm having a hard time answering this question because there are several books I'd really love to re-read this year. But there are several books in a series that I'm probably most likely to read, and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas is at the top of that list. I want to refresh my memory before the final book releases!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?
There were so many books I read with excellent covers this year, but my two favorites have two big things in common: they're both picture books and feature dogs. Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio and Miss Moon by Janet Hill are adorable inside and out, too! I thoroughly enjoyed both books.

11. Most memorable character in 2016?
I have to go with Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. You definitely can't call him forgettable! There were so many memorable moments in that book - often due to Rhys! I'd also like to gloat about the fact that I CLAIMED HIM ages before everyone else (as this post from 2015 proves). Get in line, y'all.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?
I'm a little surprised to say that the the first two books that came to mind are both Middle Grade: A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd and Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell. Both had so many sentences that I read multiple times because they were so delightful! They were slightly quirky and full of heart.

13. Most thought-provoking book in 2016?
I read a lot of thought-provoking fiction in 2016, but I spent more time reflecting on the non-fiction I read in 2016: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and all the ways dating and romance have changed, For the Love by Jen Hatmaker and having grace for myself and others, Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes and how fear can hold us back, Where the Light Gets In by Kimberly Williams-Paisly and the devastating impact of dementia and Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf and holding on to faith and hope in the midst of loss.

14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?
Honestly, I can't believe how long I waited to read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I got it for Christmas several years ago, and I kept putting off reading it. I think I imagined that it would be slow or hard to get into? But it turned out to be such a compelling read. The concept was definitely a little confusing, but I loved it in the end.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2016?
“It's our choices that matter in the end. Not wishes, not words, not promises.” - Passenger

“Books crowbar the world open for you.” - Rooftoppers

“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It's light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you've hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you've seen the worst and the best-- well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.” - What Alice Forgot

“Don't expect someone who doesn't know who they are to care who you are.” - Who's That Girl?

“Jealousy and hurt will whisper excuses in your ear for almost anything you do, but acting with kindness is a choice you will never have a reason to regret.” - Results May Vary

“Unattended hurt, anger, and bitterness can destroy even the best marriage. Lean honestly into every hard place, each tender spot, because truthfulness hurts for a minute but silence is the kill shot.” - For the Love

16. Shortest & longest book you read in 2016?
Excluding picture books that I read to my baby, the shortest book I read in 2016 was And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman at 76 pages. And the longest books I read were Voyager and Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, which clocked in at 870 and 880 pages respectively.

17. Book that shocked you the most?
I think I've got to go with Disruption by Jessica Shirvington. I've been a little tired of dystopian novels the past few years but decided to give this one a shot anyway. And I loved it! But there was totally something that happened in the book that made me yell "WHAT?!" while reading.

18. OTP of the year?
Rhys and Feyre in A Court of Mist and Fury and Aelin and Rowan from Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas, obviously. And I adored seeing what happened between Arin and Kestrel in The Winner's Kiss by Mari Rutkoski, which is one of my favorite series. Lucy and Josh in The Hating Game by Sally Thorne made me feel very shippy. And I can't lie - I was dying for Kaz and Inej to kiss in Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo.

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year?
The friendships in Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo were my favorite, though Winter by Marissa Meyer was a close second. I have a soft spot for groups of friends that have each others backs and disrupt the status quo together! And I'm impressed these authors juggled so many characters so seamlessly.

20. Favorite book you read in 2016 from an author you've read previously?
The first book that came to mind is Results May Vary by Bethany Chase. I really enjoyed her debut, The One That Got Away, but I felt like her second book was on another level entirely! Everything I loved about the first book - like her writing and the characters - was even better in the second.

21. Best book you read in 2016 that you read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else?
Honestly, I never would have picked up The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie if Betty hadn't gifted it to me and Kelly and Alexa hadn't recommended it. I generally wary of historical romance, but this one ended up being just right for me. It was snarky, funny and made me so happy while I was reading it!

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?
I'd say Rhys but that's not a new crush, as we've already established. I loved Clark in The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, Elliott in Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane and Joshua in The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, Alex in My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella and basically all the guys in the Haven Point series by RaeAnne Thayne. It was a good year for fictional crushes in contemporary fiction!

23. Best 2016 debut you read?
No question - The Hating Game by Sally Thorne stood out from all the rest! I absolutely adored this hilarious hate-to-love romance, thought the characters were so unforgettable, and found myself thinking about it long after I was done. I have a feeling I'll end up re-reading it sometime this year!

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2016?
There were so many great options to choose from for this answer, but I decided to give it to Passenger by Alexandra Bracken because it successfully brought multiple worlds to life on its pages. I found each setting and time period so fascinating! Introducing the world and time travel made it a slow start, but it took off by the end.

25. Book that was the most fun to read in 2016?
I binge read the Haven Point series by RaeAnne Thayne in December and loved every second I spent in this town! Each book brought a smile to my face, made me swoon and left me so thankful I took a chance on this series when I spotted them on sale one day. I can't wait for more books to be released this year!

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2016?
I think the most heart-wrenching fiction book I read in 2016 was The Choices We Make by Karma Brown. I can't imagine being in this situation! But the book that truly made me cry was Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf - it's was an emotionally devastating read, especially because it's a true story, thought it was full of hope, too.

27. Hidden gem of the year?
I'm not sure I read anything that truly qualifies as a hidden gem! I read a lot of gems, but they weren't exactly under-the-radar books. But I think Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell comes closest because I haven't heard many people talk about it. It was delightful, and I was thrilled that the story lived up to the cover!

28. Book that crushed your soul?
Without a doubt, the endings of A Court of Mist and Fury and Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas just totally crushed me. HOW COULD SARAH DO THAT TO US AND TO HER CHARACTERS? I still haven't recovered. I noticed a few parallels between the two series, and I'm desperate to find out how they'll both conclude.

29. Most unique book you read in 2016?
Although it wasn't a favorite, I think Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley was the most unique book I read. I don't want to try to describe the way it's written because I think it will sound even weirder than it is, so you'll have to check it out for yourself. But once you do, you'll understand why I think it belongs here!

30. Book that made you the maddest?
Although the entire series was pretty ridiculous, I was so frustrated about The Crown by Kiera Cass. What a disappointment! It felt like nothing happened - and probably should have been combined with The Heir into one book. The story focused on the romance, to the detriment of everything else, and was so rushed.

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?
I honestly don't think I discovered any new book blogs in 2016, but that's mostly because I spent less time online and reading blogs last year. If you have any recommendations, please tell me in the comments!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?
I typically write pretty traditional reviews, but I loved this post because I was able to combine my thoughts on three books into a discussion post on three types of recommended reads. I'd love to try to write more discussion-style book reviews - including more personal posts inspired by the books I've read.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?
I don't know if it counts as my best, but my favorite discussion post was Six in Sixteen: What I've Learned This Year. 2016 was a life-changing year for me, in so many ways, and I'm glad I paused to write down what I was learning in the midst of it all. And I really appreciated all the comments on the post!

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
In 2016, I had the opportunity to attend two really fantastic book events. The first was a book signing with Markus Zusak, the author of The Book Thief. Markus was even more wonderful in person than I would have imagined, and he made the signing unforgettable by displaying his talent as a storyteller. The other event was the In the Company of Women tour, and it was so inspiring to hear from talented female entrepreneurs. 

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?
I think my best bookish moment of 2016 (and best bookish memory!) is one that illustrates just how special my blogging friends have become in my real life: I came home from work one day to find a giant package on my doorstep. It was a "baby shower in a box" and was packed with lovely gifts and cards from so many of the sweet and thoughtful friends I've made while blogging. It was such a special treat!

6. Most challenging thing about your blogging or reading life this year?
Finding the time to read and blog, for sure. I had a baby in May, which was a huge change. I didn't realize how much I got done by staying up late - something that definitely didn't happen in those early sleep-deprived days. And while we're in a more predictable routine now, I still have to be wise about how I use my time.

7. Most popular post this year on your blog?
My most popular post was Five Years of Favorites: The Books, which makes me really happy. I loved celebrating my five-year blogiversary and being able to highlight some of the very best books that I read during that time period. And as a huge sucker for quotes, it was fun to choose a favorite from each of the books.

8. Post you wished got a little more love?
Is it cheating to mention a series of posts? I finished the year highlighting some of my favorite things from 2016, and I wish they'd gotten a little more love (partly because I was really hoping to get recommendations in the comments): My Year in Beauty, My Year in Music, My Year in Movies & TV and My Year in Books. 

9. Best bookish discovery?
I'll say bullet journaling, even though it comes with a disclaimer. I heard about the concept early in 2016 and tried it. I liked parts of it, but I just couldn't abandon my traditional paper planner. But I've recently created a reading/bookish bullet journal and LOVE IT. So I found the method in 2016 but didn't love it until this year.

10. Did you complete any reading challenge or goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
After looking back at my 2016 reading and blogging resolutions, I'm happy to say that I feel like I succeeded at what I set out to do at the beginning of the year. I took a big step back from blogging commitments and learned to keep it simple. It was definitely a more relaxed blogging year for me, which was what I needed!

1. One book you didn't get to in 2016 but will be your number one priority in 2017?
There are three series enders that I can't believe I haven't read yet - The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh, The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen and Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. I'm hoping to read all of them in 2017!

2. Non-debut book you are most anticipating for 2017?
All six of my most anticipated non-debut books are by favorite authors! The three adult books are The Good People by Hannah Kent, Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. And the three young adult books What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum, A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas and Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.

3. 2017 debut you are most anticipating?
I cannot wait to get my hands on Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney and When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. Both of them sound wonderful and have covers that I absolutely love!

4. Series ending you are most anticipating in 2017?
It's definitely A Court of Mist and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas! I cannot believe the series is coming to an end, but I'm so excited for it at the same time. Though I'm pretty worried that my heart won't be able to take it...

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging in 2017?
I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but my biggest goal is to read more books from my To Be Read pile. I define my TBR as the unread books that I own and that list is long. Here's to hoping I make progress in 2017!

6. A 2017 release you've already read and recommend to everyone?
I think I've only read one 2017 early, but thankfully it was one that I gave five-starred and have already recommended to a few friends: My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. It was a lovely and charming read!
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