November 10, 2017

5 Ways to Find Time to Read

I've been posting reviews of everything I've read this year on Instagram with #soobsessedwithbooks, and I recently got a great question on one of my posts from a fellow mom asking how I find time to read now that I have a baby. When I responded, I realized it would make a great a topic for a post. There are five tips that immediately came to mind, and I'll chat more about those below. But I wanted to preface with something first.

My son is eighteen months old, and he's my only child right now. Finding time to read as the mom of one is different than finding time to read as the mom of four, for example. I recognize that! And, as I mentioned to the commenter, I've read a lot more this year than I did last year because my son's age and stage of development has made it easier than it was before. I say both of those things to acknowledge that everyone has different circumstances -- and that my reading life could change again at any moment.

When I was pregnant, I frequently heard the same refrain from parents: "Oh, you love to read? Just wait until the baby arrives...." or "You won't have the time/energy/desire to read with a baby..." or "Reading once you have kids? Hahaha!" And honestly, it made me so mad. It's rude, discouraging and condescending. Just thinking about it now makes my blood boil. You know what a new parent doesn't need to hear? Someone else telling them that having a baby equals no longer doing the things that they enjoy. 

Last year, I wrote a post called Six in Sixteen: What I've Learned This Year. And I mentioned that I'd learned to "find the time." Whenever I've told my mom that I wish I did ______ more or had more time for _____, she responds by saying that if I wanted to do it, I would. It sounds harsh or simplistic, but her point was that we make time for the things that are truly important to us. She wouldn't say it to make me feel guilty or to be judgmental; it was just stating the obvious. If I cared about it, I'd find the time for it.

You'll have less free time with a baby, but you will have some. And you get to decide what you want to do with it. The people who told me they never had time to read after having a baby? What they usually meant was: "That's not how I chose to spend my time." And that's okay! Not everyone will prioritize reading. It's so easy to spend an entire evening watching YouTube videos on my phone, bingeing something on Netflix, looking at Pinterest, working on a blog post, etcetera... and sometimes I do those things. But I can't complain that I don't have time to read! I do -- it's just that I didn't choose to use my time on it. 

Everyone is busy in their own way -- and that doesn't just apply to parents. Choosing to do one thing always means you're choosing not to do everything else available to you. The only thing I took away from my college economics class was the concept of opportunity cost, but I'll never forget it. For me, choosing to read often "costs" me the opportunity to blog. I'd love to blog more consistently, but I know that doing so would take away time from reading. And most of the time, I'd honestly rather read!

But that's why my first piece of advice is to just make a decision that you want to prioritize reading. The practical, actionable ways that's lived out will look different from everyone. It could be a long-term goal of finishing one book per month or a short-term goal of reading for fifteen minutes each day -- the details don't matter as much as the actual decision to do it. It sounds so basic (and kinda dumb) to make this a tip, but I feel like it's the foundation. You have to decide first, and then you'll find a way to make it happen.

This is a two-part piece of advice. I'll start with early to bed! I'm a huge fan of early bedtimes (and sleep training and sleep schedules and all that debatable nonsense). Once my son was past the newborn stage of needing to eat around the clock, we established bedtime at 7 p.m. It occasionally fluctuates based on that day's nap(s) or evening plans, but we're generally pretty consistent. And honestly, that early bedtime is a lifesaver.

I can get so much done in the evenings because I basically never go to bed before 10 p.m. Most nights, I'm awake until close to midnight. That's between 3-5 hours of free time. And yes, sometimes that involves various chores or tasks that I have to get done, but still. Those are golden hours! Early bedtimes for kids won't always be feasible, but I highly recommend aiming for it. So much of my reading happens after my son goes to bed.

And then there's the second part of that phrase - early to rise. Unlike the first part of the phrase, this part of my advice involves your sleeping habits. If you can't already tell, I'm not a morning person. At all. But I wish that I was because the morning can be a wonderful time to work in extra reading. If you can get up before the rest of the household, you've got uninterrupted time right there. 

Rikki from The Ardent Biblio recently posted about being a morning reader, and I absolutely loved what she shared. While I don't see my night owl ways changing anytime soon, I do think this is a wonderful suggestion for so many people. The mornings can often feel a little frantic, especially if you've got to get out the door for work/school/etc., but how lovely to work towards a peaceful and rewarding start to the day.

Of all the tips on my list, this one has the biggest gamechanger for me. I listened to audiobooks before I had a baby, but it was pretty sporadic. It was hard for me to listen at work because my job often required too much mental focus, and I often defaulted to music while driving in the car. But ever since my son was born, I've developed a deep love and appreciation for audiobooks (and podcasts, too). 

At the time I'm writing this post, almost 30% of what I've read this year have been audiobooks. That's a big deal! Here's the biggest reason I love them: I can listen while driving, while doing chores around the house (laundry, cleaning, and cooking), while getting ready for the day, while grocery shopping or running errands, while walking around my neighborhood and while laying in my bed at night. In my opinion, it's the most versatile format!

If I take my son to the grocery store, I'm going to talk to him and narrate our trip instead of listening to an audiobook. But if I go by myself? Hello, headphones! The same goes for all the other things I listed. I don't necessarily listen to an audiobook every day, but having the ability to get stuff done and read a book is incredible. Being able to multitask is way more important to me now than it was before I had my son.

I have an Audible membership, so that's one audiobook per month. Plus, I have library cards for two counties (one I live in and one I pay to access) which gives me access to Overdrive through one and Hoopla through the other. Both have extensive audiobook selections! I started with re-reads and have since branched into new-to-me books now that my brain has finally trained itself to pay attention. I'm so glad this format exists!

People have always asked me how I have time to read as much as I do (even before I had a baby). Some of it goes back to the first thing I shared - I want to spend time reading, so I do. But many of the people asking didn't love to read, so they couldn't necessarily envision all the unexpected opportunities to squeeze in a little extra reading. Looking for the little moments is one of the keys to my reading life!

Sometimes I approach reading as something that needs to be done for an extended amount of time for it to count. I don't do this on purpose -- it's just my mental default that I have to tune out. Because honestly? Sometimes managing to find 15 minutes to read is the best I can do, and that's okay. But it also means that I need to be aware of those small windows of opportunity so that I don't miss them. 

Those windows often come from reading on my phone while waiting for something else to happen, like sitting in a doctor's office. For the first year of my son's life, the biggest and most obvious window was while I was nursing. I spent so much time looking at Twitter and Instagram before I thought, I ought to be reading right now! And now that he's no longer nursing and is beginning to play a little more independently, sometimes that window is while I'm sitting on the couch watching him build a tower out of blocks.

Reading this way can sometimes make a book feel disjointed, and some are definitely more suited to being read in small increments than others. But I've learned to accept it because it's a huge reason I've been able to read as much as I do! And honestly? You could only read a page per day, and you'd still be a reader. My husband reads one chapter of a book before bed (and less than that if he's tired) -- he's a reader.

And my final piece of advice? Remember this is a season of your life and won't last forever. If you just don't have the energy or desire to read, don't beat yourself up for putting books on the backburner. I've had long stretches where I just didn't pick up a book. Sometimes I just want to watch TV, work on a blog post, paint my nails, decorate my planner or do any of the other random things that bring me joy. Including sleep.

I always remind myself that I'm reading for pleasure and it's not worth it if I'm forcing myself to do it. Reading slumps where you want to read something and just can't find the right book for your mood are frustrating. But some slumps leave me wanting to do anything but read, and I don't fight those feelings. Books will wait for me -- no matter how long it takes.

Reading isn't a competition. There's no finish line to cross, award to accept or benchmark to reach. It's something you do for the joy of it. And I know how frustrating it can be when life makes it difficult to find the time do the things you love! That's why I remind myself that I can choose my attitude and perspective in this season. I won't always get it right (because some days are truly exhausting), but I can do my best.

How do you find time to read when you're busy?

November 1, 2017

October 2017: Recap + On My Shelves

OCTOBER, I LOVE YOU. Please come back? And bring Kelly with you, too? Since that's not possible, I guess I'll look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and all those festivities instead. I see you, 2018. Hold your horses.

1. Fall is My Favorite - In my opinion, fall is the best season! When I found this adorable mug while on a trip to Monroe with my mama and my boy, I had to have it. It says "What I Love About Autumn" and lists basically ALL the reasons this season is a winner. Plus, it's a reminder of a fun adventure with two of my favorite people!

2. Kelly Comes to Town - Kelly visiting for five days was definitely the highlight of October! I've gotten to see her twice in one year, so I'm basically spoiled. I loved every minute with her and wished she'd stayed longer! We traipsed around Athens, explored lots of bookstores and talked about anything and everything.

3. A Decade of Friendship - Two days after Kelly left, I got to reunite with three of the sweetest friends in Atlanta. We met ten years ago at the University of Georgia and were all in Zeta Tau Alpha together. It was so lovely to catch up with them over delicious food and made me so thankful for friendships that have lasted so long!

4. Hello, New Happy Planners - I've mentioned before that I've become obsessed with Happy Planners, and I swear I'll post about them at some point. They recently released their 2018 planners, and there were two on my wishlist. The small one is my new reading log, and I've got some blogging things in store for the colorful one.

Read 15 Books | Favorites:
Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
No Limits by Ellie Marney
“And it occurs to me that maybe the reason my mother was so exhausted all the time
wasn’t because she was doing so much but because she was feeling so much.”
Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

“Oh, life was thick with irony now. Sort of like baklava, layer after layer pressed down on each other,
with grit in between the layers and honey glossed over everything to make it sweet.”
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

“We don't learn to love each other well in the easy moments.
Anyone is good company at a cocktail party.
But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right,
when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines
and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you.”
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved.
It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

 “The human heart is a big thumping miracle, I decided.
What else in the world could keep beating after being so broken?”
The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

 “She said fear is just a flashlight that helps you find your courage.”
The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

“We can put on a topcoat with glitter,” said the manicurist. “We've noticed you like attention.”
Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly

“You won't remember how it started with us, the things that I know about you
that you don't even know about yourselves. We won't come back here.”
Lift by Kelly Corrigan

“It's a strange thing to discover and to believe that you are loved
when you know that there is nothing in you for anybody but a parent or a God to love.”
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

“This isn’t like the way I felt about Rachel. It’s different.
Rachel made me feel as if I was worth something. But Amie makes me face myself,
the whole unvarnished truth of me. And she accepts me. The bad shit as well as the good.”
No Limits by Ellie Marney
I felt pretty good about my blogging life in October! I still wish I posted more often, but I'm learning to accept that I just can't do everything. I started the month with my September 2017 recap. Next, I shared my review of First Comes Love by Emily Giffin for September's Picky Pledge Challenge prompt, "A Book I Pre-Ordered." My September Quick Lit was another long one and featured nine books. Finally, I re-read Erika Johansen's The Queen of the Tearling and The Invasion of the Tearling before reading The Fate of the Tearling, which was a huge letdown. I hate when the final book makes me hate a series!

But my very favorite post in October was Creating a Capsule Library! I had the random idea to take the concept of Capsule Wardrobes and apply it to books. I asked Alexa from Alexa Loves Books, Kelly from Belle of the Literati and Rachel from Hello, Chelly to participate with me, and it honestly exceeded my expectations. (PS - If you posted your own Capsule Library, please leave a link in the comments so I can see!)
1. Capsule Libraries: Andi from Andi's ABCs, Lauren from Bookmark Lit, Kristin from Super Space Chick and Bleu Bailey from Booked & Busy - I was so excited to see people start sharing their own Capsule Libraries! These are four I found, but leave a link if you've posted one, too. I love what it reveals about people's reading taste!

2. Plan to Eat Review & Walk-Through by Cassie from The Casserole - I'd mentioned to Cassie that I was interested in trying Plan to Eat, and she had the brilliant idea to test it out and write a review first! Reading her post - and talking about it with her - made me even more convinced that I need this in my life.

3. On Being a Morning Reader by Rikki from The Ardent Biblio - How I had not found this blog before this month?! It's so lovely, as is their Instagram. This was one of my favorite posts from them in October. I'm not an early morning reader at all, though I wish I was, and this post certainly highlighted the benefits of being one.

4. The Stories We Shared: A Family Book Journal (Review + How I'm Using It) by Christine from The Buckling Bookshelf - When Kelly was visiting, I mentioned that I wanted some kind of journal to record what I was reading to my son. So, this post was perfect timing, and I'm totally getting one (at least) for our family! 

Favorite Album #1: Every Little Thing by Carly Pearce
Bethany Chase introduced me to the title track a few months ago, and I was so excited
for the album's release. It didn't disappoint! I've had it on repeat all month.

Favorite Album #2: Be Held: Lullabies for the Beloved by Christy Nockels
I saw two friends recommend this on Instagram, so I immediately went to investigate.
It's such a lovely album of quiet worship songs, and I enjoy Nockels' voice.

Audiobook: The End of the Affair narrated by Colin Firth
I bought this on Audible earlier this year and finally listened to it.
While I wasn't crazy about the story, it was worth it for Firth's narration!

The Bold Type, Season 1, starring Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee and Meghann Fahy - I felt like I was hearing about this show everywhere, so I decided to binge it in October. It was fun and had such great female friendships, but I didn't love it. I'd be curious about the second season, if there is one, but I wouldn't rush to watch it. 

Pretty Editions of Favorites: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and The Memory Book by Lara Avery 

Book Outlet: The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhy Menon, Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan, French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon, Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater by Nimali Fernando & Melanie Potock and The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Costco Prices Convinced Me: The Beverly Cleary Collection (I can't find this exact set online!) and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!

2nd & Charles: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, The Royal Diaries: Jahanara by Kathryn Lasky, The Royal Diaries: Kaiulani by Ellen Emerson White, and The Railway Children by E. Nesbit (Blackberries for Sal?)

Gifted: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (Thanks, Alexa!), 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up by Bianca Schulze (Thanks, Mom!) and The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (Thanks, Kelly!)

My New Puffin Classics Collection
From The Story Shop, 2nd & Charles, Book Outlet, Amazon & Book Depository 

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, Tales of the Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Unsolicited For Review: The Texan Duke by Karen Ranney, The It Girls by Karen Harper, The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano, Craig & Fred by Craig Grossi and Monster by Michael Grant

NetGalley: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Audible 2-for-1 Sale: To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Kindle: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, A Thousand Letters by Staci Hart, No Limits by Ellie Marney and How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

October 26, 2017

The Tearling is in My Trash

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Release Date: November 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins | Harper
Pages: 478 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #3
Add on Goodreads

Sumamry (from Goodreads)
In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne. So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...

Thoughts on The Fate of the Tearling
Several years ago, I read The Queen of the Tearling and fell in love with the unique world and powerful heroine. The The Fate of the Tearling went in an unexpected direction, but I still loved it. I was sold on Johansen's creativity and the way she wove multiple genres together. When The Fate of the Tearling came out last year, I'd planned to read it right away... but never got around to it. Since so much time had passed, I recently decided to re-read the first two before finishing the series. And that's where my problems started.

I did an audio re-read of The Queen of the Tearling and was surprised to discover that a narrator I'd previously liked just didn't click with the series. I've enjoyed everything else from Katherine Kellgren, but something about this book left me wanting more. There were times it felt like she was yelling and the forcefulness of her narration was off-putting. But I knew I'd finish it so much faster on audio, so I stuck with it. I still cared about the characters, but I wasn't as invested in the story. So, I changing my rating to So Enjoyed It.

Then, I started the audio for The Invasion of the Tearling. Davina Porter narrates that one, and I was immediately annoyed by the change. Although I didn't love Kellgren, I'm not a fan of mid-series narrator changes. Porter has a lovely voice, but she didn't fit the series either. Kelsea is a teenager, and Porter sounds so much older. The book isn't written in first person, but it still didn't strike the right tone for me. This is when I started to realize that re-reading really was making me like the books less. Things that I'd found creative and surprising on my first read felt weird upon re-reading. The pace dragged, which made me feel like it was taking forever to finish it. And by the time I did, I realized that it was just a So Liked It.

And finally, The Fate of the Tearling. Y'all, I HATED this book. I was so frustrated by:

1. The NUMEROUS plot holes.
2. The unnecessarily convoluted storylines.
3. The glacial pace.
4. The weird changes to several characters.
5. The horror movie demon spawn (because obviously this series needs one more genre added to it).
6. The anti-climatic "who is Kelsea's father?!" reveal.
7. The completely depressing tone.
8. The nonsensical way magic works in this world.
9. The super offensive anti-religion themes.

Y'all. I am so annoyed about numbers 1-9 on that list, but all of it pales in comparison to my utter rage at the ridiculous ending that invalidated the previous books. I want to talk about it here, but it would also be major spoilers. So, I'll be a good blogger and avoid them. But honestly, I think I might have preferred an ending where everyone died and the theme was essentially "utopian societies will never work because of human nature." Yeah. Everyone dying ranks higher on my wishlist than what actually happened.

WHAT A WASTE OF MY TIME. Can I rescind a recommendation? Because if so, that's what I'm doing. These books no longer have a place in my home. They're not technically in my trash because you better believe I want to get some credit at the used bookstore for them so I can rise from the ashes of this dumpster fire and buy myself something better as a consolation. I know everyone loves the phrase "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," so just pretend this review had no words if that's how you want to live. 

October 23, 2017

Quick Lit: September 2017

I read 14 books in September, and I have reviews for 8 of those books (plus one from August) here today. If you're looking for more book recommendations, check out the linkup at Modern Mrs. Darcy. I shared my August Quick Lit in September, which was packed with books, and then two additional full reviews: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley and The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. Y'all, I loved The Alice Network and didn't review it for months because I couldn't put my love into words. It was an excellent read.

Some of my favorite September reads aren't featured here because I'm doing a separate review for them: the Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins. I raced through all five books three days - they were that addicting! But my favorite read of last month, Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas, was my most anticipated, too. I should be reviewing it here soon, but needless to say, it didn't disappoint. I love those characters so much!

The Cuckoo's CallingThe Silkworm and Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith | These books weren't even on my radar until it was revealed that Robert Galbraith is a pen name for J.K. Rowling. The mystery mood struck me at the end of August, and I quickly binged the first three books in this series. Rowling's writing is, as expected, fantastic. I thought the mysteries were surprising and the characters were very engaging. 

The first mystery was my favorite because it was the most procedural. The tone definitely changes in the second and third mysteries - they're much more gruesome/gory. Truthfully, I had to skim a few parts in those books. But I wasn't really reading for the mysteries at that point: Detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant, Robin Ellacott, were the real draw. I love them so much, especially slowly uncovering the backstories.

The pace is a bit slow in these books, and the writing is definitely descriptive/detailed. Additionally, I'm slightly convinced that it's impossible to actually solve these mysteries until the end (but I may just not be any good at keeping track of clues along the way). Regardless, this series was so good and reminded me of why I do enjoy this genre from time to time. And now I'm dying to get my hands on the fourth after the cliffhanger of the third!

Too Good to Be True by Kristan Higgins | I finished Higgins' Blue Heron series and wasn't ready to say goodbye to her writing, so I picked up one of her standalones. Unfortunately, it was a dud. The humor is definitely still there, which is the main reason I finished the book. But the heroine drove me crazy: 1) giving your sister and ex-fiancé permission to date is SO WEIRD, 2) stop making up fake boyfriends and 3) why are you THIS obsessed with the Civil War?! And even the romance didn't redeem it because that was so rushed and then oddly melodramatic at the end. I'd say I'm So Okay With It, which is a bummer.

Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave | I was wary when I picked this up because I hated Dave's previous book. However, I was immediately hooked by the premise: a foodie with a popular YouTube cooking show is revealed to be fraud. While I enjoyed Dave's writing, I felt like everything needed more development. It felt like the book needed to be longer, and I don't typically feel that way. The ending was rushed and unsatisfying, and the themes were so promising (how keeping up a public persona affects your personal life) but never went deep enough. I debated the rating because I did like some of it, but I think I'm just So Okay With It overall.

Broken Harbor by Tana French | I don't read a ton of mysteries, but I definitely gravitate towards psychological ones when I do. I know that's why I've enjoyed the previous books in French's Dublin Murder Squad series. She definitely focuses on the why of a crime more than the who. Sadly, however, this one didn't really work for me. The detective annoyed me, the secondary story involving his family felt largely unnecessary, the resolution of the mystery felt completely implausible and the book could have been 100 pages shorter (at the very least). I still love French's way with words, but not much else. It's definitely a So Okay With It.

The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd | This was one of those "just browsing Target and walked out with $100 worth of stuff" situations. I hadn't heard of this book before (or the blog Coffee + Crumbs). Honestly? I just liked the title and fell prey to the siren call of the red bullseye. When I finally picked it up, I was pleased that this spontaneous purchase was a winner! This collection of essays made me tear up, laugh, and underline like crazy. I found it relatable and encouraging. I So Loved It: both the celebration of motherhood and the commiseration over its difficulties. Plus, the book itself is lovely and will make a fantastic gifts for new mothers.

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence* | The cover of this book caught my eye while I was browsing NetGalley one day, and I requested it as soon as I read the subtitle: A Librarian's Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to the Books in Her Life. Although I do like the concept and books about books, Spence's writing just didn't work for me. I didn't connect with her humor, found the profanity gratuitous after a while, and ultimately found the book too gimmicky. But my biggest issue? She didn't make me want to read any of the books discussed! Ultimately, I'm So Over It - but I do think there are readers who will enjoy it if they share her taste in books.

Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner | I loved the first book in this series but found the second book a little disappointing, which probably explains why it took me so long to read this conclusion. I just wasn't hyped for it! Although the "whispers" remain my least favorite part of this world, I found the world less confusing in this installment (and the pacing was better). I loved Gideon and Sofia, and I was so excited to see them interact with Lilac + Tarver and Jubilee + Flynn. The resolution was pretty satisfying, but I'd probably just say I So Liked It. It was fun while I was immersed in it, but I don't see myself re-reading it in the future.

* 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.

October 13, 2017

Creating a Capsule Library

About a month ago, I was talking to my husband about what an honor it was to moderate Sarah J. Maas' Atlanta Tower of Dawn tour stop and trying to convince him to start reading the series. In order to convey just how much Maas and her books mean to me, I said, "I mean, if I had to narrow my library down to five authors, she'd definitely be on the list. At the top." He laughed at me, but guess what he's currently reading?

Afterward, I couldn't get my offhand comment out of my mind. I started imagining a completely hypothetical situation (because you'll never actually pry my books out of my hands): if I had to narrow my library down to a limited number of authors, who would they be and why? It reminded me of a concept that fascinates me: capsule wardrobes. The idea is to simplify your closet by creating a mini wardrobe made up of essential and versatile items that you love (typically around 30 pieces). You can read more about it here.

I started to imagine approaching my library the same. I'm blessed to have the ability to buy books, the space to display them, and a love for re-reading that makes owning books so worthwhile. But if I had to narrow my books down to the essentials, what would make the list? Because choosing isn't just about listing my favorites. It's the books that make me say: I don't want to live in a world where I can't return to this world.

And so, the idea of the Capsule Library was born. I loved coming up with my answer and asked Kelly from Belle of the LiteratiRachel from Hello, Chelly and Alexa from Alexa Loves Books to join me in sharing theirs today, too. We allowed ourselves to have 10 total pieces in our libraries:
  • The Clothes: 5-7 authors (any/all of their books would be in library)
  • The Accessories: 3-5 individual books (and series couldn't be grouped into one)
I matched each author/book with an item of clothing or accessory that would be in my capsule wardrobe and explained how they were related. It was so much fun, and the end results capture my eclectic taste in books!


THE CASUAL JACKET • Jane AustenOne of my favorite item of clothing is my military-style jacket. Even when it's too hot to wear it, I love knowing that it's in my closet -- just waiting for the right outfit and season. Jane Austen is a little bit like that jacket. I don't re-read her books as often as I wish that I did, but I can't imagine a world where they aren't in my library. I just need to know that they're there when I need them.

THE CLASSIC TEE • Suzanne CollinsTruthfully, I only want Collins on my list so that I can have The Hunger Games in my capsule wardrobe. This series is my classic tee: a simple, understated basic that's a favorite for a reason. A tee may seem boring, but it's a staple of my daily wardrobe. I'll always reach for these books when I'm not sure what I want to read next because I know they'll never let me down.

THE WORN-IN JEANS • Sarah J. MaasI'm a denim girl through and through, even in summer. They're the most-worn item in my closet - and my favorite, too. And that's Sarah J. Maas for me. In any season, mood or moment, I can reach for her Throne of Glass or A Court of Thorns and Roses series. They're some of my most re-read books - and my favorites, too. The time is always right for Celaena or Feyre and their friends!

THE COMFY BUTTON-DOWN • Melina MarchettaI love how versatile a good button-down shirt is, which is one of my favorite things about Melina Marchetta's books. She's written multiple genres (fantasy, contemporary and mystery), and they've honestly all been excellent. Just like my favorite button-down, I can pick up a Marchetta book and know that I won't be disappointed. It's always the right fit.

THE PLAYFUL BLOUSE • Mhairi McFarlaneWith a lot of simple pieces in my wardrobe, I knew I needed something fun, too. I love a basic blouse with some unexpected details (like embroidery or lace or pattern) that make it more whimsical. Similarly, Mhairi McFarlane's books could easily feel clichéd, but her quick wit and nuanced characters elevate them to something more. They're classic stories told in a way that feels fresh.

THE COZY SWEATER • L.M. MontgomeryI have a lot of sweaters in my closet, even though I don't always need them. But when I do, I'm so thankful to have so many options at my fingertips. And the same is true for L.M. Montgomery. I don't often pick up her books these days, but I can't imagine my library without them. There were an integral part of my reading journey! And like a good sweater, it's comforting to go back to that world.

THE DRESSY JEANS • Beatriz WilliamsI hesitated a little bit to include Beatriz Williams in my capsule library because I've only recently fallen in love with her writing. What if the obsession fades over time?! But I realized that's like my dressy jeans: they're new and still haven't been broken in, but chances are good that they'll have a forever home in my closet. Plus, I had to have some historical on my list!


THE MEANINGFUL NECKLACE • The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum • I own a lot of necklaces, but I always wear the two that are the most meaningful to me. It almost seems silly to feel so attached to an object! It reminds me of The Opposite of Love, which has been a favorite for years, gotten better with every re-read and now feels so important to me. I can't even articulate all the reasons I love it so much.

THE COLORFUL SCARF • Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center • Kantha scarves instantly make me feel like I look more pulled together. They can add some brightness and style to an otherwise basic outfit, which is a confidence booster. Plus, they just make me happy! And that's Happiness for Beginners - a book that brings me joy, helps me recognize all the good things in my life and leaves a smile on my face.

THE BASIC BOOTS • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak • The Book Thief is anything but basic, so bear with me here. It might have made more sense to include a pair of Converse in my capsule, since I probably wear them more often. But my heart wanted my boots... just like my heart wanted The Book Thief on my list, despite the numerous other books that might have made more sense based on how often I re-read them.
What authors and books would be in your Capsule Library?
I'd love to see what you'd choose, so leave your link in the comments if you do a post.
And specifically, I'm tagging Morgan from The Bookish Beagle and Cassie from The Casserole!

October 5, 2017

“Grief is a mystery to be lived through, not a problem to be solved.”

I picked up First Comes Love by Emily Giffin with a lot of trepidation. I'd always been a fan of her books... until her last one. It's been three years since I finished it, and I could still rage about it. Don't even get me started. So, as you can imagine, I started this one with lower expectations. Thankfully, it felt like a return to the type of Giffin novel that I love! I'm often not a fan of her characters' actions, but I still typically lose myself in her stories.

Despite my anger over her previous book, I still pre-ordered this one. I'm not sure why exactly, though I think it's partly because it's about sisters. That's a topic that I'm typically drawn to in books. Plus, I figured I'd only truly hated one out of her seven books - pretty good track record, all things considered. So, I decided to chose First Comes Love for September's Picky Pledge Reading Challenge prompt, "A Book You Pre-Ordered... But Haven't Read Yet." Despite the leap of faith I took by pre-ordering it, I kept putting it off out of fear I'd hate it.

First Comes Love is the story of two sisters - Josie and Meredith - whose relationship fractures in the aftermath of a family tragedy. Josie was always the outgoing and impulsive sister whereas Meredith was more reserved and cautious. They end up on different paths in life, but they're both dissatisfied with where they're at. Josie is ready to swear off dating but still longs to become a mother, and Meredith appears to have the perfect life (great job, husband, and daughter) but wonders if she gave up on her dreams. As the fifteen year anniversary of their family's loss approaches, it forces the sisters to face the issues that have divided them all these years.

More so than any other Giffin novel I've read, this is primarily a story about family and sibling relationships. There isn't much romance to speak of, and I actually appreciated that about it. I loved the family dynamics, even when it meant I wanted to smack one (or both!) of the sisters. Giffin continues to write flawed, complicated women who aren't always likeable. If you need to root for the characters to enjoy a story, this probably isn't the book for you. One of the quotes I highlighted might help you understand what I mean:
“I find myself wondering which is more egregious, to pretend to be happy when you’re not, or to feel so consistently dissatisfied when you should be happy.”
Both sisters have moments where their dissatisfaction with their lives feels so selfish and spoiled. However, I liked the way Giffin explored their emotions, their choices, and the way grief and loss changed them. But one of the best parts of this book was the way it portrayed the patterns you can get into in your relationships, especially within a family. The book showed the assumptions you make, the grudges you hold, the guilt you carry and the way you can see a sibling as they used to be and not necessarily as they are now... I enjoyed getting both Josie and Meredith's perspectives because it truly illustrated how there are two sides to every story.

There are a few things I didn't like about the book, but they weren't major issue. The plot was occasionally boring or too slow, and I did feel like it ended right when things were getting truly interesting. I'd actually love a sequel to find out what happens next for these sisters! And I have one super nitpicky annoyance with a phone-related thing that I would swear didn't exist in the time period where it was referenced. But the emotional and relational aspects made up for the negatives for me overall, and I'd recommend this book to fans of stories about complicated families, sisters and dealing with grief and forgiveness.
Release Date: June 2016 | Publisher: Random House; Ballantine Books
Pages: 384 pages | Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover 

This was my ninth read for The Picky Pledge Reading Challenge that Alexa and I are doing in 2017! It's the perfect motivation to read books from my TBR and adds an extra dose of accountability, too. In addition to reading and reviewing one challenge book per month, we're answering three questions about each one!

1. How long has this book been on your TBR? 
I've owned it since the day it came out - June 28, 2016. But I knew I wanted to read it as soon as it was announced!

2. Why did you want to pre-order this book?
I've read everything else that Emily Giffin has written! Although I hated her previous book, I've enjoyed the other books I've read (some more than others, of course) and was hoping this would be a winner. I was also drawn to the summary because I like stories about sisters.

3. Did you get any pre-order goodies?
I didn't! I don't think they offered any, and even if they had I probably wouldn't have filled out the information to receive them. I almost never remember to do it in time.

October 4, 2017

September 2017: Recap + On My Shelves

I'm welcoming autumn with open arms! I had a lovely summer, but I'm so excited for my favorite season. Give me all the cozy sweaters, tall boots, mild temperatures, and delicious Pumpkin Spice Lattes!

1. Moderating Tower of Dawn Tour Event - I was so honored to be asked to moderate Sarah J. Maas' Tower of Dawn tour stop in Atlanta at the beginning of September. Honestly, it was a highlight of my year and blogging career (not just of September). I had the best time chatting with Sarah - it was such a surreal experience, and I'm so thankful I had the opportunity! I'm hoping to finally write a recap of it in October.

2. Outdoor Afternoons - It's still pretty hot in the south, but there was a little cooling off in September. For us, that meant lots of afternoons and evenings outdoors: reading on the porch, running around the park, playing in the sprinklers, blogging on the back deck and flying high on the swings. I loved getting to spend quality time outside - without being drenched in sweat - and make so many special memories.

3. Family Explorations - In addition to spending time outside around the house, we went on a few family adventures, too! We went back to the zoo for the first time since our son's first birthday, and it was so neat to see how much can change in just a few months. He was so much more aware of the animals and loved imitating their noises! We also visited some local botanical gardens, which was a fun afternoon adventure.

4. My First Book Sleeve - I've been curious about book sleeves for a while now, but I could never seem to commit. But I finally managed to snag one from Story Time Sleeve and am in love with it! I love the fabric pattern on the outside and inside (here's a closer view of both). The size is just perfect for paperbacks and many hardcovers, and I have nothing but praise for the quality of the sleeve. Now, do I need more?!

Read 14 Books | Favorites:
Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas
The Blue Heron Series  by Kristan Higgins
The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd
Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
“You could find beauty nearly anywhere if you stopped to look for it,
but the battle to get through the days made it easy to forget that this totally cost-free luxury existed.”
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

 “Rowan beheld all Aelin was and is, and he was not afraid.”
Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

“Maybe love isn't just a bouquet of roses once in a while.
Maybe it's just sticking it out, when it's hard, when you're mad, when you're tired.”
The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

“Because no one becomes terrible all at once. It happens in very small increments.”
Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

“Over time, the ghosts of things that happened start to turn distant;
once they've cut you a couple of million times, their edges blunt on your scar tissue, they wear thin.
The ones that slice like razors forever are the ghosts of things that never got the chance to happen.”
Broken Harbor by Tana French

“I've always thought of nostalgia as kind of a sad feeling,
like a longing for what was but isn't anymore. But maybe it's more of a blessing.
It's bits of the past that have stuck around and hang in the air of the present.”
The Magic of Motherhood, edited by Ashlee Gadd
As usual, I started the month with my August 2017 recap. Next, I shared my review of The Winter Sea by Susana Kearsley for August's Picky Pledge Challenge prompt, "A Book I Was Gifted." Then, my August Quick Lit was packed with books - twelve, to be exact! And I finally reviewed a favorite, The Alice Network by Alice Quinn. 

But the two other posts I shared this month were my favorites! Three Ways I Tackled My TBR This Summer was my first discussion in a long time. It was so much fun to write that type of post and talk about the strategies I used, including seasonal reading lists (my new obsession!). And finally, I wrote about Thirty Favorite Picture Books. It's been such a joy watching my son develop a love of reading -- and strong opinions on what we read. 
I barely checked Feedly the past month, so I've got tons of blog posts to catch up on. If you've got any I should read, share the link in the comments. But here are two articles I read and enjoyed this past month:

1. Turn of the Season by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books - I really enjoyed this event that Alexa co-hosted with Kristin from Super Space Chick! Summer and autumn are my favorite seasons, too, so I loved that they found a way to recap their fave summer reads and memories and share what's on their radar for fall.

2. Five Things by Lauren from Bookmark Lit - Did I bookmark this post partly because I might want to copy it? Maaaaaaybe. Regardless, I'm excited about the changes Lauren is introducing to her blog and can totally relate to her desire to talk about more than just books. This post was a fun extension of that mission!

3. Five Star Summer - The Best Books I Read by Cassie from The Casserole - Okay, I didn't technically bookmark this so that I could come back to it later... I saved it so I could make sure I shared it with everyone else because I'm just so happy that Cassie might be blogging more this fall! I have missed her voice.

Favorite Song: “... Ready for It?” by Taylor Swift
This was a given, right? I LOVE THIS SONG SO MUCH!
I was iffy on her first single, but this one gave me more hope for the album.

Favorite Album: Coming Home by Leon Bridges
This isn't new, but I listened to it a lot this month. I already loved the song "Smooth Sailin'"
but Big Little Lies got me hooked on "River" and then the rest of the album.

I've been a fan of this podcast for a while, but I listened to a lot of episodes in September.
Their chats about books, small business and life in the South are so enjoyable!

Younger, Seasons 1-3, starring Sutton Foster, Hilary Duff and Debi Mazar - I don't know why I didn't watch this show sooner! My love for Hilary Duff should have been enough to make me tune in when it first premiered. But I righted those wrongs in September and binge watched the first three seasons. The show is so fun, even if the premise is implausible. Watching it makes me laugh - even when it's ridiculous! 

Big Little Lies (2017) starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley - I hadn't planned on watching this mini series, even though I did enjoy the book. But curiosity finally got the best of me when I saw it was a new release at Redbox. I'm not a big fan of Kidman or Woodley, but both won me over in their roles. And Reese was, as expected, wonderful! This was tough to watch, but it was well done. (The book is better.)

The Big Sick (2017) starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan - I heard about this on The Popcast and saw the trailer on TV several times over the summer, so it was definitely on my radar to watch as soon as it came to Redbox. I liked it, but I didn't love it as much as I was hoping. I didn't feel super invested in the characters. Holly Hunter, however, stole the show and was absolutely fantastic! It was worth watching for her alone.

Bought: The Good People by Hannah Kent, Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas and Faithful Place by Tana French

Gift Card: Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor

Gifted from My Mama: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Kindle: Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas, Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane, Serenity Harbor by RaeAnne Thayne and The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

NetGalley: Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
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