March 16, 2018

The "Me" Lou Needed to Be

 Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Release Date: January 29, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House; Pamela Dorman
Pages: 390 pages
Source & Format:
Series: Me Before You #3
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Summary (from Goodreads)
Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life. 

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

Thoughts on Still Me
I read Me Before You not long after it was released — one of the first books that I requested and read for review! It became an all-time favorite for me, and I've always loved that I knew about the book before it became a bestseller. Despite its sadness, I loved that the ending allowed me to imagine all good things for Louisa Clark.

When After You came out, I was skeptical. I didn't think the first book needed a sequel, but I was also convinced that Moyes had good reason for continuing Lou's journey. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that way when I finished it. I found myself describing the book as boring, contrived, and depressing — which shocked me! Afterward, I imagined that Louisa Clark's story ended with Me Before You and that the events of the second book were just a bad dream.

When the third book was announced,  I honestly thought that Moyes was just milking the characters for money at that point. I knew exactly what I was going to do with Still Me: pretend it didn't exist. And then... While we were abroad, Kelly was reading it. And y'all, watching her cry happy tears in Waterstones and listening to her persuasive argument in favor of it made me curious enough to order a copy as soon as I got home. No one is more surprised than me about what I’m about to say next: I LOVED IT!

Still Me was an emotional end to Lou’s story, and it may even change my mind on the second book. After You will never be a favorite for me, but I think I can appreciate it more now that it exists within this three-book arc. While I still think that the story could have ended with the first book, I'm glad that the third book exists to provide closure for these characters.

In Me Before You, Will challenges Lou to make the most of her life because you only get one. And I think what made After You such a difficult read was seeing that not much had changed in Lou's life. It was realistic -- she was, after all, grieving. And major life change doesn't happen overnight! But man, it was rough to see her struggling.

What I immediately enjoyed about Still Me was the change in tone! Lou has moved to New York for a new job, and her earnest optimism is back in full force. It was a breath of fresh air! Throughout the course of the book, you get to watch her navigate a challenging workplace, settle in to an entirely new place and embrace a long-distance relationship with Ambulance Sam. So, her life isn't without its detours and dead-ends. But her confidence in herself and the courage she shows by taking chances made it such a delight to read!

There's such a great story of personal growth in these pages, and I can now see how the second book needed to exist to propel Louisa to this place in her life. Do I wish she could have jumped right over the rough patch in the middle? Absolutely. But I think I can appreciate that season more now that I've read the third book! It brought everything full circle, redeemed some of my least favorite aspects of After You and was the perfect emotional resolution.

I didn't enjoy everything about this story (a few aspects were just a bit too reminiscent to Me Before You). but I truly loved it overall. I haven't talked very much about what actually happens in the book because I think that's best left for you to discover. But I'm happy to say that Louisa Clark is back and better than ever! I look forward to re-reading all three books in the future now that I know that the ending delivers the heartfelt, hopeful future that Lou deserved.

So Quotable
“I had a choice. I was Louisa Clark from New York or Louisa Clark from Stortfold. Or there might be a whole other Louisa I hadn’t yet met. The key was making sure that anyone you allowed to walk beside you didn’t get to decide which you were, and pin you down like a butterfly in a case. The key was to know that you could always somehow find a way to reinvent yourself again.”

March 8, 2018

Quick Lit: February 2018

I read 12 books in February, and I'm reviewing six of those in today's post! If you're looking for more book recommendations, check out the Quick Lit linkup that's hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy.

In February, I talked about my favorite reads from January -- the Rose Trilogy by Jennifer Donnelly. And once I got home from my trip to the UK, I reviewed the books I read abroad. That accounts for three of the February reads that aren't included in today's post. My full review of Still Me by Jojo Moyes is coming soon, and I'll review  Making Up by Lucy Parker and How to Walk Away by Katherine Center a little closer to their release dates. So, let's chat about the other six!

IF YOU ONLY KNEW BY JAMIE IVEY | Ivey is the creator and host of The Happy Hour Podcast, but I actually heard about this book on The Popcast. I didn't know anything about the author prior to reading this book, but I can't resist a good memoir! In If You Only Knew, Ivey tells every part of her story -- including the messy parts that fear and shame have always told her to hide. While I thought the writing left a lot to be desired, I absolutely loved Ivey's vulnerability and message. She brings every part of her story back to the gospel -- focusing on the freedom she's found in Christ and the way God has redeemed every part of her story. I So Enjoyed It because there is so much truth in these pages.

SURPRISE ME BY SOPHIE KINSELLA* | After loving Kinsella's My Not So Perfect Life, I couldn't wait to dive into her newest release! I'm not sure if my expectations were too high, but I ended up being a bit disappointed with Surprise Me. The premise didn't really appeal to me, but I expected Kinsella to infuse it with her trademark humor and relatable characters. Unfortunately, that wasn't really the case. The first half felt very long, and I eyerolled a lot at the over-the-top hijinks. The second half was better, and I loved the theme at the heart of the story, but the tone was much more serious. It was so disjointed -- like two books combined into one, unsuccessfully. I was So Okay With It.

PRETTY FACE BY LUCY PARKER | After I finished reading Act Like It, I couldn't wait to get home and buy the second book in the series! And y'all, that was an excellent life choice. I loved the first just a tiny bit more because it's one of my favorite tropes, but this book definitely solidified Parker as one of my new favorite authors. I'm obsessed with Parker's writing, snarky sense of humor, and slow-burn romances. Best of all, she proved once again that she can introduce just the right amount of drama and resolve it in a really satisfying way. I loved Luc and Lily, swooned over their romance and didn't mind the age difference one bit. Plus, the theater setting was just so fascinating! I So Loved It.

FAKING FRIENDS BY JANE FALLON | I picked this up when I spotted it on sale at a bookstore in Oxford, and I decided to purchase it because the part I sampled was so promising. I was immediately intrigued! When the heroine finds out that her fiancĂ© is having an affair -- with her BFF! -- she decides to get revenge. And for the first half of the book, I was entertained! And then... things took a turn with the addition of a new POV. Y'all, I hated the second half on every level. I kept forgetting the heroine and her friend were 40 years old because they acted so juvenile. The friendship was toxic, the story was tedious and the character were completely unlikeable. I'm So Over It. Ugh!

ONE PLUS ONE BY JOJO MOYES | After my previous read was a dud, I decided to re-read an old favorite to cleanse my palate. Kelly chose One Plus One from my stack of options, and I was so glad she did! I  loved it so much the first time I read it, but I'd never revisited it. And that was four years ago! As soon as I started, I couldn't put it down. I adore these characters and was so emotionally invested in their journey. And who can resist a good road trip story?! I laughed out loud and cried a little, too. I'm not usually a fan of multiple narrators, but it's used to great effect here. The only thing I'd change? The fact that it ended! I wanted more time with these characters because I'm So Obsessed With It

HAPPINESS FOR HUMANS BY P.Z. REIZIN | I was drawn to this book every time Kelly and I saw it on our trip, but I just couldn't justify buying a hardcover that I knew nothing about. Then, Kelly found a copy for £3 at a tiny used bookstore and surprised me with it! This is a story about what happens when Artificial Intelligence becomes just a bit too smart... and possibly develops emotional intelligence, too. This romantic comedy was such a fun read! However, it made me sideeye all the technologial devices in my house. The writing was fun, made me laugh and didn't overwhelm me with the slight sci fi angle. I think it could have been shortened a bit, but I definitely So Enjoyed It. And I love this UK cover!

* 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.

What have you been reading lately?

March 7, 2018

February 2018: Recap + On My Shelves

February is usually one of my least favorite months in the year, even though it's my birthday month, but my trip to the UK has made it the month to beat in 2018. Will anything this year top my trip? We shall see...

1. Birthday Adventures - My mom, son and I spent the morning of my birthday visiting The Story Shop and eating a delicious lunch nearby. Then, Nick and I had a date night packed with all of my favorite things: visiting craft stores, browsing at the bookstore and dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. I felt so loved!

2. Besties Abroad - Honestly, this could have been ALL of What I Loved about February! But I figured you've heard me ramble about my trip enough since I just shared my UK Recap, so I decided to reign it in. This trip was definitely a dream come true -- and it was made even better by being there with Kelly. I'm so thankful for her!

3. Reunited with My Boy - As much fun as I had, I was excited to come home and be reunited with my sweet boy. Nick travels a lot for work, so I'm a little more used to time away from him. But this was the longest I've been away from my son since he was born! Needless to say, I loved coming back to his sweet snuggles and todder 'tude.

4. Major Haircut - The week I got back, I chopped 8+ inches off my hair and added some highlights. It had been almost a year since I'd last gotten my hair cut -- for no other reason than pure laziness on my part. I went to a new stylist and loved her, so that's a win! My son got his very first haircut on the same day, and he officially looks like a toddler now.

Read 12 Books | Favorites:
If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey
Act Like It by Lucy Parker (+ Pretty Face & Making Up)
Still Me by Jojo Moyes
How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
“Three-quarters of these people are a walking waste of oxygen.
And that's a conservative estimate.”
Act Like It by Lucy Parker

“I don't believe that you're somehow completed by romantic love.
You aren't born half a person, doomed to drift through life unfulfilled
until you find someone who can validate you. You're a whole person with a whole life,
 that you might choose to share with another person. Or you might not.”
Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

“Whenever I need help, you're there.
It was one really shitty page in what I hope is a very long book for both of us.”
Making Up by Lucy Parker

“Frusture is my word for the exquisite fury that only your husband can give you.
Not only are you furious, you feel like he's doing it all on purpose, in order to torment you.”
Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

 “I thought about how you’re shaped so much by the people who surround you,
and how careful you have to be in choosing them for this exact reason, and then I thought,
despite all that, in the end maybe you have to lose them all in order to truly find yourself.”
Still Me by Jojo Moyes

“So much of life is just grinding through.
So many moments just exist to deliver you to the ones that follow.
But this moment was a destination in itself.”
How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
I'm trying to blog more consistently in 2018, so I've set some low-pressure, achievable goals for myself. And I was so pleased that I met them in February! As always, I kicked off the month with my January 2018 recap. Then, I was excited to share my January 2018 Quick Lit in a timely manner. I hate when I forget to post it!

Then, Kelly and I were off to the United Kingdom and collaborated on an event together while we were gone: UK Recs Fit for a Queen. If you missed it, check out my favorite UK books, movies/TV shows and places/memories

My favorite post of the month was a collaboration with Rachel from Hello, Chelly, Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and Kelly from Belle of the Literati. I had a blast sharing "You're My Person" // A Galentine's Day Gift Guide. I was inspired by Rory Gilmore and Paris Gellar from Gilmore Girls and loved the way the post turned out!

Aside from the January Quick Lit, I only shared one review in February -- but I was quite pleased with it! I devoured The Rose Trilogy by Jennifer Donnelly early in the year, and I already know they'll show up on my "Best of" lists at the end of it. I hope I've convinced more readers to try them! 

And finally, Kelly and I decided to recap our trip with our UK Recap Fit for a Queen. We talked about the books we read abroad, what we did while we were gone and what we were up to back at home. It was so lovely to relive all the memories we made together -- and to dream about trips to come!
1. A Life Well-Nourished: Reading Intentions for 2018 by Madeleine from Top Shelf Text - I really enjoyed this post and can relate to taking a step back from something assess what is/isn't working. And man, it's so refreshing when you return with a clearer vision for moving forward. And it reminded me that I still have to write about my word of the year!

2. How About We Don't Expect Meghan Markle & Kate Middleton To Get Along by The Fug Girls for Bustle - This was my favorite article from February! I love the Fug Girls and appreciate their insightful commentary. This was such a great take on how friendship takes time to develop -- and the expectation that society has for women in the public eye.

3. I Miss Blogs by Kristin from Super Space Chick - I don't watch a lot of booktube videos, so I was excited to see a new blog post from Kristin pop up this past month! I was going through Feedly recently and experienced some of the same feelings she mentions in her post. It's sad to see many of my favorite blogs that are inactive now.

Favorite Song #1: "Wild Love" by James Bay
I looooooove James Bay, so this was a highlight of the month!
I love the new sound and cannot wait for more. Until then, I'll just wear this out on repeat.

Favorite Song #2: "Butterflies" by Kacey Musgraves
I didn't realize how much I was missing new music from Kacey until she released some!
This song (and "Space Cowboy") definitely have me hyped for the full-length album.

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Seasons 1-3, starring Essie Davis, Nathan Page, Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Ashleigh Cummings - I watched the first season of this show on Netflix a few years ago, and then I forgot to continue! So, I binged all three seasons in February and have no regrets. This is a delight to watch!

Black Panther (2018) starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira - I'm not really interested in superhero movies, but my husband loves them. And all he wanted for his birthday was for us to go see this in theaters. He loved it, and I enjoyed everyone in it. The women stole every scene!

For My Collection from the UK: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Biographic Austen by Sophie Collins, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (from Kelly)

UK Editions: Faking Friends by Jane Fallon, Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin (from Kelly), Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane (from Kelly), The Country Escape by Fiona Walker and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman 

Couldn't Resist: After You and Still Me by Jojo Moyes

From Nick: Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology edited by Danielle Binks

From My Mama: Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson

Audible Credit: A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn 

Kindle: Act Like It and Pretty Face by Lucy Parker, Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm, and Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

NetGalley: Making Up by Lucy Parker

March 2, 2018

UK Recap Fit for a Queen // Back at Home

Kelly and I recently returned from our trip to the United Kingdom, and it was an amazing experience! The week went by so quickly -- and the time with Kelly just made me love her more. If you followed along on our blogs while we were gone, you may remember that we did a three-day blog event that we called UK Recs Fit for a Queen. We recommended books and movies/TV shows set in the UK, and we chatted about some of our favorite places there, too.

Now that we're home, we thought it would be fun to recap our trip with a three-day UK Recap Fit for a Queen. Yep, we basically just tweaked the name from the first event. On Monday we reviewed the books we read abroad and on Wednesday we recapped our trip. I'm really excited about today's post because we're talking about what we're up to now that we're back at home. But rather than just share a boring update, we're using the format from one of my FAVORITE features on Kelly's blog: Mug Life. In this feature, she shares a photo of a mug + a book and then uses a fun acrostic to chat about what she's been up to lately. I'm so excited to participate in it! So, here goes:

• • •

My Current Read // Still Me by Jojo Moyes, the third (and last) book about Louisa Clark. While we were abroad, Kelly was reading it — and I swore that I was going to pretend it didn’t exist. I loved Me Before You and hated After You, so I had no desire to read this one. But watching Kelly cry in Waterstones and listening to her persuasive argument in favor of it made me curious enough to order a copy as soon as I got home. I'm scheduling this post, so I've technically finished it already... and y'all, I LOVED IT. My full review is coming soon because I've got a lot to discuss.

Underneath the Mug // I intended to buy a mug commemorating Harry & Meghan's upcoming wedding, but then I totally forgot about it. Struggle! When I realized I still had a little cash left in my wallet + some time to waste before my flight, I wandered the airport shops and found this adorable London mug by Kate Mawdsley for Dunoon. I'm obsessed!

Get Nailed // I painted my nails with this post in mind, and then I didn't take a photo where you can see my polish. Oops! I'm wearing Butter London's Sea Shell, which was part of an adorable set that Kelly gave me for Christmas. It's hard for me to describe -- it looks like a pale mauve or a pale rose gold depending on the light. Regardless, it looks great on. 

• • •

Look Book // Prior to my trip,  I discovered the Wit & Delight line at Target and fell in love! I bought the backpack and travel wallet -- both were perfect. It's hard to tell online but they're both cream and navy with gold accents. YES, PLEASE. I treated myself to a Columbia fleece jacket, too, and love it. It's already warming up in the south, but I'll wear it a lot next winter. And finally, I bought these adorable (and functional) Barts wool mittens in Scotland. So cute!

Inspired By // My travel journal from our trip! I had so much fun working on it before we left -- writing down to dos and reminders, our itinerary, packing lists, etc. While we were there, I collected tickets, brochures + other fun little mementos, took lots of photos and recording everything we did so that I'd have lots to fill it with once I was home. And now I'm almost done documenting everything in my journal. It's a creative outlet that I'll cherish forever!

Frame-Worthy Moment // We already shared favorite photos from our trip, but I'm probably going to frame the one below! My other favorite frame-worthy moment wasn't captured on camera: the look on my son's face when he saw me for the first time once I was home. Such a happy reunion after a week apart! And few days after got back, I chopped 8+ inches off my hair. I wouldn't actually frame this photo, but I had to take a selfie to celebrate the change! 

Explore // My travel calendar is clear for the moment, but I've started talking with Nick about our summer vacation plans (possibly the beach?). Kelly is pushing for a fall trip with her, but we'll see what happens. Cassie actually arrives in Atlanta today for a long weekend visit. I'm thrilled! We chat almost every day but have only spent one day together in person, so this is long overdue. I can't wait to show her around my hometown!

What books did I push Kelly to read back at home? 
Check out her Mug Life post!

February 28, 2018

UK Recap Fit for a Queen // Besties Abroad

Kelly and I recently returned from our trip to the United Kingdom, and it was an amazing experience! The week went by so quickly -- and the time with Kelly just made me love her more. If you followed along on our blogs while we were gone, you may remember that we did a three-day blog event that we called UK Recs Fit for a Queen. We recommended books and movies/TV shows set in the UK, and we chatted about some of our favorite places there, too.

Now that we're home, we thought it would be fun to recap our trip with a three-day UK Recap Fit for a Queen. Yep, we basically just tweaked the name from the first event. In today's post, we're sharing our favorite photos + three good things about each day. After reading Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center, I started a "Three Good Things" journal to make gratitude a daily habit. We're using that idea in this post to help us narrow down our highlights from the trip. 


1. REUNITING WITH KELLY • I was SO EXCITED when I saw Kelly waiting for me at our designated meeting point: CaffĂ© Nero in Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport! Honestly, I was most looking forward to spending a week with her, and you know that's saying something when you're in your favorite place. It was time for the adventures to begin!

2. VISITING THE TOWER OF LONDON • After checking in to our hotel and grabbing lunch in Convent Garden, we made our way to the Tower of London. I honestly couldn't remember if I'd visited in the past, and I loved being there with a fellow history lover. And Kelly is basically an expert in this time period, so she was the perfect tour guide.

3. BUYING MY MOST-COVETED UK EDITION • I collect copies my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and try to buy one anywhere I travel. I knew we'd do some bookstore browsing together, but there was one specific edition I had to buy. I found it our first night (YAY!) -- and convinced Kelly to buy a few books, too.


1. CELEBRATING KELLY'S BIRTHDAY • One of the most annoying things about having a long distance friendship is that you aren't able to celebrate (or commiserate) together in person. So, I was thrilled to wake up on Wednesday morning, wish Kelly a happy birthday and then spend the whole day celebrating her!

2. MAKING NEW MEMORIES IN OXFORD • I studied abroad at Oxford in college, and it was a bittersweet experience because of some friend drama. So, I couldn't wait to go back with Kelly and make new memories! We climbed the tower at St. Mary's, toured the Bodleian Library, ate fish and chips, bought some books, and admired this gorgeous city.

3. PIZZA, CUPCAKES & NO HEAT • We're fond of the simple pleasures in life, so we wanted nothing more than to eat takeaway pizza, treat ourselves to delicious cupcakes and watch some British home design show back in our room that night. We were less than thrilled to discover that the heat was broken, but we've laughed about it since then!


1. A QUIET TRAIN RIDE • After two very busy days exploring, we were looking forward to a long, quiet train ride to Edinburgh. It couldn't have been more perfectly timed! That's not to say we didn't talk and laugh a lot on that journey, because we did, but it was nice to spend a few hours sitting down. Especially considering what came next...

2. CLIMBING ARTHUR'S SEAT • Before the trip, we discussed the things we wanted to do or see in each city. Climbing Arthur's Seat was at the top of Kelly's list... and probably wouldn't have made mine at all. Listen, hiking isn't my thing. But my love for Kelly won out, and I'm glad she made me challenge myself because it's a great memory now!

3. A FANCY HOTEL • We then treated ourselves to some Diet Cokes, relaxed in a bookstore and took dinner back to our room. Kelly found awesome (and budget-friendly) places to stay, but this hotel was definitely the highlight. I was exhausted and muddy from our adventures, so I was so grateful for the fantastic shower and comfy bed.


1. WANDERING EDINBURGH • We woke up on Friday refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead! We went to Edinburgh Castle, the Scott Monument, Calton Hill, Greyfriar's Kirk, The Elephant House (where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter) and more.  I still can't believe how much we accomplished -- and we perfect weather all day!

2. TOURING HOLYROOD PALACE • This was one of my favorite things we did on the trip! It's the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh and contains the apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots. We listened to the audio tour, and it was super interesting and informative! I'm just bummed we missed Meghan and Harry by a few days...

3. PICKING UP A FEW TREATS • While exploring, I found a copy of Pride and Prejudice that I didn't own -- and Kelly bought it for me as a birthday gift! Then, I snagged a cute (and warm) pair of wool mittens and a t-shirt for my son at a cute boutique in the Grassmarket area. Did I make Kelly treat herself to a few things, too? OF COURSE.


1. EATING OUR FEELINGS • We woke up in the Lake District, where we had an all-day tour planned. Unfortunately, the tour was canceled due to the weather. We were disappointed but made the best of the situation by getting a decadent (and delicious) brunch: hash browns + waffles topped with bacon, caramelized bananas and mascarpone. NOM.

2. FIRST CLASS TRAIN RIDE • We were sad about the tour, but our main concern was getting back to London. We weren't supposed to leave until late that night, but we really wanted to reclaim some of the day. Luckily, we were able to cancel our tickets and rebook for an earlier departure. And the best part? Our new tickets ended up being in first class!

3. SIX-STORY BOOKSTORE • Once we made it to London and dropped off our stuff at our hotel, we headed to Piccadilly Circus and the flagship Waterstones there. We were on a mission to find Mhairi McFarlane's books (bless their website for letting you look up availability by location). We hit the jackpot, and I left with a long list of authors to look up!


1. EXPLORING HAMPTON COURT PALACE • On our first day in London, Kelly convinced me to pay for a Historic Royal Palaces membership. She knew that if we visited three, it would more than pay for itself. I'm glad she did because that gave us to motivation to head to Hampton Court in the morning, and I'd never been before. It was gorgeous!

2. TOURING KENSINGTON PALACE • Next, we popped over to Kensington Palace. I loved the Victoria exhibit, and going through Diana's fashion showcase led to a fascinating discussion about modern royalty with Kelly. And we made sure to stop by the Sunken Garden, where Meghan and Harry announced their engagement. If only we'd seen them...

3. CHILL AFTERNOON IN OUR ROOM • Since I was heading home the next day, we headed back to our room a little earlier than normal. Honestly, we wanted to work on our travel journals, go through our photos, organize our stuff and just hang out together without the hustle and bustle of sightseeing. It was the perfect last hurrah for me!


1. OUR LAST MORNING TOGETHER • My flight wasn't until early afternoon, which meant we didn't have to rush around in the morning. I was glad for a few more hours with this precious friend! But gosh, it was awful saying goodbye to her and boarding the Heathrow Express. I couldn't believe the week was over, and OMG I AM CRYING AGAIN.

2. NO ISSUES WITH MY PASSPORT • I mentioned this in Monday's post, but I discovered that my passport had a typo in my first name when I got to the Atlanta airport to leave for my trip. I wasn't sure if it would be an issue when I departed (since the computer flagged my boarding pass because the names didn't match), but everything was fine in the end. 

3. FINISHING TWO & A HALF BOOKS ON MY FLIGHT • I read one book during our actual trip, and then finished two and a half books on my nine hour flight home. Haha! I clearly soothed my sadness with stories. If you want to know more about what I read while I was gone, check out my Books Abroad post for my mini reviews. 

And now, take a look at Kelly's highlights from our trip!

February 26, 2018

UK Recap Fit for a Queen // Books Abroad

Kelly and I recently returned from our trip to the United Kingdom, and it was an amazing experience! The week went by so quickly -- and the time with Kelly just made me love her more. If you followed along on our blogs while we were gone, you may remember that we did a three-day blog event that we called UK Recs Fit for a Queen. We recommended books and movies/TV shows set in the UK, and we chatted about some of our favorite places there, too.

Now that we're home, we thought it would be fun to recap our trip with a three-day UK Recap Fit for a Queen. Yep, we basically just tweaked the name from the first event. In today's post, we've got reviews for the books we read while we were abroad. Check back in on Wednesday for photos and highlights from our trip. As a reader, choosing what books to bring on vacation is an important task. I think I spent more time debating this than I did what to wear! 

I knew I'd go book shopping while there, so I only packed one physical book and focused on having options on my Kindle. I was convinced that I'd get a decent amount of reading done since we had several long train rides ahead of us! And then I spent almost all of that time talking to Kelly instead... Haha! I finished three books total -- one during the trip and two on my flight home. I started a fourth book on the flight but didn't finish it then, so it will be in my February Quick Lit.

WHO'S THAT GIRL BY MHAIRI MCFARLANE | On my flight to London, I started and stopped several movies before deciding that re-reading a favorite book might help take my mind off my anxiety. Why was I worried? Because I got to the Atlanta airport and discovered that my passport had a typo IN MY FIRST NAME. The Delta agent gave me my boarding pass and told me she didn't think it would be an issue (though she couldn't guarantee it, of course). So, yeah, I spent most of the eight-hour flight there thinking about it. Y'all, it was not the best start to the trip.

I only read about 20% of Who's That Girl? on that flight, but it was the perfect story to distract me. McFarlane is one of my very favorite UK authors, and I noted that this one just might be my favorite of them all when I first finished it. When I started it, I was immediately invested in Edie's story.  She goes through a hard fall from grace -- but it's a revealing journey that helps her discover her worth, appreciate her true friends and recognize her missteps. I loved it even more the second time around! McFarlane is a talented writer, and I'm just such a huge fan.

I loved the relatable characters, sense of humor, personal growth and swoony romance! I read a large chunk of this book (and ultimately finished it) on the train ride from the Lake District back into London. As I read, I could feel myself smiling, giggling, tearing up and sighing over it all. There's something to be said for a book that brings you so much joy. I can't recommend this one highly enough, and I'm obviously So Obsessed With It. And I can now confirm: this is my favorite from McFarlane, but only by a slim margin because all of her books are great.
IT'S NOT ME, IT'S YOU BY MHAIRI MCFARLANE | After saying goodbye to Kelly and hopping on the Heathrow Express, I could feel myself holding back tears. We had the best week, and I was so emotional at the realization that I was saying goodbye to her! I knew I needed to distract myself, so I turned to Mhairi McFarlane once again. I knew re-reading another book from her would help cheer me up! I ended up settling on It's Not Me, It's You. This was the book that first solidified my love for McFarlane, so I was excited to revisit it a few years later.

I really love Edie's story (and majorly adore her romance), but I think I relate more to Delia. Like Edie, she has to reconsider some things in her life -- both decisions she's made and people she's trusted. There are some similarities in their stories, but what I connected to was the way Delia has let fear hold her back from trying things. She sells herself short but slowly, over the course of the novel, she starts to push herself out of her comfort zone. Despite knowing what would happen next, I still found myself completely hooked on every word.

Once again, McFarlane's sense of humor and well-developed characters shine. There's a little more action and intrigue in this plot, which made it a fun follow up to Who's That Girl? The first time I read it, I finished all 531 pages in one sitting after work. And once again, I tore through this book -- thankful that if I couldn't be with Kelly, at least I had plenty of time to spend with these characters. If you're a fan of smart, readable women's fiction that will make you happy then you need to check out Mhairi McFarlane. It's Not Me, It's You is my second favorite book from her, and I'm So Obsessed With It.
ACT LIKE IT BY LUCY PARKER | I finished It's Not Me, It's You about halfway through my flight home, and I knew I had time to finish another book if I chose wisely. I had to take advantage of the uninterrupted reading time! There were so many options on my Kindle (re-reads and new-to-me) but one book was calling my name. It was the only book I purchased with my trip in mind: Act Like It by Lucy Parker, the first book in the London Celebrities series. It seemed fitting to read a book set in the London theater scene while Kelly was back in London seeing Wicked without me!

I honestly can't remember how to book ended up on my radar. I think it kept popping up as an Amazon recommendation, and I know that I was convinced to buy it when I looked it up on Goodreads and saw high ratings from a number of people I trust. Plus, I was super intrigued by the fact that it was billed a slow-burn romance. That sounded good to me! As soon as I started, I was completely smitten! I'm a sucker for hate-to-love relationships, and this was one of the best ones I've read in recent memory. It reminded of a modern Pride and Prejudice, and that's a huge compliment from me!

It was snarky, sarcastic and totally swoony, and I was immediately drawn in by Parker's writing, the setting and the believable characters. Plus, I cannot stop raving about the fact that there was drama but it wasn't dragged out endlessly. I expected a certain storyline to go one direction and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the characters acted like adults and communicated. Give me more of this, please! Y'all, I So Loved It. When I landed, I texted Kelly and begged her to read it too. And as soon as I got home, I bought the second book so that I could start it the next day.

Don't forget to check out what Kelly read abroad!
How do you choose what to read on vacation?

February 15, 2018

"Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined and bloodshed. Epic."

1,865 dramatic pages. 6 days. 5 stars each. 3 epic love stories. Countless heart-pounding adventures. One happy reader. 

"I just finished the most wonderful story..." I felt like Belle recently as I turned the last page in this incredible series. I spent one week with my nose stuck in these books, and I didn't regret it for a second. The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly epitomize why I love historical fiction and family sagas! I actually read The Tea Rose (and The Winter Rose, too, I think) for the first time years ago. If I remember correctly, A Northern Light was my first experience with Donnelly's writing (all the way back in high school) and then I picked up this book because I longed for more from her. But honestly, I'm not quite sure because I've read so many books since then and so much time has passed. Regardless, I had all three books on my shelves but 1) had never read the last and 2) couldn't remember the first two well enough to start with the third. And so, I decided to re-read. I'm always a little hesitant to pick up long books, which is the main reason The Wild Rose has been on my TBR for so long. But I was soon kicking myself for letting a little thing like length keep me from such a fantastic read! I could not put these books down.

I truly remembered very little from the first two books, so it felt like reading them for the first time. And they are definitely an emotional rollercoaster! One of the reasons I love long books, when I finally convince myself to pick them up, is the way I typically get to completely immerse myself in the characters' lives. I know that I'm signing up for a dose of drama and angst (a lot happens in this many pages!), but I end up loving every second of it. That's not to say there aren't moments where I'm frustrated by a particular storyline, but the books are still so satisfying overall. 

I was so invested in these characters embracing life and finding love amidst the backdrop of an ever-changing world. I journeyed everywhere from tea factories in Whitechapel to Tibetan mountain ranges, cattle farms in California to camels in the Middle East, and beyond. Donnelly brings such rich detail to the various settings, which was the icing on the cake for this historical fiction lover. I am all about the description that paints a clear picture of the time period!

But the best part is that I met so many unforgettable characters in these pages: costermongers and code breakers, entrepreneurs and explorers, guv'nors and gangsters, spies and suffragettes, doctors and drug dealers, prostitutes and Prime Ministers. Donnelly depicts a sprawling world populated by characters from all walks of life. 

I'm a little shocked that I didn't remember more from these books because they feel so unforgettable to me. It's been a few weeks since I finished, and I'm still wishing I got to spend more time with this family. Honestly, I can't recommend this series enough! I'm sad to say goodbye but thankful that I can reread and revisit this world and these characters anytime I choose. If you're a lover of historical fiction and/or epic family sagas, I hope these books are on your radar!

(And yes, I quoted Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars in this post title. I just couldn't help myself!)

So Quotable
“We're not punished for our sins, lad. We're punished by them.” -- The Tea Rose
Released: March 2002; November 2006; August 2011 | Publisher: Thomas Dunne; Hyperion
Pages: 557 pages; 736 pages; 623 pages; | Source & Format: Owned; Paperback
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