January 23, 2018

Quick Lit: November 2017 (Part 2)

I'm two months behind on my Quick Lit posts, so I'm finally catching up this week. Because I had 17 books to review for November, I split the post into two parts. If you missed it, here is Part 1 with the three series I binged that month. Today's post features 8 standalones! I read two other books that aren't included in this post: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, which I'll be reviewing that separately, and another book that I just skimmed (so I don't feel right reviewing and rating it). If you're looking for more book recommendations, check out the linkup at Modern Mrs. Darcy

THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY BY KATJA MILLAY | I read this book for the first time a few years ago (click the book title for my original review!) and fell head over heels in love with it. I was swept away by Millay's writing, the heartbreaking pain, the amazing characters -- all of it. I'd been meaning to re-read for ages and finally listened to the audio. While I didn't love the male narrator (my one criticism), everything else about this story was just an amazing the second time around. It was still an emotional rollercoaster, and I'm So Obsessed With It. And that last line? I DIE.

ALL IN PIECES BY SUZANNE YOUNG | I saw Andi talking about this book, and she piqued my interest. When I spotted a copy at the library a few days later, I couldn't resist! I loved that Savannah wasn't the traditional YA heroine. She's at an alternative high school due to "anger management issues" after she stuck a pencil in her ex-boyfriend's hand. School is miserable, but her home life is even worse. I was so invested in Savannah's story -- and in her blossoming romance with a new student. It was an emotional read about heavy issues, but I read it in one sitting and So Enjoyed It.

UNTIL THERE WAS YOU BY KRISTAN HIGGINS | I was nervous about this book because Kelly read it before me, and she wasn't a huge fan. I don't know if it's because I went in with low expectations, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the humor, the plot, and the heroine (though I wanted her to stand up for herself). But I will agree with Kelly that the romance was my least favorite aspect. I didn't get what made the hero so special -- and didn't fully believe the couple belonged together. I So Liked It for everything else but probably wouldn't re-read this in the future.

MY ONE AND ONLY BY KRISTAN HIGGINS | I really enjoy second-chance romances, so I was looking forward to this book before I even started it. The addition of a a cross-country road trip got my hopes up even higher, and, thankfully, I wasn't disappointed in the least! There's a lot of background info in this one since the couple has a history together, so it took a while for the story to move forward. But I was so invested in the couple, even when they did things that annoyed me, and I have a feeling that the snarky humor helped. I'm happy to say that I So Enjoyed It

IF YOU ONLY KNEW BY KRISTAN HIGGINS | This is one of my favorite books from Higgins! It focuses on two sisters, Jenny and Rachel, which is always a draw for me. I was a little nervous beforehand because one storyline involves cheating, but I thought it was handled it really well. I loved that the book felt more like women's fiction than contemporary romance, and I think that contributed to the fact that the book felt a little more serious and sad than what I'd expect from Higgins. But there was still a nice amount of humor and the bond between the sisters meant I So Loved It.

FOOLS RUSH IN BY KRISTAN HIGGINS | After loving If You Only Knew, I was so excited to pick up this one. Unfortunately, it's my least favorite Higgins so far. But with an extensive backlist, there are bound to be a few misses! I think this was her first book, so I can see some of her trademarks -- and how she's grown. My biggest issue with this one was the heroine. She was so annoying and a little too clueless. Plus, the stalking her crush thing was creepy and not funny to me. The romance didn't redeem it either because I hated that it involved a sibling's ex. I was So Okay With It

YOUNG JANE YOUNG BY GABRIELLE ZEVIN | I own but haven't read another book by Zevin, but I had to grab this from the library after seeing several trusted readers raving about it. And when I first started, I could see why they recommended it. I immediately loved the writing and the voice! But as the story went on and shifted perspectives, I started to lose interest. The last section was my least favorite, and I was bummed to end on a lackluster note. The story and message are very timely in today's world, but I was just So Okay With It because it felt unfinished.

ALL I EVER WANTED BY KRISTAN HIGGINS | This was a sweet story from Higgins with a heroine that I was rooting for. I loved the secondary characters, especially the grandfather, which is often the case when I pick up a book from this author. I disliked a few things about it (the ridiculous devil/angel on her shoulder long-running joke) and was meh on a few others (namely the romance, which felt like it took forever to develop). But there were enough good things about it, including a sweet ending, that I felt like I So Liked It overall. Not a favorite, but still fun for a pick-me-up.

What have you been reading lately?

January 22, 2018

Quick Lit: November 2017 (Part 1)

I'm two months behind on my Quick Lit posts, so I'm finally catching up this week. November was my most active reading month, but my slowest blogging one. I'm sure the two things were related! I finished 19 books, and I'll be reviewing 17 of them. To cut down on the length of the post, I decided to split it into two parts. This post has reviews for the three series I binged in November. You can find reviews for the other books I read in November in Part 2. If you're looking for more book recommendations, check out the linkup at Modern Mrs. Darcy

TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE, P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU AND ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN BY JENNY HAN | Oh man, where do I even begin with these delightful stories? I fell in love with Lara Jean a few years ago, and I'm so delighted the intended standalone became a trilogy. I will never turn down more time with this heroine (and her sisters)! I don't want to spend too long talking about the first two books since I've read and reviewed them before, so click those titles for more of my thoughts on them. Here's all I will add this time around: 1) I re-read via audio and loved the narrator, so I can highly recommend that format and 2) the second grew on me even more after re-reading, partly because the ambiguous ending is now followed by the third and final book. So, let's chat about the last one!

Always and Forever, Lara Jean was everything I hoped it would be and more. At one point in the book, I thought I saw where the story was headed and appreciated the fact that it was realistic (if a little sad). But Han surprised me, and I loved that it was ultimately so sweet and hopeful. Very fitting for a heroine who is a true romantic! I loved the new developments with the family, but you'll have to pick up the book to find out what I mean. I appreciated the college search, the disappointments, and Lara Jean's realization that she has to do what's best for her. But most of all, I loved that her journey came full circle. Peter once told her, “You'd rather make up a fantasy version of somebody in your head than be with a real person.” Well, this finale gives us Lara Jean embracing life in all its messiness. I'm So Obsessed With It

THE KISS OF DECEPTION, THE HEART OF BETRAYAL & THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS BY MARY PEARSON | I'd been meaning to read this series for ages and even purchased all three books in the hopes that it would motivate me to get started. It was nice that owning all three made it easy for me to binge the series, but I'm not entirely sure I would have read past the first if I'd only owned that one. Ahhh, the consequences of being a book hoarder.

Of the three books, The Kiss of Deception was the weakest for me. I wasn't very invested in the romance at that point, but it seemed to be the only thing happening in the first book. Instead of a story of personal growth, I was immersed in a love triangle that was somehow boring. Nothing happened! The world building seemed weak, and I was honestly debating quitting the series at that point because I was just So Okay With It. But the last quarter convinced me to keep going...

The Heart of Betrayal, thankfully, was lightyears better. The world was fleshed out, there was a gripping plot, and I was finally interested in the conflict. I don't know if it's because the stakes felt higher, but I know that the introduction of more secondary characters helped me feel more invested in what I was reading. The romance improved, too, with identities finally being revealed and choices being made. I raced through this one, So Enjoyed It, and excitedly picked up the third.

The thickness of The Beauty of Darkness didn't intimidate me, but the saddest thing happened: it felt as long as it looks. I liked the story, but there was SO MUCH build up for a conflict that's resolved in a few pages. Plus, the relationship drama got old. There's only so many times you can have the same conversation about a situation that hasn't changed! I'd still say I So Liked It, but the series overall was uneven (though I'm more of the black sheep with this opinion). 

THE WINTER BRIDE, THE SPRING BRIDE AND THE SUMMER BRIDE BY ANNE GRACIE | I read the first book in this series, The Autumn Bride, back in August. It was a gift with Kelly and was my third read from Gracie. When I reviewed it, I talked about how I loved the friendship between the four girls but felt the romance needed more development because it took such a backseat to the other storylines. But I liked it enough to pick up the next book in the series, The Winter Bride, and hoped that I'd enjoy it more since it wouldn't have to spend as long setting up the backstory.

Well, y'all, I wasn't prepared for what happened next. I was swept away by The Winter Bride and am now obsessed with Anne Gracie! I was immediately invested in Damaris and wanted to learn more about her past. As for Freddy, I think Gracie specializes in very lovable rakes. I adored the marriage of convenience storyline and the way they brought out the best in one another. I can still vividly remember my favorite scenes, and that's rarely the case for me months after I've finished a book. This was definitely a So Loved It that just might be bumped up to Obsessed when I re-read it. 

After falling in love with Freddy and Damaris, I immediately moved on to The Spring Bride. Jane was an interesting heroine. She's probably my least favorite of the sisters, but I did love that she wasn't ashamed of the fact that her past made her want a safe, sensible marriage. But, of course, running into a mysterious stranger upends her best laid plans. I think the drama lasted just a bit too long in this one (and felt a little contrived), but I'm generally not a fan of storylines that hinge on people keeping secrets from one another. But I still So Liked It in the end!

And finally, it was time for The Summer Bride. I'd been eagerly anticipating this one because I had such a soft spot for Daisy! She was so different from the other sisters (primarily because of her upbringing), and I loved her passion for making beautiful clothes. She dreams of being a business owner, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her pursue that goal. The hero was quite dashing and exactly what I'd want for Daisy, which made it a delight to read. And the best part of it? Seeing all the different couples happily settled in the end! *sigh* I So Enjoyed It - and loved the series overall!

What have you been reading lately?

January 8, 2018

The Picky Pledge 2018

Today, Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and I are talking all things Picky Pledge! We're recapping a few 2017 reading statistics, reflecting on what we learned the past year, and sharing our plan for 2018. The Picky Pledge was born out of our discussions about our reading choices and book buying habits. Alexa and I wanted to be more intentional with the books we read, but we weren't sure how we wanted to go about it. If you're curious, here's how it got started

For the past three years, Alexa and I have shared a long post packed with charts and graphs analyzing our year in books. From what we read to what we acquired, we took a look at our stats and used them to identify what we wanted to change in the year to come. This year, we're doing things a little differently. It's all about simplifying! 

We've learned a lot since starting The Picky Pledge in 2015! We've changed some of our bad habits -- and noticed there's one we just can't seem to break. This year, we're focusing on doing less but hopefully accomplishing more. So, in that spirit, we're just sharing three statistics from 2017 today. We'll address review books and books bought later in this post.

Interestingly enough, this chart looks very similar to last year! I read more books in 2017 (151 vs 93 in 2016), but the percentages stayed about the same. I re-read and borrowed the same percentage of books. My review reading decreased just a bit, which doesn't surprise me. Since I blogged less consistently last year, I was more cautious to request things for review. I didn't want the commitment! I read just a bit more from my TBR in 2017, so that's a Picky Pledge success. However, my reading life is still dominated by the books I'm acquiring rather than what I already own. 

There was a decent amount change in this category! In 2016, I rated 59% of what I read 4 stars or higher. In 2017, it was up to 70%! I'm pleased that I had such a great reading year and hope it's a sign that I'm getting better at identifying what books work for me. I also read more 3.5 star books (15% up from 7%), fewer 3 star books (11% down from 26%) and fewer 1 and 2 star books (4% combined vs. 8% in 2016). Those statistics all speak to the fact that I'm reading the right books for me. Becoming more in tune with my reading taste (and being less influenced by other people) is a good thing! 

I love reading series, but I noticed last year that I hadn't read as many as usual. So, I was looking forward to seeing this statistic. I love that almost half of what I read in 2017 was in a series! I did a bunch of series binges, said goodbye to some favorites, got caught up on a few and started several others. I can't wait to see what 2018 holds in store!

I mentioned earlier in this post that my charts didn't address Review Books or Books Bought, but I'll be talking about those things here. When we kicked off Picky Pledge for 2017, Alexa and I set three personal goals. Mine were:
  1. Read no more than 24 review books.
  2. Buy no more than 80 books.
  3. Complete the Picky Pledge Reading Challenge.
So, how'd I do? 
  1. I read 17 books for review. SUCCESS.
  2. I... have no idea how many books I bought. I documented them all in monthly recaps but didn't keep a spreadsheet of purchases and am now too lazy to go back and dig into the numbers. But based on the fact that 69 of the 151 books I read were purchased or gifted to me in 2017 (and I bought more that I still haven't read), I think it's safe to say this was a total FAIL. I'll talk about this more in a minute.
  3. I read 12 books that fit the 12 categories in our Reading Challenge, so this was a SUCCESS. In fact, this was my favorite part of the Picky Pledge and has inspired our new goals for 2018.
I definitely feel like I've got a handle on review books now. As for buying books, I don't think this habit will change anytime soon. I've gotten better during the past three year, though there's obviously still room for improvement, but I'm not setting a purchasing goal anymore. I always lose motivation while trying to keep a running list of what I bought, where I got it, and whether it adds to my TBR or not! I'm considering Christine's book budget idea, which seems more realistic.

As for the Picky Pledge Reading Challenge, here's what I read for each category (with links to reviews):
Now, let's talk about 2018.

The Picky Pledge will look a little different in 2018, and I don't just mean the updated colors in the graphics. After reviewing our progress and discussing our goals, Alexa and I have decided that our only plan for this year is to complete another round of the The Picky Pledge Reading Challenge! We've updated two categories, but everything else has stayed the same. We loved that this made us look a little differently at our TBR, and we primarily want to focus on staying on top of that in 2018. Instead of monthly reviews, we'll share a recap at the end of the year detailing what we read for each category. But throughout the year I'll track my progress!

Here's to being intentional - and simplifying - in 2018!
What are your reading goals for the year?

January 6, 2018

December 2017: Recap + On My Shelves

Goodbye, 2017! I know there were many hard and horrible things that defined the year, but it's one that I'll always look back on fondly because it was full of fun adventures as I watched my baby become a toddler. Slow down, time!

1. Snow in Georgia - This was an unexpected (but very welcome) surprise in December! It was so fun to see my son's fascination with the falling snow - and his joy when I tried to teach him to catch snowflakes on his tongue. So many sweet memories made! Plus, it was lovely to experience snow while the house was decorated for Christmas.

2. #TreatYoSelf - I went a little crazy during holiday sales! I grabbed: a mass market paperback book sleeve from Book Bubbie, a new wallet from Madewell, a ton of Happy Planner sticker books, subscribed to Darling Magazine, snagged a few cute Rae Dunn mugs from T.J. Maxx and had to get this long-coveted Hunger Games t-shirt

3. Christmas with Family - I didn't take nearly enough photos during all of our family celebrations, but this one is from a delicious dinner with my parents and siblings from a few days before Christmas. This holiday season was even more special than years past because my son is a toddler and was so delighted by everything.

4. A Few of My Favorite Things - I received so many thoughtful gifts from my friends and family, and here are a few of my favorite things: wireless earbuds from my grandparents, an AMAZING Anne ornament from Rachel, a yummy Rhysand candle from Steph, an adorable Audrey Hepburn pouch from Kelly, a gorgeous leather tote from my parents, an adorable mug from Alexa, and an immersion blender from Cassie. My people are the best!

Read 16 Books | Favorites:
Sugar Pine Trail by RaeAnne Thayne
Marry in Haste by Anne Gracie
Far from the Tree by Robin Benwasy
Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh
“Turn down no opportunity for joy, however small.”
The Perfect Stranger by Anne Gracie

“The older she got, the more human her parents seemed,
and that was one of the scariest things in the world. She missed being little,
when they were the all-knowing gods of her world, but at the same time,
seeing them as human made it easier to see herself that way, too.”
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

“The next time you face a room full of strangers . . . you might tell yourself
that some of them are just friends waiting to be found.”
It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas

“Most lives are not distinguished by great achievements.
They are measured by an infinite number of small ones.
Each time you do a kindness for someone or bring a smile to his face,
it gives your life meaning. Never doubt your value, little friend.”
Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

 “A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.”
A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas

 “One cannot live from one day into the next without changing.
It is the nature of life. Small choices are always necessary even when large ones do not loom.
I will change what I choose to change and retain what I choose to retain.”
Someone to Love by Mary Balogh
December was my busiest blogging month of 2017! Honestly, it doesn't surprise me because I always look forward to recapping the year. I'd been planning some of these blog posts for weeks! I started the month with my November 2017 recap, of course. Then, I finally posted my Quick Lit: October 2017, which I forgot I had saved in my Drafts folder.

I posted three full-length reviews in December. The first was one of my absolute favorite reads of the year: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson. I read it back in June and just dragged my feet on talking about it because it was hard to put my love for it into words. Next, I shared my review of Far from the Tree by Robin Benway for October's Picky Pledge Challenge prompt, "A Book I Bought While Traveling." The third review was for Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff for November's challenge prompt, "A Book I Bought Because of the Hype."

Finally, I ended the month with six 2017 recap posts:
I'm excited to see what 2018 has in store for me!
I'm still not caught up on my blog reader, but here are a few of the things I've recently bookmarked:

1. "My obsession with Jane Austen adaptations & retellings" by Kristen from See You in a Porridge - My favorite post from December! I just recently added Kristen's blog to my Feedly, and it's quickly become one I look forward to reading each time I sign in. I share her Austen obsession + love for retellings, so this post was right up my alley.

2. "What Books Represent You as Reader?by Michaela from The Ardent Biblio - This was such an interesting perspective on identifying what your favorite books represent. I love the way Michaela highlighted the similarities between five of her most beloved books, and it made me take a closer look at what my favorites have in common. 

3. 2017 Recaps by Rachel from Hello, Chelly and Best of 2017 Posts by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books - I'm so obsessed with end of the year posts. So, of course, these 2017 recaps from two of my favorite blogs topped my list of must reads! I love seeing what books, movies & TV shows, music and memories made their lists.

Favorite Album: Somewhere in Between by VÉRITÉ
I fell in love with a single from VÉRITÉ earlier in 2017 but didn't know
there was a full album released in June. I made up for lost time in December!

Lady Bird (2017) starring Saoirse Ronana and Laurie Metcalf - This wasn't really on my radar until it was recommended by Jamie on The Popcast. I decided to go see it by myself (excellent life choice) and fell in love with it! For me, it totally lived up to the hype, even though it's not the type of movie I'd typically watch. It was quirky, vulnerable, somehow relatable and so perfectly cast. I honestly think it was my favorite movie of the year! 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) starring Taron Egerton and Colin Firth - When the first movie came out, I was surprised by how much I loved it. We'd planned to see this sequel but missed our chance (and were nervous after reading reviews), and now we're so glad we just rented it. Gosh, this was AWFUL. I wouldn't recommend it at all! I kept hoping it would get better, but even Colin and Taron couldn't save it for me. Ugh. So disappointing!

A Christmas Prince (2017) starring Rose McIver and Ben Lamb - I watched this after I saw everyone talking about it on Twitter... but I was NOT a fan. It was so boring, even by holiday movie standards, and the Prince was not cute. 

The Holiday (2006) starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black - This is one that I watch every year around this time! It's just so happy, gives me MAJOR house envy and makes me want to move to England.

Little Women (1994) starring Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale and more - It's not specifically a Christmas movie, but it's fitting for the season! This will always be a favorite, even though Amy is The Worst.

White Christmas (1954) starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye - My sister and I used to watch this every Christmas, so it's definitely a very nostalgic movie for me. I think this was Nick's first time seeing it, and he enjoyed it!

The Nativity Story (2006) starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Isaac - I didn't even know this movie existed, but Kelly recommended it to me. I'm so glad she did! It was lovely seeing this story (and Oscar Isaac's face) on screen.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed - My absolute favorite holiday movie EVER! It's become a tradition for us to watch it on Christmas Eve, and I look forward to it every year. TEARS, every time.

Brand New Books: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins, Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl by Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman and Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Used Bookstore Finds: Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas, Snow Angel Cove, Redemption Bay, Evergreen Springs, Riverbend Road, Snowfall on Haven Point and Serenity Harbor by RaeAnne Thayne, Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh, The Viscount Needs a Wife by Jo Beverley, A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas, Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, and The Winter BrideThe Stolen PrincessHis Captive Lady, To Catch a Bride, The Accidental Wedding and Bride by Mistake by Anne Gracie

Christmas Gift From My Parents: Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

From Laura: Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood

Gifted: The Laura Lea Balanced Cookbook by Laura Lea Goldberg, Dinnertime by Ree Drummond and Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

For Review: Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins and If Ever I Should Love You by Cathy Maxwell

Kindle: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny, Sugar Pine Trail by RaeAnne Thayne, Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak, The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley and Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird

January 5, 2018

“You can never be reminded too much of someone you love.”

I almost can't believe that it's time for the final 2017 Picky Pledge Reading Challenge review! I picked up The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller for December's prompt, "A Book You Bought Because of the Topic." There were so many options on my TBR that fit for this one. I've purchased a lot of books based on the topic or a specific keyword in the summary. But this one kept catching my eye and ended up being perfect for the season! 

When I first read the summary of this book, I was drawn to the heroine's profession. Olivia Rawlings is a pastry chef at an exclusive Boston dinner club who sets her flambéed dessert and the entire building on fire. Her employer suggests she takes a break while the club is renovated, so she heads for a small town in Vermont. Before long, she's working as the baker of the Sugar Maple Inn. She's close to her best friend, finds the perfect place to live with her dog and meets an intriguing next door neighbor. It's nothing that she expected - but what if it's exactly what she needs?

I didn't realize it until this year, but I really enjoy chefs and food in books. And that's what made me pick this one up! I'm not a foodie, so I'll probably never gravitate toward culinary memoirs (though I do love cookbooks), but there's something so comforting about food in fiction. And honestly, this book took it to the next level! The author is a pastry chef, too, and I think that added so much depth to the descriptions. The process of baking was so lovingly described and never felt like a dry recitation of steps. Miller made me want to devour all of her heroine's creations.

If Miller bakes as beautifully as she writes about it, I can only imagine that I'd be right at home in her kitchen. There's so much to this story beyond the baking, but that was the thing I'll remember most about it. It made me so hungry while I was reading, but nothing would satisfy my craving for Olivia's apple pie. Thankfully, there's a recipe at the back of the book. I haven't made it yet because I just don't know if I'll be able to capture the magic. But it's fun to imagine it at least!

Although it's not a Christmas book, it was a perfect read during that season. There were so many lovely scenes set during the holidays in it. And what's not to love about a snowy town complete with country dances, nosy neighbors and the scent of freshly baked apple pie?! In many ways, this story relies on some common tropes -- particularly for holiday romances. For example, the big city girl finding herself out in the country is a pretty typical story on the Hallmark Channel.  But there was something comforting about the familiarity. Plus, it helped that the characters were well developed, the writing was quiet inviting and the setting made me want to back my bags and head to the woods (with a dessert, of course).

I was never super invested in the romance angle, which is really the only reason this was a solid So Enjoyed It for me rather than Loved. Overall, however, that's a pretty minor complaint for a book that made me want to snuggle up under a cozy blanket by a warm fire. I read a memoir earlier this year that reminded me that feeding people is an act of love, and this book certainly echoed that idea. Olivia's baking brings people together in the very best way, and I'm so glad Miller shared her gift with the world. I can't wait for her upcoming release, which features a diner owner!
Release Date: August 2016 | Publisher: Penguin Random House; Pamela Dorman
Pages: 352 pages | Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover 

This was my twelfth 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 purchased it in February 2017, so it was on my TBR for a little less than a year by the time I read it.

2. What topic/element made you want to read this book? 
The fact that the heroine was a pastry chef. I love cooking and food in books!

3. Have you read other books with this topic?
I know that I have, but I'm currently drawing a blank on any specific titles. If you have recommendations, please leave a comment because I'm always on the look for a good foodie fiction book.

January 2, 2018

Author Obsessions in 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic and invite everyone to share their answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so I obviously love this feature!

Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017

1. LARA AVERY | The Memory Book
I hadn't heard much about The Memory Book until the end of 2016, and then I noticed it popping up on several "Best of" lists. When I finally picked it up, I fell in love with Avery's writing. The heroine's voice was unique, and the novel's journal format worked perfectly. I'm definitely planning to read A Million Miles Away - and look forward to more from Avery!

2. BRIT BENNETT | The Mothers
The Mothers didn't appeal to me at all, but Cassie convinced me to give it a try. The first line was all it took for me to bring the book home from the library with me! Bennett's writing is what helped me overcome my dislike of the cover and my hesitation over the subject matter. It's hard to believe it's her debut because she writes with such maturity and depth!

3. KATHLEEN A. FLYNN | The Jane Austen Project
There are a million ways this story (time travel + Jane Austen) could have gone wrong, but somehow Flynn made it work. The futuristic part of the novel was fascinating, and I could tell how well researched the 1815 portions were. Plus, I loved that the Austen aspect never felt like a gimmick. I want a companion novel with The Brontë Project! 

I'm cheating a tiny bit with Gracie because I read The Perfect Rake in November 2016. I'd considered putting her on my 2016 author list, but I wasn't yet sure if that book was the exception or the rule. Well, I read 8 Gracie books in 2017, so I think it's safe to say I'm a huge fan. She writes such compelling historical romances - I can't get enough!

5. KATHERINE HEINY | Standard Deviation
I never imagined that I'd love Standard Deviation as much as I did! It was an odd, quirky book with a pretty slow pace and not a lot of plot... and yet, I was completely entranced while reading it. The dry humor, the metaphors, the perfect phrasing - I'd love to read more from Heiny if this book is representative of her writing style!

I'm just going to say it: I think Kristan Higgins is my favorite new-to-me author of 2017! I read On Second Thought in June, and I then proceeded to read 14 more books by her. My first read of 2018? The newest Higgins book, Now That You Mention It. I love her heroines, love interests, secondary characters, settings, sense of humor - you name it!

As with Gracie, I'm cheating with Jackson because I didn't discover her this year. Technically, I read my first book by her in 2014. I wasn't a huge fan of that one, but I gave her another shot this year and found a new favorite! I enjoy how she depicts the South and the blending of serious subject matter with a sharp wit. She's got such a unique style!

8. KATE QUINN | The Alice Network
THIS BOOK. I haven't stopped raving about (and strongly recommending) The Alice Network since I finished it, and it makes me so excited to read Quinn's Rome series soon! I may not gravitate toward that time period, but I have a feeling Quinn will make me so invested in the characters and the emotions that I'll forget I ever hesitated over the setting. 

I'm so glad I waited to read this series until this year, even though I bought the first book back in 2013. It took me a long time to get invested this story because the world is so confusing, but it also gives me so much respect for Shannon's creativity when it comes to world building. But once I was hooked, I was so thankful I had three books to binge!

10. HELEN SIMONSON | The Summer Before the War
I debated on whether or not to include Simonson because there are a few other authors that I read more or enjoyed more in 2017. But, I felt like her writing stood out to me in a way that others didn't! I loved so much of the dialogue and the cozy, quaint feeling that she communicated with her tone. Plus, I will absolutely read more from her in the future.

Explore past favorites: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016

What authors did you fall in love with in 2017?

December 31, 2017

My Year in Adventures {2017}

Although I've been slacking off as a blogger lately, I've been eagerly anticipating the month of December because recap posts are my favorite (to read and to write!). Whether it's personal reflections or newfound obsessions, I love looking back at the past year. I've been highlighting what I loved in 2017, and today it's adventures! I loved the idea of ending the year reflecting on a few of my favorite memories from the last twelve months. This is certainly not a comprehensive list, however, since some of the most meaningful moment can't be captured with a camera.

Deanna Raybourn + Joshilyn Jackson Signing - I decided to go to this signing on a whim, even though I'd only read one book by each author at the time. I'm so glad I went because I ended up loving what I read next from both authors!

Visiting Monroe + The Story Shop - This is only on my list once, but I could have mentioned it multiple times. Whenever we were in need of a bit of adventure, we hopped in the car and headed to this gorgeous children's bookstore. 

Colleen Oakley Signing - I adore Colleen's debut, and Close Enough to Touch was just as fabulous. Since I'm a huge fan of her work - and she's a local author! - I had to attend the launch party for this release. So much fun!

Samantha Shannon Signing - I binged the Bone Season series just a few days before attending this signing, and I'm so glad I finally had the motivation! I loved hearing Shannon talk about the world she's created - and what's to come.

Kelly Visits Atlanta - Back in April, I finally got to meet Kelly in person! I got her hooked on Happy Planners and soaked up every second we got to spend talking, planning, laughing, and snacking. Boo, long distance friendships!

My Boy Turns One - This little boy is such a bright spot, and I am so very thankful that I get to be his mama! I can't believe how quickly time is passing. I know it's cliché, but I feel like he'll be off to college in the blink of an eye.

Trips to the Zoo + Aquarium - We took multiple trips to the Atlanta Zoo and the Georgia Aquarium this year, and it was so fun to see them through my son's eyes. He's obsessed with animals, which makes me so very happy!

Exploring Tallulah Falls - Nick proposed to me here six years ago, but we hadn't been back since then. It was so wonderful to explore it with our son and marvel over how far we've come since that day on the bridge.

Beatriz Williams + Karen White Signing - This was my second Beatriz Williams signing of the year, but it was the one right after I'd completed my Bestie Beatriz Binge. I loved telling her about reading them with Kelly!

Visiting the Mountains - I was bummed we didn't get to go to the beach this summer, but we were able to spend a week in the mountains. From the cute little towns to the gorgeous views, we had a blast getting away as a family.

Moderating Sarah J. Maas' Event - Honestly, I still pinch myself when I remember that I moderated Sarah's Tower of Dawn tour event! This is definitely a highlight of 2017 and one of the coolest things I've been able to do as a blogger.

Botanical Gardens - Having a toddler has made me more pay more attention to the adventures we can find close to home, and this is an example! I didn't realize we lived near a botanical garden, and it became such a fun afternoon. 

Kelly Visits Again - Once we confirmed that we liked each other just as much in person as we did over the phone, I convinced Kelly to come back for a second visit. Haha! I loved having her stay and was sad to send her home,

Stone Mountain - We forgot to visit a pumpkin patch before they closed for the season and then came up with this alternate Saturday escapade. We were freezing from the unexpectedly windy day, but we made great memories!

New York City - In November, Nick and I took our first trip together since our son was born! We had the best time exploring the city, shopping, eating delicious food, seeing shows on Broadway and spending time together. 

What adventures did you go on in 2017?
Here's to a happy 2018!
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