August 15, 2016

Six in Sixteen: What I've Learned This Year

I was texting with Cassie the other day, and she mentioned wanting to write about the things she's learned so far this year. I suggested a title for the post, and then I started thinking about my own list of lessons from this year. Thankfully, she was up for me joining in! Be sure to check out her blog to see what 2016 has taught her. There were so many things I felt like I could have chosen, but these six definitely stand out:

If I had to choose only one thing I've learned this year, this statements sums it up. This year has repeatedly reminded that I'm not in control. I've had some scary health stuff going on (I'll probably write about it later), and it's forced me to confront this truth. It's been hard, but it's been good for me in a way, too. It's easy to think I can have a plan for everything, but life doesn't work that way. As hard as this lesson has been, it's also been the one that's teaching me to trust God more fully and to take my worries to Him.

This is such a cliché, but it had to be included. Everyone told me that a baby changes everything, and they weren't kidding! Becoming a mom has been one of the most rewarding, challenging, humbling and amazing things that has ever happened to me. I can't put into words how much I love my son and how much joy he's brought into my life. From day-to-day things (it takes so long to get ready to go anywhere!) to big stuff (it feels like my heart now exists outside of my body), nothing will ever be the same!

Growing up, I remember saying something to my mom about how I wanted to read my Bible more. She pointed out that if I wanted to do it, I would. What she meant was that we spend time doing what we want, so I'd make the time for it if it was truly important to me. I keep coming back to that idea this year. If you care about something, you'll find the time to do it. For me, one example is doing my best to read every day - even if it's just a page or two. I'm a better version of me when a spend a little time doing something I love!

I'm an introvert and a homebody who prides herself on being independent. I'm the kind of person who wants to make sure my house looks perfect before someone comes over, and I don't easily talk about the heavy things that are on my heart and mind. But I'm slowly learning that I can't do things alone and I have to invite people into my life, even if that means they see the mess. People can't show up for you, can't support you or surprise you, if they don't know you need them. I'm working on becoming a little more open.  

With everything that's happened this year, both good and bad, it's made me more thankful than ever for my husband and my parents. I've always known that I married a good man, but seeing Nick become a father and having him by my side the last few months has just made me love him even more. Plus, I was already convinced that I have the best parents in the entire world, and it's just been confirmed this year. I want the people in my life to know how much I appreciate them because I can't imagine my life without them in it.

This lesson circles back to the very first one, and it's definitely easier said than done. This year, I have to keep reminding myself to take things one day at a time. I don't want to spend each day thinking about the unknown because the what ifs and the what nexts can be overwhelming! So, I remind myself that worrying about the future will keep me from being present - and I don't want to waste the here and now. But when that doesn't work? It's good to talk about what's on my mind (and maybe cry a little, too).

What has 2016 been teaching you?

July 6, 2016

It's Nice to Be Needed

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Atria Books
Pages: 336 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; e-ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It's just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention. 

But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment. 

As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village’s youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She’s the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it. 

Thus begins a beautiful and unlikely partnership. In her new role as reluctant mentor to these lost young boys and girls, Britt-Marie soon finds herself becoming increasingly vital to the community. And even more surprisingly, she is the object of romantic desire for a friendly and handsome local policeman named Sven. In this world of oddballs and misfits, can Britt-Marie finally find a place where she belongs?

Thoughts on Britt-Marie Was Here
I discovered author Fredrik Backman last year, and he quickly earned a spot on my list of favorite new-to-me authors. I enjoyed A Man Called Ove, but I fell head over heels in love with My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry. Backman's quirky writing style, curmudgeonly (but still lovable) characters and sense of humor stood out in a sea of novels and became two of my most unforgettable reads in 2015. So, when I heard he had a new book coming out in 2016 - and that it featured a character from My Grandmother... - I was thrilled!

If you've read My Grandmother..., you may remember Britt-Marie. She lives in Elsa's building, and she doesn't seem very likeable. But, as with all of Backman's characters, there's more to her than meets the eye. Once you spend a little time with her - and learn her story - she starts to worm her way into your heart. So, I picked up Britt-Marie Was Here with anticipation, excited to see how Backman would further develop this prickly woman. And while I think you might get just a bit more enjoyment out of Britt-Marie Was Here if you've read My Grandmother, it's not a requirement. This book does stand on its own.

Britt-Marie is a woman who thrives on routines and predictability. She has strong opinions and may or may not be just a little passive aggressive. If you choose to "interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms," that is. Everything in her life is in order and never changes... until, at age sixty-three, Britt-Marie leaves her husband after forty years of marriage. She's had enough. She finds a job in Borg - a small, rundown town that's been devastated by the financial crisis. The town's only bright spot is the local youth soccer team. In their desperation for a coach, the team turns to Britt-Marie - the least likely (and possibly most ill-suited) candidate ever. But what happens next is worth finding out!

Everything I enjoyed about Backman's previous books - his writing style, his sense of humor, his quirky and prickly characters, and his heartwarming themes - is present in Britt-Marie Was Here. If I had to find something that didn't quite work for me in this book, however, I'd probably point to the pace. I don't know if the book or my mood was to blame, but I wasn't dying to pick it up and finish it. I enjoyed getting to know Britt-Marie better and was intrigued by the secondary characters and setting, but I wasn't thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it. But, like I said, my mood may have been partly to blame - I was reading it while nine months pregnant, so I mostly had my baby on my mind!

One of my favorite things about this book was the theme. It was lovely to see Britt-Marie begin to feel needed - and to watch her go from an outsider to a vital part of a community. Backman does a wonderful job of illustrating why Britt-Marie acts the way she does, and I felt so much sympathy for a character who would probably drive me absolutely crazy in real life. Learning about her childhood and marriage reminded me, as Backman's books always do, that everyone has a story - whether or not you're privy to it.

If you're already a fan of Backman, you should absolutely pick up Britt-Marie Was Here! He's written a story that will make you laugh (and maybe cry) with a heroine that will surprise you. If you're new to Backman's work, this might not be the first one I'd recommend (just because it's not my personal favorite) but you really can't go wrong with any of them! Britt-Marie isn't the easiest character to love - but she's almost impossible to forget.

So Quotable
“At a certain age almost all the questions a person asks himself are really just about one thing: how should you live your life?”
*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.

June 20, 2016

Encouragement, Advice, Romance & Hope

The Mother Letters compiled by Amber C. Haines and Seth Haines

Release Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Baker Publishing; Revell Books
Pages: 192 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
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Brief Thoughts on The Mother Letters
The Mother Letters began as a gift from a husband for his wife. Seth Haines noticed that his wife, Amber, was overwhelmed as the mother of three boys. So, he decided to collect letters of advice and encouragement from mothers around the world. The gift was so meaningful to Amber that she and her husband decided to compile many of the letters into a book for moms everywhere.

As a new mother, I was expecting to love this book and to be moved by the words inside. It was one of the few books I found time to read in my first few weeks home with my baby - the format making it perfect to pause and read a letter. And while I appreciated much of the sentiment in the letters, I thought the book overall was just okay. Some letters were more moving than others, but none of them stood out to me. The advice was generally sweet and meaningful, but it also felt cliché (and redundant) to me at times... The book itself, however, was lovely. I liked the small-size hardcover, glossy pages and photos throughout. I'd be most likely to recommend it a gift for new mothers, even though it didn't completely resonate with me.
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Moms on Call LLC
Pages: 179 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book

Brief Thoughts on Moms on Call: Basic Baby Care
Moms on Call is a book of advice written by two pediatric nurses and moms. It covers all of the "basics" of baby care, such as feeding, illness symptoms, sleeping, bathing, daily schedules and more. Several of my friends with kids recommended this book to me, so I purchased a copy. I read through the book before my baby was born, and it was a pretty quick read. 

There's a lot of information inside, and I found most of it pretty helpful. I'm happy to have it as a reference, particularly the information on illness symptoms. One of the biggest components of the book is the section on sleep and daily schedules. My baby is currently six weeks old, and I haven't used this part of the book. The daily schedule and sleep principles seem too rigid to me, though I'm applying some of the general advice like swaddling, using a white noise machine, and stretching out the time between dinner and bedtime feeding. 

The tone of the book is a little annoying. The authors definitely believe that you should follow their advice to the letter, including a particular method of swaddling and using a specific kind of bottle. There are some formatting errors in the Kindle edition, as well as other issues that show the book needed a bit more editing. 
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher: Penguin Press
Pages: 277 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
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Brief Thoughts on Modern Romance
Comedian Aziz Ansari teamed up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg for a research project on modern romance. They conducted interviews and focus groups in numerous cities around the world, analyzed surveys on romance, created an online Reddit forum and worked with other social scientists to come up with the data that went into this book. I wasn't really interested in reading this book until I saw that it was on sale for Kindle one day. For $1.99, I figured it couldn't hurt to try it.

With Ansari's background, I was expecting this to be a more humorous book. That's not to say it isn't funny (because it is), but it's definitely much more focused on research and data. I found it absolutely fascinating overall! It didn't take me long to finish the book, and I liked when I learned from it. Chapters covered the different stages of dating (Searching for Your Soul Mate, The Initial Ask, Settling Down) but also explored how technology has impacted romance (online dating, sexting, snooping) and how romance varies internationally. It was the kind of book I wanted to discuss when I was done, which is definitely a point in its favor. If you want to laugh AND learn a little bit about how dating and romance has changed over time, pick up this book!
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Zondervan
Pages: 256 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
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Brief Thoughts on Hope Heals
Jay and Katherine Wolf got married right after college, moved to California to pursue their dreams and found themselves welcoming a baby boy into the world soon after. But six months later, everything changed for their family. Katherine suffered a massive brain stem stroke without warning - an event that likely should have left her dead. But after 40 days on life support in the ICU and nearly two years in full-time brain rehab, Katherine was doing things the doctors thought she'd never do again. This sentence from the book's summary captures the heart of their story: "In the midst of continuing hardships and struggles, both in body and mind, Katherine and Jay found what we all long to find... hope, hope that heals the most broken place, our souls."

I can't remember how I first heard about Jay and Katherine or their ministry, Hope Heals, but I was reminded of it a few months ago when I read an article Jay wrote for Darling Magazine. When I learned they were sharing their story in a book, I knew I had to read it. It was one of only two books I managed to read in May (struggle), but I absolutely loved it. The book is divided into four parts: The Dream Broken, The Hope Deferred, The Miracle Continues and The Healing Found. The first part describes Jay and Katherine's lives leading up to her life-changing stroke. The next three parts focus on Katherine's recovery and their lives post-stroke. It was an incredibly emotional read, and I couldn't put it down. I loved everything about this book - their writing, their honesty, their relationship and, most of all, the truth they shared. Their faith in Jesus is at the core of the book (and their story), and it was so moving to read about how they found hope in Him. I admire them so much, and I cannot recommend this book enough. It's something I'll never forget reading.

June 14, 2016

More 2016 Releases I'll Probably Pre-Order

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 Most Anticipated Releases
for the Second Half of 2016

1. The Choices We Make by Karma Brown
Adult Contemporary / July 12
I really enjoyed Come Away with Me and can't wait for more from Brown! 

2. Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson 
YA Historical Fantasy / September 27
I loved Walk on Earth a Stranger - what will happen to Lee Westfall next?!

3. Results May Vary by Bethany Chase
Adult Contemporary / August 9
The One That Got Away left me wanting even more from Chase! (Plus: THAT COVER.)

4. The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines
Non-Fiction / October 18
I adore this couple and their show Fixer Upper, so I have no doubt I'll adore their book!

5. First Comes Love by Emily Giffin
Adult Contemporary / June 27
I've been a Giffin fan for years until The One & Only, so I hope this one works for me...

6. The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Adult Fantasy / November 29
I loved The Queen of the Tearling and The Invasion of the Tearling - gimme this one NOW!

7. The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee
YA Contemporary / December 27
Under a Painted Sky was one of my 2015 favorites. I'm excited to try Lee's contemporary!

8. Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
YA Fantasy / September 6

9. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta
Adult Mystery / October 11
As a Melina Marchetta fangirl, I possibly shrieked when I saw this on Goodreads.

10. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
YA Fantasy / September 27
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series is an all-time favorite, so this book a must read!

June 7, 2016

A Love Letter to Reading

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 Reasons I Love Reading

1. Discovering gorgeous writing.
One of my favorite things in the world is opening up a book, reading a few sentences and knowing immediately that it's something special. I love the thrill of highlighting that perfect turn of phrase or sentence or entire page of words that seem like they were written just to be read by you. *sigh*

A few books that had me highlighting like crazy:
The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum
Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

2. Exploring new places.
Whether it's real or make believe - past, present or future - I love that reading can take me to places I've never been. I can't get enough of books that invite me into a new world and ignite my love for travel, my interest in the past or remind me of the power of imagination. Oh, the places I've been...

A few books that transported me to new places: 
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Scarlet Series by A.C. Gaughen
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

3. Obsessing over love stories.
Nothing quite compares to reading a book and being swept up in the romance inside its pages. I'm a total sucker for a good love story! No matter the genre, I love when there's a couple I can root for in whatever I'm reading. And I particularly enjoy when a book teaches me something important about love and commitment!

A few books with love stories that left me swooning:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center
It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane

4. Experiencing All The Emotions.
If I'm not emotionally invested in the story and/or characters, there's a good chance I won't finish reading a book. I'm rarely cry while reading, but I still want books to speak to my heart and leave me thinking about them long after I'm done. Experiencing a range of emotions - sadness, joy, anger, etc. - makes reading so engaging! 

A few books that made me an emotional mess:
The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

5. Meeting beloved authors.
While I usually feel a little awkward talking to them, I absolutely love getting the chance to meet some of my favorite authors! Whether it's by attending a bookish conference like BEA or scoping out signings at my local bookstores, I'm so thankful for all the authors I've been able to meet over the past few years!

A few authors I've had the chance to meet:
Tahereh Mafi
Veronica Rossi
Sarah J. Maas
Rainbow Rowell
Gayle Forman
Stephanie Perkins
Laini Taylor
Markus Zusak
Colleen Oakley
Emily Giffin 

6. Revisiting familiar favorites.
This should come as no surprise since I co-hosted The Re-Read Challenge last year with Kelly: I absolutely adore re-reading! I outlined why I love re-reading in this post, but the biggest reason is because there's something so comforting about returning to a book I already know and love. It's like catching up with a best friend! 

A few books that I love re-reading:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

7. Connecting with other readers.
Have you ever experienced that lovely moment when you realize someone else is a reader, too? It's one of the fastest ways I'm able to connect with someone else! It usually kicks off a spirited discussion of favorite authors, beloved books, recent reads - even if we have different taste. And blogging has multiplied it tenfold!

A few bloggers I've gotten to fangirl with in person:
Cassie from The Casserole
Betty from Book Rock Betty
Estelle from Rather Be Reading
Alexa from Alexa Loves Books
Linds from Bring My Books

8. Getting to know different characters.
If you think about all of the things that go into a good story - like the plot, the writing, the characters - I tend to gravitate towards character-driven books. All of the elements are important and necessary for creating a memorable read, but I'm always on the lookout for interesting and well-developed characters. 

A few books with characters that stole my heart:
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Just One Day by Gayle Forman

9. Admiring (and acquiring!) beautiful books.
I'm a self-confessed book hoarder. I just can't help it! I don't spend money on many other things because books are definitely my weakness. I have some quirks like collecting editions of my favorite books and buying books I've already read, but mostly I just love adding stuff to my ever-growing TBR. Books are the best! 

A few books that were too pretty to resist:
The BabyLit series
Anything from Folio Society
Can I include my IKEA Billy bookshelves?

10. Seeing from another perspective. 
And finally, reading allows me to step into someone else's shoes - whether it's a fictional character or a real-life person. There's so much to be said for the way it can teach empathy, compassion, and awareness. I've learned and grown as a person because of the books that I've read, and I wouldn't trade that for the world!

A few books that opened my eyes to different life experiences: 
Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene

June 6, 2016

March, April & May 2016: Recap + On My Shelves

OH, HELLO. Remember me? I wouldn't blame you if you don't! It can't believe it's been so long, but I'm blaming that on pregnancy and the birth of my baby boy. Let me catch you on on the last few months...

1. Markus Zusak Signing - The Book Thief is one of my all-time favorite books EVER, so I was positively thrilled when I found out that Markus Zusak had a signing in Atlanta in honor of the book's 10th anniversary. Since he's from Australia, I assumed I'd never get the chance to meet him. Well, I'm glad I did because it was the best book signing I've ever attended! He was incredible, and I'll cherish my signed book forever.

2. Baby Shower in a Box - I got home from work one day in April and found a GIANT box waiting at my front door. I knew Nick and I hadn't ordered any baby stuff recently, so I wasn't sure what I'd find inside. The surprise was even better than I could imagined - my blogging friends sent me a baby shower in a box! I was already so emotional as I approached baby's arrival, and this gift just added to it. I can't thank these ladies enough!

3. Bestie Weekend - Last year, my best friend and I spent a week at the beach - a trip that inspired me to write this post about friendship. We wanted to do something fun again this year but decided to stick closer to home. She came in town for a weekend, and we had so much fun together. We relived some of our favorite college memories in Athens, and she arranged a fun little brunch with some friends to catch up and celebrate!

4. Baby Boy is Born - On May 3, my baby boy was born! I was so nervous about childbirth beforehand and while I'm not dying to go through it again anytime soon, I had a great experience overall. I'm thankful for the nurses and my doctor (and the miracle of an epidural!) - but most of all, I'm thankful for my husband and our baby. The past month of being a mom has been incredible and has brought me so much joy!

Read 24 Books | Favorites:
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Hope Heals by Katherine & Jay Wolf
“She will never see who I grow up to be -- that great question of who I am 
and who I am meant to be -- finally asked and answered.”
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

“There is other love out there for me. But it's different. It isn't this. It isn't this exact love.
It's better and it's worse. But I guess that's sort of the point of love between two people --
you can't re-create it. Every time you love, everyone you love, the love is different.
You're different in it.”
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“You don't need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon.”
The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

“At a certain age almost all the questions a person asks himself are really just about one thing:
how should you live your life?”
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

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

“I could do this. If whole galaxies could change, so could I.” 
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
[Personal Favorites]
Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Discussion/Feature: Three Types of Recommended Reads
1. Laurie Isn't a Good Guy; He's a Nice Guy by Maddie Rodriguez on Book Riot - I've always hated that Laurie didn't end up with Jo in Little Women (spoiler alert? ha!), but this article had me re-thinking that opinion. I'm starting to see Laurie in a whole new way... and it's not for the better. 

2. {Bookish} Style Files: Met Gala 2016 Edition by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books - This is one of my favorite posts that Alexa shares every year! It's so fun to see what she pairs with different books - and to read her reasons for choosing each. Have fun admiring her post - and daydreaming about what gowns you'd like for yourself!

3. It's Here: The Summer 2016 Reading Guide by Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy - This is another one of my most-anticipated blog posts - Anne's summer reading guide! There are always new-to-me books on her list, and this year is no different. There are definitely a handful of books that are now on my radar to read this summer!

4. How Re-Reading Re-Energized My Blog by Kelly from Belle of the Literati - I adore posts about re-reading, which shouldn't be a surprise since I co-hosted the re-reading challenge with Kelly last year (this year). I loved that Kelly focused on how re-reading can remind you of why you read and blog in the first place.

Favorite Song: "Bullet" by Chelsea Lankes on Chelsea Lankes EP
I think Spotify's Discover feature introduced me to Chelsea's music, but I can't remember.
Either way, this was one of my favorite songs from the past three months. I've had it on repeat!

New Girl, Season 4 - I used to watch New Girl on TV every week, but I took it off my DVR about halfway through the third season because I was getting tired of it. But when I started craving something funny to watch in March, Netflix's suggestion to watch this was the perfect solution. I enjoy these crazy characters!

Scandal, Seasons 1-4 - I wanted something addicting to watch during my first few weeks home with the baby since a) he slept all the time and b) all of my TV shows are off for the summer! I settled upon Scandal, which I'd been meaning to watch for a while now... and OH. MY. GOODNESS. This show is completely insane!

Pre-Orders: The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane, The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry, The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh, The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas and Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Impulse & Bargain Buys: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson, The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner, Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck, The Mother Letters by Amber C. Haines, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (not pictured) and Hope Heals by Katherine & Jay Wolf (not pictured)

Book of the Month Club: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Signing Purchase: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (in What I Loved section) 

From Estelle: Parent Hacks by Asha Dornfest and Move! by Lolly Hopwood and YoYo Kusters

For Review: Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

Bought for Kindle: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer, After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid, A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Audible Credits: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer, Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center, The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

March 16, 2016

Will You Accept This Rose?

Release Date: April 2012 | April 2013 | May 2014 | May 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins; HarperTeen
Pages: 336 pages | 336 pages | 323 pages | 346 pages
Source & Format: Gifted; Kindle
Series: The Selection #1-4

Summary for The Selection (from Goodreads)
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. 

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. 

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Thoughts on The Selection series
I was at the bookstore with my best friend a few years ago, and she picked up The Selection. The cover caught her eye, and I mentioned that I'd heard it was reminiscent of The Bachelor. We used to watch the show together every Monday night in college, laughing hysterically and getting sucked into the drama. She didn't buy the book that day, but she texted me later saying she'd purchased the e-book and was hooked!

Since then, I made sure I texted her when I saw news about the series around the blogosphere - cover reveals, release dates, etc. When my birthday rolled around this year, she asked if there was anything on my wishlist. I'd been curious about the series after hearing her talk about them (and after Alexa binged them), so I mentioned that I'd love these books. She was thrilled that I wanted to read them, and pretty soon I had all four waiting on my Kindle. I didn't want to let them linger for too long, so I decided to start the first book one morning... and I ended reading all four books in about 24 hours. Oops?

Alexa described this series to me as "book crack," and she's exactly right. Objectively, there are a lot of things that are... questionable... about this series. They're not the most well-written books, and the characters and scenarios sometimes made roll my eyes and shake my head. And yet, the fact that I read all four so quickly must speak for itself. This series is addicting, and I had so much fun reading it!

3 Things I Loved:
  • The concept: I found the idea of a competition for the chance to marry royalty totally fascinating! What I didn't anticipate - but found delightful - was that there's more going on behind the scenes. There are big things happening in this world, and the juxtaposition between that and the pursuit of the Prince (or Princess, in The Heir) was so enjoyable. The series was never too serious or too fluffy.
  • The entertainment: Listen, there's a reason I read this series as fast as I did! These books are addicting. While they don't necessarily close with cliffhangers, the end of each book left me reaching for next in the series immediately. I had to know what would happen next. So, while the writing wasn't the strongest, I do admire Cass' ability to have me racing through each installment.
  • The Prince: Oh my goodness, Maxon Schreave was my favorite from the moment he stepped on the page. My brain was literally like, "Aspen who?" I loved that he was so much more than America expected, and I found myself looking forward to every scene that he was in. I loved that he wanted to do what was best for his country - but still follow his heart. What a sweetheart!
2 Things I Liked:
  • The heroine: I wasn't always America's biggest fan. There were things I admired about her (the way she wasn't afraid to take a stand, etc.)... but there were things that drove me insane, too. I had to keep reminding myself that she was a teenager, and I couldn't expect her to act like an adult. The same was true for Eadlyn, the heroine of The Heir, though she was difficult to like in different ways.
  • The world: The world was one of the weaker elements in this series - solely because there was so much more that could have been developed! I didn't realize that the political climate (and history of the country) would play a role in this story, but I loved that it did. There was just enough included that I was intrigued - but not enough to really leave me satisfied! I would have loved if it was a bigger aspect. 
1 Thing I Loathed:
  • The angst: Holy cow, I wanted to light these books on fire a few times. I think I was most frustrated while reading The Elite, though I was definitely going crazy during a few chapters in The Heir. In the first three books, it was the love triangle that nearly killed me. I understood America's interest in both boys, but I hated how she handled it. So much back and forth! It made it hard for me to take the books seriously.
While I'd describe the series as uneven overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. They provided a fun and dramatic escape - just what I needed after a few weeks where I didn't spend much time reading! I needed something addicting and entertaining, and they fit the bill perfectly. If that's the mood you're in, I'd recommend picking up these books! There's more to them than meets the eye.
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