January 26, 2016

I Got You on My Mind

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 Things on My Mind Lately

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1. What am I in the mood to read?
I wouldn't say that I'm in a reading or blogging slump, but I've been distracted by other things lately! I've already read a few amazing books in 2016, but I keep struggling when it's time to choose what to read next. What mood am I in? Will it live up to the book I read before it? Or, if my previous read was meh - how do I guarantee that I like my next pick better? Basically, I'm feeling very indecisive in my reading life.

2. What books do I want to add to my baby's library?
While I should probably be concentrating on buying more important items for the baby, I can't stop dreaming about books! I was browsing the picture book section of the library the other day, and I got so excited just thinking about the future. I own some of my favorite childhood books, but there are so many that I still need (should I say want?). The possibilities feel endless, and I'm reminding myself that creating a library takes time.

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3. When will I stop planning and start posting?
I'm not suffering from a lack of post ideas or inspiration, but I have not been motivated enough to make them happen. I was doing really great in December and that's partly because I love looking back at the end of the year and writing recaps. I don't feel guilty for not blogging more, but I do want to stop planning and actually get back to posting! There are way too many unfinished posts saved as Drafts.

4. What projects do I need to complete around the house? 
We recently had our nursery and guest bedroom painted, and I'm so happy with the result. It was definitely one of items on our "Before Baby" checklist, so it was nice to get that done. But it's left me thinking about what else we need or want to do around the house. We made a lot of changes in the office/library around Christmas, but it's not complete yet. I'm ready to have that room feel finished... and to fully decorate the nursery!

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5. What city do I want to visit with my best friend?
Last May, I went to the beach with my best friend. It was one of my favorite things I did last year! She lives in a different state, and I definitely don't get to see her as often as I wish I could. Since we had so much fun last year, we've already started talking about where we're headed this year. With the baby coming in May, the trip will happen sooner rather than later. I'm excited to finalize our plans and start counting down until I see her!

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6. What do I want to do with Nick before the baby arrives?
When I started talking about the trip with my best friend, it got me thinking about all the things I'd like to do with Nick before the baby arrives. Do we want to take a trip somewhere? We better decide now! It's the little things, too. I want to make sure we have date nights, go to the movie theater, and really just soak up this last time as just the two of us. I'm excited for the changes ahead, but I want to make sure I enjoy this season, too.

7. What do I actually need to buy for this baby?
I'm a planner, and I'm a researcher. Both are good qualities, but they can also be super annoying. The first time I went into a baby store with Nick, we walked out within about 10 minutes because I just felt so overwhelmed. THERE ARE TOO MANY OPTIONS. I don't like having to make so many decisions! I've spent a lot of time lately trying to really figure out what we actually need - and what is nice but not necessary.

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8. What's next in my movie/TV queue?
Since I've been feeling so lazy (and have spent a lot time researching on my computer), I've watched a lot of movies and TV shows that had been in my queue! I finished re-watching all of Grey's Anatomy, then dove into some mini series (The Bletchley Circle, Grantchester, etc.) and I still feel like there are so many shows calling my name! It's been nice to take a little break from reading and watch TV in the evenings instead. 

9. What will I be so obsessed with this year?
Besides my baby, of course! I feel like each year there are a few things that I become totally obsessed with - whether it's a product, a TV show, an author, or something else! For example, I discovered faux doris last year and fell in love. I found a few new favorite authors, couldn't stop listening to certain musical artists, had to force myself to stop buying magnetic bookmarks... I could go on! I wonder what obsessions this year will hold.

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10. Do I want to start packing a lunch?
The final - and possibly most random - thing that's been on my mind lately has been food. I typically use my lunch break to go pick up food, but that can get expensive and repetitive. There are only so many places to go! I'd really love to start packing a lunch, but only if I can get creative and prepare it easily. I need more variety in what I eat and would love for it to be a little healthier, too. We'll see if I can get motivated though!

January 13, 2016

The Picky Pledge 2016

On Monday, I shared my 2015 reading statistics with you. And yesterday, I reflected on the past year of The Picky Pledge - what I learned, where I improved, and how I still need to make some changes! I'm so thankful that Alexa from Alexa Loves Books wanted to continue The Picky Pledge again this year. I'm avoiding most blogging commitments this year, but this was one that I knew I wanted to keep.

The Picky Pledge an idea that 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. But what better way than to become accountability partners? It paid off in 2015, and I'm excited to keep it up in 2016. I'm highlighting my goals for the new year today!
We, Alexa and Hannah, hereby pledge to return to the reading days of old - to browse the backlist, to revisit old favorites and to remember that it’s not ALL about acquiring more books to read. With this pledge, we commit to reading a limited number of review books this year, to being more selective about what books we buy and to holding each other accountable when bright and shiny things tempt us to stray from this course. And now, by the power vested in us, we declare 2016: “The Year of The Picky Pledge.”
My Goal: 20 Review Books  
  1. Any review book published in 2016 counts in the overall total - no matter when or how it was acquired. 
  2. When given the opportunity to read something for review, we must consult with one another before:
    1. accepting a publicist/publisher review request. 
    2. hitting the “Request” button. 
    3. borrowing an ARC with the intention to read for review prior to the book’s publication.* 
  3. Review books procured at an event, such as BEA, will only count if you read the book. 
  4. If you do not finish a review book, you may remove it from your overall total. 
  5. Exceptions can be made for books in a series if we have already reached the review book limit. 
* Exceptions may apply, and borrowed ARCs will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
My Goal: 5 Books Bought Per Month
  1. Any books we personally purchased count towards our monthly book limit. 
  2. When faced with the urge to purchase books, we must consult one another. Alternatively, we may also consider the use of last year's handy book buying chart
  3. Books procured via gift cards do not count towards the overall total. 
  4. Exceptions can be made for books we've already read if we've already reached the monthly book limit. 
  5. If we exceed the monthly limit, we must cull the same number of books we went over off of our shelves.
To Sum It All Up...

For the first time since I started blogging, I decided not to set any specific goals or resolutions for the year. But The Picky Pledge is the one exception! One of the biggest things I learned last year was that my specific goal (reading no more than 36 review books) was more motivating than my more general intention (to buy fewer books). I'm applying that lesson to our project this year, and I can't wait to see the result! As with last year, we both have pages on our blog tracking our progress, so you can see how we're doing throughout the year. And if you're feeling the same way about your reading choices, maybe you'll be inspired to make a pledge or find a partner of your own. Sometimes all it takes is writing it down or telling someone else. 

Here's to being intentional in 2016!

January 12, 2016

The Picky Pledge: 2015 Review

What is The Picky Pledge? Well, it's a partnership between me and Alexa from Alexa Loves Books where we held each other accountable for the books we acquired in 2015. For more details on The Picky Pledge, be sure to visit the introduction post. We tracked our book acquisition stats throughout the year - focusing specifically on the books we bought and books we read for review. We loved making more intentional reading choices! 

We both created a page to track our progress, and we posted quarterly check-ins analyzing what we'd learned and where we had room to grow. We shared our 2015 reading statistics yesterday, but it's time for the final check-in today! We're reflecting on the past year and highlighting our three favorite improvements and the ONE thing we need to work on as we move into the new year. We'll share our specific 2016 goals tomorrow.
1. Re-reading old favorites shifted my focus and brought me back to my reading roots.
Fifty-one out of the 153 books I read in 2015 (33%) were re-reads, which was a huge increase from 2014 where only 12% of the books I read were re-reads. While I don't expect re-reads to always make up that much of my yearly breakdown, I'm so thrilled that they did this year! I used to re-read a ton prior to blogging, and I hated that I'd fallen out of the habit. It was something I wanted to focus on in 2015, particularly since I co-hosted The Re-Read Challenge, and I definitely think it helped shift my focus from review books. 

Instead of thinking about what was new and shiny, I was dreaming about what worlds and characters I wanted to revisit. Most of my re-reading in 2014 (though not all) focused on early books in a series before I dove into the latest (or final) installment. But that wasn't the case in 2015! I re-read books just because they were calling my name. Honestly, it was just what I needed! Whether or not I continue to re-read as much in 2016, I'm so thankful for what it taught me this past year. I needed this reading wake up call!

2. I learned to ask myself "Why?" with review books and decreased the number I read in 2015.
In 2014, review books made up 31% of what I read during the year. When Alexa and I were plotting The Picky Pledge, I knew that decreasing that number was going to be one of my main goals for 2015. I'm thankful for the opportunity to read books for review, but I noticed that it was starting to negatively impact my reading experience. I looked at my average rating by source and realized it was lowest for books I read for review. And that didn't surprise me! I'd started reading books because I had to and not because I wanted to.

My goal for 2015 was to read no more than 36 books for review, which meant I was allowing myself around three review books per month. I'm happy to say that I met my goal and only read 34 review books in 2015 - 22% of what I read during the year! I think the biggest thing that helped me make this change was that I paid more attention to WHY I was requesting or accepting a book for review. And if it was anything other than "because I'm dying to read it!," it didn't make the cut. The standard has been set, and there's no going back now.

3. Looking at my shelves with a critical eye helped me embrace the art of culling.
Before we launched The Picky Pledge, Alexa and I started by culling our books. Both read and unread books were on the chopping block, and we shared some tips (for shelves and for TBR) based on our experiences. It was the perfect way to start the year, but we didn't stop there. Throughout the year, I got rid of books I was no longer excited about or interesting in reading and books I'd liked but never planned on re-reading. Reading Marie Kondo's book inspired me to keep only the books that brought me joy!

While I didn't completely follow her advice on tidying books, she did change my thinking on what I own and what I acquire. I learned to look at my bookshelves with a much more critical eye, thereby embracing the art of culling! Seeing how many books I still hadn't read helped me truly grasp how my book buying had gotten out of control, and paying attention to the books I'd kept (but didn't truly love) made me realize that I wanted my bookshelves to be filled with ONLY my favorites. I'm creating a library that I truly love!
1. Buying books wouldn't be bad if I didn't own so many unread books! So, 2016 is "The Year of the TBR."
The combination of the three things I learned this past year has made it even clearer what I want my priority to be in 2016: tackling my TBR! Re-reading took me back to my pre-blogging habits, which included buying a book when I wanted to read it (and not letting it sit on my shelves for months). Getting pickier about review books reminded me that there's a whole world of books outside of the ones being hyped or newly released. And culling my shelves is how I've finally whittled my TBR down to the books I truly want to read!

So, I feel like everything is aligned as I enter 2016. With a baby on the way, it will become more important than ever for me to be intentional about what and when I read. I'm still setting a goal for the number of books I read for review, but my focus will be on curbing my book buying and ramping up how much I read from my shelves! If I didn't have so many books just waiting to be read, I wouldn't feel guilty about my love for buying books. And that's why I'm hoping to end 2016 with significantly fewer unread books on my shelves than when I started!

Check back tomorrow for all the details on The Picky Pledge in 2016!
Were you more intentional with your reading choices in 2015?

January 11, 2016

Statistically Speaking of 2015

Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and I knew that we wanted to make changes in 2015. We both felt that we needed to become pickier about what we read for review and what we added to our shelves. That's how we ended up with The Picky Pledge! But before we explained what we were going to do, we decided to talk about what prompted our decision. So, we looked back at all of our reading stats for the year.

It was a little overwhelming, but it was also completely revealing. The post ended up being one of my favorites, and Alexa and I knew we'd do it again as part of our recap for The Picky Pledge. We're sharing our 2015 stats today, and then we'll talk about what we learned in the past year in our posts tomorrow. For our final post, we'll introduce our goals for 2016 because we're not done with this accountability project!

SOURCE BREAKDOWN

I read 153 books in 2015! I knew that I wanted to decrease the number of books I read for review for the year - one of the reasons Alexa and I launched The Picky Pledge in the first place. I set a goal to read no more than 36 reviews for the year - an average of three per month - and finished the year having only read 34! I'm so pleased that I was able to make progress in this area, and I'm hoping to continue that in 2016. 

And I'm so happy that I spent so much time re-reading this past year! Co-hosting The Re-Read Challenge with Kelly from Belle of the Literati helped me return to my reading roots, and it made a huge difference in my reading life. However, there was one area where I totally failed: reading more from my TBR! I actually read less from my TBR than I did last year (partly due to my focus on re-reading), so that's a goal for 2016.
FORMAT BREAKDOWN

Just like last year, I'm not too surprised by these results! I definitely prefer reading physical books, which you can see in my breakdown. Most of my TBR (and what I own in general) is in hardcover and paperback. I did spend a little more time listening to audiobooks in 2015, and I hope that continues in 2016. I'm curious about whether or not having a baby will affect my preferred format. Will Kindle or audio increase next year?! 
AGE BREAKDOWN

I'm not unhappy with this breakdown, but it's not exactly what I was hoping to see. I read less Adult and Non-Fiction (and more Young Adult) in 2015 than I did in 2014. I didn't really read Young Adult until I started blogging, and I feel like it now dominates my reading choices. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but almost all of my favorite reads in 2015 were Adult. And that might be telling me something!

But I did increase the number of Children's/Middle Grade books that I read, which makes me happy. It wasn't an official goal for the year, but it was a possibility that I mentioned in my 2014 stats posts. I'd like to restore some balance to my reading choices in the coming year, but my real hope is that I'll focus on choosing the books I want to read. So, I'm not setting any goals to accomplish more balance. I'll just see how it plays out...
GENRE BREAKDOWN

Rather than break this down into every genre that I read from in 2015, I decided to combine a few (like Humor, Memoir, and Biography into Non-Fiction) so it wasn't too messy. Once again, Contemporary made up the majority of what I read last year. And I'm not shocked that Fantasy and Historical came in second and third! Those three genres are my favorites, and I'm sure they'll dominate my 2016 reads, too.

SERIES VS. STANDALONE

I can't believe that more than half of the books I read in 2015 belonged to a series or duology! Although, I probably shouldn't be shocked. I finished nine series that I started prior to 2015, read eight series from start to finish (in 2015), and re-read three additional series. And I know I read a number of series starters! As I said last year - as long as I'm finishing series, this stat doesn't bother me. But I find it interesting to look at the breakdown!

RATING BREAKDOWN

Well, I'm getting better at choosing the right books for me! Part of the reason there were so many 5-star ratings is because I spent so much time re-reading in 2015, but I'm pleased that I had a large number of 4.5-star and 4-star reads! Even better, I didn't have many 2 or 2.5-star books (or any 1-star) because I'm learning to just put a book down. (Note: Goodreads may not match this breakdown because I sometimes adjust ratings later.)
AVERAGE RATING BY SOURCE

As I said, I knew that I had more 5-star ratings than normal because of re-reading. So, I'm not surprised that Re-Reads had the highest average rating. I'm happy that my average rating for the Review category went up from 3.5 last year. I hope that partly stems from being pickier. I am shocked that Borrowed has the lowest average rating. Are my library skills slacking? But yay for high averages for Bought and Owned!
AVERAGE RATING BY PUBLISHER

As with last year, I read books from more publishers than the ones listed here but decided to highlight only the ones that were my most read. Bloomsbury and Simon & Schuster were the winners in 2014, and they were clearly winning again in 2015 (with the addition of Random House). But the averages are actually high for all the publishers! I don't pay too much attention to publisher when choosing a book, but it's fun info to know.

REVIEW BOOK OVERVIEW

I received 47 review books in 2015 (half the number I received last year), and this is what I did with those books! You know what helped decrease that number? Not attending BEA. Ha! But seriously. I'm so glad that I read fewer books for review, but I still need to make changes. For example, I want to be more careful about requests so I have fewer DNFs. The five books on my TBR are 2016 releases, which I planned to save until now!
REVIEW BOOKS BY SOURCE

You know what this breakdown tells me? I can significantly cut down on the number of books I read for review if I just stop logging on to NetGalley and Edelweiss! I'm scared to make this official, but I seriously think I need to take a break from both websites in 2016. I need to take control, remove them from my bookmarks and ignore Twitter when it tells me new books have been added. Can I do it? Time will tell, but I believe it's possible!

BOUGHT: PRINT VS. KINDLE

I prefer reading physical books, so I'm not surprised that it makes up the majority of what I bought in 2015! I'm still dipping my toe in the water with audiobooks, so that's a newer category for me. And while it may seem crazy that I added so many books to my shelves, I removed a ton, too! I definitely learned the art of culling this year, so I'm keeping only my favorite books and taking stuff off my TBR that no longer interests me.

BOOKS BOUGHT BREAKDOWN

Last year, I was dreading this section of my post. And this year? While I still have changes to make, I'm thrilled with my progress in this area. I bought 100 books in 2015 - a 53% decrease from 2014. That's right, y'all! I cut my book buying in half this year. I'm proud of how much I was able to change in just one year. My two goals for The Picky Pledge were to read fewer review books and buy fewer books, and I accomplished both!

Now, I still think I need to buy fewer books because 100 is no small number. But I'm celebrating the improvement anyway! Almost half of the books I bought this year were books I'd already read, a book buying quirk I talked about earlier this year. And honestly, I don't think I'm going to worry too much about changing that habit. But I do need to start reading new books immediately so I don't add to my TBR.

What does this mean for 2016? I obviously want to continue to pursue variety in my reading choices. I'd like to keep re-reading, although I don't think it will be a goal for me. I want to continue to decrease the number of books I read for review, and I'll share my official goal for that on Wednesday. But I think my focus this year will be on the two things where I feel like there's the most room for improvement.

There are two changes I want to make this year: 
1) buy fewer books
 2) read more from my TBR

I know that both changes are within my reach. I've culled my TBR down, so I'm legitimately excited about reading the books that I own. That's the perfect place to start! If I didn't have so many unread books, buying books wouldn't be such a bad thing. So, stay tuned for my new Picky Pledge goals later this week!

January 8, 2016

Don't Put Dirt on My Grave Just Yet

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Release Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: Random House; Delacorte
Pages: 496 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Add on Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly. 

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun. 

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop. 

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all. 
 
Thoughts on These Shallow Graves
I read Donnelly's young adult debut novel, A Northern Light, when I was in high school. I was an avid reader of historical fiction, and the book was right up my alley. I then read two of the books in her adult historical fiction trilogy, The Tea Rose and The Wild Rose, in college followed by her young adult historical novel, Revolution. So, needless to say, I'm a huge fan of Donnelly and have been anxiously awaiting a new release from her.

When I first read the summary from These Shallow Graves, I was thrilled. And when I saw the cover? Let's just say my excitement level skyrocketed! This is one of my favorite covers of 2015. It's mysterious and intriguing, which are the perfect words to describe this book. But don't let the cover mislead you! Although there's a mystery at the heart of These Shallow Graves, it's not quite as creepy or as dark as you might suspect.

Josephine Montfort seems to have everything going for her - she's beautiful, comes from a wealthy family and will likely marry a handsome bachelor as soon as she graduates from finishing school. The only problem? That's not what Jo wants from her life. She's inspired by the daring adventures of newspaper reporters like Nellie Bly and dreams of one day becoming a writer! But planning her future is put on hold when her father is found dead. Everything about his death is suspicious - it's ruled an accident, though it seems to be a suicide, but Jo doesn't believe it's either. She knows there's more to the story and is determined to uncover the truth. It's a search that will lead her places she never imagined and reveal secrets that have been buried deep...

While These Shallow Graves wasn't a perfect read, I still thoroughly enjoyed it! Clocking in at almost 500 pages, there's a lot happening in this story. I found it to be a slow start at first - the pacing dragged a bit meeting Jo and introducing the mystery of her father's death. However, I was absolutely hooked once the investigation was underway! The whodunit is one of the weakest elements of the book (I figured it out very early on), though I was fully engaged in the other aspects of the mystery (the search for answers, the secrets from the past, etc.).

I thought the romance happened too quickly and without enough development, so it was close to instalove for me. However, it did make sense in some ways because of what was happening in Jo's life - grieving the death of her father, being told that she couldn't pursue her dreams, and seeing more of the world around her than ever before. She's led a sheltered existence up until this point, so I can see how that might make a handsome young reporter from a very different station in life that much more appealing. He represents the things she's been told she can't have, and I think part of her feelings for him stem from her desire to be able to make her own choices in life. In that respect, the romance didn't bother me like it might have in another book.

My favorite element of These Shallow Graves, as I expected it would be, was the historical detail. Donnelly excels at making the past come to life, and I think her research is evident on every page. The world was fleshed out and so compelling! I didn't mind the small moments when the plot seemed to meander because it meant that I got to spend more time on the streets of New York... or in the homes of some of its wealthiest residents. I loved how Donnelly depicted the patriarchal society so accurately with the restrictions and expectations that women faced throughout the story. You saw how women were perceived as objects - whether they slept on the street or danced in ballrooms. Donnelly truly captures the past!

I loved the secondary characters that Jo meets along the way, especially the friendship she develops with a young woman named Fay. Their interactions were some of my favorites! So, despite moments of predictability, I loved so much about These Shallow Graves. There were so many quotes I adored, but I raced through the book so quickly that I didn't get the chance to write them down. I guess that means I ought to re-read this one soon... It's not my favorite book from Donnelly, but it's certainly one that I'm glad to have on my shelves!

So Quotable
“That was what people did when they wanted to stop a girl from doing something—they shamed her.”
*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.

January 5, 2016

A New Kind of Resolution

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 Resolutions for 2016

I was pondering my 2016 resolutions and realized that I have one main goal for this year:

Keep it simple.

During different seasons in 2015, I went through a reading funk and a blogging slump. While I hated being in the middle of them, both brought things into perspective for me. It's so easy to get caught up in trivial things - to worry about stuff that doesn't matter and put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Blogging has brought wonderful things into my life, but I sometimes have to remind myself to put it in its proper place.

I've learned so much in the last four years of blogging, and I can't wait to see what the next year will bring. I usually look forward to setting my goals for the year - to writing down specific (but hopefully achievable!) things I want to accomplish in the months ahead. But with a baby on the way, I know my life is going to change. So, I decided that I didn't want to write normal resolutions. I don't want goals and numbers hanging over my head.

If I focus on keeping it simple, I'll approach reading and blogging with the right mindset. Here's what I mean:

(1) I'll read whatever strikes my fancy, and (2) stop reading the things that don't. But more importantly? (3) I won't feel guilty if I don't feel like reading at all. I'm going to (4) focus more on reading from my TBR, (5) continue to make re-reading a priority, (6) work on buying fewer books and (7) decrease the number of books I read for review. I'll have a few specific benchmarks for those last two resolutions because of The Picky Pledge (details for 2016 coming soon!), but that's it. I'm going back to the basics - simplicity is key!

And I want to carry the idea of simplicity into blogging, too! So, (8) I'll blog whenever I feel like it - and (9) spend that time working on posts that excite and inspire me. And (10) I'll make sure I pause when deciding whether to say yes or no to blogging opportunities, events, collaborations, etc. 

It still feels a little weird that I'm not deciding how many books I hope to read, what challenges I want to participate in and more. I love setting goals and being able to check them off my list! As a planner, it's just ingrained in me. But I'm excited for a more low-key reading and blogging year - it just feels right!

What are your 2016 resolutions?

January 4, 2016

December 2015: Recap + On My Shelves


I found my blogging mojo in December - I think looking back at the year that finally motivated me to work on posts. It seems crazy that it's time to say goodbye to 2015, but I'm so excited about what 2016 has in store!

1. New Bookshelves - To be honest, my absolute favorite part of December isn't pictured here. We had our 20-week ultrasound for the baby, which was absolutely amazing! But after the appointment, Nick and I went to IKEA and I got these new bookshelves. I'm in love and feel like I live in a bookstore now! 

2. Gift from Alexa - My Christmas gift from sweet Alexa absolutely blew me away! It was a Hunger Games themed package because it's one of my all-time favorite series. I adored everything - the t-shirt, the Funko Pop, the cool neon edition of the first book, the paintings of the book covers, the bookmark, the bracelet... LOVE!

3. Gift from Kelly - I was seriously freaking out when I opened Kelly's Christmas gift to me because it's PERFECT for me. The Mellark Bakery print is so awesome, and it came with a cool "letter from Peeta" about the reopening in District 12. Obsessed! And the Jane Austen mug is covered in quotes, which makes it my favorite.

4. Gift from Ellice - Darling Ellice surprised me with this Christmas gift - an Anne of Green Gables ornament and a May Book (with a watercolor cover that I've had my eye on for MONTHS). Two of my favorite things in one package! I'm so thankful for the friends I've made through blogging and our shared love of books.

Read 9 Books | Favorites:
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Unequal Affections by Lara Ormiston
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Challenge Progress:
1 Fantasy for Flights of Fantasy Challenge
2 Re-Reads for The Re-Read Challenge
2 Diverse Read for Dive into Diversity
0 Series for Series a Month
"I was selfish!—because I thought only of how much I wanted her;
I was arrogant because I was so certain that marriage to me would be an unalloyed good for her.
She was poor; I would make her rich. She was unmarried; I would make her a wife.
She was unappreciated and unequalled in her current company;
I would take her and place her among society worthy of her.
I would give all and be all, and never did I consider
how little she truly desired anything I had to offer."
Unequal Affection by Lara Ormiston

 "Last night was what love is supposed to feel like,
terrifying and beautiful and so close you're afraid you'll lose a piece of yourself,
but you don't. You gain a piece of the person you love instead,
a piece that makes you stronger and happier than you could have imagined possible."
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
[Most Popular]
Review: After You by Jojo Moyes
Discussion/Feature: On Being in a Blogging Slump

[Personal Favorite]
Review: The Shadowfell series by Juliet Marillier
1. Build your kids' libraries with these wonderful, beautiful books. by Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy -  I absolutely love beautiful books, especially classics, so this post was right up my alley! With a baby on the way, I'm already plotting what children's books I want to add to our library. This post - and the comments - gave me great ideas!

2. 2015 Obsessions by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books - I had so much fun browsing through Alexa's favorite things of 2015! I loved seeing them all compiled into one giant post - with tons of photos - and that she included favorite moments. And I was thrilled to see a few things on the list that I introduced her to!

3. What This Book Gave to Me by Estelle from Rather Be Reading - Ah, my favorite post of December! Estelle has a special gift for writing about how books have affected her personally, and nowhere is it more evident than in this post. She makes me want to add every single book she mentioned to my TBR immediately!

Favorite Album: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pt. 2 by James Newton Howard
I didn't listen to a lot of music in December, aside from this album. I love listening to movie scores, 
and the ones for The Hunger Games movies don't disappoint! My favorite track on this one is "Primrose."

Southpaw (2015) starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker - Although I have no interest in boxing, I have a soft spot for movies about it! I rented Southpaw from Redbox on a whim and really enjoyed it. I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was great in the role, and I totally cried watching it. #pregnancyhormones


Testament of Youth (2014) starring Alicia Vikander and Kit Harrington - I've been dying to see this movie ever since I caught the trailer on YouTube, and I finally got the chance to watch it when I was gifted a copy for Christmas. It felt a little bit rushed at times, but I still loved it. Now, I need to read the memoir it's based on!

Book Outlet Buys: If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher, Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan, Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden by Nancy E. Turner and Just Ella and Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Bought: This Shattered World and Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Tiny Little Thing and Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams, Awe by Paul David Tripp, The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer and The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

From My Mom: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott


Gifted from Nick: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, Unequal Affection by Lara Ormiston, Searching for Jane Austen by Emily Auerbach and Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Dear America from Nick: I Walk in Dread by Lisa Rowe Fraustino, Look to the Hills by Patricia C. McKissack, Love Thy Neighbor by Ann Turner, All the Stars in the Sky by Megan McDonald, Seeds of Hope by Kristiana Gregory, Land of the Buffalo Bones by Marion Dane Bauer, When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Seidel Levine, A Time for Courage by Kathryn Lasky, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall by Barry Denenberg, Survival in the Storm by Katelan Janke, My Secret War by Mary Pope Osborne and Early Sunday Morning by Barry Denenberg 


Gifted: What Katie Ate on the Weekend by Katie Quinn Davis, The Annotated Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

From Betty: The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie + walrus socks, Ravenclaw sweatpants and bookish magnets

From Secret Sis: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay and I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt + other goodies!


Kindle Sales Got to Me: It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane, Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway and Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

Audible: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Unequal Affections by Lara Ormiston
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