June 27, 2017

“Life is not just a series of triumphs."


If you're reading this, you're probably wondering who you are...
You are me, Samantha Agatha McCoy, in the not-so-distant future. I'm writing this for you. 
They say my memory will never be the same, that I'll start forgetting things. 
At first just a little, and then a lot. So I'm writing to remember.

And so, The Memory Book by Lara Avery begins. Sammie has always had a plan for her future: win the National Debate Tournament, graduate valedictorian, study at NYU and become a lawyer. She's on track to complete several items on her list... and then she receives devastating news during her senior year of high school. Sammie is diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that will soon steal her memories and her health. She creates the Memory Book: a document with notes to her future self so she can remember the details of her life.

Although it was released in July 2016, I didn't really hear anything about it until the end of last year. It was included in several "Best of" lists on blogs I follow, and then just so happened to go on sale for Kindle around the same time. It felt like kismet, and so I clicked the "Buy now with 1-click" button without a second thought. 

When I was pondering what to read for April's Picky Pledge Reading Challenge prompt - "A Book You Bought Because It Was on Sale" - this was one of the first things that came to mind. I didn't buy it solely because it was on sale, but it was a big part of the reason I purchased it so soon after hearing about it. This category is probably my biggest book buying weaknesses: I can't resist a book that intrigues me if it's a great price. 

However, I can't completely bash my bad habit because it paid off with The Memory Book! I have a feeling I'll be re-reading this one in the future. Within the first few chapters, I was hooked. I loved Sammie's voice because it felt so authentic. I could imagine her - this girl who knows herself inside and out until she learns something life-changing about her body. Early on in the book, Sammie writes:
Then your mom forced you to join a club, and debate team was the first table at the club fair. (I wish it were more epic than that.) Anyway, everything changed. The brain you used to employ memorizing species of aliens you used instead to memorize human thought, events, ways of thinking that connected your tiny house tucked in the mountains to a huge timeline, one just as full of injustice and triumph and greed as the stories you craved, but one that was real.
My heart broke for her from the moment I learned about her diagnosis, and the ache grew with every page as she became a new version of herself. Although many of the physical changes were debilitating, I mourned the fact that she was going to lose her memory - the strength that had come to define her in many ways. Sammie is a unique character. In fact, you might even say she's weird. She doesn't quite fit in with most people, but I still loved her. The attachment grew with each new detail in her Memory Book because you could see how hard she was fighting to maintain her sense of self and her independence. She's not ready to give up on her dreams.

As I was reading, I kept forgetting just how serious her condition was because she had such a great sense of humor. She's awkward and nerdy and intense and focused - and even though I should have seen the ending coming, it still caught me by surprise. As I wrote on Goodreads when I finished - 4.5 stars, but I'm rounding up because EMOTIONS. Yeah, I had a lot of them. A lot. It didn't help that I finished it in bed at 1 a.m.

But I didn't just love Sammie. I loved her parents, her siblings, her longtime crush, her debate team partner, and her neighbor and childhood best friend. They each play a significant part in her life, and I appreciated the honesty with which Sammie wrote about them. You get immersed in her world - and you truly grasp everything she's losing and everyone whose lives will never be the same without her. The notes from her parents and siblings near the end of the book made me BAWL. MY. EYES. OUT. I'd share a quote from it but looking one up made me start to cry again so NOPE. I can't even go there right now.

I selfishly wish there hadn't been a love triangle, solely because I wanted her to be with the right person for as much time as possible. There were a few aspects of it I didn't like, but I can't talk about them without spoiling things. But I will say that once it was all sorted out, the romance was so unexpectedly sweet. Plus, it was one of my favorite tropes so that earned bonus points! I look forward to re-reading this one for many reasons, but this specific relationship is definitely one of the biggest. 

The Memory Book caught me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did or to be so emotionally invested in these characters. I've thought about this book several times since I finished it and have even flipped back to re-read a few of my favorite passages. And honestly, I don't do stuff like that very often. Sammie was an unforgettable character, and I was moved by her story. I highly recommend this book! 

Sometimes life is really terrible. Sometimes life gives you a weird disease. 
Sometimes life is really good, but never in a simple sort of way.
Release Date: July 2016 | Publisher: Hachette; Poppy
Pages: 368 pages | Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book 

This was my fourth 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 bought in December 2016, so it's only been on my TBR for a few months.

2. Do you remember how much you paid for this book? 
I bought the Kindle edition for $2.99!

3. If you bought this book secondhand, will you keep it or replace it?
Although I didn't buy it secondhand, I only own a digital copy. But I want this book on my shelves and am trying to decide if I want the US hardcover or the UK paperback (which has an amazing cover). Maybe I'll get both!

June 26, 2017

Welcome to Haven Point

When a publicist reached out to me about reading Serenity Harbor by RaeAnne Thayne for review, I was over the moon. Y'all, I discovered this series at the end of last year and quickly became obsessed with it! Here's how it all started: in December, I'd been chatting with Kelly from Belle of the Literati about her love for holiday romances. That conversation and the fact that I couldn't stop watching Hallmark holiday movies put me in the mood for that type of book. But I didn't know where to start because I typically avoid the romance genre!

However, as luck would have it, I was browsing Amazon's Kindle Daily Deals page around that time and spotted Snow Angel CoveRedemption Bay and Evergreen Springs for $0.99 each. I won't lie: I primarily wanted to read the books because of their covers. They're so pretty! Instead of just starting out with the first book, I fully committed and bought all three. Although this bookish habit has backfired on me in the past, it was the right call with this series. I started the first book on December 19, and I finished the fifth on December 25. 

It was the best kind of series binge, and I made a mental note to talk about them on my blog. But, of course, I never got around to it. Thankfully, being invited to participate in the blog tour for the release of Serenity Harbor on June 27 ended up being the perfect motivation! I didn't want to just talk about the new book, so I'm gushing about the series overall. Don't worry, there aren't any spoilers! Here are six reasons y'all need to visit Haven Point (each is loosely matched with a specific book, but the reasons apply to the series overall):

Your introduction to the town of Haven Point is through the eyes of Eliza Hayward in Snow Angel Cove. She arrives in the little mountain town to find that the job she was counting on has gone up in flames... literally. Aidan Caine thinks he has the solution to her problems, even though she's skeptical. But she's desperate, too, and will do whatever it takes to provide for her sick daughter. As soon as I started the first book, I knew I was in for a treat. Thayne writes such lovely, charming characters. It's easy to reduce them to quick descriptors (like the downtrodden single mom or the workaholic tech genius), but the books let you see their hopes and fears in ways that make them feel realistic. While I could relate to some characters in the series more than others, I enjoyed spending time with all of them. They each have their charms, and I was rooting for them to find love and a place to belong in Haven Point.

Of course, I have to talk about the romance with Redemption Bay because it has one of my favorite tropes: hate to love. McKenzie Shaw is the mayor of Haven Point, and she will do anything to save her struggling town... including play nice with Ben Kilpatrick. When he closed down his family's factory years ago, it left the town's economy in shambles. Now he's back to figure out if his tech firm can open a local facility there, and a lot of old animosity is resurfacing. Needless to say, I was all in! Since I don't typically read this genre, I wasn't sure what to expect from the romances in this series. They ended up being exactly what I wanted but wouldn't quite have known how to articulate. They're sweet, pretty chaste, often slow burn, and always leave you with a smile on your face. You know when you start these books that they are headed towards a happily ever after, but Thayne makes each minute of the journey there count.

Christmas is the last thing on Cole Barrett's mind in Evergreen Springs. Ever since his ex-wife died in a tragic accident, he's barely keeping things afloat for his two kids. When physician Devin Shaw waltzes into his life, she makes him an offer he can't refuse: she'll help him make Christmas special for his kids if he'll allow her patients access to the hot springs on his property. And a little holiday magic is just what their hearts all need! Since my desire for a holiday/winter-y read is what first drew me to this series, I'd be remiss not to mention it on my list. The first, third, fifth and seventh (coming in September) books in this series are all set during the holidays - and I loved that about them! If you want to read something the captures that cheery feeling you get during the holidays, you'll want to pick up these books. But don't worry: there's lots to love about the season in the second, fourth and sixth books, too! It has its own charms.

Wynona Bailey is a police officer in Riverbend Road, so her job has always involved a certain amount of drama. But lately her personal life does, too. She wants more from her career and from handsome Cade Emmett. The only problem? He's her boss and her brother's best friend. She's convinced that he just sees her as a little sister, but Cade is keeping his distance for different reasons. When Wyn is injured in the line of duty, it forces both of them to face what they've been hiding. For me, these books just have the right amount of conflict in them. I like the different internal conflicts throughout the series - all the ways the characters avoid and/or make peace with their feelings. But I like the external conflicts too: the overprotective brothers, the natural disasters, the threatening people from the past, the life-threatening accidents, the struggling economy, etc. It helps shake up the predictability and make each book an adventure!

It seems fitting to talk about the setting with this book since Snowfall on Haven Point has the town's name in the title. Andrea Montgomery is hoping that she's finally found a place that she and her kids can call home after the death of her husband two years ago. She's already agreed to keep an eye on her neighbor, Sheriff Marshall Bailey, as he recovers from a hit and run. Neither one of them is thrilled about the arrangement, but it's hard to say no to the people in this town. And y'all, I wish this place really existed! I really like the way Thayne describes this adorable small town and how each book reveals more reasons that I wish I could vacation there. But even more, I love this community! I love picking up a book, often already knowing a little bit about the main characters, and waiting patiently for references to characters from previous books. The connectedness of each book in this series gives them a familiarity that's comforting.

I read the first five books within a week in December, so I was worried when I picked up Serenity Harbor that the charm might have worn off. Thankfully, it felt like coming home! The last thing Katrina Bailey wants to do is work for Bowie Callahan, but she knows she's the right person to care for his young half brother, Milo. Plus, she needs the money and it's just for two weeks. But a lot can happen in that time... I love all the friendships and families throughout the series. Thayne gives you so many different and unique relationships. For example, in this book alone there's Katrine's tense relationship with her mother, her love for her siblings (Wynona and Marshall, from previous books), her longing for the girl she hopes will become her daughter and her changing friendship with Samantha. I love the sense of community that exists by getting to see the characters' support systems (or lack of one). These books aren't just about the romance!

Do I need to say more? The Haven Point series is worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of sweet contemporary romances. Although I generally know how they'll end, I enjoy every second I spend in this town! I have my favorites and least favorites, of course, but the series is really consistent overall. From the lovable characters to the heartwarming setting, these books never fail to leave me with a smile on my face. They're just so fun to read, and there's something to be said for books that bring you joy. I have a feeling I'll be revisiting this town again and again in future re-reads when I need some chemistry with a dash of comfort.

*I received a copy of Serenity Harbor for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

June 19, 2017

"What kind of maniac travels in time?"

I'm pretty sure that everyone who loves to read has certain things that will make them automatically want to pick up a book. I call them book hooks - the topics or time periods or themes that are right up your alley and are practically guaranteed to make you add a book to your TBR pile. One of mine is Jane Austen.

But there comes a moment in every reader's life where you have to decide how committed you are to a book hook. For example, I love books about sisters but won't read a book solely for that aspect. However, Jane Austen is a different matter entirely. My obsession with her has led me to read numerous Austen retellings, a wide variety of non-fiction about her life and her works, and even a book with Jane as a vampire (which was pretty entertaining, actually). So, when I heard about The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn, I knew I was going to have to read it. After all, Jane Austen + time travel was a combination that totally piqued my interest - especially when the publicist said it was just so good!

In case you're worried, let me promise you that this book doesn't have Jane Austen traveling through time (because that concept would be asking for eyerolls). But what it does involve is even better: two researchers from the future travel back to London in 1815 in order to meet Jane, recover one of her unpublished novels, and learn as much as they can about the illness that ultimately killed her in 1817. Intriguing, right? Rachel Katzman is disaster-relief doctor and Liam Finucane is an actor-turned-scholar, but both are trained by the Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics on how to befriend and steal from Jane Austen herself. They aren't the first people to travel through time, but their journey holds special significance. And their mission will prove more difficult than they ever anticipated...

Honestly, so much could have gone wrong with this novel. And I have to admit that I kind of expected it to. I was intrigued by the summary when I started it, but I had pretty low expectations because I've been let down by so many Austen-related books before. That's the risk you take when you follow a book hook into uncharted territory. However, I'm so pleased to be able to say that The Jane Austen Project far exceeded my expectations - and is already one of my favorite reads of 2017! Now, let me tell you why.

TEN REASONS TO READ THE JANE AUSTEN PROJECT

1. It's not an Austen retelling.
Although I'll read almost anything Austen-related, I can't deny that I've gotten so sick of retellings of her novels. I think it's difficult to approach Austen's well-known stories in a way that doesn't feel predictable and actually brings something new to the table. Thankfully, The Jane Austen Project was so unique - an addition that felt fresh and surprising in all the best ways! If you want a new approach to Austen, this is it.

2. The inclusion of Jane Austen never felt like a gimmick.
In addition to retellings, I've read a few too many books where Jane Austen was a character and yet seemed wildly different than I'd ever imagine her or seemed like she was tossed in there as gimmick just to snag readers. That wasn't the case in this book! I loved that Austen wasn't the main character, but she wasn't sidelined either. Flynn's depiction of her seemed so close to how I like to picture her - intelligent, witty, and sharp-eyed.

3. The somewhat mysterious future was intriguing.
Rachel and Liam travel back to 1815, but they aren't leaving from our present day. Instead, they're leaving from a future where time travel exists. Although Flynn doesn't spend a ton of time discussing their world, she provides enough details that you can see the differences - and can almost imagine a novel dedicated to exploring the future she's created. Some readers may want more info about it, but it was enough for me.

4. The time travel element actually works.
Readers who love science fiction novels may find the explanation of time travel slightly lacking in the book, but I'm not sure because it's a genre and theme I rarely read. For me, the explanation answered my biggest questions without going into so much detail that I felt confused or overwhelmed. And I loved the reason behind their journey to the past - I totally believed that someone would travel back to recover a lost Austen novel!

5. 1815 actually felt right.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the setting. Flynn brought 1815 to life in all the ways I was hoping she would when I first started the book. I could tell how much research went into the novel because the time period felt so authentic. I have an above-average interest in those years due to my love of Austen, and yet I still found myself learning new things about that time and place. I could close my eyes and picture it all!

6. The Austen family was depicted in a believable way. 
Rachel and Liam befriend Jane Austen in this novel, but they also meet her sister Cassandra and several of her brothers. In fact, they initially develop a friendship with her brother Henry in order to gain an introduction to Jane herself! I really liked seeing the family dynamics, especially between Jane and Cassandra. I told you I'm drawn to stories about sisters! Meeting the family added a deeper sense of realism to Jane's world.

7. The theory on Jane's unknown medical condition was fascinating. 
If you're interested in Austen, you probably known there's a bit of a mystery surrounding her death. She died quite young (41) after an illness that began in 1816. Although details exist regarding her symptoms, it's impossible to know exactly what ailed her. The most common theory is Addison's disease, but other possibilities exist. But Flynn's Dr. Rachel Katzman suggests something entirely different, and I loved the theory!

8. I loved seeing how their journey disrupted history.
Rachel and Liam are tasked with traveling back in time and recovering a lost Austen novel while being as careful as possible not to change the past too much. Any disruption in the past - no matter how small - can have a profound impact on the future. It's one of the things I find so fascinating about books that incorporate time travel, and Flynn explores it to great effect in these pages. At the end you'll wonder - was it worth it?

9. Rachel Katzman was an excellent heroine and a great anchor for the story.
I've spent so much time talking about the setting and the Austens, but I've barely mentioned Rachel (and Liam, too). I enjoyed exploring the past through the lens of her perspective. I liked the way she mentally acknowledged the restrictions on women in the past without barging in and acting thoroughly modern. I liked the reasons she was driven to sign up for this mission and the way she struggled with aspects of it while there.

10. The ending left me wanting a sequel!
A part of me wanted just a little bit more of Rachel's story at the end because I would have loved a firmer resolution to a particular relationship, but I wasn't disappointed or frustrated. It's just the nosy part of me that wants to know more! However, Rachel's references to The Brontë Project made me long for a companion novel with that time period and family. There are so many possibilities that could be explored!

Can you tell just how much I loved reading this book? As an Austen lover, I can be an easy sell but a tough critic when it comes to books involving her. Thankfully, this one didn't disappoint. Truthfully, it was delight! I could nitpick a little on the romance, but everything else more than made up for it. I hoped The Jane Austen Project would live up to its eye-catching cover and unique premise, but it truly surpassed them and surprised me every step of the way! Flynn's well-researched writing brought this world and these characters to life in an unforgettable way, and I highly recommend picking up this book if you love all things Austen.

So Quotable
"When you dislike someone, and yet you're attracted, your mind does strange things. Every good feature becomes another strike against them."
*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.
Released: May 9, 2017 | Publisher: HarperCollins; Harper Perennial
Pages: 384 pages | Source & Format: Publisher; ARC

June 9, 2017

Got a secret. Can you keep it?

Have you ever judged a book by its cover? Let's be real - who hasn't? I'm totally guilty of this cliché. A gorgeous cover can make me pick up a book with an iffy summary or bad reviews, and an ugly cover can make me turn up my nose at a book that interests me or was highly recommended. I try to curb the judgements based solely on looks, however, because I don't want to miss out on something great just because I hate the cover.

But the combination of a meh summary and an ugly cover is basically an automatic rejection... even if someone recommends it to me. And I'd admitting to this because The Mothers by Brit Bennett falls into that category for me. I kept seeing it pop up in magazines and 'Best of' lists year but dismissed it. I assumed it was too literary (not the genre for me) and hated the cover regardless. Then, Cassie read it and loved it. She didn't specifically recommend it to me, but she definitely piqued my interest when she talked about her experience with the audiobook. I moved it to my mental "Maybe" list and figured I'd eventually forget about it. But when I saw it at the library one day, I picked it up and read the first page. The next thing I knew, I was rushing to check it out because the writing enthralled me.

The Mothers is set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, and it begins with a secret:
“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around in our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”
That's all it took for me to take the book home with me. I immediately wanted to know more. Nadia Turner is seventeen, mourning the recent death of her mother, and rebelling against her father. She starts sneaking around with the pastor's son, twenty-one-year-old Luke Sheppard. Their secret relationship has far-reaching consequences when it results in a pregnancy and subsequent cover-up. The years pass, but Nadia and Luke are forever haunted by the choices they made that summer. It explores love and friendship, family and community, resentment and forgiveness in an unforgettable way.

There are so many things I could praise about this book, but I'd be remiss not to start with the writing. It's what helped me overcome my initial dislike of the cover and my hesitation to read it due to some of the subject matter. I have a hard time believing this is Bennett's debut novel - she writes with such maturity and depth! I bookmarked so many quotes in this book that resonated with me. Some were small gems, like:
Could you be nostalgic for a friendship that wasn't over yet or did the fact that you were nostalgic mean that it already was?
And then there were whole passages that stood out:
“But we were girls once, which is to say, we have all loved an ain’t-shit man. No Christian way of putting it. There are two types of men in the world: men who are and men who ain’t about shit. [...] A girl nowadays has to get nice and close to tell if her man ain't shit and by then, it might be too late. We were girls once. It's exciting, loving someone who can never love you back. Freeing, in its own way. No shame in loving an ain't-shit man, long as you get it out your system good and early. A tragic woman hooks into an ain't-shit man, or worse, lets him hook into her. He will drag her until he tires. He will climb atop her shoulders and her body will sag from the weight of loving him. Yes, those are the ones we worry about.”
Because I heard so much buzz for this book, I imagined that it would be too literary or too pretentious for me. But it wasn't, and I was so pleasantly surprised! The characters were well developed, nuanced and memorable. Nadia, Luke and Aubrey (Nadia's best friend) all played important roles in the story, and I was interested in each of them. Bennett was able to create characters who were sympathetic, even when I disagreed with their choices, and I think much of that stems from how emotionally invested I was in their lives.

I believe the title of The Mothers partly comes from a literary device used throughout the novel: a collective voice that represented the women of Nadia, Luke and Aubrey's church community. These "mothers" become somewhat of a Greek chorus - commenting on what was happening and offering additional insight. I have a feeling it won't work for everyone, but I actually loved that aspect. Many of my favorite quotes came from those parts of the novel! But I think there's another layer to the title, and it stems from the fact that Aubrey and Nadia are both essentially motherless. Nadia's mother committed suicide, and Aubrey lives with her sister since her mother cares more about her whatever boyfriend she's currently shacking up with than she does about her own daughter. And so, the book explores coming-of-age without this central female figure.

I loved that it took place over a longer span of time than I'd anticipated because it allowed you to see these characters come into their own. Instead of following them through one season and only seeing the immediate consequences of their actions, you were able to see the long-term repercussions and the what if? questions that haunted each character. The ending was unexpected, but in a good way for me. I actually appreciated the openness of it, even though that sometimes bothers me. This is a book I'll definitely re-read!

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that The Mothers took all of my preconceived notions and turned them upside down. If I ever need a reminder to be careful judging a book by its cover, this is the review I'll return to. I thought I'd hate this book, and I ended up loving it. So, I was clearly wrong in my snap judgment because Bennett's writing blew me away. It tackled serious and heavy issues without feeling bleak, and I can tell that Brit Bennett is a born storyteller. She has a gift, and I'm so glad she's sharing it with the world.

So Quotable
“A daughter grows older and draws nearer to her mother, until she gradually overlaps her like a sewing pattern. But a son becomes some irreparably separate thing.”
Published: October 2016 | Publisher: Penguin; Riverhead Books
Pages: 278 pages | Source & Format: Borrowed; Hardcover

June 6, 2017

May 2017: Recap + On My Shelves


May was a special month full of celebrations, adventures and sweet memories. I had a hard time choosing my top four loves for the month because of it! I hope that's a sign of good things to come this summer.

1. My Baby Turned One - I can't believe that my baby is a one year old! This boy has been such a blessing and a bright spot in our lives. He's changed our family for the better, and I'm so thankful that God chose us to be his parents. We had a Puppy Paw-ty to celebrate, and it was a hit! He is one loved little boy and so worth the wait.

2. Visiting the Zoo + Aquarium - On my boy's first birthday, Nick and I took him to the Atlanta Zoo for the first time. He loved pointing to the elephants and pandas, but I think the carousel was his favorite part. Then, we took him to the Georgia Aquarium on my brother's birthday, and he loved getting up close to the glass.

3. Family Photos + Walking - We had family photos taken at the beginning of May, and they turned out amazing! I am so thankful for the talented photographer, Michele Zakeri, who captured our boy's personality so perfectly. And I decided to do two-for-one with this love because the photo worked: we have a walker! 

4. Little Bitty Kitty - At the very end of May, my brother finally got to pick up his brand-new Bengal cat. Her name is Bitty, and she's a beauty. I'm not a cat person, and even I can't help but love her! She's still shy and getting used to her new home, but my boy already obsessed with her. He can't wait to be her friend.

Read 7 Books | Favorites:
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
The Memory Book by Lara Avery
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
“Only you can decide what breaks you, Cursebreaker. Only you.”
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

“I believe that everything happened, exactly the way it had to... so I could find you.”
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

“Then your mom forced you to join a club, and debate team was the first table at the fair.
(I wish it were more epic than that.) Anyway, everything changed. The brain you used to employ
memorizing species of aliens you used instead to memorize human thought, events, ways of thinking
that connected your tiny house in the mountains to a huge timeline, one just as full
of injustice and triumph and greed as the stories you craved, but one that was real.”
The Memory Book by Lara Avery

“We lingered inside our fragile bubble of happiness, the kind of happiness that sits
on top of melancholy as easily as icing on a cake. I didn't want to leave it.”
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
In May, I started off the month with my April 2017 recap. Then, I talked about my recent binge read of The Bone Season, The Mime Order and The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon. Things started off a little shaky, but I was in love by the end! Then, I talked about a duology that I fell in love with recently: Disruption and Corruption by Jessica Shirvington. I thought I was tired of dystopian novels, but these books definitely reminded me of why I loved the genre. I got to write one of my favorite yearly posts: ten reads for summer getaways! I had so much fun pairing five summer destinations with the books I'd want to read there and with some adorable bags + goodies. Finally, I recapped what I read in April with my Quick Lit: April 2017 post. 
1. 17 Books Everyone Will Be Talking About This Summer and The 2017 Summer Reading Guide by Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy - Are you surprised to see posts from Anne Bogel on my list? I'm in love with all of the content on her blog, but the book lists definitely top the list. I always look forward to her reading guides!

2. Teaching Them to 'Plot Twist' by Ashley from Under the Sycamore - I've been following Ashley's blog for a little while for the photography tips (learning on how to use my fancy camera is on my never-ending to do list) but had to bookmark this sweet post about teaching her kids to be flexible and go with the flow.

3. Why I Was Wrong About the Planner Life by Kelly from Belle of the Literati - Did I bookmark partly so I could gloat and say "I TOLD YOU SO!" to Kelly? Hmm... maybe. All joking aside, I loved having her visit and being able to introduce her to my newfound Happy Planner obsession. I love being her life coach!


Favorite Album #1: After Laughter by Paramore
I was so pleasantly surprised by this album! I was a huge fan of Paramore in college,
but I didn't love their last album. Thankfully, this one is a winner! I can't stop listening to it.


Favorite Album #2: Harry Styles by Harry Styles 
I never really listened to One Direction, aside from when they came on the radio,
but I heard so much hype for this album that I had to check it out. And it really is great!

Anne with an E (2017) starring Amybeth McNaulty - I couldn't wait for this show to hit Netflix, even though I had a feeling it wouldn't compare to the book or the original series. I enjoyed it, but only if I mentally separated it from my Anne. It takes a lot of liberties with the source material - some I could understand and some I found completely baffling. I loved many of the actors, however, and am still glad I watched it. 


Girlboss (2017) starring Britt Robertson and Ellie Reed - I wasn't interested in this show until Cassie mentioned that she was hooked on it, so I decided to give it a shot. And my goodness, talk about an unexpected obsession! I loved watching this series and thought it was so well done. Despite the fact that the heroine was often so unlikeable, I was still rooting for her. How? I have no idea. Maybe it was the magic of Britt Robertson.


La La Land (2016) starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling - I was so hyped for this movie but never got a chance to see in in theaters. When Emma Stone won the Oscar for Best Actress, it just added to my excitement. I loved these two in Crazy Stupid Love, so I had high hopes for the pairing. Unfortunately, I was sooo bored watching it. I'm not a huge musical person, which might have been part of the problem. So disappointing!


Cristela Alonzo: Lower Classy (2017), Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King (2017), Katherine Ryan: In Trouble (2017), and Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (2016) - I have no idea how I ended up binging a bunch of stand-up comics. It's so far from what I normally watch! My favorite was Hasan Minhaj, which I'll re-watch in the future. Ali Wong was my least favorite (though I loved parts) because I skipped a bunch that was just too vulgar. And I laughed the hardest at Katherine Ryan's line: Yeah, but you aren't normal... you're ordinary. It's different.” 

Hot Off the Press: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas, The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein, Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane and Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Bookstore Browsing: Here Goes Nothing by Kendra Broekhuis and The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd




Alexa: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord, The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty and When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

For Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn and The Whole Way Home by Sarah Creech


Kindle: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas, Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker and The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

NetGalley: Serenity Harbor by RaeAnne Thayne

May 26, 2017

Quick Lit: April 2017

One of my worst blogging habits is my inability to write about what I've read in a timely manner. So, I'm trying something new: recapping what I read at the end of each month and linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy. I feel like "traditional" reviews have declined in popularity, although I'll still be writing some every month, so I'm hoping this will be a fun way to share what I'm reading. The exception will be review books that I can't discuss yet! 

Does it count as "timely" if I'm writing about April reads at the end of May? Probably not. I don't know why I kept dragging my feet when it came to writing this post... If you missed it, I recently reviewed The Bone Season, The Mime Order and The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon and Disruption and Corruption by Jessica Shirvington. 

And in the next week or so, I should have reviews up for two additional April reads soon - The Mothers by Brit Bennett and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. 


A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES BY SARAH J. MAAS | This was my third time reading this book, and it's so interesting how my feelings about it alter with each reading. In some ways, I got to approach it with fresh eyes because I read it in a different format (audio!) and have new insight after the events in the sequel. I loved seeing all the clues included, and I got to pat myself on the back for spotting some of them in my very first read. I still feel like the pace is uneven - the plot goes so slow until the portion under the mountain! Maybe that's because I knew what I had to look forward to in A Court of Mist and Fury? That being said, I So Loved It!

A COURT OF MIST AND FURY BY SARAH J. MAAS | After finishing ACOTAR, I continued my audio re-read by queuing up the second book. The narrator, Jennifer Ikeda, did such an excellent job bringing the characters to life. Although it was a re-read, I still felt the tension, the romance, and the raised stakes while I was reading! I adore the Inner Circle and the Night Court (who doesn't?!) and just lose myself in this world with every turn of the page. However, I'm not a fan of the sexual content, personally, and would recommend it with reservations for that aspect alone. But I have to say I'm So Obsessed With It overall - because I am!

ALEX, APPROXIMATELY BY JENN BENNETT | I hadn't read anything by Bennett before, but I grabbed this one from the library because I kept seeing people talk about it. It's basically a YA version of You've Got Mail! Bailey "Mink" Rydell decides to live with her dad in California - partly as an escape and partly to be closer to the movie geek she met online, Alex. She takes a job at a museum, butts heads with the security guard and discovers life (and love) is so much messier than the movies. I loved the banter, the swoons and the way Bailey grows in a new environment. I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't known Alex's identity, but I still So Liked It.


THE SECRET BY JULIE GARWOOD | I've been hesitant to read the romance genre because there are aspects of it that I know won't work for me as a reader, but I have a few friends whose recommendations I'll trust. This book is one that Kelly and Alexa both love with the promise of a strong female friendship and a swoonworthy love story. While I liked a lot of the elements in it, especially the setting, the romance just didn't work for me. I had major issues with the alpha hero and the way the heroine interacted with him, which was a bummer. I was So Okay With It for the most part, but I did love the friendship and finding out more about midwifery at the time. 

THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER BY KATHERINE CENTER | Unfortunately, I hated pretty much everything about this book. Heroine Jenny Harris' fiancé takes off the day before she goes into labor with their child, and it propels her into a life she never imagined. I expected to relate to her somewhat since I'm a relatively new mom, too, but OH MY WORD, I just wanted to rage at her. She needs a Get-A-Grip Friend in her life! Think of the most annoying, whiny, "here's every horrific detail about raising a baby" new mom that you know... Jenny is worse. The plot was a total bore, and there was way more telling than showing. I'm bummed to say I So Over It

PURPLE HEARTS BY TESS WAKEFIELD | Cassie, a struggling singer/songwriter, is drowning in medical bills after she's diagnosed with diabetes. She approaches a friend in the Army about a marriage of convenience for the military benefits, but he declines. But one of his friends, Luke, overhears and volunteers instead. I liked that chapters alternated between Cassie and Luke. However, as the reader, I knew more about Luke than Cassie did, but it ended up making me sympathize with him and have very little patience for her. I wasn't super invested in them together, but I still found myself totally caught up in the book. So, I'd say I So Liked It!*

*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.

May 23, 2017

Have You Booked a Trip?

There's something about summer that just calls for an adventure. I don't know if it's the warm weather or the feeling in the air, but I start dreaming about packing my bags for a new destination. And if you're a bookworm, you're probably familiar with the age-old question: WHAT BOOKS WILL I BRING? It's a struggle trying to decide 1) how many books I'll pack and 2) what books I'll be in the mood for while I'm there!

It's challenging to guess what I'll want to read, although I can typically predict the type of book that's most likely to catch my eye. But I do love dreaming about the perfect place to read my books! So, every year I put together a post of "themed bags" where I pair summer getaway spots with the books I hope to read while I'm there. Whether I'm at the beach or just in my backyard, here are ten books that will be in my bag this summer.


I want to read something engaging at the beach. Because I'm surrounded by people, I need the book to hold my attention. I definitely don't want a book that requires my undivided attention. After all, you never know when you'll want to grab a snack, take a dip in the water, go for a walk or watch the families nearby. So, ideally, I want it to be easy to put down and pick back up without missing a beat.

The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee is about a teen who uses her sensitivity to smells to mix perfumes that help others fall in love. It sounds utterly charming! On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins is the story of two sisters who are drawn closer together by loss. It sounds a little heavier, but I'm drawn to the complicated family dynamics. I'm hoping that both will have the perfect balance of levity and depth!

find that loot: towel | sunscreen | lemonade | speaker | bag


While I'd probably choose the beach first, there are definitely benefits to visiting the mountains in the summer! There's something to be said for the cooler temperatures and quieter days. And unless you're traveling with a big group, there will probably be fewer people, too. You'll find me sipping coffee in my slippers on the back deck, so I'd probably grab a book that's longer (or slower) since there aren't as many distractions. 

In The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during WWI is brought together with an American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947. And The Whole Way Home by Sarah Creech is about a talented singer whose past comes back to haunt her when she's on the brink of making it big in Nashville. I can't wait to explore the secrets, drama and (hopefully) strong female characters.

find that loot: slippers | mug | nail polish | backpack | fitbit


At the lake, you'll find me in any number of places: the boat out on the water, sitting on the dock, or swinging in a hammock (if there's one around). Unless it's a slow ride on a pontoon, I likely won't take a book on the boat. I'm not risking the water damage! But on the dock, I'm up for something with a hint of mystery - buried secrets, shocking discoveries, etc. - that will keep me turning the pages until I can find out what happens next.

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson is about a woman who uncovers a dangerous secret when she returns to her childhood hometown to put her grandmother's affairs in order and tell her family that she's pregnant. And The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein features a beloved character from Code Name Verity - and the summary mentions an accident, a disappearance and being framed for a crime. Both should have me hooked!

find that loot: lip balm | bag | sunglasses | hair ties | swimsuit top & bottom


It's not always possible (or affordable) to travel to my heart's content. That's when I turn to my backyard! When I need some fresh air, a little sun or a new perspective, I can just step right outside for a little refresh. Plus, you can just head right back inside when the air conditioning is calling or the bugs get to be too much. And I don't have to worry about predicting my reading mood because my bookshelves are just right there!

Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy is a memoir - a journey of her first year in a new house. It seems fitting to read about creating a home while sitting right outside of my own. And What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum is the story of an unlikely friendship between a popular girl and socially isolated boy. I adore this author's books, and I'll read this one on my porch because I won't be able to wait any longer once it arrives.

find that loot: hat | ice cream | water bottle | bag | lip balm


When we moved into our home five years ago, I remember being thrilled that we had a neighborhood pool. But as more and more homes have been built, the pool has filled up faster than I would have ever imagined. With little kids running around, music playing and adults chatting, it's not always the best environment for reading. I need the same kind of books I'd pick up at the beach - engaging and enjoyable. 

Serenity Harbor by RaeAnne Thayne is the newest release in a contemporary romance series that I fell in love with last year. I've grown to love the little town of Haven Point and the new couple introduced with each book. I expect this one will be no different! When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is a YA romantic comedy about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married. It looks adorable!


What books will be in your bag this summer?
Any trips already booked?

This post was inspired by this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish
Here's a look back at my "summer bags" through the years: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015
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