November 2018: Recap + On My Shelves

Dec 10, 2018

Does this mean I'm finally back on track? Not quite, since I'm still four months behind on Quick Lit posts. But it's a start! And honestly, it's hard for me to believe that it's December now. Where did the year go?

1. My (Mostly) Finished Library – In my October recap, I mentioned that Nick built me bookshelves. In November, I finally got them all filled in. It took me a little time to unpack my books, decide how to arrange them, and then find things to style the shelves. Now I just need a rug and window treatments. It's my favorite room in the house! 

2. Thankful for My People – My sweet boy and I both caught colds in November that went away, came back, and then lingered. And so we spent more time than normal up at home, watching movies, reading books and just all cuddled up. But I'm thankful for that time, and that Nick was in town, because it was nice to rest and relax together.

3. #OperationGoPeachGo – Kelly came to visit at the end of the month, and the week passed in a blur. She got to see my new house, enjoy my library, and shop in bookstores all over Georgia. She had quite the book haul to send home! I'm so thankful for our friendship that is both silly and sweet. If only she'd move to Georgia...

Read 30 Books | Favorites:
The Hathaways Series by Lisa Kleypas
Strange the Dreamer (and Muse of Nightmares) by Laini Taylor
All Fall Down and All Aces by Ellie Marney

“You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are.”
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

“And do not ever waste your breath again with more of that 'lost cause' nonsense.
Consider yourself found.”
The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

“It was finally becoming clear to her that love wasn't about finding someone perfect to marry.
Love was about seeing through to the truth of a person,
and accepting all their shades of light and dark. Love was an ability.”
Tempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas

 “When I give you away at the altar, Bea, I want you to remember something.
I'm not really giving you away. I'm merely allowing him the chance
to love you as much as the rest of us do.”
Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

 “I carry thoughts of you like my own personal constellation. How far away you are,
my dearest friend, but no farther than those fixed stars in my soul.”
Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

 “I didn't mean to send love letters, but that is what they became.
On their way to you, my words turned into heartbeats on the page.”
Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

 “I think you’re a fairy tale. I think you’re magical, and brave, and exquisite.
And I hope you'll let me be in your story.”
 Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

 “Once upon a time there was a silence that dreamed of becoming a song,
and then I found you, and now everything is music.”
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

“And that's what it's about, isn't it? Love?
Love's about making it last, making it stick, making it count -
even when it hurts, when times are hard, when people change, when life changes them.
If you love someone, then you have to want to love them, whoever they are.”
We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman

 “It seems as if you see me exactly as I wish to be seen. There is no greater gift than that.”
Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 “Love wants the best for others. Attachment takes hostages.”
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

Not one single thing! Struggle. In case you were wondering, that's how I was able to read 30 books in November. I basically ignored every other hobby / activity that I enjoy. But I think I've found my blogging mojo – and a little more balance in my reading life – and am hoping to end the year on a high note. I love end of the year recaps, which was good motivation to finally open my computer.

I had several favorite photos in November, but I think this one tops the list. I was so excited to finally get a letter board (a navy 10x10 one from Felt Like Sharing) and knew exactly what quote I wanted on it as soon as it arrived. It always makes me smile when I see it, and I'm already brainstorming what I'll do next. • @soobsessedblog


Favorite Song #1: "Beloved" by Mumford and Sons
I'm familiar with a few popular Mumford and Sons songs, but that's about it.
This popped up on my Spotify Release Radar playlist, and I was hooked. It's so good!

Favorite Song #2: "Between You and Me" by Betty Who
This is another artist that I only listen to sporadically, but I was loving this song in November.
It's just so catchy! I should probably listen to more of her older stuff.

Favorite Album: B Sides by Brooke Fraser
I've been a fan of Brooke Fraser for a while and was excited when I saw this release.
I prefer the new music on here to the live songs and demos, but it's still a great listen overall.

Bodyguard, Season 1, starring Richard Madden and Sophie Rundell – I picked this for Nick and I to watch, and it was SO GOOD. There were several times that I felt like I wasn't following the story (or found myself zoning out a little), but it won me over by the end. Rachard Madden was great, and I want to rewatch it in the future!

Sex and the City, Season 4, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall and Cynthia Nixon – After tearing through the first three seasons in October, I finally slowed down a little and only finished the fourth in November. I continue to cringe at the sex but love the friendship feels, so there's nothing new to report here.

The Princess Switch (2018) starring Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladino and Nick Sagar – I didn't used to watch many holiday movies, but Kelly has converted me. She's a Hallmark addict during Christmas, and it's rubbed off on me. This Netflix movie was cheesy and required so much suspension of disbelief... but also, it was fun? Haha!

Trevor Noah: Son of Patricia (2018) – After the twists and turns of The Bodyguard, Nick and I were in the mood to laugh. I loved Noah's 2017 comedy special on Netflix, so I was excited to see he had a new one in November. It definitely didn't disappoint! He makes me laugh and think, which is the best kind of comedy.

Used Bookstores #1: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Column of Fire and World Without End by Ken Follett, Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman, Anne of Green Gables (x2) by L.M. Montgomery, We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter, Season of Wonder by RaeAnne Thayne and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Used Bookstore #3: Lorna Doone by R.D. Blakemore, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and England Under the Stuarts by G.M. Trevelyn

From Kelly: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor, Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh, and The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright

For Review: The Huntress by Kate Quinn and Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Audible: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

NetGalley: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton, I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella, and Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center 

Kindle: The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan 

October 2018: Recap + On My Shelves

Dec 7, 2018

Yes, you're reading that post title and main graphic correctly. This is my October recap... in December. I'm laughing at myself, honestly, but I couldn't resist posting this anyway. Here's what I've been up to this fall:

1. My New Bookshelves – As I mentioned in my September recap, we recently moved. When we found the house we ended up buying, I realized there was a room that would be perfect for a library. I mentioned an Ikea Billy bookcase hack to Nick, and he surprised me by making it happen. It's a dream come true!

2. All Things Fall – October was filled with all things fall: corn maze, hay ride, hot boiled peanuts, petting zoo, trick or treating and a good ole' fall festival. This photo is from the fall festival in our neighborhood, and it felt like being a mini Stars Hollow. I haven't blogged much lately because I've been soaking up this special season. 

3. My Most Anticipated Release – We did so many fun things in October, but I had to mention the release of Kingdom of Ash. It was my most-anticipated 2018 release and such a bittersweet moment when I had it in my hands. I drove to the bookstore that morning and got to spend all day binging it. Such a great memory! 

Read 14 Books | Favorites:
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

“Pretending you're OK when you aren't isn't strength.”
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

 “Tears were misunderstood, she thought, and used inappropriately most often.
They were designed as a private response of being. Because sometimes life filled you to the brim
and spilled over. Tears were the body's way of cleansing the overflow of emotions,
from sorrow to joy and so many others that couldn't be described.”
Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

 “Remember that we have something to fight for, and it will always triumph.”
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

 “When someone stabs you it's not your fault that you feel pain.”
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

“How frightened we are of being known, and yet how desperately we long for it.”
The Good People by Hannah Kent

I didn't get very much blogging done in October. I started off the month with my September 2018 recap, even though it was weeks late by the time I posted. Then, I was excited to talk about all the Anne of Green Gables related books that I'd seen recently in Beyond Green Gables: For Anne Fans at Every Age

And finally, I finished the month by collaborating with Alexa from Alexa Loves BooksKelly from Belle of the Literati,  and Rachel from Hello, Chelly on a celebration for the release of Kingdom of Ash. We called it Light Up the Darkness. Our Series Roulette and Twenty Questions posts were so fun, but it was our final post – What Throne of Glass Means to Me – that was my favorite. I, unsurprisingly, wrote an essay about my love for the series.

This is a new recap section that I thought I'd try! I've been more active lately on Instagram, which is probably one reason that I've had less blogging energy. But ideally, I'd really like to make time for both things. I'll probably never blog as frequently as I used to, but I'm not ready to abandon this space altogether. But, since I am posting content on @soobsessedblog that you aren't seeing here, I figured I'd start including one of my bookstagram photos from each month in this recap. It won't necessarily be my post popular – just one that I'd consider a favorite!

Favorite Album: Borrowed Heart by Heather Morgan 
I didn't listen to very much music in October because I focused mainly on audiobooks,
but I did enjoy this album. I think my favorite song on it is "A Hundred Miles."

Sex and the City, Season 1-3, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall and Cynthia Nixon – You can blame Kelly for this TV binge! She's been begging me to give it a try, and I couldn't resist when she gifted me the first two seasons after finding them at a garage sale. I watched while I unpacked and worked around the house, and it was great for that since I didn't have to give it my complete attention to still follow along. The humor and content is too sexual for me (as expected), but the friendship aspect made it a fun watch overall. 

New Books: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak, Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas and The Simple Wild by K. A. Tucker

For Review: The Gown by Jennifer Robson and Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

Kindle: All Fall Down and All Aces by Ellie Marney and Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (and audio, too!)

Light Up the Darkness • What Throne of Glass Means to Me

Oct 26, 2018

A few months ago, I started thinking about the release of Kingdom of Ash. After years of waiting, the end was drawing near. Though I never got around to reviewing the last few books, I knew I wanted to mark the occasion with something special on the blog. And what could be better than a collaboration with my friends, favorite bloggers, and the ladies who introduced me to this series? Thus, Light Up the Darkness was born!

We've spent the last few weeks re-reading in preparation for this release and planned three fun posts to celebrate this epic series. Catch up on the first two posts, Series Roulette and Twenty Questions, if you missed them. To wrap up our celebration, we decided to end on a personal note. Today, we're all answering the same question:

Why is this series meaningful to you?

I've loved all of our posts, but this is the one I was most looking forward to writing. I've long meant to sit down and try to put into words how I feel about these books and the characters inhabiting them. The timing was never right, and now I'm so glad that I waited for this moment. Re-reading over the last month has been the most epic and emotional way to say goodbye to a series that has had such an impact on me. 

Through the pages of books, I've journeyed to the past, to entirely made-up worlds, and to my own backyard. I've gotten to live a thousand lives from the comfort of my own home. I've read books I've loved and some I've hated. But the very best ones, the ones that stick with me, that I return to again and again, are the books that inspire me, challenge me, and move me. At the top of my list of books that have done that for me is the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. And the craziest thing to me is that it's a miracle that I even read these books in the first place!

I have always loved to read... but I haven't always loved to read fantasy. I didn't pick up Harry Potter until my early 20s, and I still haven't read all the Chronicles of Narnia books. When I was younger, I wanted all the historical fiction (American Girls! Dear America! Little House!) – with some horse books thrown in (Saddle Club, anyone?) because #basic. I didn't want to read about mythical lands, daring quests, strange creatures, or magical powers. And honestly, I felt that way for a long time. Then came blogging. 

Reading had always been a solitary activity for me – I wasn't in book clubs, most of my friends didn't care about books, and I rarely talked about what I was reading. I might recommend a book to a friend, but that was about the extent of it. But I needed a creative outlet and loved the idea of starting a blog. Reading was the only thing I could imagine writing about consistently, so I dove into this crazy wonderful world. Suddenly, I was connecting with people over books. I was getting recommendations, discovering new favorites, reading things for review, and trying genres that were out of my comfort zone. 

One of those genres, as you can probably guess, was fantasy. I started with Harry Potter in 2011 because it was the obvious choice, and I loved them. After that, I started to dip my toe into fantasy by picking up books that I saw my friends and fellow bloggers reading and loving. Around this same time, I started hearing a ton of buzz for a book called Throne of Glass. This was at a point in my blogging career where I couldn't resist the hype, so I bought a Kindle copy of the book... and then it just sat there for at least a year.

But I kept seeing Kelly and Alexa rave about it. They were so vocal about their love for the book and persistent in pushing it on me. And finally, I gave in. Do you see what I mean when I call it a miracle that I ever read this series? The odds were stacked against it! I wasn't interested in fantasy, didn't find the summary appealing, wasn't a fan of the original cover, and just generally had an attitude of "that's not for me." But oh boy, was I wrong. I finished the first book and give it four stars. I enjoyed it but wasn't totally sold on it yet. Then, I read Crown of Midnight and my immediate reaction was: "OH MY GOODNESS, I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD LOVE THIS SERIES AS MUCH AS I NOW DO!" And from that moment on, I was hooked. 

Even though I was newer to the genre, I did read some fantasy books before Throne of Glass. I'd even read a few that I loved! Harry Potter, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Scorpio Races were immediate favorites, for example. But honestly, I give this series credit for that fact that fantasy is now one of my favorite genres. It was Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight that made me say, "Where can I find more books like THIS?" They made me want to read all the fantasy I could get my hands on. And so, it's not an understatement to say that this series opened the door to numerous new worlds for me. 

Since I mentioned new worlds, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge one of the reasons this series was a fantasy turning point for me. I'd always struggled with fantasy in the past due to the world building. The worlds felt so foreign, so unknown, that I would become disconnected from the story. I couldn't picture the places, so I couldn't immerse myself in the story. Now, some of this was my issue as a reader – I needed a bigger imagination! But some of it was due to books that got bogged down in complex magical systems, lengthy descriptions, and other things that slowed down the pace. As a new (and skeptical) fantasy reader, those things could be hard to get past.

But Throne of Glass started off with a bang, and it just got better from there. It's a series that somehow accomplished everything for me as a reader – it focused on the characters' personal journeys but included a compelling, action-packed plot with a world that felt rich, detailed and exciting. I was immediately thrown into the story, and the action kept building with each new installment. I was invested in the characters, and they remained at the heart of the series until the very end. And the world was a stage that mattered to the story.

While I was reading, I could imagine Aelin strolling through the glass castle, imprisoned in the Salt Mines, training in the Red Desert, defying pirates in Skull’s Bay, and coming home to Terrasen. I could smell Rowan’s pine and snow, the tang of blood when Manon moved in for a kill, and the sweat after a long day of training in Mistward. I could hear Lysandra’s ghost leopard snarl, Maeve's honeyed lies, and Aelin's brazen laugh. I could picture the Sword of Ornyth, the Ashryver eyes, and those horrible wyrdstone collars. I learned to fear the skinwalkers, the ilken, the Valg, and the Stygian spiders. I longed to train with a wyvern, fly on a ruk, and race on an Asterion horse. From the Tavan Mountains to the Western Wastes, I could see the world Maas had created. It all felt real! 

This series was the spark that lit the fire in my imagination that helped me travel to make-believe worlds. It was a key to unlocking that sense of mystery and adventure, that ability to lose myself in a land that doesn't exist. I'd read plenty of books about places that I'd never been, but I could almost always Google photos to help me get a sense of it. If I was reading historical fiction, I could look at maps and illustrations and recreations. With fantasy, the only resource I had was my own mind. And sometimes that failed me!

For me, this series was a crucial piece to that puzzle. It seems so basic now, but I look back at my reviews for the early books in this series and remember what a big deal it was that the world stood out to me from the beginning. This wasn't a series that I liked despite the world. This was a series that I adored because the world was a character that I came to know and love. And every adventure added more details to the picture.

Well, it seems only right to chat about the characters next. And this, honestly, is where I feel like my words are inadequate. What do you say about characters that feel like best friends? I've read these books so many times, and I know that's part of the reason these characters mean so much to me. But even from that very first read, I knew the characters were something special. People that I'd never forget.

I love the big-picture conflict, all the smaller moments that drive the plot forward, and the world Maas has created. I love the writing (so many quotes marked in these pages!), and the pacing (I just can't put these books down once I start). But y'all, all of that would be nothing if the books didn't contain characters that move me.

The first book introduced me to the heroine and a few other people that were important. But with each new book, the cast of characters only grew. In the hands of a less talented author, you'd probably end up with characters that didn't seem fully fleshed out or ones that you just tolerated until you could get back to the ones that mattered more. But that isn't the case in this series! With every new voice, I found a new person to root for. Each person – the villains to the love interests, the characters in every book to the ones on only a few pages – felt like they had their own story. I still marvel at this aspect with each re-read!

Some of my favorite scenes feature characters that appear nowhere else. I was joking with Kelly the other day that I can name at least twenty characters off the top of my head that I'd gladly read a spin-off book about. I just can't get enough of the people populating this world! And they don't all feel like they have the same personality either.

No character is just one personality trait or characteristic. Chaol is a loyal friend but is slow to forgive when he finds out new information about someone that he loved. Dorian is a confident prince with the world at his feet, but he's wracked by feelings of unworthiness. Aelin is a snarky, arrogant assassin who is terrified of facing her past. Rowan is a quiet, serious man who also makes some of the most romantic declarations ever. Manon is a ruthless and cunning killer, but she chooses a wyvern that everyone else dismisses and protects a young woman who is being abused. Elide can't read and yet she's one of the most resourceful, quick-thinking characters in the series. They're all complex and contain multitudes.

I think of the characters as friends – but they also remind me of people that I know. I like to imagine myself as Elide with the way she thinks on her feet and just keeps moving forward. I can see my best friend in Aelin's brashness and in her moments of vulnerability. And there are so many other examples I could give! So, this series means something to me because these characters do. I could analyze Arobynn's motivations or Lysandra's hidden depths all day long. I could spend an hour telling you all the reasons Rowan is my bae and write a dissertation on what Aelin has taught me about sacrifice, swagger, and sass. I just cannot get enough of this squad, and I feel so grateful to have had seven books worth of stories with them.

Speaking of seven books worth of stories, I was looking at Goodreads the other day and marveling over how many times I've read the books in this series. I've read every book in this series (minus the last) between 3-5 times each during the past six years. And they aren't short books either! The first six books alone total 3,813 pages.

In I'd Rather Be Reading, Anne Bogel writes, “A good book, when we return to it, will always have something new to say. It's not the same book, and we're not the same reader.” And that's been true for me with the Throne of Glass series. No matter how many times I crack open the first page, I always know there will be something new to discover. Whether it's a different perspective on a familiar scene or catching foreshadowing that I'd previously missed, I find something else to love with each re-read. And as soon as I finish, I want to start again.

I've joked with Kelly, Alexa and Rachel many times that every single re-read leaves me wondering – WHY DO I READ ANYTHING BESIDES THESE BOOKS? I am always swept up in the action, sighing over the romantic declarations, crying over the heartbreak, and cheering for the victories. And man, there's something to be said for a book that never gets old, never feels boring, and always reminds you of the power of reading.

Let's be real, my emotional reaction to what's happening is a whole different reason this series means so much to me. I'm not the most emotional reader in general, which I've talked about on the blog before. I get invested in books, but not typically in a throw-it-against-the-wall or sob-it-out kind of way. Well, you can probably guess what I'm going to say next – these books take me on an emotional journey like no other.

When we were working on our Twenty Questions post, I struggled to choose just one answer for the questions relating to emotion. The most swoonworthy moment? Where do I start! What scene makes me cry? I can name at least ten! And the sass and sarcasm in these pages provide me with numerous moments of laughter.

I've cried with these characters through devastating losses, vulnerable confessions, and moments of undiluted terror. I've cheered as they defeated ruthless opponents, reacted to brutal betrayals, and gotten up after numerous setbacks. I've nearly died of joy during declarations of love, the tension of a single glance, and the freedom characters have found in being seen and known. I've gasped at startling twists, secrets revealed, and the past coming to light. I've raged at evil villains, short-sighted decisions, and people who know just what to say to inflict the deepest wounds. These stories make me feeling everything. And that is something I wouldn't trade for the world.

I already talked about this in my post on Wednesday, but it bears repeating. The themes of this series resonate so deeply with me. For example, one of the things that shows up repeatedly in this series is the idea that no act of kindness is ever wasted. There are so many moments where Aelin extends grace and mercy to people who don’t deserve it: one extra second for Ansel, empowering Yrene to defend herself and find freedom, giving Kaltain her cloak, buying Lysandra’s freedom, reaching out her hand to Manon. So many of the moments that stick out to me are ones that are done with no hope for reward, no guarantee of future benefit to her. She does it because people matter, and she recognizes it. And, as we see in the books, those acts have ripple effects that change everything.

But that isn't the only theme. I love all the things Kelly, Rachel, and Alexa touched on in their answers: that we can always choose to do what is right, get back up when we fall down, continually change and grow because of and in spite of our circumstances, and that you've got to love yourself and let others in to your life. 

There are so many things in this series that inspire me! It sounds cheesy, but they make me want to be a better person. Whether it's characters confronting their prejudices or someone noticing something of beauty in the midst of pain and hopelessness, I feel challenged and moved every time I pick up these books. As Aelin says at one point: “You make me want to live, Rowan. Not survive; not exist. Live.” And this series challenges me to make every moment count and do something meaningful. To live to the fullest!

I've already touched on this a little, but I only picked up Throne of Glass because Alexa and Kelly raved about it. Seeing that Rachel did, too, was just one more confirmation that I needed this heroine in my life. And so, this series is particularly meaningful to me because it connected me to other readers who have become some of my best friends. We'd already bonded over books before this series, but it's been incredible to be able to react to each new release together. And to brainstorm and plan collaborations like this one!

With each new installment, we've been able to binge read the books on our own and then connect afterward to relive all of our favorite parts. I cannot tell you what a joy that experience has been! I would love these books even if I never had anyone to chat with them about, but getting to spend six years fangirling and flailing over them with friends has made my reading experience all the richer. I don't take that for granted! I feel so blessed to have friends who pushed me to read these books and who will forever be connected to these stories in my mind.

I know that these books won't mean this much to every reader. There will always be people who loathe the things you love! Or books where you're the one wondering what everyone sees that you don't. But, whether you share my love for Throne of Glass or feel the complete opposite way about them, my hope is that there's a book out there that makes you feel as deeply and means as much to you as this series does for me. I hope you have a story that you could return to again and again and always feel like coming you're coming home! I was so sad to close the last page of the series on Tuesday, but I also felt a profound sense of thankfulness for the power of an amazing book.

Check out what the series means to Kelly, Rachel, and Alexa!
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