March 2021 Goals

Mar 5, 2021

Although we may have a few more wintry days in Georgia, I'm most excited about March because the weather is beginning to change. It's looked more like spring recently, and it feels like my soul is reaching out to the sun. Beautiful days means being outdoors with my boys, and we've needed it after so much time at home. I've always joked that I don't believe in exercise or enjoy nature, but that's been changing lately. Going on walks and looking at all God has created has been surprisingly satisfying! It's often a little reset for our day.

I'm pleased with the progress I made in February. It certainly wasn't perfect – I ignored my food/kitchen-related goal and stumbled on my no-spend challenge. But, on the other hand, I started journaling and going on walks. I don't feel guilty about the things I didn't do, and I'm thrilled by the areas where I'm growing. Little by little.

On My Calendar:
– Planning Kelly's upcoming visit
– Dental checks
– Family birthdays
– Milestone photo session

Currently Obsessing Over:
– Nick got me an Archer & Olive notebook for my birthday, and I adore it. And now I'm obsessed with @bookstaandbujo on Instagram and want to try bullet journaling again... Oops?
– Speaking of bullet journaling, I've fallen down a YouTube bujo black hole. I can't stop watching, and it's a problem! Here are a few accounts I've been enjoying:  AmandaRachLeeLeela Journals and Plant Based Bride.
– I've kinda failed at my no-spend challenge, but this tote (in green) and these sunglasses were worth it. 
– Weekly/monthly newsletters have made me really happy lately. A few favorites are from Emily P. Freeman, Kendra Adachi, and Annie B. Jones, but I'd love recommendations if you've got any!

Yearly Goals:
(These should stay the same all year, so I'll just do month-to-month progress reports!)
– Read a devotional every morning.
– Do Soulspace meditation every night.
– Blog 2x per week.
– Complete the Contentment Challenge (Q1). 
– Maintain monthly photo organization + daily delete.
– Use the 1 Second Everyday app.

February progress:
 I only missed two days of devotional reading!
– Just like January, I did Soulspace for 60% on the month. I need to try doing it at a different time of day.
– Yep, I met my monthly blogging goal.
– I was doing great... until a solo shopping trip. I might fail the challenge this year, but I'm okay with it.
– I have a new workflow for photo organization that's much easier, so I won't track it on future goal posts!
– I adore this app and update it daily! I won't update my progress here anymore since it's going so well.

Revisiting My February Goals:
Walk 3x per week. / For my health goal, I wanted to introduce changes slowly so I didn't burn out. In January, I started by cutting back on Diet Coke. I continued that in February + introduced walking into my routine. My goal was just three times per week – for as little as 10 minutes. It was the perfect goal because it felt "easy," and I often ended up walking longer because I just needed to motivation to start. This is big progress since I hate exercise.
– Complete Eleven Months in the big boy's journal. / Struggle. This will get done in March. 
Celebrate our family's February birthdays. / We celebrated my birthday, our baby turning one, and Nick's birthday. It seemed silly to make it a goal, but that helped me plan ahead so we all got to do/eat/receive something special.
– Break down meal planning goal into action steps. / Why am I procrastinating this goal?! It's my priority in March.
Read a cookbook (Dinner: A Love Story). / I've never read a cookbook straight through before, and this was the perfect place to start. It read like a memoir and doesn't have many photos, plus I love the emphasis on dinner together as a family. I got some great tips, bookmarked recipes to try, and want to continue reading cookbooks.
– Make a list of pantry staples and go-to meals. / Sigh. At least I read a cookbook? I don't even know, y'all.
Complete Backup Bootcamp course. / Done. I spent last year organizing my digital photos, so I didn't technically "need" this course. But I still learned a bunch, simplified my process, and highly recommend it!
Watch Family Yearbook course. / Yep! I wanted to watch it all the way through before starting, and now I'm ready to tackle my 2020 book in March. I feel much better prepared and have realistic expectations now. 
Write a discussion post. / I wrote three: 32 Facts About Me, My Favorite Fictional Female Friendships, and Our 2021 Family Bucket List. These are typically my favorite posts to read, but I need motivation to write them.
Send happy mail to a friend. / I finally sent a little happy mail to Kelly, so I crossed this off my list. But my big boy joined in the fun by making a few Valentine's cards and hand delivering them to some of his favorite people!
Start journaling weekly. / This may end up being one of my favorite things I started doing in 2021. I'm obsessed.

My March Goals:
– Select photos and design our 2020 family yearbook.
– Complete Eleven Months in our big boy's journal.
– Make my Spring TBR.
– Participate in The List Maker Challenge in my journal.
– Complete three items from our 2021 family bucket list.
– Choose outfits for family photos.
– Start changing phone habits with app limits.
Break down meal planning goal into action steps!

Do you have any goals for March?

February 2021: Recap + On My Shelves

Mar 3, 2021

February was a pretty busy month for our family – we celebrated three birthdays, had a few shopping adventures, and spent time with my parents while Nick traveled. And now I'm getting excited about the hints of spring weather!

1. My 32nd Birthday – My birthday is on the first, and my mom gave the gift of time at home alone. She took my boys, and I got to spend the day drinking coffee, reading in bed, going to the library, and having a lunch date with Nick. It was heavenly! I got some lovely gifts, too: books, bath stuff, makeup, and an Archer & Olive notebook.

2. Our Baby Turns 1 – Our sweet baby turned one on the seventh. We celebrated with Nick's family a few weeks early, and then got together with my family the day before. My mom decorated with a Valentine's theme, and it was so adorable! I can't believe it's already been a year, and I'm so thankful for the joy he brought us in 2020.

3. Shopping Days – My sister and I had a few bookstore dates, as well as an incredibly fun Saturday shopping with my mom. Clothes, antiques, and plants, oh my! And one Friday, Nick finished work early so that I could go return some jeans and enjoy being out by myself. It was a treat, and I bought some prizes! Sorry, no-spend challenge. 

4. Staying with My Parents – Nick had another work trip in February, so the boys and I decided to go stay with my parents. I think the addition of a second child + almost a year of no travel has made me a little soft, so I love being spoiled with the extra help at my parents. And not having to cook might be the biggest perk of all!

Read 16 Books | Favorites:
Send for Me by Lauren Fox
The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman
A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

“A mother teaches her daughter to perpetuate the tedious rituals of her own imperfect life. 
And by instilling in her child the virtues of order, she shows her how to keep the chaos at bay.”
Send for Me by Lauren Fox

“He’s all the things that can go wrong with men if you leave them to their own devices.” 
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

“And maybe there is no nation or citizenry; they're just territories mapped in place of family, 
in place of love, the infinite country.”
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

“A warrior believes in an end she can’t see and fights for it. A warrior never gives up. 
A warrior fights for those weaker than herself. It sounds like motherhood to me.” 
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

“Making a living is nothing if you're not also making a life.” 
The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

“There is power in naming the unnamed things. This is an important part 
of our decision-making practice and key to taking our next right step in love. 
Remember today is a plot point. See it honestly for what it is, 
but don't confuse the moment for the whole story.” 
The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

“Let’s remember that though we may have to wait and see, we never have to wait to be.” 
The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

“I wish for us to have the courage to go out into the world when we are ready, 
but to always be able to find our way back to each other. No matter what.”
The Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Gwyn whispered, “I am the rock against which the surf crashes.” 
Nesta straightened at the words, as if they were a prayer and a summons. 
Gwyn lifted the blade. “Nothing can break me.” 
The Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

“Keep reaching out your hand.” 
The Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

“People have many motivations to follow someone, 
but a soldier will only ever follow a man for two reasons:
 his competency, and his integrity.” 
Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

“I'm afraid that you're looking for your next chapter, 
and I'm looking for the whole rest of the book.” 
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

“You can live a long life never being hurt—and never quite being happy. 
If that’s what you want.”
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

February was a solid blogging month! I kicked off the month with a post in honor of my 32nd birthday: 32 Facts About Me. Then, as usual, I had my January 2021 recap and February 2021 goals. For reviews, I shared my sister's January favorites and my January 2021 mini reviews. But my favorite posts this month were the fun ones: my favorite fictional female friendships in honor of Kelly's birthday, my big boy and baby's favorite things in 2020, our family's 2021 bucket list, and a winter 2021 Currently update

Favorite Song #1: "Glad You Exist" by Dan + Shay
Kelly sent me this song because it reminded her of our friendship, 
and I felt the same way! I loved listening to this and being emo about my bestie.

Favorite Song #2: "Gasolineby HAIM feat Taylor Swift
I don't really listen to HAIM, but I loved their song on Swift's evermore 
so I couldn't resist listening to her collaboration on their album.

Favorite Song #3: "Cry" by Alison Wonderland feat. Buddy
My sister played this song for me, and I'm obsessed!
It reminds me of Nesta from A Court of Silver Flames.

To All the Boys: Always & Forever (2021) starring Lana Condor and Noah Centineo – On the night this premiered, I made a big bowl of popcorn, grabbed my coziest blanket, and settled in to watch this final installment of Lara Jean's story. Although I enjoyed the experience, I wasn't a fan of this movie overall. There were several changes made from book-to-screen that I found very annoying. The second and third don't have the magic of the first, but it's still fun to see these books adapted for the screen with such great casting.

Book of the Month: Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Birthday Money: That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs, Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First. by Laura Tremaine, The Power of Writing It Down by Allison Fallon, Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano, Send for Me by Lauren Fox, Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, and A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Gifted: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Nick) and Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Kelly)

Kindle & Audible: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas (not pictured)

Review: The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley (not pictured)

Currently {Winter 2021}

Feb 26, 2021

I first shared my own version of this post last year, and I decided it was time for an update! As I mentioned before, thanks to Lauren from Bookmark Lit for the inspiration for this type of post. I've seen lot of variations on it, but hers inspired me to finally do one of my own. So, here's what my life looks like lately:


Currently reading: I haven't picked up a physical book in a week, but my plan is to read Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano next. If I keep repeating it, do you think my brain will finally make it happen? 

Currently audiobook-ing: I just finished re-reading A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas on audio, and I'm so excited to listen to Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore since it just became available for me at the library.

Currently recommending: Aside from the newest Sarah J. Maas, I adored Lauren Fox's Send for Me. I hadn't heard much about it before release, and it was my first five-star read of 2021. The writing was gorgeous!

Currently on hold at the library: After loving her work on Instagram, I requested All Along You Were Blooming by Morgan Harper Nichols. It's ready for me! I'm also waiting for The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan, a new release.

Currently pre-ordered: There are lot of books I could list, but next week I'll have Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson, An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn, and Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare in my hands.

Currently in my cart: Nothing, shockingly. 

Currently adding to my TBR: My most recent purchase was Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, which I wanted to read after seeing Annie B. Jones' rave review. I have soft spot for Australian authors, so I'm looking forward to it.

Currently NetGalley-ing: I was thrilled to get The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley for review.


Currently listening: Podcasts have been a go-to lately, and I've recently added 10 Things to Tell You to my queue.

Currently watching: I haven't been watching much lately, though I did have a movie night when To All the Boys: Always & Forever came out on Netflix. And I'll probably try to catch up on this season of This is Us soon. 

Currently eating: My mom's home cooking! It's one of the best thing about spending a week with my parents.

Currently drinking: My sister got me hooked on tea! Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Sunset is a favorite.

Currently wearing: I bought Madewell's Medium Transport Tote: Woven Leather Edition in a beautiful green that's now sold out. I broke my no-spend challenge for it, but I couldn't resist the sale + additional 20% off. 

Currently bookmarking: I loved this post about children and the passing of time on Em for Marvelous. And my favorite newsletters to slowly savor are from Emily P. Freeman, Kendra Adachi, and Annie B. Jones.

Currently coveting: These jeans, which are currently backordered until the end of May in their Taller sizes. Ugh.

Currently obsessing over: Olive & June's nail polish and manicure system. It's my new Saturday ritual. I've loved every color I've tried and just bought three from their spring collection, even though I wanted all six.


Currently celebrating: All the birthdays! Mine was the 1st, Kelly and my baby on the 7th, and Nick on the 29th.

Currently loving: Nick had to travel recently for work, so the boys and I came to stay with my parents. It was so fun to spend a week with them, and I was so thankful for all the help + the break from cooking! 

Currently looking forward to: Kelly is coming to visit this spring, and I cannot contain my excitement! I miss her.

Currently procrastinating: My meal planning goal. I have to remind myself to just start! Small progress adds up.

Currently accomplishing: I'm down to one Diet Coke per day and am walking 3x per week. Both are huge for me!

Currently researching: The Book of the Month picks for March so I can decide what I'll order.

Currently thinking about: Making our family yearbook(s). It's one of my 2021 goals, and I just finished watching Miss Freddy's course about it. Now I'm loosely scheduling the next steps to get the first album done.

Currently feeling: Tired. Who isn't, right? 

What's Currently going on in your life?

Quick Lit: January 2021

Feb 24, 2021

2021 got off to an interesting start for my reading life. I finished 20 books, which is one of my most prolific months in recent memory. But a surprising number of reads fell in the 3-star range, and there's only one book I'd rave about (not including my re-read). It's a bummer to not feel more excited overall about what I read! I have 21 reviews in today's post – my one re-read, the 19 new-to-me reads, and one book I did not finish but wanted to write about. It's a long post! If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST BY CHANEL CLEETON – If you set aside the need for plausibility, this was an enjoyable read. I loved Cleeton's first book in the Cuban saga, Next Year in Havana, but wasn't crazy about the second, When We Left Cuba. This one fell somewhere in the middle – it wasn't as frustrating as Cuba but didn't have the magic of Havana! There's a lot of drama, and the shorter length kept the pace moving. The romance(s) are in instalove territory, but I've come to expect that from Cleeton. My favorite part was the unusual time period and setting, which taught me something new about history. I So Liked It but could have nitpicked it to death if I read it in a different mood. Thankfully, I just wanted to be transported to another place and Cleeton delivered! 

THE SEARCHER BY TANA FRENCH – Although different from French's other novels, The Searcher is another atmospheric Irish tale that I was still thinking about long after closing the last page. The story was engaging, and I loved that I didn't predict its resolution. I liked that it dealt with a missing person because you weren't sure whether there was even a mystery to solve. Written in third person – and from the point of view of an American! – it was a departure for French. But I still felt like I recognized her style and enjoyed seeing her do something new. I thought the hero and secondary characters were well-developed, and there are questions raised in this book that would make it great choice for a book club. So much to discuss! It's a very slow novel, but I still So Enjoyed It

TEN RULES FOR FAKING IT BY SOPHIE SULLIVAN* – Give a contemporary romance an illustrated cover and an intriguing summary, and I've got to at least try it. I appreciated Sullivan's depiction of social anxiety, and I felt a lot of sympathy for the heroine. I was rooting for her as she challenged herself to make some changes in her life. I did, however, feel like the book could have been a lot shorter. I listened to it on audio, and I was continually shocked by how much I had left to listen to. It was so slow, full of inner monologue, and had too many conflicts happening right at the end. The romance needed more development for me because I wasn't invested in this couple together, which is never great when that's the point of the genre. I'm So Okay With It – a good story that got lost in the length. 

WINTERING BY KATHERINE MAY – Wintering is one of those books that's hard for me to rate. Author Katherine May uses the concept of winter to describe the fallow periods of life, difficult times where we must rest and retreat from the world. She explores her own personal winters, discusses what happens in the natural world during winter, and explores what other places and cultures do during winter. I loved the premise, which felt particularly fitting for the pandemic we are currently living through, and highlighted numerous passages. But I didn't connect to every element of the execution. It was more memoir than I anticipated, and I didn't always understand May's conclusions. I wanted broader research into the topic rather than anecdotal, privileged musings. I So Liked It

THE OTHER BENNET SISTER BY JANICE HADLOW – If there's a Pride and Prejudice retelling, chances are good that I'll want to read it. This book got off to a slow start, mostly because it covers the events of P&P through Mary's eyes. I appreciated what Hadlow was doing, but it didn't totally hook me at that point. Once it jumped forward in time, I couldn't put it down! I loved that the story went somewhere new while still feeling believable. It added a lot of depth to Mary, giving me the opportunity to view her character in an entirely new light and consider other motives for her behavior. The nods to Austen's other novels was a clever touch, and I felt Hadlow remained true to the time period and Austen's style (without forcing it). It was overly long, but I So Loved It for the creativity and character growth.

THE NATURE OF THE BEAST BY LOUISE PENNY – It's always great to be back with Gamache! If you'd told me back when I finished book four that I'd be saying that one day, I would have thought you were lying. I still do not like the town of Three Pines or most of its inhabitants, but I adore Gamache and the other members of the Sรปretรฉ. The discovery and history of the supergun in this book was very interesting. When I read Penny's note at the end, I was shocked to discover it based on real events and people! That made it even more fascinating to me. I liked seeing how Gamache still played a role in the investigation with his change in status, and I loved the glimpse at one of his past cases. I So Enjoyed It and am looking forward to see where Penny takes these characters next.

THE HEIRESS GETS A DUKE BY HARPER ST. GEORGE – As I wrote in my reading journal when I finished this book: Swoon, swoon! This was an utterly delightful read, and it wouldn't have been on my radar at all if it wasn't for Book of the Month. I loved the premise – a titled but penniless Duke looking for an American heiress that he can marry to solve all of his problems. Is this a little bit instalove? Yes, and I can't explain why it worked for me here when I'm so quick dislike that in other books. But I just loved that the hero works to prove himself to the heroine so that she can see he doesn't just value her for her money. I was majorly in my feels about it! The heroine got in her own way a little bit, and there are definitely some modern mindsets in this historical romance. But I can't lie: I So Loved It

YOU HAVE A MATCH BY EMMA LORD* – After loving Tweet Cute last year, I was so excited to read this release. It's a cute, heartfelt YA contemporary about family, secrets, and finding your way. Y'all, I have a lot of issues with these parents. Reading it as a parent myself, I was horrified by the way they handled some things. I thought it would have been better without romance since that took focus away from the more important story for me. I liked seeing the sisters trying to develop a relationship, with a few missteps along the way. That was my favorite part! But I expected the camp setting to be a bigger element, didn't feel like anything happened in the first half of the book, and thought the passage of time was wonky. I finished and felt that I So Liked It.

DARK OF THE WEST BY JOANNA HATHAWAY – I saw a few positive reviews for this YA fantasy that made me excited to give it a try. And the comparisons to two books I love – The Winner's Curse and Code Name Verity – sealed the deal. I think those are accurate comps because you're getting a historical-inspired world without magic and heavy on the political scheming. And did I mention the airplanes? There are some interesting family dynamics, as well as an enemies-to-lovers romance. I listened to it on audio and loved the narrators. However, it was occasionally hard for me to follow due to all the various kingdoms, alliances, and politics. Plus, the pace dragged a bit at times. I So Liked It but felt like I might have appreciated it more if I'd read the physical copy and referenced the map.

THE STAR-CROSSED SISTERS OF TUSCANY BY LORI NELSON SPIELMAN – Stories about sisters are one of my book hooks, so I couldn't resist this Book of the Month selection last year. Although it was a little cheesy at times, I thought it was still an engaging story about a group of second-born daughters affected by an age-old family curse to never marry. I love the way Spielman explored how a belief about someone (or yourself) can shape who they are, how they live, and what choices they make. I thought that was the most thought-provoking aspect of the story. The Italian setting made me long to go on a trip with my bestie, and the characters' growth won me over by the end. I So Enjoyed It, though I hate at least one secondary character with a fiery passion for what she did to her sister.

EDUCATED BY TARA WESTOVER – I have a controversial opinion about this much-hyped and beloved book... I have a lot of Questions. This was an incredibly compelling read that had me on the edge of my seat while listening. It almost felt like fiction because I was always wondering, what will happen next?! I have no doubt in my mind that Westover suffered abuse and grew up in a toxic household. However, I didn't fully believe some aspects of her story (especially the medical situations) because the details truly didn't make sense, at least as described in here. 

This was the kind of memoir that made me fully aware of the fact that one person's truth doesn't always represent the full scope of a situation. I couldn't turn off my thoughts – They're off the grid but have a computer and a cell phone? Someone survived these burns without medical attention? They're uneducated but three of the children went on to earn PhDs? And that's just a fraction of what was running through my mind. I appreciated how Westover turns to her old journals, neighbors, and even her siblings to corroborate her story. But it was also disconcerting to be told they remembered (or she'd written about) an event differently than the way it was depicted in the book. 

It's not often that I am so conflicted about book. It's gripping and hard to put down, and I admire Westover's resilience and do believe that she's suffered trauma. But I'm not sure she's always the most reliable narrator and feel the memoir might have been better with more time/distance from the events. I'm So Okay With It

WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG BY JULIE CARRICK DALTON – This book's cover first caught my attention, and the summary appealed to me because it had hints of Where the Crawdads Sing (but in a contemporary setting). This dual timeline story was interesting but ultimately tried to do too much. It packs nature study, climate change, immigration, coming-of-age, and a murder mystery into one story. Although Crawdads succeeded at blending multiple genres, this would have benefited from a clearer focus. If there had been more character development and a little less time spent on topical issues, it would have worked better for me. There were fast-paced moments where I couldn't put it down, and I did like the mystery's resolution. I So Liked It but wanted more from it

THE SURVIVORS BY JANE HARPER – Although I enjoyed the books I've read previously from Harper, I wouldn't have picked this one up if it wasn't a Book of the Month selection. However, it started out strong – the setting was so atmospheric! Harper vividly described this coastal town, the threat of bad weather, and both the appeal and danger of the tides and caves. I wasn't sure if I was more afraid of the natural world or the killer inhabiting it. And then... the reveal. It was frustrating and so unsatisfying. I was so irritated at the end that it made the book's other weaknesses, such as lack of development between characters, more obvious. It became the most memorable mystery I've read from this author, simply because it made me so angry. Sadly, I'm So Over It.

GOOD APPLE BY ELIZABETH PASSARELLA – This book hadn't been on my radar, but I loved the cover and the subtitle, Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York. Passarella's faith was deeply important to her and grounded everything she wrote. She didn't just call herself a Christian because she'd always gone to church; it was about a deep relationship with God. I loved reading about it! However, the essays overall were a mixed bag and the book lacked direction. It felt like reading all her opinions on various topics (marriage, parenting, miscarriage, politics, faith, life in New York, and more), and some felt like TMI or bothered me (like her anger/temper). I'd also argue that she isn't a "Southerner in New York" – she's a New Yorker who is from the South. I was So Okay With It.

MEET ME IN BOMBAY BY JENNY ASHCROFT* – The first half of this book was painfully slow for me, and I wasn't invested. I thought I knew exactly where the story was going... and then I was wrong! That's when I started to feel more engaged and couldn't put it down! Though much of the book takes place in England, I can see why it has drawn criticism for being a romanticized depiction of colonial India. The setting could have been moved to England entirely without drastically affecting the plot (and thus eliminating the problematic element). The draw for me was the question of "Will they find their way back to one another?" because I really cared about that conflict. I So Liked It by the end, but I might have DNF-ed early on if I didn't feel the need to stick with it longer to write a fair review.

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS BY RACHEL HAWKINS – A retelling of Jane Eyre that's a domestic thriller? I had to have it! The hype put this book on my radar, but it was the premise that convinced me to buy it. I loved how Hawkins turned this Gothic romance into a modern mystery, full of untrustworthy characters and dramatic twists. If you're familiar with the inspiration, I don't think you'll be truly shocked by anything in this story. And yet, it was still worth reading (in my opinion). The Southern setting of Birmingham, Alabama, was a nice bonus for me since there were elements that felt familiar. The short chapters kept the story moving, which gave it a great pace. It was an addicting read, even though it was pretty predictable. I So Enjoyed It and loved that the audiobook had multiple narrators! 

SHIPPED BY ANGIE HOCKMAN – I'd seen this described as a cross between The Hating Game by Sally Thorne and The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, which is a huge reason I picked it up. I love both of those books, and I can absolutely see those comparisons for Shipped. I loved the hints of hate-to-love that showed how easily people can misinterpret one anothers' words and actions. The cruise ship setting was a delight, and I learned about ecotourism, and which was a nice bonus. I felt like the romance played out in a very enjoyable way. The secondary characters were a nice bonus, and they added to my investment in the story. Is it the most memorable rom com I've ever read? No, but I did find it very engaging and So Enjoyed It. I flew through it once I started!

THE EX TALK BY RACHEL LYNN SOLOMON – I was really expecting to love this one, but it didn't quite hit the spot for me. The heroine got on my nerves, which I somewhat attribute to disliking the audiobook narrator. Something about her tone was so melancholy to me. Once I returned that format and picked up the physical book, things improved. I knew that the premise of the story involved a lie and thought I'd be able to accept it, but I found it a lot harder to get past than I expected. The fake dating aspect wasn't the problem – it was the fact that these two radio hosts were blatantly lying to grow their audience, gain advertisers, and raise funding. It definitely colored how I felt about the characters and their relationship. I So Liked It in a lot of ways, but I did have some reservations.

NONE SHALL SLEEP BY ELLIE MARNEY – I had to pick up this psychological thriller by the author of a Sherlock Holmes-inspired YA series that I love. I'd been a little hesitant, however, because it's described as Silences of the Lambs meets Sadie. That sounded so creepy! Set in 1982, two teens – a serial killer survivor and a US Marshal candidate – are recruited by the FBI to interview juvenile killers. They are told to focus on cold cases, but that plan was pretty much DOA. As I've come to expect from Marney, it was hard to put down! She excels at building tension. It was dark and not for anyone squeamish. Some of the descriptions... *shudder.* I So Liked It, but there are many on Goodreads who've raved it. For me, it won't live on in my memory now that the thrill is gone. 

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BY JANE AUSTEN – Listening to Pride and Prejudice on audio, with Rosamunde Pike's lovely narration, was the perfect way to kick off 2021. If I was forced to choose my favorite book of all time, I think it would be this one. I collect copies of it, can't resist retellings, and adore the movie adaptations. It was the starting point for my obsession with all things Jane Austen! I don't think I will ever get tired of this story, even though I know what will happen. I still feel so invested in it, and each re-read introduces me to something new to love about Austen's writing, the characters, and the plot itself. I'm So Obsessed With It and thankful for the comfort of an old favorite.

MAKE UP BREAK UP BY LILY MENON* – [DNF REVIEW] I don't typically write DNF reviews but am sharing a few thoughts since I got a copy for review on NetGalley. Make Up Break Up is the adult debut of well-known YA author Sandhya Menon. The book focuses on two rival app developers, and I struggled to sympathize with adult business owners who spend so much energy sabotaging each other. It was so unprofessional and juvenile! The heroine is on the verge of losing her business, and she was in complete denial + continued to dig herself deeper. The immaturity of people the heroine and hero made me feel like I was reading the worst kind of YA novel. Because I felt like a judgy old lady while reading, I had to put it down. There may be growth by the end, but I couldn't handle anymore.

What have you been reading lately?

*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.

Tales & Tiger Lily: January 2021

Feb 19, 2021

My sister recently joined bookstagram as @talesandtigerlily. Her name is Caroline, and Tiger Lily is her adorable sidekick (pictured above). Since she's discovered a love of reading, I've had the best time talking about books with her. Be sure to check out her introduction post to get to know her better. Once a month, you get a new installment of Tales & Tiger Lily. In each post, she reviews three of her favorite reads from the previous month and ends with a list of everything she read with ratings (and links to reviews, if applicable). 

Recapping the Rest of Caroline's January Reads:
Memories by Lang Leav | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Home Body by Rupi Kaur | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ.5 • Review
The Lost Manuscript by Cathy Bonidan | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ.5 • Review
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
Outlawed by Anna North  | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ.5 • Review
Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
The Ruin of Kings and The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ (not pictured)

Her top three from the month:

“Character is destiny, according to Shakespeare. And yet our bodies, above all our faces, are so bound up with how others perceive us, one might say that, especially for a woman, they are just as powerful an influence over our destinies. Our faces influence the perceptions others hold of us, and those perceptions influence, in turn, our character.” 

I picked up this book months ago because I loved the cover. After sampling it, I really wasn’t sure and decided to put it back. However, my sister listened to From the Front Porch podcast, and someone highly recommended it. So, of course, I bought Crossings last week at the store. 

This novel is genre-bending and has a little bit of everything. It is historical (on the brink of Nazi occupation in France), with fantasy, romance, and mystery. Crossings tells the story of a German-Jewish bookbinder tasked with binding a manuscript called Crossings. He reads the manuscript against his client’s wishes, and uncovers a story consisting of three narratives. As the stories merge, it really becomes a tale of how two lovers were separated by ancient law. 

Crossings is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. The book can be read in two ways: conventionally (from first to last page) or by following the Baroness sequence, which begins on page 150. I bought the audio (with multiple narrators) as well, wanting to have more of an experience while I read. I chose to read by following the Baroness sequence, jumping around the book. This made it so much fun. I was sucked into the story immediately, wondering how the characters and events would come together. 

If you are looking for something completely unique, I highly suggest reading Crossings. As a debut novel, I am blown away by Landragin’s prose and creativity. I can’t wait to see what he writes next. | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

“In the mirror I saw my reflection, a face marked by lines and age. A face marked by the persistence of hope, tragedy, abandonment, and grief. I reminded myself I was a woman who maintained strength through everything.” (This quote though. A mantra for all of us.) 

The Removed tells the story of the Echota family—a Cherokee family dealing with grief. Their son, Ray-Ray, was killed 15 years ago in a police shooting. What the reader sees is the devastating aftermath of loss. Each family member has their own set of struggles. The book leads up to the final event of their annual bonfire, marking the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death. 

The story is told from multiple POVs, and we uncover each family member’s present day struggles. The mother, Maria, struggles with grief and taking care of her husband, Ernest, who has Alzheimer’s. Their daughter, Sonja, lives a life of solitude and has romantic obsessions. Finally, their youngest son, Edgar, turns to drugs to deal with the pain. I loved all of the characters, and I found myself excited to turn the page to hear more from each of them. The pain they experienced was raw and emotional. 

The book contains a lot of Cherokee folklore, and much of the story blends the real and the spiritual. I can see how this may not be every reader’s taste, but I personally loved it. The Cherokee traditions and beliefs passed down through generations brought the book to life. This is a story of racism, devastating loss, and grief. But to me, the most important aspect—it is story of what it means to come home. It also offers hope and redemption. I felt for each character, and I truly adored hearing their stories. 

Hobson blends the harsh truths and struggles of a modern day Cherokee family with beautiful legends and beliefs. Parts will feel real, other parts will lead your mind to into an imaginative, dreamlike state. In my opinion, it was masterfully done. I loved it, and I will definitely buy a regular copy of this book when it is released in February (yes, I know that is extra). If I really love a BOTM pick, I want the real copy. | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

“You know, there’s a lot about ourselves that we can’t change—it’s just the way we’re born. But some parts of us are shaped by what we see. And how we’re treated by other people. How we’re made to feel.” 

The Push tells the story of Blythe Connor, a new mother to her baby girl Violet. She wants to be the type of mother she didn’t have—one who will nurture and care for her. However, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter. Her husband dismisses her concerns and says she is imagining things. As her son is born and she develops a wonderful connection with him, she feels like things could be better—that maybe they can be a happy family. But something devastating changes Blythe’s life in an instant. 

I could. not. put. it. down. I was hooked, I and felt so invested in Blythe. There is a lot of great character development in that we see what Blythe went through in the past with her own mother. I love stories involving how our past shapes us and how people deal with trauma. 

I could fully enjoy this book because I am not a mother. I’m not sure I would have liked it if I had children of my own. The Push is a lot darker than I thought it would be. I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and at times, this book made me question that desire. Lol. Just kidding. But kinda not. 

If you like dark dramas that are bit disturbing, this book is for you. I don’t usually give any content warnings because I like to go in blind. If you’re a sensitive reader, I’d check out Goodreads for more specifics. | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ.5
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