Quick Lit: May 2019

Nov 15, 2019

Remember that time I got all caught up on my Quick Lit posts and swore to never get that far behind again? My, how long that resolution lasted. What was it – a whole month? Ha! It's old news at this point, but let's chat about what I read in May. I finished 26 books, and I'm reviewing 24 in today's post. I re-read of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, but I just wrote a full-length review for it last year and didn't need to revisit my thoughts on it. I also read The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez and posted a review for that back in June. As always, check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit reviews and recommendations from other readers.

SAVING FRANCESCA BY MELINA MARCHETTA – What is there for me to say about this book that I haven't already said before? It's about friendships, family, falling in love, and finding your voice. If you don’t think a 250-page book can accomplish that much, let me introduce you to the wonder that is Melina Marchetta. Inside this book, you’ll find a girl feeling lost at a new school and watching old friends fade away. But the best part? She meets people who show up at her lowest, listen to her at her loudest, and will love her for the rest of her life. I’ve never been part of a friend group this size, but in these pages I see the kind of friend I want to be. I'm So Obsessed With It.

THE PIPER'S SON BY MELINA MARCHETTA – This is a companion to Saving Francesca, a book that I've already raved about on the blog. But I couldn't help myself from revisiting my feelings after this recent re-read! My love for these characters and this story just continues to grow. It's so moving to see a hero that has lost his way and to watch the way his friends refuse to let him fall by the wayside. There's a lot of grief in these pages, but there's so much hope and love, too. If you're drawn to books with friendships and family at the heart, this one is for you. It stands on its own, but it's better when you already know and love these characters. I'm So Obsessed With It.

THE PLACE ON DALHOUSIE BY MELINA MARCHETTA – Jimmy's story (who we meet in Saving Francesca) has been a long time coming. Thankfully, Marchetta has proved once again that she's a masterful storyteller, and my heart can rest easy knowing Jimmy is finally okay. Marchetta packs so much emotion into this 288-page book. I'm astounded at how she does so much in so few words. Every moment feels as though it was written with purpose and packed with meaning. As with all of her books, it's about home, identity, and community. And, as always, I'm So Obsessed With It. I said almost nothing of substance about it, but just trust me that you need to read it.

AURORA RISING BY AMIE KAUFMAN AND JAY KRISTOFF* – I'm not typically drawn to science fiction, but Kaufman and Kristoff's Illuminae series is one of my obsessions. So, how was I supposed to pass up another series from them with a band of misfits fighting corruption?! This is written like a traditional book, unlike their other series, and I definitely missed that creativity here. Seven characters have their own point of views, and my biggest frustration with the book was how everyone sounded the same to me. The plot felt pretty predictable, and the hints of romance didn't feel earned. It was somehow both rushed and boring, and I'm just So Okay With It

CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND BY KEVIN KWAN – Even better than Crazy Rich Asians! I was hooked on this story. Rachel and Nick are often the calm amidst the crazy, which can make them a little boring. But they took more of a backseat in the second book, so other characters got to shine. I love the class dynamics — the social standing that depends so much on where you’re from, where you got your money and how long you’ve had it. Heaven help you if you’re just a HENRY! “High Earners, Not Rich Yet,” for the uninitiated. And don’t even get me started on the food and fashion descriptions! I So Loved It and would be headed to China right now… if only I had a private jet on standby.

RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS BY KEVIN KWAN – I had to pick this book up immediately after finishing the second to see how it all ended. And it certainly didn't disappoint! Kwan's writing isn't my favorite in any of the books, but he sucks me in with the over-the-top plots and people. I do think the characters could all use more development because that would give even more emotional weight to the plot. But I found it so entertaining regardless! I love this huge cast of characters, the way everything in the story was resolved, and how immersed I was in this culture. Kwan balances the social climbing and extravagance with more depth, and I So Loved It!  

IF I'M BEING HONEST BY EMILY WIBBERLEY AND AUSTIN SIEGEMUND-BROKA – I grabbed this from the library for the shallowest of reasons: I loved the cover. But thankfully, the story inside impressed me, too! It's a loose retelling of The Taming of the Shrew / 10 Things I Hate About You, and it was so perfect for my mood the day I picked it up. The popular but "mean girl" heroine decides to try to reinvent herself and make amends for the hurt she's caused, and the book did such a great job of exploring the line between self-improvement and changing your identity. It was so readable (and had a very cute romance) but also contained some depth I hadn't expected. I So Enjoyed It!

HOPE AND OTHER PUNCH LINES BY JULIE BUXBAUM – I've long been a fan of Buxbaum's books, dating all the way back to her adult fiction debut that I randomly discovered back in college (RIP Borders). And her most recent release was another hit for me! I've read several books this year that dealt with September 11th, but this is the only one that did it in a way that never felt emotionally manipulative or contrived. I thought the concept was so unique and written about sensitively. I appreciated how Buxbaum weaves both grief and laughter into these pages. I came to love both of these characters, and Buxbaum's voice always draws me in. I So Loved It

WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH BY ELIZABETH ACEVEDO – Even though I don't really enjoy cooking, I'm always drawn to books with a culinary component. And this one certainly fit the bill! I actually borrowed the audiobook from the library and loved hearing the author bring her own lyrical writing to life. The heroine is a teen mom, and I was rooting for her as she pursued her education and her passion for cooking. The romance was my least favorite aspect, though I was still so invested in the story overall. But it's the culinary elective she takes at school and the descriptions of the dishes she makes that elevated the whole book to another level for me. I So Enjoyed It

MISTRESS OF ROME BY KATE QUINN – The things I loved about Quinn’s more recent books are so evident in this one: complex characters that work their way into your heart, a richly-drawn setting that comes alive in your mind, and gorgeous writing that brings it all together into something magical. Quinn’s attention to detail and ability to sweep you up in a story is on full display on this book! There are terrible villains, cruel twists of fate, long-awaited reunions, surprising heroes, and deft political maneuverings. I wasn’t even interested in Ancient Rome before and now I’m ready to travel back in time... from the safety of my sofa, of course. I So Loved It.

MIRACLE CREEK BY ANGIE KIM – This tightly paced and perfectly plotted courtroom drama had me absolutely hooked. I couldn’t wait to unravel the mystery at its heart, but it was the way it explored life as an immigrant, the challenges of motherhood, and the autism community that made it unforgettable for me. In a genre that can easily be defined by shock value, it surprised me most with its honesty about human nature and the emotions it evoked. I keep thinking about the lengths a mother will go to for her child (and the ways they fail them), the shame of having your worst thoughts made public, the evil that goes unpunished, the mistakes that have a an unintended ripple effect, the “what ifs” that haunt you after a tragedy occurs, and having the courage to do the right thing even when it’s hard. I was so invested in the story and impressed by Kim’s writing. Having it set during the murder trial gave it just the right amount of tension, and shifting between various characters’ perspectives made me feel like I was sitting in the courtroom, being forced to judge for myself who was responsible for what happened that fateful night. I'm So Obsessed With It — and think it would make an excellent choice for book clubs!

THE UNLIKELY ADVENTURES OF THE SHERGILL SISTERS BY BALLI KAUR JASWAL* – I randomly received a copy of this book for review, which hadn't been on my radar before it appeared on my doorstep. The three British-born Punjabi Shergill sisters make a deathbed promise to their mother that they'll complete a pilgrimage to the Golden Temple to India. I loved the setting, following them on their journey, and uncovering the backstory of each sister. They're all dealing with their own private dramas, but their arguments and misunderstandings got very repetitive (though realistic for siblings). I So Liked It but found myself wishing for more emotional investment in the story. 

EMPRESS OF THE SEVEN HILLS AND LADY OF THE ETERNAL CITY BY KATE QUINN – The second book in this series, Daughters of Rome, is actually a prequel. I picked it up, expecting to love it, and ended up setting it aside around 150 pages in. It just wasn't working for me at all! But I still wanted to give the rest of the series a shot, and I'm so glad I did. Empress of the Seven Hills and Lady of the Eternal City truly follow Mistress of Rome. The hero is the son of the couple in the first book, and I was delighted to get to know him better. While the first book could be read as a standalone, these two books go hand-in-hand. The ending of Empress left me reaching for Lady immediately.

Both contained more of what I'd loved at the start of these series: complex characters, political plotting and ruthlessness, and a well-researched and richly-drawn historical setting. But let's me honest, I wasn't in it for the world... I'm allll about the emotion, and Quinn goes above and beyond delivering it. I was so caught up in this star-crossed love story, and the secondary characters stole my heart, too. Honestly, I had to pause at one point to Google some information on Roman emperors because I couldn't handle the stress of waiting to see how it would all play out. Thanks, history, for the spoilers. I So Loved It and can't wait to re-read all three! 

THE LIGHT WE LOST BY JILL SANTOPOLO – How dare Reese Witherspoon choose this for her book club? What drivel! I'm sorry, but this book felt like pure emotional manipulation. Sometimes that type of story works for me, but it decidedly did not in this situation. I liked Santopolo's writing style and quickly found myself sucked in by the quick, easy-to-finish chapters. Before I knew it, I had finished the book... and wished I could get my time back. I was so frustrated with these characters who are both so terrible that, in a way, they kind of deserve each other. I found nothing romantic about their story or their obsessive, all-consuming emotions and am So Over It, clearly.

THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING AND THE PENDERWICKS AT LAST BY JEANNE BIRDSALL – I listened to the fourth and fifth books in this charming middle grade series and enjoyed the experience! It's bittersweet to watch these sisters grow up and to see their family change over time as the books shift to the younger characters' perspectives. I've mentioned before that this series reminds me of Little Women, and that holds true with these last two installments. Spring earned a So Enjoyed It from me, but At Last was simply So Okay With It. I missed hearing from the original Penderwicks and wanted more from the story. But the series is delightful overall!

PACHINKO BY MIN JIN LEE – I couldn't remember what prompted me to buy this book and figured I'd probably read a few pages before setting it aside. BUT THEN, I couldn't put it down! I devoured this generational saga set in Korea and Japan, marveling at all I learned and becoming so invested in the characters. It has a slow pace and occasionally feels choppy as it moves from one character to the next, often never to truly return to or resolve that storyline, but it worked for me. I was thinking of these characters long after I'd closed the last page. Two scenes/aspects really bothered me, but I still So Loved It overall and would highly recommend it. 

HOUSE OF DREAMS BY LIZ ROSENBERG – When this L.M. Montgomery biography crossed my radar, I had to pick it up! It's written with a young adult audience mind, and I did feel that was reflected in the writing. But Rosenberg is very forthcoming about the hardships  in Montgomery's life, including her mental health struggles and the possibility that her death was suicide. The writing style often felt at odds with the actual content, for me personally. I loved the added illustrations, but the book itself earned a So Okay With It. It was slow, and I just never felt motivated to pick it up. I loved Mary Henley Rubio's Montgomery biography, if you're looking for one.

SHADOW & BONE, SIEGE & STORM AND RUIN & RISING BY LEIGH BARDUGO – I chatted about these books before in my Series Speed Date feature, but my recent re-read called for an update. In 2014, these all merited a So Loved It rating from me. Sadly, my feelings aren't as strong now – I'm somewhere in the So Liked It and So Enjoyed It range. The world is definitely my favorite aspect of the series, and I think that's so creative and well done. But I found the story itself to be a little underwhelming on re-read, and I wasn't nearly as invested in the characters as I had been previously. I did listen to the audiobooks this time, and Lauren Fortgang was a lovely narrator.

To all the books I've been disappointed by...

Dear NECESSARY PEOPLE BY ANNA PITONIAK, you were... dare I say it... unnecessary for me to read. You're the friend that talks at you, telling you every little thing about themselves and just a little too in love with the sound of their own voice. And someone has tell you that you’re boring! You promised me a toxic friendship, but all I got was two women who barely interacted. You called yourself a thriller, but the only thrill I got was when I turned the last page. Your characters felt stereotypical, and I saw where this story was going from the very first page. Being set in the world of cable news was interesting, but I still wish I’d changed the channel. I'm So Over It.

Dear 99 PERCENT MINE BY SALLY THORNE, you were exhausting to read. Your plot may deal with a home renovation, but I think you needed some work, too. You’re just too aggressive for me! You lacked any sense of place or transitions between scenes, and your heroine was very... intense. It made me so uncomfortable to read! Also, I didn’t find your possessive relationship romantic — simply problematic. You had a lot of potential but just weren’t built to code. I wanted more cohesion, some sense that there'd been a plan behind your construction, but barely found any. I can’t give you even 1% of my heart. I hate to say it, but I'm So Over It.

Dear 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD BY HELENE HANFF, I’m very sorry that I didn’t find you charming at all. You just seemed rude and abrasive. Where was the long-distance friendship I was promised? This just sounded like business, was full of books I’d never heard of, and felt so disjointed. It's hard for me to believe how beloved you are in the bookish world. And your successor, THE DUCHESS OF BLOOMSBURY STREET, wasn’t any better. If Kelly acted like this when we traveled, I’d leave her behind. If these were my travel journals, I'd be too embarrassed to have my behavior in print forevermore. You have a pretty cover, but I wish I could return you to sender. I'm So Over 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.

What have you been reading lately?

July 2019: Recap + On My Shelves

Nov 4, 2019

The catch up continues with this recap of July. I felt like I slept through this month because apparently that's how my body reacts to the first trimester of pregnancy. But I did manage to make some sweet memories:

1. The Cast Comes Off – As I mentioned in my previous recap, my sweet boy broke his arm on the playground in June. Thankfully, it was a minor fracture and only required a cast for two weeks. On the first of July, he had it removed. He did so well, and we laughed as he pretended it was binoculars. 

2. Mountain Vacay – Later that same day, we headed up to the north Georgia mountains for vacation with my family. It was such a quiet, chill week! We ate good food, sat outside in the sun, and even attended a rodeo. That was interesting, to say the least. Nick and I also celebrated eight years of marriage. So thankful for him!

3. First Ultrasound + Solo Date – In mid-July, I had my very first ultrasound for the new baby. Nick was out of town, and my mom kept my big boy so that I could go alone. It was so special to see that little life on the screen and hear the heart beating strongly. And that night, I took myself out to dinner to celebrate and then FaceTimed my bestie.

4. My Boy's First Movie in Theaters – We waited until I was through the first trimester, at the end of July, to tell our big boy about the baby. We took him to see the new Lion King, his first movie in theaters, and loved his reaction. Later that day, we told him that he was going to be a big brother – and let him deliver the news to our families.

Read 16 Books | Favorites:
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
Hot Mess by Emily Belden
The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

“Life with a cheat code isn't life. Our existence isn't something to be engineered
 or optimized for the avoidance of pain. That's what it is to be human -
the beauty and the pain, each meaningless without the other.”
Recursion by Blake Crouch

“People say, I don’t know how she lives with herself,
but every single one of them was living with their own worst thing, just fine.
No one walks around holding their ugliest sin in the palm of their hand, staring at it.”
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

“Choosing to love — despite all the ways that people let you down, and disappear,
and break your heart. Knowing everything we know about how hard life is
and choosing to love, anyway. That’s not weakness, that’s courage.”
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

“We experience only what we pay attention to.
We remember only what we pay attention to.
When we decide what to pay attention to in the moment,
we are making a broader decision about how we want to spend our lives.”
How to Break Up with Your Phone by Catherine Price

“I believe contempt says more about the person giving it than the one receiving.
It demeans what ought to be righteous punishment.”
Someone to Honor by Mary Balogh

Favorite Album: No. 6 Collaborations Project by Ed Sheeran
This is one of those albums where I love a handful of songs and could do without the rest.
Definitely not Sheeran's best, but still fun to see him do something different.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 2, starring Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein – I loved the first season of this show and didn't mean to wait so long to watch the second. But y'all, I could have done without ever watching it. I was not a fan, at all, and don't plan to tune in to the third. I'm so sad that it has lost its charm!

Salt Fat Acid Heat (2018) starring Samin Nosrat – I don't watch much foodie TV, but I hope that changes. This was such a nice little mini-series documentary! Nosrat was an enjoyable host, and I loved her culinary adventures around the globe. I learned so much about the titular four elements and how they affect cooking.

Queer Eye, Season 4, starring Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, & Jonathan Van Ness – I binged this season as soon as it hit Netflix, and I have no regrets about that fact! I preferred this season over the third, though I think the first is my favorite. I love that they "fix" the external but still focus so much on the internal.

Lion King (2019) starring Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé and more – As I mentioned in What I Loved, we took our boy to see this movie for his first theater experience. My son absolutely loved it, but my husband and I were in agreement that the animated movie was much better. It felt long and so slow!

Review: Conversations with a Fat Girl by Liza Palmer

Audible: Lovely War by Julie Berry

June 2019: Recap + On My Shelves

Oct 28, 2019

Hi friends! I recently shared where I've been the past four months, and I know that I could just skip ahead to an October recap. But I love these monthly updates, so forgive me as I do a little catching up for the next few days.

1. A Bookish Adventure – Early in the month, we were itching for a little shopping trip. We decided to visit our favorite children's bookstore, The Story Shop, and spent quite a while exploring all of its nooks and crannies. I bought two picture books for my boy and one middle grade for myself. Such a fun morning!

2. Broken Arm for My Boy – Is a broken arm a rite of passage? My sweet boy fell off the playground one Saturday and broke his wrist. Thankfully, it was a common break that heals quickly, so he only had his cast for two weeks. And he's such a great patient! It didn't slow him down one bit, and he was so brave about it all.

3. Reason #789 Why We Love Nick – Nick was traveling a lot in June, and oh how we missed him! My son says Nick is his "best player," and he's right. Whether it's running around outside or building towers or playing farm, Nick is all in. And only Nick takes our son into the dollar store, leaves with foam swords, and immediately battles outside.  

4. Pool Days – We love the pool in our new neighborhood, and we visited it a few times in June.  Thank goodness for a waterproof cast! But the best is when I'm able to go solo. When Nick is working from home, sometimes I'll sneak away to the pool during my son's nap. It's heavenly to be able to read my book and soak up the sun!

Read 20 Books | Favorites:
The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

“I begged time to slow so I could live in this moment a little longer.
Gather all of this up and press these moments between pages like flowers.”
Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

“Most of us can hide our greatest hurts and longings. It’s how we survive each day.
We pretend the pain isn’t there, that we are made of scars instead of wounds.”
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

“It was good, and nothing good is truly lost. It stays part of a person, becomes part of their character.
So part of you goes everywhere with me. And part of me is yours, forever.”
The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

“You can’t change one thing without changing everything. We all exist on this planet, each of us, because of an extraordinary, improbable, random series of coincidences that can’t be repeated.
And everything you do affects everything that happens after.”
The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White

“When terrible things have happened to you,
sometimes the promise of something good can be just as frightening.”
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

“If I am fully known and not rejected by God, how much more
ought I to extend grace to my neighbor, whom I know only in part?”
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

As always, I started off with the May 2019 recap. Then, I loved The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez so much that I decided to write a full-length review for it. My favorite – and most overdue! – blog posts were the recaps of my trip to England with Kelly. I chatted about the books I read abroad, what I did with my bestie on our trip, and what I've been up to back at home. I'm so glad I was finally motivated to get them done! And my last post of the month is one of my personal favorites every year: pairing vacation destinations with books on my summer TBR.

In addition to a long blogging break, I also took one from bookstagram. And while I've missed my little corner of the Internet, I haven't felt the same about Instagram. I don't think I'll be quitting it completely, but I certainly think my priorities have changed. Now, that being said, here's one of the last "What I Bookstagrammed" updates you'll see for the next few monthly recaps. I shared this post in relation to my UK 2019 Recap! • @soobsessedblog

  Favorite Album: Happiness Begins by The Jonas Brothers
I didn't really listen to much in June, but I did turn this on a few times.
I didn't care about them at the height of their popularity, but I'm a fan now.

Sex and the City, Season 6, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, and Kim Cattrall –  I was so excited to finally finish watching this series! I started it because Kelly basically forced me, and she basically quotes it all the time. And now I'm done! While it's not something I'd watch again, it was a fun experience overall. 

Younger, Season 5, starring Sutton Foster, Hilary Duff, and Miriam Shor – As I've probably said before, you have to suspend a lot of disbelief regarding the premise and the depiction of the publishing industry. But it's still really fun! Except I might be rooting for the wrong guy? We'll see how it plays out. Time to watch season 6...

Poldark, Season 4, starring Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson – I weirdly hate this show if I try to watch it week-to-week but somehow can't get enough if I wait to binge all the episodes once they're done. Who knows! This was a good season, though I'm more invested in Caroline and Dwight than Demelza and Ross at this point.

Little Women (2018) starring Emily Watson, Maya Hawke, Kathryn Newton, Willa Fitzgerald, and Annes Elwy – Nick got me this mini-series for Christmas, and I'd been meaning to watch it ever since. While it doesn't hold a candle to the 1994 movie, I did like it. But I'm way more excited for this upcoming version!

Outlander, Season One / Part One, starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan – This was a re-watch because I was intending to finally get caught up on the show... and that still hasn't happened. In fact, I still haven't watched any more Outlander since June. Oops! While it's a little slow, I do love seeing this story come to life on screen.

Late Night (2019) starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson – I was determined to see this in theaters because I love Mindy Kaling, so I took myself on a solo movie date. I ended up thinking it was just okay and just didn't find myself laughing nearly as much as I'd expected. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. What a bummer!

Bought: Mythology by Edith Hamilton, The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey and The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall (not pictured)

Book of the Month: Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand

Gifted: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (thank Mom!) and Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (thanks Kristen!)

Kindle: Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh, The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty, Descendant of the Crane by Joan He, Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas, and Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

NetGalley: Someone to Honor by Mary Balogh and Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

'For this child I prayed...'

Oct 25, 2019

Where have I been the last four months? Growing a baby! My second boy will be making his arrival in February. We’re all so excited for this sweet answer to prayer! I can’t believe I’m already more than halfway through this pregnancy and know the next few months will fly by. I've been savoring these days with a little boy who can’t wait to become a big brother, cherishing the memories we're making and praying over what's to come.

Back in June, I felt like I needed a break from Instagram. I figured that after a week or two, I’d be back to posting regularly. But then… I didn’t miss it like I thought I would. Since the timing happened to coincide with some major first trimester exhaustion, my short break away turned into one month, then two, and now here we are! I decided to take a step back from blogging, too, as evidenced by silence on here lately. I’ve still been reading, but it’s been so nice to stop thinking about writing reviews, posting photos, or accidentally obsessing over likes, comments, and followers. It’s just been all about the books... and getting ready for this baby!

My future on Instagram is looking a little different than I’d once imagined. I’m planning on posting there again, just more sporadically. But I've missed this little corner of the Internet so much more – maybe because I still personally prefer reading blog posts over social media? I know creating and consuming this content can take more time, but it brings me more satisfaction. So, I'm hoping to post more regularly on here for the next few months (until I likely take another break in those early newborn days). But we shall see what happens!

Regardless, I've been itching to open up a draft and write. I rarely get super personal on here, but I want to for a moment – even if only to look back on for myself. When I was growing up, I thought I wanted to have four kids. I'm the oldest of four and always loved having a big family, so I figured I'd have the same one day. Nick wasn't convinced we needed four kids (ha!), but we both couldn't wait to become parents. When it took me longer than I'd expected to get pregnant that first time, I realized that my dreams might have to change. 

My sweet boy was the answer to our prayers, and he was born during a year that was really hard for my family. We'd call him our "bright spot," and he truly brought us so much joy in a season we needed it most. In all the time I spent waiting for him, I never imagined that I'd look back one day and know that he wasn't born one minute too soon or too late. God's timing was perfect, even when I couldn't see it in the years I spent praying to get pregnant. I now read Hannah's statement in 1 Samuel 1:27 and feel it in my soul, "For this child I prayed..."  (emphasis mine). 

With my firstborn, God was teaching me to have a heart of gratitude. I've blogged a little before about how I try to parent from a place of thankfulness. I don't always get it right, but I look back at these past three and a half years with such overwhelming joy. I've certainly seen my own selfishness and sin – have lost my temper, been impatient, lamented how I didn't have time to do what I wanted to do – but I've also felt a deep sense of peace about being right where God wants me. I'm thankful for this parenting journey, in all of its highs and lows.

When my sweet boy turned one in 2017, my husband and I started talking about having a second. Once again, a year passed... then two... and I still wasn't pregnant. And I kept asking God to give me contentment, to let me celebrate the gift I'd already been given, and to mean it when I said, "If one is all we have, it's enough." I didn't want all my energy and emotions to be wrapped up in whether we could have another child. As I now rejoice over another boy joining our family, I'm also grateful for the peace I've had the past few years. It might seem like that's easy for me to say now that I'm five months pregnant, but I think the people in my life would vouch for it, too. This time hasn't been defined by trying, waiting, disappointment – the things I remember about the years before my first. We have been trying, and we did wait, but I've felt content and know that came from God.

I don't know if we'll one day have those four kids that I thought I wanted. I can't see that far down the path in front of me. But I do know who walks beside me, and I am learning to trust Him – even when I'm "prone to wander," as my favorite hymn says. And here's one more thing I love about Hannah in the Bible – she knew that the son she prayed for, Samuel, didn't really belong to her. He was God's first. As much as I love my sons, the one I know and the one I have yet to meet, God loves them more. Parenting calls me to both sacrifice and surrender, two things that don't come easily. But God is faithful, even when I'm not, and I'm thankful that He has entrusted these two boys to our care. It is a privilege that Nick and I don't take lightly. 

Pack Your Bags

Jun 25, 2019

I'm heading to the mountains soon for a family vacation, which has me thinking about what books I'll bring with me. Every year on the blog, I've paired vacation destinations with the books I'd want to read at each. My full list that I've been making my way through is 36 books long, and it contains a mix of backlist books and new releases. But for today's post, it's all about the 2019 releases! Some I've already read and loved so much they had to be included, some are on my "official" 36-book list, and some were added to my summer TBR while preparing this post. No matter where I'm headed this summer, I know exactly what I plan on reading! Here's the list:

I say it every year, but the beach always has me reaching for contemporary and/or romance. I need something that's fun to read and easy to start and stop as needed (because my three-year-old wants me to "watch this!" this whole time). I can already vouch for the fact that The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren made me long for the beach. It was the perfect companion on the train to Paris! As for the other three, they all seem like perfect picks for sand and sun: The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory (a hate-to-love romance), The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem (a three-month deadline to find "The One"), and The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali (young love story thwarted by fate that's revisited 60 years later). What more do I need to say?! 

Honestly, I can read pretty much anything in the mountains – though I often feel most drawn to historical fiction and fantasy. There's something about being surrounded by nature that makes me want to slow down, take a deep breath, and get lost in another world. Beatriz Williams is a favorite for me, so The Golden Hour was one of the first books I added to my Summer TBR. I didn't love her previous release but am hoping this one will be a win. I'm dying to read Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker, especially after loving The Simple Wild last year. It's a contemporary romance, but that cover is just begging to be read in the mountains! And finally, I just finished Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson a few days ago and loved it! It's a fantasy that's just perfect for book lovers. 

the extras: towel | hat | swimsuit | shoes | travel mug | lip balm

At the lake I prefer a hint of mystery, even if it's in a historical form. Maybe because a lake always feels faintly dangerous to me? There just seems to be something lurking there under the water... which also probably explains why I don't spend a lot of time at the lake. But, if I did, these three books would be perfect picks! Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson is a new direction for this established Southern author, and I can't wait to see what dark twists she has in store. The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis will be my first read from this author. It's a dual timeline historical fiction with a Cold War focus, which sounds ominous. And finally, Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a recent favorite – unraveling the mystery of why a famous (fictional) band broke up.

Summer doesn't always mean jetting off to exciting locations. Most of my days are spent in our backyard, watching my son run through the sprinkler and trying to survive Georgia's heat. I'm open to a little bit of anything at home, especially since my bookshelves are only steps away. Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center is about a female firefighter who uproots her life for her family, and I'm here for a new book from Center! I've never read anything by Lisa See but The Island of Sea Women, which focuses on best friends in Korea over decades, sounds excellent. I cannot wait for The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee! An advice columnist in 1890s Atlanta + a favorite author = GIMME. And I can't stop raving about Lovely War by Julie Berry this year, so of course it made the list!

 the extras: sea spray | tote | hair tie | lip balm | swim suit | sunglasses

The pool is a lot like the beach for me when it comes to reading, except worse because I don't have the ocean to drown out the sounds of the annoying people next to me. If I'm at the pool during peak hours, I know to expect lots of kids playing and at least one person playing their music too loud. So, I'm reaching for something that's fun and will have me hooked. The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez  is a favorite of the year and definitely fits the bill. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes involves a romance in Maine, a setting I need more of in my life. That's What Frenemies Are For by Sophie Littlefield & Lauren Gershell is the Fifth Avenue drama that sounds just like what I want in the summer. And Recursion by Blake Crouch is a sci-fi thriller about memory that I'm itching to pick up!

This destination is a new addition to my list this year. I usually stick to the other five categories, but I had so many books that I needed a sixth. This seemed like the obvious choice since plenty of people plan vacations to big cities or far-away locales in the summer! When I'm flying, I love tuning out all distractions and losing myself in a good way. Elin Hilderbrand has a reputation for writing addicting books, so I think Summer of '69 would fit the bill. Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim looks and sounds adorable. Romance and food and San Francisco? Yes, please! And I can vouch for The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary as the perfect plane pick since I read it on my flight to England. The premise was intriguing, and the characters made it impossible to put down.

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

This post was inspired by a past Top Ten Tuesday topic, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl
Here's a look back at my "summer bags" through the years: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2017 | 2018
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