January 2019: Recap + On My Shelves

Feb 4, 2019

Hi 2019! January felt like it lasted forever, and I think I accomplished more in the month than I have in a while. I attribute some of that to finally feeling settled in at home, and I can't wait to see what the rest of the year holds!

1. My Best of 2018 – I'll talk about this more in the blogging section, but I loved looking back at 2018 in January. It's always one of my favorite things about the end of the year and the start of a new one! It was fun to relive my reading memories when choosing my favorite books of the year, which I shared in a post.

2. Aquarium Adventure – One Friday, I woke up in the mood for an adventure. My son and I decided on the aquarium and were so happy when Nick was able to take the day off of work to join us. It was technically our son's third visit, but I think he enjoyed it more at this age and hasn't stopped talking about it since!

3. Book-Inspired Craft – We love the book Lola Dutch in our house. In one scene, she's painting with watercolors. Every time we read it, my son tells me, "I want to do that!" So, he got watercolors in his Christmas stocking, and we finally used. It was so fun, and I loved that the activity was inspired by a book we read together.

4. Cozy at Home – I had a cold that last like two weeks, so we spent a lot more time at home this past month. But it was just what we needed after the busyness of the holiday season! We played, watched movies, and just enjoyed the coziness. And one last bit of happy? I got good news at a doctor's appointment for my thyroid!

Read 20 Books | Favorites:
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“We're all blessed and we're all blighted, Chief Inspector,” said Finney.
“Everyday each of us does our sums. The question is, what do we count?”
A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

 “Be careful. You're making hurting a habit.
Spreading it around won't lessen your pain, you know. Just the opposite.”
A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

 “Food was the people you cooked with, the people you cooked for, the people you ate with,
and the people you thought of as you ate. The people who made the meal what it was.”
 Love á la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

“The only thing scarier than feeling so alone is fearing you’ll always feel that way,
that no one will ever see you for all the things you are, and the things you’re afraid to be,
and the person you want so desperately to become.”
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

 “There are hundreds of thoughts per every word spoken, and that's if they're spoken at all.”
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

 “In those days, too, I remind myself, our parents were something else.
Sure, they fought sometimes, they argued. There was the odd suburban thunderbolt,
but they were mostly those people who’d found each other; they were golden and bright-lit
and funny. Often they seemed in cahoots somehow, like jailbirds who wouldn’t leave;
they loved us, they liked us, and that was a pretty good trick. After all, take five boys,
put them in one small house, and see what it looks and sounds like: it’s a porridge of mess and fighting.”
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

“Men often think they deserve a sticker for treating women like people.”
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 “I used to think soul mates were two of the same. I used to think I was supposed to look
 for somebody that was like me. I don't believe in soul mates anymore and I'm not looking for anything.
But if I did believe in them, I'd believe your soul mate was somebody who had all the things you didn't,
that needed all the things you had. Not somebody who's suffering from the same stuff you are.”
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“But it doesn’t seem right to me that you can feel so horrible and the other person doesn’t feel — anything.
I hate that you can think that everything’s good, you can think they mean what they’re saying —
even they can think they mean what they’re saying — but they don’t. And you give them whatever part of yourself
and it doesn’t even mean anything to them in the end. And you can’t get it back.”
Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

I think this is the first time in months that I have something to share beyond "here's my monthly recap" in this section. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I felt like I accomplished so much in January! I blogged regularly, finished a lot of books, and binged some great TV shows. But I was probably lazier about doing chores around the house, so don't give me too much credit. You win some, you lose some.

Although it wasn't my first post of the month, I feel like I should start with my December 2018 recap. Even when it's late, I never want to skip it. I recapped the year, too, with my My Year In series. I talked about my favorites from 2018: Music, Movies & TV, Beauty, Books, Obsessions, and Adventures.

Alexa and I kicked off another year of The Picky Pledge, which I always enjoy. I'm excited to complete our TBR challenge again this year! I shared my ten favorite new-to-me authors, and it was actually hard to narrow down my list this time. And, in the most embarrassing admission, I finally started to get caught up on FIVE MONTHS worth of reviews. Whoops! If you're curious, here's my August 2018 and September 2018 Quick Lit posts.

I posted more regularly on Instagram in January, which was a goal of mine. Now, if only I could be more consistent about interacting with all content in my feed... I'm working on it! Anyway, this was my favorite photo from the month. Kelly and I are going to spend the entire month of February re-reading, and we're calling it #FebruaREREAD. I'm so excited to focus on revisiting some of my old favorites this month! • @soobsessedblog

Favorite Album #1: Heard It in a Past Life by Maggie Rogers
I saw someone mention this in their Instagram story and had to check it out.
It's so good! This was the main album I had on repeat in January.

Favorite Album #2: Beulah by John Paul White
This isn't a new album, but I'm just now finally listening to it. Where have I been?!
I'll always miss The Civil Wars, but I've been sleeping on John Paul White's solo stuff.

Ordeal by Innocence (2018) starring Bill Nighy, Anna Chancellor, Matthew Goode, Eleanor Tomlinson & more – I rang in the New Year in the mountains with my family, and this is the show we binged the next day. I thought it was kind of odd and overly dramatic, and the plot didn't make a lot of sense. But I enjoyed the casting at least.

Mary Queen of Scots (2018) starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie – Nick works from home, and he had a slow day in January where I was able to go see a movie by myself during my son's nap. Heavenly! I enjoyed a lot of things about this movie, though I didn't love as much as I expected. But I did have much to discuss with Kelly after.

Killing Eve, Season 1, starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer – I kept hearing people talk about this show on social media, so I had to check it out for myself. Nick and I were addicted! Having an eight-episode season made it so easy to binge, plus the story made it impossible to turn off. The cast's performances were basically perfection.

Peaky Blinders, Season 1-4, starring Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, Joe Cole, Sophie Rundle and more – This show has been in my queue for ages, and I don't know what made us finally give it a try. WHERE HAVE I BEEN? This show was amazing, and now I'm dying for the next season. Definitely another new favorite!

The Good Place, Season 1-2, starring Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, and William Jackson Harper –  After the darkness of Peaky Blinders, we needed something more humorous. We decided to give The Good Place a try (for the second time) and had fun watching it! It was enjoyable, but I sometimes find it too silly for my taste.

Book Outlet: Jane Austen by Zena Alkayat, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Keep Her Safe by K.A. Tucker, The Memory Book by Lara Avery, I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos, Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn, Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon, and A Perfect Heritage by Penny Vicenzi

Used Bookstores: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand, Ghosted by Rosie Walsh, and A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn 

Gifted: Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

NetGalley for Review: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermister, The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary, and A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

Audible (Some Credits, Some Whispersync Pricing): Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Son of Shadows by Juliet Marillier, Finnikin of the RockFroi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, The Winner's CurseThe Winner's Crime and The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

30 by 30

Feb 1, 2019

As you've probably guessed from the title of this post, I turned 30 today. Thirty, flirty, and thriving. I've only been waiting 15 years to finally say those words! I'm celebrating with my family tomorrow: pizza + 13 Going on 30 movie night, naturally. But I wanted to make the occasion today with a blog post that's been on my radar ever since Kelly did it first. I loved hers so much that I told asked her if I could do it, too. It was so fun to think about the past 30 years – the most memorable moments and the small ones that still feel so significant. As I was making my list, I noticed there were a few themes/categories emerging. So, I've grouped all 30 lessons into six general topics. Enjoy!

I could fill a whole book with all the things my mama has taught me, but here are six of my favorites:

1. If you want to do something, you'll find time for it.
This is one of the most important things I've learned, and I repeat it often. You do what you want to do. If you love something or someone, you'll make the time for it. How you spend your time shows what matters most to you. It's one of the reasons I still read so much – I'll sacrifice other stuff I enjoy to make time for the activity I love most.

2. We all have to do things that we don't want to do.
This sounds like an obvious one, but sometimes I need the reminder. We all do things that we don't really like –  annoying tasks at work, taking the dog out when it's raining, attending a million family events during the holidays, etc. I love a good vent session about these frustrations, but I try to remember they're a fact of life.

3. A real apology acknowledges you were wrong, tries to fix the problem, and asks for forgiveness. 
I can't tell you how much we heard this growing up! As the oldest of four siblings, I can attest to the fact that there were a lot of apologies exchanged in our house. My mom always told us that a real apology isn't, "I'm sorry, but..." or "I'm sorry if you felt that I..." If you're truly sorry, you take responsibility for what you did and try to repair things.

4. If you spot it, you've probably got it.
My mom once pointed out that often (not always) the character traits that bother you the most in other people are ones that you have yourself. It's been pretty true in my life! I'm usually the most frustrated by people doing things that I'm totally guilty of doing too. It's like I can see clearly in others what I'm sometimes blind to in myself.

5. Not every friendship is meant to last forever.
Some friendships are just for a season. I've had friendships end in flames and others fade away, and both are hard in different ways because it's sad to let go of someone when you've opened yourself up to them. But there's also beauty in realizing that people can come into your life when you need them most, even if they don't stay forever.

6. It's okay to not be okay.
I had a pretty wonderful childhood and adulthood, but there have been things that have happened the past few years that helped me realize that you can love and trust God but still grieve, be angry, and doubt. I've begun to see that my faith can grow in the questions and the searching, and there's no shame in needing help.

From friendships to family, I've learned a lot about relationships. Here are six things that stand out:

7. Unforgiveness hurts you more than the other person.
Holding on to bitterness towards someone feels like you're punishing them, but the only person you're hurting is yourself. That resentment takes root and can poison so many other relationships. You don't ever have to let someone back into your life, but don't let them take up room in your heart by holding on to unforgiveness.

8. It's the quality of your friends, not the quantity, that means the most.
I used to be sad that I didn't have a big group of girlfriends, but I've realized that the quality of my friendships matters more than the quantity. I'd rather have a few friends that I'm able to truly invest in and who know me well. I'd rather have one friend that I can talk about anything with than 10 where we only ever talk about one thing.

9. Have grace for other people – and for yourself. 
This is so much easier said than done, but I think this is one of my most-used phrases. I want to be someone who gives people the benefit of the doubt, who believes the best, who is quick to forgive, and who remembers that every person has their own story. And I want to extend that same grace to myself.

10. Relationships take work.
I have always been a little annoyed by the phrase "fell in/out of love" because it sounds so passive. Love is an action verb – there are feelings associated, yes, but it's a choice you make, every single day. Loving someone takes effort and requires unselfishness. You have to show up, invest, and give of yourself. You choose someone, over and over.

11. When people show you who they are, believe them. 
This Maya Angelou quote has stuck with me. It's a reminder to steer clear of people who show themselves to be untrustworthy. And it helps me remember that if I'm setting myself up for disappointment if I hope someone will act out of character. For example, I can't expect someone who is always blunt to provide gentle, soothing advice.

12. God is faithful, even when I'm not.
My favorite hymn is "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," and I've always been drawn to one verse in particular: "Oh, to Grace how great a debtor / Daily I'm constrained to be / Let Thy goodness like a fetter / Bind my wandering heart to Thee." I have seen over the years how God is faithful, even when I have a wandering heart.

Can we talk about all the feels now? Here are six of the more emotional things I've learned:

13. Don't offer something if you'll resent someone for accepting.
I won't offer to do something – share something with someone, do someone a favor, treat someone to something, etc. – if I will secretly resent someone for accepting. If I offer something, I'm happy to do it and genuinely hope they will let me. It think it's unfair to the other person and to our relationship if I offer something insincerely. 

14. You are not defined by your failures.
I was a straight-A student and successful at pretty much anything I tried. And if I didn't think I'd be successful, I didn't try it. I defined myself by my accomplishments, and the risk with that is failure threatens your identity. When I failed my driver's test, it felt like a way bigger deal than it actually was... but I needed it to happen.

15. Find something that challenges and fulfills you creatively.
Whether it's your full-time job or a hobby on the side, embrace your creativity. One of the best things I've ever done was create this blog. I love what I've learned, the people I've met, the memories I've made, and the things I've brought into the world. Everyone's creativity looks a little different, so find your thing. 

16. Don't assume you don't like something if you haven't even tried it.
Whether it's food or an activity, I'm guilty of assuming that I know how I feel about something without even trying it. My brother and I still laugh about the time I told him I didn't like a certain dipping sauce only to have eat my words a  few minutes later when I actually tried it. I constantly reminding myself to be open to new things! 

17. Feelings aren't facts.
I think I've written this in a post before, but it's worth repeating: your feelings are real, but that doesn't mean they're reality. I love knowing that my emotion shouldn't completely define a situation or my reaction. Feelings are important and valid, but I need to be cautious of declaring them Truth and giving them too much power.

18. Say yes to adventure, even if it scares you.
Some of the very best things I've done in my life were because I decided to do something bold. I went on a trip to South Africa and ended up meeting the man I married. I studied abroad in Oxford and made new friends there when someone I trusted ditched me. I created this blog and started putting my words out there for all to read.

Okay, let's break up the deep thoughts with some light-hearted things that I know to be true:

19. Start each day with... a Diet Coke.
You thought I was going to say a grateful heart, right? Well, I hate to break it to you, but this is my truth. Haha! The lesson should probably be that Diet Coke isn't good for me, but we all have our vices. Chemicals over calories for me, thanks. If loving Diet Coke is wrong, I don't want to be right and you won't convince me otherwise. 

20. The cure for almost any sickness or bad mood is Pride and Prejudice – the book, the movie, or the soundtrack.
This is just Facts, y'all. Got the flu? Turn on the movie. Feeling uninspired creatively? Listen to the soundtrack. In a reading slump? Grab the book. If I'm feeling down, this story never fails to lift my spirits. I love anything and everything Austen, but Elizabeth and Darcy will always have a special place in my heart. It's my cure all for anything.

21. Don't say, "I'd never date someone shorter than me."
At almost six feet tall, I always swore up and down that I'd never date anyone shorter than me. Before a six-week trip to South Africa, all of the local people going met up for lunch. I called my mom afterward and told her, "There's the cutest guy going on this trip, but he's shorter than me so... nope." Reader, I married him.

22. Always bring a book. When in doubt, bring a backup.
You never know when you'll have time to read, and you don't want to be sitting somewhere wishing that you'd brought a book. With technology now, you can technically always have lots of books in your small device. But since you won't always have a signal, I think it's better to be prepared. And if you're bringing one book, what's one more?

23. If you can't fall asleep, tell yourself a story.
I can't remember how or why it started, but I've been doing this since high school. At night, I have a hard time quieting my mind. I think of what I didn't get done that day, projects I need to start, stuff I wish I hadn't said five years ago... You get the idea. Instead of counting sheep, I tell myself a story. It helps me focus and fall asleep.

24. I don't believe in exercise now, but I'll probably regret that later.
Here's how I want to spend NONE of my time: working out, walking, or being physical in basically any capacity. It was only my love for Kelly that convinced me to climb Arthur's Seat with her in Edinburgh. But here's something that I already know: there will come a day where I regret my lifetime of laziness. For now, I'll keep living in denial.

As a lifelong reader, you know I had to end with some of the best things books have taught me:

25. We must see all scars as beauty... A scar means, I survived.
Little Bee • In middle school, I had half of my thyroid removed and was left with a thick, red, raised scar. Years later, it had finally faded away and smoothed out... and then I had to have the other half of my thyroid removed. The scar on my neck is noticeable again, but I think of this quote when I feel insecure about it.

26. “Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
Anne of Green Gables • From losing her temper to accidentally serving alcohol to her best friend, a little bit of trouble is always trailing Anne. But this question (and another Anne quote about regretting our mistakes but not carrying them into the future with us) remind me that each new day is a chance for fresh start.

27. “Every night, you write down three good things that happened to you...”
Happiness for Beginners • I've written about this before, but I started keeping a "Three Good Things" journal after reading this book. It's helped change my perspective by making me focus on and find the good. And that becomes what I remember about each day. It doesn't negate the hard moments, but it gives the good ones more power.

28. “Till this moment I never knew myself.”
Pride and Prejudice • Elizabeth says this after she realizes that she's been wrong about Darcy, Wickham, and herself. I love her sudden self awareness, especially because she's seeing her flaws. We all have moments where we're confronted by our failings, and we can ignore them or admit we need to do better moving forward.

29. “Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.”
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn I love the full quote, which ends: “And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” We only get one life, and it passes by so quickly. I second Francie's prayer that she fully experience every moment of life, even the painful ones. I don't want to waste what I've been given.

And finally:

30. My interests may change, but I'll always be so obsessed with books.
I named by blog "So Obsessed With" because of my ever-changing obsessions. From researching a period of history to learning hand lettering, my interests can change frequently. But the one that's never changed? My love of books. They've been a constant in my life and have brought me comfort, celebration, and community. I'm so thankful!

Quick Lit: September 2018

Jan 24, 2019

The quest to catch up on reviews continues! I read 14 books in September, and I'm talking about 10 of them today. Two books in today's post were ones I read in August but included in this post so I could do a series review (hi, Lara Jean!). The other four books I read in September will show up in October's Quick Lit for similar reasons. As always, check out the Quick Lit linkup that's hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for more reviews and recommendations.

TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE, P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU AND ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN BY JENNY HAN – I re-read the first two books in this series before reading the third in November 2017, so it was a little soon for a complete series re-read. But I can't overstate the power of the Netflix movie to induce an immediate need for more Lara Jean. Since I've already written individual reviews these books, I don't really have anything new to add. But let me remind you that this series is a delight and I'm So Obsessed With It. (It's great on audiobook, too.)

GIRL, WASH YOUR FACE BY RACHEL HOLLIS – I heard so many rave reviews for this book that I decided to check it out for myself. A few chapters did stand out to me, and I liked the overall idea that you need to take responsibility for making changes if you aren't satisfied with your life. But I struggled with how self-centered and materialistic Hollis came across. So much bragging! I didn't click with her, so her story just didn't resonate with me. I gave it an Okay when I finished it, but I think it's crossed over into a So Over It the more I've thought about it. 

ALL THE LITTLE BONES BY ELLIE MARNEY – I loved Marney's Every series and No Limits, so I was so excited that she published a new contemporary series. And the best part: it's set in a circus! Who can resist a teenage trapeze artist and strongman in training? I loved the romance because Marney totally delivered on the feelings, which is one of things she does best. The plot was probably the weakest element for me, and the ending definitely felt rushed. It wasn't my favorite from Marney, but I So Liked It enough to continue the series.

I'D RATHER BE READING BY ANNE BOGEL – From the moment I saw the cover, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. I love Bogel's blog and knew this book was right up my alley. Bogel is at her best when she's writing about all things bookish! This collection of essays celebrating the "delights and dilemmas of reading life" was such a charming read. I think most book lovers will be able to find something to relate to in these pages, and it would make a great gift. I So Loved It, though I do wish there'd been more depth to it. 

JOSH AND HAZEL'S GUIDE TO NOT DATING BY CHRISTINA LAUREN | Here’s what I liked: some of the humor (though a lot was too crude for me), the two POVs, and the way it explored how men often love a manic pixie dream girl in theory but expect those women to change in reality. Here’s what I didn’t like: Hazel was just Too Much (but I know it’s part of her charm for others), a repetitive storyline that lasted too long, Josh & Hazel’s inability to be honest as things in their friendship changed, and a big development near the end. All in all, I was So Okay With It.

THE IDENTICALS BY ELIN HILDERBRAND | This has one of my book hooks (sisters!) and book blahs (women around 40ish having a crisis), but I flew through it. The setting felt like a character, which I loved, and Hilderbrand deftly navigated the whole “difficult people that you’re somehow still rooting for” thing. The writing was engaging, though the book felt long. I was LOVING it until about 80% in and then the reveal felt anticlimactic, things were resolved so quickly, and the Epilogue was from the POV of the dog (?!?). I So Enjoyed It but was sad to end on a low note.

THE SUMMER WIVES BY BEATRIZ WILLIAMS | This was one of my most-anticipated releases... and I slogged my way through it. I loved how Beatriz brought the setting and time periods to life, but that’s the only nice thing I can say. I found the romance so instant that the ending lacked emotional payoff, the characters had no depth, and the plot made me cringe. I’m not a fan of dual timelines, though Beatriz has been an exception, and this one reminded me why they don’t typically work for me. I wasn’t invested in anything and expected more. Sadly, I'm So Over It.

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING BY DELIA OWENS | The summary didn't appeal to me, but numerous rave reviews made me take a chance on it. I'm so glad I did! It was a blend of so many amazing things: a love letter to the natural world, the coming of age story of complex girl, a murder mystery with a dash of courtroom drama, and a moving exploration of loneliness and longing. It's the type of historical fiction where the setting feels like a character, which is my favorite. I laughed, cried, and wanted to soak up all of Owens’ prose. I'm So Obsessed With It

THE AIR YOU BREATHE BY FRANCES DE PONTES PEEBLES | It could have been 100 pages shorter, but I still liked the writing, structure, and what I learned about Brazilian music. However, the summary says there's an “intense female friendship,” and I struggled because they were so cruel to one another. It’s hard for me to invest myself in a friendship when two people seem bound to one another over a love of some thing — music, in this case — rather than love for each other. If what they had was friendship, I want no part of it. I think it's a tepid So Okay With It.

STILL LIFE BY LOUISE PENNY | The Inspector Gamache series had been on my mental “I’ll get to it someday” list, but seeing people rave about them on bookstagram convinced me that I needed to read them sooner rather than later. And I’m so glad I did! The book was well written and character driven, which immediately drew me in. I loved the detailed observations because I could imagine this village and the people inhabiting it. While my early suspicions were confirmed, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment. This quiet Canadian mystery was a So Enjoyed It.

What have you been reading lately?

Quick Lit: August 2018

Jan 18, 2019

Yes, you read that post title correctly. This is a collection of thoughts on books that I read last August. Y'all, I can't believe that I'm FIVE MONTHS BEHIND on book reviews. I have a reading journal where I jot down thoughts on what I've read and post reviews for some books on Instagram, which is the only reason I'm able to even attempt to review what I've read the past few months. I almost just called it a day and started fresh in January, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I've read too many great books and love that this blog documents my reading life. 

And so, this begins my attempt to get all caught up! I read 24 book in August, and I'm talking about 22 of them in today's post. The other two will appear in my September Quick Lit. As always, check out the Quick Lit linkup  that's hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for more reviews and recommendations.

FORCE OF NATURE BY JANE HARPER | I started the month with this mystery and So Enjoyed It! The rising tension, remote setting, and unreliable characters created the perfect sense of mystery. I had to know what happened on that fateful hike when one person didn't return, and the reveal didn’t disappoint. I hadn't read the first book, The Dry, at the time but did so a few days later. I’m hoping for more books with Federal Agent Aaron Falk in the future! 

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS BY LAUREN WEISBERGER | Did I buy this book because of the cover? Maybe a little bit. I didn't read the first two Devil Wears Prada books before diving in, but I never felt like I was missing out because of it. I enjoyed all three main characters, loved how the book poked fun at the super rich, and was rooting for the female friendships that developed as the story progressed. I So Enjoyed It.

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: GRAPHIC NOVEL BY MARIAH MARSDEN | This was such a great adaptation of one of my favorite books ever! The artwork by Brenna Thummler was so lovely – and detailed, which I really appreciated. I haven't read many graphic novels, but I was pleased with how this one conveyed the heart and main themes of Anne Shirley's story. The full-length book is obviously better, but I still So Loved It.

TELL ME MORE BY KELLY CORRIGAN | I binged Corrigan's backlist in 2017, so I knew I had to check out her 2018 release. These essays are organized by phrases – the 12 hardest things Corrigan is learning to say. They range from "No" to "I Was Wrong," and a few favorites made it worth the read for me. I don't always like Corrigan herself (and some essays fell flat for me), but I always seem to find something to connect to in her writing. I So Liked It.

THE HELP BY KATHYRN STOCKETT | I re-read this one via audiobook, which was a wonderful listening experience. I adored all the narrators for this book, and they made this re-read something to remember. Even though I knew the story and where it was headed, I found myself so invested and emotional while revisiting it. I'm So Obsessed With It, though I've read other perspectives on it that have helped me be more conscious of its flaws. 

THE DRY BY JANE HARPER | I was immediately hooked by this story, which introduces Detective Aaron Falk who I met in Force of Nature. I didn't think the writing or characterization were particularly noteworthy, but I did find the Australian outback setting added a lot to the story and the mystery kept me guessing until the end. I So Enjoyed It and would definitely suggest reading the books in order since it helps you understand the detective better.

LOVE AND RUIN BY PAULA MCLAIN | I wanted to love this one so bad, and I'm so bummed that I didn't. The heroine was fascinating, and I loved learning more about her as the book went on. The setting and historical detail were nicely done, but I just had no emotional investment in anything or anyone. I didn't believe in the relationships and slogged my way through to the end. I was So Okay With It and, unsurprisingly, still hate Hemingway. 

CATWOMAN BY SARAH J. MAAS | I would never have picked up this book if it didn't have Sarah J. Maas' name on it because I just don't care about superhero stories, so you should probably take my opinion on it with a grain of salt. I thought the story was compelling, enjoyed Maas' writing, and was rooting for the characters. I'm happy that I So Enjoyed It, but it definitely wasn't a favorite or super memorable for me. But a fun read nonetheless!

I'LL BE YOUR BLUE SKY BY MARISA DE LOS SANTOS | de los Santos writes so lyrically, which I immediately loved. It was so nice to return to these characters — and to meet brand new ones, too. And, like with her previous books, I delighted in the literary references throughout. The story itself required me to suspend some disbelief (so many coincidences occur), and I preferred the historical timeline to the contemporary one, but I still So Enjoyed It overall.

THE DUCHESS DEAL BY TESSA DARE | This was my first book by Tessa Dare, and I So Liked It but didn't love it like I'd hoped. It felt so modern, even though it was supposed to be historical. I think some of it is due to Dare's sense of humor and just her style of writing, which isn't my favorite. It was too sexy for me (lots of skimming past stuff), and some of the plot felt so over-the-top and implausible. But it did make me curious enough to try more from Dare.

LIFE ON THE LEASH BY VICTORIA SCHADE* | If you really love dogs, you might enjoy this one more than I did. I wasn't expecting quite so much dog training in it, which I found boring. I found the heroine so annoying – why did this American girl just randomly speak French? She might love dogs, but she's rude to people. And don't even get me started on the romance. Cheating one minute, a rushed resolution the next. I was So Over It.

GHOSTED BY ROSIE WALSH | Seven perfect days together, and then ghosted. But why? I had to suspend my disbelief on the instalove that's central to the plot, which is probably my biggest issue with this book. I just didn't believe the heroine's level of obsession after one week! However, I got hooked at the halfway point and couldn't put it down. The story went in a direction I didn't suspect and was surprisingly emotional, so I'd say I So Enjoyed It

ALL WE EVER WANTED BY EMILY GIFFIN | What to say about this one? It wasn’t awful, and I didn’t hate it. But... it felt like it was trying too hard to do too much, and the ending left me so angry and dissatisfied. I kept thinking of Beartown by Fredrik Backman while reading (because the subject matter is similar), and this one is so shallow in comparison. I couldn't stand the characters and was So Over It. Giffin just isn't an author for me anymore. 

THE SIMPLE WILD BY K.A. TUCKER | I wasn't prepared to love this book as much as I did! Tucker’s descriptions of Alaska made me long to visit. The romance had some hate-to-love vibes (my favorite!) with banter and situations that made me laugh out loud. But it was the story of the heroine trying to reconnect with her estranged father that really got to me. It was so emotional! I'm So Obsessed With It and look forward to exploring Tucker's backlist.

HELLO STRANGER BY LISA KLEYPAS | After reading Devil in Spring, I was excited to pick up this book. What's not to love about a heroine who is a female physician and a hero with an undercover accent?! I was so invested in both characters, totally swooned over their romance, and was on the edge of my seat when things seemed to go wrong. Their banter was great, and I So Loved It. And now I'm dying for West's book because he practically stole the show.
And finally, though I don't have a photo, I read The Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn. I read the first book in the series back in March and had issues with it. I decided to finish the series anyway and So Liked It overall. The first and third were my least favorites, and the second and fourth were my favorites. The series was a mixed bag that was fun but ultimately forgettable for me overall, and I don't see myself re-reading any of them.

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

What have you been reading lately?

Author Obsessions in 2018

Jan 15, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Every week they post a new topic and invite everyone to share their answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so I obviously love this feature!

It's been a while since I participated in this feature, but I couldn't resist this topic because I've done it every year since 2012. It's always fun to look at what I read and see which new-to-me authors I revisited throughout the year and which I'm most looking forward to more from in the future. Here are the ten that topped my list:

Technically, I read my first three Mary Balogh books on the last three days of 2017. But I had to include her because I went on to read 15 more of her books in 2018. Talk about a Balogh binge! I really enjoy her style and the variety in her romances because all the characters/couples feel very different.

2. ELIN HILDERBRAND | The Identicals, Winter in Paradise, and Winter Street
I don't think I'll binge Hilderbrand's entire backlist, but I still felt like she ought to be included because I devoured The Identicals and Winter in Paradise and look forward to checking out more from her. Not every summary appeals to me, but enough of them do that I know she deserves a spot on this list.

This was Honeyman's debut, and what a book to introduce yourself to the world! I have no idea if what she writes next will live up to the perfection of this book. But this heroine made it impossible for me to leave her creator off the list! I had no interest in reading this based on the cover and summary, but oh I'm so glad I did anyway.

4. LISA KLEYPAS | The Ravenels and The Hathaways
I read the Wallflowers series at the very end of 2017 and had already decided on my top ten new-to-me authors of the year at that point. But after reading nine more books by Kleypas in 2018, it seemed fair to say that she's a new favorite for this genre. She's at her best when she's writing about strong friendships and families! 

I won't read everything in their backlist because some of their series aren't the right fit for me, but I totally binged their standalones this year. Roomies was my favorite by far, but most of the others were pretty fun, too. Their books always make me laugh and swoon. Plus, I can usually expect some great friendships, too.

7. DELIA OWENS | Where the Crawdads Sing
Want to talk about the biggest surprise of 2018? THIS BOOK. Nothing about it really appealed to me, but I gave in the hype and read it anyway. And what I found inside was gorgeous writing, a character I deeply loved, and a world that I wanted to explore. I hope Owens will write more fiction in the future because I'll be waiting for it.

8. LUCY PARKER | Act Like It, Pretty Face, and Making Up
One of the first authors that came to mind when I was making my list! I'm so glad this random Kindle purchase was such a winner for me. Parker's romances feature some of my favorite tropes, have just the right amount of drama, and definitely deliver on the swoon. I want more contemporary romances like the ones she writes!

I'll be honest – I debated including Penny because I don't seem to love this series yet with the intensity that I've seen from other readers. But I decided in the end that she deserved a spot on here because I do love the main character and find her writing very soothing. I'm hoping the series will continue to grow on me with time!

9. J. COURTNEY SULLIVAN | The Engagements
Although it just barely missed the cut for my favorite books of 2018, The Engagements was definitely a memorable read for me. I'm not typically a fan of dual timeline historical novels, but Sullivan somehow made me invested in all five storylines. I'm looking forward to exploring her backlist and am most excited to try Saints for All Occassions.

10. K.A. TUCKER | The Simple Wild
I'm definitely cheating with this addition because I read my first book by Tucker back in 2013. It didn't work for me, but I was curious enough about her newest book to give it a shot. It ended up being one of my favorites of the year and made want to try more from her backlist. I hope I end up loving some of those, too!

Explore past favorites: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 

What authors did you fall in love with in 2018?
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