Encouragement, Advice, Romance & Hope

Jun 20, 2016

The Mother Letters compiled by Amber C. Haines and Seth Haines

Release Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Baker Publishing; Revell Books
Pages: 192 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
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Brief Thoughts on The Mother Letters
The Mother Letters began as a gift from a husband for his wife. Seth Haines noticed that his wife, Amber, was overwhelmed as the mother of three boys. So, he decided to collect letters of advice and encouragement from mothers around the world. The gift was so meaningful to Amber that she and her husband decided to compile many of the letters into a book for moms everywhere.

As a new mother, I was expecting to love this book and to be moved by the words inside. It was one of the few books I found time to read in my first few weeks home with my baby - the format making it perfect to pause and read a letter. And while I appreciated much of the sentiment in the letters, I thought the book overall was just okay. Some letters were more moving than others, but none of them stood out to me. The advice was generally sweet and meaningful, but it also felt cliché (and redundant) to me at times... The book itself, however, was lovely. I liked the small-size hardcover, glossy pages and photos throughout. I'd be most likely to recommend it a gift for new mothers, even though it didn't completely resonate with me.
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Moms on Call LLC
Pages: 179 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book

Brief Thoughts on Moms on Call: Basic Baby Care
Moms on Call is a book of advice written by two pediatric nurses and moms. It covers all of the "basics" of baby care, such as feeding, illness symptoms, sleeping, bathing, daily schedules and more. Several of my friends with kids recommended this book to me, so I purchased a copy. I read through the book before my baby was born, and it was a pretty quick read. 

There's a lot of information inside, and I found most of it pretty helpful. I'm happy to have it as a reference, particularly the information on illness symptoms. One of the biggest components of the book is the section on sleep and daily schedules. My baby is currently six weeks old, and I haven't used this part of the book. The daily schedule and sleep principles seem too rigid to me, though I'm applying some of the general advice like swaddling, using a white noise machine, and stretching out the time between dinner and bedtime feeding. 

The tone of the book is a little annoying. The authors definitely believe that you should follow their advice to the letter, including a particular method of swaddling and using a specific kind of bottle. There are some formatting errors in the Kindle edition, as well as other issues that show the book needed a bit more editing. 
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher: Penguin Press
Pages: 277 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
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Brief Thoughts on Modern Romance
Comedian Aziz Ansari teamed up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg for a research project on modern romance. They conducted interviews and focus groups in numerous cities around the world, analyzed surveys on romance, created an online Reddit forum and worked with other social scientists to come up with the data that went into this book. I wasn't really interested in reading this book until I saw that it was on sale for Kindle one day. For $1.99, I figured it couldn't hurt to try it.

With Ansari's background, I was expecting this to be a more humorous book. That's not to say it isn't funny (because it is), but it's definitely much more focused on research and data. I found it absolutely fascinating overall! It didn't take me long to finish the book, and I liked when I learned from it. Chapters covered the different stages of dating (Searching for Your Soul Mate, The Initial Ask, Settling Down) but also explored how technology has impacted romance (online dating, sexting, snooping) and how romance varies internationally. It was the kind of book I wanted to discuss when I was done, which is definitely a point in its favor. If you want to laugh AND learn a little bit about how dating and romance has changed over time, pick up this book!
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Zondervan
Pages: 256 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
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Brief Thoughts on Hope Heals
Jay and Katherine Wolf got married right after college, moved to California to pursue their dreams and found themselves welcoming a baby boy into the world soon after. But six months later, everything changed for their family. Katherine suffered a massive brain stem stroke without warning - an event that likely should have left her dead. But after 40 days on life support in the ICU and nearly two years in full-time brain rehab, Katherine was doing things the doctors thought she'd never do again. This sentence from the book's summary captures the heart of their story: "In the midst of continuing hardships and struggles, both in body and mind, Katherine and Jay found what we all long to find... hope, hope that heals the most broken place, our souls."

I can't remember how I first heard about Jay and Katherine or their ministry, Hope Heals, but I was reminded of it a few months ago when I read an article Jay wrote for Darling Magazine. When I learned they were sharing their story in a book, I knew I had to read it. It was one of only two books I managed to read in May (struggle), but I absolutely loved it. The book is divided into four parts: The Dream Broken, The Hope Deferred, The Miracle Continues and The Healing Found. The first part describes Jay and Katherine's lives leading up to her life-changing stroke. The next three parts focus on Katherine's recovery and their lives post-stroke. It was an incredibly emotional read, and I couldn't put it down. I loved everything about this book - their writing, their honesty, their relationship and, most of all, the truth they shared. Their faith in Jesus is at the core of the book (and their story), and it was so moving to read about how they found hope in Him. I admire them so much, and I cannot recommend this book enough. It's something I'll never forget reading.

More 2016 Releases I'll Probably Pre-Order

Jun 14, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. 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!

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases
for the Second Half of 2016

1. The Choices We Make by Karma Brown
Adult Contemporary / July 12
I really enjoyed Come Away with Me and can't wait for more from Brown! 

2. Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson 
YA Historical Fantasy / September 27
I loved Walk on Earth a Stranger - what will happen to Lee Westfall next?!

3. Results May Vary by Bethany Chase
Adult Contemporary / August 9
The One That Got Away left me wanting even more from Chase! (Plus: THAT COVER.)

4. The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines
Non-Fiction / October 18
I adore this couple and their show Fixer Upper, so I have no doubt I'll adore their book!

5. First Comes Love by Emily Giffin
Adult Contemporary / June 27
I've been a Giffin fan for years until The One & Only, so I hope this one works for me...

6. The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Adult Fantasy / November 29
I loved The Queen of the Tearling and The Invasion of the Tearling - gimme this one NOW!

7. The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee
YA Contemporary / December 27
Under a Painted Sky was one of my 2015 favorites. I'm excited to try Lee's contemporary!

8. Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
YA Fantasy / September 6

9. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta
Adult Mystery / October 11
As a Melina Marchetta fangirl, I possibly shrieked when I saw this on Goodreads.

10. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
YA Fantasy / September 27
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series is an all-time favorite, so this book a must read!

A Love Letter to Reading

Jun 7, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. 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!

Top Ten Reasons I Love Reading

1. Discovering gorgeous writing.
One of my favorite things in the world is opening up a book, reading a few sentences and knowing immediately that it's something special. I love the thrill of highlighting that perfect turn of phrase or sentence or entire page of words that seem like they were written just to be read by you. *sigh*

A few books that had me highlighting like crazy:
The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum
Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

2. Exploring new places.
Whether it's real or make believe - past, present or future - I love that reading can take me to places I've never been. I can't get enough of books that invite me into a new world and ignite my love for travel, my interest in the past or remind me of the power of imagination. Oh, the places I've been...

A few books that transported me to new places: 
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Scarlet Series by A.C. Gaughen
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

3. Obsessing over love stories.
Nothing quite compares to reading a book and being swept up in the romance inside its pages. I'm a total sucker for a good love story! No matter the genre, I love when there's a couple I can root for in whatever I'm reading. And I particularly enjoy when a book teaches me something important about love and commitment!

A few books with love stories that left me swooning:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center
It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane

4. Experiencing All The Emotions.
If I'm not emotionally invested in the story and/or characters, there's a good chance I won't finish reading a book. I'm rarely cry while reading, but I still want books to speak to my heart and leave me thinking about them long after I'm done. Experiencing a range of emotions - sadness, joy, anger, etc. - makes reading so engaging! 

A few books that made me an emotional mess:
The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

5. Meeting beloved authors.
While I usually feel a little awkward talking to them, I absolutely love getting the chance to meet some of my favorite authors! Whether it's by attending a bookish conference like BEA or scoping out signings at my local bookstores, I'm so thankful for all the authors I've been able to meet over the past few years!

A few authors I've had the chance to meet:
Tahereh Mafi
Veronica Rossi
Sarah J. Maas
Rainbow Rowell
Gayle Forman
Stephanie Perkins
Laini Taylor
Markus Zusak
Colleen Oakley
Emily Giffin 

6. Revisiting familiar favorites.
This should come as no surprise since I co-hosted The Re-Read Challenge last year with Kelly: I absolutely adore re-reading! I outlined why I love re-reading in this post, but the biggest reason is because there's something so comforting about returning to a book I already know and love. It's like catching up with a best friend! 

A few books that I love re-reading:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

7. Connecting with other readers.
Have you ever experienced that lovely moment when you realize someone else is a reader, too? It's one of the fastest ways I'm able to connect with someone else! It usually kicks off a spirited discussion of favorite authors, beloved books, recent reads - even if we have different taste. And blogging has multiplied it tenfold!

A few bloggers I've gotten to fangirl with in person:
Cassie from The Casserole
Betty from Book Rock Betty
Estelle from Rather Be Reading
Alexa from Alexa Loves Books
Linds from Bring My Books

8. Getting to know different characters.
If you think about all of the things that go into a good story - like the plot, the writing, the characters - I tend to gravitate towards character-driven books. All of the elements are important and necessary for creating a memorable read, but I'm always on the lookout for interesting and well-developed characters. 

A few books with characters that stole my heart:
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Just One Day by Gayle Forman

9. Admiring (and acquiring!) beautiful books.
I'm a self-confessed book hoarder. I just can't help it! I don't spend money on many other things because books are definitely my weakness. I have some quirks like collecting editions of my favorite books and buying books I've already read, but mostly I just love adding stuff to my ever-growing TBR. Books are the best! 

A few books that were too pretty to resist:
The BabyLit series
Anything from Folio Society
Can I include my IKEA Billy bookshelves?

10. Seeing from another perspective. 
And finally, reading allows me to step into someone else's shoes - whether it's a fictional character or a real-life person. There's so much to be said for the way it can teach empathy, compassion, and awareness. I've learned and grown as a person because of the books that I've read, and I wouldn't trade that for the world!

A few books that opened my eyes to different life experiences: 
Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene

March, April & May 2016: Recap + On My Shelves

Jun 6, 2016

OH, HELLO. Remember me? I wouldn't blame you if you don't! It can't believe it's been so long, but I'm blaming that on pregnancy and the birth of my baby boy. Let me catch you on on the last few months...

1. Markus Zusak Signing - The Book Thief is one of my all-time favorite books EVER, so I was positively thrilled when I found out that Markus Zusak had a signing in Atlanta in honor of the book's 10th anniversary. Since he's from Australia, I assumed I'd never get the chance to meet him. Well, I'm glad I did because it was the best book signing I've ever attended! He was incredible, and I'll cherish my signed book forever.

2. Baby Shower in a Box - I got home from work one day in April and found a GIANT box waiting at my front door. I knew Nick and I hadn't ordered any baby stuff recently, so I wasn't sure what I'd find inside. The surprise was even better than I could imagined - my blogging friends sent me a baby shower in a box! I was already so emotional as I approached baby's arrival, and this gift just added to it. I can't thank these ladies enough!

3. Bestie Weekend - Last year, my best friend and I spent a week at the beach - a trip that inspired me to write this post about friendship. We wanted to do something fun again this year but decided to stick closer to home. She came in town for a weekend, and we had so much fun together. We relived some of our favorite college memories in Athens, and she arranged a fun little brunch with some friends to catch up and celebrate!

4. Baby Boy is Born - On May 3, my baby boy was born! I was so nervous about childbirth beforehand and while I'm not dying to go through it again anytime soon, I had a great experience overall. I'm thankful for the nurses and my doctor (and the miracle of an epidural!) - but most of all, I'm thankful for my husband and our baby. The past month of being a mom has been incredible and has brought me so much joy!

Read 24 Books | Favorites:
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Hope Heals by Katherine & Jay Wolf
“She will never see who I grow up to be -- that great question of who I am 
and who I am meant to be -- finally asked and answered.”
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

“There is other love out there for me. But it's different. It isn't this. It isn't this exact love.
It's better and it's worse. But I guess that's sort of the point of love between two people --
you can't re-create it. Every time you love, everyone you love, the love is different.
You're different in it.”
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“You don't need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon.”
The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

“At a certain age almost all the questions a person asks himself are really just about one thing:
how should you live your life?”
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It's light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. 
But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you've hurt each other 
and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you've seen the worst 
and the best -- well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.” 
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

“I could do this. If whole galaxies could change, so could I.” 
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
[Personal Favorites]
Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Discussion/Feature: Three Types of Recommended Reads
1. Laurie Isn't a Good Guy; He's a Nice Guy by Maddie Rodriguez on Book Riot - I've always hated that Laurie didn't end up with Jo in Little Women (spoiler alert? ha!), but this article had me re-thinking that opinion. I'm starting to see Laurie in a whole new way... and it's not for the better. 

2. {Bookish} Style Files: Met Gala 2016 Edition by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books - This is one of my favorite posts that Alexa shares every year! It's so fun to see what she pairs with different books - and to read her reasons for choosing each. Have fun admiring her post - and daydreaming about what gowns you'd like for yourself!

3. It's Here: The Summer 2016 Reading Guide by Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy - This is another one of my most-anticipated blog posts - Anne's summer reading guide! There are always new-to-me books on her list, and this year is no different. There are definitely a handful of books that are now on my radar to read this summer!

4. How Re-Reading Re-Energized My Blog by Kelly from Belle of the Literati - I adore posts about re-reading, which shouldn't be a surprise since I co-hosted the re-reading challenge with Kelly last year (this year). I loved that Kelly focused on how re-reading can remind you of why you read and blog in the first place.

Favorite Song: "Bullet" by Chelsea Lankes on Chelsea Lankes EP
I think Spotify's Discover feature introduced me to Chelsea's music, but I can't remember.
Either way, this was one of my favorite songs from the past three months. I've had it on repeat!

New Girl, Season 4 - I used to watch New Girl on TV every week, but I took it off my DVR about halfway through the third season because I was getting tired of it. But when I started craving something funny to watch in March, Netflix's suggestion to watch this was the perfect solution. I enjoy these crazy characters!

Scandal, Seasons 1-4 - I wanted something addicting to watch during my first few weeks home with the baby since a) he slept all the time and b) all of my TV shows are off for the summer! I settled upon Scandal, which I'd been meaning to watch for a while now... and OH. MY. GOODNESS. This show is completely insane!

Pre-Orders: The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane, The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry, The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh, The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas and Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Impulse & Bargain Buys: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson, The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner, Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck, The Mother Letters by Amber C. Haines, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (not pictured) and Hope Heals by Katherine & Jay Wolf (not pictured)

Book of the Month Club: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Signing Purchase: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (in What I Loved section) 

From Estelle: Parent Hacks by Asha Dornfest and Move! by Lolly Hopwood and YoYo Kusters

For Review: Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

Bought for Kindle: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer, After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid, A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Audible Credits: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer, Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center, The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
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