When You're Feeling Blah About Books

Aug 23, 2018

Over the weekend, I was browsing upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics. I really liked this week's topic – Ten Books to Pull You Out of a Reading Slump – but already had another post planned. Instead of skipping the topic altogether, I decided to do my own twist and came up with 10 things I'd tell someone struggling with a reading slump. 

There might not be anything radically new in my post, but it was fun to think about what's helped me in past slumps and what advice I've passed on to friends. And, as a nod to the TTT inspiration, I paired every tip with a book that fits that category for me and that I might recommend to someone else in a slump. Let's go!

When I'm in a slump, the first thing I do is reach for an old favorite. There's something comforting about returning to characters you already know and losing yourself in a story that you love! A slump makes me indecisive about what to read next, but a re-read takes away that uncertainty. I'd grab Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center.

Keep the length of the book in mind when you're in a slump! This is when I'll reach for something short – a book of essays or short stories, a memoir, or even a Middle Grade novel. Taking forever to finish a book only makes my slumps worse so I look for books that I can read in an hour or two, like Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist.

This suggestion doesn't always work, since there are often reasons you don't pick up certain genres. But, in some cases, I find that trying something new can surprise me! The fact that I don't know what to expect makes me more excited to pick up my book. That's how I felt with The Illuminae Series by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff.

The last thing I want in a slump is a slow book! It goes back to needing to finish a book quickly so I don't get stuck reading something boring. I generally love character-driven stories, but I'm less likely to reach for them in a slump. I want a plot with twists that compel me to keep reading, as was the case with Force of Nature by Jane Harper.

The tone of what you're reading can make a huge difference when you're in a slump! I've noticed that books that are happy and hopeful can jumpstart my reading when I'm stuck in a rut. And if I can find something that will make me swoon? Even better! To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han fits the bill for both for me.

Do you have any books on your TBR from a favorite author that you've been saving for the right time? This would be it! I'll often binge an author's entire backlist if I fall in love with their writing, but I love when I'm able to leave a few for later. I was glad I had The Chance Sisters series by Anne Gracie for just such a moment.

Mixing up the format might help, even if you're usually hesitant to try audiobooks. After all, what's the worst that can happen when you're already in a reading slump? I'd probably suggest an audio re-read, but that's just because those are my favorite. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella was a recent favorite for me.

When nothing on your To Be Read pile appeals to you, head to the bookstore or library! I've noticed that a slump can make me feel very meh about the books I already own, so this can be a good time to treat myself to something that I've been dying to read, like Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. It helps get the urge to read back!

Alexa from Alexa Loves Books came in clutch with this suggestion: try reading a book with a friend so that you can look forward to the bookish discussions throughout and at the end! It creates a little reward for reading – and will probably become a great memory, too. My Bestie Beatriz Binge with Kelly from Belle of the Literati is proof.

If you find yourself in a slump that you just can't seem to break, I'd suggest focusing on anything other than reading. For me, that looks like writing blog posts, decorating my planner, watching TV shows on Netflix, painting my nails, and so on. Pursue other things that you love and the desire to read will eventually return!

How do you deal with reading slumps?
And tell me a book that got you out of one!

Reaching a Blogging Milestone

Aug 21, 2018

When I was drafting blog posts this weekend, I noticed something that surprised me. Since creating this blog in 2011, I've published 999 posts. And today's post marks my 1,000th! It's hard for me to believe that I've put this much time and work into this little corner of the Internet, but I'm so proud of all I've accomplished and created. I was going to talk today about the things I've learned while blogging, but I realized that I did that for my five-year blogiversary and the list still rings true today. So, instead, I got a little more personal.

As with many things in life, blogging is both rewarding and discouraging. This space has pushed me to be more creative, to learn new skills, and to put myself out there. Because of my blog, I've gotten to moderate an event with an all-time favorite author, received advanced review copies of some of my most anticipated books, attended book signings, and – the best gift of them all – met some of my very best friends. 

And it's also been challenging. It's something that I choose to do, so I don't let myself feel guilty for taking breaks or not posting consistently. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I sometimes wonder if it's worth the effort. The blogging landscape has changed a lot since I started, and conversations about books are often taking place on social media these days. I totally understand why, but it can be discouraging, too. I look at my stats now versus then and think, Shouldn't this blog be growing with time? (And I swear, y'all, this isn't me fishing for compliments!)

There have been moments in the past few years that I've considered two vastly different paths – quitting blogging altogether or putting in a lot more effort to help it grow. But neither has felt like the right decision to me. I love what I do here! Transitioning to mostly mini reviews, incorporating more of my obsessions, recapping every month, letting myself get personal, and doing the occasional collaboration with friends – they're all things that I enjoy and changes that have been good for me. So, one of my favorite quotes sums it up:

Isn't that the truth? I've learned this in other areas of my life as well, but it's definitely been solidified with blogging. Five years ago, I was blogging five times a week. I was excited to read early copies of books – and writing full-length reviews for them. A lot more of my time was dedicated to brainstorming new features and discussion posts. I was more active on social media, commenting on others' blogs, and just hustling harder in general.

None of those things are bad! And that's probably what I'd need to do again if I wanted to achieve the success that I sometimes envy. But you know what? That's not how I want to spend my time at this point. It's not that I don't have time for any of it; I've just decided to use my time on other things. If I compare myself to others (or to where I was in the past), I'll miss out on something important: I'm in the right place for me right now. 

Five years ago, I loved blogging at that pace. I wasn't doing those things because I was competing with others. I genuinely enjoyed investing that much of my time into my blog! And if I'm going to give myself credit for anything, I think it would be this: I've never been afraid to adjust what I'm doing here. I think it's the reason I haven't burned out on blogging. Sure, I would have reached this 1,000th post milestone sooner if I was still posting five times a week. But that pace wasn't enjoyable anymore, so I cut back. Seven years in, I'm so happy that I still love coming up with content and writing down my thoughts. If that changes in the future, I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

When I stop comparing and let go of the coulds and shoulds, I pay more attention to how much I love where I'm at. If I post something on here now, it's because I'm legitimately excited to write it. I may procrastinate a few (like my recent Happy Planner posts), but I hope that my passion and love for this space comes through in everything I do. So today, I'm thrilled to take a moment to celebrate what I'd done! I might just treat myself to a book... or three.

I'm thankful for the books and friends I've found in this journey – and for every single person who chooses to spend time here. I blog because I enjoy it, but it's rewarding to know that other people care about what I have to say. If you've ever read a book because I recommended it, it makes this whole thing worth it. Whether you're a regular commenter or long-time lurker, THANK YOU. I appreciate you so much!

To commemorate reaching 1,000 posts, here are my 10 favorite things I've written:

1. A Trip Down Memory Lane  my best bookish memories
2. To Thine Own Self Be True – on learning to trust your gut as a reader
3. When You Find a Friend – a personal discussion on friendship
4. An Introduction to Jane Austen – a fake syllabus for a college class on my favorite author
5. 'I just want YOU.' – what Anne of Green Gables taught me about romance
6. Six in Sixteen: What I've Learned This Year – six things I learned in 2016
7. Creating a Capsule Library – a fun collaboration with three of my favorite people
8. 5 Ways to Find Time to Read – my answer to the question 'how do you read so much?'
9. How I'm Writing My Story of Motherhood – personal discussion on motherhood
10. Buy the Book – my favorite feature (I promise I'll post a new one soon!)

Do you ever struggle with comparison?
What are you celebrating in your life right now?

Quick Lit: July 2018

Aug 16, 2018

I read 14 books in July, and I'm chatting about all of them in today's post! On the blog, I shared my review for the Darker Shade of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab, though I still have a few backlog reviews to write. As always, check out the Quick Lit linkup  that's hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for more reviews and recommendations.

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON BY KELLY BARNHILL | I don't read a ton of middle grade, but I couldn't resist buying this 2017 Newbery Medal winner when the audiobook was on sale a few months ago. I listened to most of it while we were driving to the mountains for vacation, and it was a pleasant companion. I don't know how to succinctly describe the plot, but I'm honestly torn on how I feel about the book. Barnhill's writing was lovely and the characters were interesting, but I had a hard time imagining a child loving the book. It was long, repetitive, and the subject matter seemed a little dark and heavy for many kids. I was So Okay With It, but it had so much potential.

THE ENGAGEMENTS BY J. COURTNEY SULLIVAN | Sullivan opens the novel by introducing you to Mary Frances Gerety, the advertising copywriter who coined the phrase "A Diamond in Forever." The rest of the novel depicts four couples in different years (1972, 1987, 2003 and 2012) while tracking Gerety's life and the history of diamonds in America. The complex characters and slow reveal of how they were all connected had me completely invested. I loved seeing marriages over time, the way advertising created a "need" that didn't exist before, and how some things about love never seem to change. It's got a slower pace, but I So Loved It.

TEXT ME WHEN YOU GET HOME BY KAYLEEN SCHAEFER | I had all the feels while reading this book! Seeing Estelle and Kelly love it convinced me to pick it up, and I finished it in about a day. I enjoyed this examination of female friendships in history, pop culture, and the personal life of the author. The chatty and anecdotal writing style blended research + stories in a way that I found really engaging. But what I loved most is how the book made me even more thankful for all the women in my life who've helped shape me into the person I am today! There were a few elements that didn't totally work for me, but the emotions it evoked meant I still So Enjoyed It

DEAR MRS. BIRD BY AJ PEARCE | I flew through this slim novel. It’s a gem! Set in London during WWII, it reminded me of a historical Bridget Jones. Emmaline Lake is a charming heroine — I loved her plucky spirit and courageous attitude! In her excitement at the prospect of becoming a Lady War Correspondent, she fails to ask enough questions at a job interview and ends up working for an advice columnist at a women’s magazine. But when her boss refuses to respond to any letters containing what she deems Unpleasantness, Emmy takes matters into her own hands. The result is both funny and moving, and I So Loved It! I'm so thankful this review put it on my radar.

BIOGRAPHIC AUSTEN BY SOPHIE COLLINS | I bought this while I was in Edinburgh with Kelly earlier this year – because I can never resist anything Austen-related! This book is part of a series of biographies that explores "great lives in graphic form." It summarizes the life and work of the subject and uses infographics to convey the information. You can look inside here. I really enjoyed the visual aspect, which also made it a quick read. It didn't contain anything particularly new, but it was still fun to flip through. I'd be most likely to recommend it to Austen fans for the art or to someone who just wants a high-level look at her life. I So Liked It.

THE ALMOST SISTERS BY JOSHILYN JACKSON | This book was one of my 2017 favorites, and I bought the audio edition soon after finishing my hardcover. I knew I'd eventually want to re-read, and listening seemed like the perfect format since it's read by the author. Jackson is a talented narrator, and she made me love this story even more than I already did. My original review digs more into all the reasons I adore this book, but I'm so happy to report that my love only deepened upon revisiting it. If you're a fan of Southern fiction, nerdy heroines, or thought-provoking stories, you need to pick this one up! I'm So Obsessed With It (and will just keep wishing for a sequel).

NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA BY CHANEL CLEEETON | “... it’s impossible to stand near the flame consuming everything around you and not have some of that fire catch the hem of your skirt, too.” Estelle recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad she did! It exemplified why I love historical fiction and taught me so much about Cuba’s past and present. If you like books where the setting feels like a character, this one is for you! I’m not typically a fan of dual timelines, but it worked so perfectly for this story. There were twists I didn’t see coming, quotes I couldn’t stop underlining, and characters I won’t soon forget. A fave of 2018, for sure! I'm So Obsessed With It

THE GOOD LUCK CHARM BY HELENA HUNTING* | Estelle sent me a copy of this book for review, and I was excited to dive in. I'm always drawn to second chance romances, and I think it's likely because there's usually some animosity before the couple is finally reunited. What can I say, I'm a sucker for that hate-to-love trope! I finished this pretty quickly and can see it appealing to a lot of readers, but it didn't fully work for me. I wasn't invested enough in the couple and found it frustrating that they seemed so dependent on one another. And a lot of the drama was saved until the end! They eventually worked on their issues, but I'd still say I'm just So Okay With It.

BECAUSE OF MISS BRIDGERTON BY JULIA QUINN | I read my first Julia Quinn book earlier this year, but it didn't really work for me. And since it it was the start of a series, it killed my motivation to pick up the second book. But I'd heard great things about this book and series, so I decided to give it a try instead. I'm so glad I did because this book was such a delight! I loved the couple, and the hate-to-love vibes worked so perfectly. Honestly, the tomboyish Billie Bridgerton and arrogant George Rokesby reminded me of Lizzie and Darcy in all the best ways. I laughed (the banter!) and swooned (the tension!) and So Loved It. The ending was a bit rushed, but I didn't really mind.

THE QUEEN OF HEARTS BY KIMMERY MARTIN | There are two reasons I'd been dying to read this book: 1) the gorgeous cover and 2) the comparison to Grey's Anatomy. It's the story of two best friends who are carrying secrets regarding a tragedy that occurred while they were in medical school. I was immediately sucked in my Martin's writing and enjoyed how the the timeline alternated between past and present. I loved the focus on female friendship! I enjoyed the story and thought the comparison to Grey's was apt, but I was never fully invested in the characters so the emotions didn't truly resonate. But I So Enjoyed It and will check out whatever Martin writes next.

THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND BY JULIA QUINN | After I finished Because of Miss Bridgerton, I had to pick up the second in the series! I listened to most of this one on audiobook, and I really enjoyed the narrator, Rosalyn Landor. I wasn't crazy about the fact that this plot hinged on the heroine keeping a secret from the hero, which is the main reason I didn't love this one more. The character were enjoyable, as was setting, and there was a nice blend of drama and humor. But it felt like there wasn't much happening, so everything revolved around the heroine's big lie... which she had so many chances to confess. I'd say I So Liked It, but I wanted more from it. 

CHARLOTTE WALSH LIKES TO WIN BY JO PIAZZA* | This was such a thought-provoking, timely read! The heroine decides to leave her Silicon Valley job to run her for public office, and it is so frustrating to read about the things she has to deal with along the way. I didn't particularly like any of the characters, but that didn't really bother me. The sexism, double standards, and general shadiness made me want to rage at the world. And even though Charlotte frustrated me, I was still rooting for her! I'm so glad that I read Piazza's story, even though I'm generally not a fan of politics, and I really appreciated the ending. It was a bold move, but it made perfect sense. I So Liked It.

AND NOW WE HAVE EVERYTHING BY MEAGHAN O'CONNELL | This would never have been on my radar if it wasn't for bookstagram! I started it one evening while sitting on the front porch... and finished it an hour or two later. I couldn't put it down! This memoir on motherhood blended humor and honesty, and it made me reflect a lot on my own experiences. Everyone's journey is so different, and it's always nice to hear someone else's story. I could relate to her anxiety, laughed at her candid confessions, and teared up a little, too. It occasionally veered into TMI/oversharing for me personally, but I So Enjoyed It overall and saved a bunch of quotes from it. 

MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE BY SOPHIE KINSELLA | I read this book in 2016, and I've been craving a re-read ever since. After re-reading several from Kinsella in April, I knew it would soon be time for this one. It was the perfect choice for an audio re-read! Narrator Fiona Hardingham was a delight, and I had so much fun listening to Katie's escapades. Though the humor can sometimes be slapstick, Kinsella always makes me laugh. And I love the overall message in this book about how social media can be deceiving. It's nice to be reminded that it's not the full picture! The romance was more understated than I'd remembered, but I'm still So Obsessed With It and will read it again.

* 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 2018: Recap + On My Shelves

Aug 15, 2018

Can you believe we're halfway through August and I'm just now posting my July recap? This post ended up on the backburner in the wake of the big life changes we're currently making (see below!) and my recent visit to see Kelly!

1. Family Vacation – We went to the mountains with my family during the first week of July, and it was so much fun! My son loved everything about it, especially when we went on a hike to this waterfall. I soaked up all the extra reading time, and my favorite part was an afternoon trip to two bookstores with my sister.

2. Seventh Anniversary – Nick and I celebrated seven years of marriage on July 2! There are days when I can't believe we've been married that long – and others when it feels like we've been married forever. Haha! I'm so thankful for this man and the life we've built together. Here's a little bit about our love story, if you're curious.

3. Dino Boy – You probably can't tell, but there's a whole row of "little dinos" sitting on that windowsill in the picture. My son's love for dinosaurs has only grown with each passing month, and I love hearing his little voice tell me all about them. Every day feels like I'm getting to know something new about him, and it all amazes me. 

4. House Hunting – In July, Nick and I started house hunting! We'll be staying in the same area, just moving to a house that better suits our current needs. This picture doesn't really have anything to do with it, though I was at Target to get a few move-related items. I'm excited about the future but definitely sad, too. It's bittersweet!

Read 14 Books | Favorites:
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O'Connell

“No one can ever know the inner parts of anyone else’s marriage. It’s a strange business.”
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

“Our friends are not our second choices. They are our dates for Friday nights
and for ex-boyfriends' weddings. They are the visitors to our hometowns and hospital rooms.
They are the first people we tell about any news, whether it's good, terrible, or mundane.
They are our plus ones at office parties. They are the people we're raising children with.
They are our advocates, who, no matter what, make us feel like we won't fail.
They are the people who will struggle with us and who will stay with us.
They are who we text when we get home.”
Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaeffer

“To be Cuban is to be proud — it is both our greatest gift and biggest curse.
We serve no kings, bow no heads, bear our troubles on our back as though they are nothing at all.
There is an art to this, you see. An art to appearing as though everything is effortless,
that your world is a gilded one, when the reality is that your knees beneath your silk gown
buckle from the weight of it all. We are silk and lace, and beneath them we are steel.”
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

“Shall I strangle him or will you?”
She rewarded him with a devious smile.
“Oh, it must be a joint endeavor, don’t you think?”
“So that you may share the blame?” Andrew quipped.
“So that we may share the joy,” Billie corrected.
“You wound me.”
“Happily, I assure you.”
Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

 “We think it’s the big actions that shape us — the choice to pursue medical school
over business school, turning down a date with one guy in favor of another,
the regrettable decision to have an affair. But in reality, all of those things come about
from the unconscious and barely considered actions that shape a life:
blowing off studying one night to watch TV. Laughing at a lame joke to make someone feel better. Allowing more eye contact than necessary with a man you knew to be no good.
It’s the innumerable smaller choices that snowball into larger vectors, or, put another way:
it’s the choices we make when we ignore our scornful intellects and follow our thumping hearts.”
The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

“The bad thing had happened, and the baby had survived. He could be hurt without dying.
He could endure my mistakes. He was vulnerable but resilient. Human.
Wasn't that the problem, in the end? He was going to walk around in a world
 where there were a million different ways to die. One day something would kill him.
And I loved him too much for that. And yet. What else is there to say?”
And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O'Connell

I was pretty proud of myself in July – mostly because I wrote a few posts that I'd had on my to do list for months! My first post of the month was my June 2018 Recap, of course. Even when it's late, like this month, I just can't skip it.

Then, I shared 15 Books for Summer Getaways. This is a post I've done almost every summer, inspired by a past Top Ten Tuesday topic, where I pair books with summer destinations + accessories. It's a favorite of mine!

I talked about 16 books in my June 2018 Quick Lit, and then reviewed the Darker Shade of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab. Those were my only reviews posted in July, but that's because I had a few other fun posts planned.

After I talked about seven things I've been loving lately, it was finally time to spend a week discussing my obsession with all things Happy Planner. Here's the breakdown: 1) my gratitude journal, 2) my daily planner, 3) my blogging planner, and 4) my reading log. I love how they turned out!

I was looking at what I'd bookmarked from July, and I couldn't figure out why there was barely anything to choose from... until I realized that I'm about a month behind on posts in my Feedly. The struggle is real. I'm hoping to have lots of posts to share with you in my August recap to make up for this month's fail! 

  Favorite Album: Magic by Ben Rector
This came out in June, but I didn't really start listening to it until July.
I had it on repeat all month, and it was the perfect soundtrack to my summer.

Tomb Raider (2018) starring Alicia Vikander and Dominic West – This movie seemed more up Nick's alley, but I have a soft spot for Alicia Vikander so I got it from Redbox. Umm... I can't tell you anything about it because I started reading my book about twenty minutes in. So maybe that tells you everything?

Love, Simon (2018) starring Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel – I haven't read this book, but I have a soft spot for teen movies and adore anything and everything Jennifer Garner. This didn't disappoint! I have no idea how successful it was as an adaptation, but it was an enjoyable Redbox rental. 

Sliding Doors (1998) starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah – I got a book from the library that referenced this movie in the summary, and I realized that I'd never actually watched it (though I knew the premise). I was excited to find it on Netflix, and I'm glad I finally watched it! It was enjoyable, and I love the concept.

The Bachelorette, Season 14, with Becca Kufrin – This is ALL Kelly's fault! I used to watch this franchise back in college with my roommates but hadn't turned it on since. I enjoyed laughing over it with friends but didn't really want to tune in alone. Kelly kept begging me to watch and discuss with her, and I finally caved. OMG!

New Releases: All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin, When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger, Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton, and Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Online Shopping: The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams, Anne of Green Gables: The Graphic Novel by Mariah Marsden and Brenna Thummler and House of Dreams by Liz Rosenberg

Used Bookstore: On Turpentine Lane by Eleanor Lipman and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Gifted: Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce, You Knew Me When by Emily Liebert, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, and Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins 

Books for Trade: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

For Review: The Daisy Children by Sofia Grant, The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester and Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins

NetGalley: Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

Kindle: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan and Roomies by Christina Lauren

Audible Pre-Order: Sense and Sensibility  by Jane Austen
© So Obsessed With • Theme by Maira G.