Quick Lit: January 2019 (Part 2)

Mar 29, 2019

In Part One, I reviewed nine of the 20 books I read in January. I'm talking about nine more in today's post, plus two books I finished in February. I'm SO CLOSE to being all caught on reviews. Will I ever make it?! As always, check out the Quick Lit linkup hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for more reviews and recs from other readers.

DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS BY LAINI TAYLOR – Hello, heartbreaker and hope healer. I realized last year that I'd only read this beast once, and I knew that had to be remedied. Although I was listening to the audiobooks, I loved just savoring my time in this world over the span of three months. I've seen mixed reviews of this conclusion on Goodreads, but I unequivocally loved it. There's a whole new layer to this world introduced in this book, and I thought it was fascinating. I can understand why some felt the book was too long, but I just didn't want it to end! And speaking of the ending, I love how it leaves some things open to your imagination. I'm So Obsessed With It

SKY IN THE DEEP BY ADRIENNE YOUNG – Since I was still in a fantasy mood after finishing my previous read, I dove in to this standalone. I'd heard good things about it, including that it was part Wonder Woman and part Vikings. But I don't know either of those things well enough to tell you if that's true! I can tell you that it's got brutal battles in a world that felt vivid. It started on a high and then slowed down a lot in the middle, but I never wanted to put it down. Where it was lacking was in the characters. I wasn't invested in the heroine or other characters, so the book won't stand out in my memory. I So Liked It and will be interested in seeing what Young writes next.

THE CRUEL PRINCE BY HOLLY BLACK – To call this book hyped would be one of the biggest understatements of book blogging. I've heard nothing but praise since it came out last year! And whether it was my sky-high expectations or general dislike of faerie stories, this one didn't totally work for me. I finished it quickly but didn't like anyone in it. Was that supposed to happen? The romance bothered me. The hero, if you can call him that, was an asshole. And I'm supposed to forgive him because of his tragic backstory? NOPE. It took me a while to warm up to the plot, though it did end on exciting note. I was So Okay With It and probably won't continue the series. 

FOOLISH HEARTS BY EMMA MILLS – Though I enjoyed both books I've read from Emma Mills, I bought this one for the cover. It's just so gorgeous! And y'all, it ended up being one of my favorite reads of the month. Lately I've felt like I've outgrown most YA contemporary novels because I often identify more with the parents than the protagonist. But this little gem reminded me of why I love the genre! It was the best comfort read when I had a nerve-wracking doctor's appointment, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once. If you're a fan of clever dialogue, this book is for you. It has great friendships and an even better romance. I So Loved It!

SILENT IN THE GRAVE BY DEANNA RAYBOURN – After loving Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell series, I kept meaning to check out Lady Julia Grey. I finally got around to it in January! There are a lot of similarities between the series: a convention-defying heroine, a mysterious hero, a slow-burn romance, and a case to untangle. It was enjoyable, but I didn't like it nearly as much as Veronica in comparison. I can't really put my finger on the reason! I solved the mystery very early on, and I just wasn't invested enough in the characters. I'm sure the romance will build to something even better, but I don't care enough to continue. I So Liked It but won't keep reading the series.

UNMARRIAGEABLE BY SONIAH KAMAL – Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan? This sounded right up my alley! And while I loved how Kamal reimagined this beloved book in a new setting and culture, I struggled to finish it. The setting was definitely my favorite aspect of the novel! I loved learning about the the food, clothes, class system, and more. The characters felt so flat to me, and the relationships all needed development. I didn't feel connected to anyone in the story! I don't know if it was the writing or just because I'm harder to please with P&P retellings, but I was only So Okay With It. The premise and setting were fantastic, but the story itself was just so boring.

THE CHILBURY LADIES' CHOIR BY JENNIFER RYAN – There's a scene in this one where a mother watches her adult son leave to fight in WWII, and it was one of the most moving moments for me. I love when a book is able to tap into an emotion that‘s universal and timeless! This novel, told in journal entries and letters, depicts life in a small English village during the war. From weighty moments of grief and fear to petty squabbles between neighbors, it was an uplifting read. I had to suspend some disbelief over the level of detail in the letters/journal entries, but I still So Enjoyed It overall. I don't think this story will stick with me in the long run, but it was still charming.

ACT LIKE IT, PRETTY FACE & MAKING UP BY LUCY PARKER – I took stole this cute picture from Kelly. But don't worry, I had her permission! I just couldn't resist this cuteness and don't own headphones like these, and it was too perfect since I re-read via audio, too. I was in the mood for something fun and fast, and these fit the bill. Bonus? The narrators were great, especially for the second where the voice played a role in the plot. I fell for this series last year, and I stand by my recommendation after re-reading. I love all three relationships, and they each have just the right amount of drama that never drags on too long. I'm So Obsessed With It and can't wait for the fourth book.

YOU HAD ME AT HELLO BY MHAIRI MCFARLANE – I technically read this at the very end of February, but I had space for one more book in this post so it got bumped up. I spent February re-reading, and it was so fun. I was craving some Mhairi humor and when with this book since it's the only one I hadn't re-read! In my memory, it was my least favorite of the five I've read from her. And that's still true after revisiting it. In fact, I like it less now than I did before. It's a solid So Enjoyed It, so it's not like I hated it! I just got way more frustrated with the characters and the miscommunication that led to such a huge separation. However, Mhairi's writing and humor still shine!

What have you been reading lately?

Quick Lit: January 2019 (Part 1)

Mar 28, 2019

I've finally made it to 2019 reviews! I've still got reviews to write, but the task is less daunting now. I read 20 books in January. I'm reviewing nine today and nine in Part Two tomorrow. I talked about my one other January read in December's Quick Lit. Check out the Quick Lit linkup hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for reviews from other readers.

A RULE AGAINST MURDER BY LOUISE PENNY – Confession, y'all: I still don't love this series. I know I said it in my review of the previous book, but I keep waiting for these books to get better for me. If I hadn't splurged and bought the entire series, I probably would have quit by now. I'm going to give it another book or two, and then... we shall see. Penny's writing is always really enjoyable, and I love that she seems fascinated by the whys of human nature. I liked the change of setting, Gamache is still great, and I loved seeing more of his relationship with his wife. All good things! But the mystery was boring, and the motive seemed weak. I So Liked It overall, but I want more from it.

BRIDGE OF CLAY BY MARKUS ZUSAK – This is about five brothers surviving in the wake of family tragedy. It spans continents and generations, zipping between characters, and shifting where it’s at in time. There is the simplicity of life in suburban Australia infused with the magic of Michelangelo and the greatness of two Greek poems. In the first 60 pages, I almost set it aside. Zusak’s writing has a rhythm all its own, but puzzle pieces eventually started to fall into place. I So Loved It, but maybe in the way you love a sibling? I loved it, even when it tested my patience or wasn't what I expected. If you like stories about family, forgiveness, and finding your way, this one is for you.

WE WERE THE LUCKY ONES BY GEORGIA HUNTER – I cried over this book, and that rarely happens. Inspired by the true story of one Jewish family during WWII, this book was the perfect choice to start the year. Sometimes a statistic is hard to wrap your head around, but reading just one family’s story can put a name to a number and breathe feelings into facts. Stories like this one remind me that reading is such a gift. Great books can call out the best in us: igniting our imagination, inspiring our actions, and bringing forth empathy and compassion. And this book certainly did all of that and more. I'm So Obsessed With It and know this will be one of my favorites of the year.

TARNISH BY KATHERINE LONGSHORE – Kelly gave me this book back in 2014, and it sat on my shelves until I finally picked it up this year. Kelly adores Anne Boleyn, and this is one of her favorite historical fiction books about her. While I don't have her same wealth of knowledge about the subject matter, I really enjoyed this backstory. Longshore imagines Anne's return to the Tudor court in her teens, and I thought the setting was so well. Anne's ambition and desire to prove herself was fascinating. My least favorite aspect of the book was the relationships. None of them worked for me. But this is about Anne, not the romance, and that aspects earns a So Enjoyed It.

LOVE Á LA MODE BY STEPHANIE KATE STROHM – Rosie and Henry have a meet cute on a flight to Paris — where they’re headed to study at a prestigious cooking school. What followed was a delicious mix of food, family drama, and falling in love. I’m not a foodie (gimme all the pizza rolls and don’t come near me with pâté), but I looove books with a culinary angle. This satisfied that craving! I was drooling over crêpes and croissants the entire time. The only sour note in an otherwise sweet dish? The romance! The hero was moody and jealous, and the miscommunication was frustrating. I So Liked It and recommend it if you love France and/or food in books, with reservations.

PRINCESS OF THORNS BY STACEY JAY – I was browsing my library's audiobook selection and spotted Princess of Thorns. I downloaded it, turned it on, and got swept up in Julia Whelan's excellent narration. I loved this one back when I first read in 2015. But y'all, it was even better than I remembered! It's a fairy tale with a twist, and I love that it uses Sleeping Beauty as its jumping off point. The characters steal the show here, though the world and story are great, too. Aurora + Niklaas is a match made in heaven. I loved how their journey led to a wonderful friendship first! I'm So Obsessed With It and am buying the audio for future re-reads. Whelan did an excellent job reading it!

THE HUNTRESS BY KATE QUINN* – In the aftermath of WWII, three people are brought together by a common goal: the search for a female Nazi known only as the Huntress. Readers know the identity of the Huntress pretty early on, and I’m not sure that entirely worked for me. I expected this to read like a thriller, but the pacing didn’t have that sense of urgency. It's a slow-burning game of cat and mouse. I had to remind myself — it isn’t about the mystery, it’s about the hunt. I think if I'd gone in with that expectation, the pacing wouldn't have bothered me as much.

Of the three storylines, Nina’s was the most compelling for me. I had never read much about female pilots in the war, so I loved learning more about them. Ian’s perspective highlighted the difficulty of searching for someone without current technology. So tedious and time consuming before the Internet! And Jordan’s POV had a building sense of anxiety because she knows something isn’t right, but no one believes her. Quinn excels at providing vivid historical detail, memorable settings, and hitting all the emotional notes. It was satisfying overall, and I So Loved It.

THE OTHER MISS BRIDGERTON BY JULIA QUINN – I loved the first book in this series and thought the second was just okay, so I didn't know what to expect going into the third. I hadn't seen a lot of reviews for it either. I'll be honest, I just never loved the premise of this one. I mean, he kidnapped her! Yes, he had his reasons, but still... Their interactions were fun, but it started to feel repetitive after a while. The pacing was a little off for me, too. The first two-thirds felt somewhat languid, and then a lot of drama is packed into the last third. That unevenness bugged me! I'd give it a So Liked It because it was fun, but I won't re-read or remember much about it.

I OWE YOU ONE BY SOPHIE KINSELLA* – Fixie Farr saves a stranger’s laptop from disaster at a coffee shop and ends up with an “IOU” that changes everything... eventually. Prepare for these characters to test your patience on every page. The heroine’s nickname comes from her desire to “fix” everything around her, but she really needed to focus on fixing herself. The hero and other secondary characters weren’t any better, and that was the downfall of the book for me. There were classic Kinsella elements I enjoyed (humor, personal growth, heartwarming ending), but I was So Okay With It overall. It's hard to root for a heroine who let everyone in her life take advantage of her!  

* 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?

Addicted to Audiobooks

Mar 26, 2019

I always check out the weekly Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) topic, and today's is an audio freebie! I'm excited to recommend some audiobooks I've loved lately, and looking back at my audiobook superlatives post from three years ago reminded me that I need to write a discussion about my audiobook journey. So much has changed in the past few years! Similar to my previous audio post, I've assigned fifteen superlatives to the books below. And if you have recs, I'd love to hear them in the comments!

Two things worth noting: 1) I primarily use audiobooks for re-reading, which you'll see mentioned in my comments about most of the books. And 2) I listen to my audiobooks on a faster speed – usually 2-2.5x, but sometimes 1.75x or 3x. So I'm always finishing them in less time than the actual length and probably notice fewer narrator quirks.

1. An Audiobook That Flew By, Despite Its Length: Son of the Shadows
Written by: Juliet Marillier | Narrated by: Rosalyn Landor

I just re-read this book via audio in February, and I was a little nervous before starting it. It's 608 pages / 22 hours long, and that felt like a commitment. But I ended up finishing it in four days! I couldn't stop listening.

2. An Audiobook I Didn't Want to Be Over: All the Truth That's In Me
Written by: Julie BerryNarrated by: Kathleen McInerney

This book is just shy of 8 hours long, which makes it one of the shortest books in my library. I remember finishing it in the car while driving to my brother's wedding and being so sad it was already over. This story is a favorite!

3. An Audiobook I Could Listen to Every Year: Illuminae series
Written by: Amie Kaufman & Jay KristoffNarrated by: Full Cast

I told Kelly recently that I feel like I could listen to this series ever year, and I think it's due to the production quality. I love the book themselves, too, but the full cast + sound effects makes these feel like an Experience.

4. An Audiobook I've Been Saving: Anne of Green Gables
Written by: L.M. Montgomery | Narrated by: Rachel McAdams

This is the only audiobook in today's post that I haven't listened to yet. It's one of my all-time favorite books, and I've always had a soft spot for Rachel McAdams. I'm saving it for the perfect moment and mood!

5. An Audiobook I'll Always Buy: Veronica Speedwell series
Written by: Deanna Raybourn | Narrated by: Angele Masters

This is one of the only books on this list that isn't a re-read! I pre-order each new installment of this series and love listening to all the drama unfold. The most recent release was my favorite so far! Hello, slow-burn romance.

6. An Audiobook I've Listened to 2+ Times: To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Written by: Jenny Han | Narrated by: Laura Knight Keating

I don't know what it is about this series, but I'm drawn to these audiobooks when I'm in need of a feel-good read. They're a great listening length – I love knowing that I can finish all three in a few days and with a smile on my face.

7. An Audiobook Perfectly Read by the Author: The Almost Sisters
Written by: Joshilyn Jackson | Narrated by: Joshilyn Jackson

Having an author read their own book can be tricky. Most people just aren't meant to do it! But Jackson performs hers so well. I was iffy on it at first but grew to love her Southern twang because it fits her stories perfectly.

8. An Audiobook I Bought Solely for the Narrator: The End of the Affair
Written by: Graham Greene | Narrated by: Colin Firth

When I saw that Colin Firth had narrated a book, I had to buy it... even though I wasn't super interested in the book. And while it wasn't a favorite for me, I don't regret the time I spent listening to Mr. Darcy... I mean, Colin.

9. An Audiobook That's Better Than the Sample: Happiness for Beginners
Written by: Katherine Center | Narrated by: Marguerite Gavin

I almost always buy my favorite books on audio for future re-reads, but it took me forever to purchase this one. I didn't like the sample at all! Thankfully, it was much better than I expected once I started (and sped it up).

10. An Audiobook That Made Me Love the Book MORE: Code Name Verity
Written by: Elizabeth Wein | Narrated by: Morven Christie & Lucy Gaskell

I absolutely loved this book when I read it back in 2012 but, for the most part, my memory of it has faded over time. So, I just recently listened to it and can say it really is excellent AND the narrators make it even better.

11. An Audiobook with Mixed Reviews I Loved: Winner's trilogy
Written by: Marie Rutkoski | Narrated by: Justine Eyre

The series itself is a favorite with many readers, but I dragged my feet on the audios because the narrator had mixed reviews. I should have ignored them sooner because she was great! I loved the unexpected accents.

12. An Audiobook I Can't Wait to Listen to Again: The Royal We
Written by: Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan | Narrated by: Christine Lakin

This book is such a delight, and listening to Lakin read it just made me love it even more. With the news that a sequel is coming next year (AHHHHH!), this is on my radar to re-read again soon. I need to relive all the feels!

13. An Audiobook That Makes Me Swoon: Act Like It
Written by: Lucy Parker | Narrated by: Billie Fulford-Brown

There are so many audiobooks that qualify for this superlative, but I've got to go with this recent re-read. I love Parker's series and am acquiring them in audio, too, because sometimes you just need a good love story.

14. An Audiobook That Makes Me Nostalgic: My Oxford Year
Written by: Julia Whelan | Narrated by: Julia Whelan

It's really the story and setting that make me nostalgic – because I studied abroad at Oxford one summer – but it still fits. I re-read this via audio for #FebruaREREAD and loved it. The author narrates it beautifully, too.

15. An Audiobook That Makes Me Cry: Dark Triumph
Written by: Robin LaFevers | Narrated by: Angela Goethals

I flew through this series on audio at the beginning of the month, but this one will always be my favorite. It has the best narrator of the three, and the story is just so emotional and intense. Beast and Sybella have my heart!

Do you love audiobooks?
What are some of your favorites?

Series Speed Date: Round #10

Mar 22, 2019

This section will cover any key details about the series.

Released: March 2014; March 2015; March 2016
Publisher: Macmillan; Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 355 pages; 402 pages; 484 pages

What do these covers say about this series?

Though I don't usually love faces/people on covers, this series is definitely an exception. I remember the first time I saw the cover for The Winner's Curse. I had major heart eyes! And after great reviews from other bloggers, I was dying to read it. I also remember my shock and horror when they announced they were changing the covers mid-series. I'm so glad they reversed that decision for the hardcover! While the covers imply that Kestrel goes to more balls than she actually does, I do love that you get the sense that she isn't your typical YA fantasy heroine. 

Based on the summary, what can you expect going into this series?

Before I read the summary for the first book, I'd already seen so much hype for The Winner's Curse. The cover had caught my eye, but it wasn't really on my radar. But once I finally read it, I fell in love. You can read my full review of the first book for more of an idea of what to expect going into this series, but I think the title of the first book tells you so much about Rutkoski explores in this series. Winning often comes at a steep price  – are you willing to pay it?

What are some highlights of the series?

A beautifully written story that will make you so emotional.
A smart, compassionate heroine who is a brilliant strategist. 
A bold, inspiring hero who fights to lead his people into a better future.
A moving bond between unlikely friends and surprising allies.
A fight between conquerors and conquered that will keep you guessing the entire time
A battle of wits between the smartest minds of this world, like an exciting game of chess.
A settings that's reminiscent of Greek or Roman culture, but with a fantasy angle.
A make-believe world with a historical vibe, making it easier to get immersed in the story. 
An exploration of choices and their consequences – and the price you pay in the process.
A romance that's slow burn, a bit star crossed, but destined to make you swoon.
A heart-wrenching story about fighting injustice and surviving against all odds.

How will you feel closing the last page?

Utterly and completely satisfied! After three books of emotional torture, I think you'll finish with a hopeful and happy smile on your face. The Winner's Curse really hooked me into the series and made me so invested in this couple and the overall conflict in the world. Even when things looked bleak, I couldn't put the book down. I picked up The Winner's Crime and had no idea that it would continue to decimate my already broken heart. You're probably wondering, "And why, exactly, would I sign up for this pain?" Because trust me when I say that in the end, it's all worth it. There's so much depth to this world and story, and I see it with each re-read. The first time I picked up these books, I was in it for the romance. And while that's still (mostly) true, I have more appreciation now for the victories and defeats, the fight for something better, and the belief that healing can be found.

Summing up this series in just three words?

Strategic. Dramatic. Romantic.

Is this series worth your time?

Absolutely! I'm writing this review after having read the first and second book three times and the last book twice. Clearly, I'm committed to this series. Kestrel is one of my favorite heroines because I can relate to the fact that she prefers strategy to physical activity. And this romance? OH MY GOODNESS. Hair braiding and board games have never been so romantic! The political intrigue and actions scenes are great, too, but the characters are the reason I keep coming back to this series again and again. Also, I listened to the audiobooks for my most recent re-read and loved narrator Justine Eyre. I've seen mixed reviews of her performance, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! I flew through all three at 2.5x speed and can't wait to listen again. If you haven't read these gems, I hope you will!

Quick Lit: December 2018

Mar 20, 2019

With this post, I'm finally caught up on reviewing books I read in 2018. I thought this day would never come! I read 22 books in December, and I'm reviewing 15 of them in today's post. At the end of the post, I briefly chat about the 7 other books that I decided not to fully review. As always, check out the Quick Lit linkup  that's hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for more reviews and recommendations.

SEASON OF WONDER BY RAEANNE THAYNE – After falling in love with the Haven Point Series, I was bummed when I hated the previous book. I hoped this one would restore the feels, especially with the Christmas elements, but it was pretty bland overall. The romance had almost no development and felt so forced! The heroine's negative motivations (thanks to this review for teaching me the term) were such a drag to the plot and pacing. The overall story was fine, but the book gets a So Okay With It. And honestly, I'm hesitant to continue the series.

WINTER IN PARADISE BY ELIN HILDERBRAND – After reading my first Elin Hilderbrand in September, I couldn't resist her newest release. While the characters were almost all completely unlikeable, I still found myself so sucked into the drama! How did she do it?! I loved the St. John setting, and I'm so intrigued by the mystery. It's worth noting that the ending is total cliffhanger, but it just made me excited to read the second and see what happens next. I So Enjoyed It and really enjoy Hilderbrand's writing style. It just sucks you in and makes it hard to put the book down!

DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT BY LAINI TAYLOR – After re-reading the first book and the novella in November, I continued my re-read with the audio of this one. And man, I just never get tired of this story! It's been so long since I read this book that I'd forgotten a lot of the details, so it was lovely to rediscover my favorite scenes. Whether I was lamenting the star-crossed romance or tearing up over the horrors of war, all of my emotions were swept up in Taylor's lyrical writing. And once again, Khristine Hvam is an excellent narrator. I'm So Obsessed With It.

A CHRISTMAS PROMISE BY MARY BALOGH – I was trying to pick some holiday reads during the Christmas season, and I'd noticed that most were contemporary. Well, I wanted something historical, too, and grabbed this oldie from a new favorite author. And oh my goodness, it was a delight! The holiday scenes were fantastic, and I thought the relationship development was so believable. There are misunderstandings here, but it made sense to be since the hero and heroine are basically strangers to one another. I So Enjoyed It and wish Balogh had more holiday books! 

THE CHRISTMAS SISTERS BY SARAH MORGAN – This was a random find while browsing online, and I thought the summary sounded pretty good. Then Kelly read it first and begged me to prioritize it. I'm so glad she did because this was my favorite Christmas book of the season! The family dynamics were so well done, and I loved getting so many perspectives. The various romances were charming, and I thought the overall conflict and backstory were so intriguing. I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to know what was going to happen! I So Loved It.

MY FAVORITE HALF-NIGHT STAND BY CHRISTINA LAUREN – As soon as I started this book, I couldn't put it down! The friend group was great in this one, and I think that's something these authors do really well. The romance is a little problematic, so I can understand how it will bother some readers more than others. If you struggle with conflicts where one character is keeping something from the other, beware this book. But honestly, I thought it was fun overall and so compulsively readable! And I was pleased with the heroine's growth by the end. I So Enjoyed It.

CHRISTMAS IN SNOWFLAKE CANYON BY RAEANNE THAYNE – This is the sixth book in another Thayne series, Hope's Crossing, and the only one I've read. I liked the tie to the hero of the first Haven Point book, which is the reason I wanted to read it in the first place. After the meh-ness of Season of Wonder, I was happy that this restored some of my Thayne glow. It was nice to see the heroine's growth, and I loved how the hero eventually let his guard down. This one reminded me of the reasons I initially binged so many of her books, and I So Enjoyed It

THE FIERY CROSS BY DIANA GABALDON – My informal goal has been to read one Outlander book per year, but I failed in 2017. I was determined to do better in 2018, and I managed to squeeze in the fifth book right near the end of the year. I spent about a week with this beast, and it was one of my least favorites so far. It gets better by the end, but it took a while for me to get hooked. There's just so many details and random dramas! But I was always curious about where it would go next and did finish excited to start the next book. So, I'd say I So Enjoyed It overall.

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE BY J.K. ROWLING – I didn't read Harry Potter until I was out of college, so I don't have the nostalgia attached to this series that so many other readers do. But I kept thinking about re-reading it, so I decided to go for it. I started with the first, and it's the only one I've re-read before. I don't know why, but it took me forever to finish it! I never felt the urge to pick it up, and then lost my motivation to continue my re-read. It's a great book, and I'd even say I So Loved It. But something just wasn't clicking for me this time around...

SEVEN DAYS OF US BY FRANCESCA HORNAK – What I expected from this book was very different than what it actually delivered, and I think that played a role in my disappointment. The story of a British family quarantined together for one week during the Christmas holidays sounded like a recipe for drama. And it was, to an extent, but it mostly just felt dysfunctional. Everyone in the family is awful, and the ending was so depressing. I'm sorry, but I was here for holiday cheer – not drivel and disaster. Plus, So Many Coincidences! I'm So Over It.

THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE BY C.S. LEWIS – Fantasy wasn't my go-to genre growing up, and I didn't fall in love with it until I started blogging. This was the only Narnia book that I read as a kid. I know, I know. But with winter-y books on my brain, I couldn't resist re-reading this one. I downloaded the audio and dove in! I finished it in an afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was fun to listen to it as an adult, and it made me excited to continue the series this year. I So Enjoyed It, and I'm looking forward to reading it to my son someday.

THERE YOU'LL FIND ME BY JENNY B. JONES – I read this back in 2011 and had fond memories of it, so I randomly decided to borrow the audiobook from the library. While the narrator was lovely, I didn't like nearly as much when I revisited it, and I hate when that happens! There was just so much going on – celebrities, eating disorders, bullying, grief, falling in love, travel, faith, music – and it felt cluttered. It's a short book, too, so I kept wishing certain storylines had more depth and others had been cut out. I So Liked It, but I won't re-read it again. 

SOMEONE TO TRUST BY MARY BALOGH* – I was so excited to continue Balogh's Westcott series, and this one didn't disappoint! I loved what I knew of Elizabeth from previous books, and I couldn't wait for her to get a second chance at love. And with a younger man? OH MY! I didn't expect an age-gap romance, and I love that Balogh did something so unexpected. I wished they would have communicated more clearly, but I can understand why it took them to so long to admit to their feelings. It wasn't my favorite in the series, but I definitely So Enjoyed It.

THE GOWN BY JENNIFER ROBSON* – I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes I can’t help myself. I was expecting a book about Elizabeth's royal wedding but was surprised that it truly does focus on the gown. From the artistry that went into creating it to the difficulty of keeping the design a secret, it was a tribute to the women working behind the scenes who often go unrecognized. I could have done without the contemporary storyline and found the characters a bit flat, but I loved learning about the dressmaking process. I So Enjoyed It.

ONE DAY IN DECEMBER BY JOSIE SILVER – Blame it on bookstagram and Reese's book club! I couldn't resist the hype and bought this one because it fit in perfectly with my holiday reading. The concept – two people, one magical moment before they part ways, and the ten years that follow – sounded great. And while I loved the setting and enjoyed Silver's writing, I wasn't invested in the romance and didn't like the hero at all. But I still had a grin on my face by the end... so, yes, I'm one big contradiction. Since I couldn't put it down, I'll give it a So Liked It

As I mentioned, I read 7 other books in December that aren't included above. As with a few other past months, there were a handful of books that I just wanted to recap rather than review. In my holiday book binge, I read Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery and Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand. I'd give both a So Okay With It rating. Mallery's book felt very shallow, and there just wasn't anything memorable about it for me. Hilderbrand's book was a little better, in comparison, but I like my holiday reads a little happier / less dramatic. And when I was done, I just didn't feel any desire to continue the series.

I binged two historical romance series in December, too. The first was the Bevelstoke series by Julia Quinn. I So Liked It – they all had witty banter, a dose of drama, and definite swooning. There were things that annoyed me about each, and they all get a little too silly for me. But they were fun overall! The other series was the Scandal & Scoundrels series by Sarah MacLean, and I was So Okay With It. I technically read the last book in January, but I'm including it here. I liked the inspiration behind the series – modern celebrity gossip with a pre-Victorian twist – but wasn't crazy about the execution. They all felt too long and repetitive. Not terrible, but not MacLean's best.

* 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?

So Obsessed With: The Mini Edition #6

Mar 18, 2019

Some of my favorite posts are ones where bloggers highlight the products they're loving lately or the things they're currently coveting. I love this kind of content so much that I started highlighting my loves and lusts with So Obsessed With posts. So, here are eight things I'm so obsessed with lately:

I bought the cutest bookmark from Anthropologie last year – it has a big tassel + a cute saying printed on it. And then, I lost it. I was so mad, partly because it was $15. BAH! But I was excited to find these bookmarks at Target. The quality isn't a nice, but it's half the price and you get three total. So, I'm quite pleased!

While I will splurge on various skincare items, I refuse to buy expensive cleanser. It just gets washed down the drain and barely spends any time on your skin! This is a gentle, milky cleanser that works well with my dry skin. It reminds me of CeraVe cleanser, but I like it more. Perhaps because it's French and that feels fancier? Maaaybe. 

After Kelly and I booked our trip to England, I knew that I needed to save up for lots of book shopping once we're there. And then I promptly bought like five things at Target... Y'all, I've got a problem! These tees were on clearance for $7 and totally worth it! They're a great length, and I like that the colors look a little worn in.

Okay, this is the only item in my post that I don't actually own. Will you forgive me? My obsessions are always things that I'm currently using, but I had to include this beauty. It's a journal to document your child's history – like a baby book that lasts until your child is 18. I love the meaningful prompts and beautiful design. It's on my wishlist!

I read a review copy of this in January and can't stop raving about it! Written as an oral history of a fictional seventies band, there are so many reasons it shouldn't have worked. And yet, it was phenomenal! I can't wait for the TV mini series. In the meantime, I've got the audio version (with a full cast!) for re-reading.

I've been researching skincare products to try and was excited to see that Sephora now carries The Ordinary online. I bought this starter kit and loving it so far! If it continue to be a success with my skin, I'll definitely be visiting their London store when Kelly and I are there to splurge on more stuff. If you've tried this brand, any recs?

This isn't the first time I've talked about these sunglasses, so forgive me. I bought the light pink pair in 2017 after seeing them on Instagram. They're my absolute favorite (minus the price), and I've been wanting to get the black pair. With a recent 50% off sale, I finally treated myself! When you love something, might as well buy every color...

Madewell is my favorite place to buy jeans, especially when Taller is a size option. Finding jeans  that are long enough is a struggle! Most of Madewell's sales exclude denim, but I got these for 15% in a recent sale. I love the button fly and raw hem! And since I don't own another ankle-length pair, I could even pretend I "needed" them. 

What are you so obsessed with lately?

'I am not a muse. I am the somebody.'

Mar 15, 2019

Taylor Jenkins Reid became one of my new favorite authors after I read Forever, Interrupted in 2014. Over the next few years, my love for her writing deepened with After I Do, Maybe in Another Life, and One True Loves. But when I read the summary for Daisy Jones & The Six, I was so nervous! Written as an oral history of a fictional band from the seventies that unexpectedly broke up at the height of their fame, there are so many reasons it shouldn't have worked. And yet, it did. Even better, I already know this will be on my Top Ten Books of 2019! 

It did take a little bit of time to adjust to the format. Once I did, I was hooked! Since lots of people are interviewed, you don't really get in the flow of the story until you become more familiar with the various characters. But it made so much sense for the story to be told this way, and it made me love it all the more. One thing I’ve loved about Reid since I first read her books is her willingness to experiment with the way her stories are told. From nonlinear timelines to multiple versions of one life, she always surprises me – and it’s true for this book, too.

Reid provides vivid details about the setting and time period, which was particularly impressive given the format. Characters don't communicate with the same level of detail in a conversation as an author could in a traditional third-person narrative. But I still felt as though I could picture the time period! In fact, I kept forgetting this band wasn't real. I desperately wish Aurora was a real album that I could listen to, and I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the Reese Witherspoon-produced TV mini series adaptation. This book was meant to be read and seen!

In many ways, I felt that the interview-style format + the fact that the characters were looking back on that time added a necessary sense of distance from the events taking place. The "sex, drugs, and rock & roll" stereotype is in full force here. Looking at substance abuse and addiction in real time would have been a very different story. I had more grace for the characters' missteps because I knew they were years past it. That wasn't a guarantee they'd changed – just that I could read with the hope they did. (And you do find out "Where Are They Now?" in the end.)

I appreciated the way the book looked at alcohol and drugs. It showed how glamorized it was at the time while contrasting that with the dark reality of addiction. The characters who struggle with it are very honest about what it cost themselves – and the people in their lives. I ached to see them hit rock bottom because it's devastating to watch people destroy themselves. But there's a hope for recovery here, too. There is always a sense that the characters can change their story and their ending isn't a given. And I loved that so much.

The format won't work for every reader. It can sometimes make you feel removed from the story, and it is odd to feel like you ought to have heard of this band before. But I'm so happy that I clicked with it! And I can't begin to tell you how many quotes I underlined. It should be a given that I adored Reid's writing based on all I've said about how she succeeded with a risky format, but let me add another layer to my love. While I was reading, I had to keep taking photos of pages because I couldn't stop long enough to write down my favorite quotes. Here's one:
Love is forgiveness and patience and faith and every once in a while, it’s a gut punch. That’s why it’s a dangerous thing, when you go loving the wrong person. When you love somebody who doesn’t deserve it. You have to be with someone that deserves your faith and you have to be deserving of someone else’s. It’s sacred.
And I haven't even begun to talk about the characters! They were all so well developed and varied. I loved how what they said (and what others said about them) communicated so much about who they were and what they valued. And my favorite thing of all was the numerous women supporting one another. Whether it's a best friend rescuing someone from a bad situation or a wife offering honesty and hope someone she'd have every reason to hate, the women in this book have each others' backs. Reid sidesteps all the stereotypes you'd expect.

As I was reading, I kept imagining a seventies version of The Civil Wars. I was obsessed with them from their first single on and still get sad when I think about the fact they broke up. Williams and White had an intimacy and presence on stage, and the way people talked about the band in the book was similar. Reid's story felt like a plausible answer to the question, "What happened?" And, along those lines, I absolutely loved that there were tropes in this story that didn't play out as I'd expected. And I rejoiced when I saw that "Poison & Wine" by The Civil Wars was the first song on Reid's Spotify playlist inspired by the book. Clearly, it wasn't all in my head!

The themes of the book were great and added a lot of nuance to what easily could have been a more shallow story. There's so much you could unpack here: the highs and lows of creating art, the idea of soul mates, what you'd sacrifice for your dreams, being a woman in a man's world, what it means to have faith in someone, the destructive nature of addiction, the longing to be loved and valued, how women can empower other women, and more. This would make a great book club selection, as long as your group isn't sensitive to drug/alcohol content or language.

I'm sure it's obvious that I'm so obsessed with this book. I pre-ordered the audiobook because it's narrated by a full cast, which will be so perfect for this narrative. And I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Goldsboro Books edition that I treated myself to for my birthday. This beauty will definitely be displayed on my bookshelves. I'm a little sorry that I'm adding to the hype for this book solely because I know it lies to sky-high expectations. But I can't contain my love for it! If you've read this one, let's discuss.
Release Date: March 5, 2019 | Publisher: Random House; Ballantine
Pages: 368 pages | Source & Format: Publisher/ARC & 

* 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.
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