March 2019: Recap + On My Shelves

Apr 11, 2019

March felt like it was a fever dream. How has it already come and gone? I spent so much time preparing for my trip to England with Kelly, and then it passed in a blur. But I'm still so thankful and have so much to share about it!

1. Family Trip to the Zoo – For my son's birthday last year, we got a membership to Zoo Atlanta. He loves animals, and it paid for itself in two trips. I realized it was expiring soon, and we'd only been once. Oops! We made it a priority to go in March, and my son couldn't stop talking about it. We made great memories!

2. Gorgeous Days Outside – Hello, spring! I've missed you, beautiful days and warm weather. Georgia has mild winters, but I still eagerly anticipate the return of afternoons outside and light late into the evening. We spent lots of time in the backyard, the neighborhood playground, and our screened-in porch.

3. Traveling with Kelly – For the last few days of March (and first few of April), I was in England with Kelly. I could have devoted this entire "What I Loved" section to that trip, but I'll contain myself to two. My favorite thing about the trip was being with Kelly! We have the best time together, and she's the best travel partner. 

4. Exploring England – Aside from a week with my bestie, I loved every minute in England. We stayed in London but took day trips out of the city, and it was amazing to see so many different places. From the Cotswolds countryside to the Rye coast, I wouldn't change a thing about the trip. I've got a recap of it coming soon!

Read 21 Books | Favorites:
Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers
A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn
The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

“The past can teach us, nurture us, but it cannot sustain us.
The essence of life is change, and we must move ever forward or the soul will wither and die.”
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

 “Your love cannot change a man – or a god. All it can do is open a door,
create a new path for him to choose. One that has not been open to him before.
That is what the power of your loved can offer him – all of that, and no more.”
Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

“A long time ago I learned not to explain things to people.
It misleads them into thinking they're entitled to know everything I do.”
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

“You are the fool, Tiberius, because you still do not understand.
I do not love her enough to kill for her... I love her enough to die for her.”
A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

 “But what good is it to teach a child to count, if you don't show him that he counts for something?”
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

“From time to time, I may adjust a situation to achieve a desired outcome
for the benefit of my children, but that's not meddling.”
“What do you call it, then?”
“Parenting,” he said smugly, and kissed her before she could reply.
Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas

“Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

“If midnight is witching hour, two a.m. is dwelling hour.”
The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

I found my blogging mojo in March and worked on posts that I'd been putting off for months! I was most proud of myself for finally catching up on my months-long review backlog, but I'll get there in a second. I started the month with my February 2019 recap. I came out of full-length review retirement to rave about Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I shared eight things I've been loving lately in my So Obsessed With: Mini Edition #6 post. And I resurrected a series review feature that I hadn't done in years when I did a Series Speed Date: Round #10 for The Winner's Trilogy. And I shared 15 audiobooks recommendations for a Top Ten Tuesday topic.

But my proudest accomplishment was all the reviews I wrote! I'd gotten so behind on Quick Lit posts that I wondered if I'd ever catch up. But I finally did! I posted Quick Lit review round-ups for November 2018, December 2018, and January 2018 Part One and Part Two. The rest of the Quick Lits I wrote posted in April, so I'll share those in next month's recap. Now I've just got to promise myself that I'll never get that behind again...

Am I finding my bookstagram footing when it comes to posting more regularly? I hope so! I still struggle with replying to comments and interacting with all the posts in my feed, but I'm working on it. There were a few other photos I loved in March, but this one was my favorite. I just snapped it on a whim when I noticed that my shirt, flowers and books all had hints of pink, and I loved the end result! It feels like Spring to me. • @soobsessedblog

  Favorite Album: GIRL by Maren Morris
I was obsessed with Maren's previous album and had it on repeat the entire summer it came out.
This one feels a more pop-y, but I don't mind it. The songs are so catchy! "Good Bones" is my fave.

Favorite Song: Sucker by The Jonas Brothers
I never cared about The Jonas Brothers when they were popular, but dang if I don't love this song.
I can't stop listening to it! And y'all, I'm even more in love with the music video for it.

Queer Eye, Season 3, starring Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, & Jonathan Van Ness – I've loved every season of this Netflix show, and there are always a few episodes each season that make me cry. While I think this one might be my least fave of the three, I still find the stories so moving and the group dynamic so fun to watch. I'm probably biased, but I do think it was better when they were in Georgia. Haha! 

I didn't watch any new-to-me movies in March, but Kelly and I spent the month watching movies + reading books set in England and France to get hyped for our trip. I re-watched eight movies and thought I'd briefly mention them:

Belle (2013) starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid – I adore this movie and have raved about it before. If you haven't seen it, you're missing out! It's a fave and always makes me curious about the story that inspired it.

What a Girl Wants (2003) starring Amanda Bynes and Colin Firth – I needed a little comedy to break up the costume dramas, so I reached for this classic from my youth. While I eye-rolled a lot, Colin Firth was worth it.

Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) starring Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts – This movie is just so gorgeous! The heroine is a total pill, in my opinion, but I'm here for the dreamy hero and fantastic cinematography. 

Marie Antoinette (2006) starring Kirsten Dunst – I don't love Dunst in general, but I think she's so wonderful in this role. I love the entire feel of this movie and its music. It's worth watching for the costumes + sets alone! 

Persuasion (2007) starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones – I know of two Persuasion movie adaptations and honestly don't love either of them. I mostly watched this one because I re-read the book in March!

My Week with Marilyn (2011) starring Michelle Williams and Eddie Redmayne – I've only seen this one other time, and Eddie Redmayne is the real draw for me. Hello, handsome. I like this movie, but I probably won't re-watch again.

Becoming Jane (2007) starring Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy – Will I ever get sick of this movie? NOPE. It's not really historically accurate, but I don't care at all. It's so romantic! Ahhh, the power of meaningful eye contact.

The Young Victoria (2009) starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend – Another favorite, even though I've mentally separated it from the reality of Victoria and Albert. Emily Blunt is fantastic in the role, and the romance makes me swoon.

New Books: A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn, Lovely War by Julie Berry and Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Goldsboro Edition)

Goodwill: Shadow of Night and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness and Faithful by Alice Hoffman (not pictured)

UK Trip (Pt. 1): Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane, The Skylark's War by Hilary McKay, A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (3 editions), and 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

From Alexa: The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves and Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

NetGalley: The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker, Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker

For Review (Not Pictured): Springtime at Hope Cottage by Annie Rains, A Rogue by Night by Kelly Bowen, This Book is Not Yet Rated by Peter Bognanni

Audible: Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers, Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn, and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Quick Lit: February 2019 (Part 2)

Apr 3, 2019

Thanks for joining me for the continuation of my thoughts on what I read in February! If you missed it, here's Part One. Just to refresh your memory, Kelly and I spent last month re-reading, and we loved every minute it. The reviews below have my thoughts after re-reading, but you can click the title of the book for my original review. As always, check out the Quick Lit linkup that's hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for reviews and recs from other readers.

FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK, FROI OF THE EXILES AND QUINTANA OF CHARYN BY MELINA MARCHETTA – There was no doubt in my mind that I’d be reaching for The Lumatere Chronicles as my first choice for #FebruaREREAD. Want to talk about an underrated series? This one right here! I read these for the first time in 2013, but I’ve never revisited them. I always meant to though — and even pushed them on Kelly last year! I ended up being so glad these kicked off our little re-reading project, and they ended up being my favorite books of the month.

When I first read them, I wasn’t yet in love with fantasy. And I’ve always wondered if I’d love them more now than I did then. Spoiler alert: I did! I enjoyed them on my first read, but I’m so obsessed with them after this re-read. They have everything I love in books: complex characters, quotable writing, slow-burn romances, a detailed setting, a compelling conflict, and EMOTIONAL TORTURE. The main characters are technically young adults, but these books read like adult fiction to me (partly due to some of the subject matter). While the stories are often heartbreaking, they’re still so hopeful. “Because today, I think I’m leaning on the side of wonder.” 

If I had to choose just one specific thing to praise, it’s how Marchetta depicts the various relationships that are so crucial in this story: an oath between friends, the love of a parent for their child, the loyalty of siblings, the bond between a captain and his men, the trust subjects put in their ruler, and the promise between lovers. And honestly, those are just the positive examples. There’s also the heartbreak and devastation of trust broken, people betrayed, and lives lost because of pure evil. So, you can expect a whole range of emotions while you’re reading. These books are definitely character driven and have a slower pace, but that works for me as a reader. In case you can’t tell, I So Obsessed With It and look forward to many more re-reads in the future.

AFTER I DO BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID – This has been one of my favorite books since I first read it in 2014. I read it twice in that year alone, but hadn't revisited it since then. WHAT?! This is a story about when love seems to have faded from a marriage — what happens next? This couple spends a year apart to see if they can find their way back to one another. And though I wouldn’t make the exact same choices they did, I loved the truths they learn in the process and how they answer the question, “What are you willing to fight for?” I listened to this one on audio and never liked the narrator in the sample, but I had no issue with her at 3x speed. Still not a favorite narrator for me, but better than I expected. Of all of Reid's book, this one means the most to me me. I'm So Obsessed With It.

COME AWAY WITH ME BY KARMA BROWN – This book is such an emotional read! Tegan’s entire life is changed in the wake of a terrible car accident. In her grief, she decides to travel to Thailand, Italy, and Hawaii with her husband to try to heal and find peace. On my first read in 2015, I didn’t expect Brown to take the story where she did. I loved re-reading and being able to see that she’d laid the foundation from the very beginning for some of the things that had originally surprised me. The travel aspect is the real draw for me. If this story was solely set in Chicago, I don't think I would have re-read it. But it was worth re-reading just to re-examine a few aspects of the story. The audiobook performance was fine, though not noteworthy. As for the book itself, I So Enjoyed It. 

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY BY BETHANY CHASE – This book is about a woman who thinks she’s got her life figured out — until an old flame comes back into town and throws everything into question. I first read this is in 2015 and immediately loved Chase’s writing. She made me so invested in a storyline that normally wouldn’t work for me! There’s so much that I enjoy about this book: the Austin setting, the heroine’s passion for her career as an architect, and an emotional secondary storyline. While I still don't love everything about the romance, I would still say it's a well-written relationship. Not my favorite trope, but Chase does it better than most. This was probably my favorite narrator of the three books pictured, though I listened to this one at 3x speed, too. I So Enjoyed It.

THE PERFECT RAKE, HIS CAPTIVE LADY AND THE WINTER BRIDE BY ANNE GRACIE – As you may be able to tell from the books featured in this post, Kelly and I tried to re-read across a variety of genres throughout the month. We made a list at the beginning of the month and then filled it our choices as we went. For the historical romance category, I thought about reading one book from each of my favorite authors. And then I thought, "Why don't I just re-read my favorite Anne Gracie books?" All three are from different series, but it was a fun mix of books.

Gracie was my introduction to this genre, and I've always wondered how I would feel about The Perfect Rake compared to everything I've read since. Thankfully, I found it just as delightful the second time around! I don't love the beginning or the melodrama near the end, but the relationship between Pru and Gabriel is fantastic. So much banter! Their first meeting is probably one of my favorite scenes in all the romances I've read. Once again, I So Enjoyed It. It's probably my least favorite of the three I re-read, but still so fun.

Next up was His Captive Lady, which I read for the first time last year. The Devil Riders are such a fun group of friends! I remembered this book as the most emotional of the five in the series, and my memory is correct. I loved the romance – and both characters' backstories. Gracie could have easily upped the drama by making one character keep a secret from the other, but I absolutely loved that she didn't. The characters honesty and forthrightness is my favorite! While there's a plot point near the end that make me eyeroll, I So Loved It overall.

And finally, The Winter Bride. This is my favorite of all three – and, dare I say it, possibly even my favorite historical romance? I don't even know why I love it so much, but it just works so perfectly for me! I love both characters individually, but they're even better together. And the scene where the heroine defends the hero? Someone pass the smelling salts because I definitely just swooned. I appreciated the internal and external conflicts in this one, and I love that it never gets too over the top. I'm clearly So Obsessed With It, in case you can't tell.

What have you been reading lately?

Quick Lit: February 2019 (Part 1)

Apr 2, 2019

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles: I am finally caught up on my backlog of 2018/2019 reviews! I thought this day would never come. We won't speak of 2016, the year my son was born, because that's a black hole where books were read but promptly forgotten. I read 24 books in February, and I'm reviewing 18 today and tomorrow. I had so much to say about each book, even though I've reviewed most of these before, that I split this into two posts. Here's Part Two. Of the six books not included in either post, two are in my January 2019 Quick Lit post, three will be in a blog feature I'm bringing out of retirement, and one is getting an individual review.

If you've read my February 2019 recap, then you may already know that Kelly and I did something we called #FebruaREREAD. We spent the entire month re-reading books, and it was one of my favorite things I've done for my reading life. I had an informal goal of only picking books that I'd never re-read before, and I stuck to that for the most part. I mean, I had to make a few exceptions! So, all of my reviews below are my thoughts after re-reading – but clicking the titles of the books will take you to my original review (if it exists). As always, check out the Quick Lit linkup that's hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for reviews and recs from other readers.

THE HATING GAME BY SALLY THORNE – I read this for review when it came out in 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to revisit this one ever since, and this month was the perfect opportunity. Have you ever heard the song “What is This Feeling?” from the musical Wicked? It describes two people who loathe each other in a way that sounds like love if you just tweaked the words a little bit. That’s what I keep thinking of while reading this book! It’s got a workplace rivalry between two people who embody the poem from 10 Things I Hate About You: “But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you / Not even close / Not even a little bit / Not even at all.” I had a few nitpicks on this re-read that I didn't notice previously, but I honestly still So Loved It. That ending is just too perfect!

I CAPTURE THE CASTLE BY DODIE SMITH – I first read this book back in 2013 and declared it one of my favorite books of all time. I’ve read so many books since then and have always wondered — would I still feel the same way about it today? The answer is 100% YES. The book is written as Cassandra’s journal and covers six months of her life during 1934. Her observations about the world and people around her are just delightful, and her voice is so memorable. She charms and disarms you with her thoughtful (and often comical) reflections. It’s such an accessible classic, perfect for anyone who loves coming-of-age and character-driven stories. I'm So Obsessed With It, and audiobook narrator Jenny Agutter gave me a new layer of love for it! I thoroughly enjoyed her performance.

OPEN ROAD SUMMER BY EMERY LORD – I first read this back in 2014 was excited to revisit it for #FebruaREREAD. There are other things to love about this story, but the friendship is the heart and soul of it. Reagan is a prickly heroine. She’s been the subject of gossip and ridicule, and she’s got a chip on her shoulder towards other women because of it. It takes time and maturity to stop that cycle of rejection, and Reagan just isn’t there yet. But as I read, I could imagine so much growth in her future. I could picture her years down the road — still best friends with Lilah but with a more vulnerable heart around others. She’s flawed, but she’s trying. And aren’t we all? I So Loved It, a slightly lower rating than my first read, but that's just because I felt like I had outgrown it a bit.

UNDER A PAINTED SKY BY STACEY LEE – You’ll want to read this book if you love any of the following things: the Oregon Trail, girls disguising themselves as boys, danger and adventure, attractive cowboys, strong female friendship, and diverse historical fiction. This book came out in 2015 and immediately became a new favorite for me. I loved this book just as much the second time around! Lee’s writing is just so quotable, and she paints a vivid picture of life during this time period. And it’s so refreshing to read a book that depicted diversity on the Oregon Trail in such a meaningful way! This is definitely a story that will make your heart ache with the injustice of the world. But this story isn’t all sadness. There’s a lot of humor and a little romance, too. I'm still So Obsessed With It.

SON OF THE SHADOWS BY JULIET MARILLIER – In 2014, I binged the Sevenwaters series and fell in love! After re-reading the first book on audio in 2017, I kept thinking about re-reading more from the series. With our project motivating me, I bought the second book on audio and finished all 22 hours in four days! I love the blend of fantasy and history — the sense that a fairy tale has become flesh. Marillier’s descriptions bring the setting to life, but it’s the characters who really shine for me. If you like epic and emotional love stories, you’ll find one of my favorites in these pages. There’s a lyrical quality to the writing that made this book a lovely listen, despite the moments of sadness. This story is meant to be savored, underlined, and read again and again. I'm So Obsessed With It

A NORTHERN LIGHT BY JENNIFER DONNELLY – I bought this in 2003, based solely on the summary and the writing in the first few pages. I read it soon after and have always had fond memories of it. My reading taste has changed so much since then, but I can happily say that fourteen-year-old me knew what was up. Donnelly painted a vivid picture of life on a rural farm, and I loved getting to know all of the different characters. It was heartbreaking to see Mattie’s dreams for an education and writing career contrasted with her duty towards her family. But there’s one thing I’ll remember most about this book: Mattie giving voice to the beauty and the darkness in the world around her. In a book with so much sadness and loss, it was still so hopeful. I So Loved It.

I SHALL BE NEAR TO YOU BY ERIN LINDSAY MCCABE – You know a book is excellent when it makes you cry just as much the second time around as it did the first! McCabe’s debut came out in 2014, and it’s easily still one of my favorite reads. The setting and historical detail were really well done, but it’s the characters who steal your heart. Rosetta is an unconventional woman, and her voice was just beautifully captured. I could picture her in my mind so vividly that it’s hard for me to believe she wasn’t real. And I adored her relationship with Jeremiah! The sweetness and sass of their interactions were perfect, and my investment in them is the reason the story impacts me so deeply. Their love for one another is moving, and I'm always be So Obsessed With It because of it. 

HAPPINESS FOR BEGINNERS BY KATHERINE CENTER – Of all the books in this post, this is the only one that I know I've re-read more than once. But I couldn't resist this favorite! I adore Helen – she grows so much throughout the course of the book! The first time I read the summary, I thought it sounded like a stereotypical "divorced woman finding herself." That's not inaccurate description, but it barely scratches the surface of what's in these pages. The romance is one of my favorites, and Jake Archer is one of my Top 5 book boyfriends. How's that for commitment? But I know the reason I love this book so much is because it had such an impact on my real life – helping me look at my life through new eyes. You can read about that here, if you're curious. Obviously, I'm So Obsessed With It.

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY BY JANE AUSTEN – Don’t you love revisiting an old favorite and feeling as though time and experience has made you appreciate it all the more? That’s what happened when I listened to this book. I knew I'd still love it, but it was fascinating to see what captured my attention this read. For example, having recently turned 30, I laughed more deeply at Marianne acting as though Colonel Brandon has one foot in the grave at age 35.That had always been in the text — they just had more significance to me this time! I listened to this on audio with narrator Rosamund Pike. I'd actually pre-ordered it when it was announced because I loved her reading of Pride and Prejudice. She didn't disappoint! The perfect voice for this story, and I'm So Obsessed With It.

What have you been reading lately?
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