Pack Your Bags

Jun 25, 2019

I'm heading to the mountains soon for a family vacation, which has me thinking about what books I'll bring with me. Every year on the blog, I've paired vacation destinations with the books I'd want to read at each. My full list that I've been making my way through is 36 books long, and it contains a mix of backlist books and new releases. But for today's post, it's all about the 2019 releases! Some I've already read and loved so much they had to be included, some are on my "official" 36-book list, and some were added to my summer TBR while preparing this post. No matter where I'm headed this summer, I know exactly what I plan on reading! Here's the list:

I say it every year, but the beach always has me reaching for contemporary and/or romance. I need something that's fun to read and easy to start and stop as needed (because my three-year-old wants me to "watch this!" this whole time). I can already vouch for the fact that The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren made me long for the beach. It was the perfect companion on the train to Paris! As for the other three, they all seem like perfect picks for sand and sun: The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory (a hate-to-love romance), The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem (a three-month deadline to find "The One"), and The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali (young love story thwarted by fate that's revisited 60 years later). What more do I need to say?! 

Honestly, I can read pretty much anything in the mountains – though I often feel most drawn to historical fiction and fantasy. There's something about being surrounded by nature that makes me want to slow down, take a deep breath, and get lost in another world. Beatriz Williams is a favorite for me, so The Golden Hour was one of the first books I added to my Summer TBR. I didn't love her previous release but am hoping this one will be a win. I'm dying to read Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker, especially after loving The Simple Wild last year. It's a contemporary romance, but that cover is just begging to be read in the mountains! And finally, I just finished Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson a few days ago and loved it! It's a fantasy that's just perfect for book lovers. 

the extras: towel | hat | swimsuit | shoes | travel mug | lip balm

At the lake I prefer a hint of mystery, even if it's in a historical form. Maybe because a lake always feels faintly dangerous to me? There just seems to be something lurking there under the water... which also probably explains why I don't spend a lot of time at the lake. But, if I did, these three books would be perfect picks! Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson is a new direction for this established Southern author, and I can't wait to see what dark twists she has in store. The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis will be my first read from this author. It's a dual timeline historical fiction with a Cold War focus, which sounds ominous. And finally, Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a recent favorite – unraveling the mystery of why a famous (fictional) band broke up.

Summer doesn't always mean jetting off to exciting locations. Most of my days are spent in our backyard, watching my son run through the sprinkler and trying to survive Georgia's heat. I'm open to a little bit of anything at home, especially since my bookshelves are only steps away. Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center is about a female firefighter who uproots her life for her family, and I'm here for a new book from Center! I've never read anything by Lisa See but The Island of Sea Women, which focuses on best friends in Korea over decades, sounds excellent. I cannot wait for The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee! An advice columnist in 1890s Atlanta + a favorite author = GIMME. And I can't stop raving about Lovely War by Julie Berry this year, so of course it made the list!

 the extras: sea spray | tote | hair tie | lip balm | swim suit | sunglasses

The pool is a lot like the beach for me when it comes to reading, except worse because I don't have the ocean to drown out the sounds of the annoying people next to me. If I'm at the pool during peak hours, I know to expect lots of kids playing and at least one person playing their music too loud. So, I'm reaching for something that's fun and will have me hooked. The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez  is a favorite of the year and definitely fits the bill. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes involves a romance in Maine, a setting I need more of in my life. That's What Frenemies Are For by Sophie Littlefield & Lauren Gershell is the Fifth Avenue drama that sounds just like what I want in the summer. And Recursion by Blake Crouch is a sci-fi thriller about memory that I'm itching to pick up!

This destination is a new addition to my list this year. I usually stick to the other five categories, but I had so many books that I needed a sixth. This seemed like the obvious choice since plenty of people plan vacations to big cities or far-away locales in the summer! When I'm flying, I love tuning out all distractions and losing myself in a good way. Elin Hilderbrand has a reputation for writing addicting books, so I think Summer of '69 would fit the bill. Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim looks and sounds adorable. Romance and food and San Francisco? Yes, please! And I can vouch for The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary as the perfect plane pick since I read it on my flight to England. The premise was intriguing, and the characters made it impossible to put down.

What books will be in your bag this summer?
Any trips already booked?

This post was inspired by a past Top Ten Tuesday topic, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl
Here's a look back at my "summer bags" through the years: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2017 | 2018

Back to Britain // Back at Home

Jun 14, 2019

Kelly and I returned from our trip to England at the beginning of April, and I've been meaning to write a series of recaps ever since. Where did the past two months go?! The week went by so quickly – it felt like we'd just arrived when it was time to head back home. If you were following my blog last year, you may remember that Kelly and I recapped 2018's trip with a series of three posts. I decided to do it again this year, even though it's so late.

I've already reviewed the books I read abroad and recapped our trip with favorite photos and things from each day. But I almost didn't do this post – about what I'm doing back at home – since it's two months late. But I love the format of Kelly's Mug Life feature and couldn't resist. In it, she uses photo of a mug and book + an acrostic to chat about what she's been up to lately. We did it for last year's recap, and I had to continue the tradition!

• • •

My Current Read // Lovely War by Julie Berry was one of the first books I picked up when I got home, and it's my favorite read of the year. I honestly don't think anything will knock it from the spot in the next six months! It's a gorgeous historical fiction novel that ought to be on everyone's radar. I loved it so much that I haven't even been able to review it yet. But I finally started working on my post this week, so hopefully you'll see that review soon!

Underneath the Mug // I'd hoped that Harry and Meghan would have their baby while we were there so that I could buy a commemorative mug. It would have been perfect since I forgot to get one for their wedding last year! But alas, he arrived much too late... and would I even want a mug with the name Archie on it? I think not. Instead of my London mug from last year, this Rae Dunn BFF mug seemed like the best way to honor my week with Kelly.

Get Nailed // While we were in England, my nails were painted in Butter London's Ta-Ta! My nails weren't painted on last year's trip, and Kelly definitely noticed. I couldn't disappoint her, so I made sure they were freshly painted before I left! When we got back, I swapped it out for Essie's Bikini So Teeny. It felt like spring, so I was reaching for pastels. But in today's post, I'm wearing Butter London's Poole. The soft blue-green just felt like summer to me.

• • •

Look Book // It wasn't as cold on this year's trip since we were traveling in late March/early April as opposed to February, so we didn't have to bring our heavy coats. Thank goodness for a promising forecast that ended up being everything we could have hoped for and more! But with the possibility of rain and a bit of wind, I treated myself to J.Crew's Perfect Rain Jacket. It was exactly that – easy to pack and a great light layer on the days I needed it!

Inspired By // I'm going to go with bookstagram! I haven't been motivated to do travel journal for this trip like last year, though I'm hoping that will change. But bookstagram has definitely been inspiring me lately. I've been posting there more regularly, trying to take creative photos, and am generally feeling reenergized about sharing my love of books. It's been great! My heart is still with blogging, but I'm excited about that community, too.

Frame-Worthy Moment // I shared my favorite photos from our trip in yesterday's post, and I will probably be framing several from that post. And the look on my son's face when he saw me at the airport was definitely frame-worthy. But since I don't have a photo of that moment, please enjoy the one I included below! I took it about a week after I got back while we enjoyed the petting zoo at our neighborhood's spring celebration. 

Explore // While there aren't any major trips on my horizon, I know we'll be visiting the North Georgia mountains (about an hour away) several times this summer. We just went in May and are already itching to go back! I'm hoping to go to the beach in September, but we'll see if it works out. And, obviously, I'm begging Kelly to come back in the fall. It already feels like its been ages since I've seen her because FaceTime doesn't count.

What have you been doing lately?

Back to Britain // Besties Abroad

Jun 13, 2019

Kelly and I returned from our trip to England at the beginning of April, and I've been meaning to write a series of recaps ever since. Where did the past two months go?! The week went by so quickly – it felt like we'd just arrived when it was time to head back home. If you were following my blog last year, you may remember that Kelly and I recapped 2018's trip with a series of three posts. I decided to do it again this year, even though it's so late.

In today's post, I'm sharing my favorite photos + three good things about each day. It's the same format I used last year, and I like narrowing down the highlights from the trip! If you missed it, yesterday I reviewed the six books I read while traveling. And stay tuned tomorrow for a little chat about what I've been doing back at home!


1. NO AIRPORT STRESS • Last year, I got to the airport and discovered that my first name was spelled wrong on my passport. Once I got home, I had it fixed and replaced. So it was such a relief to check in and make it through security with no issues! I'd been so anxious on last year's flight but was able to enjoy myself this year.

2. DELICIOUS MEAL • My dad took me to the airport because Nick was traveling, and we left so early for the airport to avoid traffic. That meant I had lots of time to kill once he dropped me off, so I decided to sit down and eat. I got El Taco, and it was delicious! I talked to Kelly on the phone while I ate and basically got so hyped to see her soon.

3. READING ON MY FLIGHT • I'm not a nervous flyer, but I was so worried about my passport last year that I was on edge the whole flight. This year was a totally different experience! I didn't have anyone in the seat next to me, so I got to settle in and read The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary. It was perfection... minus the fact that I barely slept.


1. REUNITING WITH KELLY • Do I even need to write anything else for this day? The obvious and biggest highlight of my first day in London was finally seeing Kelly! She was waiting for me at Café Nero, reading her Kindle and looking ready to take on the world. I was excited to be in England but happiest to be hanging out with her!

2. WANDERING IN COVENT GARDEN • Once we'd checked into our hotel and freshened up, we headed off to get Shake Shack. They were having a grand re-opening in an hour (what?!) so we explored Convent Garden and regrouped by getting fish and chips at The Round House. It wasn't what we planned, but I think it was even better.

3. VISITING OUR FAVORITE BOOKSTORE • We were both so exhausted on our first day and were struggling! So, we headed to our favorite bookstore – the Waterstones in Piccadilly – for some coffee and shopping. We both had to buy Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane, obviously! Then we got pizza and passed out at 8 p.m.


1. COTSWOLDS TOUR • Kelly found this highly-rated Cotswolds tour online, and I am so glad she did! It was one of the best things we did the whole trip. Becky picked us up from the train station and took us all around the area. We stopped in cute villages, learned so many cool facts, and took all our prettiest photographs. I want to move there.

2. AFTERNOON TEA AT BECKY'S COTTAGE • At the end of the tour, Becky took us back to her private thatched Cotswolds cottage for afternoon tea. Her entire kitchen table was covered in sweet treats, and I'm still dreaming about those delicious scones. It was the perfect and most charming way to end the day!

3. SO MUCH LAUGHTER • Honestly, we laughed every single day of the trip, but it deserves a special mention here. Being on a tour with strangers, even if it's a small group, can lead to some hilarious moments. We could not stop making covert eye contact when the know-it-all in the group offered yet another opinion. 


1. EXPLORING CAMBRIDGE • Kelly and I were so excited to visit Cambridge, but we both agree: Oxford still has our hearts. The weather was great and so many of the colleges are beautiful, but we just didn't love it as much as we expected. I'm so glad we went, but keep reading to hear about the best thing we did there...

2. PUNTING DOWN THE CAM • Once we were done wandering around, we made our way to Quayside Punting Station and booked tickets for a one-hour guided tour with Scudamore's. It made the entire trip to Cambridge so worth it! We learned so many cool things about the various colleges and got to admire the gorgeous architecture. 

3. SEEING SIX THE MUSICAL • We made it back to London early – after surviving an awful, packed train ride back with a huge group of loud, drunk youths (lol). Later that night, it was time for Six the Musical. I'd read about it online months before and got Kelly obsessed with it because duh, a concert-style musical performance based on the six wives of Henry VIII? She lives for that shit. And though I'm meh on musicals overall, we both loved it!


1. CHARMING SUSSEX TOWN • Kelly and I knew that we wanted to spend most of the trip visiting cities outside of London, and we ideally wanted them to be day trips. Rye came up in our searches, and we decided to give it a try. The town is near the seaside, full of medieval half-timber houses and cobblestone streets. It was adorable!

2. PERFECT GIFTS FOR MY BOY • We enjoyed coffee at Apothecary, ate lunch at Simon the Pieman, and just enjoyed wandering around the city. But one of my favorite store was Penny Royal gift shop. I found three of the cutest Jellycat stuffed animals to bring home for my little boy, and he's still so in love with them. A total win.

3. THE OLDEST BOOKSTORE IN LONDON • Once back in London, we devoured biskies from Cutter & Squidge and just wandered down streets in that area. Our last stop of the day was Hatchards, a gorgeous bookstore where I treated myself to three books. Then, we turned in early in preparation for the next morning...


1. READING ON THE TRAIN • We blearily left our hotel while London was still in darkness for an early train to Paris. Kelly had suggested the day trip, and I was all in! She was able to nap for the two-hour ride, but I started The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren and found it hard to stop at 85% when we pulled in to Gare du Nord. 

2. A PERFECT SPRING DAY IN PARIS • How do you summarize an entire day in Paris in one bullet point? The weather was perfect, and the city was gorgeous. We got to admire the Notre Dame (before the devastating fire), pose by the Eiffel Tower, browse Shakespeare & Company, and wander down the Champs-Élysées. Swoon.

3. FIVE GUYS & MACARONS IN BED • We were wiped out when we made it back to London that night, so we picked up Five Guys and headed straight to our room. We ate burgers and fries in bed while watching ridiculous British TV, and then we treated ourselves to the macarons we'd bought at Ladurée that afternoon. It was heavenly!


1. CHANGE IN PLANS • For our last full day, we'd planned to visit the Jane Austen House Museum. But rainy weather + learning that part of it was closed for renovation led us to cancel our train tickets. It's on my travel bucket list, but I'd rather wait and see the house in full. And hopefully on a day I can explore outside!

2. ALL AFTERNOON IN THE BOOKSTORE • So, what was our Plan B? We grabbed coffee at Costa and then headed back to the Piccadilly Waterstones. We found two comfy chairs and settled in for an entire afternoon of sampling and debating what books we'd buy. It was the best way to spend a rainy day! I have no regrets.

3. SEEING WICKED THE MUSICAL • When I told Kelly that I'd decided we should cancel our tickets, I suggested doing something that I knew was at the top of her "if we can" list: seeing Wicked. She was thrilled! I had fun seeing it again, especially with someone who loves it so much, though I definitely preferred Six. Shhhh!


1. LAST MORNING TOGETHER • We headed home on the same day this trip, and our flights were earlier than they'd been last year. Sadly, that meant we didn't have as much time together in the morning. We were leaving from different terminals, too, so we didn't even have that consolation. With one last hug, we were off!

2. FINISHING THREE BOOKS ON MY FLIGHT • After some coffee and a croissant at Heathrow, it was time to board my flight. I got lucky again and didn't have anyone sitting next to me. But what was even better? Finishing three great books on my flight! Traveling solo, I had very little to distract me and couldn't stop reading.

3. REUNITED WITH MY BOYS • Once I'd landed and had my luggage, it was time to wait for my ride home. Nick didn't head to the airport until our son woke up from his nap, but I enjoyed an iced coffee and sat on a bench outside until they arrived. The trip was amazing, but I was so happy to be home and with my boys!

Check back tomorrow to see what I'm doing back at home!

Back to Britain // Books Abroad

Jun 12, 2019

Kelly and I returned from our trip to England at the beginning of April, and I've been meaning to write a series of recaps ever since. Where did the past two months go?! The week went by so quickly – it felt like we'd just arrived when it was time to head back home. If you were following my blog last year, you may remember that Kelly and I recapped 2018's trip with a series of three posts. I decided to do it again this year, even though it's so late.

For today's post, I'm reviewing the six books I read while I was abroad. Check back tomorrow for photos and highlights from my trip. And on Friday, I'll have a little update on what I'm reading and doing back at home. Keep reading if you're curious about what books I brought with me – and what I bought while I was there!

Usually, I spend forever debating what books to pack for vacation. But my experience on last year's trip made this a no-brainer! When traveling internationally, Kelly's personal rule of thumb is one physical book + your Kindle. That's it. And she always suggests making the physical book a favorite that you've been hoping to re-read. It's your backup – there if your Kindle happens to die or you're just in need of something familiar and comforting after a long day of adventuring. But since you'll likely buy books while abroad, which we did, limit yourself to a digital TBR!

Last year, I didn't get very much reading done until I was on the way home. I finished a few more books this time, and I'm so excited to talk about all of them! Four of the six were books that I read early for review, and I'd intended to write this when I got home but hold off on posting until closer to their publication. And then, of course, I used that as an excuse to procrastinate writing it. Struggle. But let's finally dive in:

THE FLATSHARE BY BETH O'LEARY* – From the moment I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I was so excited to get an early copy for review, and I saved it to read on my flight to England. It's set in London, so it was the perfect book to kick off my trip. Tiffy and Leon share an apartment, but they've never met. They work opposite schedules, but exchanging notes every day leads to an unexpected friendship. I AM SO HERE FOR FALLING IN LOVE VIA POST-IT NOTES. Tiffy and Leon each have their own POV, and Leon's is a little weird at first. Tiffy's is written the way you'd expect, but Leon's has a different cadence and format. It took a few chapters for me to get used to, but I'm glad I stuck with it! It ended up feeling so right for the character, and now I can't imagine it being written any other way. I hate when multiple POVs sound the same, so I was very pleased with how it was done in this book. The premise sounded comedic, so I went in expecting a mostly light-hearted vibe. And while it was definitely humorous, there's so much more to it. It deals with some emotional subject matter and that made me love it more. It's just so cute and will make you smile... while also making you cry a little bit, too. I'm So Obsessed With It.

THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK BY LUCY PARKER* – On last year's flight home, I read my first Lucy Parker, Act Like It. Then, I immediately read the next two and loved them enough to re-read all three in January. So yes, I'm so obsessed with. I just love Parker's writing, characters, romances, humor, drama – all of it! I couldn't wait to read this release, especially because the Austen connection is right up my alley. And I wasn't disappointed! The vibe is a little different from the previous books because it involves a live-action TV event at a country estate. I loved the change in setting because it led to some of my favorite scenes, like a fun take on the "bad weather has us stranded here together" trope. There's also more to the plot because you've got the TV event, some family drama, and a mystery surrounding a famous play. But it all worked for me! The hero and heroine have some negative history, but I wouldn't call it hate-to-love. It reminded me of Pride and Prejudice – from "not handsome enough to tempt me" to "hey girl, let me admire those fine eyes" in a quick second. The couple's attraction and connection is pretty instant, and I usually need more more development in my romances. But for whatever reason, I still So Loved It

THE UNHONEYMOONERS BY CHRISTINA LAUREN* – I started this book on the train to Paris and had read 85% by the time we'd pulled into the station. I was mad I had to stop! I’ve read a lot from this genre, and this story just has that certain je ne sais quoi that sets it apart. Perhaps it was the laugh-out-loud dialogue and awkward situations, the tropical setting that had me longing for summer, the complex sibling relationships that felt so real, how Olive & Ethan both experienced so much personal growth, or the presence of two of my FAVORITE tropes (hate-to-love and fake dating). Whatever it was, I’m HERE FOR IT! It’s a delightful rom com, but there are some deeper themes that I loved discussing with Kelly once she’d read it, too. The story does take a more serious turn near the end, but I loved how it grounded the story in reality. You can spend a practically perfect week in paradise, but you’re still going to have to come back to the mess you left at home. And that was one of the most emotional aspects of the story for me! The Unhoneymooners is my new favorite Christina Lauren book, and I’m already planning on re-reading it soon. Toss this one in your beach bag this summer — you won’t regret it! I'm So Obsessed With It.

DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME BY MHAIRI MCFARLANE – This was the first of three books that I read on my flight home, and it was my favorite book I read all week! I bought this on our first day in London because it isn't out in the US until later this year. I thought about reading it while traveling but decided to save it, which is fitting since I re-read McFarlane's It's Not Me, It's You on last year's flight. It was the perfect book to close out this trip! McFarlane’s humor shines as always, and I loved this story so much. The romance made me swoon (with one of the best romantic declaration speeches I’ve ever read), even though it's more of a secondary storyline. This is a second-chance romance, and I love that trope when it's done well. McFarlane nails it! But more than anything else, I loved the heroine’s journey and bravery. It even made me cry... in public. That’s rare for me! The heroine just grows so much, and I was rooting for her the entire time I was reading. The story felt very relevant and timely to things that have been in the news lately, and I felt like it was handled with sensitivity. Her books are filled with so much heart, and this is easily a new favorite for me. I'm not sure it tops Who's That Girl, but I'm still So Obsessed With It.

THE BRIDE TEST BY HELEN HOANG* – Last year, I read Hoang's much-hyped debut, The Kiss Quotient. Though it was way too steamy for me, I enjoyed it overall. When I read that the Michael's cousin Khai, was getting his own book, I couldn't wait to read it. He thinks he's defective and has no feelings, but his family knows he just processes things differently. It's always kept him from pursuing a romantic relationship, so his meddling mom returns to Vietnam to find him a bride. The bride, Esme, has her own complicated reasons for giving an arranged marriage a try, and I really felt for her. The couple slowly won me over, and I was charmed by them in the end. Though it wasn't quite as steamy as TKQ, it's still too much for my taste. But I knew to expect that and just moved right on. The heart of the story was wonderful! I was annoyed by one thing that was kept secret for too long (and had an anticlimactic reveal), but it was a fun read overall. I liked seeing how Khai's autism manifested itself and loved Esme's journey as an immigrant. Hoang's letter at the end of the book made Esme's story even more meaningful, and I'm so glad it was included. I'm happy to say that I So Enjoyed It and am looking forward to Quan's book.

ARTISTIC LICENSE BY ELLE PIERSON – I randomly saw Lucy Parker tweeting about this book one day and realized that she'd written it! I had no idea that she had another pen name, but I obviously had to download this right away. I hadn't planned to read it on my trip, but at 178 pages it seemed like the perfect opportunity to squeeze in one last book on my flight home. The beginning chapters were a little awkward, and I almost set it down. But I continued on and became more invested as the story evened out. Unlike Parker's London Celebrities series, this one was set in New Zealand. That was a fun change of locale! It reminded me of her other series with the slow-burn romance and engaging dialogue. I really liked the dynamic between the hero and heroine – the tough, intimidating guy and the artistic introvert. Both are misunderstood in their own ways and have some emotional baggage to deal with because of it. That seemed realistic to me! I could see some of the things I love about Parker's writing and characters in her series, but it was also evident this is some of her early work. The pacing was a little uneven, and I think there were two aspects of the plot that felt unnecessary / undeveloped. But overall, I So Liked It.

Finally, if you're curious, here's everything I bought while abroad:

I've linked to all the books in my March and April recaps, and I'm too lazy to do it again here. But thank goodness for my carry-on backpack that miraculously held all of these books! It was heavy, but everything made it home safe and sound. I just keep adding stuff to my Book Depository cart and wishing I had a Waterstone's down the road.

How do you choose what to read on vacation?

'Just say okay.'

Jun 11, 2019

When I first started to see The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez popping up on bookstagram, I was curious! I have been loving contemporary romances lately, and this debut was getting rave reviews. Based on the title, I assumed it would be about one person secretly in love with the other and hoping to break out of the friend zone in the process. I was definitely wrong! I expected a light-hearted love story but got so much more.

I started reading it a few weeks ago, after finishing a hefty historical fiction novel. I figured I'd read a few chapters and go to bed. Next thing I knew, I was halfway through the book and trying to force my eyes to stay open long enough to read just one more page. It was the kind of book that I didn't want to put down once I started! The characters stole my heart, and I couldn't wait to see where the story would take them. I was constantly laughing at the sarcasm and sass because Jimenez's dialogue is excellent. But I cried, too – and more than once! I didn't expect the tears, but I loved that the book earned them. The more I read, the more invested I was in all of these characters – their fears and frustrations, their sorrows and joys, their missteps and misunderstandings.

The heroine, Kristen, knew that she probably wouldn't be able to have kids. With severe uterine fibroids, infertility is common. But when the pain of her condition finally takes its toll, she schedules a medical procedure that will help her pain – but make it impossible for her to have children. Planning her best friend's wedding at the same time is bittersweet, but it gets even harder when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. She connects with him so strongly but knows they aren't right for each other. He wants a huge family someday, and Kristen knows that isn't in her future. And the more time they spend together, the harder it is for her to be just his friend.

Part of this story hit close to home, and it's a huge reason I loved it. My story is very different from Kristen's, but I have experienced my own fertility issues. It took me a few years to get pregnant with my son, who is three now. And I always thought we'd have another baby by this point, though it hasn't happened yet. I hesitate to describe my situation as infertility because I know people who've gone through so much more, but I think the waiting and disappointment probably feel similar. I think that's why I connected so much to Kristen's story! I understood her desire to have kids and the way she was trying to make the best of her reality. Our stories aren't the same, but Jimenez beautifully depicted feelings that many will be able to relate to. And that's a sign of excellent writing!

The infertility storyline was refreshing to read. It's sad and heavy, yes, but it's also something I rarely see depicted in books. For that aspect alone, I loved The Friend Zone. But that's not all there is to it! Kristen is such a fun heroine – sarcastic, fiercely loyal to her friends, prone to bouts of hanger, and a secretly struggling to believe in her worth. Her business and her dog, Stuntman Mike, were hilarious. And Josh was such a great match for her! I loved how he supported her and was consistently dependable. Jimenez develops their friendship and growing feelings for one another in such a believable way. I was rooting for them from the moment they met in a fender bender. 

And somehow, Jimenez made something that I'd typically hate totally work! Kristen lies by omission because she won't tell Josh about her medical issues. She won't be with him, but she also won't tell him why. Normally that bother me more, especially when the information has such huge implications, but I understood Kristen's choices. I didn't always like it, but I could see her reasoning. Kristen is so desperate to protect her heart and, honestly, afraid of looking broken in front of the boy she likes. She's also worried that Josh will sacrifice his dream of a big family, and she can't do that to him. It did add some angst, but in a realistic way.

My one reservation about the book is that Kristen has a boyfriend when she meets Josh, and I didn't like that at all. The feelings she begins to develop for Josh strayed into cheating territory for me, even though she wasn't acting on them. I hate to even mention it because I loved everything else about the book, but I do think it's worth noting. It's probably the only thing that kept it from a full five-star rating! It's also a bit steamy, but I just skipped past.

I've also got to add that Kristen's friendship with Sloane was amazing, and I am so glad it was part of the story. I think it's one of my favorite female friendships I've read recently. I came to care so deeply for Sloane and her fiancé, Brandon, and you know it's a good book when you're invested enough to cry over the secondary characters, too. 

I'm so excited that this book is out in the world today – and to see it already getting so much praise! I could just keep going on and on about how delightful this was to read, but I probably need to let you discover some of it for yourself. It was romantic, hilarious, and so emotional. I love this genre, and my favorites will always be the books that bring more than just romance to the table. And The Friend Zone definitely does! I'm so impressed this is Jimenez's debut, and I cannot wait to read more from her in the future.

Release Date: June 11, 2019 | Publisher: Hachette; Forever Romance
Source & Format: Publisher; ARC | Pages: 364 pages

*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.

May 2019: Recap + On My Shelves

Jun 7, 2019

In May, we celebrated several birthdays, took a family vacation, and just enjoyed the gorgeous weather. It was a busy month! I'm so excited about the start of summer, though it's crazy that we're almost halfway through 2019.

1. My Son Turned Three – On May 3, we celebrated our son's third birthday! It seems like just yesterday I was being induced and praying for his safe delivery. He has been the sweetest blessing and brings me so much joy every day. I'm so thankful for this smart and loving little boy. Raising him is a privilege and an honor.

2. Completed My Goodreads Goal – In the last few years, I've set my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal at 100 books. I typically far surpass that number of books read in a year, but I don't enjoy the pressure of a higher number. I like when it's attainable. I reached my goal in May, and my 100th book was a five-star read!

3. Mountain Vacation – We spent five or so days in the mountain about halfway through the month and made such sweet memories. I finished a book or two per day, which was a huge win! We did a little shopping, spent some time exploring, and just enjoyed relaxing in such a gorgeous environment. I can't wait to go back! 

4. Fresh Flowers & Summer Reading – My mom came to babysit one day so that I could go shopping by myself, and she brought me some gorgeous hydrangeas from her backyard. It was such a treat, and then seeing those beautiful blooms in my library inspired me to make my Summer Reading TBR that same day.

Read 26 Books | Favorites:
The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn

Honorable Mentions:
Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

“Guilt is a burden, so forgive yourself for the mistakes.”
The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

“I don’t understand. How can a credit card ever be rejected? It’s not like it’s a kidney!”
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

 “If I was going to commit to someone, I wanted him to be worth the worry,
worth the part of me I was going to give him.”
If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

“I look around and see that I'm surrounded by so much wonderful mundane joy.
Life is good, for the most part, which is why we are all greedy about wanting more of it.”
Love and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum

 “But that was the way life worked. Every human being was the result of a million different factors
mixing together – one of a million sperm arriving at the egg at exactly a certain time;
even a millisecond off, and another entirely different person would result.
Good things and bad – every friendship and romance formed, every accident, every illness –
resulted from the conspiracy of hundreds of little things, in and of themselves inconsequential.”
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

 “You get in trouble no matter what you do,” Vix said sagely,
“so you might as well do everything you can.”
Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

“I love you […] but whatever made you think I want to follow your stars, and not my own?”
Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn

“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse
to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.”
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

 “You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination.
Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.”
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

As always, I started off the month with my April 2019 recap. Then, I posted my Quick Lit: April 2019. My reviews were actually written in a timely manner, hooray! Since I hadn't shared a So Obsessed With post in a while, I realized it was a great time to chat about signing up for Book of the Month. The next day, I reviewed four BoTM books that I've read recently. And finally, my favorite post of the month, I shared ten of my favorite books from the past ten years. My biggest fail? The fact that I still haven't blogged about my UK trip!

I've continued to post a little more regularly on Instagram, though I'm not great with sharing book reviews in a timely manner. And I know it's because I overthink it and procrastinate writing them. Oh well! There were a few other photos I loved in May, three of which I used in my What I Loved section, but this was at the top of my list. I snapped it quickly and love how it turned out! (But this was my favorite caption.) • @soobsessedblog

  Favorite Album: Front Porch by Joy Williams
I've loved Williams' solo music and her work in The Civil Wars, so I couldn't wait for this album.
It didn't disappoint! It feels like music you'd listen to while rocking on your front porch on a summer evening.

Sex and the City, Season 5, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, and Kim Cattrall – I flew through the first four seasons of this show in October and November, and then I lost steam on watching it. It isn't a favorite for me because I don't like any of the characters, but I still want to finish it! I picked back up with season five, which was fine. My interest is waning, so I'm glad I've just got one season left.

Isn't It Romantic (2019) starring Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, and Priyanka Chopra – I thought the previews for this made it look funny, so I got it from Redbox when it came out. It was fun overall, though it didn't wow me. I liked how it made fun of romantic comedy tropes while still basically doing everything you'd expect from the genre. Cheesy, predictable, not very memorable – but somehow still fun!

Miss Bala (2019) starring Gina Rodriguez – Listen, I love Gina in Jane the Virgin so I've been curious about what she'll do next. When I got a coupon for a 50¢ Redbox rental, I decided to get this one. I didn't want to pay full price for it because it looked ridiculous, but I still wanted to try. Gina did fine in the role, but the story just made no sense. It was so choppy! It wasn't terrible, but I wouldn't really recommend it. 

Always Be My Maybe (2019) starring Randall Park and Ali Wong – Ahhhh, the best thing I watched all month! I was a little nervous because Ali Wong's comedy routines are too crass for me, but this movie cracked me up. What a great script! I laughed so much and can't wait to watch it again soon. I loved the diversity and hope to see more movies will be made like this one. Plus, it was such a fun take on the friends-to-lovers trope!

New Releases: The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker, The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum, Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

Book of the Month: Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak and The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Used Bookstores: My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, The Leavers by Lisa Ko, How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan, The Secret to Southern Charm and Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey, Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly, The Once and Future King by T.H. White, A Million Junes by Emily Henry, and The Cliff House by RaeAnne Thayne

Book Outlet: The City of Brass by S.K. Chakraborty, The Blythes are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery, and The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

For Review: Then There Was You by Miranda Liasson, The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez, The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell, The Clergyman's Wife by Molly Greeley, and Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

NetGalley: The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory and Someone to Honor by Mary Balogh

Audible: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo (not pictured)
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