SLIDER

Currently {May 2020}

May 29, 2020


I first shared my own version of this post back in February, and I decided it was time for an update! As I mentioned before, thanks to Lauren from Bookmark Lit for the inspiration for this type of post. I've seen lot of variations on it, but hers inspired me to finally do one of my own. So, here's what my life looks like lately:

ALL THE BOOKS

Currently reading: One of my May goals is to read one of the books from my 10 to read in 2020 list, and I'm currently a third of the way through Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery. It's kind of boring me, I can't lie. And I've just started The Switch by Beth O'Leary, which I ordered from the UK! I'm so excited about it.

Currently audiobook-ing: I'm in the middle of the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare and am currently listening to the third book, City of Glass. I've never read them before, so it's been fun to binge the series in this format. There's a waitlist for the next book, however, so I'll have to listen to something else in the meantime.

Currently recommending: I've read a lot of great books lately! The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (sequel to The Royal We) comes out in July, and I adored it. Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin was a surprise favorite. And Beach Read by Emily Henry has been earning rave reviews, for good reason. It was a delight!

Currently on hold at the library: My library just re-opened for curbside pickup this week. With the shutdown, they suspended fines and extended due dates so it will probably be a while before I get some of my holds. I do, however, have The River by Peter Heller in transit, and Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert waiting to be picked up.

Currently pre-ordered: Although I don't think I've actually done it yet, there are three June 30 releases I'm planning on pre-ordering: The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty, Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams, and Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan. Three very different books, but I'm looking forward to all of them!

Currently in my cart: I just purchased a few books from Book Outlet, and now I'm trying to narrow down another very long wishlist. I think The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner will likely be my next purchase.

Currently adding to my TBR: My most recent addition was The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. My expectations are very low knowing it's from Snow's perspective. We'll see... UGH. WHY, SUZANNE?!

Currently NetGalley-ing: I might have done a little happy dance when I learned that I was approved to read Majesty by Katharine McGee, the sequel to American Royals. I'm saving it for just the right moment!

ALL THE THINGS

Currently listening: I've lost precious music listening time since I'm rarely in the car these days. But when I do open Spotify, I keep streaming Lennon Stella's Three. Two. One. The whole album is excellent.

Currently watching: A lot of the shows in my queue are hour-long dramas, and I just haven't been in the mood for them. But I just flew through Never Have I Ever and highly recommend it! Now, I'm two episodes in to The Great, the new Hulu show about Catherine the Great starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult. I think I like it?

Currently eating: All the snacks. Seriously, I can't stop! If I let myself add Peanut Butter M&Ms to my grocery order, they're gone in like three days. THE PARTY SIZE! I jokingly told Kelly that I'm going to gain the quaran-19 soon. Also, I'm regularly cooking again, and I still hate it. Why can't my family just feed themselves? Haha!

Currently drinking: A lot of Diet Coke, I can't lie. And still guzzling water, since I'm nursing.

Currently wearing: Most days it's pajamas, or some variation on them. I've been trying to put on real clothes to feel normal, but sometimes it's hard to find the motivation if we aren't going anywhere or seeing anyone.

Currently bookmarking: I'm so excited that Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2020 Summer Reading Guide is here! Though I won't end up reading everything on her list, I always love using her guide to help shape my summer TBR.

Currently coveting: I think it seems overpriced, but I still want to splurge on this Weezie Women's Short Robe. And I'm probably going to buy this Notes dry-erase board from Simplified for our fridge.

Currently obsessing over: My sister has joined bookstagram! If you're interested, she's @talesandtigerlily. She's already killing it with gorgeous photos and amazing reviews. I'm so happy that she's developed a love of reading!

ALL THE EMOTIONS

Currently celebrating: At the beginning of May, my big boy turned four. I can't believe it! He's obsessed with animals and requested a rain forest theme party for months. I was excited to deliver on the theme, although we weren't able to have a party. We still had a great day celebrating him, and he loved every minute of it.

Currently loving: Our sweet baby has been laughing lately, and it's music to my ears! He's done a little chuckle for a while now, but it was a delight to finally hear some real giggles. I make a fool of myself trying to draw it out of him.

Currently looking forward to: The hope that life will go back to normal eventually. Who isn't feeling that way?

Currently procrastinating: Two projects that I know will take less time than I feel like they will: 1) backing up a bunch of videos to OneDrive + deleting them off my phone, and 2) filling out my big boy's Promptly Journal.

Currently accomplishing: I'm really proud of the fact that I've maintained a (mostly) consistent blogging schedule since the baby was born. I wasn't sure I could, and it's been fun and rewarding to be able to make it happen!

Currently researching: All things baby sleep. I know way too much about a bunch of things that don't necessarily translate into a baby who naps well. But he's falling asleep on his own (in his crib, too!), so it's a start.

Currently thinking about: When the new Book of the Month picks will be posted – and what they might be!

Currently feeling: Grateful, but still a little anxious, too. I'm thankful for so much, but it feels like my mind is always racing these days. I just want to turn my brain off for a little bit and stop worrying about things.

What's Currently going on in your life?

Our Newest Love & Ten Things He's Taught Me

May 27, 2020

Photo by Michele Zakeri Photography

Our second sweet boy was born in February, the longed for and loved answer to so many prayers. His birth was relatively easy, aside from the fact that my epidural didn't really work. That was... an experience I didn't anticipate. He entered the world quickly and safely, immediately making his presence known and changing our family forever. Even though we spent months planning for his arrival, nothing could have truly prepared me for it.

Though I had a better idea of what to expect from childbirth and postpartum recovery than I did the first time around, I knew that every baby and birth story was different. I love the similarities and differences between his and his brother's – the cherished moments in each that I will retell for the boys on their respective birthdays. While I won't be posting his story here, I have been meaning to write a little bit about what life looks like lately.

He was born about a month before the stay-at-home orders existed. Our time in the hospital was remarkably normal – the virus wasn't even on our radar. Once discharged, our families visited us at home. He went to the doctor, out to lunch, had newborn photos taken, and even visited Target a time or two. But, as you know, everything changed in mid-March. It's been an adjustment, to say the least. Now, every day looks practically the same – but it's always different, too, as the baby grows and changes. Since I talked about what I was learning before he was born, I decided to share what he's taught me in his first four months of life:

1. You really can love another baby as much as your first.
While I knew in my head this would be the case, it still felt like an impossibility. Love sometimes seems measurable, until I remember that it isn't a finite resource that you split between people. I fell in love with Nick because of who he is as a person, but it will always amaze me how you can love a baby unconditionally from the moment they arrive. I don't know what this new baby's personality and interests will be, but I can't wait to find out.

2. There's nothing sweeter than seeing your big boy hold his baby brother.
Nick and I couldn't wait for our big boy to have a sibling and become a big brother. Once I was pregnant, however, the last few months felt bittersweet. But in every moment that I wondered if our big boy would be sad about the changes to come, I forgot that he, too, would get to experience a new kind of love. For a while, he started every day by saying, "Good morning, baby! Welcome to the world. This is your family, and I'm your big brother!" My heart.

3. I feel more confident in myself the second time around...
With my first, I remember a lot of Google searches that led me to hundreds of articles (that felt like they contradicted each other) and message boards filled with anecdotal stories about what did and didn't work for other moms. And while I still turn to the Internet with questions, I'm more confident in the decisions I'm making. With the exception of the coronavirus, I've felt less anxious about the day-to-day of raising a baby.

4. ... but still realize how much I don't know, every single day.
All that being said, I don't always know what I'm doing. Every baby is different, and having a second definitely proved that point. In some ways, everything feels new. We're learning how he wants to be soothed, what makes him happy or sad, what products he likes, and more. There's a temptation to compare the two boys in regards to reaching milestones, but I remind myself that this baby is his own person who will do things in his own time.

5. With big change comes big feelings.
Nick and I talked with our big boy often about what life would look like with a baby. We've been amazed at how wonderfully he's handled the transition! But on the days we can tell he's craving our attention, we remind ourselves of this truth. It doesn't just apply to the littles, either. I consider myself a pretty steady person, but my emotions get the best of me sometimes, too. My favorite cures: a cold Diet Coke, a warm bath, a good book, and time alone.

6. "I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection."
This quote from Emily Ley isn't new to me. I had a print of it framed in my office back when I was working! However, it feels particularly relevant to me now and has taken on a whole new meaning. I like doing things perfectly, but that isn't how parenting works. When I feel guilty over what I accomplished in a day, I'm trying to choose grace. I like having routines and meeting goals, but rest is important, too. It's okay to let the laundry wait.

7. Parenting during a pandemic is hard. I need my people!
Months ago, I told Nick that I was looking forward to having a normal postpartum experience. Right after my first was born, I found out I had thyroid cancer. I grieved having so much anxiety and uncertainty during such a special season of life. Hmm... sound familiar? So many of the things I felt then are so applicable today.  The hardest thing now is being more isolated. I really miss being around my family and having them get to know my baby!

8. Don't spend one season of life wishing for the next.
There are wonderful things about being home as we adjust to life as a family of four. From backyard camping to porch picnics, we've enjoyed the outdoors more than ever before. We've embraced our four-year-old's preferred uniform of pajamas all day. But as we wonder and worry over the future, I'm trying not to wish away this time in our boys' lives. I want this to be over but don't want to lose perspective on how quickly these baby days will pass.

9. You can have a second baby and still make time for the things you love.
After my first baby, I shared six things I was learning in 2016. On my list? If I love something, I'll find the time to do it. I wrote more about the concept when I shared five ways to find time to read. Well, I'm happy to report that that advice still applies with a second! Making time for the things I love – whether it's reading, blogging, or just taking a bath – helps me feel like myself. I can love and serve my family and practice some self-care, too.  

10. Give yourself the gift of sleep.
I'd heard about the sleepless nights and sheer exhaustion of the newborn period, but it never hit me too hard with my first. Welp... it sure did this time around. I have a much deeper appreciation for the restorative powers of sleep! I'm so thankful for all the wonderful resources online that have helped us establish a healthy foundation of sleep habits for our baby. From wake windows to a bedtime routine, I feel empowered by the things I've learned.

Bonus: It's reassuring to know you're not alone.
I was thrilled when I found out my favorite cousin was having a baby, too! She's only a few months older than me, and we've been close even though she was in Arkansas (and then later moved to Germany). It was so fun being pregnant at the same time, and her little boy was born two weeks after mine. Having someone going through all the same things, at the same time, has been the sweetest blessing. We text all the time, and I love it!

What have you been learning lately?

In the Beginning...

May 26, 2020


Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is all about opening lines. With so many options, I decided to go with ten first sentences that immediately made me want to keep reading:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, 
that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Last night, I dreamt that I chopped Andrew up into a hundred little pieces, 
like a Benihana chef, and ate them, one by one.
The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum

If you want to put me in Hell, 
plunk me down in the middle of a party where I don't know anyone.
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

They say death aims only once and never misses, 
but I doubt Ty Yorkshire thought it would strike with a scrubbing brush.
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

You already know the story of the American Revolution, 
and the birth of the American monarchy.
American Royals by Katharine McGee

If it had not rained on a certain May morning 
Valancy Stirling's whole life would have been entirely different.
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

The circus arrives without warning.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

On the second Shabbat of Twelthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

What's your favorite opening line?

'I'd notice you in a crowd of a million.'

May 21, 2020


PLEASE NOTE: Discussing this companion novel does spoil Sloan's story in The Friend Zone

Last year, I fell in love with Abby Jimenez' debut, The Friend Zone. When I found out she had a new book coming out this year, I was thrilled. And my excitement only grew when I realized it was a companion novel. In The Friend Zone, we meet Kristen's best friend, Sloan. And I knew it was an excellent book when I was invested enough to cry over the secondary characters, too. Because Sloan's story in that one? It's a happy ever after that ends too soon.

I was smitten the moment we met Sloan's fiancé, Brandon, in The Friend Zone. And part of it was because I loved the idea of two best friends falling in love with another pair of best friends. Have you ever tried to make friends as a couple? It's a challenge! So often, there's one person you like more. But as Kristen fell in love with Josh, Brandon's best friend, I could picture the four of them living near each other, raising kids at the same time, vacationing together, and more. When Brandon died, I deeply felt the loss of him and the future I'd envisioned for all of them.

The Happy Ever After Playlist picks up two years later. Sloan's life is still on pause, as if she's suspended in time. Brandon's clothes are still in the closet, his drink sitting open where he left it. Sloan is surviving, but she's not really living. Then, a dog jumps in her car window and everything changes. When Sloan finally tracks down the owner, she learns he's a musician currently on tour in Australia. He wants his dog back, but Sloan's not ready to surrender her new pet to someone who didn't even know he was missing for two weeks. Can you call it a meet cute when a couple has yet to meet? Either way, it's the beginning of a romance too adorable for words.

If you've read my review of The Friend Zone, you may remember that part of Kristen's story hit close to home for me. Though I haven't gone through the exact same thing, her feelings resonated with me. Because her story made me so emotional, I wasn't sure if Sloan's would be able to compare. I haven't experienced that type of loss, so I anticipated loving it just a tiny bit less than the first. Well, Jimenez has cemented herself as an auto-buy author for me because I loved The Happy Ever After Playlist even more. WHAT?! From the moment I started, I couldn't put it down. I had a huge grin on my face while turning the pages, subjected my bestie to constant texts about my emotional state while reading, and just felt so unbelievably thankful for it. When I was recently in need of a comfort read in the midst of the world's chaos, I re-read this book. So, yes, I've read this twice in the span of two months.

I could go on and on about why I loved this book, but here are my top three reasons you should pick it up:

1. Sloan and Kristen's Friendship
From the very beginning of The Friend Zone, I was sold on their friendship. Kristen reminded me of my best friend, and their interactions felt familiar. Sometimes I'll read a book and think, "This author is writing from experience." That's how I felt about Sloan and Kristen – they made me believe that Jimenez knows firsthand the power of female friendship. I love Kristen's hilarious attempts to fluster Sloan's more reserved nature, how they show up for one another, and how they have honest (and sometimes painful) conversations. It's a friendship rooted in love and laughter that flourishes with their loyalty to one another in every season of their lives. If there was a prequel novel focusing solely on the origins of their friendship, I'd be the first in line to read it.

2. Jason, My New Book Boyfriend 
I thought Josh Copeland won my heart in The Friend Zone, but Jason Larsen came in and stole the show. Many of my favorite book boyfriends have a similar type – a little more quiet and serious. They may not have sparkling personalities, but they're steady. But sometimes, I can't resist a charmer. From the moment Jason started replying to Sloan's texts, I was hooked. He's funny, flirty, and straightforward. He knows what he wants, he's willing to wait for it, and he's not playing games with Sloan's heart. Now, he's not perfect, most notably when he has a huge "I'm withholding information for her own good / to protect her" moment. But I understood his reasoning, even as I mentally yelled at him. Otherwise, I'm totally here for this gorgeous, guitar-playing, Minnesota man.

3. Sloan's Hard-Fought Healing
Finally, I've got to end by focusing on the incredible heroine of this book. My heart broke for Sloan and the pain she experienced in the previous book. When I learned two years had passed before the start of this book, I thought it might mean that we skipped over seeing the worst of her grief. But that wasn't the case at all. It was hard to see her so withdrawn and isolated, but I loved being able to watch her begin to fight for healing. I was so proud of her for embracing life, opening herself back up to love, and learning when to say goodbye. Another favorite aspect? Learning more about her passions! I loved reading about her artistic talent, and her skill in the kitchen came with a delightful revelation. Sloan's growth is central to the story, and I appreciated that so much.

As you can see, I'm so obsessed with this book! I have to give major props to Jimenez because Sloan and Jason's connection develops very quickly, and I'm usually annoyed by any hint of instalove. But in this case, I believed it. The first half of the book is just a delight, but the second half does have a decent amount of drama. Most of it is caused by external circumstances (Jason's music career and the reality of life on tour, etc.), so it felt like a realistic source of tension in their relationship. There is one moment, however, where Jason decides what's best for Sloan in a very frustrating way. Did I want to smack him? Absolutely. But it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book in the slightest! If you're in the mood for a fun, feel-good story of falling in love, pick up The Happy Ever Playlist.

Release Date: April 14, 2020 | Publisher: Hachette; Forever Romance
Source & Format: Publisher; e-ARC | Pages: 400 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.

Quick Lit: April 2020

May 15, 2020


April was a great reading month for me, and I finished 15 books. I wrote a longer review for Memory-Making Mom by Jessica Smartt, and one of my April reads was the first book in a series that I'll write about in a separate post. But today I've got mini reviews for nine of my April reads + some quick thoughts on four re-reads at the bottom of the post! If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.


THE HONEY-DON'T LIST BY CHRISTINA LAUREN – When I first discovered Christina Lauren, I thought I'd found a new favorite author(s). But lately, I've realized that their books have been hit-or-miss for me. The premise of their latest release sounded hilarious, and I did enjoy certain elements of it. I liked the idea of a fictional version of Chip and Joanna Gaines who were terrible and can't stand each other off-screen, but they were more fleshed out than the main characters. As a whole, the book felt very rushed and undeveloped. For the first time, it felt evident that this duo is releasing books very quickly. The romance was so forgettable, which is a problem for a book billed as a romantic comedy. I was just So Okay With It and am disappointed by how much it lacked. So meh!

BEACH READ BY EMILY HENRY* – This book wasn't on my radar until I spotted a rave review of it on Instagram, but I still decided to request it for review. I'm so glad I did because it quickly became one of my favorite reads of the year! When I first started it, I was intrigued but not immediately invested. But the more I read, the more I loved it! I loved the the backstories of the hero and heroine, fell for their quippy banter, and thought the premise worked so well. The storyline involving the heroine's father was so moving, and I loved how Henry explored whether we can know our parents fully. Another favorite aspect? The heroine and her best friend. I am so here for books celebrating strong female friendships! It was a lot more emotional than I expected, and I'm So Obsessed With It.

THE KINGDOM OF COPPER BY S.A. CHAKRABORTY – After refreshing my memory of The City of Brass (thanks, Recaptains!), I was ready to dive in to this sequel. Y'all, it was even better than the first! That's an accomplishment since so many series have a lull in the middle. I was more engaged in the action in this book and didn't have any issue with the pace. And because I was more familiar with the world, I didn't find it as difficult to follow. I still loved the political maneuverings, and I thought the time jump at the beginning of the book worked really well. One of my favorite things about the book is that I truly don't know how everything will be resolved in the end – both with the overall conflict and with the relationships between characters. I So Enjoyed It and can't wait for the conclusion!



YOU ARE NOT ALONE BY GREER HENDRICKS & SARAH PEKKANEN – Since I enjoyed this duo's first and second book, I couldn't wait to dive in to their third! It has very short chapters and alternates between the heroine, Shay, and the Moore sisters. You know there's something unusual about the sisters – and Shay's burgeoning friendship with them – but can't quite figure out what's going on. The last part was the most exciting – tense, fast paced, and delivered some real surprises. But I had more questions about it the more I thought about it once I was done. I'm not entirely sure the story made sense once the thrill of reading had faded. I So Liked It because it was a fun reading experience + just right for my mood, but it was my least favorite of their books so far.

THE RIGHT SWIPE BY ALISHA RAI – I couldn't decide what to read next, so I started browsing my library's audiobooks. The cover of The Right Swipe caught my eye, and the premise sounded fun. So, I decided to take a chance on it – and am so glad I did! The audio experience was delightful, and I loved that it had two narrators since it had both the hero and heroine's point of view.  loved how it featured dating apps and modern dating has changed because of them. The diversity in the story was great, and I loved the added depth with the discussion of football's effect on the brain and how women are often treated in the workplace. It was a fun contemporary romance, and I So Enjoyed It. My complaint? The sex scenes were too detailed for me, personally.

GIRL GONE VIRAL BY ALISHA RAI – In The Right Swipe, we're introduced to the heroine of Girl Gone Viral. Based on what we learn of her in the first book, I knew I'd be starting this book immediately. I needed to know more about her! What happened in her past that led to the woman she is today? This book slowly reveals her story, and I wasn't disappointed. The romantic situation in this one felt very friends-to-lovers, which worked for me. Although, once again, I would have preferred a more closed-door romance. The heroine goes viral when someone live-tweets an innocent conversation that looks like a meet cute, and I adored how the author used that setup to discuss privacy in the age of the Internet. I So Enjoyed It, and am so glad I took a chance on this series.


THE DOLL PEOPLE, THE MEANEST DOLL IN THE WORLD AND THE RUNAWAY DOLLS BY ANN M. MARTIN AND LAURA GODWIN – I don't read many children's books these days, but I couldn't resist the appeal of a book about a family of dolls coming to life when their human owner isn't around. These are the kind of books I would have adored as a little girl! And even as an adult, I found all three books incredibly delightful. The illustrations throughout, by the talented Brian Selznik, just added to their charm. In the first, Annabelle Doll searches for her missing aunt and makes a new doll friend, Tiffany Funcraft. In the second, Annabelle and Tiffany accidentally end up at their owner's school and have to deal with a bully. In the third, Annabelle and Tiffany run away from home to protect another doll. All three were very quick reads for me, and all earned a So Enjoyed It. They brought a smile to my face and made me nostalgic for my childhood. It's magical to imagine your toys having a life of their own, and authors Martin and Godwin perfectly captured it. I can't wait to read these aloud to my boys one day!

I re-read four books in April. While browsing my unfinished Audible books, I got the itch to re-read The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. I just re-read them last year but found myself craving a return to this world. I hadn't listened to them on audio before, so I was excited for that experience. The first book, Finnikin of the Rock, is narrated by Jeffrey Cummings but the second and third, Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn, are narrated by Grant Cartwright. I am so glad the narrator changed! Cummings wasn't terrible, but I didn't really enjoy listening to him. Cartwright, on the other hand, was a delight to listen to and made me love these characters even more. I'm So Obsessed With It, of course! If you want to know why I love them, check out my re-read review from last year

In addition to that series, I also re-read The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. I adore the book, and the forthcoming sequel, The Heir Affair, definitely tops my list of most-anticipated 2020 releases. When I got a copy of it to read for review, I knew I had to go back to the beginning first. The Royal We was just as delightful as I remembered! It was my second re-read via audio, and I love narrator Christine Lakin. If you love modern royalty, this book is for you. It's a perfect example of fiction with real-life inspiration, and I'm So Obsessed With It!

*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?

It's Not Me, It's YOU...

May 12, 2020


Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is about the last ten books I abandoned. I've decided not to finish a decent number of books this year, though I don't typically track or review them on Goodreads. I have to make it pretty far into a book or have strong opinions on why I quit for it to be worth noting online. However, since it is today's topic, here are my ten most recent DNFs and why I walked away: 

1. The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin – I bought this at the used bookstore then ended up borrowing the audiobook from the library. Two hours in, I realized I was bored and disconnected from the characters. It didn't seem bad, but I wasn't in the mood. Sometimes I try this type of DNF at a later time, but probably not in this case.

2. The Next Right Thing by Emily Freeman – I've read and enjoyed something else by this author in the past, and I've heard people rave about this book + podcast by the same name. I bought it on sale for Kindle but only made it a few chapters in before realizing I fundamentally disagreed with some of her teaching. 

3. The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes – Despite lukewarm reviews, I bought a copy of this because I adored the cover. You can probably guess what I'll say next: you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. This was very underwhelming, and I wasn't invested in the heroine or mystery at all. I made it almost halfway before quitting.

4. A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge – I bought this on my trip to England with Kelly last year, and I think it was another case of cover love. The summary doesn't sound like something I'd normally read, but I took a chance. I only a few chapters before realizing I wasn't the right reader for it, for no specific reason.

5. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness – Kelly adores this series, and I finally read the first book back in 2018. Though it wasn't a favorite, I was curious about what would happen next. Four hours into the audio, I noticed that I didn't have anything critical to say about it but just didn't care enough to invest more time in it.

6. Imagine Me by Tahereh Mafi – Does it count as abandoning a book if you never even started it? I loved the original trilogy, was excited by the fourth book, but was frustrated by the fifth book. I planned to finish the series regardless, but Kelly read it and told me I didn't need to bother. So, I just took it off my to-read list. 

7. Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore – Bookstagram made me do it! I bought this on audio and loved the narrator so much that I almost continued listening. However, I couldn't ignore the fact that I found the heroine insufferable and didn't think the time travel aspect made any sense at all. I returned it for a refund.

8. The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore – This was a random thrift store purchase, and I really liked the sample I read. When I finally sat down to read it, I made it almost 60 pages in before deciding to stop. It definitely wasn't a bad read, but I didn't care for the dysfunctional family dynamics or first world problems. 

9. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman – I was expecting to love this book! You can imagine my surprise when I made it about 45 pages in and realized it wasn't working for me. I'm still a little sad, honestly. I just didn't like the heroine or the writing because the quirkiness felt forced. So, I set it aside.

10. Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday by Valerie Woerner – I appreciated what the author was trying to do with this book, bur I often didn't feel like I could personally relate to the way she felt about motherhood. There was just a bit too much complaining for me, so I didn't feel motivated to continue reading. 

Have you abandoned any books lately?

May 2020 Goals

May 11, 2020

I try to post my new goals in the first few days of the month, but I got distracted last week and forgot to finish writing this post. So, I'm a little late, which you'll notice in the "On My Calendar" section because two of the events have already happened. Whoops! April was a productive month overall, though it felt like it passed in a blink compared to an interminable March. I completed most of my goals, but I realized what a difference it makes when I actually give them a due date. The things I didn't finish were items I kept talking about doing but never planned.

Georgia has started to slowly re-open, but we're still sticking close to home. Aside from curbside pickups and doctor's appointments, we really haven't gone anywhere. It's hard to figure out the right balance of being wise, staying safe, and not living in fear. There's so much unknown right now. Honestly, I miss being around my family and having them love on my boys. But I am thankful for a home I love with three of my favorite people and gorgeous weather that allows all of us to spend lots of time outside! Praying for more of that in May.


On My Calendar:
– My big boy turns 4
– A few family birthdays
– Mother's Day at home with my boys
– Several doctor's appointments

Currently Obsessing Over:
– Audible has introduced the option to organize your Library by Collections in the app, as well as favoriting titles and sorting by genre or listening status. I've wanted this feature for ages and am so happy it finally exists!
– Speaking of audiobooks, I just listened to the entire Travis Family series by Lisa Kleypas and loved narrator Brittany Pressley. I stubbornly resisted the books for a long time, but Pressley's narration sucked me in.
– I've been loving this rattan purse – affordable, perfect for warm weather, and just big enough for the essentials.
– If you need a mask, I ordered the blue one from this shop on Etsy and love the fit, fabric, and quality.

Yearly Goals:
(These should stay the same all year, so I'll just do month-to-month progress reports!)
– Read through the Bible in one year.
– Read a devotional every morning.
– Track my spending in the Goodbudget app.
– Blog 2x per week.

April progress: 
– This was a struggle. Twice, I got almost a week behind. I caught up but need to find a better routine here.
– Yep! I did better about reading my devotional than my Bible, probably because it's only one page per day.
– Continuing to have success here! I occasionally forgot to log a purchase in the moment but did it later.
– There was one week where I only posted once, but I'm counting nine new posts as an overall success!

Revisiting My April Goals:
Schedule a monthly planning session. / Check! Wrapping up the month and preparing for the new one is becoming a habit, and I love it. This is one of my favorite changes I've made so far this year.
Research some possible activities for my preschooler. / I've been thinking about introducing some learning activities into routine for my big boy. I did some research but still haven't settled on what we'll do.
Ease back into the habit of meal planning and cooking. / Though I don't really enjoy either one, I'm getting back in the groove with both. But dealing with grocery pickup and out-of-stock items can throw a wrench in things.
– Organize my closet + both boys' closets and dressers. / I didn't get to my closet, but I cleaned out my dresser and the boys' closets and dressers. I also made a small list of other house projects to tackle in the coming months.
Complete three 20 in 2020 items, such as a backyard picnic and making a bird house. / YES! We did a backyard picnic, nature scavenger hunt, and backyard camping. Are you sensing the theme? There are some more items we can do from home, but I may have to reconfigure others in light of COVID-19. I'll see how things evolve.
Complete Two Months in the baby's journal + take monthly photo. / Yep! I answered most of the prompts before the 7th and then filled in the rest after his well check. And I took his monthly photo on time, too!
Cull, download, rename, and backup March 2020 photos. / I got this done in the first few days of April and was just so glad that I finally have a system. Doing it no longer overwhelms me and finally feels very routine.
– Cull the 700ish videos currently stored on my phone. / Whoops, I didn't even attempt this item. I did, however, cull and rename all my 2016 photos. So, I don't feel bad about delaying this task. Now I only have 2017 left to do!
Extend my new-to-me book buying ban another month, with one exception. / I bought several finished copies of books I'd already read, as well as a few audiobooks to re-read. I did order two books from Waterstones at the end of the month, but they haven't arrived yet. So, I think I get to count this as a win!
– Write a blog post about life lately. / I didn't get around to writing this post, so I'll probably add it to my May goals.
Cull my bookshelves + Goodreads. / Success! I took a decent number of books off my shelves (some unread and some read I didn't feel the need to keep) and did a quick Goodreads organization.
– Have a Q1 financial review with Nick to look at our budget, savings, etc. / I kept mentioning that we needed to do this but didn't set a specific date, so I've learned my lesson on that one.

My May Goals:
– Schedule a monthly planning session.
– Organize my closet.
– Complete Three Months in the baby's journal + take monthly photo.
– Complete Toddler Year Three in my big boy's journal.
– Cull, download, rename, and backup April 2020 photos.
– Cull and rename all 2017 photos.
– Have a Q1 financial review with Nick.
– Read two non-fiction books (faith + finance).
– Read one 10 in 20 book.
– Write two discussion posts.
– Check off two 20 in 2020 items!

Do you have any goals for May?

You're Cordially Invited

May 5, 2020

House, Gown, Gilbert, Decor, Microphone, Cake, Guests, Ring, Painting
When I saw today's Top Ten Tuesday topic, I immediately started brainstorming what angle I wanted to take with it. Ten Things I'd Have at My Bookish Party is pretty broad! Did I want to plan a real party with a bookish theme? Did I want to focus on what fictional characters I wish I could invite over in real life? And then, inspiration struck. I'd plan a party where each element came from a book I'd read. You're invited, of course, and here are all the details:

1. THE LOCATION: Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice
If I'm hosting a bookish party, it's taking place at my favorite fictional home. What could be better than a stately home in the English countryside? I want to wow my guests from the first moment they arrive.

2. THE DRESS: A Gown from A Court of Thorns & Roses Series
In general, I prefer to dress casually. Jeans are the most-worn item in my wardrobe. But a special occasion calls for something a little extra, so I'd borrow something from Feyre Archeron's closet. Perhaps her Starfall gown?

3. THE DATE: Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables
My husband will have to forgive me for kicking him to the curb for my party. I have a lot of bookish boyfriends, but none compare to the first one to steal my heart: Gilbert Blythe. I think he'd look positively dashing by my side.

4. THE DECOR: Arranged by Antonia Davenport from My Oxford Year
The hero of this book, Jamie Davenport, comes from a wealthy British family and attends a gorgeous ball with his girlfriend. I don't remember who actually planned the event, but I trust his mom to hire the right people for the job.

5. THE MUSIC: Aubrey & Colette from Lovely War
Getting the music right for my party required a lot of thought. I'd considered Daisy Jones & The Six, but I get the feeling Daisy would try to steal everyone's attention. But I think Aubrey and Colette would serenade us beautifully! 

6. THE CAKE: Baked by Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games
There's only one correct answer here! My love for Peeta runs deep enough that I almost chose him as my date, but I decided I was more in need of his baking skills. I know it would taste wonderful and be decorated to perfection.

7. THE GUESTS: The Squad from The Throne of Glass Series
There are so many fictional characters that I'd love to invite, but this series is closest to my heart. I'd most love to hang out with Aelin, Rowan, Lysandra, Elide, and the rest of the gang. Plus, they need an opportunity to celebrate!

8. THE GIFT: The Lyons Emerald from The Royal We
Am I dreaming big for this party? You know it! No other gift will do but the ring that Prince Nicholas uses to propose. A twelve-carat emerald ringed with diamonds and set in antique gold would look great on my finger. 

9. THE PARTY FAVOR: Art by Sloan from The Happy Ever After Playlist
If my guests are leaving with a favor, I want it to be something they can cherish forever instead of tossing as soon as they get home. I'd ask Sloan to do a custom painting. I'd keep the original but send guests home with a print!

I'm one item short of a list of ten, but I still think I've got all the right components for a perfect party. And I don't always have the best memory, so I'm patting myself on the back for being able to think of specific fictional items for this list. I had so much brainstorming all the possibilities for it and am quite pleased where I ended up!

What would be at your bookish party?

April 2020: Recap + On My Shelves

May 4, 2020


It felt like March lasted for ages, but April passed in a blur. The month was marked by more days at home but lots of special memories. There are hard things about this season, but I'm trying to find all the good stuff, too.


1. My New Planner – I started using a weekly Simplified Planner last year and was excited for the new academic year release on April 1. I've been curious about using a daily edition and went for it with this gorgeous gold dot Dapperdesk. I can't wait for August! (Here's my referral code for $10 off your first purchase, if you're interested.)

2. Social Distancing Movie Date – While talking to Kelly one day, she mentioned that she was watching Little Women later that night. Then, she asked if I wanted to watch it, too. I couldn't say yes fast enough! We got our snacks, started our movies at the same time, and texted throughout. Here's her view. It was delightful!

3. Backyard Camping – One of the items on our 20 in 2020 list was to enjoy camping in the backyard. Many of the adventures on our list are on hold due to COVID-19, so we've been focusing on the ones we can do at home. Nick and our big boy made s'mores and slept in a tent one night, and it was the most adorable thing ever. 

4. Solo Dinner Date in My Car – Nick had to travel for work in April, and it was the first time I was home alone with both boys for a few days. Once he got home, I needed a little time to myself out of the house. So, I picked up Culver's, parked my car, and enjoyed dinner + dessert while reading a book. It was exactly what I needed!


Read 15 Books | Favorites:
Memory-Making Mom by Jessica Smartt
Beach Read by Emily Henry
The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty
Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

“And that was the moment I realized: when the world felt dark and scary,
love could whisk you off to go dancing; laughter could take some of the pain away;
beauty could punch holes in your fear. I decided then that my life would be full of all three.”
Beach Read by Emily Henry

“You don't stop fighting a war just because you're losing battles. You change tactics.”
The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

“Some people contend there are two primal fears.
The first and most basic is the end of our existence. The second is isolation;
we all have a deep need to belong to something greater than ourselves.”
You are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

“Every time you hurt someone, you break off a little piece of them.
Not only do they have to live with that broken piece,
then the next person who comes along has to figure out a way to spackle that spot.
Your behavior has ripple effects.”
The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

“Many times in life I've regretted the things I've said without thinking.
But I've never regretted the things I said nearly as much as the words I left unspoken.”
Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas


I'm so pleased that I've been able to maintain my blogging mojo! While I still have a backlog of posts I keep wanting to write, I'm glad that I've still been relatively consistent. I started the month with my March 2020 recap and then my April 2020 goals. I participated in one Top Ten Tuesday topic: Ten Books I Bought Because... and highlighted different reasons for each. After wrapping up The Contentment Challenged at the end of March, I shared what I bought during the no-spend challenge and what I'd been waiting to buy.

From a bookish perspective, I posted my March 2020 Quick Lit with mini reviews of six books. Then, I wrote a separate post I titled Mondays are for Murder to recommend two delightful mysteries I'd read. And I closed the month with a review of Memory-Making Mom by Jessica Smartt, which was the inspiration I needed lately. And speaking of memories, the only other post I wrote in April was about creating bookish March Madness brackets to complete with my bestie. It was so much fun, and I loved chatting about what inspired it (and who won). 


Another month where I only posted once on bookstagram! While I'm still taking plenty of photos for the blog, I just don't find myself as drawn to that platform. But I do appreciate being able to connect with other readers and occasionally checking in there, so I just can't bring myself to quit it completely. This month, I mused on how the words "You Are Not Alone" could be the title of my quarantine memoir. • @soobsessedblog



Favorite Album #1: SOUTHSIDE by Sam Hunt

I've been anxiously awaiting new music from Hunt, and I think that raised my expectations.
I listened to this album a lot (and do love it!), but it's had to grow on me.



Favorite Album #2: Carly Pearce by Carly Pearce
I loved Pearce's debut album, so I was excited when Spotify told me she had a new album.
This has been such an enjoyable listen! Sometimes country just hits the spot for me.


Little Women (2019) starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Timothée Chalamet, and Laura Dern – I saw this in theaters this past December, and it was definitely my favorite movie of 2019. I couldn't wait to own it and be able to re-watch it as much as I want. I was thrilled when Kelly suggested we watch it "together." It was just as gorgeous, emotional, and perfect the second time around. I'm so glad it exists in the world!


Bought: A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson and A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn

Book of the Month: Beach Read by Emily Henry

For Review: The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez


Audible: The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez, Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers, and If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

NetGalley: Majesty by Katharine McGee
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