If You Give a Girl a Planner: Reading Journal

Oct 30, 2020

If you give a girl a planner, she's going to ask you for a pen, some stickers... and maybe a notebook to go with it. I'm so obsessed with all things paper! I love trying new things and then blogging about it. So, for the next few days, I'm sharing my 2020 planner lineup. I'll talk about what I'm using for my daily life, personal goals, reading journal, and bookish bullet journal. Today it's all about my reading journal and log!

Back in 2017, I decided to start keeping a reading log. I wasn't always timely about writing reviews for the blog or Goodreads, and then I'd struggle to remember what I thought of a book when I was done. I looked at reading journals on the market, but most fell short for various reasons – like categories that I didn't want to fill in for every single book I read, too little or too much space, or not enough pages to last me a year. Enter Happy Planner!

The beauty of Happy Planners and the disc-bound planner system is that you can customize them. If you saw my post about my 2018 reading log, today's will look very familiar. The only real difference? The size! I was previously using a Mini but switched to a Classic for 2020. I wasn't sure if it would feel too big, but it's just right. I'll chat a little more about that below. This is a 12-month horizontal planner. Let's look inside!

At the beginning of every month, there's a Notes page. Every Happy Planner has their own design for this page, so that usually influences which planner I choose for the year. I divide this into four sections with my pen and then use the colorful boxes stickers to add headings. This is where I track five things for that month's reads:

+ Source (TBR / Borrow / Review / Reread)
+ Format (Hardcover / Paperback / E-Book / Audiobook) 
+ Top 3 Reads of the Month
+ Genre (genres listed changed based on the month)
+ Quote (favorite from any book that month)

I love wrapping up the month by filling this out because it's a nice way to look back before diving in to new books.

On the monthly calendar spread, I write down a book's title on the day I finished reading it. If I finish more than one book in a day, I just draw a line halfway through the box to split it up. It's super simple, but I love seeing the contrast between weeks where I only finished one book versus weeks where I was finishing a book a day. 

And now we get to the heart of this planner: the weekly view! Happy Planners come in a lot of different formats, but I always buy the horizontal style for my reading log. It's just easier to write down my thoughts in a lined space. As I mentioned, I used to get the Mini size but switched to the Classic this year. I noticed in my Mini that my thoughts often sounded really shallow or repetitive because I didn't have the space to flesh them out at all. I loved that I stuck to the highlights, but looking back it felt like I couldn't write in full sentences or explain myself.

The Classic size has been nice because it gives me a little more room to go into detail but isn't as overwhelming as most things that are marketed as reading journals. I personally don't want a full page per book! I'd never keep up with it and would probably run out of pages in the notebook before the end of the year. This size and style is just right for me! On the day I finish a book, I write down:

+ The title and author
+ The format, source, and my rating
+ A few lines detailing what I thought of it

It isn't as polished as a review I'd share on the blog, but my reading journal has helped me when I've gotten behind on reviews. The bones are there! If I finish more books in a week than there are days, I'll add in a Happy Planner half-sheet and use this same format. If I finish two books on a Saturday but nothing on a Sunday, for example, I'll white out Sunday's date, put washi tape over the line, and write Saturday's date with (Cont.) after it. 

And that's all I do in my reading journal! It's simple but effective for me, which is a huge reason I'm still doing the same thing I was in 2018. I don't want to mess with something that's working. I just wish I'd always kept one! I have one other notebook where I list what I'm reading, which I decided to include in today's post.

I mentioned this notebook in one of my Happy Planner posts but never added photos of it. I thought it would be fun to include here! I bought it from Books-a-Million almost ten years ago, and that's how long I've been using it. I write down what I read every month, and I love flipping through and seeing how many books I've read since 2011.

Here's a look at the inside! I circle the month at the top, write down the year, and then just list everything I've read that month. I have considered including ratings, noting re-reads, and other things, but I just prefer the simplicity. It's just a notebook of lists, and I love it.  

Do you keep a reading journal or log?
On Monday, I'll finish by showing you my bookish notebook!

If You Give a Girl a Planner: Goals

Oct 29, 2020

If you give a girl a planner, she's going to ask you for a pen, some stickers... and maybe a notebook to go with it. I'm so obsessed with all things paper! I love trying new things and then blogging about it. So, for the next few days, I'm sharing my 2020 planner lineup. I'll talk about what I'm using for my daily life, personal goals, reading log, and bookish bullet journal. Today it's all about my PowerSheets Intentional Goal Planner!

I'd never purchased a goal planner before but was intrigued by the idea of PowerSheets after following the company on Instagram. When they launched their 2020 collection, I decided to give it a try. With a baby on the way at the time, I worried that I'd use them for a month and then set them aside. But the opposite happened! Because I noticed an immediate change, I felt more motivated to continue. I'm going to go through the main sections of my PowerSheets in today's post, but Cultivate What Matters' The Anatomy of PowerSheets is another reference. Their blog is a great resource overall for ideas and inspiration. Since some pages are more personal than others, I was selective about photos. But I've embedded a video with a full flip through of the 2021 PowerSheets at the end!

One of the things that sets PowerSheets apart is the Prep Work. This section sets out to "lead you to uncover a big picture vision and the right goals for your unique life and season." It does this through a series of thoughtful questions and prompts – asking you to examine things like what makes you come alive, what's holding you back, what's worked (and hasn't) in the past, lessons you've learned, and what you want your legacy to be.

In my 2020 PowerSheets, this section is 34 pages long. The 2021 edition has been reduced to 21 pages. And looking through it, I love all the changes! They redesigned and simplified this section to make it impactful but easier to complete. It looks like it will be a little less repetitive, too. Although I find this section valuable, it's probably my least favorite part of PowerSheets. Maybe I already think enough about some of these things that nothing felt particularly eye-opening? But I loved parts of it, like making a vision board and choosing a word of the year.

Overall, I appreciate having a section that helps you prepare. Instead of diving into the details, it forces you to focus on the big picture. So, you end up with more meaningful goals and accomplish what actually matters to you.

Immediately following the Prep Work, it's time to set your goals. It encourages you to set goals that are connected to your big picture, and then it dives deeper by asking you if you realistically have the resources to achieve a specific goal and whether it's the right season for it. I love this aspect of their goal setting work. Sometimes I want to accomplish something that really is important to me, but I'd be squeezing it into a season with very little margin. I'll only end up frustrated and feeling like I've failed if I try to do it then!

Then, you've got space to write no more than 8 goals. This spread appears in the first Goals section, but it's repeated every 90 days (in seasonal goal refreshes) so there's always an opportunity to change your mind. You get to update them throughout the year! And I find it freeing to know that I can tweak and adjust as time goes on.

Once you've set your goals, there are action plan pages that help you break down a big goal into mini goals and action items. One of the changes to the 2021 edition is that these action plans are now included in the 90-day Goal Refresh, which I love. As you can probably tell above, I created my own workaround. Here's what I do:

+ Big Picture Goal: For 2020, I have six big-picture goals. The wording of these is more abstract and not necessarily measurable – like my goal to nurture my relationship with Nick and our boys. Mine haven't changed this year, partly because I made them with our new baby in mind and that's been fitting for what life is like with COVID-19.

+ Quarterly Goals: On the action plan pages, I made mini goals for the first quarter. When those pages weren't repeated later on, I just used that concept to write quarterly goals in my Goal Refresh. These goals are more specific and are actions I can take. So, taking the same big picture goal I mentioned above, my quarterly goals might be things like date nights with my big boy or checking a family adventure off our 20 in 20 list.

But how do I break down my goals even more? That brings us to the Monthly tabs!

The spread above is only part of what you'll find in each month's tab! This sections helps you track your progress, plan for the month ahead, follow through on making it happen, and then review at the end of the month.

At the beginning of each new month, there's a preparation page where you can write down important to do's, things you're excited for, what's worrying you, and what you're hoping for in this coming month. Then, there's a calendar spread, which I skip. I've seen creative uses of these pages, but none seem to be a natural fit for me right now. After that, there's space to brainstorm goals and action items you could focus on that month. This page has changed for 2021, and I think the new layout pairs even better with what comes next:

The Tending List! This is my favorite part of PowerSheets and what's made the biggest difference for me this year. This page gives you a spot to write down Monthly, Weekly, and Daily Action Items. And I'm so obsessed with it! Some months I fill up every line (like above) and others just a few. At the end of the month, my lists are never perfectly filled in. But there's progress! Every single month, I make progress. And little by little, it adds up to a lot. 

Before moving on to the next month, there's a Month in Review page to write about things where you're making progress and what you're choosing grace over guilt about right now. It's a nice way to wrap it up!

The Prep Work, Goals + Goal Refreshes, and Months are the bulk of PowerSheets. But you have the opportunity to customize them a little more with Wildcard pages! You can buy a pre-printed set or print your own (which I did above) to help dig a little deeper into some of your goals. Here are some of the options available:

+ Perpetual Calendar
+ Fun List
+ Books Read This Year
+ Relationship Tending
+ Financial Check-In
+ Go-To Meals
+ Goals At-a-Glance

I've added the Fun List to the front of my PowerSheets with my family's 2020 bucket list on it. I add the Goals At-a-Glance page to each month's tab and write down one main action item per goal for that month. I love using the Content Planning page, above, to brainstorm blog posts. My goal this year has been to share two posts per week, and this page has helped me make significant progress. I used to have a more detailed planner focused solely on my blog, but this more simplified page has been doing the trick. There are a lot of options!

Would I recommend it?
Well, I bought the 2021 version, along with their accessory pouch! For me, the PowerSheets haven't been a magical process or product – but they have been a powerful tool of accountability. I already knew what mattered to me and what goals I wanted to accomplish but didn't have a plan to make them happen. Now, I have a system.

I love the encouragement throughout that little-by-little progress makes a difference. I've seen the truth of that this year! Before, I would feel overwhelmed by things I wanted to get done and wouldn't know where to start. Or I'd get started but would abandon it if I wasn't totally consistent, procrastinated too much, etc. It's easier for me to track the changes I'm making, to see clear evidence that I've implemented new habits and accomplished important goals. At the end of the year, I'm planning to blog more about the progress I've made but you can see some of my progress in my monthly Goals posts. I've definitely found the process valuable.

Additionally, I'm excited about the changes they've made for next year, especially the streamlined prep work and how the refreshes align more with reassessing your goals every 90 days. The few things I haven't loved – elements of the prep work, the way goal refreshes were structured, the format of the section to brainstorm for the Tending List – have all been changed for 2021. I love a company that can refine their product!

If you want a full flip through of PowerSheets, check out this video below:

Do you use a goal planner? This is my first time!
Tomorrow I'll be chatting about my reading log.

If You Give a Girl a Planner: Daily Life

Oct 28, 2020

If you give a girl a planner, she's going to ask you for a pen, some stickers... and maybe a notebook to go with it. I'm so obsessed with all things paper! I love trying new things and then blogging about it. So, for the next few days, I'm sharing my 2020 planner lineup. I'll talk about what I'm using for my daily life, personal goals, reading log, and bookish notebook. Today's post is all about what keeps my life organized and on track: my daily planner.

The last time I blogged about my planners, in 2018, I'd fallen in love with Happy Planners and used them for my gratitude journal, my life planner, my blogging and bookish planner, and my reading journal. But in the summer of 2019, I realized that my life planner started to feel like a chore. I was frequently writing in it after the fact, and it became more decorative than functional. So, I knew it wasn't working for me anymore. I changed to an academic year Simplified Planner. From August 2019 - July 2020, I used their weekly planner. I never posted about it, but it was exactly what I needed. It was simple, functional, and beautiful. And the weekly format had plenty of space for occasional appointments, a handful of daily to do's, and a little blog planning.

For 2020-2021, I picked Simplified Planner's Dapperdesk. I'd wanted to make the switch to a daily planner for a while, and it finally felt like the right time. So, let's talk about why I chose it and how I feel about it!

Simplified Planner's Dapperdesk line is their most minimal offering. It is bookbound, like their weekly planner, which works better for me as a lefty than their spiral binding. It covers 12 months – I have the academic year, but the calendar year is available, too. The cover is leatherette, and I love the gorgeous gold dot pattern that I chose.

The inside is their classic daily layout with a few changes – no color, no tabs, all the monthly views at the front, and a full page each for Saturday and Sunday. I wasn't sure I really needed one full page per day, which is one reason I used a weekly last year. I wanted to see whether it felt like enough space and figured that was easier to commit to, especially because my baby was due about halfway through the academic year. It turned out to be exactly what I needed at the time. But for 2020-2021, it was time for a daily. Here's why I chose the Dapperdesk:

+ Classic, minimal look
+ Functional layout
+ Lay-flat book binding (no spiral!)
+ One day per page
+ The in-between size (bigger than their weekly, more portable than their daily)

As I mentioned above, the Dapperdesk doesn't have any tabs and all of the monthly views are together at the front. These were the only two features I was nervous about beforehand, but neither one has annoyed me in my first three months of use. I use the ribbon bookmark to mark the current day, and a small gold Post-It page tab (seen above on the upper right side of the page) to easily flip to the monthly view.

On the monthly spread, I typically write down appointments or events that are happening at a specific time, like my in laws coming over for a Saturday family breakfast. Sometimes I'll add in a more general event, like an adventure to the park with my boys. In the Notes column to the left, I write down birthdays and whatever the washi tape represents. Unlike with my Happy Planner, I rarely use decorative stickers in my Dapperdesk. I do some simple color coding, and use stickers and washi tape when it serves a purpose. Simplified Planner's color-coding stickers come in nine colors, and I've assigned each one a category:

+ Navy: My little boys
+ Green: My husband, Nick
+ Light Blue: My blog
+ Teal (two shades): Meal planning
+ Yellow: Eating out
+ Light Pink: Travel / Adventures
+ Medium Pink: Release (book / music / movie)
+ Dark Pink: Myself

When I use washi, it matches up with my color coding. So, in the photo above, the green is Nick's travel schedule for work and the light pink is our family trip to the mountains. And that's all I do on the monthly view!

The best thing about a daily planner is that every day is a fresh start. I never feel like I have to stick to a specific format or regret the placement of a sticker. Just turn the page and try something new tomorrow! I've tried several different things so far, and this is just a peek at one spread. Here's how I'm using the different sections of the page:

+ The hourly column: I usually write appointments or events occurring at a specific time: pest control coming to our house, errands we run, or adventures we go on. And I'll add a dot sticker to a line if an event fits into one of my categories, like a navy dot for my baby's Well Check. Some days this area is completely blank, and that's okay.

+ The to do list column: I almost never write on every line. I don't want to pack that much into my day! In bed each night, I usually spend a few minutes reviewing and prepping in my planner. I'll check off that day's tasks, carry over ones that didn't get done, and add anything new that I already know needs to happen the next day.

+ The Notes section: This is where this planner really wins, in my opinion. You can do anything you want here! I'll meal plan, as you can see in the photo above. I use a little sticker to make note of when I finish a book. I'll write down cute things my big boy says, the baby's milestones, the blog post I published that day, things I want to remember or look up... and so much more. And instead of keeping a separate gratitude journal, I write down one thing that made me happy each day. It's a little bit like having a planner and journal in one, which I love. 

But what about things that can't assign to a specific day? That's when I add in a sticky notes! Sometimes I'll write down a few goals on a sticky note and just move it from day to day. In the photo above, I used a sticky note to pre-plan some extension activities for my son's virtual preschool. His teacher has put a lot of work into making this year special and fun, even at home. But one of my recent goals was to be more proactive about extending his lessons into our daily rhythm. On Sundays, I'll write down his letter, theme, and Bible story of the week along with relevant books we own and could read + extra activities/crafts. Then I can reference it anytime we need something to do, want to reinforce a specific lesson, etc. For Letter D, We went on a Dunkin Donut Date for Letter D and played Find & Seek for Letter F. You get the idea! The planner is just the tool that keeps me organized.

The Dapperdesk planner has 17 notes pages, compared to 31 in the weekly and 4 in the daily. So it's right in the middle, which has been the perfect amount for me (so far). Last year, I barely used those blank pages in my weekly. But this year, I was determined to put them to better use! I looked at my favorite planner account – @plannerstateofmind – for inspiration and then got to work setting it all up. Here's how I'm using my pages:

+ Color Coding Guide: Quick reference for my colors + categories
+ Contact Information: Frequently used addresses and phone numbers
+ Planning Ahead: 2021-2022 appointments past when the planner ends
+ Routines (Daily and Weekly): My daily and weekly household chores
+ Routines (Monthly): Monthly routines for the blog, my planner, photos, etc. 
+ Lessons Learned: Write down what worked and what didn't work
+ Things I Want to Buy for Myself: A wishlist for myself + our house
+ Things I Want to Buy for Others: Gift ideas for my family and friends
+ 20 in 20 Family Bucket List: The same list I shared on the blog
+ 2021 Family Bucket List: A spot for our 2021 list, once I've made it
+ Things for Our Family to Try: Local adventures, activities at home, and places to visit
+ Memories and Milestones: Highlights from our year
+ Goals I Want to Accomplish: Projects I want do, habits I want to start, etc.
+ Celebrate the Wins: Goals I've checked off my list and progress I've made
+ Ideas for So Obsessed With: Brainstorming blog posts
+ Two blank pages: For whatever strikes my fancy!

If you're curious, here's a full flip through of the Dapperdesk planner:

Now that you've gotten to see inside, here are the accessories I typically use. They're mostly just functional: 

+ Simplified Planner stickers, including:
    - Flag Labels
    - Happy Icons 
    - Flags
+ A few FayeCreates stickers
+ Some honeyinked icon stickers
+ Thin washi, like this pack from Recollections

Well, there you have it: my 2020-2021 planner for daily life! I'm loving it so far, and I think my only con has to do with the cover. As much as I love the look, I'm still a little worried the gold dots will wear off the longer I use it. And I've noticed one or two spots where the leatherette has gotten a little scratched off, like the time I caught the edge of the planner on the pouch's zipper. Other than that, I love everything about it so far!

If you'd like to try Simplified Planner, you can get $10 off your first order with this affiliate link.

Do you use a paper planner? Tell me about it!
And check back tomorrow for my Powersheets goal planner.

If You Don't Like These, Then I Have Questions...

Oct 22, 2020

Kelly and I were talking recently about recommendations from other readers and how no one – not even your best friend! – can perfectly predict your book taste. One thing that I love about bookstagram, blogging, and Goodreads is that there are always books on my radar. Whether it's a new release from a favorite author or a backlist book I've never even heard of, I'm never lacking in options. But how do I choose? I look at reviews!

Over time, you might start to learn other readers taste and things about your own. For example, if someone says that a book didn't have enough character development, I know that might be a dealbreaker for me, too. But if their problem was a love triangle, I won't hesitate to pick up the book if the story interests me. There are a few readers I trust more than others, based on how well I know their taste and how much we have in common.

But have you ever seen a trusted reviewer feel negatively about a book you LOVE? It can throw me for a loop! I love how personal reading is, how deeply you can connect to a story or character, and how much emotion it can evoke. But I won't lie, sometimes it can feel like a personal attack if someone criticizes a book I love. Usually, I'm pretty chill because I know that no book can please everyone, but some just hit a little closer to home. Kelly and I were joking about the fact that there are some books that make you want to say, "If you don't like this book, then I don't like YOU!" Yes, we sound like lunatics... but trust me, we were laughing as we said it.

That made me think: what books or authors would be on my list? I came up with six! There are so many other books that I feel passionately about, but most are ones where I can rationally understand how someone wouldn't like them as much as I do. I adore the Throne of Glass series, but I can see how fantasy isn't for everyone. I can't get enough of Cormoran Strike, but dark and gritty mysteries aren't for the faint of heart. You get the idea!

You don't have to love these six. But if you don't even like them, then I might have Questions about your taste...

1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables is one of the books I credit with making me a reader. It's a book I collect, a character I deeply love, and a story that feels like home. I do think there's an extra magic to Anne if you find her in childhood, so I can have some grace for readers who don't meet her until adulthood. But be careful what you say about her!

2. Melina Marchetta. All of them, but The Piper's Son is pictured.
It doesn't matter what Melina writes, I want it. She's written for adults and teens, in multiple genres (fantasy, contemporary, mystery), and has never let me down. While I don't love them all equally, Marchetta can do no wrong. She's got complex characters, brilliantly plotted stories, deep emotion, and more. You better recognize it!

3. Mhairi McFarlane. I'll allow one least favorite, as long as it's not If I Never Met You.
Are there any authors/books that you love so much that you hesitate to recommend them to people? You don't want to share! That's how I feel about Mhairi. I want her to be successful, so I truly do hope everyone reads her books. But deep in my heart, I don't want anyone to know about them but me. How's that for psycho?
4. Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center
It's been five years, but I can still remember picking up a copy of Happiness for Beginners while standing in Target's book section. I didn't know then that it would become a book that I'd return to again and again. I love this story, the romance, and the characters, but it's the message at the heart that has had such a profound impact on me

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I am obsessed with Jane Austen, through and through. I will read non-fiction, sequels, adaptations, retellings... the works, if they reference Austen. But it's Pride and Prejudice that ultimately has my heart, and I just don't think I can trust a reader who hates it. It's too important to me and is tied so closely to the reader I've become. 

6. Lovely War by Julie Berry
My love for this book is more fresh and not as deeply ingrained by time and repeated re-reads. But the first time I read it, I couldn't think of a thing I would change It's practically perfect in every way, and I wanted to shove a copy into everyone's hands. It won't appeal to everyone, but someone's feelings about it tells me a lot about their taste!

Hopefully you read this in the spirit of fun that it was intended! There are many legit reasons that a book might not work for you and your taste. But I like to think we all have a few books that are so close to our hearts that seeing them criticized makes us feel like Mrs. Weasley facing off against Belltrix, shouting, "Not my daughter, you b*tch!"

What books do you love so much
that you question anyone who doesn't like them, too?

Tales & Tiger Lily: September 2020

Oct 20, 2020

My sister recently joined bookstagram as @talesandtigerlily. Her name is Caroline, and Tiger Lily is her adorable sidekick (pictured above). Since she's discovered a love of reading, I've had the best time talking about books with her. Be sure to check out her introduction post to get to know her better. Once a month, you get a new installment of Tales & Tiger Lily. In each post, she reviews three of her favorite reads from the previous month and ends with a list of everything she read with ratings (and links to reviews, if applicable). Her top three from September:

“Something I have learned: to love is to worry about your beloved until you die. Something else I have learned: to be loved is to have your beloved worry about you until they die.” 

Thin Girls is the story of twin sisters, Lily and Rose, who have struggled with their bodies and food since childhood. The novel is told through the voice of Rose, and her dilemmas are utterly heart-wrenching. She spends much of her time at a rehab center for anorexia. Lily has her own set of struggles as she has been with many abusive men and eventually finds herself caught up in a cult-diet group led by a faux-feminist.

This novel explored so much of what it means to be a woman in a world with the pressure to look perfect. We get the perspective of someone who has an extreme eating disorder, but we also get a look at how our toxic dieting culture affects all of us. From skinny teas to tracking calories, this novel makes it clear that this should not be normal. I adored the redeeming qualities of sisterhood, love, and friendship — the beautiful things in life that we often take for granted. But most importantly, the novel’s message offers hope — that we may always struggle with certain things, but we can choose to be a little better each and every day.

I absolutely LOVED this book. Clarke’s writing is gorgeous, and there were so many moments I learned something new or wanted to write down a quote. It is a very heavy read, and sometimes I had the same feelings as when I read My Dark Vanessa. However, I have discovered that the books that make me the most uncomfortable, are the books I’ll never forget. | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

“A girl comes of age against the knife, Betty. But the woman she becomes must decide if the blade will cut deep enough to rip her apart or if she will find the strength to leap with her arms out and dare herself to fly in a world that seems to break like glass around her.”

Betty is a story inspired by the author’s mother’s life. It begins at her childhood and takes the reader through the years as she comes of age. It’s set in the foothills of the Appalachians which is a character of its own— a place of poverty and violence. Let me tell you something — I sure do love an Appalachian story.

As the story unfolds, family secrets of abuse, shame, and mental illness are brought to the light. I never really write about trigger warnings, but this book has a lot of them. To be honest, there are scenes I wish I could get out of my mind. It is an extremely sad yet absolutely stunning novel. I cried and felt a bit depressed after I read it, but I’m telling you it was worth it. At times I felt the trauma the characters dealt with was just unbearable. However, there is hope sprinkled through the pages. All you can do is long for a better future and healing for Betty. She is strong, resilient, and one of the fiercest characters I’ve ever met. 

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I LOVE this book. I don’t even know how to put to words my adoration for it. The setting, the gorgeous writing, the characters, the way I felt every emotion under the sun— I have nothing negative to say about it. I give it all the stars in the galaxy. I don’t know if it will be my favorite book of the year, but I would be willing to bet a bottle of moonshine on it . | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”

Circe is one of my top 10 favorite books I’ve read this year, so I don’t know why I waited so long to read The Song of Achilles. It tells the story of Patroclus, a young prince who meets Achilles while in exile. Patroclus, so sweet and a bit insecure, is mesmerized by Achilles’ complete confidence and beauty. I love how the book was written from Patroclus’ perspective — I adored him. There was such a gentleness to his spirit, and I felt attached to him by the end of the novel.

I felt so invested in the characters, and I was saddened by the events that unfolded. The battles scenes were gripping, and I felt so nervous reading it even though I already knew the outcome. I also loved the other characters, Chiron and Briseis, while I abhorred Agamemnon and Thetis (seriously I wanted to stab Agamemnon). 

The love between Patroclus and Achilles was beautiful. I didn’t want the story to end, and it made me wish I knew more about Greek mythology. Circe is still my favorite, but I really loved Song of Achilles, too. Miller’s writing is perfect for my taste, as it has just the right amount of flowery language. I followed along with the audiobook, and I highly recommend it: the narrator’s voice was on point. Can the publisher please make an edition as beautiful as Circe? I need them matching next to each other on my shelf.  | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ.5

Recapping the Rest of Caroline's September Reads:
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Verity by Colleen Hoover | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Sisters by Daisy Johnson | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ  Review
Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ  Review
Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ  Review
The Mountains Sing by Nguyแป…n Phan Quแบฟ Mai | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ  Review
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ (not pictured) 

Quick Lit: September 2020

Oct 16, 2020

September wasn't my best reading month in terms of quantity, but I love the majority of what I read so I have no complaints on the quality. I finished nine books and am reviewing all of them today! I had a great mix of non-fiction and different genres of fiction. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE BY LORI GOTTLIEB – This was such a thought-provoking book about therapy, what it means to be human, and how we cope with pain, our pasts, and try to change our future. It read like fiction, in the best way, and was very insightful. My least favorite aspect was the author's personal journey, even though her therapist was great. I couldn't stop myself from being surprised that someone who sounded like a mess could help people sort out their own lives, but I also respected her vulnerability in showing that therapists are human, too. They don't have all the answers! I loved the patients' stories and how Gottlieb saw their humanity and provided perspective on their decisions. That made the book so engaging, and I So Loved It!

ANNA K BY JENNY LEE – If this book had been adult, instead of YA, I probably would have enjoyed it more. It had the wealth of Crazy Rich Asians, the teen drama of Gossip Girl, and a plot inspired by Anna Karenina. I found much of it creatively reimagined for a modern retelling, but there were also elements that made me cringe so hard because it involved teens. I got so hung up on how much I disliked the casual drinking, drug use, and sexual content. I don't want to read about teenagers having clandestine hookups. And yes, my mom side is showing! The dialogue was awkward because the characters talked like they were texting, and I'm not sure the author would have made that stylistic choice if she'd been writing about adults. I So Liked It, partly due to nostalgia for teen dramas.

MAJESTY BY KATHARINE MCGEE* – After loving American Royals last year, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this sequel. How would these characters come to terms with what happened in that cliffhanger ending? I had some predictions on where McGee would take this story, and she totally surprised me! The romantic shakeups + personal growth of a few characters were just what I needed. I wish one character got more of a comeuppance, but I can imagine it for myself. If you're looking for an in-depth look at what America would be like with a monarchy, you won't find it here. This is more about the romance and drama with a cleverly imagined world that we just glimpse from afar. This sequel might have mixed reviews, but I So Loved It. Gimme all the royal drama!

BLOOD & HONEY BY SHELBY MAHURIN – Hmm... I have really mixed feelings on this book, and I feel like I'm still processing them. I loved Serpent & Dove last year and then re-read it before this release to refresh my memory and get hyped again. I was disappointed to see the duology had become a trilogy, but I held out hope that it would still work. Unfortunately, it didn't for me. I felt like the book dragged on and on. I listened to it on audio and never felt compelled to keep listening! The drama and conflict seemed like smoke and mirrors to me – it appeared flashy but had no real substance and didn't move the plot forward very much. The characters were acting so juvenile and getting on my last nerve, too! I'm just So Okay With It and will be forever bitter it didn't stay a duology.

TROUBLED BLOOD BY ROBERT GALBRAITH – Whenever I'm in Cormoran's world, I don't want to leave. Each time I finish a new installment, I chase the feeling it gives me but no other mystery series can match it. This one was no exception! I enjoyed the mystery, but it's the dynamic between Cormoran and Robin that had me clutching my book like a giddy schoolgirl. You know that scene in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Darcy clenches his hand after helping Elizabeth into her carriage? Cormoran and Robin are a relational manifestation of that moment. They are the reason no other mystery series can compare! I loved all 900+ pages, though the zodiac/astrology element was strange at times. The reveal was amazing, and I loved the journey to get there. I'm So Obsessed With It!

YOU HAD ME AT HOLA BY ALEXIS DARIA* – When the Goodreads summary referenced Jane the Virgin, I had to read this book. I am obsessed with that show! You Had Me at Hola focuses on two actors who are starring in a new telenovela, and this setting was so delightful. That's what most reminded me of Jane, and I loved that the book had chapters that focused on the shows' storyline and characters. I won't lie – I was most invested in that aspect! I loved learning about the cast and crew, being on set, and following the show's arc. The main romance was just okay for me, and it was definitely too steamy for me personally. I was less invested in the hero and heroine than in the characters they played on screen because they got a little too angsty. Overall, it was a fun read, and I So Liked It!

THE EMPIRE OF GOLD BY S.A. CHAKRABORTY* – I've really enjoyed the Daevabad series so far and couldn't wait to find out how everything would conclude. It didn't disappoint! I love this world – rich in Middle Eastern influences and with a complex tangle of social and political conflicts. They have a different feel than most fantasy I've read, and I love it. There was a lot of thought and detail put into this world and its magical system, so I always feel like I'm one step behind Chakraborty's mind when it comes to predicting the various twists and turns of the plot. I've loved listening to this series on audio but am thankful there's a glossary at the back of the book, too. It's got action and adventure, complex characters, and a well-developed world. What more do you need? I So Enjoyed It

THE UNWINDING OF THE MIRACLE BY JULIE YIP-WILLIAMS – This memoir was a mixed bag for me. I loved Yip-Williams' brutal look at cancer and death and her refusal to sugarcoat things. I thought her history was interesting and would have loved to learn more about it. But the book focused too heavily on the treatments she underwent and got bogged down in some of those details. I believe it was a series of blog posts, originally, and it retains that feeling. It's just all over the place! Any memoir is a bit self absorbed, but I found it strong at times here and thought the casual references to her privilege (such as degrading a hospital that largely treated immigrants) were alienating, even though she and her husband had clearly worked hard for their financial security. I'm So Okay With It.

BUSY TODDLER'S GUIDE TO ACTUAL PARENTING BY SUSIE ALLISON – I've been following @BusyToddler on Instagram for a while now and was so excited to find out she had a parenting book coming out that compiled 50+ of her most popular activities into one book. The day I bought it, I sat down to read a few pages and didn't move until I was done. I loved every word! I bought it for the activities and didn't expect to feel so inspired by the advice. It felt like sitting down with a friend who is just a few steps ahead of me on this parenting journey and has such wisdom, perspective, and grace for this season of life. I repeatedly thought, "Why didn't I think of that before?!" I'm so glad to have these tools/phrases/ideas in my arsenal now and will refer back to it repeatedly. I So Loved 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?

So Obsessed With: The Mini Edition #10

Oct 13, 2020

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

1. Sausage & Butternut Squash Risotto from I Heart Naptime
If you want a recipe that screams fall, this one is for you! Although it's technically a crockpot recipe, it's not the kind where you dump all the ingredients in and come back hours later. But I still find the prep and hands-on cooking easy, and the end result is absolutely delicious. I love that it's so filling and has lots of leftovers.

Now that my sister is officially a book nerd, she's been scoping out some cute bookish merchandise. I sent her a link to Bookshelf Tees, and she bought us this adorable shirt! I've already worn mine a ton – it's so soft, the perfect fall color, and subtly nerdy. A winning combination! I might end up buying this one eventually, too.

The new PowerSheets collection launches tomorrow, and I'm so excited to use them again in 2021. Despite all the upheaval of 2020, my PowerSheets have helped me stay focused on the big picture and make consistent progress. I'm so obsessed and am hoping to talk more next week about how they've worked for me this year!

After I take a shower, I typically do my hair and makeup before getting dressed. I hated the robe options I had available – one was too hot, one stuck to me if I wasn't completely dry before putting it on, etc. Then I discovered the Weezie robe, made of cotton terrycloth. It's like wearing a towel, and I love it! However, I got mine at 40% off. 

When Simplified launched their planner pouches in the spring, I decided not to buy one. I wasn't sure I'd use it and had more than enough pouches. After using my planner for a bit, I splurged on the new pink pinstripe pouch that launched this fall. And I use it all the time! I love keeping my planner, stickers, sticky notes, and pens all together. 

I have a little tray next to my sink with two soap dispensers – one for dish soap and one for hand soap – and a scrub brush. Because I already had a system that worked, I was resistant to try this spray when my mom recommended it. But I gave it a try anyway and can now see why she raved about it! The spray feature is my favorite.

If we accidentally left our closet door open, our dog would sneak in and chew some smaller laundry items. I wasn't sure how to address the issue until I found these hampers! I attached the zippered bag to one end (rather than using it as a divider) and put underwear/socks/etc. inside. Now, my dog can't get to them and no longer tries.

What have you been loving lately?
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