SLIDER

Quick Lit: December 2020

Jan 18, 2021

It's a moment to celebrate: with the exception of one book, I'm caught up on reviewing everything I read in 2020! I can't tell you how happy it makes me that I was able to be consistent and never fell too far behind. Thank goodness for my Quick Lit format + the power of setting goals! I finished 12 books in December, and I'm reviewing all of them in today's post. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.


THIS TIME NEXT YEAR BY SOPHIE COUSENS – This was a really fun contemporary romance and perfect for the end of the year. I loved seeing the New Years Eve near misses between the two characters over the years, and I was invested in how these birthday twins would finally sort through all their personal baggage. I appreciated that the story involved personal growth for both characters, but I did occasionally find them frustrating. A huge part of the charm of this book was the setting. Without that, I might have more to nitpick about it. As it was, however, I So Liked It. It was leaning more into Enjoyed until the very end – things were wrapped up a little too perfectly and all the secondary characters made huge progress on their own problems. That was a bit too much for me, personally!

CHAIN OF GOLD BY CASSANDRA CLARE – Listen, I basically bought this book because quarantine and the cover got to me. Back in May, I was wandering around Target alone and couldn't take my eyes off this book. I've only read Clare's Infernal Devices series... and yet, I wanted to buy this spin-off book. At first, I had a hard time following all the characters and how they were related to one another. And I definitely could have used a re-read of the trilogy to refresh my memory. Other than that, however, this was a really fun read! The first half felt a little long, but the second half sucked me in. I loved the group dynamics and am very intrigued where the story is headed. I So Enjoyed It and will definitely continue the series when book two releases this year. Give me all the drama!

TASTE AND SEE BY MARGARET FEINBERG – Even though I'm not a foodie, I've noticed that I do love food in fiction. So, I was really intrigued by the premise of this Christian non-fiction book, which explores the Bible through a culinary lens. Feinberg notes that "food plays a prominent role in the most spiritually significant events from the moment the story starts" and then zeroes in on six specific foods in the Bible (fish, figs, bread, salt, olives, and meat). I appreciated how the book combined research and teaching with hands-on experience as Feinberg goes on a global adventure to do things like fish in the Sea of Galilee and harvest olives in Croatia. The focus and the way it was written really made it stand out to me, and I can see myself re-reading it someday. I So Enjoyed It.


THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY BY NATALIE JENNER – Would I have enjoyed this book as much as I did if it were about any author other than Jane Austen? Probably not. But as an Austen fan, I just loved this story about a group of her fans coming together to preserve her legacy. I thought the setting was charming, and it made me wish that I'd been able to visit Alton and Chawton Cottage when Kelly and I were in England. There were a lot of characters populating the story, but I was pleased with their development overall. It definitely isn't a character-driven book, but I did think they were fleshed out well considering the quantity. If you want to read it, I highly recommend the audio. It's narrated by Richard Armitage, and his voice is divine. Because I love Austen, I So Enjoyed It

SOMEONE TO ROMANCE BY MARY BALOGH – I've enjoyed Balogh's Westcott series overall, though some have worked better for me than others. The huge cast of family members can be hard to keep straight, making it daunting for readers who might be considering jumping in to the middle of the series. However, I do love the huge family dynamics and how they all show up for one another! I'd been looking forward to Jessica's story, and Balogh didn't disappoint. She was an enjoyable heroine, and I loved that she made the hero prove himself to her. I thought the hero's backstory was intriguing, and I couldn't wait to see how all of it resolved. I So Liked It but did listen on audio and think I may have felt less invested listening than I would have if I'd been reading the physical book.

HOUSE LESSONS BY ERICA BAUERMEISTER – I bought this memoir after hearing about it on the From the Front Porch podcast, and I'm so glad I did. This was a really lovely memoir-in-essays in which Bauermeister writes about renovating a trash-filled home in Washington and explores the way our spaces affect us. I found the parts about the power of home to be so moving! The research throughout about the area, different architecture elements, and related topics was a nice touch that kept it from getting lost in the nitty gritty renovation details. In a year where we've all spent so much time at home, this was a timely read. It made me appreciate the place I call my own and the people in it who fill it with love. I So Enjoyed It and gave it to my mom to read as soon as I was done.


IN A HOLIDAZE BY CHRISTINA LAUREN – I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge fan of holiday books. Combine that with the fact that Christina Lauren's last two books didn't work for me, and you'll have an idea of what this book was up against. Y'all, I'm shocked to say I So Loved It! It was such a fun holiday rom com, and the Groundhog Day setup added a nice dose of whimsy and mystery. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen and how Maelyn would find happen. Yes, it was perfectly predictable – but in a way I found comforting, if that makes sense. The romance was delicious and full of tension. Instead of feeling like it needed more development, I bought into all the backstory that existed off the page. That doesn't always happen for me! Reading it made me so happy.

HER LAST FLIGHT BY BEATRIZ WILLIAMS – Am I breaking up with Beatriz' books? I honestly might be. Kelly and I binged her backlist in 2018, which we called the Bestie Beatriz Binge. But sadly, I haven't enjoyed her books since then. I started Her Last Flight with hopes it would turn things around, but I think it just solidified that I don't click with her writing anymore. It was so melodramatic! I predicted one of the biggest twists in the book (which felt straight out of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) and rolled my eyes at some of the others. I thought it was boring and learned that I don't really enjoy aviation stories. Her books have always been dramatic, but I used to be invested in the characters. In this one, everyone was intensely unlikeable for me. I hate to say it, but I'm So Over It.

THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS BY JENNY BAYLISS – Ooooooh, this book. The writing was over-descriptive, info dump-y, and rushed at the end, which affected the pacing. It lacked development between the heroine and the man she ends up with. Who, by the way, is absolute garbage. Justice for Kate! Though shame on her for not setting better boundaries and letting this jackhole continue to use her AND be a jerk. Second chance romance is one of my least favorite tropes, and this one exemplified why: if it didn't work out before, it was for a good reason. Namely, [redacted] needs to go sit in the corner and think about what he's done. Anyway, the setting was adorable because a small British town is all kinds of cozy during the holidays. That's all I can say to recommend it. I'm So Over It.


AND EVERY MORNING THE WAY HOME GETS LONGER AND LONGER BY FREDRIK BACKMAN* – Confession time: I first read an advance copy of this novella in 2016... and then never reviewed it. What a total fail! To give myself a pass, I will acknowledge that I had a baby that year and had not rediscovered my blogging rhythm. With a 2021 goal of catching up on my NetGalley queue, I checked this out from the library to re-read it. This is an emotional short story about a man, his son, and his grandson – and how they are all reacting to the man's failing memory. It was in Backman's typical style and voice, though I do think you can tell this story was more personal to him and not really written with the intent to publish it. It was very sad, but the length kept it from being too heavy. I So Enjoyed It.

MY SOUTHERN JOURNEY BY RICK BRAGG – Although I think I've read some of Bragg's essays in magazines, I've never familiarized myself with his style or work. I was missing out! I loved this collection of essays about life in the South. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, and found his Southern twang perfectly matched his words. He is a gifted writer, a born storyteller, and a dang good narrator. I loved the things that felt familiar to me, that called up my own memories of this place I call home, and the parts that showed a side of it I rarely see. The essays are grouped by theme (such as Home, Table, and Craft). My biggest complaint about the book was the last section, Spirit, about football. They didn't appeal to me at all. But overall, I So Loved It.

NEW MORNING MERCIES BY PAUL DAVID TRIPP – One of my overarching goals for 2020 was to revitalize my faith, which included reading through the Bible and a daily devotional. I chose New Morning Mercies as my devotional because I loved Tripp's writing, and I'm so glad that I did. Tripp continually points to God, reminding readers of the power of the Gospel and the gravity of sin. It was both encouraging and convicting, which is the highest compliment I can give. Many devotionals I've sampled lean too far into the fluff for me, cutesy encouragement that makes me feel good but is quickly forgotten. Tripp, on the other hand, shares important wisdom that I'd often think about all day long. I'm thankful for the truth he shares and So Loved It.

Have you read anything you loved lately?

*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.

Tales & Tiger Lily: 2020 Favorites

Jan 15, 2021


Last year, I started sharing monthly reviews from my sister, Caroline. She joined bookstagram as @talesandtigerlily, and I'm so obsessed with the fact that she's a book nerd now, too. We go on regular bookstore dates, chat about our current reads, and have matching bookish sweatshirts, of course. Once a month, I share her three favorite reviews from the previous month in a Tales & Tiger Lily post. Today, I've got something special for you: her 25 favorite reads from 2020! Here are five books each from her five favorite genres:


LITERARY FICTION

1. Writers & Lovers by Lily King: There is nothing I love more than a protagonist struggling through pain and all the things that make life tough, only to come out stronger and more resilient on the other side. It is messy, and at first you won’t feel attached to our main character, Casey Peabody, but by the end, you will be rooting for her. 

2. Godshot by Chelsea Bieker: This book makes me wanna grab an extra-large coke and hot Cheetos, and join the cult town of Peaches, California, for a wild ride. It has humor, depth, eccentric characters, and writing that is unlike any other. Our protagonist, Lacey May, discovers female friendship and overcomes the insane amount of difficulties she faces. I will never forget this story, and I really want another book by Chelsea Bieker ASAP. 

3. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell: The writing is poetic and pulls you in to the story of a fifteen-year-old girl and the sexual abuse she endures at the hands of her forty-two-year-old teacher. It is a difficult read, but one that has stayed with me. It is told from the perspective of Vanessa, so we get to see her train of thought during the abuse and after. Uncomfortable? Yes. Brilliant? Hell yes. 

4. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett: This was a slow burn for me, but it was beautifully written. A bond between a brother and a sister, the abandonment of their mother, and the death of their father—how do families overcome childhood trauma and pain? 

5. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: I really wasn’t expecting to love this book, but there aren’t many characters I have ever loved as much as Eleanor. The humor, the character development, the writing style—absolutely perfect. If I can laugh on one page and get choked up on the next, it becomes an instant fave.


FANTASY

6. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow: This novel was magical, beautiful, and creative. Rich in detail, this story will captivate you and have you entering Doors that lead to other worlds. Our main character, January, is a brave, witty, young heroine. In her revelation of finding a Door leading us to places never found on a map, we discover adventure and friendship. On top of that, the writing is divine. 

7. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: This book is just a big mood. I absolutely loved our main character, Alex Stern. With a difficult past, she arrives at Yale and is tasked with monitoring the activities of the secret societies. Urban/paranormal fantasy isn’t usually my thing, but I LOVED this book. I can’t wait for the sequel, and I really hope Bardugo sticks to writing adult fantasy. 

8. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas: I binge read this addicting series, and this one was by far my favorite. I could not put it down, and my love for the Night Court is out of this world. I am going to reread this series in January, and I am HYPED. That is how you know you love a book. So damn much. 

9. Circe by Madeline Miller: One of the most interesting, breathtaking books I have ever read. I listened to the audiobook while I followed along, and I was swept up in the story. I love Circe. She is a badass, and a character I think about often. I will definitely be rereading this in 2021. 

10. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: This big book blew me away, and I still find myself wanting to pick it up and read it. The world building is amazing, I loved the characters, and please—give me all the dragons. If you love high fantasy, you have to read it.


NON-FICTION

11. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson: This memoir written in verse is a story of a survivor who refused to be silenced. It says this book is “for anyone who has ever been lost, ignored, silenced, abused, assaulted, talked down to, made to feel small, or knows someone who has.” I savored every word and thought it was beautifully written. As so many girls and women are raped, books like this are needed to offer hope and light at the end of a dark tunnel. 

12. Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollet: This is a memoir of resilience at its finest. He was born into one of the country’s most infamous and and dangerous cults. I loved it was written in the beginning from his perspective as a child, to him growing up as a man dealing with his past. It less about the cult, more about the aftermath, and I felt completely invested in the story he chose to tell. 

13. Know My Name by Chanel Miller: Miller puts in writing so many feelings a lot of us have, yet cannot find the words to express. Her sexual assault story is heartbreaking, but it was beautiful to see her honesty. Her strength. Her unwillingness to let her suffering keep her from healing. 

14. Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner: Therapist Catherine Gildiner presents five of her most heroic and memorable patients. Holy cow. The horrors these patients faced in their childhoods. I cried when uncovering the source of their suffering, and I still think about these people today. It is truly amazing to me how people can heal even the most terrible wounds. 

15. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb: I read this book after my sister and mom both loved it, and I was hooked from the start. A therapist dealing with her own issues, while helping her patients find hope and change for the better—I could not wait to get to know each person better. One of my favorites from the book is a man who calls everyone an idiot, and I adored him. When his trauma was revealed, I literally wanted to bawl my eyes out and hug him. Oh, how we have no idea what someone is going through.


MYSTERY & THRILLER

16. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson: My sister recommended this one, and she still remembers all the details from the story. She loved it! Our main character, Pippa Fitz-Amobi, chooses a closed murder case as her topic for he final year project at school, and she is determined to find the real killer. I couldn’t wait to figure out who did it. I am really excited to read the next book! 

17. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell: Even if I don’t absolutely love them, I usually enjoy Jewell’s thrillers. This one is definitely my favorite. A house with dark secrets and three entangled families—this book is told from 3 POVs making it a quick, exciting read. Definitely finished The Family Upstairs in one sitting. 

18. The Whisper Man by Alex North: I loved this book!! Dysfunctional father-son relationships, fast-paced storytelling full of shocking surprises. I loved how the characters were highly flawed, and it is probably my favorite thriller I read this year. 

19. The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben: I think I loved this book so much because I absolutely adored one of the characters, Hester, a 70 year old woman who is a defense attorney. I just imagined this little old lady with great style and a whole lot of sass. There were many pieces to the puzzle with this book, and at times it was a lot, but I ended up really loving it. 

20. A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight: This was a slow-burn, murder mystery/legal thriller, and I was completely hooked. There are a lot of characters, but they are well-developed, and I enjoyed the depth of this book. Usually my annoyance with thrillers is the lack of character development, but this one checked all my boxes.


HISTORICAL

21. Lovely War by Julie Berry: This book was sooo good, and the quality of writing did not feel like a YA read. It is a love story set during World War I, but it is told by Aphrodite to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. Lovely War was such a unique book, and I loved it so much.

22. A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum: I absolutely loved this book, and I highly recommend the audio. The story takes us through the lives of conservative Arab women living in America. I felt so invested in the characters and their lives. It is ultimately a very sad story, but one that I think of often. It’s beautifully written, and I haven’t seen a bad review yet. 

23. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: This book is set in a 1600s Norwegian coastal village where a terrible storm has killed off all the island’s men. The women have to learn how to survive and deal with the men who are sent to rid the community of alleged witchcraft. It is inspired by real events, and I love a witch trial story. It’s heart-wrenching and beautiful, and definitely one I really enjoyed. 

24. The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton: A detective duo, a leper, a demon in the form of Old Tom, a crew of murderers and cutthroats—what could go wrong? This one felt very Sherlock Holmes meets Pirates of the Caribbean, and I loved it so much. The writing is outstanding, and I loved all of the characters. 

25. Betty by Tiffany McDaniel: My FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR. Betty blew me away with its detailed writing, poignant story, and unforgettable characters. It’s set in the foothills of the Appalachians which is a character of its own. As the story unfolds, family secrets of abuse, shame, and mental illness are brought to the light. The audiobook made the story even more enjoyable for me, and out of all the books I have read this year, I think about Betty the most. 

Do you share any of Caroline's 2020 favorites?
I'm pleased a few of my recs made her list!

2020 Bookish Goal Recap

Jan 13, 2021

I don't think I ever shared very much about my 2020 bookish goals on the blog, partly because I didn't to commit to too many things with a baby on the way. But I did write a few goals down for myself at the beginning of the year! After posting my 2021 bookish goals yesterday, I wanted to record how I did in 2020. I had six mini goals and feel really good about the progress I made on all of them. Following my goals, you'll find a few of my reading stats. My reading life looked a little different in 2020, and I wanted to briefly chat about those changes. 


1. Read 100 books in 2020.
Progress: Read 170 books

Thoughts: I almost always set my Goodreads Challenge number to 100 books. I prefer for it to be attainable rather than truly challenging – mostly because I don't want my goal to deter me from reading long books or cause me to pick up things that are short solely so I can get caught up. And looking back at the year I had my first baby, 100 books seemed like it might be a stretch. Thanks to audiobooks and all the extra time at home, I finished 170! 


Progress: Read three, DNFed two, culled two, and did not start three books
  1. READ: The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne, Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan, and A Perfect Heritage by Penny Vincenzi
  2. DNF: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness and Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery
  3. CULLED: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth
  4. DID NOT START: The Annotated Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, and Jane Austen for Dummies by Joan Klingel Ray
Thoughts: Womp, womp. So, I made a list in 2019 and completed it. 2020? Not so much. The three books I did read were all in January. Y'all, I'm laughing as I type it! However, the purpose of the list is to get books off my TBR that have been there for a while, so it was semi-successful in the sense that seven are gone. That sounds good, at least.


3. Re-read one book per month (12 total).
Progress: Re-read 20 books (not all pictured above)

Thoughts: Re-reading was less of a priority for me in 2020, partly due to the fact that I re-read so much in 2019. But the other reason? I used to primarily use audiobooks for re-reads and now that's my go-to format for new reads. That's something I'm totally fine with for this season of my life, and I don't see it changing much in 2021. 


4. Read one non-fiction book per month (12 total).
Progress: Finished 40 books (not all pictured above)

A few favorites:
  1. ESSAYS: My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg, I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott, and Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl 
  2. MEMOIRS: House Lessons by Erica Bauermeister, Stir by Jessica Fechtor, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, Know My Name by Chanel Miller, and Open Book by Jessica Simpson
  3. PARENTING: The Busy Toddler's Guide to Actual Parenting by Susie Allison, Risen Motherhood by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler, Memory-Making Mom by Jessica Smartt, and Parenting by Paul David Tripp
  4. SELF-HELP: The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi, Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel, and Atomic Habits by James Clear
  5. SPIRITUAL: New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp and The Holy Bible
Thoughts: This is probably the biggest surprise of my 2020 reading life! I never expected to gravitate to so much non-fiction, a genre I don't feel like I've read much in recent years. I'd set the goal of one per month and never expected to read 3x that amount. I would honestly love to see this happen again in 2021!


5. Complete the Picky Pledge Challenge.
Alexa and I have done the Picky Pledge Challenge since 2015, but we've simplified it over time. We have 12 categories based on why we buy books, and our goal was to read one book from our TBR for each category. 
  1. FOR THE COVER | An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
  2. BASED ON A REC | House Lessons by Erica Bauermeister
  3. FOR THE HOOK | Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher
  4. ON SALE | A Perfect Heritage by Penny Vincenzi
  5. NEXT IN SERIES | The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty
  6. FOR THE FORMAT | Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
  7. FOR THE AUTHOR | The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
  8. GIFTED | Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra
  9. PRE-ORDERED, HADN'T READ | What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
  10. BOUGHT 3+ YEARS AGO | The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne
  11. FOR THE HYPE | The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
  12. FOR THE TOPIC | Risen Motherhood by Emily Jensen & Laura Wifler
Of these 12 books, 11 were on my TBR prior to 2020. For whatever reason, I struggled to remember what I'd purchased based on someone's recommendation so I went with a book that I bought in 2020 after hearing Annie talk about it on the From the Front Porch podcast. All in all, I'm happy to check these off my list!


6. Blog 2x per week.
My goal was to average 2 posts per week (~104 total for the year). That felt like a stretch for me, especially after taking several months away from blogging in 2019, while still being manageable. I want to be more consistent in this space, but I never want it to feel like a chore either. Although I had a few months where I only posted 5x total, it was offset by super-productive months like December. I met my goal and finished the year at 109 posts!

• • • • •

Several years ago, Alexa and I would share very detailed posts with graphs highlighting our reading stats for the year. I wanted to make a few for 2020 because I noticed a few big changes in my reading life this year!


Tracking the source of what I read has always helped me balance review books, re-reading and my TBR. And while it may look like I took a huge chunk out of my TBR, there's a little more to the story. Of the 170 books I read, 108 were books on my TBR. Of those 108, 37 were books I already owned and 70 were books I bought in 2020. Whoops! 

One thing that isn't represented in the Source graph is how much I actually borrowed in 2020. I frequently bought a physical copy of book but then borrowed the audiobook from the library. I went through my reading log, and I there were almost 45 books that I categorized as "Bought / Borrowed" or "Owned / Borrowed." They're counted as TBR in my chart, but I heavily utilized my library's digital resources this year. 

As for the format, you'll notice that more than half of what I read in 2020 was on audio. That's a pretty significant shift in my reading habits! I used to primarily use audio for re-reads, but now I read so many new books that way. That format allowed me to get more done while still finding time to read. I could fold laundry, empty the dishwasher, get groceries, and finish a ton of books, too. I think the audio obsession is here to stay!


Finally, I've got this chart because I'm fascinated by the fact that non-fiction was my second most read genre in 2020. That's very unusual for me! I have no idea if it's because those books appealed to me more with everything going on in the world or if making non-fiction a priority reminded me of why I love the genre. I read more mysteries than normal, too, and that's a change I loved. I will be so curious to see what genres I gravitate toward in 2021.

Did you complete any bookish goals in 2020?

2021 Bookish Goals

Jan 12, 2021


Last week, I shared my goals for 2021. There are seven themes I want to focus on this year, and one of those is to invest time in what brings me joy. Getting specific with that goal primarily involves my bookish life. After having a baby early last year, I was so happy that I made an effort to actively pursue those two hobbies. I want to continue that momentum in 2021! I was inspired to break down that general goal into more specific mini goals for today's Top Ten Tuesday topic. So, here are some of the things I'm hoping to accomplish in my bookish life this year:

READING GOALS
1. Read 100 books in 2021.
This is my Goodreads Challenge goal, which I prefer to keep attainable rather than truly challenging.

2. Re-read one book per month.
I love re-reading, so I always want to make time for it in my reading life. I've already got a few books in mind!

3. Read one non-fiction book per month. 
I rediscovered my love of non-fiction in 2020, and I've love to continue reading more of it in 2021.

4. Read 10 books that have been on my TBR since before 2019.
Last year, I made a list of 10 specific books to read... but kinda failed at it. I'm keeping my options open this year!

This year's challenge is more personalized, and I'm looking forward to choosing twelve categories that work for me.

BLOGGING GOALS
6. Blog 2x per week, on average.
This was the perfect goal for me in 2020, so I'm keeping it in 2021. It kept me consistent without stressing me out.

7. Research email newsletter options.
One aspect of my blog I'd love to improve are email subscriptions, so I've got to do my research to learn more.

8. Catch up on all NetGalley reviews (15 total).
Most are upcoming releases, but I have at least six unreviewed books going back to 2016. I want to get them done!

BUYING GOALS
9. Buy one book from an indie bookstore (The Bookshelf) every month.
I love the From the Front Porch podcast and would love to support Annie's bookstore in Thomasville, Ga.

10. Read my Book of the Month pick(s) in the month that I receive it.
I was lowkey doing this in 2020 until November, so I want to catch up and make it an official goal for 2021.

What are your bookish goals for 2021?

January 2021 Goals

Jan 11, 2021

It's a new year, and I've got new goals to focus on! Well... kinda new. I have seven goal themes, and many of them are similar to last year's goals. The big picture things that matter to me haven't really changed, though I may have different mini goals and action steps associated with them. I'm excited to start digging in and making progress! 

December was a special month of happy memories, such as our baby's first Christmas and our favorite holiday traditions. I accomplished all of my goals, which ended the year on a high note. One of my favorite things I did was recap the progress I made on my 2020 goals, and it was really powerful for me to look back at where I started and see how far I'd come. It made me even more excited to sit down and make plans for 2021.


On My Calendar:
– Finishing up my 2020 reflections
– School starting back for my big boy
– Planning my baby's first birthday
– Getting my highlights refreshed

Currently Obsessing Over:
– All the amazing books coming out in 2021. There are so many that I can't wait to read!
– Nick and I are re-watching New Girl, and I forgot how much I loved this show! Two current shows  I typically love (Grey's Anatomy and This is Us) have been too heavy for me lately. New Girl has done the trick.
– I love this charging stand that I recently bought for my Apple Watch and Airpods.  
– I'm obsessed with my Bearaby weighted blanket. The 15lb cotton napper is just heavy enough to help me sleep better but not so heavy that I feel claustrophobic. And the fact that it's knitted means it isn't too warm either.
– Ellie Holcomb's children's worship music has been on repeat in our house. We love it!

Yearly Goals:
(These should stay the same all year, so I'll just do month-to-month progress reports!)
– Read a devotional every morning.
– Do Soulspace meditation every night.
– Blog 2x per week.
– Complete the Contentment Challenge (Q1). 
– Maintain monthly photo organization + daily delete.
– Use the 1 Second Everyday app.

December progress on 2020 yearly goals:
– Read through the Bible in one year. / Finished in November!
– Read a devotional every morning. / I finished New Morning Mercies and highly recommend it. 
– Track my spending in the Goodbudget app. / I missed one week but was better consistent again after that.
– Blog 2x per week. / Yes! I ended the year on a high and was very productive.

Revisiting My December Goals:
Schedule a monthly planning session. / Done! This won't appear on my monthly list of goals anymore, but I do plan to continue this routine. It's been one of my favorite habits to come out of 2020 and has been so helpful.
Cull, download, rename, and backup November 2020 photos. / Completed. Pretty early in the month, too!
Complete Ten Months in the baby's journal + take monthly photo. / Almost to the end of these monthly sections, and I'm so proud I've stayed on track. The photo was a challenge this month (bad lighting + wiggly baby), but I got it.
Complete Nine & Ten Months in my big boy's journal. / I'm finally all caught up!
Design and order 2021 photo calendar. /  I finished and ordered it in time for Christmas gifts. 
Complete 2021 PowerSheets prep work. / I set aside several days to go through the prep work, which worked for me. Finalizing my goals, action steps, and word of the year took the longest. You can read all about them here!
Celebrate our favorite Christmas traditions. / Making December special for our boys was important to me, and I loved continuing some of our favorite holiday traditions. I love seeing the season through their eyes!
Set up my 2021 bookish bullet journal. / Updating my bookish notebook for 2021 was probably my favorite goal of the month. I was in nerd heaven working on my favorite pages and making a few new ones, too.
Write all of my end of the year blog posts. / I posted six recaps as part of my My Year In {2020} series, some of my favorite posts to write. I still have a few miscellaneous recaps to post on the blog, but they're pretty much done!

My January Goals: 
– Watch church online every Sunday.
– Only drink one Diet Coke per day.
– Complete Eleven Months in the baby's journal + take monthly photo.
– Complete Eleven Months in the big boy's journal.
– Cull 2020 photos and videos from my phone.
– Make our 2021 family bucket list.
– Prepare for the baby's first birthday in February!
– Watch Backup Bootcamp course.
– Break down my meal planning goal into action steps.
– Blog about my 2021 personal and bookish goals.

Do you have any goals for January?

2021 Goals

Jan 8, 2021


Last year was my first time using the PowerSheets Goal Planner, and the system really worked for me. I recently shared a look inside my goal planner and my progress on my 2020 goals, and I'm excited today to share my 2021 goals. Some of today's will look familiar and some are new areas of focus for a new year and new season of life.

I spent time in December completing the prep work, making my vision board, and finalizing my goals. The one place I got hung up for a while? My word of the year! I thought I had an idea of what I wanted, but it just never felt right. I skipped that page, continued to work on my goals, and finally had a moment of inspiration this week.

Because it came to me at the end of the process, I'm going to introduce my goals first and then my word of the year. One thing you'll notice about my goals is that they aren't SMART goals. I prefer to have larger "goal themes" – areas of my life that I want to focus on – for the whole year and then set more specific monthly and quarterly goals within each category. The things that matter most to me are typically areas where I can make changes but will never truly be "done," so this format works best for me. First, here's my 2021 vision board:


Sources:  Bible, Journal, Quote, Shoes, Date, Albums // Trees, Boys, & Cookies from Canva

Last year was my first time making a vision board, and I honestly thought it sounded dumb. But synthesizing my goals into images was fun and meaningful, too! Just seeing the collage throughout the year was such a lovely reminder of my purpose. So, I was excited to find new images to visually represent what I want from 2021. 

With this in front of me as inspiration, I wrote my big-picture goals:

1. Deepen my relationship with the Lord.
Last year, my goal was to revitalize my faith. It had been a long time since I'd prioritized that area of my life, and my focus was developing a habit of reading my Bible every day. Now that it's become a daily habit, I want to focus on deepening my relationship. I want less checklist and more conversation with the God I love. This is the goal that matters most to me because it has to power to affect everything else in my life, too. 

Mini goals: Daily devotional, Soulspace meditation, Bible study, memorize Scripture, and read Christian non-fiction.

2. Create habits for a healthier life.
One of the things in my life that I've long neglected is making healthy choices for my body when it comes to food, sleep, and physical activity. I've had very little desire to change and specifically didn't focus on it in 2020 because I knew it wasn't the right timing with a baby on the way at the beginning of the year. But it's been on my mind a lot lately, and I know it's time. I will be going slow on this one, but I have a little-by-little plan in mind.

Mini goals: Drink more water, less Diet Coke, earlier bedtime, movement goals, family walks, and screen-free time.

3. Cherish the people I love.
After my faith, this is my next most important goal. My main focus will be on my relationship with Nick and our two boys, but I wanted broad enough wording to include my family and friends. 2020 made it clear how much I need my people! My home is my most meaningful sphere of influence, and who I am as a wife, mother, daughter, and friend matters to me. I want to continue to work towards being present and intentional with my loved ones. 

Mini goals: 2021 family bucket list, date nights with Nick and one-on-one time with my big boy, plan a family trip, read marriage and/or parenting books, have local adventures, celebrate traditions, and limit screen time. 

4. Preserve our family photos and memories.
This is essentially the same goal as 2020, but I'll have a different focus in 2021. Last year, I was primarily working on organizing our digital photos from the past 5+ and developing habits to stay on top of it. Additionally, I worked on filling out my boys' childhood history journals. For 2021, my focus will be on designing and printing family yearbooks. I've got a few mini goals, too, but printed books is the priority. I want to enjoy our photos!

Mini goals: Create family yearbooks, maintain photo organization, print annual photo calendar, continue to fill out boys' journals, complete Miss Freddy's backup bootcamp and family yearbook courses.

5. Improve meal planning and experiment in the kitchen.
One thing that came up repeatedly in my prep work last year was my desire for new routines. It was an area where I saw so much change in 2020 – and was able to witness firsthand the power of that little-by-little progress! While I have gotten more into the meal planning and grocery shopping groove, I'd love to improve my process... and even start to experiment more with cooking. My desire is to feel more confident and find joy in the kitchen.

Mini goals: Make list of go-to meals and seasonal meal queues, research healthier breakfast/lunch/snack options, take a cooking class, organize Plan to Eat, kitchen staples list, read a cookbook, and implement tips for picky eaters.

6. Invest time in what brings me joy. 
And finally, I had to have books and blogging on my list! Reading is my favorite way to decompress, and blogging is my favorite creative outlet. I was really proud of myself for making time for both during those newborn days, and I want to continue that momentum into 2021. There are a few other things that interest me – like journaling and figuring out how to use my fancy camera – that may become mini goals later in the year, too.  

Mini goals: Set Goodreads goal, participate in reading challenges, create seasonal TBRs, blog 2x per week, research email newsletter options, catch up on NetGalley reviews, and start journaling. 

7. Complete the Contentment Challenge.
Rather than a broad finance goal, like last year, I wanted to be super specific and start with The Contentment Challenge, hosted by Nancy Ray. It's is a three-month commitment to give up shopping for unnecessary stuff. I'll just do the self-led version – a meaningful thing I did last year that taught me so much. Before I broaden the goal, I need to dig more deeply into the why behind what I want to do so that I'll be more invested in the what.

Mini goals: Unsubscribe from marketing emails, create "buy it later" list, and decide on any exceptions.

As you can see, four of these goals are very similar to ones I had for 2021. I will have new mini goals and action steps associated with each of them, and I'm excited to see how that progress continues to add up in a new year. The two new goals – meal planning and health – are ones that I'm looking forward to working on. 

There's one goal from last year that I'm not focusing on at this time – routines. The reason? I've finally established them! My plan is to continue to maintain the rhythms that I started last year, like my end-of-the-month prep and review session. But I didn't feel the need to make it a goal because it feels like second nature now that the habit has been formed! If that changes with time, I can always refresh my goals later on.

- - - -

For 2020, my word the year was nurture. I loved that word from the moment I thought of it, and it was very fitting for that year of my life. I initially struggled with my word for 2021 and found myself considering words that felt very similar to nurture – tend, treasure, cherish, devote. But none felt right, so I kept waiting.

My boys and I were listening to an album of children's worship music one day when I was struck by a particular song. It's called "Light of Your Love" by Ellie Holcomb, and the chorus repeats the phrase, "I'm gonna rest in the light of Your love." Every time, I'd find myself singing along with a huge smile on my face. Maybe rest was supposed to be my word of the year? Nope. Then, I looked up "light" and something clicked:
The first definition on Merriam-Webster is "something that makes vision possible." I immediately loved that since a huge aspect of goal setting is having a vision for what you want to accomplish and who you want to be. I loved that the word could be mean so many things, including "something that enlightens or informs," "a particular expression of the eye," "to ignite something," "not heavy," "easily endurable," and "free from care."

I could think of ways the word applied my goals. Why do I want to preserve our family memories? To see my boys' faces light up as they look at photo albums! Reading and blogging are things that light a fire within me. I want to start seeing meal planning and cooking in a different light. I want to be a light within my family – a bright spot, a source of warmth, and free from care. You get the idea! Then, I looked up the word in the Bible:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? - Psalm 27:1 

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. - Psalm 119:105 

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. - Matthew 11:30

... for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. - Ephesians 5:8-10 

And I knew I'd found my word! Although our family made so many happy memories in 2020, it was certainly a heavy year. I started thinking about how I hope 2021 is the opposite – that I hope it's light, joyful, and bright. 

Have you made any goals for 2021?
Or chosen a word of the year?

Books I'm Buying in 2021

Jan 6, 2021

 

When I saw yesterday's Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, I couldn't wait to share my list. But it's a day late because I scheduled it for the wrong date – whoops! This post is limited to the first half of the year, but I'm excited about too many releases to limit it to ten. So, you're getting twenty instead! I focused on new books from favorite authors, though I have many on my "Upcoming" shelf on Goodreads from new-to-me authors.

Sixteen books I can't wait to read from favorite authors:


1. You Have a Match by Emma Lord (January 12) – Tweet Cute was such a delightful 2020 release, and it reminded me of what I love about the YA contemporary genre. I have this for review and will be reading it this week!

2. The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon (January 26) – It feels like it's been so long since I read the previous Bone Season books that I probably need to re-read to refresh my memory, but I'm still hyped for this one.

3. A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas (February 16) – This is my most-anticipated 2021 sequel, and I'm counting down the days til I get it! Until then, an ACOTAR trilogy re-read on audio will satisfy me.

4. Love at First by Kate Clayborn (February 23) – I loved Clayborn's Chance of a Lifetime series but wasn't as crazy about Love Lettering, so I'm nervously excited for this release. I hope it's as delightful as the summary.


5. Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson (March 2) – A Good Girl's Guide to Murder was a surprise favorite of 2020, so I'm very excited for another investigation with Pippa and Ravi. Maybe I'll re-read the first, too?

6. An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn (March 2) – This series brings me so much joy, and I love listening to them on audio with narrator Angele Masters. I can't wait to see what Speedwell and Stoker do next.

7. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (March 9) – Quinn is one of my favorite historical fiction authors, and I'm really looking forward to another WWII story from her. But I've got to mentally prepare for all 656 pages!

8. Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson (April 6) – Jackon's first foray into domestic suspense, Never Have I Ever, was a win for me. So, I was happy to learn she was releasing another book in the same genre. 


9. Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle (April 6) – Hogle's witty and sarcastic writing really worked for me in You Deserve Each Other, so I'm excited to read more from her this year. The summary sounds fantastic, so I can't wait!

10. Life's Too Short by Abby Jimenez (April 6) – The Friend Zone and The Happy Ever After Playlist both made my "Best Of" lists in the years I read them,  and I'm expecting this release to be on 2021's list.

11. Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane (May 4) – This is my most anticipated 2021 standalone! I'd be President of McFarlane's fan club if one existed. This sounds like everything I've come to know and love from her books.
 
12. The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton (May 4) – I loved Cleeton's first Cuba book, wasn't a fan of the second, and just recently enjoyed the third. I'm hoping the fourth will rival the first as my favorite! 


13. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (May 11) – While I haven't read Henry's YA backlist, my love for Beach Read has me itching to read another contemporary romance from her. So glad I don't have to wait long!

14. A Special Place for Women by Laura Hankin (May 11) – My love for Happy & You Know It caught me by surprise, and it instantly made me want more from Hankin. I'm hoping this one cements her as a favorite.

15. The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley (May 25) – Ever since Oakley's debut, I've been a huge fan! I'm always so emotionally invested in her stories, and this one sounds like it will be more of the same.

16. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (May 25) – I love Reid's writing, despite my unpopular opinion on Evelyn Hugo, and am excited she's got a new book in 2021. This one sounds so different from her last two.

And four books on my radar from new-to-me authors:


17. The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon (January 26) – It's a bit of a stretch to include this book because Solomon isn't totally new-to-me, but she's new to adult contemporary romance so I'm counting it. This sounds great!

18. Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano (February 2) – This is on my radar after I read a rave review of it by Kayla (@idlewildreads) on Instagram. Mysteries have really appealed to me lately, so I'm excited for a new one.

19. Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price (April 6) – Am I sucker for any kind of Pride and Prejudice retelling? Absolutely. But give it a clever title, beautiful cover, AND add in murder, and my expectations are high!

20. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (May 4) – I've really wanted more books inspired by Greek mythology after loving Julie Berry's Lovely War and Madeline Miller's Circe. This one seems very promising, and I hope it delivers.

What 2021 releases are you excited to read?
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