Quick Lit: March 2021 Favorites

May 31, 2021

I read 32 books in March and shared mini reviews of 21 books last week. This is a follow up to that post featuring nine of my favorite reads from the month! Since I read so much, I wanted to highlight my most memorable reads in their own spot. You can tell my reading taste is pretty eclectic just based on the books featured here – it feels like there's something for everyone! My favorite March read was Sorrow & Bliss by Meg Mason, but I'm working on a separate, full-length review of it. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

FINLAY DONOVAN IS KILLING IT BY ELLE COSIMANO – This mystery was on my radar after a rave review from @idlewildreads on Instagram – plus, who could resist this eye-catching cover? For me, this got off to a shaky start. Everything felt a little weird to me, and I could not understand the heroine's decisions. But once I was able to suspend my disbelief and accept the premise, it was ridiculously fun. I loved the mishaps the heroine got into, and those twists kept me hooked. I was rooting for Finlay, even though I frequently side-eyed her Questionable choices. It felt like a book that was meant to become a movie! I wanted a little more character development, but the plot was on point. It's totally bonkers, but so much fun. I So Loved It! I can't wait to get my hands on the second book and see what happens next. If you want something fast-paced and funny that will keep you guessing, this is it!

HANNAH COULTER BY WENDELL BERRY – I've heard nothing but praise for Wendell Berry – a prolific writer that I don't think I'd ever have come across if it wasn't for bookstagram. I definitely judged his books by their covers but decided to take a chance on this one (partly because the heroine shares my name, yes). And wow, what an unexpected favorite! This gem snuck up on me in the very best way, and now I can't wait to read more from Berry. Set in Port William, Kentucky, Hannah is an older woman recounting her life and her love for her land and her community. It's a quiet, introspective novel that burrowed into my heart. I was shocked a man wrote this woman's perspective because it was so well done. There were many passages I wanted to highlight and characters that I grew to deeply love through Hannah's eyes. It's a gorgeous story, and I'm So Obsessed With It.

MY INNER SKY BY MARI ANDREW – My sister and I go to Barnes & Noble almost weekly, and I picked up this book on one of our visits because the cover caught my eye. When I saw the subtitle – "On Embracing Day, Night, and All the Times in Between" – I wondered if it would fit in with my word of the year (light). I had no idea that Andrew was the artist behind many illustrations I'd seen online! This memoir was a delight. Andrew explores different seasons and transitions in life through the lens of light. She sees the world through an artist's eyes, and I appreciated her perspective. There's a sense of wonder and delight in the way she talks about the world, even when writing about hard or heavy things, that I found moving. As with any memoir, I don't think this will work for everyone. Overall, I So Loved It for what I took away from it and what I'll likely remember about it.

BY THE BOOK BY AMANDA SELLET – This was another "bought it on a whim after falling in love with the cover" Barnes & Noble purchase. And oh my gosh, y'all, this was a delight! I loved this adorkable heroine – her love for classic literature, the way she would try to apply it to real-life situations, and the sweet romance she actually experiences. There's a fabulous friend group in this book, and I loved that Sellet went that route instead of making this nerdy, naive heroine into an outcast. There are strong, supportive female friendships in this book and that's probably what I loved most about it. Additionally, I read a lot of classics as a teenager and primarily watched costume dramas, so this book worked for me because I could relate to the heroine. I So Loved It and 15-year-old me would have been so obsessed with it. It just made me so dang happy, and I needed that feeling.

GOOD GIRL, BAD BLOOD BY HOLLY JACKSON – After loving A Good Girl's Guide to Murder last year, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel. Did I love this one even more than the first? It's entirely possible. I can't tell if that's the case or it's just that my love for Pip (and Ravi, too!) deepened as I got to spend more time with her. It was cool to see Pip try to find a missing person rather than solve a cold case because it made the pacing feel more urgent. But wow, this mystery got really dark. The case itself goes in a direction I never expected, and Jackson doesn't shy away from showing how Pip is traumatized from events in the first book. I appreciated how this story felt like a continuation of the first, even though the mystery was different. My emotions were on a wild ride while reading, and I loved every moment spent with these characters. I'm So Obsessed With It and can't wait for the third book.

THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS BY CHLOE GONG – Although I loved the cover, I wasn't drawn to this Romeo & Juliet retelling because I... don't like Shakespeare. But the library had the audio, so I decided to give it a try! Y'all, this was a joy to read. I was immediately hooked on the writing and unique premise. Set in 1920s Shanghai, the setting was so well-researched. This is historical with a bit of speculative fiction, which you'll see immediately. It was right up my alley, but I wasn't ready for the monstrous creature! I didn't know anything about the politics of Shanghai during this time, and it was fascinating to see how well it played into this story of dueling families. Gong also explores Western imperialism and Juliette's identity struggle, which gave this thrilling adventure a lot of depth. I had all the feels for these star-crossed lovers and So Loved It. I'm itching for the sequel after that ending!

WE BEGIN AT THE END BY CHRIS WHITAKER – After sampling this at the bookstore, I bought it on the strength of the opening scene. When I sat down to read it, I wondered if I'd made a mistake. The writing style was very choppy, which made it hard for me to get into the flow of the story. But I persisted and soon found my groove! The writing worked for this particular character and story. This was an incredibly tragic mystery, but I loved how it surprised me. While I liked Walk, the small-town sheriff, it's thirteen-year-old Duchess who stole my heart. A self-described "outlaw," she's just trying to take care of her brother and make the best of a shitty situation. This is the kind of mystery you read for the characters and for the emotions it evokes as you experience their joys and heartbreaks. It's the type of book that I finished and thought about long after I was done, which is why I So Loved It

THE ROSE CODE BY KATE QUINN – Quinn proves, once again, that she's the queen of historical fiction with this latest release! I was swept up in this story from the very first page, and I loved every single minute of it. Although I bought the paperback on release day, I treated myself to the audiobook, too, which just enriched my whole experience. Narrator Saskia Maarleveld brought these three women to life for me! The Rose Code tells the story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park – it opens in 1947 and jumps back to 1940, following Osla, Mab, and Beth in both. I loved the dual timelines and both were equally exciting to me. I was so invested in all three women, loved the romantic subplots, and I totally screamed (and cried) at a few of the surprises Quinn had in store. The level of historical detail is impressive, but it's the characters that Quinn does best. I'm So Obsessed With It.

LIFE'S TOO SHORT BY ABBY JIMENEZ – After loving The Friend Zone and The Happy Ever After Playlist, I couldn't wait to start Life's Too Short. Finding it at the bookstore a few days early felt like winning the lottery! I loved the small glimpses of previous couples, and this couple found a place in my heart. I didn't like them quite as much, and this is my least favorite book of the three, but it was still another winner from Jimenez. She's quickly become one of my favorite contemporary romance authors! I loved that this book focused on ALS, and I thought the heroine's personality totally made sense given what she's gone through in her life. This story still has Jimenez's trademark humor and heartbreak, which made me laugh and tear up. A few things didn't work for me – issues with the baby's story and annoyance at the social media influencer aspect – but I still So Loved It overall. 

What's the best book you've read recently?

Quick Lit: March 2021

May 25, 2021

When I posted my February 2021 Quick Lit two weeks ago, I mentioned that my blogging break recently contributed to me falling behind on book reviews. And it didn't help that I read so many books in March that it felt overwhelming to catch up on! I take notes on everything I read, so it's not an impossible task – just one I kept procrastinating. In March, I read 32 books. One was a re-read, which I mention at the end of this post. One was my favorite of 2021 (so far) and is getting it's own full-length review in the next week or so. As for the other 30 books, you'll find 21 shorter-than-normal reviews in today's post, and I'll share my 9 favorite books from March later this week. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

AUSTEN YEARS BY RACHEL COHEN – A book that blends memoir, biography, and literary criticism into one. It was a great concept with an underwhelming execution. The more personal/memoir aspects were oddly written, trying too hard and lacking connection. But the parts that focused more on literary criticism of Austen's works and biographical details about her were better and made the book worth finishing for me. I'm So Okay With It but wouldn't likely recommend, primarily due to my frustration with the structure and writing style.

AN UNEXPECTED PERIL BY DEANNA RAYBOURN – Another fun installment to my favorite historical mystery series! I always look forward to seeing what Stoker and Veronica will get up to next, and this one didn't disappoint. The mystery was enjoyable and had a resolution I didn't predict. I loved the swoons, the banter, and the relational developments, though it's occasionally frustrating to see Veronica avoid vulnerability and emotional intimacy. I have such a soft spot for these books, especially on audio as narrated by Angele Masters, and I So Enjoyed It.

THE SCENT KEEPER BY ERICA BAUERMEISTER* – I'll admit that I set this one down the first time I picked it up, several years ago. I thought it was historical fiction – with maybe a touch of fantasy? – and it's not that at all. Once I got over my expectations, this was a delightful read. It feels like a fairy tale in the opening section, but it soon shifts and becomes the coming-of-age story of a young, sheltered girl who doesn't know her own story. I thought it was a clever concept with lovely writing, and I found the plot very moving. I So Enjoyed It.

LOST ROSES BY MARTHA HALL KELLY – I primarily picked up this book because it focused on an aspect of history that I didn't know much about – Russia during WWI. It follows three woman who have vastly different experiences during the war, and it was clearly well researched. However, one woman added very little to the story, one was absolutely horrible and irredeemable for me, and the last should have been the focus of the book. Because I was only invested in one storyline, I have to say I'm just So Okay With It. I liked the topic but not the multiple POVs. 

EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IN ITS TIME BY JENNA BUSH HAGER – Having enjoyed Sisters First, I was looking forward to more from Jenna Bush Hager. Her most recent book is a moving tribute to her family, particularly her grandparents. She writes with warmth and humor – a good storyteller despite being an average writer. I laughed, teared up, read parts aloud, and thought deeply about my own family and the seasons of life and loss I've experienced. I So Enjoyed It and it was the gentle, loving book that my heart needed at the time. 

THE LOST APOTHECARY BY SARAH PENNER – This book was getting a lot of buzz online, so I was thrilled when it was a Book of the Month pick. And then... I was just So Okay With It. It's a dual timeline novel, which sadly didn't work for me. I disliked the contemporary heroine and plot because it distracted from the more compelling historical story, which could have used those pages for more development. The past storyline had a better premise and was much more enjoyable, but I was still left wishing that there'd been a little more to it.

SNOW & ROSE BY EMILY WINFIELD MARTIN – I bought this for a few dollars at the used bookstore, mainly because I recognized the author and illustrator from two picture books that I love to read to my boys. This is a cute little fairy tale retelling, and it will mainly be memorable to me for Martin's gorgeous illustrations throughout. I'm not familiar with the inspiration material, so I can't speak to its success as a retelling. But I So Liked It overall, especially because it was a needed change of pace from what I typically read. Just a sweet story about two sisters!  

THE GLASS HOTEL BY EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL – I've only read St. John Mandel's Station Eleven (and loved it), so I wasn't sure what to expect from The Glass Hotel but was looking forward to it. The writing itself was lovely and the structure was very creative, but that's all I can say positively about this book. It read like a series of connected short stories with characters that I strongly disliked and a plot that felt like it was completely pointless. And that ending? UGH. Don't even get me started, y'all. It seems like this was a divisive read, and I'm in the So Over It camp.

AM I THERE YET? BY MARI ANDREWS – After loving My Inner Sky, I had to pick up Andrews' debut. It was interesting to compare the two. Both are similar thematically and grapple with all that comes with early adulthood – finding your way, falling in love, dealing with loss, and more. But this one is more illustration-heavy, which gave it a more cutesy and lighthearted vibe. The writing wasn't particularly memorable, which had been the strongest part of My Inner Sky for me. So, I So Liked It but was glad I'd just borrowed it from the library rather than bought it.

SMALL ADMISSIONS BY AMY POEPPEL – Despite a strong opening, this book landed firmly in So Okay With It. Poeppel did make me laugh a few times, and I enjoyed the parts of the story focused on prospective students, the antics of their entitled parents, and the admissions process. But the friend and family drama was dumb, and none of them felt like real, fleshed-out people. The way it shifted perspectives was occasionally confusing, too. If it had been more focused on the heroine, school setting, and admissions process, this might have worked better for me. 

FLOAT PLAN BY TRISH DOLLER – I've read two of Doller's YA books, so I was excited to learn she was venturing in to adult contemporary romance. This was a really enjoyable story, and it tackled some tough topics for some added depth. I loved the sailing and travel aspect, especially the descriptions of the various places they stopped along their journey. The pacing was just right, too. Personally, I wish the romance was a little more developed and the conflict/climax was less rushed. My head was spinning a bit at the end! But overall, I So Enjoyed It.

THAT SOUNDS FUN BY ANNIE F. DOWNS – Sadly, this book did not live up to its adorable cover. It was such a frustrating read. Some chapters were more interesting than others, but overall this had a weak premise and did nothing to develop the central idea presented at the beginning. I wish it had been marketed as an essay collection rather self help / Christian living because it's just personal stories and random anecdotes. There's no "exploring some research" or anything that "shows you how to find, experience, and multiply your fun." I'm So Over It

THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES BY KERRI MAHER – If I wasn't already a fan of Grace Kelly, I think I would have found this book boring. It was quite long and often slow, even though parts of Kelly's life are glamorous and dramatic. It's very repetitive – Kelly's ambition and desire for love repeatedly at odds with her insecurity and longing for her father's approval. Maher had clearly done her research, and overall I appreciated her fictionalization. I So Liked It because the topic was up my alley, but it didn't have much of a point beyond dramatizing the story of Kelly's life. 

ADMISSION BY JULIE BUXBAUM – Admission fictionalizes the college admissions scandal that dominated the news in 2019. With Lori Loughlin in mind as I read, I liked how this book humanized everyone involved without letting anyone off the hook. The family dynamics and discussions about privilege were great and made this a thought-provoking read. I liked the Then / Now structure, which kept the pace moving for me. I was invested in whether or not the heroine and her mom could experience growth and like where Buxbaum left things. I So Enjoyed It.

JO & LAURIE BY MARGARET STOHL & MELISSA DE LA CRUZ – Everyone losing their minds over how this book ignores Alcott's intentions and undoes the point she made with Jo's story clearly hasn't read a page of it. How do I know? Because Stohl and de la Cruz don't change what happened in Little Women. Instead, this retelling pretends Jo was a real person who wrote Little Women and gives the "real" Jo a romance with Laurie without changing the plot of the book she writes. Personally, I thought it was sweet and creative (if a little slow at times). I So Enjoyed It.  

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA BY TJ KLUNE – Were my expectations too high going into this bookstagram-beloved book? Possibly. I'd seen nothing but rave reviews, so I went in ready to be wowed. It started cute, and I was quickly hooked. In some ways, it was just what I expected – misfit kids, quirky writing, and a theme of found family. Those parts worked for me and made it a fun read! But the lessons at its heart felt so heavy handed and repetitive that I found myself annoyed by the end. This worked better for other readers, but I'm So Okay With It.

THE ROAD TRIP BY BETH O'LEARY* – Oh man, I'm so bummed about this book. I adored The Flatshare and thought The Switch was cute but cheesy. But this was an infuriating read. Switching back and forth in time, I was invested enough in finding out what happened in the past that I didn't DNF. But I probably should have because I disliked everyone in this book. The romance was instant and absolutely not worth a second chance, highlighting why I often hate that trope! I found a big element of the plot to be intensely problematic, so I'm sad to say I'm So Over It.

PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND OTHER FLAVORS BY SONALI DEV – This was a gender-swapped, loose retelling of Pride and Prejudice that totally surprised me. It only lightly follows the source material, which allowed Dev to surprise me and look forward to seeing how she'd update certain aspects of the plot or characters. It hit on the major plot points but changed enough to keep me guessing! It's not a light read and doesn't focus as much on the romance as it does the heroine's personal journey, but that worked for me. I So Enjoyed It and the food descriptions were a bonus.

A GREAT RECKONING BY LOUISE PENNY – As I started reading the twelfth installment of this series, I couldn't help thinking about how interesting it was to see Gamache in a totally new role as the head of the Sûreté Academy. In many ways, it's a natural fit for this thoughtful leader. I liked one of the personal connections in this one, and it was sad to revisit a severed friendship between two men who took very different paths in life. I cared more about the relationships in this one than the mystery itself, but I'd still say I So Enjoyed It overall.

THE TROUBLE WITH HATING YOU BY SAJNI PATEL – This was such an enjoyable contemporary romance, even though it did tackle some heavy, sad topics. I loved the prickly heroine, especially once I learned more of her story. It helped me understand her so much more! The hero was adorable, and I was rooting for him to win her over. I sometimes found the dialogue a little clunky/cheesy, but it didn't affect my overall enjoyment. I was invested in the romance and the friendship, and now I'm looking forward to the next book. Overall, I So Enjoyed It

GLASS HOUSES BY LOUISE PENNY – Whew, this was a really intense addition to the Gamache series because it focused on cartels and the world of drug trafficking. If you've been following this series from the beginning, it's interesting to note how Penny has laid the groundwork for this particular story. I liked that we got to see Gamache in a tricky situation, and it made me spend a long time thinking about conscience. I was totally hooked and So Enjoyed It, but I'll confess that I still don't understand how the police's actions had the effect they supposedly did.

• • • •

In March, I re-read A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, one of my 2020 favorites, before picking up the newly released sequel. Everything I wrote about this one still stands – it's addicting, well-written, and populated with characters that I loved. If you like mysteries or thrillers, don't miss out on this one! I So Loved It.

What have you been reading 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.

So Obsessed With: The Mini Edition #12

May 14, 2021

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:

A magazine about reading, for and by readers? Yes, please. I bought my first issue (003 / Spring 2021) last month and had fun reading it. I found a few essays annoying, but I'll still buy the summer issue when it's out in June.

I don't own this mug (yet), so I can't speak to whether it's worth the price tag. However, I am so obsessed with it! I own too many mugs but not the travel variety, so I'll splurge on this because hydrangeas are my favorite flower. 

I bought a Dapperdesk planner for the first time last year, and I've loved using it. I'm sticking with it for 2021-2022 and just bought my new one in a lovely blush pink during Simplified's spring launch. It's lovely in person!

While researching nighttime moisturizers, I asked my sister if she had any recommendations. This was her suggestion – because you just apply it after you regular moisturizer. It's so hydrating, and my dry skin loves it.

Another recommendation from my sister. I love the Toleriane cleanser but hadn't tried any other products from this brand. You can use this on your body or face, and I love that it's heavy-duty without feeling super greasy.

Yet another recommendation from my sister! It's a fantastic makeup remover and has replaced Pharmacy's Green Clean balm in my nightly routine (that product was making my eyes burn). It works great – and costs less.

My pajama drawer is filled with t-shirts, night dresses, and some leggings I don't even like very much. I realized recently that I didn't have any comfy pajama shorts, so I bought this pair. They were just what I needed!

Have you been so obsessed with anything lately?

Quick Lit: February 2021

May 11, 2021

Remember that time – back in February – when I celebrated staying consistent enough with blogging to never fall too behind on reviews? Hahaha! Oh y'all, those were famous last words. I took a little break from blogging in March, which is the reason I never wrote my February Quick Lit. And then, I read 32 books that month... putting me every further behind on reviews. Unfortunately, I haven't really gotten my blogging mojo back, so I've continued to procrastinate on a problem that just keeps growing. My "to be reviewed" stack is staring me down! Today's post is the first step towards putting a dent in it. I finished 16 books in February, 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.

THE WAR WIDOW BY TARA MOSS – On one of my many bookstore dates with my sister, I stole this book from her stack of things to sample and bought it for myself. I loved the cover, the description sounded right up my alley, and the author is Australian. Set in 1946 Sydney, The War Widow follows war correspondent Billie Walker as she reopens her late father's private investigation agency and searches for a missing young immigrant man. I love a good female detective, and Walker was so vividly drawn that I could just imagine her leaping from the page onto a big screen. She's bold, smart, and unconventional, and I was rooting for her every step of the way. The focus on life in postwar Sydney was really interesting, and the mystery kept me hooked. I So Enjoyed It – and I'm sure it helped that I read it in bed on my birthday, thanks to my mom babysitting my boys. Such a good memory!

SEND FOR ME BY LAUREN FOX – I was 20 pages in to this book when I knew that it would be a 2021 favorite. It was the first book I read this year that gave me that "this is a 5-star read" feeling, and I'm so thankful that it delivered all the way until the end. Moving between Germany on the eve of World War II and present-day Wisconsin, Fox's story is a tender and gorgeously written exploration of the relationship between mothers and daughters. The way it explored grief and trauma – and how those thing are passed down generationally – was so moving. I adored the characters and the writing, frequently finding myself stopping to re-read certain passages. Clocking in at only 272 pages, I was shocked that Fox could pack so much in. The open ending felt very literary, and I actually appreciated it (though other readers may feel differently). I'm So Obsessed With It and will certainly re-read this one in the future.

A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES SERIES BY SARAH J. MAAS – I have read and re-read – and reviewed – these books so many times that I don't have anything new to say. And I probably wouldn't have included them in my post except they kept everything spaced out the way I wanted. It's always great to be back in this world, and I was excited to re-read in anticipation of the release of A Court of Silver Flames. As always, the first book is my least favorite, though I do love the portion under the mountain. The second, unsurprisingly, is my favorite – and not just because it came out the same day my first baby was born. I just adore Feyre's journey in it so much! The third is an epic conclusion, and I love it more with each re-read. Such a great end to this part of Feyre and Rhy's story! The novella isn't necessary, but I still love it in all its angst. This series is a favorite, and I'm clearly So Obsessed With It.

THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB BY RICHARD OSMAN – Since I'd been in a mystery mood, I couldn't resist this story of four friends in a retirement community who are trying to solve a murder. It all starts with the Thursday Murder Club, where the group meets to discuss cold cases. And then, the stakes are raised when someone they know is murdered! I wanted to love this one more than I did. The idea was fun, full of red herrings, and had a nice sense of humor. However, the diary entries were pointless, we never got to see the cold case club in action, and (kinda spoiler-y) there were way too many suicides. One of the old ladies was clearly in intelligence when she was younger, so she had all kinds of connections and favors to call in. And that annoyed me because it made some elements way too easy! I'm So Okay With It and might check out the second book, but only from the library.

THE FOUR WINDS BY KRISTIN HANNAH – Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. It's time for me to say goodbye to Kristin Hannah. I loved The Nightingale and then loathed The Great Alone. Because I was interested in the Great Depression and Dust Bowl setting, I decided to try The Four Winds. For the first 60%, things were going well! The book had a strong start – I was rooting for the heroine, learned a lot about the setting and time period, and was swept up in the story. Sadly, the tone shifted once the heroine moved to California and the story focused more on politics and workers' rights. It made the pacing stall out and felt like the same conversation over and over. And then. THE ENDING. What a joke! It's clearly a go-to for Hannah, based on the three I've read, and it doesn't work for me. I'll give the book a So Okay With It, based solely on the first half.

INFINITE COUNTRY BY PATRICIA ENGEL – This cover is gorgeous, and I was excited to try a new-to-me author that I'd heard praised. Unfortunately, Infinite Country didn't work for me. There isn't a lot of dialogue, and it read like all telling instead of showing. I wasn't invested in the story, and I partly blame that on the way it shifted between different characters and from 3rd and 1st person. It was a slim novel – only 191 pages – and it didn't feel long enough to encompass Engel's thoughts on Colombian mythology, immigration, citizenship, trauma, and more. I appreciated its intent more than its execution. The writing felt very labored, to me, and I was too aware of how hard it was trying. I'm So Okay With It, but I do seem to be in the minority based on other Goodreads reviews. This one has gotten a lot of raves from other readers, so check it out if the premise appeals to you.

SHARE YOUR STUFF. I'LL GO FIRST. BY LAURA TREMAINE –  A mix of memoir and self help, this book's subtitle is "10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level." I'm not sure that's really what it does, even though I did enjoy reading it. It skews more memoir than self help, and it's definitely lacking on the guidebook element the subtitle implies. There's almost no discussion or practical advice about deepening friendships. Instead, each chapter involves Tremaine sharing a thought-provoking question and answering it herself. I loved the questions and often found Tremaine's answers sparked my own memories, though our lives are very different. It felt more like journal prompts than conversation starters, but I guess they can be used either way. I'm not sure Tremaine's life thus far warranted a memoir or that I'd click with her in real life, but I still So Liked It overall.

THE NEXT RIGHT THING BY EMILY P. FREEMAN – The first time I picked up this book, I read a few chapters and decided not to finish it. But after enjoying some of Freeman's podcast episodes, I decided to give it another shot. I don't know if it was my mood or timing, but I loved it the second time around. If I had one complaint, it's that it sometimes felt a little "woo woo" with the talk of looking within yourself and such. There are some theological areas where I think I disagree with her. However, I did glean enough solid advice that I So Loved It overall. I liked how Freeman walked though making decisions and focusing on the next right thing. Every tip wasn't equally helpful for me, but plenty were things I can see myself returning to when I'm faced with a difficult decision (like making a most important list). It's worth noting that it's very focused on the soulful and spiritual side of decision making.

A COURT OF SILVER FLAMES BY SARAH J. MAAS – I read 16 books in February, but there are only 15 books pictured... and that's because I read this one twice! After finishing this behemoth, I bought the audio and started it all over again. When you finish your most-anticipated 20201release in a day, sometimes you just need to go back and re-live the feels. It was everything I wanted! I adored Nesta's personal growth, her amazing female friendships, and her romance with Cassian. SWOON. The house was one of my favorite elements, and it was so interesting to see the Inner Circle through an outsider's eyes – something I didn't even know that I needed! I love the hints of what's to come in future books, and I spent hours theorizing with Kelly about it all. I'm clearly So Obsessed With It, though I could have done without one particular storyline and all the sex. I kinda miss Maas' YA days... Haha!

DINNER: A LOVE STORY BY JENNY ROSENSTRACH – One of my February goals was to read a cookbook from start to finish, and I couldn't have chosen a better to book to cross off this goal! I loved Rosenstrach's emphasis on family dinners and making it a priority to sit at the table together every night. It brought back so many memories of my childhood and reinforced how important this is to me now that I'm a parent. There are very few photos in this one and a lot of text. That's part of what made it a great choice for this goal! I enjoyed Rosenstrach's writing, appreciated that most meals had fresh, simple ingredients with very little prep/cook time. You can tell she and her husband are working parents who need dinner on the table fast once home! I didn't agree with all her advice, but I still found much of it helpful and thought provoking. I So Enjoyed It. (And bookmarked a lot of recipes, too!)

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE BY EVIE DUNMORE – Kelly recommended this book to me a while ago, so it felt like kismet when I found a copy at the used bookstore. This was a delightful historical romance, and I was so invested in the heroine, the duke who falls for her, and the friends she makes along the way. Was it a little instalove-y and very dramatic? Yes, but I was still totally here for it. I personally didn't mind the combination of a light-hearted romance and the more serious subject matter at its heart, the struggles of women in Victorian England. For me, it added depth to a genre I sometimes find a bit too fluffy but still retained the fun, feel-good vibes that lead me to pick up a romance. I thought the stakes at the heart of the conflict were very realistic, and I So Enjoyed It overall. This hero wasn't a favorite for me, but I finished the book eagerly anticipating the next installment. 

ONE TO WATCH BY KATE STAYMAN-LONDON – I wasn't interested in this book, but Kelly kept pushing it on me. Well, I'll be the first to say that I should have listened to her sooner! This was utterly delightful, and I So Loved It. The format was so clever and worked perfectly for this story by adding in things like texts, tweets, transcripts and more. I thought it explored the heroine's weight and body image in a thoughtful way. I can be a little way of that topic in books, but I really appreciated the way it was done here. But the real reason I loved this book is the way it delivered on all the drama! It was everything I love from a great season of The Bachelor with none of the stuff I'd want to fast forward. The premise was fun, the suitors all had distinct personalities, and Stayman-London kept me guessing the whole time about how it would end. I love when a romance keeps me on my toes! 

What have you been reading lately?

May 2021 Goals

May 6, 2021

April was a rough month for my goals. I didn't fully take into consideration how some of my plans would affect my goals. During Kelly's weeklong visit, her first since 2019, I completely ignored my goal to go to bed early. Before and during her stay, I skipped some of my regular routines like writing in my reading log, backing up my monthly photos, and setting up a new month in my journal. I have zero regrets about that – but playing catch up + completing all the personal goals I'd set for myself just became too much. I had the time to do it, but I got overwhelmed enough that I didn't. Nick was traveling some for work, too, which made my goal of three items off our family bucket list a little too ambitious. I'm writing this all here to remember it for next time.

Even though my goal progress wasn't great, I still finished the month feeling great about all that I'd done. Spending time with the people I love will always matter more than being productive. And sometimes, you just need to binge New Girl and rest. Hopefully I can catch up a bit in May, but if not, that's okay. It will get done eventually!

On My Calendar:
– Our big boy turns 5
– Mother's Day + family birthdays
– Well checks for the boys
– End of school year activities
– Swim lessons for our big boy

Currently Obsessing Over:
– My sister recommended the Clean It Zero 3-in-1 Cleaning Balm ($19), and I'm obsessed. It's a great replacement for Pharmacy's Green Clean, which I've used and loved in the past but was making my eyes burn recently.
– We had family photos taken in April and I adore how they turned out! Michele Zakeri Photography is so talented.
– My big boy is obsessed with dinosaurs, and these dinosaur sheets ($25) and night light ($20) from Pillowfort at Target were a huge hit with him. They both worked with what was already in his room, so that's a hit with me.
– These Stars Above shorts ($15) are great! I needed new sleep shorts and bought more than one pair of these. 

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.

April progress:
 I think I missed about half of my daily readings, a theme you'll begin to notice is common in April.
– Umm... I only listened to Soulspace five times in April. Struggle! I'm hoping to get back on track in May.
– Once again, YIKES. I blogged three times total in April, so this was definitely a fail. 

Revisiting My April Goals:
– Select photos for our 2018 and 2019 family yearbooks. / I vastly underestimated how much we had going on in April, and this was the first goal to fall by the wayside. I've broken it down further and moved it to May!
– Complete three items from our 2021 family bucket list. / We had family photos taken, but that's the only item off our bucket list in April. I'll get more specific with my May goals and choose a few items to complete.
Plan my big boy's 5th birthday. / Since my big boy's birthday is at the beginning of May, I wanted to make sure everything (gifts/party/etc.) was picked out by the end of April. I'm so glad I prioritized that task! 
Buy my new 2021-2022 planner! / While this task hardly qualifies as a goal, I love putting it on my list and checking it off once I've clicked Complete Order. I'm sticking with Dapperdesk again this year and got the blush one.
– Catch up on February and March book reviews. / At the beginning of April, I had a backlog of almost 50 reviews to write. I think I completed... six? I don't know why I've procrastinated, especially since they're all drafted in my reading journal. It's just a matter of typing them up and doing a little polishing. Hopefully this month...
Begin implementing an earlier bedtime + routine. / I saw progress here, though it was imperfect. I'm a night owl, so I started my goal with an 11 p.m. bedtime. I may eventually aim for earlier – my first step is consistency!
Choose a Bible study to go through this spring. / I haven't started it yet, but I did choose a study to go through!

My May Goals:
– Visit a botanical garden as a family.
– Weather permitting, go strawberry picking.
– Celebrate my big boy's 5th birthday!
– Fill out my big boy's Year 4 in his Promptly Journal.
– Select photos for my 2019 family yearbook.
– Catch up on February, March, and April reviews.
– Start my Bible study workbook.

Do you have any goals for May?

April 2021: Recap + On My Shelves

May 4, 2021

I say this every month, but April passed in a blur. It was a busy month but filled with so much excitement – a new baby, my bestie's visit, and more. And that's why I barely got any of the things done that I planned!

1. Celebrating Easter – We kicked off the month with a few Easter celebrations. My big boy has been doing virtual preschool this year, but his teacher hosted an in-person Easter egg hunt just for virtual students. He loved getting to participate! Then, we went to my parents' for Easter lunch and visited Nick's parents later that afternoon. After everything was canceled last year, it was so nice to experience a much-needed return to normalcy. 

2. Welcoming a New Nephew – At the beginning of April, my younger brother had his first baby. He's the first of my siblings to have a baby, and I teared up seeing him holding his son in his arms. It was so precious and unexpectedly emotional! We've prayed for this baby for years and are so happy that he's finally here. My big boy loved becoming a big brother last year, so he's thrilled there will be a new baby at family events. He's already in love!

3. Kelly in Georgia – The biggest highlight was Kelly's long overdue visit to Georgia. She was last here in November 2019, and we both assumed she'd next visit spring 2020. As you know, the world had other plans. It's felt like the longest wait, but our reunion couldn't have been better! She stayed for a week, and I loved every minute of it. Our favorite adventure? Going to Barnes & Noble with my sister and each buying 7 books. It was epic!

4. Family Photo Session – With my first baby, we had photos taken when he was a newborn and when he turned one. I had to do the same for my second, who turned one in February, but decided to wait a little longer so they could be outdoors rather than in a studio. I'm so glad I made that decision and love how they turned out! From the outfits to the location, everything came together beautifully. I know they're something I'll cherish forever.

Read 20 Books | Favorites:
Love on Lexington Avenue by Lauren Layne
A Rogue on One's Own by Evie Dunmore
Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley

“Grief runs through the whole of life and leaves nothing untouched. 
A voice on the car radio, a knife in the kitchen drawer, each carries a thought of the dead.”
Austen Years by Rachel Cohen

“Is that your subtle way of asking if I’m seeing anyone?” 
“Whatever gave you the impression that I’m subtle?”
Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize when I hired you that you 
were also available for unsolicited advice on my life.”
Love on Lexington Avenue by Lauren Layne

“The past is where we go when we are helpless; the past, no matter what the psychiatrists say, 
can’t really hurt you much more than it already has, not like the future, 
which comes at you like a train around a blind curve.” 
The Best Cook in the World by Rick Bragg

“Have you perchance considered becoming a little more likable?” 
A Rogue of One's Own by Evie Dunmore

“Every mother screws up her children one way or another. It's up to you whether you stay that way.”
What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins

“We name our villains and then treat them in such a way that they prove us prophets.”
What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins

“It feels like love, like truth, which are just different ways of saying the same thing.”
What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins

‘No one ever said that good writing was easy....
Falling in love again and again? Spilling your heart all over the page?’ She sighed. 
‘But if you’re really meant to be a writer, you’ll tell the truth as you know it. Every time.’”
The Next Great Jane by K.L. Going

“Just remember to pack light. Dreams tend to shatter if you're 
carrying other people's hopes around with you.”
Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

“We are none of us perfect, and no one expects perfection. 
But when you have hurt people, you must allow them their anger. 
Otherwise it will only become another thing you have tried to take away.” 
Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare

“You will make yourself unworthy by considering yourself unworthy. 
We become what we are afraid we will be.”
Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare

“I think he might love me, too—though, being a man, I expect he’s too dense to realize it.” 
To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters

“It is the worries that plague us the most that cut the deepest when other people call them to the surface.” 
Free from Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey

“I had been holding on to the past so hard that I couldn’t even imagine the future.” 
Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey

If I thought I didn't meet my blogging goals in March, what is there to say about April? I tanked even harder! I only posted three times. The first two – my March 2021 recap and April 2021 goals – are the monthly staples I didn't miss. And then I posted my sister's favorite reads in Tales & Tiger Lily: March 2021. At least one of us is somewhat on top of book reviews! I'm so behind, and I've got to get caught up. Fingers crossed that I'll find my mojo in May.

Favorite Song #1: "Way Less Sad" by AJR
I didn't listen to much music in April, so this was one of my only new finds.
Pretty sure I have Spotify's Discover playlist to thank for it.

Favorite Song #2: "High You Are" by What So Not + Branchez
I think my sister played this song for me on one of our adventures,
and I've been obsessed with it ever since! So fun for a solo drive.

I Care a Lot (2020) starring Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Dianne Wiest – When Kelly and I decided to have a movie night, we each came prepared with a suggestion. This one was mine because I'd been intrigued ever since I saw the trailer. And while it started off strong, it got stranger and more ridiculous the longer it went on. I wasn't rooting for anyone, the premise felt realistic but not the way it was executed, and an unsatisfying ending. Boo.

Promising Young Woman (2020) starring Carey Mulligan – After my movie pick was a flop, I was nervous going into Kelly's. But I shouldn't have been because this was fantastic! Based on the trailer, I expected a dark and possibly campy revenge story. That isn't what I got, but I loved it more for subverting my expectations. This was one that I finished and wanted to discuss the casting, message, styling, and ending. Likely a 2021 favorite for me!

Book of the Month: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala, and What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins

Target: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse G. Sutanto and Northern Spy by Flynn Berry

Barnes & Noble: Brood by Jackie Polzin, Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price, Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny, The Next Great Jane by K.L. Going, A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus, Bloom by Nicola Skinner,  The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, The Widow Queen by Elżbieta Cherezińska, Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey, Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle, Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin, The Duke Undone by Joanna Lowell, Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane L. Rosen, and Much Ado About You by Samantha Young

Amazon: Pride and Prejudice by Katherine Woodfine, Love on Lexington Avenue by Lauren Layne, To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters, Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund, and Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Book Depository: Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane

Used Bookstore: Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas, Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie, The Dating Plan by Sara Desai, and The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

From My Mama: Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson, Freely & Lightly by Emily Lex, and Book Nerd by Holly Maguire

Audible: Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins, and Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley

Kindle: The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas
© So Obsessed With • Theme by Maira G.