January Reads

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Whew, this was a busy month for reading! Between snow days, early releases, holidays, and zero desire to leave the house in the cold, I read a TON. Not only do I feel accomplished checking several books off of my list, I also am thrilled that I have so many fun reads to share with you guys! Because really, is there anything better than spending a winter night under the covers with a good book (and a glass of wine and a candle nearby)? I also read a good mix of fiction vs. nonfiction and powerful pieces vs. super lighthearted ones, so no matter what you’re in the mood for, below are several great recs.

PS- I wrote a book roundup for The Everygirl that ran a couple of weeks ago, and while it features books that I’ve either talked about on here already or mention below, be sure to take a look for some additional recs!

Alrighty, time for this month’s book recaps…

One Day in December: I knew I’d have to pick up this British romance after Katie enthusiastically recommended it to me (love getting book recs from her!). It’s one of those cozy winter rom-com reads that you’ll want to finish in a day. The main character, Laurie, falls in love with a guy who she spots at a bus stop, only to meet him in real life a few years later–but this time, her roommate/best friend is dating him. As you can guess, the story is focused on Laurie’s romantic journey–will she end up with Jack, the guy from the bus stop, or will their lives move in different directions? In the meantime, how will she act around her roommate, who has been working to help her find the “mystery guy” for years? I read this book super quickly and everyone else I’ve talked to about it seems to have really enjoyed it, too!

Love and Other Words: This is another one that Katie covered on her blog a few months ago, right around the time that I started reading some of the other Christina Lauren books. I immediately added this one to my list and really liked it! It tells the story of Macy and Elliot, who meet as teenagers, become close friends and date, and then lose touch only to reconnect 11 years later and realize that their relationship was truly something special and needs to be salvaged. That said, Macy is engaged to someone else and hasn’t told Elliot much about her past, making things complicated to say the least. Christina Lauren is actually the pen name for two friends, Christina and Lauren, who write together, and their books are all so well done and realistic!

Becoming: Basically, everyone needs to read this, regardless of political affiliation. Michelle Obama’s fascinating life story will move and inspire you, and I was super eager to read her book after hearing her speak in November. Michelle talks about the barriers she faced as a black woman, especially while working at a law firm in Chicago, reflects on her family life and upbringing on the South Side, and looks back on her journey to Princeton University and the relationships she formed there. I also loved learning more about the “behind-the-scences” aspect of life in the White House–it’s fun to read about the time her kids spent growing up in the spotlight and the comments they made when they learned their dad was running for president. Plus, who wouldn’t want to read about her relationship with Barack and how their story began?!

Maid: This nonfiction book had me captivated from the beginning, and I sped through it in a couple of days. Stephanie Land, now a journalist, writes about her struggle to provide for herself and her daughter after unexpectedly getting pregnant and subsequently postponing her education to work as a maid in Washington State. I’d recommend it to anyone who has read Nickel and Dimed, and the author of that book, Barbara Ehrenreich, actually writes the intro at the beginning. This book provides a similar glimpse into income inequality and one woman’s struggle to survive in a world that’s largely unsympathetic to her situation. It’s amazing to see how far Stephanie has come, and I’ve definitely thought a lot about her story.

Shrill: I had heard a lot about Lindy West’s book for the past several years and was glad to finally read her commentary on gender, appearances, and feminism. This is a fairly quick read but a powerful one, covering heavy topics but also incorporating humor. It was also interesting that she wrote this right after the 2016 election, and I’d love to read more of what she has to say given all of the issues that have emerged since.

The Kind Worth Killing: It wouldn’t be one of my reading roundups without a good thriller on the list! This book was so, so creepy and dark (more so than most of the other popular thrillers) but also so addictive. In summary, a man and woman meet at an airport bar and start talking casually, only for the man to confess that he wants to kill his wife (…casual). To his surprise, the woman offers to help–and so begins their journey. But does the woman know more about him than she claims? Is his wife really as innocent as she may seem? If you love a good husband/wife drama (which honestly seems to be the overall theme of most thrillers lately), this one is for you (and it’s gotten TONS of amazing reviews!).

The Proposal: I read Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date over the summer and adored it, so I couldn’t wait to pick up her newest novel. After being proposed by a crummy boyfriend and having to reject him in front of a stadium of people, Nik is thrilled when a hot guy, Carlos, and his sister come to the rescue. Little does Nik know it at the time, but Carlos may be just who she was looking for after all. I loved all of the characters in this book–I think I actually liked it more than One Day in December, because all of their personalities were so well thought out–and would definitely recommend it!

Last but not least, I had to tear through P.S., I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean. I don’t know why, but I just fell in love with this series after watching To All the Boys I Loved Before and reading the book over the summer. I don’t normally stay up-to-date on YA books, but I’ve made an exception for these (and trust me, I know tons of people my age who have adored them!). I just had to know how the story ended for Lara Jean and Peter and loved seeing the other characters–Margot, Kitty, Chris, Gen–continue to be a part of the plot. Sometimes light reads like these are just what the doctor ordered!

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December Reads & 2018 Book Recap

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Happy happy 2019! I hope you had a great NYE and enjoyed the time off these past few days. Going back to work after a week and a half away is going to be a challenge for sure (anyone else feel the same?), but the short week will help as we ease back into things!

I thought I would start off this year’s blog posts with a fave topic of mine…reading! This year, I read 55 books that are all recapped on the blog (click on where it says “texts” at the top of this post to see all of my reviews from this year and years past). I definitely did the bulk of my reading in the summer and had some very slow-for-me months where I read maybe two books because I was too busy with work/life to sit down and focus, but I’m hoping to keep reading even more in 2019, largely because it’s so much fun to share my thoughts on the blog!

Taking a cue from Grace’s big end of year book post, I thought I would do a similar categorization of everything I read this past year (although I’m not going to rank every book from best to worst like Grace did, because that takes DEDICATION).

In no particular order, here is each book I read by genre (I like how Grace did this categorization because if you’re only interested in, say, thrillers, you don’t need to read through the entire post to find some recommendations to add to your list). As I said up top, all of these are reviewed at length on the blog, so just search a title if you want to see my thoughts!

  • Fictional Thrillers: I have tons of other thrillers on my shelf that I still need to tackle, but I got through 10 this year (it honestly feels like I read way more, but it’s probably because I’ve been hooked on these over the past couple of years). 

Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell

The Ex Wife, by Jess Ryder

The Girl Before, by JP Delaney

Pretty Baby, by Mary Kubica

The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda

The Woman in the Window, by AJ Finn

The Last Mrs. Parrish, by Liv Constantine

Gone Without a Trace, by Mary Torjussen

My Husband’s Wife, by Jane Corry

The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

  • Nonfiction: I read 15 that fall into this category. Love a good memoir/thought-provoking analysis! 

From the Corner of the Oval, by Beck Dorey-Stein

Educated, by Tara Westover

Sisters First, by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

The Financial Diet, by Chelsea Fagan

The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work at the White House, by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Bachelor Nation, by Amy Kaufman

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson

Dear Madam President, by Jennifer Palmieri

In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It, by Lauren Graham

Unbelievable, by Katy Tur

Text Me When You Get Home, by Kayleen Schaefer

You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero

The Yoga Store Murder: The Shocking True Account of the Lululemon Athletic Killing, by Dan Morse

Murder in the Yoga Store, by Peter Ross Range

  • Buzz-Worthy Fiction: I read 4 that fall into this category, but it’s kind of a subjective one. 

All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin

The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn

Eleanor Olephant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

  • Light-Hearted Fiction: I read 26 that fall into this category. 

The Good Luck Charm, by Helena Hunting

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, by Jo Piazza

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, by Christina Lauren

The Intermission, by Elissa Friedland

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han

Matchmaking for Beginners, by Maddie Dawson

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories, by Celeste Fletcher McHale

The Queen of Hearts, by Kimmery Martin

Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan

Tell Me Lies, by Carola Lovering

The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

Marriage Vacation, by Pauline Brooks (aka Jo Piazza!)

Playing with Matches, by Hannah Orenstein

When Life Gives You Lululemons, by Lauren Weisberger

Limelight, by Amy Poeppel

When Katie Met Cassidy, by Camille Perri

Surprise Me, by Sophie Kinsella

The Wedding Date, by Jasmine Guillory

A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out, by Sally Franson

Hey Ladies, by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss

Romancing the Throne, by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Fitness Junkie, by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

Still Me, by Jojo Moyes

Your Perfect Life, by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Schooled, by Anisha Lakhani

Fight or Flight, by Samantha Young

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  • In no particular order, these were my 5 favorites of the year:

Tell Me Lies: I continue to be obsessed with this book and will talk your ear off about it if I see you in real life, sorry in advance!

The Alice Network: If you’re looking for a meaningful piece of historic fiction that will keep you hooked, this is it.

From the Corner of the Oval: One of my favorite reads simply because I loved the narrator’s writing style and how she lived a few blocks away from where I am now…oh, and because she had the coolest job ever.

Educated: This is such an important book and is a good followup to Hillbilly Elegy, if you liked that one!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Sometimes you need to dive into a good YA book to get back into the swing of reading.

  • Favorite new-to-me authors from 2018: 

-Christina Lauren (this is actually a pseudonym for this writing duo!) and Jasmine Guillory (need to read her latest, The Proposal!) are my new go-tos for “rom com” type reads.

-Lisa Jewell is a great author for thrillers, and I have another one of hers on my shelf waiting to be read.

  • And, in no particular order, these are the ones you can skip (sometimes I think this type of distinction is helpful because there are truly SO many books out there and not enough time to dig through them all!): 

Hey Ladies, by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss: I did NOT like this book and thought the characters were all annoying, out of touch, and hard to follow. I know that’s a harsh review, but it just didn’t jibe with me!

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories: This one was a quick read but just not that interesting to me. There are other lighthearted books on this list that are a lot better if you’re looking for a cute beach read.

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  • Now, lastly, here’s my December recap: 

Your Perfect Life, by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: I brought this one with me to Florida and it was a light read but pretty predictable. At their 20th high school reunion, two best friends accidentally switch lives a la Freaky Friday and do their best to adapt to their new surroundings while having to make important life decisions for each other along the way. In the end, each learns something new about their values and priorities and appreciates what they do have upon switching back.

The Yoga Store Murder: The Shocking True Account of the Lululemon Athletic Killing, by Dan Morse: Given that I grew up just minutes away from the Lululemon store in Bethesda and have been back living in the area for several years, I was surprised that I wasn’t previously aware that a book (multiple books!) existed about this horrifying case (I found out about this author in another blog post). I actually read this book first and then went back and read Murder in the Yoga Store, by Peter Ross Range, because I was so fascinated by the case and wanted to learn more (though both books essentially featured the same information and background, and Morse’s was more comprehensive and better presented, so pick that one up and you’ll learn everything you need to know). I remember pretty specifically when this murder happened because I was home for my college spring break in 2011 just a week or so after the attack occurred. At the time, the community still believed that masked men were to blame (when in reality, one of the workers murdered another and fabricated a story about two men coming into the store and attacking them), and white ribbons were hanging on local stores in support of the victims. Just a week or so later, it became clear what really happened and the entire community was in shock, as were many others. While this book is definitely graphic and gruesome, it is truly eye-opening and particularly fascinating to read as a longtime resident of the community.

Schooled, by Anisha Lakhani: I hadn’t heard of this book but picked it up in my favorite used bookstore in New York a few months ago and knew it looked good. The story centers around a new teacher, Anna, who has just graduated from Columbia with a job at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious, wealthy private schools. Anna learns that the teachers are making thousands of dollars on the side tutoring students (or essentially doing their assignments in full), and gets sucked into the allure of designer bags and luxury apartments before realizing that she ultimately isn’t satisfied with her life path. While the story is fictional, I’m sure it was based on the author’s own experience teaching at the prestigious Dalton School in NYC. I was hooked right away (especially since I worked at a private school in the DC area) and definitely felt like I was back in the city while reading about Anna’s life as a young postgrad!

Fight or Flight, by Samantha Young: This book is a must read if you like Christina Lauren and other rom com authors. Flight or Flight follows a guy and a girl who meet on a plane, immediately hate each other, and then essentially end up dating after they realize they’re both in the same city, all the while dealing with some major life issues and sadnesses (this book definitely isn’t pure fluff, promise!). While the book is somewhat predictable, I thought that parts of it were very real and loved every page. It’s the perfect book to bring on a long flight (ha!) since it’s on the longer side but doesn’t feel slow at all.

-You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero: This book was a re-read for me, but it felt like an appropriate pre-New Years read and was also one I wanted to pick back up since I’m seeing the author speak at Sixth and I later this month! I always feel motivated when reading self-help books like this one because they aren’t cheesy and are very current and empowering. I’m excited to hear Jen soon and need to pick up her other books!

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October & November Reads

Photo by Heather Bien
Photo by Heather Bien

I’ve admittedly been a very slow reader (well, for me!) these past couple of months, so I didn’t end up posting an October book roundup. I do love writing about all of the books I pick up, though, because I know people are always looking for more titles to add to their lists…so I’m finally publishing an October and November post with you guys all at once (it’s better to recap the October books late rather than never, right?)! It’s been awhile since I finished some of these, so bear with me as I do my best to recount them!

The Good Luck Charm, by Helena Hunting: I brought this book with me to Charleston and tore through it (I actually did have a good amount of reading time since I was traveling alone, and I wish I’d packed more than one book but was anxious to save valuable bag space since I only brought a backpack!). This is a light, rom-com type read about a couple who dates in high school, parts ways, and then reconnects as 20-somethings dealing with their own challenges (one person is a professional hockey player making major career moves, and the other just got out of a divorce). Of course, they fall in love and remember how great things were the first time around, but they have to work around these adults challenges and determine whether getting back together really is the right choice. Definitely bring this one on vacation if you want to dive into a lighthearted, romantic page turner!

All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin: I’m proud of myself for staying on the library waitlist for months to get to this book…I love Emily Giffin, so I was tempted to snatch it up on Amazon right away! I found the story to be very timely given current events and discussions surrounding male privilege and power (the plot centers around the family of a high school boy from an elite Nashville family who sends a racist, sexist Snapchat that goes viral). Obviously, Emily Giffin couldn’t predict just how relevant her storyline would be when she was writing the novel, but it truly made me think deeply about my own values and male privilege in our society. I couldn’t recommend this one enough!

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, by Jo Piazza: Again, I waited to get this one from the library for quite awhile, but it ended up being available right around Midterm elections, which made it extra fun to read. Charlotte is running for office in her home state of Pennsylvania, having left to work and raise a family in Silicon Valley for many years. In California, Charlotte achieved great financial and professional success, but once she begins her campaign, she moves back to her childhood home and becomes reacquainted with her humble beginnings and former community. She begins to examine her own values and priorities while working to support her family and marriage during a difficult professional period. Again, this book was very timely since Charlotte is running as a Democrat following the 2016 election, so there are many real-world references and challenges highlighted throughout.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, by Christina Lauren: This book kind of reminded me of The Good Luck Charm and was such a fun one to read on the train to New York City. Josh and Hazel meet in college but lose touch for several years until they realize that Hazel’s good friend Emily happens to be Josh’s sister (why this wouldn’t have been obvious to them right away, I don’t know!). They then become close friends and even roommates but vow that their relationship is purely platonic. After a series of failed double dates, they realize that they may be attracted to each other after all…and this discovery presents a series of its own challenges. This book is adorable and will keep you entertained–it’s light without being boring or cliche!

The Intermission, by Elissa Friedland: I loved Elissa Friedland’s first book, Love and Miscommunication, but this one is totally different. It follows Cass and Jonathan Coyne, a married couple living in New York City and preparing to start a family. As time passes, they realize that five years of marriage has taken its toll and what they really need is a little break from one another. Cass moves to LA to pursue a career in showbiz and Jonathan stays in New York and navigates his difficult family dynamics. I read this book over Thanksgiving and it kept me hooked the entire time–it felt very real and I loved how–like several of the other books in this roundup, actually–it was narrated from both the man’s and the woman’s perspective. The only flaw? The characters seemed much older than 32/33–I would have easily pegged them as being in their early 40s, and I don’t think the author was fully in touch with that age group as she was writing (most 30-somethings I know don’t find Instagram to be as mind-boggling as the characters did, for one!).

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Gift Guide: For the Homebody

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Happy Black Friday! This year (like most years) I’ll just be shopping from my couch…but I wish you the best of luck if you’re heading out into the “real world” to buy your gifts IRL! There are so many great sales going on, so I wanted to pop in with another gift guide in case you need an extra dose of inspiration.

I love all of these gifts because they aren’t necessarily things someone would just pick up for herself on a whim (though trust me, I’m tempted by all of them!). These are the perfect picks for the person who doesn’t care whether the weather outside is frightful or delightful…because she’d rather stay in anyway!

Feminism tray: I love this tray’s empowering message, and since it’s only 3 inches by 3 inches, it’s the ideal size to hold jewelry, change, and other miscellaneous items on a bedside table.

Monogrammed napkins: These would be adorable to give to a woman of any age. The pack of four is perfect for someone who likes hosting small dinners.

Hot Toddy kit: If she prefers mixing drinks at home rather than going out to the bar, this kit will keep her occupied.

Bath bombs: Oh, I wish I still had a bath in my bathroom (I just have a super tiny shower!). I miss being able to use all of the fun luxury bath products out there, like this cute set of bath bombs.

Witty doormat: I have a doormat with a fun message upstairs and always get compliments on it. This would make a great gift for someone who’s just moved into her first apartment!

Candle: You can never go wrong with a Volupsa candle. The scents and price point are both amazing! I have several and am always looking to build my collection.

State towel: Cat Studio is one of my favorite companies as of late because I love a good state/city-themed home item (you guys know how much I love my Washington, DC, pillow from them!). This dishtowel will elevate even the most boring of kitchens.

Woven basket: These baskets have so many uses–they can hold plants, blankets, accessories, etc, all while looking super stylish. Fill one up with some of her favorite things and skip any additional wrapping!

 

 

 

 

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September Reads/The Two Books You Need to Read, Stat!

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This month, I read a whopping TWO books and am totally ok with that. It was an especially busy month with work, work travel, social things, and life things that sometimes just made me want to unwind with a movie, TV show, or nap rather than sit down and read anything, no matter how lighthearted. I also picked up a couple of books that I just didn’t like that much and abandoned them, haha. But mostly, I was slow because I didn’t want either of the books that I did read to end! And you know that’s the sign of a good book. My reading list is so long that lately I just force myself to finish books as soon as I can so that I can move onto the next, but there’s something to be said for just slowing down and savoring each chapter.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was my first September read, and I picked it up after watching the movie on Netflix. I’m not normally a YA reader but made an exception for this book and am so glad I did. I actually mailed it to my sister at college when I finished it because she’d watched the movie this summer and loved it as well (like everyone else!). If you’re behind, the book/movie tells the story of Lara Jean, an inexperienced high schooler whose secret letters to several crushes accidentally get sent out, only for her to have to deal with the repercussions of several guys now knowing how she feels about them. She then begins a fake relationship with one of the guys, which, you guessed it, leads to real feelings. It’s a super cute read and is actually part of a longer series (there are two additional books), so if you like this one (which is under $8 on Prime, so just order it already!), there’s more where it came from!

From the Corner of the Oval was my second read of the month and omg, I am OBSESSED. I actually first heard about the book through Katie and then realized it was a super huge deal at the moment and it would take me forever to get off the library waitlist, which was a bummer. I actually snagged a galley at a used bookstore last week (and was assured that it was the exact same as the published copy) and didn’t want the story to end (I honestly came back from the bar on Saturday night at midnight and kept reading, that’s how hooked I was!). The book is a memoir written by a young woman named Beck, who lands a job as a stenographer for Obama via a Craigslist ad (and I thought *I* was the queen of Craigslist…). She falls absolutely in love with her new world, and majorly falls for a hot male staffer (referred to as Jason), which leads to tons of drama…I won’t spoil the book, but things get MESSY (but very relatable and real). Beck’s observations of Obama are amazing and the story–while largely about her personal life and experiences as a 20-something–made me laugh, cry, and nod. I knew I would find the book interetsing because I’ve read other great memoirs by Obama staffers, but I didn’t expect to want to become friends with Beck–the book truly felt like a conversation, and her approachable tone, honesty, and pride in her work mixed with the right amount of self deprecation made her a relatable and engaging narrator. What made it even cooler is that Beck was living right in my neighborhood on Swann Street during her time at the White House, so I felt like I was retracing her steps with her! Katie and I can’t get over how amazing this book is and continue to text each other observations! Please pick it up ASAP!

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August Reads

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I didn’t read too too much this month compared with earlier in the summer due to an unexpectedly busy Labor Day Weekend and just not having the energy some days, but I still finished some good books that I wanted to share on here! My list for September/October is super long, needless to say!

The Alice Network: This book was SO good. I was on the list for it at the library and had to wait forever for it to be my turn, but I persisted because I’d heard so many great things. The book is about a young woman in the 1940s and a female spy during WWI–it switches back and forth between the two perspectives. The young woman meets the spy when she’s older and relies on her to determine what happened to a missing family member, so the book is also part mystery in a way. I’m not normally a big historical fiction reader, but there are so many books in this genre that have gotten amazing reviews, so I’m trying to be better, and this was a great way to start!

Matchmaking for Beginners: I thought I would like this book a bit more than I actually did–the characters were a bit quirkier than I expected, ha! It was still a cute, quick read that follows the journey of a young woman who is recently divorced (after being married for, like, two seconds to a guy who is totally wrong for her) and finds out that her ex’s great aunt has left her a home in Brooklyn and has specific instructions for how she can go and make the most of her life.

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories: I picked this one up on a whim at the library and it was just ok in my opinion (but the Amazon reviews are super positive!), and while it was supposed to be a love story, I actually liked the parts about friendship more! It centers around Jacey, who discovers that a man she met during a traumatic event but since lost touch with is officiating her friend’s wedding. The two quickly reconnect and fall in love, only for tons of miscommunication to arise. This story made me want to move a small town in the South and be as adorable and kind hearted as (who decides to adopt three orphaned boys on her own at the age of 25!).

Then She Was Gone: Gah, this one was creepy but so good and definitely is one I’d recommend if you like thrillers. When her daughter Ellie goes missing, Laurel spends years wondering what exactly happened, but her curiosity is amplified when she meets and falls in love with a man who may know more about the situation than he lets on. While trying to create a new life with him, Laurel learns some startling truths about what really happened all those years ago, with snippets of the daughter’s perspective tied in, too.

The Ex Wife: This one was also a quick, creepy read (although there have been SO many books about pairs of wives/ex wives lately that the plot line is getting a little eh). The book follows the lives of Jen, the ex wife, and Natasha the current wife (who comes home one day to find that her husband and daughter have left her and has to pick up the pieces). It’s your typical thriller in that you don’t quite know who to trust, but it’s good in that it isn’t 100 percent predictable.

The Queen of Hearts: This book had been in my pile forever, but other things kept taking precedent! If you love a good medical drama, this is a must read. It follows two women who became friends during college, went to med school together, and now are living in Charlotte with their young families while working as doctors. When a man from their med school past moves into town, drama ensues and secrets are revealed that make them question their friendship and how well they truly know each other. The author is actually a doctor herself, which made everything that much more realistic!

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How to *Actually* Read More

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Happy Friday before a three-day weekend! This week was full of fun things and not so fun things–the best part was definitely being handed some super exciting design opportunities (stay tuned!) and going with my mom and sister to see Crazy Rich Asians, which did not disappoint (go see it, now!). The worst part was the AC going out on Tuesday night in 92 degree weather, prompting me to sleep downstairs on the couch and pray that my 9 percent phone battery would make it though the night! This weekend, I have a couple of photo shoots (one at someone else’s place on Saturday for Houzz, and one at my apartment on Monday, which is for one of the design projects that came about, woo!), work at the gym, and then a friend’s cookout on Sunday, which makes me feel more Labor Day Weekend like! In between all of this and running around like a crazy person trying to finish styling my apartment, I’m also hoping to get in a bit of reading, and that brings me to this post!

I’ve written a post about this before, but I thought it would be a fun topic to recirculate given that 1) I’ve been trying to read a lot more the past several months after hitting a bit of a roadblock last fall/winter, and 2) a few other bloggers I follow have posted their own tips!

I have to admit…reading is something that truly brings me a sense of calm and enjoyment. When I was little, I’d look forward to going to the library to pick out more Babysitter’s Little Sister books (anyone else read those?!), and my dad and I read Harry Potter together when it first came out. However, I know reading isn’t truly enjoyable for everyone, and if you’re not a book person, you don’t need to force it! (You’re probably wayyyy more up-to-date on movies and TV shows and other things I’ve cut out a bit more to make time to read!). That said, if you’re not the biggest fan of reading but want to get more into it, just start small. Try an audiobook on your commute (I “read” most of Crazy Rich Asians this way and loved it–even when I was seeing the movie I’d weirdly remember where I was when a certain scene was happening!), or just challenge yourself to read a couple of chapters a week. No biggie!

I definitely go through ruts when I don’t feel as compelled to read at the end of the day, and this is usually when I’m in a busy period at work, have a lot going on personally, or have other things to focus on (I always get really bad about reading for months after a move, for example!). But in general, it comes down to basic prioritization for me. Katie recently said that she used to relax with a TV show and has made a point to unplug with a book instead, and I 100 percent have been trying to do the same. I love being able to finish books and talk about them with you guys on the blog, which provides me with an extra dose of motivation. However, I’m also motivated just by the idea of tackling my  “must read” list. If I don’t ever sit down and just start something, I’ll just feel behind and overwhelmed! If you’re the opposite and have no idea what to read next, visit blogs (a lot of lifestyle bloggers I follow also cover books) or talk with your friends or even just browse through Amazon. Even if I’ve never heard of a particular book but it’s gotten amazing reviews, I’ll be inspired to add it to my cart or wish list. I also have always wanted to write a book one day and am starting to get really close to wanting to sit down and flesh something out, so I also consider reading to be research in a way!

I also love Lauren’s recent post about how she’s made time to read more. I 100 percent agree that getting a library card is a game changer! I have more books than I can count at home but still go to the library all the time–it helps that there’s one near my office. If you want to read more but hate the idea of spending money on something you’ll probably just read through once…well, problem solved! And her point about keeping a book with you wherever you go is also key. I always end up kicking myself when I have to wait for an appointment or am meeting a friend who’s running late and have nothing to read on me. Oh, and always, always bring books with you when traveling, even if you  don’t think you’ll have the downtime. I went on a work trip and read two in a span of a couple of days, simply because we didn’t have a ton of activities in the evening and we had a flight each way. You’ll never regret being too prepared!

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July Reads

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Happy early August–it’s time for July’s book roundup! I have no idea how I read a whopping 14 books this month, but that means there are plenty to share here–and the even better news is that I really enjoyed most of them! I think that since I had less time spent at home due to a busy month of fun, work, and travel, I was more productive with the downtime I did have…who knows. Anyway, here we go…

Educated: Everyone has been recommending Educated over the past few months, and for good reason. I was enthralled by Tara’s story of her life growing up in a big Morman family in rural Idaho, being “home-schooled” (basically teaching herself how to write and do math, since her parents provided no real instruction), and miraculously making her way to college and beyond. The book does raise a lot of difficult concepts and has extremely uncomfortable moments (abuse by a sibling being one), and in some ways, I almost forgot it wasn’t a work of fiction because parts of it just seem so unbelievable–but in good ways, too. I think part of this is due to the fact that Tara’s life story truly is remarkable, but it’s also a reflection of her talent as a storyteller. Tara manages to accomplish things would already be outstanding for the most prepared student (studying at Cambridge and Harvard alike!), but knowing she had to guide and motivate herself each step of the way makes her story all the more fascinating. If you enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy and are looking for something along the same lines or just want to learn more about a different subset of America, this is a must-read.

Crazy Rich Asians: I had been meaning to read this book forever and even own a hard copy, but somehow I kept prioritizing other novels and forgetting about it (#bookwormproblems). However, when I learned a few weeks ago that there would be a movie based on the book coming out later this summer, I knew I needed to hurry up and start it! The book follows young New York professor Rachel Chu on her journey to Singapore with her wealthy, fellow professor boyfriend, Nick–only Rachel doesn’t really know anything about Nick’s family background–or his money–until she is thrust into his extravagant culture and celebrations. Family secrets and controversies are plentiful throughout the book, and while it’s somewhat of a longer read, it will keep you interested the entire time. I actually started listening to it on audiobook when I was in the car going from North Carolina to Florida, and I enjoyed the storyline and narrator so much that I kept listening to segments on my walks to and from work. I can’t normally focus well when it comes to audiobooks and podcasts, but the book captured my attention right away and the narrator does a really good job switching from one character to another which made it easy to follow along–there are a ton of different characters in this book, and it switches from one person’s point of view to another fairly quickly. I did end up turning to my hard copy to finish the last few chapters of the book–I was getting impatient to finish it and realized I could read a lot quicker than I could listen–and now I’m excited to start books two and three sometime soon.

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Eleanor Olephant is Completely Fine: This book was a little stranger than I could have imagined based on the ending alone, but it was sweet nonetheless. Eleanor Olephant is socially awkward (but thinks everyone else has problems interacting, not her!) and struggling to find her way in life at age 31. She befriends an IT worker in her office and their friendship blossoms, and Eleanor’s life begins to develop more meaning as she stretches outside her comfort zone. Overall, the book was a funny, easy read, though the ending was not what I expected from this type of book–it was a little more thriller-esque than I was prepared for and left me surprised!

Tell Me Lies: I’m obsessed with this book–it may be my favorite of the year, and I don’t know if my writeup can even do it justice! The story centers around two main characters, Lucy and Stephen, and is told from each of their perspectives. Lucy, a girl from Long Islans, meets Stephen during her freshman year of college in California, and the two begin a tumultuous, powerful romantic relationship that starts and stops many times over the years. Stephen is your typical self-obsessed player, though we learn that his issues run even deeper than he may let on. Despite his many flaws, Lucy can’t let go of him and struggles both emotionally and physically during her time in college as she wrestles with her relationship and personal issues from her past. Overall, it reminded me a bit of The Light We Lost in that it was partly chick lit and partly a thought-provoking, nostalgia-inducing read. It’s the type of book that I’d want to write about college–and all of the author’s details are so realistic to me; it’s clear that she also went to a small liberal arts school. I honestly think about the book all the time, even weeks later (during my walks to work!), and just need a friend to pick it up so that we can discuss it!

Sisters First: When I say that I would recommend this book to a friend regardless of his or her political affiliation, I mean it–even though I’m liberal, I loved reading about the Bush twins. The story isn’t all that political–rather, it explores the twins’ close sisterly bond and is peppered with funny, heartwarming stories about their immediate family and the Bush and Welch relatives. I smiled, I teared up a bit, and generally I couldn’t get enough! It was a great way to see who Jenna and Barbara are as people, and I really liked how they owned up to some of their mistakes, shared life lessons learned, and demonstrated that there’s a time and a place to take oneself too seriously, but it isn’t necessary to do so all of the time. Now I can only hope that Malia and Sasha will write something similar one day. 😉

The Kiss Quotient: This book was a little weirder than I thought…it very graphic and not as “innocent” as I imagined, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be about a woman with Asperger’s who hires someone to teach her about sex and relationships. Just be forewarned before you pick it up if you’d rather skip over those types of details–otherwise, it’s a cute and funny read! It’s gotten great reviews and is a pretty quick one to read in a day or so!

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Marriage Vacation: I wasn’t as obsessed with this one as I thought I might be, given that I love Younger (if you didn’t know, Younger is centered around a NYC publishing house, and this book is supposed to be the one that (main character) Liza’s client Pauline is publishing in the show, so it was fun that it was turned into a real-life title! Also, related: the TV show Younger was based on a book by the same name, which I read a few years ago and loved!). Despite not being as glued to this book as I thought I would be, it’s still a fun summer read that explores one woman’s “marriage vacation” as she takes time to live in Thailand and find herself before returning to her husband and kids in NYC (the whole thing is supposed to be a “fictional” adaption of Pauline’s own marriage vacation from her husband in the show, Charles). I loved being able to learn more about the snippets of the book that were mentioned on the show–but even if you’ve never watched and are just in the mood for some good chick lit, you’ll enjoy this one.

The Financial Diet: I’d had this book on hand for a few months and had been meaning to start it for ages…oops! Luckily, it’s a very quick read that is designed to help 20-something women with money. I always think it’s interesting when the people writing these types of books have made major financial mistakes themselves, and Chelsea Fagan did a great job sharing her own struggles and lessons learned rather than coming off as judgmental (the worst!). While a lot of the information was not new to me, I love a good, practical self-help book (this one included recipes, tips on managing money in a relationship, and more).

Playing with Matches: I could NOT wait for this book to come out, as I’ve been following the author, Hannah Orenstein, on Twitter for ages (she’s hilarious! It also turns out that she’s a high school friend of one of my good friends from college, small world), and knew that whatever she wrote would be right up my alley. Playing with Matches was basically a rom-com in a novel and I loved every page of it. Recent college grad Sasha, who is dealing with various relationship challenges of her own, is working as a professional matchmaker in New York City (just as Hannah did) and learning what it takes to succeed in the biz. This book made me nostalgic for living in NYC in my early 20’s, and Hannah hit the nail on the head when it came to creating a likable narrator–there was nothing annoying about Sasha! This is the perfect summer pool or beach read for anyone who’s used dating apps, is curious about what matchmaking entails, or just loves chick lit.

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The Rules Do Not Apply: Ariel Levy’s memoir is moving, inspirational, and addictive as she explores love, loss, and misfortune. Without giving too much away, it’s safe to say that Ariel has been through the ringer–her relationship, pregnancy, and stability all fall apart at the same time upon returning from a trip overseas. I had been wanting to read this book for awhile, and while it’s full of difficult moments, it’s a powerful and engaging read.

Bachelor Nation: In college, my friends and I would watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette in someone’s apartment and take turns bringing various unhealthy snacks and gossiping about which Ashley would be sent home that night (there were always like 8 Ashleys in any given season…and actually, true story: one of my friends’ families ended up going to Ashley H’s wedding in Maine after she left the show). While my Bachelor-watching hasn’t really continued post-college, I was still excited to see that there was a book out exploring all aspects of the show–how it came about, its initial challenges and failures, the scandals, how the audition process works, what it’s really like behind the scenes, and more (why didn’t I think of this as a sociology senior thesis?!). The author didn’t leave out a single aspect, and fans (or just fair-weather fans) of The Bachelor and its spinoffs will be intrigued by this super fun nonfiction book.

The Girl Before: Thriller fans, take note of this one–so creepy! The Girl Before alternates back and forth between two protagonists who lived in the same home a few years apart. It’s clear that something strange happened/is happening in the house, but who is causing the disruption is a mystery. I was actually surprised with how this book played out, which made it a good read–normally storylines are a little more predictable to me, and this one kept me guessing and freaked out for most of the book.

Pretty Baby: I read The Good Girl by Mary Kubica last year and had been meaning to pick up Pretty Baby for ages. It was your typical modern day thriller filled with distrust, loss, and secrets, and I was glued to the plot right away (a middle-aged woman spots a teenager and her baby at the train station, welcomes them into her home, and then begins to wonder if there’s something the teenager is hiding about her past). The woman and her family seem fairly normal until you realize that they have issues of their own, which also come to light.

The Perfect Stranger: I started this one right after The Girl Before and Pretty Baby because I was on a mini thriller kick (I liked this one best!). Leah, a former journalist who has moved to rural Pennsylvania to work as a teacher, is suddenly thrust into the spotlight when a coworker of hers is accused of murder and her roommate goes missing. Quickly, she wonders who she can and can’t trust–what are her students hiding from her, is the detective working on her case as earnest as he comes across, and was her roommate abducted or is she running away from something? Meanwhile, Leah is hiding a scandal of her own from her past, and we’re left waiting to find out what exactly happened that prompted her to leave Boston. This one kept me up late into the night and gave me chills in the way that a good thriller should!

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3 Upcoming Books I’d Love to Read

One of the things I love about browsing for books on Amazon is that there are always tons of new titles being recommended to me…although sometimes it can get a little out of hand when I see how many amazing books there are coming out and think about how many are still sitting on my shelf at home unread! However, I’m making sure to bookmark these titles for the coming weeks/months, because I just don’t want to miss them. Start adding these to your Amazon/library wish list! (I’ll admit that these are pretty rom com-ish, so if that’s not your thing, feel free to skip this post!).

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The Proposal, by Jasmine Guillory: This book is by the author of The Wedding Date, which I read a couple of months ago and loved. It’s always the best when you discover a new, up-and-coming author and then find out that they’re releasing another book that’s already gotten great reviews. This one looks like a hilarious rom-com type of story that will make a great quick, relaxing read.

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Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, by Christina Lauren: Who can resist a book about a guy and girl friend pair who ultimately fall for one another (at least it seems like this will be the case)? This book looks like another cute one by an author I’ve never heard of (which is always fun), and while the plot is somewhat stereotypical, it’s still a book I’d love to pick up.

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Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarty: I’ve read many of Liane Moriarty’s books, and while I’ve liked some more than others, I’m always excited to see what the hype is about each time a new one is released. (Btw, who else can’t wait for season 2 of Big Little Lies?!). I love a good mystery with lots of interesting characters in the mix, so I’m excited to see what’s in store this time.

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Summer Staples on Sale

It’s only halfway through the summer (how is it almost mid-July?!), but tons of staples that you can still wear this season are hugely discounted at the moment! I was browsing Jack Rogers sandals the other day and found several cute pairs that are priced below $60 right now–be sure to scoop them up before they go out of stock!

If you’re looking for a pair of the classic sandals, several colors here are discounted.

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I ordered this pair of wedges for only $44 (marked down from $148!)–I’ve been a big fan of them lately, and I like how they reflect the signature Jack Rogers style but look a little bit different and dressier for nighttime events.

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I was also browsing Anthropologie and came across this adorable straw bag for only $40–the price can’t be beat.

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I’m also a big fan of this blue style from Saks Off 5th, it’s majorly discounted!

These polka dot slides look comfortable for this blister-prone gal and are marked down from $195 to $35.

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