2019 Anticipated Releases: Did They Live Up To the Hype?

Last January, I published a blog post called 16 Book Releases I’m Excited For in 2019. Now that 2019 is over, it’s time to look back through the list and see what I thought of those books!

Romanov, Nadine Brandes (release date: May 7, 2019)

Romanov

Romanov was, predictably, an awesome book! Unfortunately, though, my main memory of this book is that I was up late reading it the night before going to the ER last spring–so I need to reread it and create some better memories, lol.

Home, love, family. A legacy of life. A legacy of hope.

To Best the Boys, Mary Weber (March 18, 2019)

To Best the Boys

To Best the Boys was absolutely AMAZING! I’ve read it twice so far. I loved, loved, loved the characters, plot, setting (it’s a delicious story in which to immerse yourself), and the message that girls can be anything they want to be.

“But what if my dreams aren’t that simple? What if my dreams aren’t just one thing, but instead they are everything? Why can’t the future, past, and present all be my dreams?”

The Boy who Steals Houses, C.G. Drews (release date: April 4, 2019)

boy-who

Cait’s latest book was amazing–I loved it so much. I read it on Easter and it made me literally SOB.

I love Cait’s writing more than anything because it’s full of long light summer days and lots of food and even more banter (big families are just the BEST ugh), but it goes so much deeper too and has so much (too much! 😭) emotion and depth and heart.

The Deceivers, Kristen Simmons (release date: February 5, 2019)

The Deceivers (Vale Hall, #1)

I’ve read this twice! It wasn’t executed the way I’d expected, but it is a great book!! Can’t wait for the next one.

“I could draw a whole city after you,” he says. “It would be strong and beautiful, and it would never break.”

Call it What You Want, Brigid Kemmerer (release date: June 25, 2019)

Call It What You Want

I’ve read this twice and don’t have words for how AMAZING it is. I also really thoroughly enjoyed Kemmerer’s other 2019 release, A Curse So Dark and Lonely. Her books are just my favorite ever.

King of Scars, Leigh Bardugo (release date: January 29, 2019)

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology, #1)

I’m not currently as into Leigh Bardugo as I have been in the past, but I still loved King of Scars.

“The more I know of you,” he said, “the more I am sure you are exactly what Ravka needs.”

Chain of Gold, Cassandra Clare (release date: November 19, 2019)

Chain of Gold (The Last Hours, #1)

I haven’t read this one yet, and I most likely won’t, because I don’t really read Cassandra Clare anymore.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance, Tomi Adeyemi (release date: March 5, 2019)

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My library didn’t have this for a long time after it was released, but while writing this blog post, I checked again and now they have four copies. So, stay tuned, because I’ll be reading it soon!

The Toll, Neal Shusterman 

toll

I got this from the library a month or two ago and was SO excited… until I realized that Rowan and Citra are not the main characters, and that the book is verrrrry long, haha. I ended up taking it back to the library without reading.

The Queen’s Resistance, Becca Ross (March 5, 2019)

The Queen's Resistance (The Queen’s Rising, #2)

I haven’t read this and probably won’t, because as much as I love the author, the first book in this series wasn’t my favorite.

The Downstairs Girl, Stacey Lee (release date: August 13, 2019)

The Downstairs Girl

This fulfilled and even exceeded my expectations!!! It was amazing. Man, Stacey Lee knows how to write historical fiction. The story was so solid and interesting, and the book covered some really important topics. I will definitely be rereading this many times to come.

“Victory is knowing your worth no matter what the crows tell you. Victory is waiting for us. We have to be bold enough to snatch it.”

Imprison the Sky, A.C. Gaughen (release date: January 22, 2019)

Imprison the Sky (The Elementae, #2)

I didn’t read this book and probably won’t.

Symptoms of a Heartbreak, Sona Charaipotra (release date: May 21, 2019)

Symptoms of a Heartbreak

I haven’t read this yet–I’m always a little skeptical of books with medical themes because they can so easily become ableist–but I might try it at some point!

Serious Moonlight, Jenn Bennett (release date: April 2019)

Serious Moonlight

THIS WAS SO FREAKING GOOD. It’s been months since I read it and I’m still obsessed with it. The complex characters, the rich setting, the interesting story–Jenn Bennett can do secondary characters and interesting setting details like no one else. I heard some writing advice once that said to write down all your favorite things — maybe you like the enemies-to-friends trope, oak trees, and coffee shops — and then one day, write a book with all of them, and I feel like that’s what Jenn Bennett did here. I freaking loved this book and related to the main character so much. And I got to meet Jenn Bennett a few days after reading it, too!

“It’s always pie time somewhere.”

“We can do whatever we GD want, Birdie. I have to believe that.”

That’s what I thought of the 2019 releases I was excited to read!

What 2019 releases lived up to your expectations–or didn’t? Did you read any of these books last year?

January 2020 Monthly Wrap-Up

In January, it simultaneously felt like I had nothing and everything going on. We came home from Mississippi and I got back to work. I went to (my new) tap class twice and had two voice lessons. Kenna came over for dinner; my family came over for dinner; I played with my favorite two-year-old a few times; Mom and I went to lunch; Dad and I went to dinner; I cut eight inches off my hair; and we started a new ladies’ Bible study at church.

I had the most amazing special weekend speaking at, being on staff, and simply attending the virtual Diamonds 2020 conference for Christians who are chronically ill. I’m so proud of the staff and speakers! The conference was a huge blessing and encouragement.

We ended the month by taking a trip to Tennessee with Mrs. Celeste, Josh, and Emma to see the national tour of Bandstand, which is SUCH AN AMAZING UNDERRATED SHOW.

My health continued to decline and was very poor in January, but we actually made more progress in three days than we’ve made in the last four years–getting one definite diagnosis, an additional probable diagnosis, and finally finding medical professionals who are helping me. This is only the start of the journey to further diagnoses and treatments, but I feel very hopeful about my quality of life potentially improving.

This month I’m…

Reading: Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis. Life Is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance, Valorie Kondos Field. Home Work, Julie Andrews Edwards. Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber. City of Savages, Lee Kelly. Serious Eater, Ed Levine. The Library of Lost Things, Laura Taylor Namey. I, Cosmo, Carlie Sorosiak. Inside Mrs. B’s Classroom, Leslie Baldacci. The Last True Poets of the Sea, Julia Drake. Across A Broken Shore, Amy Trueblood. In the Neighborhood of True, Susan Kaplan Carlton. The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater. Once On This Island, Gloria Whelan. 14 total.

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Listening to: Maisie Peters. Thoroughly Modern Millie. You Can’t Stop The Beat, Hairspray. Your Name Is Power, Rend Collective. Wanted – String Mix, OneRepublic. Take This Slowly, The Gray Havens. Fine Line, Harry Styles. break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored, Ariana Grande. Desert Song – Live, Hillsong Worship.

Watching: Spinning Out on Netflix. Izzy Kornblau and Kiara Madisen on YouTube. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (rewatch). Beautiful Boy. The Diamonds conference.

Eating: Sausage and rice. DF biscuits and cookies sent home by my grandpa. At many points, not much–and halfway through the month I switched over to a bland, soft, low-fiber, low-fat, mostly-liquid diet as recommended by the outpatient nutrition department of my hospital. Which is every bit as exciting as it sounds.

Writing: I had a few glorious sessions working on a new YA contemporary novel that I’m super excited to keep exploring. Beyond that, though, not much creative writing happened this month–my health has been a full-time job lately and so any creative energy I have gets put toward the freelance writing of my day job.

What did you do in January?

You’re Invited: Diamonds 2020

Diamonds 2020 is coming up THIS WEEK–and we want you to come!

Diamonds is an annual online conference, hosted by author and spoonie Sara Willoughby (who I’m so grateful to call a good friend of mine), that’s geared for Christians who are chronically ill. The conference is completely free and remote–all sessions are streamed live on YouTube (and then saved) so you can watch from wherever you are. This year, Diamonds is taking place January 23rd-25th–Thursday through Saturday of this week. The theme of the 2020 conference is Fighting Together: Relationships In Chronic Illness.

theme

What can you expect at Diamonds 2020? We have 17 speakers (many of whom are my good friends) who will be sharing sessions, ranging from well-known ministry leaders like Joni Eareckson Tada to normal everyday people who live with chronic illness (like me!). Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are jam-packed with sessions on topics such as:

  • Chronic illness in the workplace
  • How God can redeem your loneliness
  • The benefit of suffering
  • Relationships with people who are not chronically ill (this is what I’ll be speaking on!)

Many speakers will also be doing Q&A’s so you can get to know them personally. And at every session, we’ll have giveaways of products from companies like Vogmask (there are currently 42 Vogmasks sitting in a box in my living room), TeeSpoonie, and Abilitee Adaptivewear. It’s going to be three days of nonstop encouragement and fun! I’m on staff for Diamonds both as a speaker and in other capacities and have been working on our social media, company sponsorships, etc for months. But I’m also SO looking forward to being an attendee and watching the conference with a friend, because the realities of chronic illness have been really discouraging me as I’ve gotten sicker the last several months. The conference is just what I need right now and it could be just what you need, too.

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If you’re coming to the conference, you’ll want to make sure to grab a copy of our study guide. The Diamonds 2020 study guide is available on Amazon as an ebook for free, or as a paperback for just $5.99. Keep the study guide handy during the conference to follow along and take notes with each session.

study-guide

We even have a merch store this year that opens TODAY so you can purchase T-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and more with the Diamonds logo–a great way to remember what you learned at the conference all year long!

merch

Finally, I want to say that even if you aren’t chronically ill, you’re still welcome to come to Diamonds. The principles shared at Diamonds apply to all kinds of situations and relationships that you can use in your own life. The conference can also help you better support your chronically ill friends and family–because even if you think you don’t know anyone who is chronically ill, statistics show that you absolutely do.

And if you have a heart for this ministry and would like to help cover the costs associated with the conference–such as paying for the streaming platform, formatting the study guide, and helping with Diamonds 2021–you can donate to the conference here. Last year’s conference had hundreds of attendees watching live, with 23,000 people watching the saved videos throughout the year–so your donation is helping thousands of people be encouraged in their walk with the Lord through long-term illness, and they don’t have to pay a thing.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay on top of the latest updates. You can register for the conference and access the full conference schedule by visiting this webpage. I am so looking forward to Diamonds 2020 and am spending this week in prayerful preparation for everyone who will attend. I hope to “see” you there!

Will you be attending Diamonds 2020? Feel free to share about the conference with a friend or family member who might benefit!

2019: Books Read + Movies Watched

There’s nothing I love more than looking back at all the stories I consumed over the course of a year! This year I’m going to include movies in this post as well (although I didn’t watch that many, compared to books–in 2020 I plan to watch a lot more movies).

The official stats stacked up like this: In 2019 I read 154 books and watched 35 movies, equaling about 13 books and 3 movies per month or 3 books and 0.5 movies (lol) per week. For context, I read 153 books in 2018 and 135 in 2017–and while I’m not sure how many movies I watched each year, it was probably way less than 35.

Here’s how my reading statistics for 2019 break down!

Books

This year, I read the least books in June and August, when I read 11 books each (due to moving and fun plans, respectively), and the most in July and December, with 18 each (due to sickness and vacation). The first book I read in 2019 was a childhood favorite, The Cricket in Times Square; the last book of the year for me was a YA contemporary called The Whole Thing Together that I finished last night (it wasn’t that great). And if I got this correct, I think the authors I read the most this year were Brigid Kemmerer (5 of her books) and Elizabeth Enright (5 of hers as well).

I mentioned this last year, but I don’t do Goodreads challenges because I want to just enjoy reading and not feel pressured. So I don’t set reading goals–I just read what I want to read. The downside, though, is that I have to compile my own reading data instead of having it done for me. So, after many hours of work, here are some of my reading statistics for 2019.

First up is how many fiction books I read vs nonfiction. Thanks to a client where I reviewed nonfiction books, I fell in LOVE with nonfiction this year, and I read 44 nonfiction books on my own in addition to 116 fiction books. (The 48 books I read for this client are not listed in my total book count in this blog post, because they were for work–but if you did count them, I’ve technically read over 200 books this year.)

fiction.png

I reread 50 books this year and discovered 104 new books, which is awesome. Finding new books to fall in love with is my favorite thing ever–well, except for rereading familiar old favorites.

rereads

When you split up the 116 fiction books I read into age ranges, you get 27 children’s books, 14 middle grade stories, 72 young adult books, and three adult novels.

ya

I also enjoy dividing up my yearly reads by genre. Here’s the breakdown–I read the most contemporary books by far, with children’s literature and fantasy not far behind.

genre

Movies

When it comes to the 35 movies I watched in 2019, they span 11 genres, which is pretty cool–I enjoy all kinds of films, from action-packed sci-fi movies to cute rom-coms to fascinating documentaries. Nearly all of the action movies are Marvel movies; I was trying to catch up and watch all of the Marvel movies in order, but kind of gave up at some point.

movies-2019

I watched 29 movies at home and 6 movies in the theater this year.

movies

I also watched 21 movies by myself and 14 movies with other people. (No offense to anyone, but I highly prefer watching/going to movies alone!) I included this statistic and the previous one because I think the environment in which you consume a story plays a huge role in your perception of it (this is true for books too, but I obviously always read books alone/at home, haha). It’s about the whole experience–like sitting on the balcony reading a light romance and drinking lemonade on a warm summer evening, or curling up in bed with an epic fantasy while cold rain lashes the window. (My reading/movie tastes definitely fluctuate depending on the season!)

alone

I re-watched 8 movies and discovered 27 new films. (I’ve been trying to fill in the gaps in my cinematic history. For instance, I’m 20 and just watched Jurassic Park and Titanic for the first time this year.)

rewatches

Finally, there were only two movies that I watched twice this year–Thor: Ragnarok and Mona Lisa Smile. (I highly recommend both.)

2019 was a fantastic year when it comes to books and movies. I’m so grateful for all these amazing stories I consumed and the things they taught me. In 2020, I’m specifically looking forward to continuing with my new passion for nonfiction, and also to watching movies more often!

What were some of your favorite books and movies from 2019?

December 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up

The first 25 days of December were documented in Blogmas, which starts here. Basically, work killed me, I did things like voice lessons and doctor’s appointments, and I was able to have a few fun times with friends. After Christmas, my family came to Mississippi to see my grandpa and have enjoyed things like seeing Little Women, visiting with my aunt and uncle, and shopping downtown with a family friend.

This month I’m…

Reading: Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (reread). The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls. The School Story, Andrew Clements (reread). The Astonishing Color of After, Emily X. R. Pan. The Moffats, Eleanor Estes. Gone-Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright (reread). Full Circle, Andrea Barber. Notes From A Young Black Chef, Kwame Onwuachi. Wildflowers of Terezin, Robert Elmer. Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich. Queen of Nothing, Holly Black. In the Kingdom Of the Sick, Laurie Edwards. Spin the Dawn, Elizabeth Lim. Heidi, Johanna Spyri (reread). Normally This Would Be Cause For Concern, Danielle Fishel. The Year of Learning Dangerously, Quinn Cummings. Sick Kids in Love, Hannah Moskowitz. The Whole Thing Together, Ann Brashares. 18 total.

Listening to: Maisie Peters. Christmas music. Audrey Assad. I’m Not That Girl, Wicked.

Watching: Captain America: Civil War. The Glass Castle. Elf. The Death Cure. A Christmas Story. The Aeronauts. Little Women. Natasha Bure vlogs, Abbey Sharp’s YouTube channel, and David Dobrik vlogs.

Eating: Burgers and fries. Ham and mustard sandwiches. Banana peanut butter smoothies during flare-ups. Baked potatoes and strawberries. Dairy free biscuits and chocolate pie.

Writing: Beyond plotting my ice skating novel a bit and writing one piece of fanfiction, I didn’t really do any fun writing this month. Work-wise, life was crazy because I started accepting new clients/projects again, and I had to cram four weeks’ worth of work into three weeks. But somehow it all got done.

What did you do in December?

Blogmas 2019 Day 25

Christmas 2019! We started opening gifts around 9:00 this morning. I gave my grandpa a mug with a music pun. I gave Joshua a street sign for his room that says Ultimate Blvd (because he loves ultimate Frisbee); a Hamilton calendar with a daily quote; and a Chuckit (for him and Sophie). I gave my mom a pizza pan; a pair of earrings made by the people group we’ve worked with in Colombia; and an outing to a Mexican restaurant and to watch a movie in January. I gave my dad a fill-in What I Love About Dad journal; some bacon popcorn; and the book The Year of Eating Dangerously (I addressed that present to me, too, because Dad doesn’t like to reread books–so after he reads it I’ll just keep it at my house, lol).

Besides the stuff in my stocking (socks, Jellie Bellies, a flashlight, etc.), I received a candle with my cat’s picture on it; an ASL curriculum; a Harry Potter apron and Ravenclaw kitchen towel; a Harry Potter mug; Harry Potter coasters; pearl earrings; and three books I have been dying to reread for years.

I also received money. I spent part of it on a set of twelve pretty magnets; a little gold necklace; Katherine Forster’s book Transformed by Truth: Why and How to Study The Bible For Yourself As A Teen; and a small journal with a Hadestown quote on the front. (All of that for $40 because I also got myself Amazon Prime!)

For lunch we had ham, crescent rolls, sweet potato souffle, baked pineapple, deviled eggs, chicken and dumplings, and pecan and pumpkin pie.

cmas15

After lunch, we all went outside in the front yard (it was 65 degrees) for a while. I bought a longboard back in early October but didn’t have the extra energy to learn to ride it until today. Joshua and I both learned to ride it within 15 minutes (I taught him everything he knows). We were outside for almost two hours riding the longboard down the street. While it was definitely hard for me with the usual dizziness, high HR, and shortness of breath, it was so much fun; I really miss being outside and being active!

cmas16

When we came inside I was having a lot of nerve pain, and I showered and took a nap. Around dinnertime I dragged my groggy self out of bed and came home. I felt a lot better after the nap and eating part of my Chili’s leftovers from last night, though, and was able to have a nice evening getting things done around the house and now going to bed with a new book. We’re going to Mississippi for a week on Friday so tomorrow will be spent packing and preparing. Thanks for following along with Blogmas this year and merry Christmas!

Check out Blogmas Day 25 2018, 2017, and 2016. What did you do today?

Blogmas 2019 Day 24

I don’t know what possessed me to stay up until almost midnight last night; it was 11:00 today before I could drag myself out of bed with a headache and heightened nerve pain. I did a few things around the house like practicing voice, researching bullet journals, packing up, etc. and then I went over to my parents’ house.

My grandpa came today, and we’ve never been with him before on Christmas Day, so it’s really exciting! After a couple of hours reading and trying not to fall asleep, I got ready for church. We went to my parents’ church for the second Christmas Eve service. Afterward, we tried to carry out our usual tradition of eating dinner at Krystal’s, but they were actually closed–so we went to Chili’s instead (definitely fine by me).

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Now we’re home and I hope to stay awake for all of A Christmas Story, because it’s not Christmas Eve without it!

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Check out Blogmas Day 24 2018, 2017, and 2016. What did you do today?

Blogmas 2019 Day 23

I had a nice restful morning finishing Spin the Dawn (which I started last night and LOVED), eating breakfast, cleaning up. I also made this video. I came up with the concept a few months ago but didn’t have the creative energy until now; I absolutely love how it came out.

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Early afternoon I went over to the house to hang out. We watched Elf.

I came home around dinnertime; I wanted to work on my novel but was too sleepy, so I was in bed for the evening by 7:30. I picked up a TON of new library books today, but they were mostly nonfiction and YA contemporary books and I was in the mood for something with more action–so I chose a movie tonight instead. I re-watched Maze Runner: The Death Cure, and gosh I just love that movie. It’s definitely the best one in the franchise. And although it’s not meant as an allegory, I saw it in that way tonight–the line “the world is dying” stuck out to me, and then Safe Haven at the end that only some of the characters made it to (which, yes, made me cry a lot).

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Other things that happened today: I got my heart monitor off. Hallelujah.

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And also, I added more sticky notes to my pantry, where I keep some of my favorite lines from my favorite books.

Check out Blogmas Day 23 2018, 2017, and 2016. What did you do today?

Blogmas 2019 Day 22

Today was a cold, rainy day; I was exhausted and did absolutely nothing. Like, literally–I laid in bed and scrolled through Tumblr, did a bunch of math figuring out statistics from my business this year, put away some laundry, laid in bed some more and watched YouTube, practiced voice, worked on one of my novels, etc. And that was really about it. I was also really nauseous all day and couldn’t eat because I had a few Doritos this morning, but that was my own stupid decision because I know they have dairy.

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This evening I worked on my novel The Things I Didn’t Tell You for a while. (This is my ice skating novel, and I know Spinning Outa new Netflix series coming on January 1st–will put me in the mood to write it, so I thought I’d do some outlining now and then I can just write in a couple of weeks when I’m feeling inspired. How prudent of me, right?) Hours passed without me noticing and I had an amazing time doing a lot of brainstorming, including coming up with a unique way to do one main character’s POV.

Check out Blogmas Day 22 2018, 2017, and 2016. What did you do today?

Blogmas 2019 Day 21

When Christmas vacation comes, my mind flips to one thing: BOOKS. Reading them, writing them, buying them. Last night I finished Queen of Nothing and SCREAMED because it was everything I hoped for. I reread some old pieces of my own. And then I spent too much time on Goodreads, my library’s website, and, yes, also Amazon–where I might have bought $45 worth of books (banking on the assumption I would get Christmas money today, which I did, so it’s all good). Anyway, I’m REALLY FREAKING EXCITED about drowning in books over Christmas vacation.

These are the books I bought:

  • Normally This Would Be Cause For Concern: Tales of Calamity and Unrelenting Awkwardness, Danielle Fishel
  • Traitor to the Throne, Alwyn Hamilton
  • The Library of Lost Things, Laura Taylor Namey
  • Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir, Carolyn Weber
  • Inside Mrs. B’s Classroom: Courage, Hope, and Learning on Chicago’s South Side, Laurie Baldacci
  • Across A Broken Shore, Amy Trueblood

The only one I’ve read before is Traitor to the Throne; all of the others are books that I really want to read and the library doesn’t have.

But enough about last night’s retail therapy. Today we took a day trip, from about 9:00 to 6:00, to Tennessee to see my grandma. It was really exhausting and I was dragging big-time the whole day. We had lunch and visited for a while. Then we drove back home.

Now the restful part of Christmas vacation can begin and I’m so ready. Normally I rest just enough to get me upright for the next thing, but now, I’m SO glad I don’t have plans again until Tuesday night and I can not only rest enough to make my body functional, but can also spend energy doing some fun things I want to do! This evening I managed to eat dinner, and now it’s 7:30 and I’m going to sleep.

Check out Blogmas Day 21 2018, 2017, and 2016. What did you do today?