A few things I'm loving these days

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
I follow quite a few bloggers that periodically share things they are loving, things that are making them happy. I love these types of lists. Does anyone else? I love that they give me a peek into some of my favorite blogger's personal lives and I almost always find something new to love myself. So, today, I'm sharing a few things I'm loving these days.


I have finally found the perfect pair of booties. I had been looking for two years! Yes, two years! I knew exactly what I wanted, but couldn't seem to find them. I wanted something classic, on trend, but not too trendy, that was real leather, so they would stand the test of time. I also wanted something that didn't have much of a heel, so I could wear them comfortably all day. Well, I finally found them and I couldn't be happier with them. (I sized up a half size which was perfect for my wider, high-arched feet.) 


This is my current favorite color.  I've been wearing it since September 1st. It is the perfect Fall/Winter color. I've got my eye on this color right now and might just have to pick it up today. I've never been a huge nail polish kind of girl. Mainly because it always seemed to go on terribly and then look terrible. On a whim one day, I picked up Essie nail polish because its specific color caught my eye. I quickly fell in love. It went on smoothly and looked great. Essie isn't terribly expensive, but compared to the $1 bottles of nail polish I usually bought, it felt like a splurge. It turned out to be a great splurge. Perhaps I just needed to buy a better quality nail polish all along! I'm sure there are other great brands out there, but for now, I'm all about Essie.


I finally found the perfect water bottle. It took buying one too many imperfect water bottles to finally decide what I really wanted in one. I wanted a water bottle that would keep my water cold, wouldn't sweat, would fit in my car's cup holder and was dishwasher safe. This one has it all and isn't bad looking either.


I have always loved my library, but this past week my love grew even more. It now has a shelf called "Too Hot To Hold". This is a shelf dedicated solely to books that are in high demand and have long wait lists. I've heard these types of shelves most often called "Lucky Day" shelves, because you may be #111 on a wait list for a specific book, yet one day you could walk into the library and find it sitting on the "Lucky Day" shelf, truly making it your lucky day. By the way, #111 is not a random number. That is my number on the wait list for a certain book at my library right now. I am hoping to have a lucky day here soon!


I have been using Goodreads for a long time, but it hasn't been until this past year that I have really felt like I've been using it to its fullest potential. I use it to track what I've read, but where I really use it most is to track what I want to read next. I'm going to be sharing exactly how here on the blog soon, because I'm loving it so much!

2017 MMD Reading Challenge - November edition

Wednesday, November 1, 2017
I'm participating in MMD's Reading Challenge this year. (If you don't know what that is, click here and here.) Below are my November picks. (Book images are linked!)

READING FOR GROWTH: Stretch yourself in 2017

a book nominated for an award in 2017

My pick

READING FOR FUN: Put the oomph back in your reading life

a book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven't read yet

My pick

What I've Been Reading - October 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Welcome to What I've Been Reading, where I share my (quick and personal) thoughts on what I've been reading this past month. For specifics (plot summary, etc.) about each book, click on the provided links.

After compiling the books I read this month, I may have laughed out loud. Amongst the eight books I read, six were Historical Romances! That might be a record. I learned something about myself through this observation: When I am stressed, I go for simple and sweet. This month is always stressful due to some larger responsibilities I have every October, hence, six Historical Romances. I'm hoping to read a little deeper in November, but for now...

Lily of the Manor by Anita Stansfield (2 stars)
I really didn't like Lily of the Manor. Its mechanical storytelling and undeveloped characters left me bored. If you'd like to read my in depth review, check it out here.

Searching for Irene by Marlene Bateman (2 stars)
I really didn't like Searching for Irene as well. Unlike Lily of the Manor, it had a good beginning and  ending, but the middle felt like a chore to get through. Again, if you'd like to read my in depth review, check it out here.

This is the perfect October read. Once you read it, you'll know why. After two terrible Historical Romances, I needed a book I knew would deliver. Glass Houses did just that. Glass Houses is the most recent installment (#13 to be exact!) in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, (a wonderfully and thoughtfully written literary murder mystery series, that is so much more about the characters and their human hearts and minds, than it is about the murders,) being just released on August 29. Having preordered it, it was delivered to my front door on August 29, yet I found myself not picking it up right away. I wasn't ready to be done with the series! (That is, until the next installment is released!) Finally, this month, I couldn't hold out any longer. It didn't disappoint. I have fallen in love with Armand Gamache and the many quirky characters in this series and hope (can't wait!) to return to Three Pines very, very soon. (*Some language)

Josi S. Kilpack writes Culinary Mysteries and Proper Romances, but I am enjoying her Historical Proper Romances most of all. All That Makes Life Bright is her third installment amongst her Historical Proper Romances, this time writing about Harriet Beecher Stowe. She's also written about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Sir Walter Scott. Each book has been well researched and well written. I learn a lot and fall in love with falling in love a little bit more. (Plus, the covers are gorgeous!) I recommend them. Here are links to her first two Historical Proper Romances:

Forever and Forever: The Courtship of Henry Longfellow and Fanny Appleton by Josi S. Kilpack

The Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott by Josi S. Kilpack
For Love or Honor (The Jonquil Brothers #5) by Sarah M. Eden (5 stars)
I am definitely a little biased when it comes to anything written by Sarah M. Eden, hence, the five stars, but I simply love her and her Regency Romances. For Love or Honor is the fifth (or sixth, depending how you look at it,) installment in The Jonquil Brothers series and it didn't disappoint. If you are looking for a new-to-you author in this genre, I highly recommend her. She writes with so much wit and love. I haven't found anyone I like more. Here are links to the first two books in this series:

The Kiss of a Stranger (The Jonquil Brothers #0) by Sarah M. Eden

Though The Kiss of a Stranger isn't technically a book about the Jonquil brothers, they are mentioned in it.
Friends and Foes (The Jonquil Brothers #1) by Sarah M. Eden
Friends & Foes might just be my favorite of all time.

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva (3.5 stars)
If you are looking for a good read this Christmas season, this might just be the perfect one. Mr. Dickens and His Carol is the fictional tale about the real Charles Dickens and the real story behind his most famous book. I enjoyed this one a lot. It is well researched, well written, a lot of fun and very poignant. It releases today! If you'd like to read my in depth review, check it out here.

Miss Leslie's Secret by Jennifer Moore (3 stars)
I don't have a lot to say about Miss Leslie's Secret other than it was simple and sweet and it was set in Scotland, which I loved. My in depth review is here.

Havencross by Julie Daines (3.5 stars)

Julie Daines is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine amongst the Historical Romance genre. I really enjoyed Havencross. It had so many things I love in a story: mystery, scandal, death, smugglers, King Arthur and love. My in depth review is here.

I'd love to know what you read this month!

Review: Mr Dickens and His Carol

"For Charles Dickens, each Christmas has been better than the last. But when his newest book is an utter flop, his publishers offer an ultimatum: either he writes a Christmas book in a month, or they will call in his debts, and he could lose everything. Grudgingly, he accepts, but with relatives hounding him for loans, his wife planning an excessively lavish holiday party, and jealous critics moving in for the kill, he is hardly feeling the Christmas spirit. Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace and inspiration in London itself, his great palace of thinking. And on one of his long walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets a young woman who might be just the muse he needs. Over the next few weeks, Eleanor Lovejoy propels Dickens on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition--and Christmas. Laced with humor, rich historical detail from Dickens' life, and clever winks to his work, Samantha Silva's Mr. Dickens and His Carol is an irresistible new take on an adored classic."
Considering how much I enjoy Charles Dickens, I was surprised by how little I knew about him. I've read over a handful of his novels, enjoying every single one, yet I had never researched his personal life. Until now. When I saw the cover for Mr. Dickens and His Carol, and read its description, I knew I had to read it. It did not disappoint. It was perfectly enjoyable. It is well researched, well written, and simply fun, while also being poignant, as one would expect. I believe it to be the perfect read this Christmas season.

My personal rating: 3/5 stars

Title: Mr Dickens and His Carol
Author: Samantha Silva
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Format: Hardcover
Price: $16.50 on Amazon Mr. Dickens and His Carol
Source: NetGalley

Fashion & Fiction was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Review: Havencross

Friday, October 27, 2017
Mystery, a scandal, death, smugglers, King Arthur and true love. Havencross has everything I love in a Historical Romance. Here is the description for this book:

"When a shocking scandal involving her father spreads through London society, Elaine Cardinham and her parents are forced to retreat to their country home in Cornwall for refuge. But Havencross is no sanctuary for Elaine. She is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of her brother—and the heartbreak she left in her wake all those years ago.

"It has been five long years since Gareth Kemp last saw Elaine—when she rejected his marriage proposal. Her reappearance convinces him of one thing: he has never stopped loving her. To put his feelings for her aside, he focuses his attention on the dangerous smuggling plaguing the Cornish coast. As Elaine attempts to run from her past, she ventures ever closer to a dangerous truth—and Gareth may be the only one who can save her from a deadly finish."

There is not a whole lot I can say about Havencross, other than I really enjoyed it. If you are looking for a quick escape, filled with excitement and a little romance, I think you will really enjoy Havencross as well. 

My personal rating: 3.5/5 stars

Title: Havencross
Author: Julie Daines
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Format: Paperback
Price: $14.99 on Amazon Havencross
Source: NetGalley

Fashion & Fiction was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: Miss Leslie's Secret

Thursday, October 26, 2017
"Decorated war hero Conall Stewart has spent ten years envisioning his return to his beloved Scottish Highlands. But now, with the days of battle finally behind him, it seems that his dreams of home have been in vain: the land of his youth lies in ruins and his family is gone. Though he will never stop searching for his kin, Conall knows he must begin again. But when he takes on a rented farm in a nearby town, he finds far more than the fresh start he was looking for.
"After catching a mischievous local lad stealing, Conall returns young Jamie to his mother, Aileen Leslie, and finds the woman's coddling of the child maddening. What Conall does not realize is that Aileen hides a frightening secret: her devoted protection of Jamie is all that shelters them from discovery by a dangerous man from their past. Drawn together by circumstance, Conall soon develops a fatherly relationship with Jamie as well as romantic feelings for Aileen. But even as the couple accepts their growing affection for one another, time runs out for Aileen and her son: after years of hiding, they have been found. Conall lost his family once. He will do all in his power not to let history repeat itself."

Jennifer Moore is good at what she does. She knows how to write simple, yet enjoyable Historical Romance. Miss Leslie's Secret was no different. I did enjoy the change in location however. Not a lot of the Historical Romance I read is set in Scotland and, more specifically, Jennifer Moore sets a lot of her books in the Caribbean. This change in location was a nice one. My only complaint, and it is a small one, is that the epilogue felt out of place. It tied up a story that simply wasn't well developed in the book. If that story had been more fully developed, I think it would have been a perfectly fine epilogue. Besides that small complaint, I enjoyed this book. It was simple and sweet, just what I look for in a Historical Romance.

My personal rating: 3/5 stars

Title: Miss Leslie's Secret
Author: Jennifer Moore
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Format: Paperback
Price: $12.17 on Amazon Miss Leslie's Secret
Source: NetGalley

Fashion & Fiction was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Why I'm taking a break from Stitch Fix

Saturday, October 21, 2017
Probably the number one question I've been getting around here lately is, "Are you still using Stitch Fix?" It has been quite a while since I've shared a Stitch Fix review. Six months, to be exact. So I thought today would be a good day to answer that question. (Not sure what Stitch Fix is? Check out my very first Stitch Fix review, where I share what it's all about!)

So, am I still using Stitch Fix?

Yes and no. Yes, I plan on using Stitch Fix in the future, but no, I am not currently using Stitch Fix.
It is simply not in my budget right now. My family has set a couple hefty savings goals. We are currently saving every penny towards these goals, which means no extra money for Stitch Fix. However, I absolutely plan on using Stitch Fix in the future. Stitch Fix offers a service that is perfect for me, someone who loves clothes, but hates shopping. Stitch Fix delivers cute clothes and accessories, right to my doorstep, tailored just for me. I get to try them on in the comfort of my home, styling them with items already in my closet, keeping only what I love and sending back what I don't. I love that.

So, though I'm taking a break from Stitch Fix, I still wholeheartedly recommend it. I can't wait for my family to reach our savings goals so I can continue to use it. As soon as we do, I will be back with my Stitch Fix reviews. I promise!

Want to check out some of my past reviews? Here are three of my favorites and one of yours!

Fix #1
After 16 Fixes, Fix #1 is still one of my favorites. I kept every item from this Fix and still wear all of those items today, almost two years later. Here's two of my favorite pieces from this Fix.
Fix #3
Fix #3 is one my favorites as well. I kept three items from this Fix, two of which I cannot wear anywhere without getting complimented. This top is one of those. I love it just as much today as I did when I got it.
Fix #10 is the most popular Fix amongst visitors to my blog. It has received more traffic than any other post I have ever, or since, written. I can see why. The outfit below is a cute one. The jeans are from Stitch Fix. The rest came from my closet.
Fix #11
This top is probably my favorite piece I have ever received from Stitch Fix, but it didn't actually come in Fix #11. It came in Fix #10, but when I received these jeans in Fix #10, I knew they would go perfectly together. I wear this combination all the time. I love it. 
Again, if you're not sure what Stitch Fix is or simply want to learn more about it, check out my very first Stitch Fix review. I can't recommend it enough.

Stitch Fix links in this post are linked to my personal Stitch Fix referral code. This simply means that if you click on one of these links and sign up with Stitch Fix, I receive a small commission from Stitch Fix. 

A few things I'm loving these days

Monday, October 16, 2017
I follow quite a few bloggers that periodically share things they are loving, things that are making them happy. I love these types of lists. Does anyone else? I love that they give me a peek into some of my favorite blogger's personal lives and I almost always find something new to love myself. So, today, I'm sharing a few things I'm loving these days.


I recently purchased this planner and am loving it. I would definitely call myself a planner geek. I am always trying out different planners, figuring out the best way to keep track of all that is happening in my life. Well, I've been using this planner for almost a month now and it is working really well for me. It is structured enough to give me a great jumping off point, but not too structured that I feel restricted. I'm hoping it's a keeper.


These are my new favorite pens. I recently discovered them and have been happily using them ever since. I love the bright, bold colors. Best of all, these don't bleed through the paper in my planner or journal! I love the gray for everyday use in my planner and journal. I love the tropical for everything else.


If you follow me on Instagram, you know I am digging my desk right now. The work I do there day in and day out isn't always fun, but being surrounded by my lists, my pretty pens and my favorite Jane Austen novels makes it my happy place.


Are you listening to this podcast? If not, and you are a reader of any kind, you should be. It is fantastic. Every week, Anne Bogel, the genius behind the blog Modern Mrs Darcy, talks to one guest, asking them to share three books they love, one book they hate and what they've been reading lately. Anne then shares three books they should read next. My personal TBR has grown tremendously since tuning in.


We may only be a few weeks into fall, (and it may still be in the 80's with crazy high humidity here in Virginia,) but I have already made these pumpkin cookies three times. They are my family's absolute favorite this time of year. I'm wishing I had a batch made right now.

I'd love to know what you are loving these days! Share below in the comments.

7 tips for fitting more reading into your life

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
I get asked all the time, "How do you read so much?" Sometimes it sounds like, "How do you find the time to read?" Most often it sounds like, "I wish I had the time to read like you do." I want to say, "You do!", but I usually just smile. Not today. Today I'm sharing my tips for fitting more reading into your life.


This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's probably the most important tip. Read what you love! Sometimes I find myself in a reading rut. (Yes, it even happens to me.) I find myself not excited to pick up a book. When I step back, I realize I have been reading a lot of best-sellers or others' recommendations. I haven't been reading what I love. Now, when I find myself in a reading rut, I stop listening to others and search for a book I know I will love.


This sounds a little crazy, but it works. My scheduled reading time is 1-2 pm, every day. It doesn't happen every single day, but I find that scheduling reading time makes it more likely to actually happen. Why 1-2 pm? That is the hour before my kids get home from school. I find that if I work hard all morning while they are in school, then give myself an hour of reading time, I am much more happy to welcome my kids home and much more prepared to work hard all afternoon, helping kids with homework, making dinner, etc. That happiness mostly comes because reading energizes me, but also because I know I've had reading time that day.


I am guilty of spending way too much time on Instagram. It is terrible. I enjoy social media and my phone makes it so accessible. A little too accessible. I find that if I have my phone near me while reading, I am likely to pick it up at the end of a chapter to do a quick check of Instagram. All of the sudden, that quick check has turned into twenty minutes, or more! Sometimes it's a text that distracts me. It will come in and I will put my book down to respond, whether it's urgent or not. These both result in a lot of lost reading time. To help keep me focused on reading, I now put my phone in a different room from myself and my book. Temptation gone. This has done wonders for my reading.


I always have a book with me, no matter where I am. It is amazing how much reading I can get done while out and about. I often find myself reading in the car while waiting for a child not quite ready to be picked up from school or an event, reading at the doctor's office when my doctor is running late or reading through a child's piano lesson. Without a book, I am positive I would spend that time on my phone, but if I have a book with me, I can fit in a page or a chapter or more.


Audiobooks are my best friend when I am in the middle of a project that doesn't require a lot of brainpower, such as painting kitchen cabinets, my current project. This particular project has required a lot of monotonous hours that would have been felt twice as long if not for audiobooks. My go to genre when working with my hands is nonfiction. I haven't quite mastered the ability to stay focused enough to listen to fiction, but if I ever do, watch out.


I've done both and I am amazed at the way they have added to and stretched my reading, in the very best ways. Book clubs and reading challenges have introduced me to books I would have never found on my own, books I have loved and adored and books that have challenged my way of thinking. I am currently a member of Modern Mrs Darcy's book club and am working my way through Modern Mrs Darcy's reading challenge. I highly recommend both.


I almost always have a book sitting beside me, just waiting for me to finish my current read. (Actually, that book isn't a book, but a stack of books that is a little out of control. And doesn't include the list of books I have on Goodreads!)  Always having a book ready keeps me always reading. If I didn't have a book waiting, it would be too easy to let a few days or a few weeks pass before getting to the library or local bookstore to pick up my next read. I don't want to let that happen.

That's how I fit more reading into my life. Hope you can fit more reading into your life. Happy reading!

Review: Searching for Irene

Tuesday, October 10, 2017
"Anna Coughlin is a modern 1920's woman armed with a college education and a partiality for numbers. Now, within the walls of a fantastic castle-like mansion in the hills of Virginia, her skills will be tested as never before. Hired to serve as financial advisor to wealthy Lawrence Richardson, Anna finds the welcome she receives anything but warm. Lawrence's handsome but antagonistic son Tyler wants nothing more than to send her packing. The household staff isn't much better, but who can blame them, considering Lawrence's last advisor, Irene, disappeared. Convinced that one of the enigmatic members of the household has something to do with Irene's disappearance, Anna doesn't dare trust anyone--not even temperamental Tyler Richardson, who, despite her best intentions, is beginning to steal her heart. A series of frightening incidents ensnare Anna in a maze of intrigue, putting her life in peril. But even as Anna begins uncovering the secrets hidden within the mansion's stone walls, she harbors a secret of her own. Now, the only question that remains is whether she will disappear as mysteriously has Irene."

One look at its cover and a quick reading of its description, I found myself excitedly requesting Searching for Irene from NetGalley. Living in Virginia, I was happy to see it was set here. I was also happy to see it was set in the 1920's, one of my favorite eras. Throw in a "fantastic castle-like mansion" and a mysterious plot, I was sold.

Unfortunately, Searching for Irene didn't quite live up to all I hoped it would. The story started well, instantly drawing me in, but after a promising start, it seemed to stall. There didn't seem to be any plot movement. This wouldn't have bothered me if, during this stall, there had been indepth setting or character development, but that seemed missing as well. When the plot finally moved forward, I found myself at the end of the book. The ending was good, just a little too quick.

Overall, if you are looking for a quick, simple mystery, with a little bit of romance, I think you will enjoy this one. If you want something with a bit more depth, this may not be for you. It wasn't for me.

My personal rating: 2.5/5 stars

Title: Searching for Irene
Author: Marlene Bateman
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Format: Paperback
Price: $15.99 on Amazon Searching for Irene
Source: NetGalley

Fashion & Fiction was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.