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.

MY NEW PLANNER

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.

PAPER MATE FLAIR PENS

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.

MY DESK

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.

PODCAST: WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT

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.

MY FAMILY'S FAVORITE PUMPKIN COOKIES

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.

READ WHAT YOU LOVE

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.

SCHEDULE READING TIME INTO YOUR DAY

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.

PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE (OR OTHER DEVICE)

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.

ALWAYS CARRY A BOOK WITH YOU

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.

LISTEN TO AUDIOBOOKS

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.

JOIN A BOOK CLUB OR COMPLETE A READING CHALLENGE

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.

HAVE YOUR NEXT BOOK READY

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.

Review: Lily of the Manor

Friday, October 6, 2017
If you're a long-time reader of Fashion & Fiction, you know I have a soft spot for simple, sweet, well-told historical romances. That is why I requested Lily of the Manor from Netgalley. It sounded right up my alley. Before sharing my review, let me share with you the description of this book:

"Broadbent Manor is a home brimming with life and love. With eleven adopted children in her care, young widow Lily Broadbent is in search of the right tutor to instruct and nurture her young charges. So when Frederick Woodstone arrives on her doorstep seeking the position, Lily is quickly impressed by his qualifications--but even more pleased with his gentle manner and immediate rapport with the children that society cast aside. It is clear: Mr. Woodstone is a perfect fit for the family. From the moment he arrives at the manor, Frederick is enchanted by the lady of the house. Lily is a pillar of strength and compassion, and her striking beauty is undeniable. As the pair works side by side to teach the children, their professional association evolves into something far deeper. But when they stumble upon a young boy in dire circumstances, their relationship is put to the test as Lily makes the impetuous decision to rescue the child--no matter the consequences. What follows is a chain of events that will threaten all that Lily has built for her young family, as the fight for the safety of one small boy becomes a battle between life and death."

Such promise! The premise is a good one and one I hadn't read before. Unfortunately, Lily of the Manor fell short for me. Though I love simple and sweet stories, this one felt much too simple and sweet. I felt like I was only being told what was happening. I was never being pulled into the story. I never felt myself living within the story. This simplistic storytelling, combined with characters that felt not fully formed and so sappily sweet--the entire thing didn't feel real. 

Despite my lack of love, I know there is an audience for this book. I learned, after finishing this book and doing a little research on its author, Anita Stansfield is the LDS market's #1 best-selling romance novelist. She obviously has an audience that loves her simple and sweet storytelling. I'm just not a part of that audience. 

My personal rating: 2/5 stars

Title: Lily of the Manor
Author: Anita Stansfield
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Format: Paperback
Price: $16.97 on Amazon Lily of the Manor
Source: NetGalley

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

2017 MMD Reading Challenge - October edition

Sunday, October 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 October picks. (Book images are linked!)

READING FOR GROWTH: Stretch yourself in 2017

a book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending

My pick

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

a book recommended by someone with great taste

My pick

What I've Been Reading - September 2017

Saturday, September 30, 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.

A Place For Miss Snowby Jennifer Moore (3 stars)

What I'll Be Reading This Fall

Friday, September 22, 2017
It's the first official day of Fall and I couldn't be happier. Fall is by far my favorite season, especially here in Virginia. The hot and humid days of summer are behind us. The mornings are crisp. The evenings are cool. The leaves are beginning to change color. Pumpkins and mums are making their appearances on front porches. I love it all, especially when you add books into the picture. I love reading in Fall. Night time comes a little sooner, which means I find myself curled up on the couch with a blanket and book a little sooner. It's wonderful. With the welcoming of Fall, I thought it would be fun to gather together in one place all the books I hope to read this Fall. I've divided what I'll be reading into two categories, MMD's Book Club picks and my personal picks. Bring on the books! (All book covers are linked to Amazon for more information.)


2017 MMD Reading Challenge - September edition

Friday, September 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 September picks. (Book images are linked!)

READING FOR GROWTH: Stretch yourself in 2017

a book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author

My picks


What I've Been Reading - August 2017

Thursday, August 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.

The Almost Sisters: A Novelby Joshilyn Jackson (3.5 stars)