5 Books to Hibernate With

Whenever I get a weekend to myself during the winter (which lately has been rare), I love to curl up with a good book. Over my holiday break, I peeled through the second half of Night Film by Marisha Pessl and got a head start to Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Because the nights are long in winter, you want to stay in but it seems impractical to go to sleep before a certain time. I know that if I’m in bed before 9pm (unless I’m sick), I’ll be up in the middle of the night ready to start the day at 3am and that’s never a good routine to get on. These are the nights I’m in my bed by 8pm, sometimes earlier, and grabbing a book. Inspired by my own reading kick lately, I’ve put together a list of five book recommendations to keep you busy the rest of winter…

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Paris Ever After by K.S.R. Burns | A Review

It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review but with the latest I conquered, I couldn’t resist. It’s not secret I have a soft spot for Paris and all things French. It’s a city and a culture that spoke to me in a way few other things have and it will always hold a special place for me. Earlier this year, the author of a new book reached out asking if I would give it a chance and share my review. I agreed foolishly thinking that I’d be able to handle this in time for the release. HA! With my reading habits I should have known better. It wasn’t until recently that I made reading a priority. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed and this year I’ve gotten so lost in life that I almost never took a minute to myself. So while it might have been a slow start, I rapidly finished reading Paris Ever After earlier this month and I have quite a few things to say about it. Before we get to what I have to say, take a look at the description from Goodreads first.

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September Spotlight

September! The first unofficial days of fall. That time of year when pumpkin spice takes over even though the weather is still a roller coaster of 60 to 80 degree days. Sweaters are taken everywhere even when they’re unnecessary during the heat of the day. It’s getting really close to my favorite month of the year, October. The line-up for the now “31 Days of Halloween” on Freeform have been announced. Hocus Pocus references are EVERYWHERE and you’ll find me along with many other people in a giddy mood. It’s cool enough to work on the patio again without your laptop erupting in flames and the bugs start to disappear. It’s just a wonderful time of year because it’s the start of all the best holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. I mean, how can you not be loving the change in seasons?

**This post may include affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.**

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Finished two books over the last week which has me motivated to start adding more to my reading list…

I recently start cutting a lot of gluten and dairy out of my diet and have been scouring the internet for ideas and tips. Love these pantry staple suggestions…

All about a cozy fall wardrobe and Lauren Conrad’s new weekend line is killing it…

We got our few fall-like consecutive days which called for whipping out the pumpkin. Get cooking for the season with these recipes

Planning a trip to the northeast during fall is no picnic but photos of what the leaves look like throughout the season are giving me plenty of motivation…

Drooling over this English Country Kitchen design

For dog moms that are into essential oils, these are great tips for how to use them. I use them to help my pup with his anxiety often...

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Beef Roast with Fall Veggies & Mashed Potatoes
Chili Stuffed Acorn Squash
Hosting a Girls’ Night In - Tapas Night
Weeknight Chicken Burrito Bowls

TOP TRAVEL POSTS
[from top left]
8 US Destinations for Solo Travel
9 Spots to Grab Brunch Around Chicago
A Guide to 3 Days in Boston
Hotel Indigo San Antonio Riverwalk - Checking In

WHAT I’M UP TO
Ok, I have quite a bit to share with you guys so I’ll try and keep it as brief as possible. Let’s start with A Simple Favor. I was invited to an advance screening of the movie this week and HOLY CRAP! Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick are on fire. This was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a really long time. The script was genius, the chemistry of the cast was undeniable, and it was straight up entertaining. From the previews, it’s hard to tell if the film is more of a comedy or a thriller. It’s definitely more along the lines of dark comedy with a bit of a film noir twist. Whatever you’re thinking about A Simple Favor, prepare yourself to be surprised because there is one twist after another. It almost reminded me of a Gillian Flynn novel but with a lot more humor. Blake Lively is giving off a ton of Serena Van der Woodsen vibes with her wardrobe and Anna Kendrick is as awkward as ever. I’m afraid to share any real details because I don’t want to ruin anything and it would be easy to do so. Bottom line, Dean Richards even said A Simple Favor is the movie of the weekend on WGN Radio this morning so GO SEE IT! Before the movie, a friend and I had dinner at Pinstripes in River North which is a block away from the theater. Their patio is along the river and absolutely gorgeous. We shared the Hummus and Avocado plate and both got gluten-free pepperoni pizza. AMAZING!

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Next up, I finally finished Paris Ever After by K.S.R. Burns. I will have a full review of this book coming soon but I wanted to pop a few notes in here. This book gave me a lot of feelings: anger, frustration, disbelief, nostalgia. As awful as it sounds, it's not bad though, nowhere close. It started a bit slow because she recapped a lot of what happened in this novel’s prequel which I did not read so I appreciated it. However, all that time that was spent recapping previous events caused the climax and ending to feel rushed. I loved all the descriptions of Paris though. Amy, the main character, details the feelings and smells walking down the streets in Paris vividly. The descriptions of the setting are on point and it transported me back to my favorite place in the world. It was a welcome escape whenever I picked it up to read.

Finally, I am greatly struggling with planning a fall trip to the northeast. It’s going to happen but booking accommodations has been the hardest task. I have never had such a hard time booking travel before, even last minute. So this is going to be very interesting to see how this trip turns out. I’ll keep you posted, mostly on Instagram so make sure you’re following me. If you guys are fans of country music, I’m currently listening to Carrie Underwood’s new album, “Cry Pretty,” and I’m obsessed. I’ve been a fan of hers since American Idol and it’s always fun to see what she comes out with. She’s on my concert wishlist so hopefully I can grab tickets and see her next year!

WISH LIST
100% ready for fall weather which means I’m looking for a strong sweater game. Loving this cardigan from Banana Republic and this one from Anthropologie as well as this cute off-the-shoulder from LC by Lauren Conrad…

Speaking of fall, it’s just about time for blanket season! So excited to start whipping out all the coziness but this one might make a new addition to my collection.

This year has been a bit difficult and I’ve needed inspiration and motivation wherever I can get it. These brand new tote bags bring a huge smile to my face...

February Spotlight

Did January feel long yet quick to anyone else? It’s been about one month and one week since we introduced the monthly spotlight post and it feels like I wrote it a year ago! I can’t believe that it’s Valentine’s Day and we’re a month and a half into 2018 already. But January also felt like the longest month ever. Is anyone else on the same page? It would be nice to know that I’m not alone here. Since this is a new series, I’ll share a quick reminder of what to expect in these monthly posts. I’ll share links from around the web I’m loving as well as posts you guys are loving from LLL including recipes and travel. I’ve also got a mini wish list and peek into what I’ve been doing lately. So without further adieu...let’s get on with it!

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Find out what essential oil blend you need to be diffusing with this fun quiz

Ready to hop a flight to NYC just to try out some of these bakeries

Getting my student hat on and taking a refresher on blog monetization 101

Working on building better habits

Totally wishing that I owned my own home thanks to these kitchen design trends that are hot right now

For all you single gals out there, it’s 100% ok if you’re single for Valentine’s Day

Time to get your read on with this bomb list of books for girlbosses

Boost productivity with easy home decor tips that cut away distractions

Warm up from the inside out with comforting casseroles. Good food is necessary with this weather!

4 Trips Worth Taking - Get ready for some serious wanderlust

Great tips for keeping your career on track while traveling

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FAVORITE TRAVEL POSTS
[from top left]
Discovering Fort Worth’s Magnolia Avenue
5 International Spring Break Destinations
5 Day Boston Itinerary
That Time I Ate My Way Through Springfield, MO

WHAT I’M UP TO
I finished Interference by French writer, Amelie Antoine. I was definitely taken by surprise in this book. It was completely different than I had originally expected where the storyline is concerned but it was fantastic. Amelie knows how to take the carpet out from under her readers and leave them with mouths agape. Not only was I taken by complete surprise about two-thirds of the way in, but she ended it with a twist I doubt anyone saw coming. It’s a short book, only about 180 pages, and a quick read. Do yourself a favor and read it. I’m about 100 pages into Julie & Julia by Nora Ephron now. So far, so good and I’m a bit more motivated to keep moving with this one because I’m DYING to see the movie. Hopefully I’ll be able to share a mini review in the March Spotlight! Or I may just post it on Instagram.

I’m working with a teeth whitening company and so far loving the results. Full post sharing the review coming soon! Still have a few sessions to go though. I’m also working on a few other surprises that I have up my sleeve. Hopefully they’ll be ready to launch by the end of the first quarter! In the meantime, enjoy this photo of my friend’s dog, April, and I. She was rather demanding during a recent photo shoot but I embrace all the puppy kisses!

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I still haven’t decided on any travel plans yet this year. Client work is pretty busy and I’m working hard on a few things behind the scenes for the site. Not to mention we have a lot going on with my family right now and I’m trying to get ahead of my finances so that I’m managing them rather than the other way around. If you’re looking for a bit of help where money and finances are concerned, I recommend checking out Tess from Wander Wealthy. She’s got tons of great content and advice to make managing money easy which is not a simple feat for someone who’s as bad with numbers as I am.

WISH LIST
Dying to try the recipes in Giada de Laurentiis’ new cookbook Giada’s Italy

I would give anything for The Cozychic Throw from Barefoot Dreams to get through the remainder of winter

I’m currently obsessed with these long-sleeved boatneck tees from The Gap. Who am I kidding? I’m obsessed with everything from The Gap.

Now that I finally tried my Ayesha Curry Porcelain Enamel Grill Pan, I want the entire collection. This stuff is for the pros!

Lunch In Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

When you are effectively transferred to the setting of a book, you know it's well written. Elizabeth Bard turns her literal love story into a Parisian escape with brilliant descriptions of the city and heartfelt understanding of what it means to be French. This is a memoir about letting fate lead the way and going with your gut. Elizabeth is a transplant in Paris pretty much out of circumstance. Instead of fighting the path that life has her going on, she embraces it. It's not always easy but it sure is worth it.

WHAT GOODREADS SAYS
In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman--and never went home again. 

Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak's pink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? LUNCH IN PARIS is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs--one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine. Packing her bags for a new life in the world's most romantic city, Elizabeth is plunged into a world of bustling open-air markets, hipster bistros, and size 2 femmes fatales. She learns to gut her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen), soothe pangs of homesickness (with the rise of a chocolate soufflé) and develops a crush on her local butcher (who bears a striking resemblance to Matt Dillon). Elizabeth finds that the deeper she immerses herself in the world of French cuisine, the more Paris itself begins to translate. French culture, she discovers, is not unlike a well-ripened cheese-there may be a crusty exterior, until you cut through to the melting, piquant heart.

Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home. In the delicious tradition of memoirs like A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, this book is the perfect treat for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change their life. 

WHAT I SAY
I don't think there's a book set in Paris that I could hate, especially memoirs. They let me live vicariously through the protagonist which is something I always want to do when France is involved. Having been somewhat in her position in the past, I understand her resistance to everything French. Everything is smaller from apartments to cars to portion sizes. I also understand her inability to comprehend the French mindset although it took me far less time to accept and embrace it. I love that her story portrays an honest struggle of culture shock and not in the most obvious way.

When you think of culture shock, you think of a harshly different experience from the life you're used to. It doesn't have to be completely obvious though. It could just be the way of life. For example, the constant need to be on-the-go and doing something productive, usually involving work, that Americans have is almost completely absent in France. They can sit at a restaurant for hours just to eat lunch. We can't even give ourselves a 15 minute break without a laptop or phone in our face. Believe it or not, that slower pace and blatant respect for living life for you is a culture shock all on its own and it seems to take Elizabeth quite a while to adapt. I can relate as I've mentioned, to a point. I embraced the French style of living in France but living in America, it's much harder. I value life and I value the relationships I've come to have but sometimes I fall into this black hole of deadlines and needing to get ahead. But for what? 5 hours of sleep? Exhaustion so heavy you make yourself sick? It's books like these that bring me back to reality and give me a little European kick in the ass.

I loved this book. It's gotten some rough reviews on Goodreads and I didn't like it as much as I loved Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Elizabeth has a fantastic writing style that creates perfect visuals and her wit isn't in your face. I also really enjoyed the inclusion of the recipes which seems to be hit or miss on Goodreads. Maybe it takes a certain understanding to really enjoy this book as much as I and so many others did but if you give it a shot, I'm sure anyone would enjoy it. Besides, it's a fantastic summer read.

Nanavut: An Arctic Thriller by Roger Herst - A Review

My reading has been at an all-time low lately. The last book I read before the one I'm about to introduce you to was Paris Letters by Janice Macleod, a travel memoir that really hit home for me. I was on a reading kick, having just read several books in a short period of time and then I started reading Nanavut and things just took a downward dive. There's no correlation between the book and the slow period. Most of the time it's just life getting in the way or the wrong book at the wrong time. A perfect example is The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. I absolutely hated that book but managed to read it in record time. However, when I read Accidental Happiness by Meredith Rachek, a book I loved, it took me months. I was asked to read Nanavut and provide an honest review by the publisher and generously provided a free copy to do so. It has embarrassingly been sitting on my bookshelf since late last summer. So, here we are, almost one year later and I have my final thoughts. Check it out below.

via Goodreads

via Goodreads

WHAT GOODREADS SAYS
Under the vast frozen tundra of the northern territories of Canada lie untapped natural resources. There is a fight brewing for control of these profitable resources between the native population and outside interest. In the middle is a revered veterinarian who becomes the unlikely leader of her people after her father’s murder. Can she preserve the soul of her ancestral home and solve her father’s murder?

WHAT I SAY
There are a lot of pros and cons to Nanavut. The mystery element was welcoming. I hadn't read a mystery in a while and I was looking forward to it. I enjoyed several of the characters, especially Nils, a law enforcement officer who takes things into his own hands. It was also interesting to learn about a new culture that I had never even heard of before reading this book. Nanavut is a real territory in northern Canada and this was my first glimpse into its people. When it came to the story, I was intrigued to find out how things would play out with the murder and consequent election. I won't reveal details but I will say, Herst didn't disappoint when the truth was released in the end. 

When it came to reading Nanavut, I found the writing to be a bit dry. Instead of reading a story, I felt like I was reading a documentary. It was lacking in personality and passion, almost as if Herst was not interested or invested in what he was creating at all. In regards to Leetia Quilliq, the main character, I found her to be pretentious, stiff and lacking in spirit. She had a few moments of notable character but overall she lacked gumption. Finally, one thing that really bothered me was the topic of Leetia becoming a mother. Several of the male characters proclaimed themselves good mates for her since she'll most likely want to be having children soon and Leetia considered each of them as good mates as well. It was an unattached way of discussing starting a family. It was also made to sound as if her biological clock was ticking and she better start having kids soon. And in full disclosure, there's just something about the word "mate" that rubs me wrong.

In the end, I give Nanavut a mediocre review. I don't want to be too harsh because ultimately this was not the right book for me. However, the mystery element was well done and intriguing and I genuinely did enjoy getting to know a new culture. With that said, I'll give Nanavut 4/5 stars. Unlike many other books I've read, you are 100% satisfied with the ending which earns many points in my book. I won't give any details away but character arcs are complete and the plot comes full circle. The end is complete and you can put it down without feeling like you need more information.

Literary Junkies Link Up

Welcome to the March Literary Junkies link up! See below for this week's questions and tell us what you're reading. Join us in April for The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley.

Pink Heels Pink Truck

Remember to link up with Taylor from Pink Heels, Pink Truck and I for this month's questions.

THIS MONTH'S QUESTIONS:
1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it.
2. If you could visit any book setting, which would you choose and why?
3. If you could sit down with any book character, who would it by and what would you ask them?
4. If you wrote a memoir and it was turned into a movie, what actor or actress would play you?
5. What have you recently added to your to-be-read list that you are completely excited to pick up next??

MY ANSWERS:
1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it.

I'm currently reading Nanavut by Roger Herst and Seven Letters From Paris by Samantha Verant. One is a mystery thriller and the other is a travel memoir.

2. If you could visit any book setting, which would you choose and why?
I would love to visit Oz from Wicked and Son of a Witch. I wish I could meet all the characters and walk the yellow brick road. I think that would be really cool. 

3. If you could sit down with any book character, who would it by and what would you ask them?
Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth Bennet has a way of speaking and having a conversation that I would just love to sit down with her and have a cup of tea (and I'm not even a big tea drinker). 

4. If you wrote a memoir and it was turned into a movie, what actor or actress would play you?
I think Tina Fey would be pretty awesome to have play me but she's too much older than me so it probably would never work out. 

5. What have you recently added to your to-be-read list that you are completely excited to pick up next??
I have a few I would like to read next. Girls Who Travel by Nicole Trilivas, House Rules by Jodi Picoult and Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuk

Literary Junkies Link Up

Welcome to the February Literary Junkies link up! This month, we read The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. Link up with Taylor and I to participate in this month's questions and tell us about what you're reading lately. 

Pink Heels Pink Truck

Join us in reading Seven Letters From Paris by Samantha Verant for our March read. Link up below to share your post with us!

1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it.
2. Have you ever read a book that made you want to immediately travel to that destination?
3. What is your ideal reading spot? (Ex. Reading nook in a library, in bed, in a hammock on the beach, etc)

4. If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be?
5. One of our great literary giants has recently passed, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Did you read the book? Thoughts/opinions. What about Go Set a Watchman? (Surprisingly enough, our February Book Club read was all about Truman Capote (The Swans of Fifth Avenue) who was childhood best friends with Harper Lee!)

Your co-hosts: Taylor from Pink Heels Pink Truck and Christine from Life With A Side Of Coffee

1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it.
I'm currently reading Nanavut by Roger Herst. This is what Goodreads says: Under the vast frozen tundra of the northern territories of Canada lie untapped natural resources. There is a fight brewing for control of these profitable resources between the native population and outside interest. In the middle is a revered veterinarian who becomes the unlikely leader of her people after her father’s murder. Can she preserve the soul of her ancestral home and solve her father’s murder?

2. Have you ever read a book that made you want to immediately travel to that destination?
Yes, plenty. Beautiful Ruins made me want to travel to Italy. Paris Letters made me want to go back to Paris. Breakfast at Tiffany's made me dream of New York. All of Nicholas Sparks' books make me want to book a one-way flight to the southern east coast.

3. What is your ideal reading spot? (Ex. Reading nook in a library, in bed, in a hammock on the beach, etc)
I love to read in coffee shops but I also love to read in bed. It's become a ritual of sorts to me lately.

4. If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be?
Life Might Be Crazy But I Swear I'm Not

5. One of our great literary giants has recently passed, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Did you read the book? Thoughts/opinions. What about Go Set a Watchman? (Surprisingly enough, our February Book Club read was all about Truman Capote (The Swans of Fifth Avenue) who was childhood best friends with Harper Lee!)
As sad as I am to hear about Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird was not a favorite of mine. I didn't enjoy it like most people did and it was one of the very few I didn't like in school. I feel like if I read it now I'd have a better appreciation for the writing though. I never read Go Set A Watchman but it's on my list!