Friday, April 29, 2016

What I Read in April

I'm starting a new monthly series in which I will give brief review of all of the books I read in that month. It's a fun way for me to better remember the books I've read, and I hope that it will give you a few ideas if you're looking for some book recommendations! You should know that I am pretty stingy in giving out a 5-star review; it has to be an absolutely amazing, I want to re-read it, I can't stop talking about it kind of book in order for it to be 5 stars. 4 stars means that I really liked it and down on from there. Also please remember that book preferences and tastes are very personal; you and I might not agree on which books are great and which aren't, so take each of my reviews and ratings with that in mind. There was a lot of sickness in our household in the month of April, so we spent a lot of time at home which means I spent a lot of time reading! So - here are the 13 books that I read in April!

The Paris Architect: A Novel // I have always really enjoyed reading historical fiction, and this was no exception. Unlike many of the World War II historical fiction books that I've read, this was actually about a French architect who was unsympathetic toward Jews. The first chapter was quite difficult to read because of that, but beyond that I really enjoyed this book. The story was unexpected and well-written. I won't give anymore of the story away, but it was a good read! 4 stars.

Opening Belle// This was an easy, mindless read that I admit I enjoyed for the first third of the book. It's about a woman working on Wall Street in 2007, struggling to do it all and be it all, and fighting to break through the glass ceiling. At first there are some thought-provoking aspects to the story--being a woman in a male-dominated industry, a woman trying to juggle being a mother and also the primary breadwinner, the glass ceiling, the subprime mortgage crisis and stock market crash in 2008, etc. But about a third of the way through, the whole book just kind of loses steam, and I didn't like it after that point. The plot wasn't strong enough, I didn't like any of the characters, and I didn't like the ending. Just not my favorite. 2 stars.

The Two-Family House// I really, really enjoyed this book! It's a beautifully written story about two families (the husbands are brothers) that spans a couple of decades. The chapters are all written from several different points of view (the husbands, mothers, and daughters), and it was a really enjoyable read. I loved the family dynamics and relationships that the author explored in this story, and it was quite moving in some parts. The family experiences things that most families experience at some point: celebration, tragedy, change, strained relationships, poor communication, etc. As a mother I especially enjoyed reading it, but I also appreciated reading it as a wife, daughter, and sister. 4 stars!

Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That's Been Hiding// This book is all about living without shame and allowing yourself to be your true self. While the message of this book did not entirely speak to me as this is not something that I personally have a difficult time doing, I do think that this book could be helpful for others who do struggle with this! There are a lot of personal examples the author shares that are interesting and easy to read. I give this 3 stars because I personally didn't benefit a whole lot from the book, but it's worth picking up if this is something that you're interested in!

When Breath Becomes Air// This is such a powerful book! I'm sure by now you've heard of it in about 17 different places, but it really is worth the read. It's the memoir of a neurosurgeon who finds out he has terminal lung cancer in his mid-thirties.  It's beautifully written, and as Paul faces death he wrestles with big questions that are really critical for each of us to think about. It is a deeply emotional and raw book. 4 stars.

The Bette Davis Club// This was the book for my book club this month. We wanted something a bit lighter after our two previous reads (Room and The Pecan Man), which had the heavier elements of kidnapping, death, and racism. This was definitely a light read! The story follows Margo Just and her cross-country trip in search of her niece and the family valuables she's stolen. There's a lot of drama, a little bit of romance, and a little bit of humor. Our book club's general consensus was that it was not as funny as we expected it to be, but it was a very enjoyable read. This would be a good beach read. 3.5 stars.

Keep Me Posted// I was able to read this book through NetGalley and really enjoyed it! This book is about two sisters who decide to start communicating via snail mail. The sisters are both quite transparent in their letters to each other about their struggles in marriage, with their kids, and in their lives in general. Through a strange mishap, all of the letters are made public on the internet, and the sisters have to deal with their personal lives suddenly going viral. I thought this book was pretty funny, mostly because I loved the say-it-like-it-is attitude of the narrator. It was a really easy read, and I finished it in just a couple of settings. 4 stars.

Better Than Before// I love Gretchen Rubin's books, and this one was no exception. It was a really interesting read on how we make, keep, and break habits. There were interesting tips and tricks and also fascinating chapters on personality types and tendencies. I kept reading different parts out loud to Caleb, and we actually had a few conversations about what I read and learned. I loved this book so much I wrote an entire blog post on it, which you can read here. 5 stars!

The Nest// If you love reading about dysfunctional families, this book is for you. The four Plumb siblings each have a slew of personal problems that they expect their inheritance of "The Nest" will solve. When that's put at risk by an idiotic mistake of one of the brothers, they are all scrambling to put their lives right. I enjoyed reading this book, and I liked how all of the storylines and chapters of the different family members and friends fit well together It was definitely an enjoyable read, and I'm glad I read it. 3.5 stars.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven// This book comes out on Tuesday, and I was lucky enough to read an advanced reader copy through NetGalley! Chris Cleave is such a talented writer (Little Bee is one of my all-time favorite books), and his latest work is no exception. He writes so beautifully that even as a work of fiction it is incredibly moving. His characters are so real (and flawed) and quite engaging. The book traces the lives of several people during World War II. As far as World War II fiction goes, this was once again an unexpected story, which I appreciated. It has some heavier themes and at times is absolutely heartbreaking, but I read it in a couple of days and really enjoyed it. 4 stars.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper// Somewhere on the internet I saw this book listed as June's Indie Next Pick, and I thought it sounded like such a fun book. This book also comes out on Tuesday, but I was able to receive an advanced reader copy through NetGalley, and I loved it! The story is about a widower who finds a charm bracelet of his wife's he had known nothing about. He's determined to learn the story behind each charm, and as he does he discovers all these things about his wife's past he never knew. He learns a lot about his wife but also about himself, and it's a really great book. It's a cute, quirky story, and if you liked The Rosie Project, then you will also really enjoy this book! 4 stars.

The Forgotten Room// I picked this book up because I have really enjoyed most of Beatriz Williams' books, and she is one of three authors of this book. The story is about three women set in alternating time periods who are all connected to one room in a mansion in Manhattan. Because each chapter alternates between each woman's story, the plot and storyline are a little bit predictable as you pick up on hints throughout each chapter. Even so, I found this to be a very fast read because I wanted to know more details of what happened. I thought it was very seamlessly written for having three authors, as well. 4 stars.

Eligible// This book is part of the Austen Project--modern retellings of Jane Austen's works. This is the first book of the Austen Project that I've read, but I believe next I will be picking up Emma by Alexander McCall Smith!  Pride and Prejudice is my favorite Jane Austen book and one of my favorite classics. It's no surprise, then, that I absolutely loved this book that I was able to read through NetGalley! I thought Curtis Sittenfeld did an excellent job putting the same characters from Pride and Prejudice into a modern day setting. I couldn't put this book down and stayed up way too late finishing it. This is a spring/summer must-read! 5 stars!

Have you read any of these? What have you been reading this past month? I always love hearing book recommendations from others!

To follow along with what I'm reading, find me on goodreads or instagram #whatsherrireads 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On finding a flattering lipstick // part 2

I'm back today with part 2 of finding a flattering lipstick. The first go-round I focused on lipsticks you can find at Sephora or higher-end beauty/department stores. Today I'm sharing a few drugstore lipsticks I tried.

Almay Smart Shade Butter Kiss Lipstick in Pink Light // I really loved this one. It goes on SO nicely and is really moisturizing. It didn't feel like a traditional lipstick at all, but it gave my lips a nice pink color to brighten them up a little. This is a perfect everyday lip color that won't stain your lips or feel like you're wearing any lipstick at all.

Burt's Bees Lipstick in Fuschia Flood // This was a tad too bright for me. I did like the formula and it went on nicely, but it was just a little too bright for my taste. It's definitely worth trying several shades of this lipstick, though!

CoverGirl Colorlicious Lipstick in Divine Wine// This was my least favorite by far! Ugh - SO bright and it accentuates how big my lips are just a tad too much for my liking. This was included in my Target Beauty Box, which is the only reason I tried this lipstick. I found that it bled past my lip line easily, and it felt pretty waxy. In other words, it's a cheap drugstore lipstick. Not a fan!

I think my lipstick search has come to a temporary halt. I have five different ones that I really like, and I'm pleased to say that I've gotten to the point where I enjoy wearing lipstick!

P.S. A tip for finding the right drugstore lipstick: CVS has a 100% money-back guarantee on beauty products - even if they're opened!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Peanut Butter Cookies with Peanut Butter Cups

It's Monday, and we're back to the daily grind. Let's make cookies, shall we? These peanut butter cookies are loaded with even more peanut butter in the form of chopped up peanut butter cups. In this household we go through peanut butter (and peanut butter m&ms, peanut butter cups, etc.) like nobody's business, so these cookies were right up our alley. Have a great week!

Peanut Butter Cookies 
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz bag Reese's peanut butter cups, chopped into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a mixer, cream butter and sugars until fluffy, about two minutes. Mix in peanut butter, egg, and vanilla until combined. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix on low until combined.

Stir in chopped peanut butter cups. Use a cookie scoop to place dough on baking sheet a couple of inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove, cool, and enjoy. 

source: recipe barely adapted from bakerella

Friday, April 22, 2016

Mother's Day Gift Guide

Mother's Day is in just a couple of weeks, so I rounded up a few gifts that I think would be perfect to give to the moms in your life. Or if any of these items strike your fancy, you can pass these ideas right along to your husband :)

soft tee to remind her of this truth on long days.

The most gorgeous flower bouquet. Because, peonies. 

birthstone bracelet for each of her babies.

Beautiful recipe box to hold all of her best recipes you're always calling for.

This cheeky tea towel, because it's true.

Hand poured soy candles that smell like spring.

card telling her how much you love + appreciate her, which is all she really wants.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Better than Before

What are you reading these days? I just finished reading Better Than Before and loved it! I really enjoy Gretchen Rubin's writing style and the research and personal examples that she puts into her books. I've read both The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, and The Happiness Project is one of my favorite books! I love books about the brain, personality, and even self-help books if they also cover personality types and tendencies.

This is a book all about habits: how to make them and also how we tend to break them. What I appreciated about this book is that Gretchen Rubin doesn't give you a long list of habits you should implement into your life; a major point of her book is figuring out what works for you. She spends the first part of the book discussing just that; that in order to make a habit, you need to know yourself and set yourself up for success. If you're just not a morning person, don't try to make a habit of getting up at 5 AM to do run 5 miles, tackle the laundry, or read historical nonfiction. More than likely you're not going to be able to make a habit out of that, and it will only frustrate you.

In addition to these personality distinctions, Gretchen Rubin also discusses four tendencies that people have when it comes to responding to expectations: upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels. This was one of my favorite chapters of the books, because I found it so fascinating and accurate. I'm definitely an upholder: I respond pretty easily to both outer and inner expectations, I have a strong instinct for self-preservation, I need clear rules and expectations given to me, and I can establish a habit pretty easily because I find it so gratifying to maintain it/cross it off my list. Understanding your tendency is important because you can use it to your benefit as you establish and keep habits.

The book also talks about various tips and tricks for establishing a good habit. Pairing an activity you perhaps don't enjoy as much with something you do enjoy makes it easier to turn into a habit. I've started listening to podcasts when I exercise, and now I've found that I want to get out of the house and go exercise because I want to listen to the next episode of my podcast! Scheduling an activity makes it an automatic part of your day, which in time becomes a habit. I am big on scheduling and working off a to-do list, so if I have "exercise" on my to-do list for the day, more than likely it's happening. I have the luxury of deciding when in my day I'm going to exercise, but not whether I'm going to exercise.

The beauty of a habit is that you can "decide not to decide". Once a habit is in place, it becomes automatic and requires no decision or self-control to continue it. I automatically put my seat belt on, make my bed every morning, wash my face every night, send a thank you note for each gift I receive, etc. At some point I did need both self-control and willpower to begin those habits, but now it's like they're on auto-pilot. The longer we continue on with a habit, the more that habit is strengthened and protected. For someone who tends to struggle with self-control, this is very freeing to me. I can summon just enough self-control to establish a habit because I love that it will eventually become second nature to me. 

In the book Gretchen shares one quote from John Gardner that has really stayed with me: "Every time you break the law you pay, and every time you obey the law you pay." It costs time, energy, effort, and maybe even money to keep a good habit, but not keeping that same good habit also has its own cost. It's helped frame the way I think about the habits that I'm working on developing. 

This book was absolutely fascinating and also very practical, and I highly recommend it! It's given me a fresh perspective on habits and a new energy in pursuing them.

Disclosure: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. All opinions are 100% my own, and I really loved this book!

Monday, April 18, 2016

What perfume do you wear?

Do you wear perfume? I love spritzing on a little after I get ready for the day. It helps me feel put-together, and I love catching whiffs of my favorite scents all day long. I alternate between Tory BurchKate Spade Twirl, and Clinique Happy (a classic that I can't break away from!). I've found that I typically like a fresh scent with citrus or floral tones; specifically, grapefruit, mandarin, peony, jasmine, and magnolia. I recently tried three new perfumes that I also really loved:

Elizabeth and James Nirvana White is a blend of peony, muguet, and musk. It's subtle but really feminine, and it kind of reminded me of Kate Spade Twirl.

Tory Burch Jolie Fleur Verte might be my new favorite! This has lily of the valley, plus hints of mandarin and jasmine (some of my favorites!). It's supposed to be a fragrance with "tomboy elegance", and I really love it.

Ralph Lauren Tender Romance is a warmer scent with ginger, musk, and white magnolia. It also has traces of jasmine and bergamot, both of which I'm consistently drawn to in my perfumes!

What perfume are you wearing these days?

(top imagine from the film The Women via here)

Disclosure: I received Ralph Lauren Tender Romance free from Influenster for testing purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.