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2018: My Top 5 Movies, TV Shows + Books

M O V I E S 

5. Mary Poppins Returns: You just can’t leave this movie without a smile on your face and a hop in your step. Pardon the cliché, but Emily Blunt is practically perfect in every way. The magic of the original movie was not only captured, but enhanced for another generation to love this enchanting story.

4. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Netflix): Okay, this is probably the cheesiest movie on my list and I’m sure to get some eye rolls, but guys, I LOVED this movie. Like, seriously, cheesy, rom-com loved this movie. The story is adorable, the acting is surprisingly good and we were all introduced to Noah Centineo, so there’s that.

3. A Star Is Born: You might be surprised this isn’t #1, but regardless this was a fantastic movie. I mean, Bradley Cooper as actor, director, writer, producer – can that man do any wrong? And Lady Gaga, OH MY GOSH Lady Gaga – I have an entirely new respect for her now. Also, how many times have we all collectively listened to “Shallow”?!

2. A Quiet Place: This is shockingly in the #2 spot, probably shockingly because I typically dislike scary movies. This one is SO unique though. Pre-Birdbox mania, this post-apocalyptic movie without sound keeps you holding your breath literally the entire movie. Also, can we give it up for cutest ever husband-wife duo John Krasinski + Emily Blunt (again!)!!

1. Bohemian Rhapsody: I LOVE LOVE LOVED this movie! The story, the music, the acting – Rami Malek is phenomenal. I’ve loved him since Mr. Robot, but I’m so glad he got to show the world how amazing he is. I couldn’t stop singing Queen for days and the movie just made me so very happy.

T V   S H O W S

Y’all, if you don’t know this about me – I watch a lot of TV, like A LOT. And I love it and am not ashamed by it. This list is always the hardest for me to write every year, but when it comes down to it – I just try and think about what shows I’m most excited to watch every week, so here it is:

5. Outlander – Starz: This was #2 on the list last year (when I binged the entire series), so it’s not quite as high up there this year and this season has been a little slower, but I still adore this show so freaking much and it’s one of my favorite love stories of all time.

4. The Assassination of Gianni Versace – FX: This show captivated me. I was fascinated by Andrew Cunanan (the assassin) and obviously the portrayal by Darren Criss – who deserves ALL the awards. It’s honestly less about the assassination of Gianni Versace and more a mental psych study of Cunanan.

3. You – Lifetime: Okay y’all, this one shocked me how much I loved it. I noted it as a new show to watch early in the season because it’s a psychological thriller with Penn Badgley (aka gossip girl) and my favorite pretty little liar Shay Mitchell. But, this show. THIS. SHOW. Watch it on Netflix now. This role was MADE for Badgley, and you’ll be thoroughly creeped out, but loving it by the finale.

2. Younger – TV Land: Looking for a show that’s funny and heartwarming and has the best wardrobe and the best girlfriends and the best love triangle? (Oh and Lizzie McGuire all grown up!?) This is it. Please watch it now, and text me when you love it as much as I do. #TeamJosh

1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – Amazon: Can Amy Sherman-Palladino do no wrong?! Also … can Rachel Brosnahan do no wrong?! This show continues to top my list thanks to the phenomenal acting, gorgeous set and costume design, and exciting plot. Give them all the awards, please and thank you.

Honorable mentions:
Riverdale – The CW, Dirty John – Bravo, The Crown – Netflix, The Good Place – NBC

 

B O O K S

5. Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis: Y’all know I love a good self-help book (Carry On, Warrior, Lean In) and this one was no exception. What I loved about this one though, is how structured and specific it was. Each chapter is about a lie we tell ourselves. For example, “I’m defined by my weight” or “I can’t get past this”. Rachel does a fantastic job of breaking down the lie, giving a personal anecdote and sharing 3 specific ideas on how to combat these lies in our lives. Highly, highly recommend. You should also follow her on Instagram because she’s awesome.

4. The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang: This book was so stinkin’ adorable! I would characterize it as Eleanor Oliphant (another favorite) meets 50 Shades of Gray – yes, it’s steamier than you’re expecting, but has such a great story about a 30-year-old woman with Asperger’s who just wants to learn how to date. I don’t want to say much else, just read and fall in love with this fun, original, sexy book.

3. The Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager: It’s been a while since a thriller has kept me in suspense the ENTIRE BOOK. And a while since I’ve stayed up late (1am!) finishing a book because I had to know what happened. It’s basically Pretty Little Liars goes to summer camp, so I was obviously interested from the get go, but the storytelling is just fantastic without a single dull moment.

2. Women in Sunlight – Frances Mayes: From the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, this book did everything I wanted it to and more. The story follows four older women whose children want to put them in a retirement home, but instead become quick friends and decide to move to Tuscany. I laughed, I cried and I was transported back to Italy with every single page. The writing is terrific, changing with the character’s perspectives, and the story will give you passion to do something radical.

1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman: This book. Oh my goodness, this book. As a friend said, “YOU ARE IN FOR A DELIGHTFUL TREAT.” It’s so charming, yet so unexpected. You fall in love with the main character by the end, despite thinking you’re not sure how you can possibly relate to her at the beginning. It’s an uplifting, feel-good book, but with serious substance.

What were your top TV Shows, Books + Movies of the year? I’d love to know!
xo xo

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Book Reviews: Sweet Lies, Sweet Love + Sweet Lights

Sweet Little Lies – Caz Frear: This felt like a typical English detective novel, which if you’re into those, great. If you’re not, it might take you a while to get into, like me. The writing was different, more harsh perhaps? and hard to follow some of the dialect. The characters were not instantly relatable, but at about the 50 page mark (where I determine if I’m going to keep reading or not) there was a big enough twist that kept me intrigued.
Grade: B-

Party Girl – Rachel Hollis: We know I’m a Rachel Hollis fan girl so obviously I had to read her first novel. It was a little rough at first with fairly elementary writing, but you grow to love the main character so much and enjoy the fun, lush details surrounding party planning in LA. The book is also semi-autobiographical, so again, if you’re a Rachel Hollis fan girl, it’s pretty interesting. Very The Devil Wears Prada-esque, this is an easy, beach read.
Grade: B+

Winter in Paradise – Elin Hilderbrand: I fell in love with Elin after my first read of hers The Identicals, which I wrote about in my last book review. This book starts with the main character’s husband dying a suspicious death in a helicopter over St. John. When the entire family travels to the island to find answers, they find so much more than they bargained for – love triangles, tropical adventures and definitely more questions than answers. The first in a series of 3 books, I can’t wait to read the next one!
Grade: A

The Light of Paris – Eleanor Brown: As a $5 bargain-bin book, I didn’t have high expectations going in, but I DEVOURED this book in a matter of days. The sweetest parallel stories about a woman and her young, late grandmother, both trying to find themselves through art – one story is set in Paris and one in Magnolia, Arkansas (what?!). It will make you long for Parisian nights and to re-discover your own passions.
Grade: A+

xo xo

You can read all my book reviews here.


Book Reviews: A Thriller, A Beach Read + An Unexpected Love Story

The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena: I wasn’t expecting much out of this book, and I didn’t get much out of it. It’s a typical thriller about a couple whose child is kidnapped, with the parents as the prime suspects. The best part about this book was a (very) shocking ending, but otherwise one you could skip.
Grade: B-

The Dinner List – Rebecca Serle: This book though … I wasn’t expecting much out of it, and I got SO MUCH out of it. I loved it. It’s a quirky plot – who are the 5 people (living or dead) you’d invite to dinner, then what if that actually happened on your birthday? It’s a cute love story with a deeper subtext and a dash of Audrey Hepburn. Winning combo to me.
Grade: A+

Kind is the New Classy – Candace Cameron Bure: A sweet friend sent this book to me in the mail. It’s an easy read with great reminders about how and why to be kind. Kind is the new classy and will never go out of style. It’s interesting to hear Candace’s Hollywood perspective, with a Christian worldview and specific ways to lead by example.
Grade: B+

The Identicals – Elin Hilderbrand: This book is set in Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket. Mom gave it to me after her trip to Nantucket, and boy, am I dying to go now!! This is such a cute, beach read about two identical sisters, their separate lives on the two islands and how they get intertwined when they least expected it. If you’re looking for a great end-of-summer read that will make you laugh and cry, this is it.
 Grade: A 

xo xo

You can read all my book reviews here.


Book Reviews: To Kiss, To Lie, To Revolutionize

Calypso – David Sedaris: I might be the only person who thought so, but I was let down by this book. Of course some of the stories were classic Sedaris, some made me laugh and some made me contemplative, but overall it just wasn’t as great as I was expecting, and found myself rushing through more chapters than I should have.
Grade: B-

The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang: This book was so stinkin’ adorable! I would characterize it as Eleanor Oliphant (another favorite) meets 50 Shades of Gray – yes, it’s steamier than you’re expecting, but has such a great story about a 30-year-old woman with Asperger’s who just wants to learn how to date. I don’t want to say much else, just read and fall in love with this fun, original, sexy book.
Grade: A+

The Revolution Was Televised – Alan Sepinwall: This book was made for me because it contains two of my favorite things – TV shows and talking incessantly about TV shows. It’s a fascinating read with each chapter focusing on a specific show that was revolutionary for it’s time – The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, to name a few. It’s full of interviews, behind the scenes tidbits and commentary on how the show changed the TV landscape. My only complaint would be too many spoilers.
Grade: A

The Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager: It’s been a while since a thriller has kept me in suspense the ENTIRE BOOK. And a while since I’ve stayed up late (1am!) finishing a book because I had to know what happened. It’s basically Pretty Little Liars goes to summer camp, so I was obviously interested from the get go, but the storytelling is just fantastic without a single dull moment.
Grade: A+

xo xo

You can read all my book reviews here.


Book Reviews: She Lives, She Loves, She Lies

Counterfeit Gods – Timothy Keller: This was definitely one of the best studies we’ve done with our Community Group in the last few years. It was convicting, challenging and created great dialogue among the group. One of the things Keller succeeds at doing in this book is weaving in Biblical stories and perspectives to tie in to modern day idols.
Grade: B+

Women in Sunlight – Frances Mayes: From the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, this book did everything I wanted it to and more. The story follows four older women whose children want to put them in a retirement home, but instead become quick friends and decide to move to Tuscany. I laughed, I cried and I was transported back to Italy with every single page. The writing is terrific, changing with the character’s perspectives, and the story will give you passion to do something radical.
Grade: A+

The Perfect Mother – Aimee Molloy: This book was a classic female-led thriller, which is my favorite mindless reading. Yet the ending was truly shocking. Though I’m not sure I loved that – it seemed maybe a little too out there, if that makes sense. That being said, it was an easy, enjoyable read AND Kerry Washington is starring in the movie, so obviously a win.
Grade: A-

Still Lives – Maria Hummel: Set in a modern museum in LA focused on the mystery of a famous artist gone missing, I was intrigued by the set-up. While it had all the makings of a good book, something about it fell flat for me. The behind the scenes of a museum and their artist relationships surrounding the plot was the most fascinating piece, but the ending was rushed and too complex.
Grade: B+

xo xo

You can read all my book reviews here.


Book Reviews: The Adventurous Woman, The Paralyzed Woman + The Confident Woman

I decided to add another item to my 30 Before 30 list. It’s honestly one I’m surprised I didn’t think about before: Read 30 books. Maybe I’ll call it a bonus in case I don’t complete one of my other tasks. I’m now 8/30 books in, and 3 months into the challenge. Time to keep reading!

Still Me – Jojo Moyes: I was super skeptical about this book, and here’s why – I LOVED Me Before You (A+), but then tried the sequel and hated it. This is technically the 3rd book in the series, but could easily stand on it’s own. It’s about a girl who moves to NYC from England to be a “family assistant.” It includes all great things NYC, a long-distance love triangle, and more than anything is about a girl who finds out who she really is.
Grade: A-

The Woman in the Window – AJ Finn: It seems like there are currently a lot of books out there very similar to this one (The Woman in Cabin 10, The Girl on the Train). Yet, this one felt refreshingly unique. The story was interesting and the main character kept me guessing – and I was shocked in the end. It has a very Hitchcock Rear Window vibe, and I loved it.
Grade: A-

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman: This book. Oh my goodness, this book. As a friend said, “YOU ARE IN FOR A DELIGHTFUL TREAT.” It’s so charming, yet so unexpected. You fall in love with the main character by the end, despite thinking you’re not sure how you can possibly relate to her at the beginning. It’s an uplifting, feel-good book, but with serious substance.
Grade: A+

Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis: Y’all know I love a good self-help book (Carry On, Warrior, Lean In) and this one was no exception. What I loved about this one though, is how structured and specific it was. Each chapter is about a lie we tell ourselves. For example, “I’m defined by my weight” or “I can’t get past this”. Rachel does a fantastic job of breaking down the lie, giving a personal anecdote and sharing 3 specific ideas on how to combat these lies in our lives. Highly, highly recommend. You should also follow her on Instagram. She’s awesome.
Grade: A+

xo xo

You can read all my book reviews here.


Book Reviews: Crazy Asians, Crazy Ladies + Crazy Mobsters

Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan: What a unique book this was. And I say that meaning – I’m not quite sure what I thought of it, but on some level I enjoyed it. The setting is one of my favorites (New York) and the female lead is a badass woman who’s determined to be the first woman diver during WWII, but overall the story drifted and was a little hard to understand where it was headed.
Grade: B

The Breakdown – B.A. Paris: This had all the makings of a typical book I’d love, yet didn’t fully deliver. The beginning was enthralling, keeping me on pins and needles and the end was a satisfying twist, but the middle got too repetitive and I feel like I could have skipped probably 100 pages and been fine. Overall, good story that will make you think you’re going crazy from those tiny things you forget every day ….
Grade: B

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan: LOVE, LOVE, LOVED this book! I couldn’t put it down! It was hilarious. I dove deep into a world of which I knew nothing about, and didn’t want to come up for air. Luckily there are two more books by this author AND they’re turning this one into a movie this year. All you need to know is it’s about exactly what you think it is: Crazy Rich Asians.
Grade: A+

The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware: This book was actually a huge disappointment. So many people told me how much they adored this book, and I just couldn’t get into it. It was a fast read, but the character development wasn’t great, the writing was so-so and the “thrilling” plot was fairly predictable.
Grade: B-

xo xo

You can read all my book reviews here.