News flash: reading when you’re no longer a student is the best. When I was in college, I always had my Kindle with me, but I felt guilty whenever I tried to read for pleasure. There was homework to do! Applications to fill! People to see! Now that I’m more than a year into my “adult” routine, I still manage to get a lot of reading done even when I think I’m devoting little time to it. Plus, I just get to read what I want to, and I’ve become totally comfortable with deserting books if I’m not loving them.
I feel so passionately about my favorite reads of the year (check out the posts for my picks in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017). Honestly, if I had to pick a few books that sum up my interests and personality at this time of my life, the six titles below are probably the most accurate representatives. It’s just the best feeling ever when you find books that feel so specifically catered to you, and I feel lucky to have found these along the way in 2018!
Disclaimer: these are books I read for the first time in 2018, not necessarily ones published this year (although, I believe the majority of them actually were!).
1) Until the Last Star Fades, by Jacquelyn Middleton
“Big dreams are never silly. They help soothe a bad day and give us something to reach for.”
Jacquelyn Middleton won my eternal love when she wrote two amazing contemporary books set in London and featuring an American’s perspective. Her standalone third book, taking place in New York City, was just as wonderful. If you’re looking for books about characters in their early 20s as opposed to being teenagers or older adults, Until the Last Star Fades is a perfect new adult mix of independent people who are still trying to figure it all out. Middleton’s first two books excelled in pop culture references and creating a world that already felt so familiar to me, and and she pulled off the same in Until the Last Star Fades. Someone tell me where I can find boys like her Ben and Mark, okay?
My holiday plans never require me to go too far from home. Our extended family is both minimal and local, so on days like Thanksgiving, my family and I are usually back in our PJs by 8 p.m. and delving into movies or books for the rest of the night. My low-key holiday break last month meant I had plenty of reading time, and after a stint of feeling very meh about the books I finished, November finally delivered with some fantastic reads!
I had some of the books below pre-ordered or on hold for what felt like forever, but they were well worth the wait. You can expect to see one of these appear in an upcoming post on my favorite books of the year!
Kate: The Future Queen, by Katie Nicholl (★★★★☆)
I downloaded this in a moment of impatience when my library holds seemed perpetually stuck on the #1 spot. I’ve read another Kate Middleton biography in the past, but this one is by Katie Nicholl, a very reputable royals reporter. Following Kate’s life right up to after she gave birth to Prince George, the book is definitely the most comprehensive take on her that I’ve read. It included details about her family and her relationship with Prince William that I never heard before, and you’d be hard-pressed to find some royal dirt that I haven’t come across.
I finished this before all of the recent stories about Kate and Meghan Markle feuding emerged (I think the reports are exaggerated and come from a slightly misogynistic media perspective). Given that news, thinking about the royals has stressed me out lately, but Kate: The Future Queen was the perfect definition of easy, breezy reading. Yes, I know what’s going to happen, but it’s nice to just jump into a non-fiction story that has a happy ending.
I’ve come to the later half of my notebook of quotes from stories, picking excerpts for this post that are from my last year or so of reading. I’ve even almost reached the end of the physical notebook that I started writing in right before my junior year of high school. Only a few blank pages remain, and soon a collection seven years in the making will be complete. I’ll definitely be on the hunt for a book from the same company so the next edition will last just as long. Still, thinking about that girl who began the notebook and where she was in life is bittersweet.
This particular post is also special because it includes an quote that sums up why I scribble down the pieces of writing that stick out to me. I love when a book perfectly explains the way I feel about something, and the list below are just a few that have really captured the phase of life I’ve experienced during the past year.
“The next time she tried a stage door, she wouldn’t place her trust in someone else. It was always the same old story. You can only rely on yourself.”
London Belongs to Me, Jacquelyn Middleton
While I don’t like the extremity of this thinking, this quote’s special to me because it’s a lesson I came to terms with in London. Although I ended up loving the people in my study abroad program, specifically my four flatmates, it took me time to adjust and warm up to so many new people. In the meantime, I learned that you should never rely on others to ensure a good experience — trust yourself to pull that off! I went on so many solo excursions that semester, seeking out the exact opportunities I wanted to and leaving London with a strong sense of independence I didn’t have before.
“Brute, raw masculinity contrasted with gentleness is the most attractive thing on earth.”
The Hating Game, Sally Thorne
I snatched up this great-sounding topic from The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday subject list! That is my good-to source for inspiration when I’m stuck on what to write about, and this particular idea takes the concept of what authors I’d like to meet (which I wrote about ages ago) to the next level. I took “bookish” to mean writers of any kind, whether they’re journalists, authors or general creators. These are people who inspire me, create escapist worlds, and remind me that pursuing the written word in a career is far from being silly.
Here we go!
1) J.K. Rowling
I mean, duh.
2) Heidi Thomas
Not only is Heidi the creator and main writer of one of my favorite shows, Call the Midwife (and married to Stephen McGann / Dr. Turner, which I’m low-key jealous of), she’s also the mind behind the recent adaptations of Ballet Shoes, the musical Gigi, and the upcoming (in the U.S.) version of Little Women. Call the Midwife is such an underrated show, but it celebrates women, their strength, and good men who support them so well. I admire Heidi so much, and I love how she works with mostly female directors on the show. She also uses her platform to share so many unique birth stories and highlight reproductive and general health issues women faced in the mid-twentieth century.
Dream-casting characters in books I’ve recently read has become my favorite kind of blog post to make. It’s so funny how within just a few pages of some books, an actor’s face will permanently slap across one of the characters for me. For today’s post, I picked books that I’ve read within the last two months or so, thus these “portrayals” are still very vivid in my mind!
For my previous “If These Books Were Movies” posts, check out the category’s tag!
1) Zachary Levi as Joshua Templeman (The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne)
“Shyness takes so many different forms. Some people are shy and soft. Some, shy and hard. Or in Josh’s case, shy, and wrapped in military-grade armor.”
After seeing other bloggers rave about this book, I had such high hopes for it, but it fell a little flat for me. The “romance” stories I gravitate towards are usually more innocent books written by authors like Sophie Kinsella, and they have a well-rounded narrator with an entertaining personality and plenty of fun friends and family around her. This narrator was…fine. The book was just a little dull because I didn’t feel like I knew the main character Lucy very well, and it didn’t help that she lost her only close friend through work drama before the story started and her parents were only seen via Skype.
However, the highlight of the book was seeing Lucy chip away at the tough exterior of her work rival and eventual love interest Joshua. Joshua is a sarcastic guy who plays tough but proves to be a caring softie when Lucy grows more attracted to him. I almost instantly saw Zachary Levi as Josh. I totally fell in love with him after watching him in the live broadcast of She Loves Me last year, and his character in that musical is similar to Josh in that he loves to rile up the people he clashes with. From what I’ve seen, Zach is a genuinely charming and friendly guy, and I think he could pull off Josh’s icy exterior and his succeeding kindness.
I graduated college this year, and in the past, books I read in my English classes have often appeared on my yearly favorites list (check out my picks for 2014, 2015, and 2016). Having taken only one literature class my last semester, where I skimmed rather than read, that wasn’t the case this year. Although I ended up adoring most of the books from my college English classes (I took the majority of them with the same professor, whose reading picks I knew I usually enjoyed), I went a little lighter with my reading choices this year.
As 2017 progressed, I turned to a lot of fun chick lit to clear my mind and fast-paced historical fiction to busy it. As a result, my favorites list this year is comprised of just that. It looks quite different from past years’ lists, but more importantly, I found stories that captured me, and managed to read 52 books this year as of Dec. 22!
As always, a disclaimer: these are just books I read for the first time in 2017, not necessarily books that were published this year.
1) The French War Bride, by Robin Wells
We made each other feel loved and accepted and treasured. I think that is all one can ask for in this life.
I gushed about this book here, and it remains my favorite read of the year. There are a ton of books set in France during World War II, and I’ve read a good number of them, but The French War Bride is the most captivating, comprehensive story about this pocket of time that I’ve ever read. It’s a long one, but it wouldn’t let go of me until I finished two days in, so it can speed by! If you’re treating yourself to a few lazy days after Christmas this year, pick it up from your library or ebook store!