the sparkly life

Friday, May 24, 2019

14 Cool Things You Need to Click On Today

Photo by Danielle Tullo

It has been a week, let me tell you. And because of that, I don't think I've ever been so excited for a long weekend. Not that we have huge plans! We're not doing anything beyond saying goodbye to the city and relaxing at our lakehouse, but I am definitely here for that right now. I'm basically planning to read, Whatever you're up to this weekend, I hope you make it a great one. Here's a few fun links to check out in the meantime. 

• Within the last few years, my "good" t-shirts have started developing little holes around the tummy area--sometimes after a single wear! It's so frustrating and I've been stumped as to why. Do I have moths? Are the tees made of crappy material? What the heck is happening? This article gives answers. I was fascinated by it--and thrilled to know it's not just me with the holey-tee problem!

• I've been reading a ton lately and wanted to share some of my recent favorites: 1) Save Me the Plums is a memoir that details Ruth Reichl's years spent as the editor in chief of Gourmet magazine. It's got lots of dishy Conde Nast moments and it's just so beautifully written. I love Reichl's books and this most recent one is yet another treasure. 2) Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive was great. It's a memoir of the author's time spent struggling as a single mother and cleaning houses to stay afloat. It was fascinating to read about what goes on behind closed doors. I listened to the audiobook version of this and it was a nice, relatively quick listen. 3) From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home. This was a Reese Witherspoon pick, and I don't think she has ever let me down with her book recs. I did the audio version of this one, too, and really loved it. It's a memoir of the American author's life after her Sicilian husband dies. I loved the retelling of when they first met, as well as the many descriptions of Italian food and Sicilian culture sprinkled throughout. It's beautifully written and makes me want to visit Sicily--and learn Italian! 

• The best non-fiction audiobooks.

• Speaking of books, I recently discovered a service that seemed too good to be true, but is, in fact, awesome. Scribd is a service that allows you to read/listen to unlimited books and audiobooks for just $8.99 a month. (It's basically an all-you-can-eat buffet of books.) The catch is that it's a limited selection (so not like you get all of Amazon for free!), but they have a surprising number of options including many "big" titles like Where the Crawdads Sing, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Brene Brown, etc. And at $8.99, if you read or listen to even one book in a month, it pays for itself. If you do two or more (which I almost certainly always will), it's a major deal. I'm really excited about it! If you want to check it out, use this link. You'll get 30 days free to try it out (and I'll get a month free, too!). I'm listening to my first Scribd audiobook (Pete Buttigieg's Shortest Way Home) right now.

• J.Crew is having  huge sale this weekend: 50 percent off sale and 40 percent off everything else with code WEEKEND. I have my eye on this dress-it-up/dress-it-down sundress, and I want to stock up on this split-neck t-shirt in multiple colors.

• I'm super picky about jeans, so I tend to wear my favorites over and over until they basically fall apart. After two did fall apart earlier this year, I took a chance and bought these Madewell 8" skinny jeans. And they turned out to be so good!! Very flattering, the perfect height (just-right to hold in the tummy, but not aggressive enough that the highness becomes a full-on look), and I love the Ames wash. I've been meaning to buy another pair, and am totally going to pull the trigger this weekend, since Madewell is having a 20 percent off sale. (Use code PERFECTMATCH.)

• This summer reading chart is so cool! Totally printing it out (it's free!) and using it with my kids this summer.

• I donate a ton of clothes, and always choose to give to Salvation Army since they make it so easy. But this post on where to donate clothes gave me so many good ideas for next time!

• How amazing do these spinach and artichoke melts look?

• Rach Parcell's pantry gives me serious pantry envy. (I didn't even know pantry envy was a thing, but click the link and you'll see. It's a thing.)

• So, apparently, Danielle Steele is a badass. (And a major workaholic...) She has written 179 books (!), writes for 22 hours each day, and oh yeah, has nine kids. This profile is fascinating.

• If you hate-watch the Bachelorette, you'll love this comedic take on the cast. I was crying-laughing at parts.

And in case you missed it, I...

• Threw an epic Harry Potter birthday party.

• Shared a deal for some amazing spring home products.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

I'm Pretty Darn Proud of This Harry Potter Birthday Party

harry potter party ideas
harry potter party ideas
harry potter party ideas
Last year--for the first time ever--my daughter decided she didn't want to have her party at home. Instead, she wanted to have it at an indoor trampoline park--the kind of place where you just show up with a cake and the venue handles the rest. Initially, I was kind of sad not to be able to decorate, but it ended up being fun and so much easier, since I usually go ALL OUT for their parties. It was so enjoyable, in fact, that I tried to talk her into having another easy-peasy party this year. But she wasn't having that. 

She wanted a Harry Potter party. And she had IDEAS. 

She wanted to "turn our house into Hogwarts." She wanted us to hold actual "Hogwarts classes" during the party. She wanted "lots of decorations." So I got to work--and I'm pretty darn pleased with what we came up with. Scroll down to check out what I'm humbly dubbing "the most magical Harry Potter party ever."
harry potter party ideas
harry potter party ideas
harry potter party ideas
harry potter party ideas
The party started with an Herbology Class. As the guests arrived, they each chose a mini owl planter and filled it with potting soil. (I was inspired by the project here.) Then, they each planted a "mandrake" (I had put a spell on them so they wouldn't screech, of course---wink, wink--and oh yeah, also they were actually succulents). 

It was a quick, fun, easy activity, and would also serve as part of their favor to take home.

harry potter party ideas
harry potter party ideas
harry potter party food
harry potter party floating candles
And can we talk about the decorations? Our home is over 100 years old, so we started out with a decent Hogwarts vibe, thanks to that. I then hung battery-operated faux candles from the ceiling with fishing wire so they appeared to float. I also went nuts with printables from Etsy. I printed out large pieces of Harry Potter quotes and Hermione girl-power art (best part: It can be repurposed as art for her room later), a funny sign for the powder room door, a personalized happy birthday banner, and the piece de resistance: Diagon Alley signs that we hung down our main hallway, to suggest an alley.) Also, how cool is that Harry Potter stained glass piece that my dad made?)

I also printed out Harry Potter-themed water-bottle wraps that said things like Giggle Water or Butter Beer. (BTW, water bottle wraps are one of my favorite party tips. Cheap, easy, and looks so cute!)

We lined up her Harry Potter paperbacks on the living room mantle, and scattered flickering, flameless pillar candles everywhere.

harry potter party ideas
harry potter party ideas
harry potter party ideas
Next came a Hogwarts "assembly"--also known as a Harry Potter-themed magic show. We used New York City's Arnie Magic, and he was fantastic. He dressed up like Dumbledore and Snape, performed lots of cool tricks like floating tables and books catching on fire, and even made my daughter levitate. He also has a VERY elaborate set, which really made the decor look ten times better!

harry potter potion
harry potter party potion 
harry potter party ideas

harry potter party activities
After a quick pizza lunch, it was time for Potions class! My daughter decided she wanted us to make Felix Felicis, a "liquid luck" potion from the books. And though I'm sure the "real" concoction calls for some pretty exotic ingredients, this is my Felix Felicis recipe: ginger ale (a.k.a Belladonna), lemon juice (Dragon Oil), powdered sugar (Powdered Bicorn Horn), and gold edible glitter (Dragonfly Wings). 

Each guest got a mini glass bottle with stopper (I had printed out these labels and glued them on the night before), a plastic pipette dropper, plastic funnel, and tiny mini scoop (all to make the whole thing seem more science-y). The kids got SUCH a kick out of it and couldn't stop talking about when they were going to drink their good luck potions. (Tip: Learn from me and either drink your Felix Felicis right away or keep it in the fridge. We didn't and it got moldy after a few days, so I had to quietly pour that luck down the drain..)

harry potter cupcakes

harry potter party ideas

Finally, it was time for cupcakes and candles. And those cupcakes...! They were so awesome, so impressive, and so freaking easy. (Because I didn't make them--ha!) I ordered yellow and red frosted cupcakes (Griffindor colors) from the grocery store (!), and jazzed them up big time with the most amazing fondant Harry Potter cupcake toppers that I found on Etsy. They were beyond cool: #9s, glasses, a 3-D quidditch broom, a sorting hat, a Golden Snitch, lightning bolts, and so on. They weren't cheap, but they were reasonably priced considering how much work must have gone into them. 

And then at my daughter's request, I performed a "sorting hat" ceremony for the cupcakes, giving them out individually to each guest based on some made-up reason ("You are the star Quiddich player here at Hogwarts, so you earn the Golden Snitch..." and so on.) Also at my daughter's request, I then put out bowls of candy and they decorated their cupcakes (and plates and mouths) with extra chocolate. (I apologize to all the parents for the inevitable sugar rushes that surely ensued.)

harry potter party favors

harry potter party favors
harry potter party costumes
And once the school day--er, party--had ended, the girls got their favors: a cute Harry Potter favor bag holding homemade frosted sugar cookies (thanks grandma!), a broomstick pen, a Harry Potter emoji pictionary game (printed from Etsy), their potted mandrake, and a Harry Potter bookmark (also printed from Etsy).

It was a ton of work, I was super stressed, but she loved it--and secretly, I did, too.

But soon after the party ended, my son announced he wanted his party--which would be taking place only a month later--to be at a movie theater. Not going to lie: I was thrilled.

Because Mama needs a nap now. And maybe even a sleeping potion. ;)


Photographer: Teresa Mansbach Photography
Harry Potter cupcake toppers (these will MAKE your party!!): SugarSweetTops (Etsy)
Harry Potter cupcake wrapper printable: Pearl Co Printables (Etsy)
Owl planters: Amazon
Diagon Alley signs: Paper BonBon (Etsy)
Harry Potter bathroom sign printable: Printyca (Etsy)
"Have You Seen This Wizard" poster printable: Photos By AKP (Etsy)
Mandrake signs and labels: Printyca (Etsy)
Flameless floating candles: Amazon
Flameless pillar candles: Amazon
Mini glass bottles for potions: Amazon
Harry potter favor bags: Amazon
Harry Potter cookie cutters: Amazon
Harry Potter birthday banner printable: Sweet Props Store (Etsy)
Harry Potter water bottle wrapper printable: Sherbet Lime (Etsy)
Harry Potter bookmark printable: Chicks and Charmers (Etsy)
Bookmark tassels: Amazon
Broomstick pens: Amazon
Harry Potter favor tag printables: The Paper Giraffe Shop (Etsy)
Harry Potter Emoji Pictionary printable: Paper Passion Designs (Etsy)
Harry Potter paper plates: Amazon
Harry Potter potion label printables: Random Fandom Emporium (Etsy)
Wilton cupcake tower (best purchase EVER!): Amazon
Harry Potter children's t shirt (on my son!): Amazon

Thursday, March 14, 2019

These *FREE* Products Totally Make Your Home Smell Like Spring

grove collaborative deal
mrs meyer's spring scents

grove collaborative deal
It's still freezing here in New York, but in many ways, I've already got spring on my mind. I've stopped buying sweaters when I'm shopping online, for one. (I seem to be laser focused on breezy dresses and sunglasses instead!) And I'm actually getting that almost-never-happens-to-me itch to clean! For the past few days, I've been bagging up old toys and the kids' too-small clothes that I'll pass on to charity, going through piles (and piles and piles) of paper, organizing the pantry and cabinets, and just trying to generally declutter and clean up my life any way I can. And luckily, I've found a way to make the task considerably more pleasant. ;)

Many of you guys have heard me talk about Grove Collaborative before, but if you're new here: Grove Collaborative is a site that carries natural products for home and body, and somehow, 
manages to offer these high-end, normally-pricy brands at very competitive, very affordable prices. (They carry lines like Mrs. Meyer's, Method, Caldrea, Seventh Generation, Acure Organics, Burt's Bees, and many more.)

The other very cool thing about Grove is that, from time to time, they offer these amazing, limited-time free gifts just for trying out the site. And I have a good one for you today where you can get the limited-edition Mrs. Meyer's spring scents for FREE!

The three Mrs. Meyer's limited-edition spring scents (Lilac, Peony, and Mint) are so good, and make washing dishes or wiping down countertops way less grueling. I ordered one of each to try them out, and I really like them all, but my favorite--hands down--is Lilac. It smells exactly like a fresh-picked bunch of real lilacs, and that just always, totally smells like spring to me.

If you'd like to try them out for free, I've partnered with Grove once again to bring you this deal: 
With your first order of $20 from Grove Collaborative using this affiliate link, you will get the following (full-size!) items for FREE in your choice of scent:

• Free Mrs. Meyer’s Spring hand soap

• Free Mrs. Meyer’s Spring dish soap

• Free Mrs. Meyer’s Spring multi-surface spray

• Free Grove Bubble Up brush (in a cute floral design!)

• Free Grove walnut scrubber sponges

• Free shipping and VIP trial

The products are worth over $30, so it's a great way to check out some really nice home products that you might otherwise never have tried.

*FYI, if you're already a Grove Collaborative customer, you aren't eligble for the deal above (sorry!). BUT *if you use this link,* you'll get a FREE set of Grove's awesome walnut scrubber sponges.

You can cancel anytime, so honestly, it's worth at least placing one $20 order and getting all the free stuff! Then you can decide later whether or not you want to continue ordering through them. (That's what I planned to do when I got my own deal way back when, but I've totally stayed on and I order all of my cleaning products through Grove now. Since I live in a city, it's way easier to have my heavy cleaning products delivered!)

I'll also be going live later this week talking more about this deal, these products, and Grove, so make sure you've liked me on Facebook and followed me on Instagram, so that you get a notification. It should be fun!

Don't forget: This offer is only available while supplies last, so grab your free products now!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Our Weekend Getaway To Stratton, Vermont

stratton mountain with kids
stratton mountain with kids
stratton mountain with kids
skiing with kidsstratton with kidsskiing with kids
fire tower restaurant
stratton vermont airbnb

As you may have noticed from Instagram, we spent a long weekend in Stratton, Vermont last month. I had honestly been dreading the trip for two reasons. 1) It was going to be freezing. (Actually, way below freezing. And 2) I'm not a skiier and was worried I would be bored. But we had a great time! Here's a little recap.

We stayed in a private Airbnb home that we "won" as part of our kids' school auction. It wasn't super fancy, but it was comfy and warm (thank god) and cabin-y (so it felt very "Vermont"), and the location was great.

After a four-hour drive, we got there late on a Thursday night. It was about five degrees by the time we got there and the kids were exhausted and soon passed out in their bunk beds. The next morning, we woke up, and drove to the mountain for 9am ski lessons for the kids. It was freezing. I mean, really, really freezing. Negative three when we got out of the car. I was wearing regular knit gloves and after just a couple of minutes outside, I thought some of my fingers were going to fall off. 

It was way colder than my kids were expecting--and, really, way colder than they had ever felt in their lives--and they were not having it. There was a lot of tears and my son was refusing to go skiing. (My daughter had been many times before and loved skiing, but this was going to be my son's second time. And even though both of them were wearing about a million layers, they were very rattled by the temperature.) 

Finally, after some convincing from his instructor (thank you, Branco!), we got my son out there. So with my kids and husband in three hour lessons (!), I headed to the Stratton Village Day Spa for a deep tissue massage. And it was so good. Honestly, one of the best massages I've had in years! My therapist was Dani and she was amazing. I basically floated out of there. I then headed to the lodge to read and watch my iPad until everyone was done skiing. 

At noon, we picked up the kids, grabbed lunch, and then headed back to our cabin to relax. Then, we basically repeated this exact routine for the next two days (when it warmed up to a balmy 10 and 20 degrees, respectively). All in all, it was a great, quick trip! My kids and husband loved the skiing; I loved the relaxing and the precious alone time. We all wish it would have been a little warmer, but after that intial shock--and with plenty of layers--it wasn't that bad.

Here's a little more Stratton, Vermont info if you're interested:

Where it is: Stratton is a four-hour drive from New York City; just under three from Boston.

Where to stay: There are tons of condos on Stratton mountain, and that definitely makes it convenient, but I wouldn't say it's a must to stay there. We stayed in the town of Jamaica, which was at the base of the mountain. (There are lots of Airbnb options there.) It took just ten minutes to drive to the lodge each morning. 

The basics: The smartest thing we did was make it a three-day weekend-trip, because Friday was so much calmer there. Saturday was packed--with ridiculous lines for the lifts--so if you can make it there on a weekday, do it. (Sunday happened to be much less busy for us, too, but that might have been because it was Superbowl Sunday!)

Kids: Stratton is a great place for kids. They can do group lessons or privates (we did privates and the instructors were amazing. I mean, the guy who managed to get my stubborn five-year-old to love skiing almost immediately is pretty much a saint in my book.). There is also a childcare facility right in the village where your non-skiing kids can spend the day. (We never used the childcare, but we heard from others that it was really good. Apparently it does book up though, so look into early!) I also loved that every restaurant was very kid-friendly, had a good children's menu, etc. 

Where to eat:

Mulligan's: We ate lunch here our first day. It's a huge pub/restaurant right in the village with a gigantic menu and plenty of options for kids. I had the Vermont apple grilled cheese, which was so yummy (Cabot cheddar, Granny Smith apples, bacon, and maple syrup!). They even had delicious soft-serve for dessert. 

The Fire Tower Restaurant and Tavern: Ate lunch here on our last day. It came highly recommended and it was good though I thought the menu was a little too limited. I had one of the "small plates" for my lunch and it was really yummy: the "Local Bowl," which consisted of spaetzle, sausage, parmesan, greens, and a garlic white wine sauce. Located in the village.

Honeypie: Adorable restaurant serving burgers, sandwiches, sausages, and milkshakes and located in an old, refurbished gas station. We ordered takeout one night from here for dinner. 

Coyote: I got a delicious latte from this tiny espresso bar in the village every morning. They also have a couple of homemade treats and baked goods like cinnamon rolls (yum), energy bites, and more. 

Have you guys ever been to Stratton? Anything you love there that I missed? And if you haven't been to Stratton, where is your favorite place to go on a ski vacation with kids?

Friday, February 15, 2019

18 Cool Things You Need to Click On Today

alyssa hertzig blowout
Yesterday was my birthday! (Yep, my birthday is on Valentine's Day. I have a lifetime of mixed feelings about that fact, and you can read more about them here.) My day was really good! I got a blowout, did a Pilates session, went to a school talent show with my daughter, ate at a yummy Italian restaurant/pasta shop called Pasta Dal Cuore, and received one of the best gifts I have ever gotten. My husband and kids surprised me with a song about me (!) written by a professional songwriter. And the song is really good! (Kind of Beatles-y.) You can read more about it--and listen to a clip of the song--here.

This weekend, my kids actually have a four-day weekend for Presidents' Day! I actually have a lot of work to do, so I'll be busy with that, and the kids are going skiing one of the days, so I may tag along. Whatever you're up to this weekend, I hope you make it a great one. Here's a few fun links to check out in the meantime...

• I've been making good on my resolution to read more and have been doing a lot of reading so far in 2019. Pretty much everything I've read so far this year has been great, so I have a couple of book recommendations for you! First is The Nightingale. It's been on my reading list forever, so I don't know why it's taken me so long to get to, but I'm so glad I finally did. I think this is one of my favorite books I have ever read. I was absolutely bawling in the end (rare for me with a book). Highly, highly recommend.  

• Next, I read Before We Were Yours, which is a fictional take on a true--and truly unbelievable--story. For decades, there was an adoption agency in Tennessee that would literally kidnap poor children and babies from their parents and then adopt them out to wealthy familes. Most of the families were, of course, never reunited. It's so sad and very hard to imagine that this actually took place, but it did. This story tells the fictional story of four sisters who were kidnapped from their birth parents and adopted out to different familes. Sad, but I loved it. 

• After those two books, I needed something LIGHTER (!), so I read The Rule of One, which is a dystopian YA novel that takes place in the future when the U.S. has adopted a one-child policy. (Okay, that doesn't exactly sound light. LOL!) The main character is actually a twin, but because of the "rule of one," the twins must pretend to be one person. It works out for years--until they are discovered and have to go on the run. It was a quick, easy read, but totally gripping; I didn't want to put it down. The sequel comes out in May, and I've already preordered it!

• J.Crew is having a 40 percent off sale now through the weekend! Use code YESPLEASE. I have my eye on this drapey shirt, this colorblock swinsuit, this leopard trench coat, and this eyelet top.

• I've been wanting this cute "Love Your Mother" (Earth) hoodie, but it's been out of stock forever. Just saw that it's back, so I grabbed one!

• My friend (and fellow beauty editor) Heather and her husband started a cookie company, Halfsies Cookie Compan, and the cookies are so good. But you have to act fast if you want to try them. They post on Instagram when a limited batch goes on sale, and then you have to scramble to nab some. I was lucky enough to grab some from the very first batch they put up for sale, and omg--they are SO good. The peanut butter is my favorite. Yum! 

• I need to make Landyn's salmon with macadamia nut pesto noodles. Looks so yummy and healthy!

• I may just break out this amazing Lion Face Pancake for my kids this weekend. It's super impressive, but actually looks really easy!

• I was the "helping parent" in my son's kindergarten classroom earlier this week, and we made these fruit-cup love bugs as the activity. I think they're so adorable, and the kids loved making them.

• This ponytail is soooo gorgeous.

• If you have $1000 to spare and you want to be the coolest mom ever, buy this. (And then invite my kids over for a playdate!)

• This made me laugh: Ulta releases line of shitty hair ties to give to your cheap friends.

• Revlon just relaunched their website and it looks amazing. Fun fact: I wrote some of the content on there (!), including stuff like this.

• Totally want to make these red velvet thumbprint cookies (they have cream cheese frosting!).

• A woman has Alzheimer's--and her husband has a girlfriend. I was ready to crucify this man before I read this story/watched the video, but afterwards, my feelings about the situation were much more complicated. It's s a very interesting read and definitely makes you think.

• Thank you to Sarah Silverman for calling out her gross ultrasound technician. 

And in case you missed it, I...

• Shared the best books of 2018.

• Listed 30 surprising things about me. (Like I was once on a reality-TV dating show...!)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Best Books I Read in 2018

best books of 2018
Photo via @reesesbookclubxhellosunshine

For the past few weeks, I've been pouring over everybody's "look how many books I read in 2018" posts and I love them. I get lots of great book recommendations, and I'm also truly awed by how many books people read. Some people I follow read 50+ books! In one year! But while that's awe-inspiring, it's just not going to be me. 

I absolutely love reading, but I also love podcasts. And social media. And hanging out with my kids. So I definitely don't read as much as I wish I could. But I am getting better! For 2018, I made a resolution to "read more books," and I really did read more than I had in previous years. (In an upcoming post, I'll share some of the strategies that helped me up my reading last year, and that I'm hoping will help me increase it even more for 2019.)

Last year, I had a relatively modest goal of reading 24 books over the course of the year. Though I hadn't been keeping track, I was pretty sure I hadn't met that goal. But I tallied it up just now and was surprised to see I had read 22! So while I didn't quite hit my goal, I was close! (There were also at least three books that I started this year and got pretty far into before giving them up, so I actually "read" more pages in a way.) 

Anyway, because I came so close, I'm going to up it a little this year and make my 2019 goal 30 books. (And I'm definitely going to keep track this time. If I had seen I was so close, I definitely would have picked up the pace in December!)

Below I've listed the 22 books I finished this year, divided into three categories based on how much I liked them. And yes, I do recommend all of these books! For the first time in my life in 2018, I made a point to stop reading books I wasn't into (a huge step for me--I used to force myself to finish everything I started!). As a result, I really did like everything I read (and finished) this year.

LOVED/Highly Recommend/You're Insane If You Don't Read These:

The Heart's Invisible Furies: Loved this so much! A beautiful, sweeping, epic story of the life of a little boy in Ireland. (I don't want to give anything away, but trust me.)

Educated: Incredible story of a woman who was raised in the mountains by a survivalist (crazy) family that didn't believe in attending school....and then she goes on to study at Harvard and Cambridge. 

This Will Only Hurt A Little: Busy Philipps's memoir! I've mentioned before how much I love it, and I especially recommend the audio book version.

The Bright Hour: Beautiful memoir written by a dying woman. If you liked When Breath Becomes Air, you'll love this. 

A Spark of Light: I enjoy anything by Jodi Picoult and this did not disappoint. I liked it (but didn't necessarily love) for much of the book, but then really went all in once I got to some surprising twists towards the end. Powerful story of a shooting in an abortion clinic and it really shows "both sides."

There ThereI downloaded this immediately after hearing several friends (and several publications) say it was one of the best books of the year. I don't know if I would personally go that far, but I did really, really like it. It's beautifully written and the characters are well developed and so interesting. It's the story of 12 different Native Americans living in modern day Oakland, California. The book is written almost as individual essays on each character and then they all intertwine towards the end in a very powerful way.

Really liked/Recommend:

This Is How It Always Is: The story of a family living with a transgender child. Really made me think about a topic I realize now that I didn't really understand.

The Arrangement: Great premise (a married couple tries an open marriage for six months) and really funny. Wrote a little more about it here.

The Size of Everything: A Memoir: If you liked The Glass Castle, you'll like this memoir of growing up in an abusive household. 

Something In The Water: This was a Reese Witherspoon book club pick and she always chooses the best stuff. Super suspenseful and hard to put down.

The Dinner List: You know the age-old question, "If you could have dinner with any five people, living or dead, who would they be?" Well, this book shows what happens for one woman when this comes true and she shows up for dinner with her best friend, three people from her past, and Audrey Hepburn.

Small Great Things: Another Jodi Picoult! (She's the queen of can't-put-it-down stories for me!) A gripping story of an infant's death told from two points of view: that of an African-American nurse and of the baby's white-supremacist father. 

The Book of Essie: The story of a teenager growing up in large, super religious reality-TV family--and her very creative plan for freeing herself. (My description makes the book sound way heavier than it is. It's light!)

Yes We (Still) Can: I'm a Pod Save America superfan, so I couldn't wait to read this memoir by Dan Pfeiffer who is one of the hosts of the podcast. It tells the story of his career working in politics including the years he spent working for Obama--funny and very inspiring. 

Good/Worth Reading:

Still Lives: A Reese Witherspoon book club pick, so you know it will be good. Not one of my favorites of hers, but still a good thriller that was a nice, quick read.

Two Girls Down: Story of two little girls getting kidnapped--and the private investigator who is trying to locate them. 

The Hate U Give: A lot of people thought this was one of the best books of the year, and it didn't rise to that level for me personally, but I did really enjoy it. It's the story of a teenager who witnesses her friend being shot by a police officer--and you then see how this violent act affects her life as she tries to get justice for her friend.

The Woman In The Window: Yep, a Reese Witherspoon pick again! A month ago, I would have stuck this in the middle category, but recently a story came out about how the author is a big liar, so I think I'm kind of unconsciously punishing him for that (!). But the book--a thrilling story of an agoraphobic woman who witnesses a crime--will keep your attention for sure. 

In His Sights: One Woman's Stalking Nightmare: Like a Lifetime movie (or You) come to life...but real! This is a true story of a woman being stalked by an ex. The dude was/is craaaazzzy, and you definitely won't be able to put it down.

Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After: Another memoir! (I love a good one.) This a story about a woman who becomes pregnant, and then her boyfriend decides he doesn't want to be a father and does not want to have anything to do with the child. Then the child gets seriously ill, and--I won't give anything away--but it's a great, very out-of-the-ordinary story about finding happiness in unexpected ways.  

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair: People are obsessed with this bestseller! I personally thought it was a little slow for much of it, but I did ultimately enjoy it. It's the story of a young novelist who goes to visit his mentor, but then the story takes a major turn when his mentor is implicated in a cold murder case from many years ago.  

Raising Lions: Non-fiction parenting book! But included it here 'cause it's still a book, right? ;)

And that was my literary 2018! Looking forward to reading many more great books this year (I've already completed four in January, so I feel like I'm off to a good start!) And of course: Please let me know if you have read anything lately that you loved! I'm always looking for new options to add to my list!