January 2022 Book Reviews

I am slowly getting back into the swing of things around here! January had us taking it easy – I didn’t do many projects, read many books, or post much of anything on the blog. We had a lot going on in our family and it was important to take a step back and just focus on other things that needed my attention. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that this past weekend I started back up with projects: on Saturday I helped my sister lay flooring in her kitchen and on Sunday, I continued work on the guest room stencil. It has felt really good to get back into projects and I’m excited to get back into the blog as well, starting with one of my favorite things to post – the monthly book review!

In January I was able to read two books: a fun rom com and a twisty-turny thriller. I really enjoyed them both, so let’s dive in!

Shipped by Angie Hockman

Shipped by [Angie Hockman]

Henley’s professional dreams are on the brink of coming true: a director of marketing position is up for grabs at the cruise line she works for and she is on the short list. The only problem is the other contender is Graeme, the co-worker who has been making her life difficult since the moment he started working remotely with the company. To decide who gets the promotion, their boss sends them on a cruise to the Galapagos with a mission: draft a proposal on how to boost more bookings to this location. They’re assigned to the same cruise, which means that after bickering via email for years, they will finally meet each other face to face.

I saw a description that said this book is “The Hating Game meets The Unhoneymooners” and since I enjoyed both of those books I was immediately intrigued. Now having read the book, I would agree that it’s very much in line with those other books! It’s full of thoroughly enjoyable elements: fun and witty banter between the likeable main characters, a setting that gives you the travel bug, and some side characters adding interest and entertainment to the plot. I enjoy an enemies-to-lovers trope and came to love Henley and Graeme and their dynamic. I also appreciated some of the deeper themes of the book, specifically related to the workplace culture and female friendships. I kind of wished that I had saved it for summer because honestly, it would make for an excellent vacation/summer read but it was still fun to read even in January. There is a very small amount of language and I would say a moderate level of steam (more than a kiss, less than the open door scenes in The Hating Game or The Unhoneymooners). Overall, this one was a win for me and definitely ranks up there in rom coms!

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Rock Paper Scissors: A Novel by [Alice Feeney]

Adam and Amelia have hit an extended rough patch in their marriage and after Amelia wins a weekend away at a restored church in Scotland, it seems like the getaway might be the last chance to save their marriage. But as soon as they arrive, things seem off. There is no host to be seen, the church is incredibly remote, and it starts to become evident that winning this trip was no coincidence. Will their marriage survive this weekend? Will they both survive this weekend?

I’ve never read a book by this author before but I’m already a fan after this thriller! The twists and turns felt like an absolute roller coaster: I went back and forth so many times trying to figure out what was going on and what the Adam and Amelia’s motivations were. I loved that the flashbacks to earlier times were shared in the form of anniversary letters written each year – it added a unique component to the writing and to figuring out the dynamic of the marriage. The characters are very flawed, and as a reader I sympathized with them in some aspects but also found them to be incredibly unlikeable in others. It made it hard to know who to “root for” or who to suspect if that makes sense, which just added to the twisty nature of the plot. I thought I had this book figured out multiple times, but I was still shocked (and at one point, even a little disturbed) by the revelations. It’s not gory or even really psychological, just truly a thriller from start to finish. I flew through it and definitely recommend!

After a lighter reading month in January, I’m excited to tackle my TBR list in earnest in February. As always, if you have any great recs, please send them my way!

First Project of 2022: Leveling Up the Guest Room!

Almost exactly two years ago, we finished up the first renovation in our home: the guest room. Hosting friends and family is very important to us so we wanted to prioritize having a nice space for them to stay. We certainly did not anticipate that we were about to enter a global pandemic, but even though the room hasn’t gotten quite as much use over the past two years as we expected, we are still glad we decided to focus time and energy on renovating the space.


I don’t really subscribe to the thought that a room is ever truly “finished” – our home is ever evolving and I even when a renovation is complete, I still enjoy making tweaks and leveling up a space over the years. I shared in the fall that I was wanting to do a little update to the plain white walls in the guest room by creating the look of wallpaper with a stencil; you can read all about the inspiration here and the progress here. In this post I debated between keeping it an accent wall or continuing around the whole room and for my first project of 2022 I’ve officially decided to continue it around the whole room.

I won’t lie, because I’m using so many different colors in the pattern, this is going to be a time consuming process. It’ll certainly take much longer than the laundry room stencil, which was one color and could be rolled on with a foam roller. With my work-from-home job plus my two small children keeping me pretty busy right now, I’m going to just be carving out time here and there to work on this when I can. I’m not going to put a timeline on it either – we don’t have any scheduled guests coming yet in 2022 so there’s no pressure at this point. I’m excited to see the space slowly transform!

There are a few other things I want to tweak and update in this space. For one, the boob light has got to go! This is something I didn’t change out in our original renovation and it’s definitely time for something new (one of my 2021 goals was to replace all the boob lights in the house and this is the last one remaining!) I’m also going to update the bedding (I regret choosing a comforter set with lots of decorative pillows – too impractical for guests!) and possibly add a bench at the foot of the bed. One of my 2022 goals is to update the flooring in this house, which includes the carpet here, although that likely won’t happen until later in the year.

I’ll be sharing some of the real-time progress on this project on Instagram, so be sure to follow along there if you want updates in the moment!

December 2021 Book Reviews: Part Two

The first book reviews of 2022 are here! Earlier in December, I shared reviews for the first half of the month since many of them were holiday themed. You can read all about the books I read and their reviews here. Today I’m covering the three books I read in the second half of the month: two holiday reads and one memoir. Let’s dive in!

Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes

Christmas in Paris: A Novel by [Anita Hughes]

After calling off her wedding a week earlier, Isabel decides to go on her Parisian honeymoon by herself. While enjoying the view from her hotel balcony, she accidentally locks herself out of her room and luckily is rescued by Alec, the Frenchman staying in the room next door. Alec is also nursing a broken heart after a failed engagement and the two start to spend time together. When they run into a fortune teller in a street market in Paris, her prediction makes Isabel causes Isabel to become singularly focused on finding a way to make that prediction, and her happily ever after, come true.

I do not like to be super negative with reviews, but wow oh wow I did not enjoy this book. This was very nearly a Did Not Finish for me. There was way too much time spent on Alec and Isabel’s flashbacks to their previous relationships and not nearly enough time spent on present-day relationship development to make it feel believable. The plot was unrealistic and jumped all over the place and the characters seemed superficial and shallow. I found myself getting especially annoyed with Isabel – she seemed fickle and immature both in her previous relationships and in her present day self. There’s a lot of luxury and Parisian references, but it didn’t feel particularly Christmas-y and there were too many aspects of the plot that just felt trivial and bizarre to me. I unfortunately cannot recommend this one at all.

Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday

Duke, Actually: A Novel by [Jenny Holiday]

Dani Martinez is post-men. After her soon-to-be-ex-husband left her for a woman twenty years his junior, she has decided to shift her focus away from men and dating and onto getting tenure at her job as a professor while preparing to be the best woman in her best friend Leo’s wedding. Max, or rather, Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and heir to the Duke of Aquilla, is also going to be in the wedding, which some may consider surprising since he was formerly engaged to the bride-to-be. While there was no love lost in that failed engagement, Max has no interest in fulfilling his family’s wishes and marrying their next choice in bride. Still, he goes to New York to pretend to care about his parent’s wishes and there he meets up with Dani. The two strike up a platonic friendship that continues to grow over time. As the wedding approaches and they become more and more important to one another, it seems like the friendship may in fact have grown into something more.

Once I started reading, I realized that the author had previously written a book about the love story of Leo and Marie, the couple getting married in this one. Dani and Max were both in that book, and it seems like they even met briefly there, so at first it did feel like I missed a step. It wasn’t really a big deal, and once the story got going it didn’t matter, but there were a few references to the past book and how they initially met that threw me off a tiny bit. Despite that, I enjoyed this book. It is set around Christmas time and does have Christmas-y references, but Christmas is not a central part of the book. Instead, it’s all about Max and Dani and how they develop a close friendship that turns into something more. I am a sucker for a best-friends-to-lovers storyline – Justin and I were really close friends before we ever started dating, so these storylines have a special place in my heart. I loved Dani, I loved Max, I loved how they supported one another, I loved the character development, I loved the side characters, I loved picturing the setting in Aquilla. I found it to be an enjoyable holiday(ish) rom com! It does fall in the rated-R category for some steamy scenes. I thought Max and Dani were convincing and charismatic and I was rooting for them the whole time. I enjoyed it!

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

In this memoir, Michelle explores her childhood memories of growing up in Oregon as one of the few Korean children in the community, traveling to Seoul in the summers to visit her mothers family, and her relationship with her now-deceased mother over the years. Through vast descriptions of Korean food and culture, she weaves stories of her life, family, grief, hope, personal dreams, and identity.

This book was chosen by my book club and I had high hopes for it. It’s on tons of bestseller lists, I’ve seen rave reviews online, I’ve heard podcast interviews with the author – it was all set up in my mind to be an astonishing memoir to read. And in reality, it was . . . fine. Many members of my book club agreed: there’s nothing wrong with it, but we couldn’t quite understand why it was so hyped up? While the author has found success in an Indie rock band, none of us had ever heard of her before so we were starting from ground zero. There are a lot of Korean food references, and as someone who is not a big fan of Korean food, I wasn’t interested in that much of it. It feels kind of strange critiquing a memoir like this because it was clearly very personal for the author, who vulnerably writes about so much of her life and family. I did enjoy reading about the mother-daughter dynamic and their family in general, and the way the author writes about her grief is both touching and relatable. I didn’t not like this book, but I think it was too overhyped in my mind and definitely didn’t live up to the high standards. It’s a solid mid-range memoir for sure, and if you are a fan of the author’s music or particularly interested in Korean food and culture, it’s worth checking out. But if those things don’t interest you, the book may be overhyped for you as well.

What have you been reading lately?

A look at my 2022 Goals

I’m not a big resolutions girl but for the past several years, I’ve come up with a specific number of goals based on the year (19 for 2019, 20 for 2020, etc). This year, I’ve decided to forgo the number and instead break up my goals into three categories: home, personal, and family. I didn’t worry about a specific number but instead just thought about what I would like to accomplish or focus on this year in each area. This year I didn’t do very many little goals; most of the things on this list are either big projects or ongoing goals. We’ll see what 2022 has in store but I’m feeling optimistic about these goals!

Goals for our Home

Update the flooring! This has been a top goal of mine ever since we moved in almost three years ago. We will likely approach this in stages, but the entire house needs updated flooring. I believe all the carpet is original (over 20 years old) and after the previous family raised four boys here and then our very active toddlers and dogs moved in, you can imagine what kind of shape it is in. It’s worn down, stained in many places, and fraying around some of the edges. It is past time to replace it!

The main floor currently has a mix of carpet in the playroom and living room, faux wood laminate in the office, and a peel and stick vinyl everywhere else. I’m excited to improve the feel by installing one cohesive flooring throughout. I’m going to keep the basement and our kids’ bedrooms carpeted (and just update the carpet) but everything else will get a new look. This is obviously going to be a huge project that will require lots of planning so it’ll probably happen in the second half of the year but I’m excited to start pouring over samples and hone in on a vision.

Main Floor Powder Room. This is one of only two remaining rooms that I haven’t touched since we moved in. I’m ready to put some effort in to updating it!

Finish the Guest Room Stencil. Last year I started stenciling the guest room to give the walls the look of wallpaper. I started out with one accent wall but I have decided I’d like to continue it all the way around the room. This will probably be the first project I tackle this year – even though it’s going to be pretty time consuming I think the end result will be worth it. The guest room also has the final boob light in our house and a top goal of 2022 is for that thing to go!

Update the Kids’ Bedrooms. As my kids continue to grow, we’ll be making little updates to their rooms. This year we’ll be upgrading to big kid beds and updated bedding. Also, now that they’re old enough to play in their rooms by themselves more, I’ll probably update their storage to keep a few toys upstairs (right now there are just books in their rooms).

Have the foyer painted. I started painting the main floor last year, but our foyer is two stories and because of the way our staircase is, there is just not an easy and safe way for me to paint the second level by myself. It’s a job I need to hire out and this is the year to get it done! Right now the foyer looks pretty ridiculous with just a paint line ending halfway up the wall – haha!

Living Room. The living room is the other room in the house that we haven’t really touched since moving in and I have big dreams for this space. It’s a unique room and has so much potential! We’ve kind of just left it as is the past two years because it worked fine for life with small children, but I’m more than ready to give it some much needed TLC.

Patio Updates. We have a great outdoor space and love entertaining on our patio in the summer. We’re not going to do a complete patio overhaul at this point, but for now Justin and I want to make simple updates like hanging string lights and building planter boxes to update the space.

Personal Goals

Exercise at least 3 times per week. I have not been consistent with exercise lately and I’m very ready to get back in to a regimen and make this a habit!

Buy thoughtfully and intentionally. I love to shop small, but I am also really interested in looking at the things I buy as investments in the world I want to live in. I’m less interested in just buying things to finish a room and more interested in finding items that are purposeful – sustainable or from a small business or ethically made or thrifted or high quality and made to last, etc. I think this is going to translate to less things, slower progress, saving up for a purchase, or searching longer for just the right item and I’m 100% okay with that.

Prioritize Sleep! My sleep habits are seriously lacking lately and I want to set myself up for more success with better sleep by going to bed earlier, keeping my cell phone out of the bedroom, and having no screen time within 30 minutes of bedtime.

Update the Blog Menu. I want to spend time updating the way my book recommendations page is set up as well as the drop down menu for our home and past project. Just some tweaking to make things easier to find and reference here!

Family Goals

Take our first family vacation! We have done vacations with our extended family before but we’ve never done a trip with just the four of us. We are really excited to make that happen this year.

Dates with Our Kids. Last year Justin and I each took a kid and had a special day date with them – he took LJ golfing and I took Vi to the zoo. It was such a fun day and we thought we would do it more often but then we didn’t. I would love to see us do this more frequently (ideally once a month but for now, at least more than once a year!) It’s such a great way to bond with our kids and make them feel special.

Be intentional with making life feel special. This is a hard goal to quantify, but I just want to try to think of simple ways to make days feel special with my kids. Maybe it’s just a pizza picnic on the floor instead of sitting at the table or celebrating minor holidays like Popcorn Day. Maybe it’s a special hot chocolate drink after a day of playing in the snow or making our own ice cream after a day of swimming. Maybe it’s colored bubbles in the bath or washable paint on the sidewalk. It’s so easy to just get into a routine of getting through the days with little ones but these are such sweet, magical years with the kids and I want to be better at making this a year of FUN too.

Here’s to making 2022 a great year!