Phase One Master Bathroom Progress

A little while ago, I shared in my Instagram stories that we are doing a “Phase One” master bathroom update. It’s consumed most of my free time over the past week so today I thought I’d share our progress so far.

First of all, what do I mean by “phase one?” I was inspired by Chris Loves Julia and their Phase One kitchen update. After moving into their house, they weren’t ready for a full kitchen renovation but they did not like the look, feel, and function of their kitchen. So they set up to update it for under $1000 and make it work for the short term.  It’s still not their ideal kitchen, but the goal was to “fall in love with what they already had” with a few simple updates. I thought this was such a good idea, and it made me think of our bathroom.

When we first moved into our house, I knew I wanted to do major work in the master bathroom. Ideally, I’d like to completely gut it and re-work the layout (particularly the shower area, which is off to the right of the large vanity). We have a plan to do that someday, but we need to pay down Justin’s student loans first. It will likely be at least 5+ years until we can make it the bathroom of our dreams, so we decided in the meantime to just do a “phase one” refresh. My goal was to spend under $500 and do some simple updates to fall in love and be content with the layout as is, but make it feel fresh and clean.

Here’s what the bathroom looked like to begin with:

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The room is definitely dated, but the dark walls and carpet were my two biggest complaints. I am not a fan of carpet in the bathroom and this one had stains (mostly rust stains from the previous owners’ antique vanity) and other signs of wear and tear. That combined with dark colors just made it feel dingy.

The first thing we did was rip up the carpet. My dad came over last week and we spent an afternoon pulling it up and removing all the staples from the subfloor.

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The nice thing about no flooring was it made painting easier – no worries about drips! I primed and trimmed out the walls quickly. You’ll notice I even painted a little love note in the space behind where my mirror will go on the wall. ❤

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We’re going to lay down an inexpensive peel-and-stick vinyl and the directions called for the wood floor to be primed first. We used a shop vac to remove all debris and then primed the floors.

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I finished painting the walls and then was inspired to also paint the vanities. I had plenty of paint in Sherwin Williams Urbane Bronze leftover from our previous house so this didn’t cost anything extra. Score!

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Now my plan from here was just to paint the ceilings a fresh white, lay down the flooring, touch up some caulk, and be finished BUT . . . I can’t decide if I like the wall color! I chose Sherwin Williams Gray Screen and tested it in multiple places around the room before painting. It always looked gray when I tested, but now that it’s fully on the walls, it looks blue! I think the issue is the wood trim. When I tested the paint, it was surrounded by white primer and looked gray, but now that it’s outlined by wood, it brings out the brown undertones and looks blue. Depending on the amount of natural light, it does vary a little (you can see in the above picture that the walls around the tub even look different than other walls) but it never really looks like the gray I envisioned. So I can either repaint the walls a different color, paint the trim white to help it look gray, or leave it as is and deal with the blue. Sigh. None of those options are particularly appealing so I need to spend some time thinking about this.

I’ll be sure to report back once the room is totally finished in a week or two – I’m so excited to have an updated bathroom soon!

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Let’s Look: Favorite Fall Recipes

Today I’m linking up once again with Shay and Erika for their monthly “Let’s Look” post and today is all about fall recipes which is perfect because it is FINALLY is starting to feel like fall around here! 

A quick recap of our recent fall fun before I share my favorite recipes: Justin and I took the kids to a fall festival at a dairy farm in our area on Saturday and it was a blast! The weather was a little cooler and I was feeling ALL the fall things. Hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkins galore!

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It was so much fun to get to experience the festival with LJ: he absolutely LOVED it!

He played in a giant bin of corn, which just cracked me up. I mean, does it get any more Midwestern than that?

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We also got to see how their cows were milked, pet a baby calf, and take a ride on a train pulled by a tractor through a corn maze. I think LJ’s favorite part was getting to play on the giant jump pad – he wants to do everything he sees the big kids doing and he had so much fun running from end to end and getting bounced around (I love the progression of pictures haha!) It was SUCH a fun fall day!

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Alright, now on to fall recipes! Now I’m not one to go crazy over pumpkin spice everything as soon as the temperatures drop, but I do get excited for a few things every fall. My absolute favorites are:

THESE BARS from Sally’s Baking Addition. They’re called Apple Butterscotch Magic Bars and they really do feel like fall magic. I am not a coconut fan so I leave out the shredded coconut and they are still so delicious!

THESE COOKIES from Dear Crissy are the perfect pumpkin cookie. I love making these for a party because otherwise I end up eating them all myself. If you prefer a cream cheese frosting, these cookies from Cooking Classy are also very good.

And as for Halloween festivities, I wrote a blog post several years ago about simple Halloween treats for procrastinators (basically, a few festive and easy treats you can whip up quickly). These are sweet and simple additions to a Halloween party!Final Treat Collage

What are your favorite recipes for fall?

 

Simplify the Diaper Bag {Two under Two}

I’ve now been a mother of two for just over six weeks and I’ve made it a point to get out of the house as often as we can. I want to enjoy the warm weather while it lasts and leaving the house to go to the library, playground, or a playdate boosts my mood and helps LJ burn off a lot of energy. Win win! In order to leave the house though, I have to be prepared to take a diaper bag.

I have blogged several times about what I carry in my diaper bag (newborn, infant, toddler) and it may sound strange but these posts kind of serve like snapshots into my life at various points of motherhood. I like to share these posts not only to give some ideas to fellow mamas who might be looking to streamline their diaper bags but also to document what I carried at that point in time so I can look back later and reminisce on that stage of life. 😉

My goal with a diaper bag is simple: I want to have access to the things I may need when we’re out of the house but avoid feeling like I’m carrying around everything we own. I don’t want it to be so full that it puts strain on my back or is impossible to find anything quickly.

Today I’m going to share everything that I carry in my diaper bag these days with “two under two” (two kids under two years old). As with all my previous posts on this, I want to emphasize that this is what works for me. It might not be what works best for anyone else and that’s okay. I personally want my diaper bag to be efficient and minimal-ish (more than just a bare minimum of diapers and wipes). I know I could pack more items that may offer convenience in various situations, but I choose not to. I pack what I am most likely to need and anything not listed is honestly something we can do without in 99% of situations.

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First up, I have a new diaper bag! I had used this diaper bag since LJ was born and I honestly loved it; however, it got such heavy use that it was getting pretty worn down and the front compartment zipper had completely broken. Rather than get the same bag again, I chose this one because it offered a similar look but had a few more inner pockets which I wanted now that I have stuff for two kiddos. One thing I definitely wanted to keep the same was a backpack-style bag – my arms are full enough these days that I don’t want to have multiple bags slung over arms. I want one bag that holds what I need and allows me to be hands-free so I can push a stroller/carry a carseat/hold my toddler’s hand, etc.

As it was with my first diaper bag, the front pocket is my “mom” pocket. This takes the place of carrying around a purse and holds a pen, a few snacks (I like to have protein-packed snacks while breastfeeding), hand sanitizer, headphones, and gum.

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The side pockets are great for carrying my water bottle and I also slip my phone into the other side (usually I slip it in my jeans back pocket but if I don’t have one, I can quickly stash it there).

The main compartment is where I keep everything for the kids. I roll everything and place it on its side to maximize space and keep things easy to access. The main space holds a muslin blanket, flannel blanket, two burp cloths, a spare outfit for Vi (a sleeper, because that’s easy right now!), my wallet, a nursing cover, and a toy for LJ. I also usually throw in a snack container for LJ with crackers or something similar and his water.

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Additionally, there are 5 pockets around the side and I’m purposeful with each one (counter clockwise from “top” of picture): The back pocket holds a changing pad (came with the bag) and a reusable clutch of wipes.  The next pocket is insulated for a bottle, but since I’m currently breastfeeding I store extra pacifiers and a pair of socks for Vi here. The next pocket holds 3-4 diapers for LJ. The next pocket holds 4-5 diapers forVi, along with diaper cream. The last pocket is LJ’s “snack” pocket. It holds a reusable placemat (handy at restaurants), a bib, spoon and case, and snacks (typically 1-2 pouches, fruit snacks or a fruit strip, and some type of bar).

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There is one last thin pocket outside the diaper bag (in the back) and it is usually empty, but it’s a handy place for me to slip something small I might need to carry for a particular purpose, like our mail, a book for my bible study, etc.

A few additional tips for a “two under two” diaper bag:

-Repack when you get home. It’s not exactly calm when we’re trying to get out the door. I’m getting kids changed, breastfeeding, getting myself ready, cleaning up spit up, changing a final diaper, grabbing LJ’s water bottle, trying to find shoes, wrangling LJ into his shoes, etc. The minutes leading up to us leaving the house are often hectic and rushed. It is not the time to realize “oh shoot, we have no diapers for Vi” or scramble to grab snacks in for LJ. And I certainly don’t want to leave the house and realize I have no wipes to clean up a poop mess (have you seen this!? OMG – hilarious, but also I would be so stressed out if this happened to me!) So in order to avoid that extra stress right before leaving or realize too late that we forgot something vital, I “reset” it each time we get home. I refill diapers, wipes, snacks, take out anything extra we used last time, and just get the bag back to baseline. I may not have time to do this right away when I get home, but I don’t put the bag in its “spot” unless it’s reset and ready. This way, the ONLY thing I have to do before leaving is throw in LJ’s water and zip it up! So much less stressful.

-Have an extra diaper clutch ready to go for your toddler. The first time I took both kids to my bible study, I went to drop LJ off in childcare and realized I couldn’t leave the diaper bag with him because I needed it for Vi! So I clipped his diaper name tag to one single diaper and handed it to his teacher like “uhh, sorry this is the best I can do.” Such a rookie mistake! I purchased this simple clutch and it’s the perfect size for a small pack of wipes and a few diapers (and even his water and one snack if needed). I keep it stocked with wipes and 1-2 diapers and store it next to my diaper bag; any time I’m going somewhere where LJ and Vi will be in separate places, I throw it in with my main diaper bag and then have something to leave with LJ. So much easier!

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As you can see, I still carry quite a few things around in the diaper bag. I’m prepared for the situations that are most likely to happen (hangry toddler, messy diapers, etc) but I’m not going to stress out about every possible situation (if LJ gets bored or restless, I don’t need 7 toys in the bag to distract him because we’ll typically be able to find something in our surroundings to focus on). That’s what works for me!

What are your purse or diaper bag must haves?

September 2019 Book Reviews

It’s that time of the month again – book review day!

It goes without saying that my life is pretty busy these days, so I’m not getting through as many books as I was before, although to be honest I’m just glad I’m able to read at all! I was kind of expecting to not be able to finish any books during this stage of two kids under the age of two years old. But then I discovered this:

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Turns out, there’s a lot of time I’m just sitting on the couch breastfeeding and the Boppy pillow makes a perfect book rest! I was able to get through two full books this month and they were both excellent so I’m excited to share them with you today. Here we go!

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

If you’ve been following my book reviews for a while, you know that I’m a bit of a historical fiction junkie. I love all types of historical fiction, but my favorite are the books that are based off of actual people or events that I haven’t known about before reading (books like The Alice Network, Before We Were Yours, etc.) This book falls into that category and I could not put it down. The book follows Lale, a young Jewish man from Slovakia who is taken to Auschwitz. Once there, he is given the role of tattooist and is made to mark all the new arrivals with their numbers. Since his role is so important, he has some special privileges and uses them to help out his fellow prisoners, particularly a woman named Gita. The author had interviewed Lale before his death and so the story was a re-creation of his experiences at the concentration camp, many of which were utterly horrifying. No matter how many times I read a novel about the Holocaust, I am still shocked and sickened by the depths of cruelty that occurred. There were parts that were very hard to read, but the story itself was gripping. Lale’s determination and courage are truly remarkable and I was inspired by the small acts of kindness that made such a huge difference to those they were bestowed upon. There were even moments that were romantic and sweet. It feels strange to say I enjoyed it, because it was difficult subject matter, so I will say that I was fascinated and highly recommend it.

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Sylvie Lee is a smart, successful daughter of Chinese immigrants who travels to the Netherlands, the place where she spent seven years of her childhood, to visit her dying grandmother and afterwards . . . she disappears. Her younger sister Amy is distraught with worry and heads to the Netherlands in search of her sister. Her desperation only increases as she encounters a slew of unanswered questions and limited police help. The more people she meets, the more it seems like no one is telling her the full story. It’s hard for me to sum up this book without giving too much away because it touches on so much: family, cultural difference, racism, life as an immigrant family. I will say that the first half started out very slowly for me. It felt like I had only questions and no answers, and I wasn’t even sure I cared enough to find out. I was kind of annoyed by Amy and how sheltered and naive she was. BUT. Around the halfway point, things took a turn and got very interesting and I was hooked! It became a true mystery for me; I was intrigued and flew through the second half. Overall I really enjoyed this read and definitely recommend it!

What have you been reading lately?

New and Improved Playroom

As many of you know, we moved to a new house in May. The house originally had two eating areas: a large but casual space off the kitchen and a formal dining room. I knew from the get-go that I wanted to convert the formal dining room into a playroom. It’s a great size and there is a large cased opening into the living room so it’s easy to keep an eye on what’s going on in there. It was the first room we decided to put some time and energy into updating since it gets used every single day and all the changes we wanted to make were cosmetic and pretty straightforward and budget-friendly. Today I’m going to share a bit about what we did to update the space for use in our daily lives.

Here’s what the space looked like when we first moved in:

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It didn’t exactly scream “fun room for kids to hang out” huh? I was itching to brighten the room up with paint, but it unfortunately wasn’t as easy as grabbing a brush. The previous homeowners had painted the walls with a textured paint (we think they may have mixed sand in with the paint to create a texture because it was very uneven on the walls). This made the walls look dingy even after they had been cleaned. Before we could paint, we needed to remove the texture. There were a few ways to go about this but we ended up just taking an oscillating sander and buffing the wall smooth.

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Justin testing out whether the sander would work for this project.

This process was very time-consuming and created a lot of dust. We had a bag attached to the sander to catch dust, windows open and box fans going to encourage the dust to go outside, and we blocked off the room as best we could but dust still ended up traveling into adjacent rooms. The process of sanding took a few days because we did it in short spurts to avoid inhaling lots of dust (we did wear masks to help) and to give our arms a break, as this was a workout for them! We also had to spend quite a bit of time on each section to get things as smooth as we wanted. It felt like forever but when we finally finished the walls looked so much better!

We washed down the walls to remove lingering dust, patched little dings and holes and then it was time to paint! Because the previous paint was so dark we first went over the walls with a layer of primer and then two coats of Benjamin Moore paint in Greyhound. We only painted three walls because my plan for the remaining wall was to use a fun accent wallpaper. We did put a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling because it also looked a little dingy, and this made the room feel much brighter.

For the wallpaper, I wanted something fun, a little whimsical, yet not too crazy bold. I bought three rolls of Magnolia Home wallpaper in Pick-Up Sticks in blue. It was the perfect choice, although hanging was a bit of a challenge. The wallpaper is prepasted and (theoretically) easy enough to hang – you just spray it with water, let the water absorb for a few minutes, and then press it to the wall. It doesn’t dry immediately so you have a chance to slide it around a bit and make sure it’s lined up the way you want. The problem for us was, even after all that sanding, our wall still wasn’t perfectly smooth. This created some wrinkling and made things stressful and incredibly frustrating for Justin and I. There were also a few places where we couldn’t get the seams to line up perfectly because it would have made the pattern crooked and created really noticeable wrinkling so we had small gaps. Our solution to this was to fill in the seam gaps with a white paint marker after the wall was dry, which did help to mask the gap. It’s not a flawless wall, but thankfully the pattern is subtle enough that it’s hardly noticeable at all, especially now with furniture and art on it.

The final thing we did was remove the old light fixture. We had replaced the flush mount that was in our master bedroom with a ceiling fan, so I just updated the flush mount with some black spray paint and we moved it down to the playroom. I would have loved a new light but we were trying to keep the room budget-friendly so for now this was a good solution.

The room was finally finished and it was time to move in furniture! Justin made a bookcase for toy storage loosely following these plans from Bless’er House. We bought inexpensive ready-to-assemble bookcases from a local company which he screwed together and used thin lattice board on the side fronts to create the look of a custom piece. I painted the shelves in Sherwin Williams Oceanus (the previous owners fixed up cars and they had a perfect paint room already set up in the garage) and Justin topped the whole thing off with a long plank of stained oak. He finished by nailing thin strips around the plank to give it the look of a chunky butcher block-style top which I LOVE.

I adore how the piece turned out, but there were many snags along the way. The shelves didn’t hold paint well and required many coats (and will need subsequent touch-ups). One shelf was slightly bigger than the other three (even though they were the same style from the same company) which created measurement nightmares. The top plank was initially cut a few centimeters too short so it required Justin to cut notches in the trim pieces he used on the side to make it look flush. There were just a lot of little logistical things and the project had more headaches than we anticipated. We’d probably never do it again, but I’m glad we did it this once because it works perfectly in the space!

We got a super inexpensive futon from Aldi (anyone else love Aldi??) and finished off the room with a few plants, a colorful gallery wall using frames and mirrors I already had, and an oversized alphabet print from a local company. And with that, the room is done!

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I’m absolutely thrilled with it!

I love that the room has gone from dingy to bright and airy. LJ plays in it everyday and I can testify that while it’s cute (in my opinion ha!) and decorated, it’s also very kid-friendly and functional in our daily lives. It was the perfect first room to tackle in making this house into our home and I’m so happy with how it turned out!

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I can’t wait to continue to transform rooms throughout the house!

 

First Month as a Family of Four!

Well, somehow I now have a ONE MONTH OLD.

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It feels like I just I shared Vi’s birth story and she is already one month old! She hit the milestone yesterday and while I’m thankful she’s healthy, growing, and settling into more of a routine (which generally means more sleep – whoo hoo!), I’m already missing the sweet little newborn cuddles.

IMG_20190923_200939As I’m sure you can imagine, my days at home with a toddler and newborn have been a little chaotic (see photo below ha!) but we’re hitting our groove now and I’m hoping to get back into more consistent blogging. I figured the best place to start was to have a catch up post where I bring you up to speed on what life has been like for us over the past month. It’s been a sweet, challenging, FULL month to say the least!

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My c-section was on a Friday, so I stayed at the hospital through the weekend. Several members of my family and Justin’s family came to the hospital during our stay to meet the baby. Since we didn’t know the gender ahead of time, it was fun to keep the surprise a few more hours until our parents could come to the hospital and find out in person – we loved getting to see their reactions when they heard we had a girl!

We came home from the hospital on Monday morning and it was SO good to be back at home. Right away, LJ wanted to hold Vi and it was just THE. CUTEST. THING. We didn’t even have to tell him what to do – he held his hands out and it was the most natural thing in the world. My heart was in a puddle!

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Justin had four workdays off for paternity leave (six total including the weekend) and it was so nice to get settled back home as a family. My mother-in-law stayed to help us during our first week home and then my mom stayed with us the second week. Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without them. They cooked meals and kept our house semi-clean and most importantly, kept LJ entertained so I could focus on breastfeeding and getting into a routine with Vi. It was also nice to get a few naps in and catch up on sleep while they watched the kids! Because of my lifting restrictions, I wasn’t able to lift LJ in and out of his crib so they were the only reason nap time and bedtime continued to run so smoothly! I’m SO thankful for their help!

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The past two weeks we’ve been on our own as a family of four. This post is already getting super long so I’ll just touch on some of the highs and lows of the past two weeks.

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Lows:

-LJ got croup last week and it was so hard to keep him separate from Vi. He ended up spending two days at my parents house (we joked he was in quarantine) so he could rest and recover and Vi could stay healthy.

-We expected sleep to be elusive, but there have been a couple nights that we were awake more than we were asleep and even one night where Vi AND LJ were up most of the night. We know loss of sleep goes with the territory of having a newborn, but it is still tough!

-The first couple weeks, Vi did NOT like to be set down. She would sleep for 3 hours if someone was holding her…but would wake up in 20 minutes if I had set her down to sleep somewhere. It got to be draining to always have to hold her for hours (although it did lead to sweet snuggles).

-Vi started out wanting to feed every 90 minutes like clockwork. I’m so thankful I’m able to breastfeed, but being that on demand was exhausting and challenging.

-Two kids under two years old means someone always needs me. It’s a constant juggling act and some days it’s felt extremely overwhelming.

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Highs:

-The brother-sister bond is just about the cutest thing to watch. I love how LJ searches for Vi first thing every morning, he goes over to her when she cries, he tries to give her the pacifier, and he loves to hold her on the couch. It’s just so precious!

-LJ has grown so much in the past month. He’s using his words better, gaining more independence, and actually helps me with simple tasks like bringing a pacifier or throwing something in the trash. So proud of my big boy!

-Vi took to breastfeeding well and had a much better latch than LJ did starting out. It made the beginning of our breastfeeding journey MUCH more pleasant this time around!

-Justin and I have learned some tricks to help Vi sleep better in the bassinet or pack and play and it’s made life a lot easier to not have to hold her for all her naps.

-We’re finally getting longer stretches of sleep at night!!

-I mean…girl clothes are just the cutest. I already have a mild bow obsession. 🙂

-We’ve had a few days out as a family and it’s been great to get to have time together doing something fun outdoors!

-It has been a nice season of slow. It was initially hard to accept the fact that my house would just be less clean and I’d get less “done” during the day, but I’ve come to enjoy the shift in priorities. Snuggles trump folding laundry any day and I’ve enjoyed just spending time with my littles instead of worrying about all the other things that just don’t really matter that much.

-The dogs are unfazed by the presence of another tiny human. 😉

20190924_200202Love you Vi. Thanks for one unforgettable month. ❤

August Book Reviews

Good morning friends!

Life with a toddler and newborn has been a bit hectic, so I’m just now getting around to my August book reviews even though we’re halfway through September already (how!?) Better late than never, right?

I got through two books last month before I had to put my reading on pause for last-minute baby prep and welcoming Vi into our family. Now that we’re settling into a *little* more of a routine around here, I’m hoping to get back into reading more! Might be wishful thinking, we’ll see how that goes… 😉 In the meantime, let’s look at what I read in August!

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The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

In the last couple months I’ve read and loved The Forgotten Room and The Glass Ocean, both written by a trio of authors. I decided to check out the individual authors work and since I’ve already read a lot of Beatriz Williams, I tried out this book from Karen White.  In this novel, Melanie is a realtor who has been gifted a historic home in Charleston, SC by a man she barely knows. While she sets about fixing it up to hopefully re-sell, she receives help from Jack, who believes the house may be hiding something of incredible value. As they work together to restore the house, it becomes clear that the house holds many secrets, and not all the secrets are willing to rest in peace. At times, the pace of this book seemed to drag and it took a while for me to decide if I even liked what I was reading. I wanted to figure out the answers to some of the mysteries laid out early on, so I kept reading and did start to enjoy it more as revelations were made. There were things I liked and things I didn’t. I enjoyed the fact that a lot of historical elements were brought in and I wanted to learn the truth behind what happened in the house. I didn’t fall in love with most of the characters like I wanted to and I felt like I had to do a lot of reading to get to the “good” stuff in the latter part of the book. I also wanted a little more closure at the end, but I believe this book is part of a series so it makes sense that some strings were left untied. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. I’d read something else by Karen White but I’m not dying to. It just fell pretty middle-of-the-road, decent read territory for me.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Now THIS book is going to stick with me. It was recommended to me by Justin’s cousin and I didn’t know much about it other than the facts that she loved it and that it was set in India. I spent 3 1/2 months studying abroad in India in college and have maintained an interest in the beautiful, complicated country ever since, so I checked out the book.

Oh my.

I did not know what I was getting into. This story is about two girls, Poornima and Savitha, who form a close friendship in childhood, but due to a devastating event, are separated from one another. The story chronicles their individual stories and how they always keep the faith to try to find their way back to one another.

This story is gripping, tragic, hopeful, and heartbreaking. Each girl shows a strength and resilience that is remarkable and inspiring, and the author writes in a way that kept me absolutely captivated, even when the content dealt with horrific events. The girls experience some of the worst of humanity, and their stories were difficult to read at times. Even though this is a work of fiction, it’s written in a way that seems very realistic (and unfortunately, I know enough about life in India for low-socioeconomic girls to know that their stories could be true, which is hard to fathom and process while reading). The story still manages to uplift and I admired the grit and willpower of each girl to keep going even when their situations felt overwhelming. Overall, I think this book is a compelling read and I highly recommend, (with the caveat that it does deal with heavy topics like human trafficking, sexual abuse, and extreme gender inequality, so if those topics are triggering for you, you might want to choose another read). 

Whew! That’s a wrap on August’s books. What have you been reading and loving lately?