Best Books I read in 2020

December 18, 2020


 I recently found a note in my phone that I'd created in January with some goals for the year ahead (LOL). This year has obviously felt like a decade so I barely remember writing those goals but one of them was to read more books than last year which I officially accomplished! I'm currently at 39 books and hoping to make it an even 40 in the next couple of weeks. I'm so behind on Recent Reads posts so I decided to just do a year end wrap up with my favorite books I read this year. 

Unmarriageable. I read this book in January and LOVED it. Still can't believe that was this year. It's a semi-modern (early 2000s) retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan. I wouldn't say that I'm a huge Pride and Prejudice fan but I do love a retelling of the classic story and this version does not disappoint. 

Discovery of Witches trilogy. I was in the middle of this series when the pandemic took over our lives and it really is the perfect quarantine trilogy. This series is set in a world where witches, vampires and daemons exist. When a witch named Diana opens a magical book that hasn't been seen in years it sets into motion all of the creatures coming out of the woodwork. One of those creatures is Matthew de Clermont, a centuries old vampire. They team up together, despite witches and vampires spending time together being a taboo, and eventually start to fall for one another. You'll fall in love with Matthew, the world that Deborah Harkness has built is something special and there are some pretty steamy scenes. There's a show on Sundance as well that has Matthew Goode as Matthew de Clermont 😍 and lots of beautiful European landscapes. 

Normal People. I read this in January so again truly can't believe it was this year and that the show also came out this year (howwww) but I really enjoyed this book. It's set in Ireland and follows the on and off relationship between Connell and Marianne as they move through high school into university. Their relationship evolves in such interesting ways over the years as they come together and apart over and over. This book does a great job of exploring relationships and mental health. I will also say that I think this is a rare case where the show was actually better than the book. The actors were fantastic, they had such great chemistry and it was shot so beautifully. So read the book and then binge the show if you haven't! 

Such a Fun Age. This book transitions back and forth between Emira, a young Black woman, and Alix, her white employer's point of views. Emira is in her mid-20's and while she's trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life she is a part-time nanny for Alix's family. At the beginning of the book Emira is with the child she nanny's at the grocery store and gets stopped because the security guard suspects she has kidnapped the child since she is a Black woman with a white child (not a spoiler it's in the book description!). The book then follows the aftermath and how that incident shapes the relationship between Alix and Emira. I really enjoyed this book and it was one of our book club picks over the summer and made for a great discussion. 

The Wedding Party. Jasmine Guillory can always be counted on for a delightful escape. Her first book The Wedding Date, is one of my faves that set up this universe of characters. She's since written several books that are kind of like spinoffs about other characters from the original book. You can start with The Wedding Date or jump in anywhere else and it will still make sense. Maddie and Theo can't stand each other but are both best friends with Alexa, who is getting married, so they find themselves forced to spend time together as they help Alexa plan her wedding. During their forced time together they realize that there is an attraction between them that they just can't shake and that Alexa absolutely cannot find out about. This book was delightfully steamy, which Jasmine Guillory does so well. The perfect break from the current stress of the real world. 

Paper Princess trilogy. This on my best books list but I will start out by saying these are not "good" books. They're so bad they're good. There are three books in the series and I read all three of them in a week because I couldn't get enough. Ella, is a high school student making her way through life with no family and no support system. She even resorts to stripping (stick with me here) to support herself. Then her dead father's best friend, Callum Royal, finds her and asks her to come live with him and his five sons at their mansion. These books are the perfect example of what Grace from Bad on Paper calls "rich unsupervised teens" and I am HERE for it. Ella struggles to find her footing in this new world filled with money, mean girls and the Royal boys who are reluctant to let her into their lives. These books are semi-ridiculous but so addicting!

Homegoing. This is a multigenerational story that starts in Ghana in the 18th century and follows two half-sisters and their descendants. One sister marries a British officer who's stationed in the Gold Coast of Ghana, whereas the other sister is enslaved and sent to America. Each chapter follows a different descendant up until present day chronicling how colonization and slavery impact their descendants for generations to come. I loved this book. The subject matter is obviously dense and can be dark at times but you really get invested in all of the characters even though you only get to spend a chapter with them. This was one of those books that I constantly found myself doing supplemental googling to learn more about the Gold Coast and the slave trade in Ghana and Ghanaian history in general. 

On the Island. I will start by saying that I read this book in 36 hours. Ashley Spivey (one of my faves for book recs) likened it to The Idea of You, which you may know is one of my all time favorites. The Idea of You is definitely better but this book scratched that same itch. Anna, who is 30, is traveling to the Maldives for the summer to be a tutor to TJ, who is 16 and missed a lot of school due to chemo treatments. Their private plane crashes on the way and they find themselves on a deserted island just the two of them. As the years on the island pass they become friends and eventually more. I know it sounds slightly creepy but I promise it's not and nothing happens with them until TJ is 18. This was another good-bad book but I tore through it because I needed to see what happened.

HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style. I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth Holmes (no, not the one of Theranos fame) who is a former WSJ reporter who spent 10 years reporting on the business of fashion. Better known as @eholmes on IG, Elizabeth has grown a dedicated following of royal enthusiasts on social media. She has a very popular segment she does called So Many Thoughts where she comments on what Kate and Meghan wear and the messages they're sending through their clothing. She wrote a book this year that analyzes the stylings of the Queen, Diana, Meghan and Kate and it is phenom. I devoured it! There are tons of gorgeous photos but plenty of Thoughts as well in typical @eholmes fashion. I love how much of an advocate she is for normalizing that fashion isn't frivolous. You can say so much about yourself with what you wear. You can vote with your dollars for ethical business practices, supporting persons of color, support causes that matter to you, help small businesses and so much more. This would be the perfect book for the royal enthusiast in your life!

Open Book. I couldn't forget Jessica Simpson's memoir! I listened to this as an audiobook and could not get enough. I am not a regular audiobook consumer but it's fun to hear the celebrity narrate their story. I didn't know much about Jessica's backstory but had heard such great things that I gave it a try. Let me just tell you, she does not hold back. She goes all in talking about all of her exes (Nick! John! Tony!) and talks about the abuse she faced as a child and her alcohol dependence as an adult. I wouldn't say I was a huge JS fan but this book has made a stan out of me. Girlfriend runs a billion dollar clothing company and just signed a huge content deal with Amazon so she's doing big things even though she may not be in the spotlight. 

What's the best book you read this year?

xo Catherine 

Favorite recent purchases

September 24, 2020

Hello hello! Wow, it's been a minute, huh? Without meaning to I took a little six month hiatus from the blog. I don't think I need to to explain why since we're all living through the same things right now! I just could not find any energy to spare on the blog and then kept getting overwhelmed about starting again because there was so much to catch up on in six months. So I decided to just dive in with some favorite recent purchases. I do have several other drafts going that I've been working on for months that hopefully I'll finish up soon because it's content I'm really excited about like our house-buying process and house updates. But for now, here are a few things I've been raving about IRL.
Since these are the hottest new accessory I wanted to share my favorites! This rainbow one is definitely my favorite but it's a bit summery so I wanted to get some fall masks (lol what a world we live in) so I got two different leopard ones. This one is a bit fancier but these are also nice because they come in a pack of three and are reversible so if you're not feeling the leopard you can do the black. 

These just might be my best COVID purchase. I wear them every single day no matter the season. They've held up super well over the last six months, are cozy and provide great support while I'm doing things around the house too. 

I don't know about you but my face is the first place I start to sweat...TMI? This Megababe powder is a GAME CHANGER for face-sweat. Technically it's called Bust Dust and is meant for boob sweat, which isn't a huge issue for me, so I just use it on my face. They do have a Body Dust as well, which is the same formula, but I like the pump on the Bust Dust bottle so that I can put it on a makeup brush to apply. Highly recommend!

Speaking of things for your face, this hair remover has been so great for any unwanted hair. It's easy to use and completely painless. 

This isn't anything revolutionary but my mom had this wine opener and after trying it a couple of times at her house I bought it myself. The charge lasts for months, it's easy to use and it has a foil cutter attached for convenience. 

After seeing all of my favorite influencers post about Supergoop's Glowscreen I decided to give it a try and let me tell's worth the hype. I am not a face makeup person, or really any makeup right now TBH, so I was a bit intimidated when I first saw it in person because it has some pigment to it. It goes on beautifully and ends up looking very sheer, not at all cakey and just overall perfectly glowy. It's all I'm wearing in the above photo! It's like a moisturizing highlighter for your whole face ;)

If you're not already following Things I Bought and Liked you should remedy that immediately because when TIBAL recommends something, you listen up. So when she posted about this posture corrector I added it to my cart immediately because I've been having all sorts of back issues from my WFH setup and being a stomach sleeper. It provides immediate relief for me and my chiropractor gave it her blessing. As a heads up the brand is TRUWEO and it's paired with a flag on the back so at first glance it looks like it says Trump. Just don't want you to be alarmed and wonder WTF did I buy?! 😂

xo Catherine 

Core 10 Favorites

March 22, 2020

I wanted to pop in today to share some of my favorite pieces from Amazon's athletic brand Core 10. I've talked about Core 10 on here and Instagram before but wanted to put everything in one place. This is especially timely because, like many of you, I am working from home for the foreseeable future and so that means lots of cozy clothes. I already had several things from them but ordered a few new things to up my #quarantinecozies game. I also have a few cute sweatsuits on the way from the Nordstrom sale which I'm excited about! 

Working from home, and just being at home all the time for that matter, has definitely been an adjustment. I miss my coworkers and actually miss getting dressed every day, but not enough to do my hair and makeup most days. Ha! I've just been trying to really focus on taking care of myself. I've been walking the dog daily, keeping up with my regular exercise routine, meditating, puzzling and have a therapy session on Tuesday which should be helpful. Anyway, let's get to it!
I just got both of these this week and have been wearing them nonstop. There are joggers that technically go with this sweatshirt that I ordered too but I liked these ones better. They're a little sporty but very comfortable. The best thing though is this sweatshirt. It's described as "cloud soft" and it could not be more accurate. It's sooo soft and has a little stretch which is nice. Highly recommend! 

I've had these joggers for months and they're the best. I've got several people buy them and everyone loves them. They're ultra-soft and hold up really well after lots of washing. I have them in two colors. 

I got both of these for tennis because I didn't have any athletic wear that was in good enough shape to be seen in public. I have these leggings in two colors and love them. They have pockets, are nice and thick and come up high on my waist. This quarter zip is really nice for working out too. It's lightweight and has thumb holes. 

I haven't had a bad experience with Core 10 yet. I've really liked everything that I bought from them and they're all at a good price point. 

Stay safe and stay sane friends! 

xo Catherine 

What I Wore to Work For a Month Part 3

February 3, 2020

I'm back with a third installment of What I Wore to Work for a Month! These posts are definitely a labor of love but they're always really popular. I understand why as I love getting a peek into people's everyday lives too! I've said it before but I'll say it again, I work at a very casual advertising agency so my outfits will reflect that. I do like to get a little bit dressed up but you'll see a good amount of sneakers too :) If you want to see previous versions you can find part one here and part two here. So without further ado, here is what I wore to work for a month!

xo Catherine 

Double piercings + Dainty earrings

January 22, 2020

I finally did something that I've been thinking about for months: I got my ears double pierced! My friend Mary and I have been wanting to do it for a while now partly because we love Emily Schuman from Cupcakes and Cashmere and are inspired by her style. I'm happy to say we finally bit the bullet! I'll be honest, I was the one holding us back though. We kept setting a date to do it and then I would back out. I'm not sure why but the decision was giving me a lot of anxiety and I even talked to my therapist about it! On Saturday I was finally fully on board so we went to a local tattoo shop and now we have double piercings! Part of the reason that we'd been wanting to get the piercings was because we really love all of the beautiful dainty earrings that are out right now so I wanted to share some of my favorites. Since we've been talking about doing this for months I've had some time to start stockpiling earrings and I have my eye on a few more pieces too. I can't wait until I can start switching them out and really having fun with different mixing and matching!
I've been having the most luck finding cute things at Madewell, Cupcakes and Cashmere, Baublebar, Amazon, Etsy and Mejuri. Here are some of my favorites!
Madewell: I have these small chunky hoops (shown above) which are a really great staple as well as these pretty gem studs (also shown above). I like the studs better when they're kind of crawling up the ear but can't show that right now since I can't swap out my second earring yet. However, here is a picture I took of some barrettes where I happen to be wearing them in my preferred way before the double piercings :)

Cupcakes and Cashmere: I got these Harlow mini hoops for Christmas (shown above) and they're sooo cute and dainty in person. I have my eye on several more pairs from this shop but the one I'm most excited about is this pretty stud with an attached cuff. I have no plans to pierce my cartilage but I love the look. I'm also eyeing these pretty drops and these unique hoops.
BaubleBar: I got these simple pavé huggies (above) and they're so cute and great quality. Again, I love the look of a cuff and am eyeing this set and these as well! These dainty hoops with a little sparkle are adorable and this chained double huggie is very cool. Trying to decide if I could pull that one off!

Amazon: If you're looking for a nice starter pack this set has a little bit of everything. Amazon as a whole has such a good selection of everything now that you could probably find any pair you're looking for on there!

Etsy: If you were looking for a really nice solid gold pair of hoops, these are beautiful. I'm loving this pair of unique studs. If you need a pair of dainty CZ studs as a staple in your jewelry collection these look really pretty and have great reviews.

Mejuri: This is a new to me brand but they Instagram targeted the sh*t out of me and I finally clicked over to discover some truly beautiful pieces! I plan on stealing this idea from one of my friends but I want to buy this delicate chain that can attach to any stud and add it on to my piercing earrings after a few weeks. That way they can stay in while I wait for them to heal but look a little bit more fun than just regular studs! I'm also loving these double hoops and these dainty drop earrings.

xo Catherine

Favorite Recent Purchases

January 20, 2020

It's been a while since I shared the things I can't get enough of so I'm back with another installment of favorite recent purchases!

Birdies. As we've well established by now I am a huge fan of the royal family. I won't get into all of the drama that's been going on with Harry and Meghan because I'm still trying to work out how I feel about it but I have been continually inspired by Meghan's style. After seeing some of my favorite bloggers post about Birdies I was intrigued and after seeing that Meghan has a pair and wears them a ton I was sold. I bought the seasonal green velvet edition of the Starling (they're on sale right now!) and am in love. They are so gorgeous in person and supremely comfortable. I went up a half size and cannot recommend enough. I want a second pair!
Amazon headbands. I had stocked up on headbands for summer but needed a few that were more wintery so I took to Amazon. I wanted a leopard one and an emerald green velvet one but unfortunately I wasn't able to find ones I liked that were sold alone so I bought some variety packs. I am now set on the winter headband front for a long time! Here are the velvet ones I got and the leopard. Lots to choose from!
Core 10 leggings. I posted about these on Instagram but wanted to share them here too. Core 10 is an Amazon athletic brand that I've been really into lately. I started playing tennis last year and joined a league in the fall so I was on the hunt for some new workout wear. I normally just workout at home so it doesn't matter what I wear but since I am now seen in public I needed some cute options! I bought these leggings in camo and black and am very impressed. I needed ones with pockets to hold tennis balls so these are great. They've held up really well and are nice and thick.
Madewell jeans. I had one pair of Madewell jeans and decided to buy another pair or two when they were doing 40% off for Black Friday. I got this pair of black skinnies and this pair of lighter wash skinnies. The black pair are pretty standard but I am really digging the lighter pair! I'm not normally a huge light wash denim fan but something about these is so great. The fit is amazing and I just all around feel so good when I wear them. 
My under-eye trifecta: Nars Creamy Concealer, Ole Henrickson Banana Bright Eye Cream and Weleda Skin Food. I also posted about these on Instagram because they're my new favorite trio. At night I use the skin food as eye cream because it is insanely hydrating. I'm talking wake-up-in-the-morning-and-my-under-eyes-still-feel-moist hydrated (gross, I know). Anyway, then I use the Ole Henrickson eye cream in the morning which works as a great base for under concealer. Apparently some people don't like the smell but I think it's delightful. My other final favorite under-eye product is the Nars creamy concealer. I knew this was a cult favorite but had yet to try and am so glad I did! The reason for this whole routine is that my skin is extremely dry. I think it's a combination of living in MN again and the fact that I use retinol regularly. The concealer I was previously using worked great when my skin was oilier but wasn't cutting it anymore. This one goes on great, you barely need any, lasts all day and doesn't really crease. My under eyes have never looked better!
J. Crew Factory tank tops. The final thing I wanted to share were these J. Crew tank tops that are a staple in my closet. I bought the tan version a few years ago and recently picked up the black. These are the best for wearing under anything sheer or thin to smooth things out. Most of my bras have lace on them and if I'm wearing a certain type of top you can see the lace texture which I don't like so I'll put one of these on underneath. They're also great if you want to wear a button down under a sweater. I'll wear one over the button down so that it's not all bunched up and the buttons won't show through the sweater that way.

That's all I've got for today! A random assortment but all great products. 

xo Catherine

Recent Reads: Vol. 23

January 6, 2020

Well hello there and happy 2020! As per usual I am very behind on sharing what I've been reading so some of these aren't so recent after all. There are some really good books on this list though and a lot of them are by women of color so definitely worth supporting these amazing authors!

Three Women. It feels like this was the “it” book of 2019. Lisa Taddeo spent years interviewing several women and narrowed it down to three that she followed for this book. There’s Maggie, who had a relationship with her high school teacher. There’s Lina, who is in an unfulfilling marriage. Finally, there’s Sloane whose husband likes to watch her have sex with other people. The book explores all of these women’s love lives and sexuality over the course of eight years. We read this for my book club and it definitely lead to a lot of great discussion. However, I overall did not like this book. I felt like it had the opportunity to be really great and interesting and empowering but it was mostly just sad. All three women were dealing with a lot of trauma and unhappiness in their lives and it just wasn’t enjoyable. 
Rating: B-

Park Avenue Summer. This is the novelization of Helen Gurly Brown becoming the Editor in Chief of Cosmo in 1965. It’s told from her fictional assistant Alice’s POV. Alice comes to New York from the midwest hoping to become a photographer and lands a job as Helen’s assistant. At this point in time Cosmo was a magazine for men and women but Helen is the one who built it into what it is today: a magazine for women. I didn’t know anything about Helen Gurly Brown so this was a fun way to read about her and it definitely had some Mad Men vibes, which was a bonus. 
Rating: B+

Her Royal Highness. This is the second book in the Royals series by Rachel Hawkins. You guys know I love a good royal novel! Millie is an American teen who applies to go to boarding school in Scotland and is thrilled when she is accepted. Upon arrival she finds that she is rooming with Princess Flora of Scotland and things do not get off to a good start. Flora and Millie can’t stand each other...that is until they start to develop feelings for one another. This book wasn’t amazing but it was pretty cute! A great beach read.
Rating: B

American Royals. I guess I spoke too soon about the “it” book of 2019 because this was definitely a contender as well! This is by Katharine McGee, who also wrote the Thousandth Floor series which is one of my favorites. American Royals reimagines what America would be like if George Washington was the first King of America and not the president. The book centers around Princess Beatrice, who will become queen one day, Princess Samantha, Prince Jefferson and the people who surround them. I really enjoyed this book even though it was very predictable at times. 
Rating: A-

An American Marriage. We read this for my book club as well and again had some really great discussions come out of this one. It explores what happens to a marriage when someone is wrongfully convicted of a crime. Celestial and Roy have only been married for a year when Roy is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The book is told from both of their perspectives as they try to navigate an extremely unfortunate situation. The book takes a look at race, marriage, family relationships and the criminal justice system in a really interesting way. I was definitely invested and wanted to know how it ended but I was really annoyed by all of the main characters. They were all pretty unlikeable. 
Rating: B+

American Spy. Apparently I was very into books with “American” in the title this fall! Marie is an intelligence officer for the FBI in the ‘80’s where she is often overlooked because she is a young black woman amongst a lot of old white men. One day she is approached by a task force that wants her to get close to Thomas Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso who has Communist leanings. America sees him as a threat and wants Marie to get close to him, seduce him and pass along any information. The book is based on true events so it was fun to learn something new. I had basically zero knowledge about Burkina Faso or Sankara so I really enjoyed this and found myself doing a lot of googling while reading it. 
Rating: A

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. Imagine what it must be like to be a therapist going to therapy. Lori Gottlieb is a real-life therapist who starts seeing a therapist after a personal crisis sends her into a tailspin. Her memoir is a combination of stories about her patients and her own experience as a patient. I really loved this book and it made me think about my own experience with therapy a little bit differently. Would definitely recommend!

Royal Holiday. I have read several of Jasmine Guillory’s books and thoroughly enjoyed every single one. This was no exception! Vivian is a native Californian in her 50’s who has only left the U.S. once. So when she has the opportunity to accompany her daughter Maddie to the U.K. over Christmas she jumps at it. Maddie is a stylist and has been selected to help the Dutchess (a thinly veiled Meghan Markle) pull looks for all of her Christmas events. Vivian and Maddie are staying at the Duke and Duchess’ cottage in Sandringham when Vivian meets Malcolm, a private secretary to the queen. Vivian and Malcolm hit it off and have a whirlwind holiday romance. It was the perfect holiday book but it wasn’t too Christmasy so you could enjoy it any time of the year!
Rating: A

My Sister the Serial Killer. After Korede’s sister Ayoola kills her third boyfriend in a row Korede must acknowledge that she is officially a serial killer. Worst of all she’s been protecting her by helping clean up and get rid of the bodies. Once Ayoola sets her sights on Tade, who Korede has been in love with for years, she is forced to deal with her complicitness and has to figure out how far she’ll go to protect her sister. I don’t think I would have ever picked this book for myself but I really enjoyed it. It’s a quick read and the chapters are short so you can really breeze through it. 
Rating: A

American Princess. One last book with “American” and something royal in the title! This book came recommended by Hitha and I checked it out from the library without really looking at the plot summary. It’s the novelization of Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s very interesting life. Alice was Theodore Roosevelt’s first daughter with his first wife who died during childbirth. She grows up in the white house while her father is president and everyone is enraptured by her, the press has even dubbed her Princess Alice. Another case where I didn’t know anything about the subject and loved learning something new in a novelized format. This book was a long one but I really liked it!
Rating: A

Unmarriageable. Another recommendation from Hitha! Unmarriageable is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan circa 2000. Alysba Binat is one of the five unmarried Binat sisters, much to their mother’s distress. After Alys meets Valentine Darsee at a wedding it’s hate at first sight and yet they keep running into each other. I wasn’t a huge Pride and Prejudice fan when I read it, granted I was a sophomore in high school, but I love retellings of the classic story. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield was amazing and obviously Bridget Jones’s Diary is excellent. Anyway, I couldn’t put it down and just really really loved this book. 
Rating: A+

xo Catherine

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