⭐⭐⭐💫 3.5 stars | Weather Girl is my second Rachel Lynn Solomon book and I think I can say with confidence that she has a knack for creating charming contemporary romances with heart. Ari Abrams has wanted to be a TV meteorologist since she was a kid and now she's got her dream job and dream boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale. But her boss is more preoccupied with fighting her ex-husband, the station's news director, than mentoring Ari and it's affecting the whole office. She and fellow coworker, sports reporter Russell Barringer, decide to team up to discreetly help their bosses get back together. In the process, Ari and Russell end up in a romance of their own as they get to know one another more and more, but of course both are dealing with individual internal struggles that will determine the future of their relationship. 


First of all, I loved the news station setting and how much Ari geeked out over weather (you don't see this a lot in books!). Second, the trope of two people falling in love while trying to set up another couple is just delightful. Predictable -- sure. Does that matter? Not at all. It was just fun to watch the ways in which Ari and Russell thought about getting their bosses together, seeing their excitement when their plans worked, and most importantly of all, seeing the chemistry and romance grow between these two. There are so many layers to Ari and Russell, which I don't want to spoil so I'll keep this as vague as I can. But with Ari, the synopsis alludes to her always running on optimism which isn't something a person can do 24/7, and I related very much to that attempt at keeping a smile on her face even in dire situations. And with Russell, he's just so sweet and reserved (for perfectly good reasons) that I loved seeing the sexier and more carefree side of him with Ari.  They just complemented each other so well! 


Do I recommend?
I do! I will say that The Ex-Talk continues to be my favorite from this author, but I liked this one a lot! The points I "docked" for lack of a better word had to do with what ended up being the conflict (I didn't really see the big deal). 


***
pub 1/11/22 by Berkley 
Received e-ARC/finished copy for review
Adult - Contemporary Romance
Goodreads | Author


Here are some non-bookish articles I really liked this past month and my latest loves.


Links
1 / You all know I'm Filipino and I love my big (sometimes crazy) family but we're not perfect and I've experienced my fair share of toxic behavior. This article from Cambio & Co on how not to be a toxic Tita (translation: aunt) really struck home for me. 

2 / Mental health is the top of mind these days and HuffPost shared "22 Tiny Mental Health Habits That Can Improve Your Life in 2022," which I think is worth reading. 

3 / Secret NYC posted about this new and longest train journey from Portugal to Singapore! Even though I've become comfortable with planes, I wouldn't say that I love them. But there's something about a long train ride that really appeals to me. Maybe one day! 

4 / Thank goodness for petite fashion bloggers! Finding jeans is always a struggle but this recent guide from Pumps & Pushups introduced me to new petite denim brands so I immediately ordered 2 new pairs from LC Lauren Conrad (who would've guessed?!).

5 / My friend Kristin over at Merrily Kristin shared her 2022 Fashion Wish List and I love it! She also mentions how I have a folder in my photos filled with screenshots of things I want, which helps me to curb my impulse buying, and it's surprisingly satisfying to delete things from it too. 

6 / Damsel in Dior was inspired by one of her friends to create this "master list" on her blog of the items, ranging from clothes and makeup to home goods, of items she loves and keeps returning to over and over again. I'm kind of inspired to do the same! What do we think? If I did it, I'd probably cover clothes, makeup, bags, shoes, and skin/haircare. 

7 / I love word games and I totally got suckered into the latest trend Wordle. If you haven't heard about it yet, read all about it here on Mashable, along with some useful tips. 

Loves

1 /
I bought New Yorker Strand Puzzle (Kristin influenced me!) back in April but I finally put it together during my holiday staycation. I love it! So much so that I actually hung it up next to my desk (which I never do with puzzles). 

2 / I'm a Selena fan and when I found out about this podcast, Anything for SelenaI immediately started listening! It's one season, 9 episodes long and I've been enjoying it so much. I actually still have the final episode left but I've been putting it off since I don't want it to be over. 

3 / The Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick (in sand for reference) used to be my staple foundation years ago but I tend to switch foundations after a year or so to try something else. I haven't loved the staying power of my current one (Nars Soft Matte, which is beautiful when first applied but hours later... not so much) so I randomly thought of BB's foundation stick and ordered it on a whim. And omg, why did I ever switch?! It's super, super light coverage, great match for my skin, and just wears really well throughout the day. 


***

Do you have any links or loves to share?
Would love to hear about them!


⭐⭐
 3 stars |  Emma Lord’s novels never fail to engage me meaning that with her three novels (all of which I’ve read), I either liked them or really liked them and in the case of When You Get A Chance, it was the former. I liked it but the level of disbelief I needed to suspend paired with the overall outlandish-ness made it hard for me to love. That said, it was still entertaining! 


Millie Price is determined to become a Broadway star and is willing to go through some enormous hoops to get there. She’s loud and brash (the total opposite of me and admittedly hard for me to relate to) but I admired her tenacity to go after her dreams. Her introverted dad, who raised her alone, is supportive but doesn’t want her to leave home to pursue said dream. When Millie randomly discovers her dad’s LiveJournal from 2003 (this made me roll my eyes and also aged me quite a bit because now that I think about it, am I the same age as her dad?!), she decides to use his entries as clues to find her mom, who’s been AWOL for most of her life, to help support her. She narrows it down to three women and proceeds to worm her way into each of their lives to figure out who’s the one. It’s very Mamma Mia-like, which is kind of the point, and downright insane in my humble opinion. But like I said, she’s determined. And what  ended up grounding this plot point (aside from the group of level-headed people in her life, who I all adored) is that it’s not just about finding her mom to help support her Broadway dreams. It’s about finding herself and discovering her roots, and I think that’s something we all can relate to. 


What’s your favorite Broadway show? I will never forget the experience of seeing Wicked with the original cast so that’s what first comes to mind. But Moulin Rouge is a close second. 




Collaborative feature with Alexa. We read ARCs together and post our reviews on the same date.

Happy New Year! I'm still wrapping my head around the fact that it's 2022. A new year for me usually means a fresh start and a whole new set of goals to tackle. And while the former is definitely still true, I'm not so sure about the latter. 2019 was a tough year for me and then the last two years of the pandemic tackled onto that... well, it's been a lot and I've realized the kindest thing I can do for myself right now is to not place any more pressure or stress on my shoulders. 

So instead of labeling these as goals or resolutions, I'm just going to tell you what I hope to do this year (which might look a lot like last year and the year before that) but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. And if it does, then great! 

Here are my hopes for 2022: 

Savor every joyous moment and "devour my nicest things." I saw both of these on Instagram and just loved the sentiment behind them. On New Year's Eve, my cousin asked me what were some of my favorite days from the past year. And I think he was a bit surprised because I just started blurting out a bunch of things but truthfully, I could clearly picture those moments and I think, more than ever, it's important to cherish all the good, whether those moments are big or small, with my family and friends. And for the second part, it's about not waiting for special occasions to use the nice dress or being afraid of messing up a pretty notebook. Instead of waiting for an "unspecified future moment," just use the nice dress at home or designer bag to the grocery store (which I totally do). With both of these, it's all about being in the moment and I want to continue doing that. 

Read at least 100 books.
I mean this is just a given at this point. I'll continue to review, buy, borrow, and buddy-read books all year long. I'm excited to find new favorites and hopefully diversify my reading even more (I see more manga in my future). Plus, my Paranormal Book Club with Alexa, DJ, and Kristin continues to live on!

Journal, online and in an actual notebook. My private online photo journal has become a part of my daily routine at this point. It's hard to believe this will be my third year continuing with it but I love documenting each day with a photo and a small snippet. It actually helps me to be in the moment and remember it. Then, a couple months ago I re-reread a bunch of my diaries that I had from 1994 until early 2003. It was both cringe-y and amazing to see my younger self's thoughts throughout the years. It brought up memories I'd long forgotten and also reminded me of the ways I have and haven't changed. It ended up inspiring me to write in a journal again, which I started to do last month and I want to continue with it this year. But no pressure. I don't need to write every single day, just when the mood strikes.  

Take better care of my physical and mental health. I always have physical health on my list and to be honest, I'm struggling a lot with my weight at the moment. I'd love to get back to a weight I feel good in but I'm also not going to beat myself up over it. I think being more active is what I really need in my life, which will benefit me both physically and mentally, so I'm hoping to make more time for that again this year and try to stick with it. Then I started to deal a lot with anxiety last year but now that I'm more aware of what triggers me and how to handle it, I want to continue taking care of myself and learn how to have true rest days (I struggle with a need to always be productive). 

Go on another vacation. The dream would be Paris again with Alexa or even London again by myself. But honestly, I would be happy with another East Coast road trip or a week long beach vacation with my cousins. As long as I get to travel somewhere with the people I love, I'll be happy! 

Start tracking finances again and resume house hunting. And finally, the two biggest adulting things on my list. I'm good at saving and budgeting my finances and really doubled down these last couple of years. But I always, always fall off the bandwagon from November to December because of all the holidays (no regrets!). So using January to resume my usual finance tracking is pretty normal. But I would also love to resume townhouse hunting and hopefully find something this year. I don't want to settle for just any place though so I'm happy to take my time. I still love my apartment anyway, minus the kitchen. But finding a beautiful, two bedroom townhome close to my dad would be the dream. 


***

What are your hopes/goals/resolutions for 2022?


As I began working on this post today and trying to figure out how to sum up 2021, I figured I'd start with the easiest part and put together my collage first. In putting it together, I (just) realized it has 12 photos so I thought, why not do something different and choose one photo from each month in 2021 to highlight. As I went through my albums, it became a walk down memory lane and it reminded me that I shouldn't let the last two weeks of pandemic anxiety, fatigue, and uncertainty (all of which I've been feeling on and off all year but especially lately) negate what a wonderful year 2021 turned out to be in spite of all that. 

I've always looked at the new year as a clean slate and I can't think of a better way to end 2021 than with family (going to my Dad's later!) and with gratitude. So here's what I'm grateful for from this past year: 

Being vaccinated and boosted. I'm not trying to be a PSA here but if I'm going to be 100% honest, this is the first thing that comes to mine. Being vaccinated (along with my friends and family) is what allowed us to have some semblance of normalcy. Being able to gather again in groups, outdoor and indoor. I could walk into my dad's house without a mask. My nephew could finally see my face. And even when people around me did get COVID, their symptoms were mild. It provided me with a lot of peace of mind. 

Gathering with family. Our first big family get together in over a year was for my birthday and it was the best present ever. There was nothing else I wanted more. I still remember that surreal moment when we were all inside the house without our masks on. We all kind of had this "whoa" look on our faces because it had been so long! Then we got together for my dad's birthday, my mom's 2nd anniversary, and Thanksgiving. I had missed these moments so much and I'm glad we got to have them again. 

My amazing friends. The last couple of years have been rough but I feel incredibly lucky to have such a great group of friends who readily give their love, support, and make me laugh. Alexa and I continued with our monthly hangouts and once I started going back into the office, we resumed monthly breakfasts too (not to mention trip planning!). We plus Kristin and DJ were able to make plans multiple times. DJ and I went to Cold Spring, NY. Carina and I had monthly dinners, plus went to the Harry Potter NYC Store and Storm King. Mary Ann and I had our brunch dates. Not to mention, the near daily texts with all of them reminding me that I'm not alone. 

Going back to the office. I know this is an odd one since most people don't want to go back to the office. But working from home on top of living alone just isn't great for my psyche. I like going in to work and so I didn't mind the hybrid model of working from home 3 days and going in for 2. I genuinely like my coworkers too and since I moved my seat, I basically sit with all my work buddies. It's constant chatter, gossip, and going out for lunch. My favorite days of the work week were usually when I was there. 

I went on a trip! This is a big one because you all know how much I love and need travel in my life. Alexa and I road-tripped to Stowe, Vermont and it was exactly what I needed. The drive didn't feel long at all (thanks to our constant conversation and amazing playlist) and once we got there, we just fell in love with the fall foliage. We took drives every day to see prime spots, explored local tourist sights, ate good food, and just relaxed. It is not an understatement when I say this trip was one of my highlights of the entire year. 

And so much more. My baby nephew Ian who is a ray of sunshine in all our lives and a joy to watch grow up. My health, both physical and mental, and still learning every day how to take care of both. Getting that promotion at work. Being able to splurge on nice things. My relationships with my cousins. Having hobbies, like reading, which provide me with so much joy. I could go on and on! 

Those are my reflections for 2021! No year is perfect and while it certainly had its ups and downs, I'm grateful for the semblance of normalcy this year brought and I can't wait to see what 2022 brings! 


***
Thank you for reading my blog and hope you all have a Happy New Year!



I'm still finding it hard to process that we're 4 days away from a new year! But here we are and I have my final end of year list to share and it's all about music, TV, and movies. I definitely listened and watched in abundance during 2021 so I'm excited to share my favorites. 

Most listened-to songs
These songs are actually in order, starting with my most-listened to song (last.fm helps me figure this out!) and here's what I realized about my 2021 listening habits: 

... my music taste continues to be all over the place
... my #1 song was Kiss Me More by Doja Cat, feat. SZA
... my #2 was Brooklyn by Patrick Droney, whose music I fell in love with this year so he actually shows up a couple times on this list. 
... even though I clearly have a penchant for upbeat songs, there's a bit more indie rock/folk in here which makes me happy. 
... I still love a good cover (see Your Sunday, September, and ily)
... I was feeling really nostalgic, hence the two Schulyer Fisk songs. 
... this list wouldn't be complete without at least one Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande song. 


Top TV shows
I went big with my TV binges this year! And when I say that, I mean I was starting shows that had anywhere from 6 to 15 seasons under their belt. But I really did watch a lot of amazing TV so no regrets! 

Became an all-time favorite | Heartland, Fruits Basket: The Final, Downton Abbey

Best of new-to-me shows | Lupin (Part 1 and 2), Wandavision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Shadow and Bone,  LA’s Finest, Defending Jacob,  Only Murders in the Building, Maid, Roswell New Mexico, Hawkeye

Oldies that still rocked | Grey's Anatomy (S18), This Is Us (S5), Burden of Truth (S4), Cobra Kai (S3), The Babysitters Club (S2), Discovery of Witches (S2)

Honorable mentions | Trese, Squid Games (neither of these were new favorites but I appreciated them both)



Top Movies
For the second year in a row, I really made a point to watch other movies (aside from just Marvel) and I'm proud to say that I have 10 movies to share. 

To All the Boys: Always & Forever • To say this was the perfect ending to the trilogy would be an understatement. I've loved every film and this was a beautiful send off. 

Yellow Rose • A young Filipina-American struggling with losing her mom to deportation and also trying to become a country singer -- I knew I had to watch this and it did not disappoint. 

Hello, Love, Goodbye • I rarely watch Tagalog movies but one of my best friends told me I had to watch this. And it was SO good! It was very different from any other Filipino movie I've watched and it was interesting to see what life was like for overseas workers. 

Black Widow • This was long overdue and I wish it had been released earlier (aka the time that the movie takes place in) but I loved it. I know it's not a fan favorite for everyone, but it is for me. 

The Last Letter From Your Lover • You know I'm not easily impressed with movie adaptations of books but this was surprisingly great! They captured the book incredibly well and Shailene Woodley played the lead role to perfection. She really impresses me!

Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed • I was obsessed with Bob Ross as a kid and watched him paint almost every day on PBS so I was very curious to watch this documentary. And wow, it was extremely eye-opening! But it also made me appreciate what Boss Ross wanted to do with his painting even more. I actually started watching old episodes again! 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings • This is the first Marvel movie that made think fight scenes could also be beautiful choreography. It was awesome to see an Asian-led cast and I enjoyed it so, so much. 

Eternals • Unpopular opinion time: I really liked this! Thena and Gilgamesh's characters and relationship was the highlight for me. But again, I enjoyed that it didn't follow the typical Marvel movie mold. 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife • I saw this on a whim with my cousin and it far exceeded my expectations. It was just the right blend of modern, funny, and nostalgic (I watched the original movies as a kid). 

Spider-Man: No Way Home • Believe the hype with this one. I watched it a few weeks after it came out and it still blew my mind. Also, my fellow Filipinos will feel very seen with this one and that's all I'm going to say. 


***
What were some of your favorite music, movies and songs from this past year? 
Better yet - anything you'd like to recommend to me? 


I cannot believe it's time to share my favorite books of 2021 already! As I do these lists, it always makes me happy to look back on these amazing reads and see how my reading habits have evolved year after year. It's definitely more diverse, and truthfully a lot less YA-centric, which is to be expected. I wish I could say there was a theme to what ended up being a favorite but it's honestly all over the place and I don't think I'd have it any other way. So without further ado, here are my top 10 books of 2021 (in no particular order)

1. The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon | We had to wait 4 long years for this book, which meant there was a lot of time to build up our expectations for where the story could go and Shannon did not disappoint. This is my favorite installment in the series so far and it delivered on all fronts. 


2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara |
I kept seeing my favorite fashion influencers talk about this book (random, right?) and something about the cover kept drawing me in whenever I saw it at the bookstore. I decided to give it a shot and it is one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read. 


3. A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas | I think many of us can agree that we needed a Nesta/Cassian book and as per usual, Sarah J. Maas knocked it out of the park. Nesta is an incredible heroine in her own right and the romance with Cassian gave me ALL THE FEELINGS. 


4. Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez |
I have yet to read a Abby Jimenez book I didn't love and Life's Too Short had all the elements and incredible writing I've come to expect from her. 


5. The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout |
After the way A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire ended, I needed The Crown of Gilded Bones ASAP. I love where JLA has taken the story and I can't wait to see how the next installment plays out.


6. All Roads Lead to You by Jennifer Probst | I have been searching high and low for equestrian romance and I'll be honest, most of them have been duds. Then I bought All Roads Lead to You on a whim and it had everything I was looking for and more in this very niche genre. It took me completely by surprise. 


7. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey |
This is the first in a trilogy, which I did binge, but I'm going to pretend the third book doesn't exist (beyond bad) and the second doesn't need to be read (it was fine). But this first book is perfect for fans of horses, fantasy, and the Harper Hall Trilogy by Anne McCaffrey. It gave me that old-school classic children's fantasy vibe and I loved it. 


8. The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk | A ballet book with an Asian heroine? I mean, it had my name written all over it. I had to read it and I'm so glad I did. It not only delved into a young woman's ballet ambition but also very relevant, important topics like race. 


9. The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Warden |
Okay, there might be a small theme to my list because this is the third book on here involving horses but hey, I like what I like. It's a fantasy trilogy inspired by Russian folklore that's been around since 2017-2019. While I've always been curious, I only got to read it this year and it, by far, exceeded my expectations. 


10. Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | I remember when Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe was one of the most revered-YA books at the time it was released. When I heard there was going to be sequel all these years later, I couldn't believe it. This book is just as beautiful, raw, honest, and heartbreaking as the first. 


11. The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren |
To be completely honest, I haven't been feeling most of Christina Lauren's recent books which pains me because I love their earlier stuff so, so much. I picked up The Soulmate Equation because both Alexa and DJ highly recommended it and I'm glad I decided to listen. I absolutely loved this book! The chemistry and the steam-factor was a throwback to their initial books while the story and writing showed off how much they've grown and evolved as writers since. 


Honorable mentions:
Archangel's Sun + Archangel's Light by Nalini Singh,
Kingdom of the Wicked (+ Cursed) by Kerri Maniscalco,
The Ex Talk by Rachel Solomon,
The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. 

***
What are your favorite books from 2021?


We got to have Festive Fun Day with all three of us again this year (myself, Alexa, and Kristin) and it felt so good! Before I dive into the festivities though, I feel like I would be remiss not to mention that we are all very aware and worried about the Omicron variant in NYC. Which is why we took great pains to avoid crowds by starting our day at 8:30AM and leaving mid-afternoon, double-masking the entire time (except when we ate), and tried to avoid congested areas as much as possible. We all have plans to get tested multiple times this week because of the holidays so hopefully all will be well!


And with that out of the way, onto the photos:



We kicked things off with breakfast at Maman, which has truly become one of my favorite restaurants in the city. From there, we had tickets for Museum of Ice Cream to check out their Pinkmas Experience and it was so much fun! (Note: We got tickets for right when they opened and that is truly the way to go!) Both Alexa and I had been to MOIC when it first opened but it was pretty underwhelming at the time. This iteration of the museum is by far its best! 


There's obviously a ton of photo opportunities for your Instagram but the explosion of pink is just very much our aesthetic. Each room had an adorable theme (the pink subway was my favorite) and the activities were a lot more engaging. We got to choose our ice cream name (A, K and I chose Birthday Cake, Ube, and Red Velvet respectively), share what we're grateful for (friendship!), learn facts about ice cream (did you know it has the perfect mix of sugar and fat that our brains are designed to crave?), eat at stations set up for sweets (or alcohol), and jump into the sprinkle pool (but we completely avoided that cesspool of germs). We really enjoyed Pinkmas and best of all, we beat the crowd! 


After the museum, it was time to go shopping! We went to Tory Burch and the Hill House Home pop-up store. At the latter, we managed to find the sold-out Bridgerton-inspired nap dresses! You could only imagine how surprised and excited we were. Unfortunately they didn't have my size in the purple but Kristin and Alexa managed to snag a purple and pink one, respectively (so jealous!). The store is adorable though and a must-visit for #NapDressNation lovers in the area. Then we got the holiday special at Taiyaki Ice Cream but no indoor dining was allowed so we ate outside and luckily it wasn't too, too cold. From there we ended our day with Bryant Park to see the tree (too many people though so we quickly left after that) and Kinokuniya Books


***

I'm so grateful that we could continue our Festive Fun Day tradition this year! 

Welcome!
Welcome!

Hi, I’m Rachel! New Yorker at heart, Francophile in spirit, and forever wanderlusting. I’m passionate about books, ice cream, photography and finding creativity in my every day life.

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