I've tried out many different texts over the years, and the one I absolutely loved was Jenney's First Year Latin
Jenney's book explains all the grammar clearly, and has a ton of exercises and reading built right in. Each lesson presents new information, then Drills on form to let the new information sink in, then sentence-length translation exercises (Latin to English, then English to Latin), and ends with a paragraph or so of reading.
It takes a lot of hard work and persistence, but the best part is the payoff, after all the work, when you're reading Latin at 100 wpm and it doesn't even faze you that you understood everything.
There's also a follow-up, Second Year Latin
. It's essentially a guided reader that's perfectly suited for those who have finished the first book.
As for study tips, I think the most important thing I do while studying Latin is draw. Seriously. I draw almost every new word I encounter. If it can be drawn, I try.
I draw because if you think of Latin words as a translation of other words, you're almost certainly doomed to failure, or at least sluggishness and boredom. But if you think of Latin words as verbal expressions of images and concepts—which is how you use a living language—then it will become second nature.
In my Latin notebook I avoid English whenever possible. For drills, yes, just do the drills and translate. But for memorizing vocabulary lists, I recommend drawing, or at least using your imagination. And when you encounter that word while reading, recall your mental image of its meaning, picture your drawing, and you'll learn the word much
I think that with all reading, English or Latin, if you aren't watching a movie in your head you aren't doing it right. In the very least it helps tremendously with recall!
And send me a message if you want any help studying. I'd love to review more basic stuff regularly, and teaching information always helps it to sink it.
Best of luck, Nicole! Or as the Japanese say, 頑張って！("Work hard!")