BOOKSTAGRAMMER HIGHLIGHT: @ANDKELLYREADS

Today’s bookstagrammer highlight features one of my favorite ladies, Kelly, who makes me “LOL” on bookstagram on the daily. Learn more about Kelly and her awesomeness below!

Why did you start a bookstagram?

I actually didn’t set out to start one! Gradually, my posts on my personal Instagram just became more and more book centric (because that’s basically all I do? Read, I suppose?) until one day a fellow Baltimore bookstagrammer found me and invited me to join the local group chat! From that point on I changed my username and switched completely over to Booksta with a dash of personal here and there. 

Who are three people you would want to have dinner with?

Oh man, real or fictional?! I’m guessing real so let’s go with Taylor Swift, Alexis Hall, and Dylan O’Brien. 

Do you have any childhood books that you have kept all of these years? What about favorite editions? Can you share a photo if possible?

I don’t have a lot of copies of books from my childhood! My mom still has my entire collection of Dear America books (which helped me get into reading and I ADORED them) so I think the only other set of books I have from when I was younger is the A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy by Libba Bray that I refuse to ever part with. Gemma Doyle is a favorite heroine of mine and while those books are from when I was in high school (although I guess that was a long time ago since I am ancient) they’ll always be incredibly special to me. Honestly, I’m also glad I have the editions I do because they’ve changed the covers in the past few years and, not to be biased, but I think the ones I have are far superior. 

If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

TOUGH. Probably Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta, as long as I can wash it down with a margarita.  

You walk into a coffee shop. What’s your order?

Iced peppermint mocha with coconut milk

What is your go-to genre and why?

I have two. The first one is definitely romance. I love everything about the romance genre, from the empowerment through storytelling to the fact that it’s a genre dominated by female authors, and I will never stop supporting it. It’s also a comfort genre for me. One of the best things about romance is that you get a happily ever after every time, and while the journey always changes, the certainty that everything will be okay is always incredibly reassuring and calms my anxiety in a unique way.

The other genre would be fantasy! I really love getting lost in fantasy novels, and appreciate the hell out of those authors. The world building, the ideas behind the stories and the the plot, the character development, and even the maps and languages; fantasy novels are an excellent way to escape everyday life and while they do often send my heart pitter-pattering, they’re fantastic to get lost in.

Both of these genres are incredibly special to me, and the inclusivity I’ve been seeing in both of them, from YA to adult, is incredibly moving and often educational, and I will continue to support them both as long as authors keep writing them.  

Tell me one trend that you just can’t get behind. 

Middle parts. I have a widows peak and I just cannot do it so I refuse. 

Tell me something about yourself that a lot of people don’t know about. 

I can’t whistle? That’s kind of boring, so let’s try again. I have a Masters in Art History and Museum Studies! I’m not using it but I loved every step involved in getting that degree. 

What makes a book a 5-star read?

Ugh this is tricky because I am a fickle creature. I wish people didn’t care so much about star ratings because they’re so subjective and I much prefer reading someone’s actual thoughts on a book BUT when it comes to my own ratings, I consider a 5-star read to be one that stays with me. It’s a story that I find myself thinking about weeks or months after I’ve finished it, or I think about the characters and something they did and actually miss them. Or I find myself tabbing (or highlighting if it’s on my kindle) over half the book so I can go back and revisit favorite moments or sections that stuck out to me.

5-star reads are books that make me think, they make me feel, and I genuinely get lost in them and barely come up for air. I don’t encounter them often, but when I do I’m incredibly grateful, and those are the books I keep on my shelf. I don’t really keep books that I’ve read, largely because I don’t have the shelf space, but also because it makes me sad to think of them sitting there collecting dust never to really be read again. 5-star books are ones I won’t part with because I think about them enough that I pick them up off the shelf and spend a little more time with them.  

What are your other hobbies or passions?

Does cuddling my cat count? If not, how about crossword puzzles? Is that super dorky? I really love crossword puzzles and word searches, but I also really enjoy baking (which is a different art from cooking and I stand by that) and my boyfriend and I love going to baseball games together. Aside from that I’m very boring and spend most of my time either reading or binge-watching beloved sitcoms.  

Follow the hilarious Kelly on Instagram.

Want to be featured on my blog? You don’t have to be a bookstagrammer! If you have a small business, podcast, or something creative that you want to share, please email me at kass.readsbooks@gmail.com!

Review: Shadow and Bone Trilogy

The Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo has been on my TBR for some time now, so I was looking forward to picking up the first book, Shadow and Bone, a couple of months ago. I heard that the trilogy was different from the other fantasy books I was reading (think anything by Sarah J. Maas), so I was excited for a change of pace.

The Shadow and Bone trilogy is part of the Grishaverse, a Russian-inspired fantasy world filled with magic and small science. The Shadow and Bone trilogy is the beginning of the Grishaverse, followed by The Six of Crows duology and The King of Scars duology. And yes, I will be reading them all!

In Shadow and Bone (#1), you are introduced to the Grisha, the magical elite of Ravka, one of the countries in the Grishaverse. The Grisha are known as the Soldiers of the Second Army and they practice small science, manipulating matter for the purpose of battle and healing. There are the Corporalki (Heartrenders & Healers), the Ethereakli (Squallers, Inferni, & Tidemakers), and the Materialki (Durasts & Aklemi). There are also Sun Summoners, members of the Ethereakli who can summon and control sunlight. If you are reading this and scratching your head in confusion, don’t worry; this world is broken down very well in the books and at the beginning of each book. There are lots of intricate maps and a handy-dandy chart.

The books (written in first-person) center around Alina Starkov, who is afraid to cross the Shadow Fold — think a thick cover of unnatural darkness that is infested with dangerous creatures. Who wouldn’t be? When her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes magic that reveals that she is a Sun Summoner. Alina then meets The Darkling, and before you shudder at the corny name like I did, hang tight. He is one of the best characters in the trilogy. The Darkling is a Shadow Summoner and is Second in Command in Ravka. He is feared by all. He is also *misunderstood* and *dreamy*. Think your “bad boy” character, but he is actually quite dangerous. These books can get very dark and graphic real quick (which I loved). After she realizes that The Darkling is corrupt and evil, Alina turns on him, and she goes out with a group of colorful characters to save her storyworld.

I’m not too into breaking down what each book is about and giving spoilers, so I will just give you some likes/dislikes.

What I like the most about this trilogy is that each character is neither “good” nor “bad.” They are all grey characters, which makes the characters (and books) so much more interesting. Alina, especially, is a compelling heroine. She grows in power throughout the trilogy and struggles with wanting more. She sees The Darkling as an enemy, but the power he holds over her storyworld (and her) is alluring. She can’t get away from him, and she’s not sure if she wants to. I certainly wouldn’t.

One thing I loved about these books can be summed up with one name: Nikolai. Nikolai forever and ever. I loved him. Still love him. Bardugo did a wonderful job creating such a witty, colorful character that you won’t forget easily. Nikolai is definitely her first take at creating the colorful, witty characters that you will meet in Six of Crows (which happens to be one of my favorite books of 2021 so far), and he is the reason I kept reading.

While there are things I liked about this trilogy, there were many dislikes. First, the pacing was tough to follow throughout. Rhythmically, I struggled reading this trilogy. The first book was very fast-paced, but the second and third books dragged. While Siege and Storm was definitely my favorite because of the nautical elements and of course, Nikolai, Bardugo rushed through some of the climatic parts, making me wonder if the world-building and unnecessary dialogue/plot points could have been edited out to leave space for the good stuff. The third book, Ruin and Rising, was even slower, and I found myself struggling to finish the book.

Ruin and Rising fell flat, and it all has to do with the ending (which I will not spoil). A large portion of the book followed that classic epic travel trope — lots of traveling, lots of dialogue, lots of unnecessary stuff. But what left me more disappointed was the salient moments in this book (and arguably, the trilogy) were rushed. I felt cheated, because the story and the characters deserved a better ending.

Also, if you are looking for steam, find another trilogy!

Speaking of those who deserved a better ending (and here is where I get a little spoiler-y and use a lot of CAPS … you can stop reading here if you want):

The Darkling! WHY did this happen? The Darkling is the most intriguing character in the series, yet he is the weakest character in the trilogy when it comes to storyline. MAL gets more of a storyline. MAL. MAL!!

I have a problem with Mal. Who doesn’t?

While readers anticipate The Darkling to be a complicated, grey character, these are only assumptions given to readers through Alina’s perspective. Alina knows that there is good in him, but it is not explored otherwise. Other than a backstory provided to Alina when she’s at Os Alta, there are only fleeting moments of his goodness, and that’s where this trilogy fails. I don’t mind “teases” throughout a trilogy, but I do mind a lack of execution. The Darkling was done dirty in this trilogy, and instead of creating an illusion or allure to his character, it shows a lack of structure and attention to a character. And his ending? I won’t get started. What a let down.

So, here is my very messy review of the Shadow and Bone trilogy. I enjoyed it, I won’t read it again, and I will be watching the Netflix show once I finish The Six of Crows duology (which I love much more than the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Bardugo thrives at writing in third-person).

Have you read The Shadow and Bone trilogy/the Grishaverse? What are your thoughts?! Please share in the comments!

May Hopefuls

This month is going to be one for the books hehe (is this thing on??), because it is the first month where I have no graduate work to complete.

I submitted the thesis. I did the thing! I’m ready for nothin’ but my job and free time on the weekends!

Alright, alright. Let’s talk books.

I have plans to read six books in May, and I look forward to finishing up a couple of series that I have been working through. There is a good balance between fantasy and fiction, and there’s even a nonfiction, self-help book on the list!

Let’s get to what I plan on reading this month!

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass)

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This is it, folks. The end. The very last book in Throne of Glass. Look at Aelin on this cover. The badassery, the flowy hair, the armor. So coool. Kingdom of Ash is nearly 1,000 pages, so I am very optimistic in thinking I will get to five other books this month. We shall see. Once I finish, you best believe a series review will be posted on this blog of mine.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows)

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I have already started this one, and I enjoy this book more than I enjoyed all of the Shadow and Bone books combined. Don’t @ me (you can if you want).

I think Bardugo thrives in writing third-person narratives, and this premise is just too fricken cool. I love the representation in this book, from race and abilities to gender, and it’s giving me real Sherlock Holmes, Gangs of New York, Pirates, thievery vibes. I just really enjoy it. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows)

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…Because I’ll need to know what happens next!

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

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She’s back! If you did not already know, I discovered Kristin Hannah the end of 2020 and love.her.books. This one came out in February, and I can’t wait to read it. I heard it’s amazing, and unsurprisingly, will make you sob. Perfect!

Your Time to Thrive: End Burnout, Increase Well-being, and Unlock Your Full Potential with the New Science of Microsteps by Marina Khidekel, Thrive Global

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So this will either be a book with tips that I’ve already read 100 times, or it will be revolutionary when it comes to managing burnout and stress. Time will tell. I do look forward to reading this one because I enjoy Thrive Global and its platform. Even though my thesis is over, I still work in a very demanding, fast-paced industry and need some help when it comes to prioritizing self-care. I am hoping this book and “the new science of microsteps” will help me in this journey.

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

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Fredrik Backman has become one of my favorite authors. I read A Man Called Ove a few years back, and in 2019, I clutched My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry while sobbing on my couch. THEN, in 2020, I laughed AND cried again while reading Anxious People. AND THEN, this year, I read Beartown and Us Against You and they are two of my favorite books EVER. SO … enter Britt-Marie Was Here … my last Backman.

What are you reading this month? Share in the comments below!

Check out these posts to see what I’ve read this year:

January Wrap-Up

February Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

April Wrap-up

April Wrap-Up

It’s hard to believe that April has come to an end, yet here we are. April was a super important month for me because I submitted my master’s thesis and completed my graduate degree. Being done is honestly such a surreal feeling, and I am still getting used to “doing nothing” once I log off work in the evenings. I do have a feeling that I will get used to this “nothingness” very quickly!

When I was planning my April books, I was trying to be realistic. While I might not have had time to read for fun, I realized that I was going to be reading a lot — 75+ pages over and over to be exact!

This month, I planned on reading 3 books:

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass series) by Sarah J. Maas

Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

I ended up reading 6 books, but only one from the list above. I finished Tower of Dawn, but did not end up finishing Sunflower Sisters or The Lost Village. Unfortunately, neither book piqued my interest. I couldn’t get past 60 pages of The Lost Village. It was dull and repetitive.

Instead, I dove into some comfort books this month, reading right before bed to calm my mind after hours of reading and editing.

So, without further ado, here are the 6 books I read in April:

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

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This is the penultimate book in the Throne of Glass series, and I must say that I am going to be sad when it ends. Kingdom of Ash is very intimidating, and I plan on tackling that one in May. I also heard it is very heavy!

Tower of Dawn was a very interesting book, and I am glad I read it. I learned that some ToG readers often either skip the book (which horrified me) or they read it in tandem with Empire of Storms because of the corresponding timelines. Really impressive. I wish I did that, but I also enjoyed leaving behind one set of characters and meeting/revisiting others. Sartaq is perhaps my favorite SJM dude, so, there’s that.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

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After finishing a very heavy fantasy book, I decided to pick up a children’s classic. Let me tell you: If you are writing a master’s thesis about society’s inability to avoid giving girl heroes conventional ends, then don’t read Anne of Green Gables. Alas, there I was, frowning in bed thinking about why we limit girl heroes so much. What a frustrating book! I never read it as a child, and if I did, I am sure that I would have a sense of nostalgia attached to it. However, seeing as how I was nostalgic towards Katniss and Hermione and relentlessly ripped their stories apart for 75 pages, I’m sure I would have had the same reaction rereading Anne as an adult.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

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I forgot how whimsical and fun Roald Dahl was, but also forgot how weird this book is. I’ve experienced this world through a few mediums in my life: book, movie, musical (don’t ask), and I realized that I really don’t enjoy this story. While I love Gene Wilder, I do not love Willy Wonka. Charlie Bucket is a sweet little gem, but that is about it.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

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This book made me want to cut meat out of my diet again, so that’s a key takeaway. This book was a little frustrating. Fern is this tomboyish, imaginative girl, but then even the doctor predicts that she will start to chase boys in a few years and shed her “weird” ways. Great. My thesis again. Will I ever enjoy children’s books?

Anyways, what really bothered me is when Wilbur is in the competition at the county fair, Fern isn’t even present to watch him win the award. Instead, she is on the ferris wheel with a boy Henry (gag), who I am sure will be her future beau. *cue eye roll*

Also, Charlotte’s death is the saddest, most depressing thing EVER.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

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I also finished up the Shadow and Bone trilogy this month. This was certainly an interesting journey. I will be reviewing the trilogy in a future post, but I will say this: these books were a great escape. They were easy to digest, the story was interesting, and I did not care about what happened to most of the characters (only Nikolai).

Ruin and Rising was, unfortunately, the most disappointing of the three, but I will get into that in a later post. For now, I will enjoy Six of Crows (a book within the “Grishaverse”)and start the show this weekend.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

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This is definitely a good one. Again, I don’t remember reading this as a kid, but I do remember watching the movie every time it came on ABC Family and wishing I had pancakes. I’ve also had Rusted Root stuck in my head since finishing it.

What did you read this month?

Take a look at my other wrap-ups from this year:

Check out these posts to see what I’ve read this year:

January Wrap-Up

February Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up