Gardens

I grew up around gardens. The smell of mulch and freshly-mowed grass evokes nostalgia every time I am around it. I am transported to a time when I would lie under shady trees, breathing in the aroma of flowers and reading my favorite books in my backyard.

The yard at my childhood home was beautiful, filled with large garden beds abundant with flowers and bushes. I remember a large mulch bed filled with tall grasses and plants, and a pond that was frequented by frogs and fish. On hot summer days, I would sneak out to the pond and try to catch the frogs when my parents weren’t looking and take them inside. I recall family members and parents of friends commenting on the intricacy of our gardens, my dad beaming with pride at his work.

While I was able to enjoy the garden in my childhood yard, I never took part in planting or tending to it. My father, a landscaper, worked solo. That was his way to disconnect and reconnect with the world, and I witnessed his creations from an outside perspective, reaping from the benefits.

After moving into my own home this past year, my husband and I decided to start our own garden. We have a fairly large lot and wanted to fill up the space with beauty. We purchased garden books and started planning out our oasis.

I admit that I was hesitant going in. I did not have a good track record with indoor plants. But once I started, I couldn’t stop. We tested the pH of our soil, dug up grass and got ready for our own perfect space. I was enjoying every moment.

As someone who combats anxiety and depression, I can say that tending to the earth and watching something grow because of your attention and dedication is healing. From choosing the plants to digging, watering, and tending to it throughout the seasons, I felt a sense of calm that I never felt before. I was entranced by the rich smells of the earth, the feeling of the soil on my hands. And while I was helping these living things plant their roots, I realized that I was doing the same.

It seems fitting that my love for creating and cultivating life sprouted at the same time we found out that we were pregnant. On a warm, sunny June day, I got a call from my doctor confirming that my husband and I were expecting our first child. I immediately went outside to the garden, my hand to my stomach, taking in all the magic. As I continue to garden, I hold my belly and tell her about all of our plants and how I am taking care of them. It’s serendipitous to think that when I was mulching and digging and planting and watering a few months back, I was not alone. I had a buddy with me every step of the way.

I am excited to see her curious face as I show her around our gardens. I will walk her to the shade garden and have her feel the coral bells and trace the shapes of the creeping myrtles on the mulch ground. We will read books on the bench under the maple tree. We will pick calamint leaves and smell their beautiful aroma as we walk around our fire pit. We will pick yellow coneflowers and water our lavender plants. We will witness our lilac tree sprouting deep violet petals in April, and watch our azalea bushes bloom throughout the month of May. We will all garden together. A perfect, safe space.

October Hopefuls

Spooky season is here! Well, if we are being honest, I have been celebrating spooky season for the past three weeks now.

It is October — one of the best months of the year. Leaves are changing, the weather is getting crisp, and fall cardigans are getting pulled out of the storage bins (*sneezes*).

And, spooky books are being read! I am excited to share my October hopefuls this year. Naturally, they are very witch-oriented, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love reading witchy books in the fall.

Here are the books I want to read in October:

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin

The Nature of Witches

I started this book the other day and I am already enjoying it. It’s a new take on witchcraft and magic. I respect the author’s not-so-subtle nod towards climate change and how the witches must try to protect the world from our ever-changing climate. There is also LGBTQ representation and diversity, which I appreciate. I love the atmospheric language associated with each season, and the idea that individuals are stronger and more “themselves” in the seasons when they are born. As a November baby, I can relate to that.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

A Lesson in Vengeance

This seems to be a dark, academic, witchy book that I can’t wait to pick up. I plan on reading this one next and I have a feeling it’s going to be good. I also heard it’s more of a thriller than a witchy book, so we will see! Also, the cover is really cool. I did judge the book by its cover for this one.

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan

The Age of Witches

A Secret History of Witches was one of my favorite books last year, so I really look forward to this one! Morgan’s books are all about sisterhood and feature strong, powerful women. I can guess that this one will be much of the same.

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

Hour of the Witch

This one seems to be less magical and whimsical and more like historical fiction, but hey, I love historical fiction. It’s about a young puritan woman escaping a violent marriage in 17th century Boston.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline

This will be a reread with a buddy read group I am a part of on Bookstagram. For those who don’t know, Coraline is one of my favorite books and I reread it quite often! It’s frightening, eerie, empowering, and plain ol’ fantastic. I almost wrote my master’s thesis on Coraline, but I had to cut her from my list. I’m sure I will write more about her one day.

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

And, check out these posts to see what I’ve read this year:

January Wrap-Up

February Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

April Wrap-Up

May to September Wrap-Up

May to September Wrap-Up

Uh…yeah, so. Hi…

This is awkward. I kind of disappeared the past few months because …

We are going to have a baby! Our first child is due in early February. The first trimester was very rough, and I did not come up for air and feel better until a month ago. So, I am slowly returning to “normal” until the third trimester takes over again.

Seeing that I have a good excuse … I am forgiven, right? I can move on to the books?

OK, cool.

This is going to be a long one, folks. I have read 15 books since I wrote last, and I am going to list them out below with a few sentences on each.

And awayyy we gooo …. (sorry, I am super jazzed as I write this)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Without a doubt my favorite book so far this year. I absolutely loved this story. The story world, the characters, the fast-moving plot. It was so good. So, so good. If you weren’t a fan of Shadow and Bone and really want to give Bardugo another try, pick up Six of Crows.

Beth & Amy by Virginia Kantra

Beth and Amy (The March Sisters, #2)

Virginia Kantra’s retellings of Little Women are just OK. I am not a big fan of retellings anyways because why mess with perfection, but then again, She’s the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You slaps. I was not expecting anything groundbreaking or anything insightful with this one, so I did not feel disappointed reading it. They are cute and easy reads, but I wouldn’t highly recommend them.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows #2)

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This one wasn’t as good as Six of Crows, but I loved revisiting these characters and learning more about their stories and what happened next. I felt that this one dragged a bit — it could have benefitted from some good editing and cuts. Otherwise, I finished the duology really loved them!

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, #7)

A full Throne of Glass series review is forthcoming once I get over my book hangover. I finished this book in June and golly, what an adventure. This book is THICK, folks. Lots going on. Lots of storylines to wrap up. It got a little too much and I started to lose track and interest. I mostly finished to finish the series, and that’s disappointing. Again, I will do a longer review of the series soon!

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night

This was one of my most anticipated thrillers of the year, and I devoured it in one sitting. But I will tell you … I didn’t love it. The plot was a little too familiar to me, and I got super bored with all the movie references. The main character was beyond unlikable and the ending beyond unpredictable. The small twist barely made me gasp. Underwhelming.

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Watching You

I was super bummed after reading Survive the Night, and then I was super bummed after reading Watching You. Again, the main character was unlikable (which is usually OK in books, don’t get me wrong), but I was not even interested in how much I disliked her. And the ending, like Sager’s, was not surprising. Bleh.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation

After reading two dull thrillers, I moved to a genre I almost never read: contemporary romance. I wanted to switch it up and hopefully get out of my “meh” reading slump. This one did not disappoint. I loved it. If this were made into a movie, it would be my favorite movie ever.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising

When I saw that TJR was coming out with a new book this summer, I sighed with relief. Great. One of my favorite authors will release another book that will change my life. Unfortunately, Malibu Rising (or as I call it, Mali-boo Rising) did not make the cut. I was engaged the first 100 pages, but TJR lost me after that. I didn’t care about most of the characters, and all of their troubled storylines seemed so hurried and fragmented. There was a lot of unnecessary drama, and the “big ending” was about 3 lines. Just underwhelmed. Again.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary

The cover alone pulls you in, right? I was hoping to read a whimsy, mystical, witchy-esque book to kick off spooky season a little early, but again, found myself going “meh” at the end. While I enjoyed the parts about the apothecary and murders (yep, you read that right), there was too little of that and more focus on a present-day, two-dimensional, boring character. I just closed the book wanting more.

The World of Pooh by A.A. Milne

The World of Pooh: The Complete Winnie-The-Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner

What can I say? I’m a pregnant woman who wanted to read some Winnie the Pooh. Loved every moment and cannot wait to read this to my little one.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History

…No idea what I even read. If there’s anything I’ve learned about Donna Tartt, it’s that she is a superb writer. But while she is a fantastic writer, she is also the world’s biggest flexer. This book is her flexing her writing skills paired with her knowledge of the Greeks and other snooty things. Not to mention this book is dripping with homophobia, antisemitism, racism, sexism (any kind of ism … throw it in there), and lots of triggers. I read the entire book with interest, but I didn’t like it.

The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine

The Female Brain

Because I am having a baby girl, I wanted to reread a book all about female brains. This is a good one for anyone who wants to learn about how the female brain works. She also has one on the male brain which I read that is much shorter. She makes a joke about why it’s shorter. I bet you can guess why.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan

I’ve been on a children’s book kick lately and oh my goodness, this book. Please be advised: If you are pregnant, do not read unless you want to sob on your couch for hours. This book is written in-verse and it is truly a masterpiece. I loved it!

Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

Blackbird House

You kind of already love this book because of its cover, right? Hoffman writes a series of short stories circled around this one grand house, Blackbird House. It is witchy, whimsical, and magical…but also kind of … boring? I liked some stories more than others, but it was a good witchy book to kick off the season.

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Wish You Were Here

When I got Picoult’s new book as an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) I dropped my witchy books and read this in two days. And … well … I hated it. I am a big Jodi P fan, don’t get me wrong, but this book was just not right. I will let my Goodreads review (with some spoilers, mind you) speak for itself.

So, while I was nauseated and encountering my first trimester, I WAS reading! See?!

What did you read these past few months? 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

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!