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

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!

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

Matilda

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