March Wrap-Up

“March went out like a lion …” Any Carousel fans out there?

No?

OK, well, it’s time for my March wrap-up!

What a month. I am submitting my Master’s thesis in April, so I am going to admit that leisurely reading will be a low priority for me until that is submitted. BUT, I did read 3 books this month, which I am proud of.

I originally had 6 books planned for March, but I was only able to commit to 3. Two were audiobooks and one was a physical book. I LOVED listening to my audiobooks and coloring on my iPad in my reading nook with my cats. It was so relaxing and I highly recommend it.

So, here’s what I read this month:

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy)

Siege and Storm (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, #2)

I flew through this book in early March, and I am really enjoying getting swept away in the Grishaverse. I was hoping to get through all of the books by the time the show comes out on Netflix in April, but I will try my best! This book was slower to start than the first one, but I really fell in love with Nikolai and how morally grey the characters are. The ending of this book was incredibly fast-paced and intense, so I am looking forward to picking up Ruin and Rising soon.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (The Brown Sisters #3)

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters, #3)

This was definitely my favorite of the Brown Sisters trilogy, and Eve definitely has my heart. While Dani is still my favorite Brown sister (nerdy, witchy, academic type), I really loved this story. I love Eve’s empathy and personality. I didn’t realize how much I loved the enemies to lovers trope until I picked this one up! This was a fantastic audiobook. I recommend listening to this one … just maybe not in public because the STEAM is real. *blushes*

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman (Beartown #2)

Us Against You (Beartown, #2)

Cried my eyes out. First, Marin Ireland is an amazing narrator. Second, I loved this book more than Beartown. *gasp* Backman really knows how to write about the human experience. There were times when I wanted to end the book out of frustration, but there were also times when I had to keep on listening with happy tears in my eyes. Humanity is ugly, messy, and beautiful. This book is all about that (with some hockey thrown in).

What did you read this month?

Thanks for reading!

Book Review: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

This time last year, a good friend of mine on bookstagram posted about her love for the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas (known as ACOTAR to the fandom), and the description piqued my interest. I never heard of her books, but I love fantasy, so why not? We just entered quarantine and I was feeling scared, exhausted from long hours at work, and in need of an escape.

Enter, Sarah. J Maas. I remember tearing through the series within a month, fully engrossed in the characters and storyline. I loved the examination of trauma, sisterhood, self-love, and healing. The romance wasn’t half bad either. I was new to that type of steam; I’ve read some steamy scenes before, but nothing prepared me for chapter 55 in A Court of Mist and Fury!

After ACOTAR, I read House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) and absolutely loved it. It’s one of my favorite books. Now, I am almost done with the Throne of Glass series, and I will be sad when it ends.

In February, A Court of Silver Flames (ACOSF) was released, and I was greatly anticipating returning to ACOTAR. I’ll admit; I didn’t enjoy Nesta. I thought she was rude, arrogant, and extremely stubborn. She did horrible things. My skin would crawl when she was in a scene.

When I realized that ACOSF would be in first-person narrative diving into the stories of Nesta and Cassian, I went, “OH, so now I will love Nesta.” Great.

I was right. I found a character that I really connected with. All of the negative self-talk. The self-loathing. The destructive behavior. Pushing away from the ones who love you most because it hurts to be loved. I know those feelings. I experience them daily. I was starting to understand her.

There were things that I loved about ACOSF. There were things that I did not like about ACOSF. Without spoilers, I will talk about them so that others can have their own experience with this one.

But first, I’m going to spoil it a little bit with some trigger/content warnings. They’re important and you should know them before going into this book. I’m not seeing a lot of reviews with these content warnings included, and it’s important we do this as readers and reviewers. Now, while Maas touches on trauma in all of her books, this felt a little heavier than most.

This was a first-person narrative about battling trauma. It had PTSD flashbacks, heavy traumatic imagery, mental illness, suicidal thoughts, r*pe narratives, mental descriptions of sexual assault. It was very, very heavy. A lot of these themes are in SJM’s other books, but trauma is the main theme, and SJM does not pull back. It was hard to read at times, which is the point of this book. It’s not an easy read, so it will be difficult for some who are in different parts of their mental health journeys. I have been in therapy since 2013, and moments were triggering for me. Proceed with caution.

OK, review time (photo featuring my cat’s little body)

High level list of things I loved:

  • Nesta’s journey: As I mentioned, I connected with Nesta so much. As someone who has been in therapy for 8 years, I felt for her as she dealt with her trauma and how to combat it. There is a scene with Cassian that serves as a turning point for their relationship and her own self-awareness and I experienced similar conversations in my own marriage. Nesta is a force. She is power. She is resilient. Is she perfect? No. Does she make mistakes? Yes. But, is she raw and human? Yes.
  • The female bonds: Nesta forms strong friendships with two female characters who have also experienced trauma. I smiled big when Nesta let them in as friends and they grew physically, mentally, and emotionally together.
  • THE HOUSE. Favorite character.
  • Azriel. Always Azriel.
  • That extra Az chapter…

High level of things I did not love:

  • The amount of smut and lack of fantasy plot: Essentially, this book was STEAMY SMUTTY romance with a sprinkle of fantasy. While there were moments of world-building and the fantastic, it was really lacking. I am not a big smut person, and this book was pretty much 700+ pages of sex. Chapter 55, who? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed parts of it, but it got a little old too fast for me. If you love smut, PLEASE ENJOY! No judgment. Just not for me!
  • How the story started and ended with Feyre and Rhys. It doesn’t need to come back to them, or be centered around them. It really bothered me.
  • Not a big Cassian fan. There, I said it.

Overall, this was an average read. There were moments I really loved. There were moments I cried. Most of the time, I kind of read and shrugged. I closed this book feeling unfulfilled.

Did you read ACOSF? What did you think?

Book Blogger Highlight: @AllieMikennaReads

Hello!

Welcome to the inaugural “highlight” series, where I will feature bookstagrammers, influencers, and just really cool people who are doing cool things.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about myself in the past year, it’s that I love to meet new people and learn about them. It must be the journalism major in me. I am interested in people and their stories — why they do what they do and why they love what they do!

I joined Bookstagram in July 2019, and it was the best decision I have ever made. I have read so many incredible books and met some awesome people.

Including Allie!

Allie was one of my first friends on Bookstagram, and she is also a budding blogger building her brand (alliteration!). You can learn more about Allie below and through this link to her “Meet the Bookstagrammer” post!

Why did you start a book blog?

I started my bookstagram back in August of 2019 because I had been mostly posting books to my personal Instagram for a while. I had been following a few bookstagrammers and I just felt very drawn to the book community and realized it was the section of Instagram that brought me the most joy. Then I met some amazing bookstagrammers in my local community and made the switch to a book account for good. I have always been a writer and I used to write for an online magazine. I stepped back for personal reasons a few years ago, but I was missing that outlet for writing about lifestyle-type content. So, at the start of 2020, I built out my blog and decided to give a blog of my own a whirl! It’s still very much in the early stages but I’m excited to dedicate more time to it this year. 

What is your go-to genre when you pick up a book to read?

If you’d asked me this two years ago, I’d have said young adult fiction. But lately, I’ve been really drawn to contemporary romance and young adult fantasy. 

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’m a very sentimental person, so I do read a lot of books from my childhood, but sadly, I didn’t have the foresight to keep my original copies. I did hunt down a copy of my favorite picture book, Two Cool Cows. I also collect editions of Alice in Wonderland and have since high school. This post has the spines of my favorite copies! 

If you could choose 3 characters to have over for dinner and drinks, who would you choose, and why?

Ooh, this is a tough question for me. Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury mostly so I could look at him, but I would prefer to be invited to his place for dinner because Velaris sounds so stunning. I’d also say Alex and Henry from Red, White, and Royal Blue because I loved their banter in that book, and I think they’d make for really fun dinner party guests. 

What can people expect when they visit your page?

On my blog, they’ll find a mix of book reviews, book-themed gift guides, bookstagram tips, and assorted lifestyle content — hiking, crafting, and more. On Instagram, I try to keep a bright, clean feed but I like my photos to still look pretty real life. I take them all on my phone, and I do a little minor editing, but don’t really use filters or presets that drastically change the look. Although some of my favorite accounts have more themed aesthetics! I post about current reads, reviews, and usually host a few fun book photo challenges with friends throughout the year. 

What is your favorite thing about the book community?

Honestly, the friendships! I have met so many cool people, thanks to bookstagram. The book community helped me reconnect with an elementary school friend I hadn’t talked to much since moving away when I was 13, which was so neat. I found a lot of other Iowa bookstagrammers when I first decided to switch to a book-only account. I really connected with a group of them, and that group has become some of my closest in-real-life friends over the last year. We used to meet up in person pre-COVID, but we’ve stayed connected through virtual book club chats.  They’re all some of the most genuine, nice, and supportive people and of course, I love having people in my life who share my love of books. 

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

So I enjoy watching Tik Toks, but you will not find me appearing in one. I am trying to learn to embrace Reels this year, but I don’t love showing my face or talking on camera, so I am definitely very late to the party and still figuring out what will work for me. Maybe that means I’m officially not “hip with the teens” (I don’t know that I ever was though). 

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

I have two different colored eyebrows and always have – one is brown and the other is very blonde/ has no pigment. Once you notice you can’t unsee it! I’m too lazy to pencil it in ever so I just embrace it. I also enjoy writing in my spare time but don’t talk a lot about it on Bookstagram. I used to write a lot of poetry and have a couple published poems in small/ local publications. I also have planned out a romance novel that I’m currently neglecting writing. 

What makes a book a 5-star read?

I’m a pretty generous reviewer — I give most books I read 3-5 stars, but that’s also because I know what I like and don’t really spend time reading books I don’t think I will enjoy unless it’s a book club pick. And even then, I’m notorious for not finishing the ones that aren’t working for me. I usually save five stars for books that I think will be “forever favorites” of mine. These are typically books I’ll read again in the future and would recommend to most readers. 

What are your other hobbies or passions?

This year, I have recently discovered a love of a new hobby – making miniatures! I bought a kit to make a miniature model house. It brings me so much joy to make all these tiny books and plants and accessories. It’s also been a great stress relief during the pandemic this year. As soon as I finish, I’m branching out to redo a dollhouse from scratch. I’m also making a miniature model bookshelf and, as I finish books this year, making miniature versions of them. I think that may be cool to see at the end of the year! I may have to add a mini-book cart too if my reading pace keeps up!

Follow Allie on her blog and Instagram!

January Wrap-Up

I thought I would share my January wrap-up (over a month late)!

January was a very good reading month for me. It was freezing and snowy in Connecticut, so I used that opportunity to cozy up in my new reading nook and read 6 books. I enjoyed most of them!

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Beartown (Beartown, #1)

I will let my review speak for itself, but this was definitely one of Backman’s best books. A Man Called Ove still has my heart, but this one really touched me and has stuck with me ever since. Backman is a go-to author for me, and after hearing how much other readers loved this one, I was not disappointed.

The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention by Julia Cameron

The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention (An Artist's Way Book)

I received an advanced listeners copy (ALC) from Libro.fm, and while I enjoyed most parts, I found a lot of the meditations and tips were repetitive from other books that I’ve read before. I wished that I had something new to take away from this book, but I still enjoyed listening to get a recharge.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Winter Garden

I discovered Kristin Hannah a few years back when I read The Great Alone (a great book), and after reading The Nightingale (now one of my favorites) and Firefly Lane (another one of my favorites), I had to read Winter Garden with a buddy group on bookstagram. I really enjoyed it! I thought it was a little slow going at first but was soon captivated by the story.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)

I have been reading the Throne of Glass series since last year with a buddy read group and I am really loving it. I discovered Sarah J. Maas last year during the start of quarantine, and her books have literally helped me get through the pandemic. So far, Queen of Shadows is my favorite of the series (there are 7 books and a book of short stories). I finished Empire of Storms in February (loved it) and I will be starting Tower of Dawn this month!

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea

I really, really wanted to love this book as much as everyone else. Unfortunately, I was exhausted when I finished it. Hear me out: Her writing is beautiful, but she paid too much attention to the bookish atmosphere and aesthetics than the actual plot. The stories within the story? Beautiful. The character development and plot? Not so beautiful. I was lost in the last 150 pages, feeling unsatisfied at the end. BUT — she can certainly create beautiful prose. I plan to read The Night Circus in April because people love it so much.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

The Prophets

I listened to an advanced listener’s copy (ALC) from Libro.fm, and I found the narration to be astounding. I heard that the physical book can be hard to follow with the different chorus of voices, but listening to the audiobook and the narrator grounded me as I took in this powerful debut. This book was unique, beautiful, and heart-wrenching.

Have you read these? If you are interested in any of these books and learning about trigger warnings, please don’t hesitate to email me: kass.readsbooks@gmail.com or contact me on Instagram: @keepitkassual.