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.

Review: ‘The Broken Earth’ Series

I did not know what to expect when I started The Broken Earth series, but I was not disappointed. The series started popping up on my Bookstagram feed (@keepitkassual) in the late spring, and I knew that it was something I needed to get my hands on!

The glossy Hugo Award pictured on each cover is more than well-deserved. Author N.K. Jemisin presents some of the best storytelling that I have ever read with shifting points of view and poetic, poignant prose. You are constantly on the edge of your seat as you read, concentrating on every word as you learn about Essun and her story.

 

Orogenes are a specific race within the Stillness with a power called sessapinae, giving them the ability to control tectonic activity within the earth. Also referred to as the derogatory term, roggas, orogenes are oppressed, feared, and hated beings; they are seen as the “Other” within the Stillness. Essun, an orogene herself, kept this secret from Jija. She believes that Jija has taken Nassun somewhere to kill her, so she sets forth to find them and seek revenge on Jija. That is the premise of the story. Essun’s quest to find her daughter. What readers are presented with is so much more, however.

What I liked about The Broken Earth series was that the books shed light on many important social topics, including environmentalism (the Earth seeking revenge on the beings that destroyed it), systemic racism, and classism. The books aren’t just limited to those themes, however. They also explore individualism, resistance, LGBTQ relationships, and gender equity. These topics are important, and they are impeccably intertwined throughout the books.

The first book was my favorite, for it seemed the most organized.  I enjoyed the shifting points of view. Essun’s story is told in the second point of view, so, you, the reader, are Essun. You are the protagonist. The Fifth Season also follows the stories of Damaya and Syenite, two other orogenes. The ending of the book will leave you feeling exhausted and duped … but in a good way.

The Obelisk Gate has the one thing that a reader of the fantastic enjoys: world-building. Hundreds of pages of it. So much that it almost came across as disjointed and hard to follow. This might be because I don’t enjoy lengthy world-building, but it’s high fantasy, so I should have been prepared for it. I do read and enjoy Tolkien, don’t I? He loves to talk about trees. 

The Stone Sky, the final book, can be read quickly because you don’t want to put it down once you start. Jemisin’s writing is entrancing. The mother-daughter struggle is profound as you discover that Nassun’s powers go beyond what Essun could have ever imagined. This difficulties that they face stretches to the very end. The finale is truly heart-wrenching and fast-paced. You’ll finish feeling heartbroken yet satisfied. You will find yourself experiencing a complex array of emotions. That’s because it’s such a complex series.

In The Broken Earth series, Jemisin presents readers with the following question:

What are we willing to sacrifice to avoid positive change?

The Broken Earth series is a profound glimpse into our present and our future. It’s important now, more than ever, to have conversations about climate, race, and human rights. We must make sustainable change. We have to save our world.

. . . . .

N.K. Jemisin was the first writer to win three consecutive Hugo best novels awards for science fiction and fantasy. As a Black writer within the fantastic genre, her books feature strong Black characters struggling and combating important social issues. 

You can learn more about N.K. Jemisin and her work here.

 

 

 

 

Goodbye, 2010s: The 20 books that made my decade

It’s hard to believe that we will be saying goodbye to another decade next week, but here we are!

As I sit here thinking back to the books that changed me, my brain did some kind of ping…or boink! I’ve read so many books of all genres and fell more in love with literature (if that was possible!).

In 2014, I earned a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, and since 2017, I’ve been working towards earning a Master’s in English, currently spending my “spare time” writing my master’s thesis. The final countdown, or so they say!

I’ve read a lot of books during my academic career—from memoirs to fiction to scholarly articles and theory, I’ve achieved a higher level of awareness about the impact that literature makes on society, and I’m excited to share my work with the world in the future.

Anyways, to the fun part. I wanted to share books that shaped me, made me feel all the feels.

Here they are, in no particular order.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This book changed my perception of race, class, and justice at a very young age. It’s a book I’ve read three times since high school and will continue to press as a book that everyone should read.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Oh, Coraline. Need I say more? Coraline, despite being a dark, spooky book, has helped me when I am in dark moments. Her bravery and cunning strength have inspired me since I was a little girl. She almost made it into my thesis, but I know we will meet again in the academic realm real soon.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
This is one of those books that I read a few years ago that really made an impact. I love the blend of historical fiction with the fantastic. It was a magical book that made me smile and cry and there’s really nothing else to it!

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Mental health, and specifically, how women who struggle with mental illness are treated, has been a topic of fascination to me for some time. I read The Bell Jar for the second time in college, and I’m glad I did and was able to appreciate it more. This book was phenomenal, and I’m glad I get to study it more as I work on a scholarly article this winter.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This is an important book to fully understand pre- and post-colonialism, cultural difference, masculinity, tradition, and much more. This book is insightful and offered so much opportunity to learn about a world that is entirely different from our own. Perspective, people. Perspective.

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood
Speaking of perspective. This book, as the kids say, “shook me.” As a person who never got into the TV show, Atwood’s dystopian novel offers insight into a world that no one ever wants to see. The book explores a totalitarian world where women are subjugated, but they resist and work to establish independence. I actually need to reread this one this year.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
For those who know me outside of the blogosphere, I have trouble shutting up about Little Women. This is my favorite book of all time. Jo March is my favorite literary woman of all time. She also makes an appearance in my thesis as the OG tomboy, the one who really set the standards for a young girl to achieve her dreams. This story is beautiful. I love it so much.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Not a favorite of all time, but what made this book significant is that it is the book that my now-husband and I connected on. In 2010, I was reading this book over winter break and posted a status on Facebook about it. A boy who I thought was super cute commented on my post saying that it was a good read, and then we started talking over IM and text. The rest is history.

Don’t get me wrong—the book is also really good!

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
This book is thought-provoking, tragic, riveting, you name it. It made me sick to my stomach and cry but it also presented beautiful moments of love and hope. Read this book.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
I’ve read the Harry Potter series five or six times in the past decade, and I always find myself enjoying the third book of the series the most. I love the Marauders and wish that Rowling would write an entire series about them. I also love Sirius Black so much it hurts.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Bilbo Baggins is one of the best literary characters ever. Don’t @ me. But seriously, this book has it all. Adventure, courage, fantastic elements, humor, poetry and song. It’s really a masterpiece. And…that’s all I have to say about that (Forrest Gump voice).

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Yes, I’m THAT person who gets mad if you pronounce her name wrong. I read this book for a college course in my undergrad and really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the romance, the heartbreak, the emotions that Anna experienced throughout her journey and her sad train ride. It’s one of those classics that you have to read. Warning: You will lose track of names. It’s inevitable.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
I clapped when I finished this one. Angelou’s books and poetry always overwhelmed me by its poignancy and beauty. What a life she lived. I am in awe of her strength and appreciate her sharing her story. This book helped me understand trauma and how to overcome it and shed light on racism and its history.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
In my latest post, Katniss plays a large role (perhaps a larger role than the other heroines I examine) in my thesis. Katniss and I have always had a strong bond. I’ve loved her since the beginning; her strength and resiliency, and her dedication to her family and friends. I read the entire series in three days instead of wrapping up my finals during my junior year of college. I didn’t regret it then. Still don’t. I am excited to write about her and to even present on her this upcoming March at a national conference in Boston. Lit nerds, unite!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
I was just discussing this book with another bookworm on Instagram. We were talking about how lucky we are to have books like this one, for it offers a wealth of knowledge about medicine, race, class, and other social issues. This book left a profound mark; it’s a book about injustice and justice. It’s truly fantastic and one of my favorites from Picoult.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This book was everything I wanted: romance, iconic Hollywood, struggle, triumph, heartbreak, control, and other contemporary issues—it had everything in there. It was one of those books you didn’t want to finish. I discovered Taylor Jenkins Reid this year and I will read all of her books.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This book. Where do I begin? It’s truly a masterpiece. Another young girl that I can relate to in so many ways. Kya is sensitive, intelligent, and resilient. There were twists and turns along with romance and murder. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Educated by Tara Westover
Speaking of one of the best books I’ve ever read. This. Memoir. I even got Ian to read it, and he devoured it in two sittings. This book made me think about my circle of home, and what it could mean to break out of it. Tara’s story is beautifully told, and you wonder how she became the person she is today. There’s no debate. Read it.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Much like Crawdads, I found myself identifying with Leni and aspects of her childhood. I feel like these two books were similar but profound and impactful in different ways. It’s another book about the journey through adolescence with its own twists and turmoil. Leni is one heck of a fighter, and one heck of a good person.

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Y’all saw this coming. I feel like this book was written for me. Historical fiction. 70s rock n roll. Fleetwood Mac. Stardom. Music. Podcast-like dreamy Audible experience? It was truly fantastic. I heard some people struggle with the print version. Pop in those earbuds and turn on the audiobook; you can thank me later.

Did any of my books make your list? Share in the comments!