Blog Tour: Girl Unknown by Karen Perry

Blog Tour: Girl Unknown by Karen Perry

What’s this?? My first blog tour? Woop woop! Thank you so much to Henry Holt for asking me to be a part of the blog tour for their exciting new suspense novel, Girl Unknown by Karen Perry!

Girl Unknown will be published very soon (this upcoming Tuesday, February 6, 2018) and so many people are already excited about it! Wanna know what it’s about? Read the description from Amazon:

“David and Caroline Connolly are swimming successfully through their marriage’s middle years―raising two children; overseeing care for David’s ailing mother; leaning into their careers, both at David’s university teaching job, where he’s up for an important promotion, and at the ad agency where Caroline has recently returned to work after years away while the children were little. The recent stresses of home renovation and of a brief romantic betrayal (Caroline’s) are behind them. The Connollys know and care for each other deeply.

Then one early fall afternoon, a student of sublime, waiflike beauty appears in David’s university office and says, “I think you might be my father.” And the fact of a youthful passion that David had tried to forget comes rushing back. In the person of this intriguing young woman, the Connollys may have a chance to expand who they are and how much they can love, or they may be making themselves vulnerable to menace. They face either an opportunity or a threat―but which is which? What happens when their hard-won family happiness meets a hard-luck beautiful girl?”

Intriguing right?! Is she really his daughter? And why has she decided to show up unannounced after all this time? Seem a little fishy to you?

For a book about family dynamics, you would think that there would be at least a little bit of warmth in this novel, but the dark and twisted turns of this novel will have you guessing each character’s motives and if they are even safe being around one another. One thing that the author(s) of this novel did really well was provide a sense of tension for the reader and that is something that I always really enjoy in thrillers!

Overall, this book was a super fast read for me. I was compulsively flipping pages, dying to find out the ending and what was going to happen. If you are looking for your next page turner, you have come to the right place!

Overall, I give this book 3/5 stars. The only reason why I didn’t give it a higher rating is because I would have really liked to have seen a chapter from Zoe’s perspective. I feel that including that would have rounded out the story and given us insight into her mind.

Thank you again to Henry Holt for including me in this fun blog tour and sending me a finished copy of the book!

Want to keep an eye out for when I will be doing a giveaway of my finished copy? Follow me at @worldswithinpages on instagram!

Thanks for stopping by!

-Alisa

Braving the Wilderness: The Book That Healed Me

Braving the Wilderness: The Book That Healed Me

In September of 2016, I had the absolute honor of seeing Brené Brown speak at a conference. While I had heard of Brené before and had many bookworms telling me how much her books meant to them, it never really stuck to me that she was someone who was on a “need-to-read-basis.”

When I saw Brené speak that day in September, my mind drastically changed. Not just my mind, but something deeper within me. Something that clicked itself into place in the fiber of my being and changed the way I viewed people I interacted with forever. Because of this drastic change, I made the not-so-difficult decision to research and find every single book Brené has written and acquire the ones that spoke to me.

Braving the Wilderness, Brené’s newest novel, was one she made references to throughout multiple points in her presentation. When I heard the basic message behind the novel, I knew I had to buy it. This month, I finally sat down and read it, deciding that I was READY for it. You can’t just pick up life-changing novels on a whim, your heart and soul must decide the timeline for you. Ironically, this was the pick for Reese Witherspoon’s book club this month, so really, how could I have timed that any better?

While many of the points Brené makes in the book hit me to my core, forcing literal tears from my eyes and drowning me in “aha!” moments, there was one theme in Braving the Wilderness that stood out among the rest: Compassion for our fellow human beings.

At a time where political polarization is running rampant in our country, spreading us further apart morally and in some cases physically, this book challenged me to think of why. Why is this phenomenon happening? It’s not hard to conclude that it’s happening because differences in opinion leading to a “them versus us” mentality are sown into the fabric of our nation. But what is the cost of all of this discourse? What is the end result? At the end of the day, the end result is a lack of compassion and complete dehumanization.

I will be the first to admit that I am someone who will stand by their beliefs and cast stones at individuals who disagree with me. Under the guise of social justice, I have dehumanized people in my mind. I have funneled an enormous amount of hatred toward Trump supporters. I have belittled people online for their opposing beliefs. I have sought opportunities to argue with people when I know it will just anger them. I have called people names. I have accused them of things they “must be” without truly knowing who they are and what lies at the center of their reasons for acting and saying the things they do. I have done that. And I am tired of carrying around hate if it costs me my compassion and kindness.

I want to make something clear: I am not sorry for fighting against injustices and I do not regret standing up for my beliefs and speaking out against hatred. I believe in myself and my stance on the topics I’m passionate about and I will never falter on them. However, most of my outward actions which put my morals into practice went against my own code of ethics. I need to be better at staying true to who I am regardless of how I feel at the “heat of the moment.” I need to be better so that I can be more effective with my message and so that others can hear what I have to say.

My most important trait I possess is my ability to put kindness into action. That doesn’t mean that I will let people walk all over me. If I feel disrespected, I’ll bite back. BUT… above all, what’s most important to me is that I maintain a level of compassion that speaks volumes to what I stand for regardless of how others treat me.

In the past few months, life circumstances have forced me to take a look at myself and evaluate WHO I want to be and WHAT I want to do about it. Reading Braving the Wilderness was a breath of much needed fresh air, pointing me toward my True North. I was feeling so lost in the “Wilderness”, wondering what my next step would be. But as long as I keep stepping toward kindness and compassion, I know that I will always be on the path I’m meant to travel. Whatever is on that path will challenge me every single day, but the reward will be great.

Thank you, Brené, for getting me through an incredibly hard time in my life. Your voice while I was listening to you narrate your audiobook healed my soul. I felt like you were listening to ME rather than vice versa and I can’t tell you how much that means to me to be heard. Standing in the wilderness won’t be fun and I am standing here alone. But I’m here, I’m present, I showed up, and I’m ready for the adventure.

5/5 stars for this book.

Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

As an ambassador for Little Brown, I was so lucky to be able to receive a copy of Red Clocks by Leni Zumas for review. I knew that this book had been getting a ton of hype and that a lot of people were really excited about it, but I was worried that the hype was a little biased just based on the fact that it was one of the first novels of feminist literature published this year. But trust me when I say this, the hype is WARRANTED. In fact, I don’t know if it’s even being hyped enough.

Red Clocks follows the story of four women (named only as The Biographer, The Daughter, The Mender, and The Wife) who are living and dealing with a time in the United States where abortion is outlawed. Not only is abortion outlawed, but because of the overturn of Roe v Wade, a snowball effect of reproductive rights are repealed as a result.

The Biographer, a single teacher in her forties, struggles with the notion that she will never be able to have children. Despite her many trips to the doctor’s office with 100 different medications to try and methods to test, The Biographer remains unable to conceive. This issue is further exacerbated by the fact that IVF has also been outlawed, as the government feels that the fertilized egg is a “human being and cannot consent to being implanted” (seems crazy, but I would not be surprised if this became a reality). Not only that, but another deadline is looming on the horizon for her: Soon, the conservative government will put in place a law that will require each child being adopted to be placed in a home with two parents, one mother, and one father. Her hopes of ever being able to have a child of her own dwindle and she’s left with nothing but self-doubt and depression.

The second character, referred to as The Daughter, is a high school student who finds herself to be pregnant after an encounter with a boy who clearly proves that he wants nothing to do with her after he got his way. The Daughter, struggling with her predicament and her need to hide it from her family and everyone around her, starts to panic. Just like what happened in REAL LIFE before Roe v Wade, The Daughter begins to look for places where she can have her “situation taken care of.” She consults the town “witch” (also known to us as The Mender), attempts to leave the country and flee to Canada where abortion is still legal (leave it to Canada to still be acting right), and tries looking for sketchy places that will do it illegally (even if it is totally unsanitary). All she wants is for this baby to be gone at any cost.

The third character, The Mender, is a local woman whose family has been accused of “witchcraft” for many generations. She uses natural herbs to help women with issues they face including a tea mixture that is said to cause abortion naturally. When women come to her, she takes care of them, no questions asked. But when she gets mixed up with the wrong woman, there will be hell to pay. And why does The Daughter look so familiar to her?

The last character, The Wife, struggles with the fact that she wants out of her marriage and away from her children. She now despises being a mother and the thought of caring for her children any longer sends her into a dangerous mindset. To be honest with you, it took me awhile to understand The Wife’s place in this novel and after reading the reviews of a few others, I came to the conclusion that her role is there to further the question “What is a woman’s place in society?” Clearly, the wife does not want to be a wife or a mother, but because of societal expectations, she was forced into these roles. There is even some symbolism around her of a small animal being burnt to a rubbery crisp and in my opinion, this represents who she is: Someone who is slowly burning and dying under the pressure to be who people expect her to be.

Overall, I loved this book. It did so much for me that I didn’t expect it to and frankly, even though it’s labeled as “dystopian”, there was nothing unbelievable about this book. I could very easily see any of the things that happened in this book happening in real life, especially under the current administration. I think that’s what makes this book all the more unsettling: We are so close to seeing this book become nonfiction.

Overall, I gave this book 5/5 stars. It is my favorite book I have read yet this year and I am thrilled that Book of the Month Club made this a pick so that more and more people can enjoy this and take it as a warning of what is to come.

Thank you to Little Brown for sending me a copy for review!

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Look, I know what you’re thinking. I am late to the party on this one. Fangirl has been sitting on my shelf for YEARS now just waiting to be cracked open. But trust me, had I known that I was going to love it as much as I did, I wouldn’t have waited this long.

Overall, I LOVED this book. I loved that the main character, Cath was so incredibly relatable in every way. I loved that her romance with (no spoilers) her crush was realistic and not the average “uhhh… yeah right…” mush fest that some YA can slip into. I loved that there were multiple mental illness themes, addiction themes, drug use themes, aggression themes, LGBT representation, sex positive themes, and family tension themes (all of which made the book that much more realistic). Liked I said, I loved it!

This book earned a 5-star rating for me and here is why:

What this book made me feel: First and foremost, Fangirl made me feel nostalgic for my own first year of college and for falling in love with my now husband who I met during my junior year. While those who are freshman in college are legally and technically adults, there is still so much childlike wonder and fun in those who are just starting their journeys away from home. I also felt so connected to Cath as a character. In the beginning to the novel, I admit, she annoyed me a bit because she was a bit whiny and angsty. But as I kept reading and her character really started to full form, I realized that a lot of her angst was a cover up for the anxiety she was feeling about college and in general. I completely relate to that feeling, especially when I was just staring at my new university. I also was able to really empathize with Cath’s family issues. Her mom, Laura, abandoning her as a child is not something that I went through, but as a child of divorced parents, I really understood her resentment toward her mother and how her life had waves of repercussions due to being in a single-parent family. Her dedication to her sister was another thing I was able to connect with, as I would do just about anything to keep my own sister safe if she were in a situation like Wren was in (again, no spoilers).

What this book made me think: Due to this being a YA novel, I admit that it didn’t make me “think” too much, per se. I think this book was heavy on the “feeling” aspect and that it was intended to be that way. I will say that Cath’s goals and perseverance toward her dream and her steadfast dedication to being exactly who she is really resonated with me. It made me think about my own goals for my career and life and reminded me to not let anyone, including myself, get in the way of my dreams!

What I learned from this book: The one main thing I learned from this novel is that there is so much importance, bravery, and honor in being genuinely who you are. Despite her friends and family kind of teasing Cath for liking something nerdy, she was unapologetic and continued to embrace what she was passionate about. This was a huge motivator for me because I happen to like a few nerdy things like Cath and I too receive teasing prods from my friends, family, and coworkers. But I like what I like and everyone else can either deal with it or get outta my life, right?! Right! 

Again, I can’t say enough how much I loved this book. I would highly recommend this to anyone who hasn’t read it yet, even if YA isn’t normally your genre of choice. It’s cute, funny, romantic, and just enough nerdy to add something extra as the cherry on top! 

5/5 stars for this adorable read!

Thank you so much for reading!

-Alisa

Review: Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire

Review: Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire

I mentioned in my stories on Instagram (@worldswithinpages) that you have to have a certain type of reading taste to be able to enjoy novels by Gregory Maguire and I maintain that in this blog post. Gregory Maguire’s writing is an incredibly long slow-burn with not much that happens plot-wise. However, if you are into more of a slow story that focuses deeply on character development, his novels might be perfect for you!

To be completely honest, this book was just not for me. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, hence my reasoning behind giving it 2/5 stars. I thought it was beautifully written, but due to its plot being so shallow, I couldn’t get into it at all.

I was really hoping for more of a look into the story of the Nutcracker story and this book didn’t deliver on that expectation for me. The book centered on following the life of the creator of the Nutcracker and his life as it leads up to the story of the Nutcracker.

I will say that a redeeming element of this novel was the introduction of Klara. Klara is the most whimsical character ever with an imagination that lit up her corners of this story. I was sad that she didn’t show up until almost the very end of the novel, as I feel I would have enjoyed it more had she been more central to the story.

I am going to forego by standard blog review style for this one because I really didn’t have much to think, feel, and learn about this one. I think it’s safe to say that I just don’t enjoy Maguire’s writing. Sorry, sir!

 

Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a most wonderful day!

-Alisa

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

““There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.”

In a town that is anything but normal, four private school boys (Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah) and one daughter of a psychic and eccentric line of matriarchs (Blue) meet one another with one mission in mind: Find the ley lines, and locate Glendower (a long-dead and buried king) to be granted a favor. That is, according to legend, how it should work. Simple right?

In this stunning fantasy novel, Maggie Stiefvater creates a story of friendship, love, strength, adventure, magic, and ultimate sacrifice. Through the different layers of the character’s lives (what I might call a literary lasagna), we learn about the motives that drive each character and the lengths they are willing to go to in order to get what they want.

For Blue, all she wants is to be able to be herself. With a love triangle on the horizon and her knowledge that, if she kisses her true love, he will die, Blue struggles to balance her needs to express her feelings with, frankly, not wanting to kill the poor guy. Not only does she struggle with her emotional conflictions but she also struggles with the fact that in her entire line of aunts and mother, she is the only one who does not possess psychic abilities. While she can act as a sort of “sound and energy magnifier” for others, she cannot see the future on her own and make predictions. This leads to her feeling almost inadequate and frustrated, missing how valuable she truly is to the story.

For Gansey, he is a one-track-mind kind of guy. He wants to find Glendower and he wants to be granted his favor for waking him. What Dansey wants to find him for and the favor he will request is still unclear, but his dedication to finding him begs the question: What does Dansey want? Oh, and throw in a little pining for a girl who may or may not be interested in him? Yeah, that makes it a little bit more complicated.

For Adam, his motivation is making something of himself, by himself. Even though he attends an incredibly expensive private school, Adam’s home and family background is anything but the white-collar yacht-club glamorous lives that have been the hallmark of Aglionby (the private school) students. While Adam struggles with the financial reality he is faced with, he also starts to have feelings for someone that turns his life into both a positive new world and a dangerous gamble.

As for Ronan, I am still unsure what his motivations are other than being that kind of “he’s a jerk, but we love him” kind of character. However, I do think his motivations will become more clear in the second book, as the last line of The Raven Boys dropped a HUGE nugget of a plot twist.

For this review, I want to try something new for how I review the books I read. I believe that the three most important things about books are what we feel when we read them, what they made us think about, and what we learned from them.

So, without further ado, here is an introduction to my new reviewing style AND how they apply to my reading of The Raven Boys.

What this book made me feel: The major theme that I found in The Raven Boys was love. The characters struggle with love, fight for love, sacrifice themselves in the name of love, love their families, love their town, and most importantly love one another. While reading these themes of love, it made me feel like I truly was a part of their friendship circle. Each character so deeply cared for one another that I felt myself longing to understand a friendship so protective and selfless. I also felt sad for the characters when the love that they had for their families caused them pain. Adam, in particular, felt this pain (no spoilers). I was heartbroken and heart warmed all throughout this book by the different acts of love sprinkled in the novel.

What this book made me think: Sacrifice is a major component of this story, especially at the end of the novel. What this book made me think about overall was “What would I be willing to sacrifice for the ones that I loved”? It also goes without saying that, because this a quadrilogy (four-book series), my thoughts the entire time, all the way up until the last sentence was “WHAT THE HECK IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT?!”

What I learned from this book: There are so many lessons to be learned from this book, but one of the main things I learned from reading it was that there is an incredible amount of importance in having friends surrounding you that support you, encourage you, and help you accomplish your goals no matter how odd or unbelievable they may seem. Without each person in this book supporting each other, there would have been a very different story to tell. Good friends are hard to find, but Blue and the Raven Boys are a group of friends that mesh together so well, you would think they were all related.

Overall, I GREATLY enjoyed this book. It is rare that YA novels leave me feeling completely satisfied with the story, but this one was an easy 5/5 stars! I will say that the plot did have a tendency to drag at times, but I feel that the occasional slow down really helped to paint a more in-depth picture of who each character was. You know that I really enjoyed a novel when I stay up until midnight to read over 200 pages just so I can find out what happens next!

Let me know what you think of this new format, as I will likely be using it in the future. I know that I personally prefer to read shorter reviews, and I think that my “feel, think, learned” method will make it a lot more fun!

Thanks for reading!

-Alisa

Review: The Next Together by Lauren James

Review: The Next Together by Lauren James

“Kathrine and Matthew are destined to be born again, century after century. Each time, they are total strangers thrust together under unusual circumstances. Each time, their presence changes history for the better. And each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. Why does fate keep bringing them together to save the world, and what must they achieve before they can finally be left to love in peace? Maybe the next together will be different.”

From 1745, 1854, 2019, to 2039, Kathrine and Matthew’s century-spanning love stories are never simple. Wars are being fought, cities are being invaded, government conspiracies are running rampant, and all they want to do is fall deeply in love, live a normal life, get married, and have children. But can they live a normal life when their lives, and the reason for their “reincarnations,” are the difference between world destruction and world peace?

Told between the varying perspectives of each of their lives, The Next Together is the perfect YA thriller/romance novel. I was captivated while turning the pages just waiting on the edge of my seat for that inevitable moment where Kathrine and Matthew finally found their way to one another and fell in love despite all odds.

One of my favorite things about this book was the idea that love could conquer all. I am a huge sap for love stories, regardless of how cheesy and improbable. There was a quote from the book that really stuck with me that said this:

“I love you too,” she replied, her breath catching in her throat. She realized then that she always had. She couldn’t remember falling in love with Matt. She hadn’t had the butterflies in her stomach, the giddy absorption of falling in love. It hadn’t been like that. She’d just seen him, and suddenly it had all clicked into place. She’d always been in love with him, and had been quietly, patiently, waiting for him to turn up. Perhaps once there had been a time when she wasn’t tied to him with every molecule of her being, but it was so long ago it was impossible to remember.”

How cute is that? And totally relatable for my fellow lovers of love. I oftentimes feel that way about my relationship with my own husband, so reading that paragraph made me feel so warm and cozy on the inside.

I will say that this book could have been made better by the author making the 1745 and 1854 timelines a bit more dissimilar. I found that I was having a hard time keeping tack of which timeline was which and it made the story progression a bit less enjoyable. It did help that there are literal timeline tracking indicators at the top, but I still found myself getting a bit overwhelmed with trying to keep track of them.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I give it 3/5 stars. I recommend this one for fans of YA fantasy, YA romance, and fans of books that take place during alternating timelines.

Thank you very much to Skyhorse Publishing for sending me a copy to review! I am extremely grateful!

To purchase this novel, you may find it here on Amazon.

Thanks for reading!

-Alisa