Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Siiiiigh.

I really wanted to like this book a lot. I really did. I have had it on my shelf since the month it was released a few years ago in 2016, silently passing it over with the hopes that I would be holding off for something amazing. Then, when Thunderhead, the second book in the series was released a few months ago, I was finally motivated to read Scythe and figure out what it was that everyone was raving about it.

Unfortunately, even after reading the book, I still do not see what the fuss is all about. Let’s dive into my review about the things that I liked about the book and the things I did not.

Things I Liked About Scythe

There were a few things I did like about this book. The plot itself was a pretty original idea (kind of… see below) and I was really intrigued by the idea of a “perfect society.” I also really liked that there were a lot of themes of compassion and doing what is right by your fellow man even when what you are doing is difficult. I also appreciated the pacing of the book. It seemed like something new was happening with every chapter and there were a few twists that I didn’t see coming!

Things I Didn’t Like About Scythe

Alright, where do I begin here? I think it might be easier if I make a bulleted list.

  • This story is a bit tired. Two talented teens (one boy, one girl, because obviously we need to stick to that heteronormativity), they train under the direction of a powerful figure, they discover the government system they are fighting for is flawed, they work hard to stick it to the man, they fall in love, but oh man it’s forbidden love uh ohhh, and THEN of course something occurs that tears a seam in the world as we know it. Sound familiar (Hunger Games, Divergent, The Host, Shadow & Bone, etc. etc. etc. etc.)
  • The characters are so so shallow. While the plot is progressing and we are learning more about the characters themselves, I never truly felt like I knew or connected to either of the main characters. I realized this was the case when something happened where one of them could potentially die and I just really did not care. I was not invested in their lives at all. I have a really hard time reading books whose characters I can’t connect with, no matter how fast the plot was moving. I will say that Rowan (the main male character) does experience some emotional changes that we get to see, but it still didn’t make me like him more or less.
  • SPOILER ALERT: The two main characters, Citra and Rowan, fall in love. But we never find out why or how. You can see throughout the novel that there may be some hints of affection, but it goes from 0-100 REAL quick. There is almost NO reason for me to want to invest in their relationship or even care that they are “in love.” It’s almost creepy?
  • The violence in this book is incredibly graphic. Normally I can handle a little gore, but when it comes to this book, I had a really hard time being okay with and processing the fact that there were innocent people being killed for the sake of “world balance.” There was even a scene where a family with a father, mother, and children were eating at the dinner table and the Scythes showed up, took him away from his family at the table and lead him into the bedroom down the hall to “glean” him. This was incredibly discomforting to me and made me really anxious to think about. Not only that, but if the person who is being “gleaned” resists in any way whatsoever, their entire family will be hunted down and disposed of. It’s horribly violent and deeply disturbing. Some of the methods of gleaning were also incredibly immoral and I really just didn’t see the point of how grotesque some of the methods were. I was really disappointed in that element.

That’s about all I have to say about this book. I think I will read the second book just to see if it makes the first book seem any better but I have my doubts.

Overall, I feel like my reading tastes have evolved when it comes to YA fantasy and I have almost impossible standards for YA fantasy to achieve 4 & 5-star ratings. For having read SO much of it in my lifetime, it’s hard for me to excuse the things that I find are lacking in certain books that I have found in others.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

Have you read this book yet? What did you think?

Thanks for reading!

-Alisa

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

I am going to be honest in this review, as I try to be with all of my reviews. This book is either one that people hate or people love. Luckily for me, I LOVED it.

Wintersong follows the story of a girl named Elisabeth (Liesl) who has grown up her entire life hearing fairytale-like stories about “The Goblin King” from her superstitious grandmother. However, her grandmother’s stories turn out to be more than just stories, as a grown-up Liesl starts to remember flashbacks of her childhood and dancing and laughing with this handsome and frightening “Goblin King.” When Liesl’s sister Kathe is lured into the Underground, the Earthy domain of The Goblin King and his minions, Liesl must find a way to save her, but it may cost Liesl something more than she could have ever prepared for.

Look, I understand why so many people have a hard time liking this book. It contains everything that you would think a YA fantasy would contain: A “bland and boring” female main character who has the hots for the mysterious fantasy bad boy, a steamy encounter (or two… or three), and an eventual proclamation of love that changes everything (look, you saw this coming, don’t tell me it’s a spoiler). HOWEVER, there is a special charm in this book that I rarely find in other “typical” fantasy YA novels. The connection that the two main characters have is so much more than just romantic and physical tension and I loved that there was almost a sense of vulnerability between the two of them. They wanted each other, badly, but they were respectful of one another, they understood one another, and Liesl made her boundaries well known to him. It’s also hard to NOT be attracted to someone as flawed and tormented as The Goblin King. While so many male protagonists are “flawed bad boys”, you can’t help but feel empathy for the role that The Goblin King has to play and the weight he has on his shoulders to keep the world from absolute ruin (literally).

This book was absolutely magical for me. The descriptions of the music that Liesl holds dear, the whole world that was created by the author, and the love and connection that was shared between the main characters was enchanting. If you read it like a fairytale and go into the story thinking of it as a fairytale, I feel that it would be much more enjoyable. This book is meant to be read as a story, not as a fantastical reality if that makes sense!

There are some flaws in this book that I would like to address, but they are minimal. Liesl REALLY had some self-esteem issues in the beginning of the novel that made me feel like it was a bit overdone. The whole “plain girl trope” is not something I like to see as much as it is portrayed and written into fantasy novels and I often find myself becoming irritated by it. However, I will say that her character arc does create an opportunity for her to become a bit more confident, but it’s at the hands of The Goblin King. I would have liked to see Liesl come into her confidence on her own without needing a man to give it to her (lol pun intended) to make it happen. I also wish that her sister Kathe was not viewed as an object as much as she was in the book. She was known for being beautiful and the author put her in so many situations where she was objectified and I felt really bad for her. We get it, she is desired, but couldn’t she have been so much more than that?

Overall, I REALLY enjoyed this book and I am excited to read the second book in this series that was just released about a month or so ago. I ended up giving this book 4/5 stars and I would definitely recommend it to people who are fans of fantasy.

Thanks for reading!

-Alisa

 

Fantasy in February

Fantasy in February

Hellooo and happy February, my loves! January was a doozy for a lot of us, so I am sure that many of you are breathing sighs of relief that it is FINALLY February.

If you follow me on Instagram (@worldswithinpages), you may already know that I am doing something pretty fun in the month of February. After looking at my bookshelves full of the books that I can’t WAIT to get to, I realized that many of the books I had been excited to read but hadn’t made time for yet were in the fantasy genre. That is why I made the exciting decision to ONLY read fantasy/sci-fi books during the month of February. Because it is my favorite genre to read, I have a feeling this may become my best reading month of the year!

When picking out which books I wanted to read, I took into account the ones that had been sitting on my shelves the longest and the new releases that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. What I came up with was a list of hopefuls as long as my arm and an excitement to read that I hadn’t felt in such a long time. Wanna know which books I chose? Keep reading!

  1. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
    This book was released on Tuesday, January 30th and you bet your bottom dollar I went out to buy it that same weekend. I ended up finishing it already because I just couldn’t wait any longer to dive in (review to come).The book follows the story of a girl named Alice whose grandmother is a famous fairytale author who lives in a secluded mansion named “The Hazel Wood.” The problem is that Alice has never read any of her grandmother’s stories and getting her hands on a copy of the novel is impossible (literally). However, strange things start to happen and her Mom disappears mysteriously, leaving her behind with only one message: “Stay away from The Hazel Wood.” Alice begins to suspect that her grandmother’s fairy tale stories may be MORE than just stories after all. With the help of her classmate Ellery Finch (who has read her grandmother’s book but had it stolen from him years ago), Alice must find a place she has never been to rescue her mother from danger. But all is not what it seems…
  2. Scythe by Neal Schusterman
    Scythe by Neal Schusterman is one of the novels that has been waiting patiently on my shelves the longest. I actually bought it last year out of excitement that the author of Challenger Deep (one of my favorite reads centered on mental illness) had released a new novel. But now, with the release of the second book in the series (Thunderhead), it is finally time for me to pick up the book and give it a go! I am also doing a buddy read for this novel, so being able to experience it with a friend will be very exciting!Scythe centers on two teenagers, Citra and Rowan, who are chosen to act as apprentices under a scythe. During their apprenticeship, the teens will be instructed on how to take people’s lives without endangering their own. Scythes are necessary for the world they live in, as humanity has learned to conquer disease, hunger, and war meaning that they have also conquered death. But Citra and Rowan do not want to fit into this role that society has set aside for them (can’t really say I blame them…). What will be the cost of a perfect world? Is it so perfect after all?
  3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
    So, the sad thing about this book is that I was really looking forward to it. It had been calling my name since March of 2017 and I was finally ready to take the plunge and see what the fuss was about. Truthfully? I didn’t like it. I read about 50 pages in earlier this week and realized that Laini Taylor’s writing style may just not be for me. It’s very lyrical and poetic and was definitely not the feeling that I expect to get from YA fantasy. I am really sad that this didn’t turn out better for me this month, but I am hoping to maybe revisit it sometime in the future when I have more patience for it.Strange the Dreamer is about a young boy named Lazlo Strange who is an orphan and junior librarian with big dreams of discovering the secrets buried within the mystical lost city of Weep. He longs to discover why it was cut off from the rest of the world long ago, but knows that he can’t do it alone. When a band of legendary warriors lead by a hero called the “Godslayer” crosses paths with Lazlo, he seizes the opportunity to travel with them to find the answers he’s been looking for.
  4. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
    The Grishaverse world is one that I have been waiting to dive into for so long! I purchased the box set last summer and even though I have read most of the first book, I am ready to pick it up again and finish strong with the entire trilogy.Shadow and Bone is the first book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy and centers on a young girl named Alina Starkov. Alina is a soldier in an army that travels across a section of her country called The Shadow Fold. The Shadow Fold is full of monsters and dark magic and threatens the lives of the soldiers with every step. One day, when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes magic within herself that she never knew she had. This discovery leads to her life changing drastically, as she is sent to train with the Grisha, a group of military elite who have magical abilities like hers. But do Alina’s powers hold more than just simple abilities?
  5. The Diviners by Libba Bray
    The Diviners is an older release, but one of my newer discoveries for books I want to read. I originally started listening to this book on audiobook and didn’t enjoy the narrator’s portrayal of the characters and really didn’t want to finish the book because of that. However, after seeing one of my favorite Booktubers rave about the book and how much she liked it, I decided to give it another chance and read it in my own voice in hopes that I will like it a bit better that way.The Diviners takes place in 1926 and follows the journey of Evangeline (Evie) O’Neill from her boring hometown to the thriving streets of New York City. While there, Evangeline is forced to live with her uncle Will who is a little bit eccentric, specifically, he has an obsession with the occult and knows how to spot sneaky paranormal activity and objects. The catch? Evie has a secret ability that she is desperate to keep from him, powers that she would rather he not know about. But when a local citizen winds up dead with a suspicious symbol branded into her skin, Evie knows that her secret abilities may be the only chance the city has at catching the killer.
  6. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
    To be honest, this is the book on my TBR that I know the least about. I am just going to put it out there that I was attracted to the cover last year and that’s why I got it and DO NOT JUDGE ME OKAY? But I do know that the sequel was just released on the day that I am writing this post, so that’s as good a reason as any to try out the first book this month, right?!Wintersong originally snagged my attention with the Amazon description that claims that it is “an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and Beauty and the Beast.” As a lover of both of those, I am HERE for this. Here is the rest of the description from Amazon:

    The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
    But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds―and the mysterious man who rules it―she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.”

  7. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
    As one of the BIGGEST Disney fans on the planet, I am hoping to read more of the books behind the movies this year. First stop? Peter Pan! While Peter Pan isn’t my favorite Disney story (and, let’s be honest, it’s PRETTY problematic), I do enjoy the ideals it embodies of adventure and childhood being a state of mind. I can’t wait to read it!
  8. Cinder by Marissa Meyer 
    Another series that has been patiently waiting for me to read it is the Lunar Chronicles series! Cinder is the first book in this series that seems to have the hearts of so many YA fantasy readers and I can’t wait to see if this modern spin on some of my favorite Disney stories warms my heart as much as they seem to warm others’.Here is the Amazon description for Cinder:
    “Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.”

In addition to the incredible fantasy reads I have lined up, I also have a handful of non-fantasy books I will be reading for pre-planned buddy reads and review request for publishers. I will also be reading:

I am also currently rereading A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab because what is a month of fantasy without a reread of one of my favorite fantasy series of all time?! I will carry on with the reread of the rest of the series in March as a fun way to celebrate my birthday!

I am so excited about the number of friends I have on instagram who are participating in #FantasyinFebruary! I am looking forward to seeing the incredible recommendations that everyone has to offer and I can’t wait to dive into the books on my list.

Thank you so much for reading and if you have an instagram account, feel free to follow along with me this month!

Lots of hugs,

-Alisa

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.

5 Irrefutable Reasons Why Hufflepuff is the Best Hogwarts House

5 Irrefutable Reasons Why Hufflepuff is the Best Hogwarts House

Alright, listen up. There’s a dirty rumor going around that has been circulating through the Potter Universe since the beginning of time and I am here to strike it down HARD. That rumor is that Hufflepuff is the worst house to be in and that, in some way, Hufflepuffs are wimps/useless/stupid. Nothing could be further from the truth. How do I know that? Because I am probably the most proud Hufflepuff on the planet and I have NO TIME for this nonsense and lies.

While there are 4000 reasons I can think of that make Hufflepuff the best house, here are 5 irrefutable pieces of evidence that make me a proud Hufflepuff:

  1. J.K. Rowling herself has said that Hufflepuffs are her favorite.Let me break this down for you. The creator of the entire series herself said that Hufflepuff is her FAVORITE house. Need proof? Check out this interview where she explains why Hufflepuff is her favorite (some of her reasons are the same reasons for why I also think Hufflepuff is the best house).

    J.K. Hufflepuff

  2. Hufflepuffs were the ONLY Hogwarts House aside from Gryffindor whose students stayed en masse to fight at the Battle of Hogwarts. 

    That’s right, Ravenclaws and Slytherins ran off into the sunset to avoid the battle in large numbers, but Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors were the only ones who stayed and fought bravely. Gryffindors are known for their bravery and strength, but, as J.K. explains in the interview I mentioned above, the Hufflepuffs stayed for an even BETTER reason. The reason? The Sorting Hat hints to why in his first song in The Sorcerer’s Stone: “You might belong in Hufflepuff, where they are just and loyal. Those patient Hufflepuffs are true, and unafraid of toil.” Because of the Hufflepuff dedication to justice, loyalty, being true to themselves and their friends, and their fearlessness in the face of toil, Hufflepuffs remain the heroes of the Battle of Hogwarts and without them, wizard and mugglekind would have been screwed! So, you are welcome! 😉

  3. Two words: Cedric Diggory 

    I know what you’re thinking with this one because almost every single person I use this argument with says “but he like totally died lololololol.” BUT what they fail to realize is the actions that LEAD to his death. He didn’t just slip on a banana peel and die, he died because he was doing things, incredibly brave things, that lead him to that moment in the graveyard.During the Triwizard Tournament, the most capable and WORTHY entrant is chosen to compete by the Triwizard Cup, an unbiased source (unless a total jerk tampers with the Cup, but I digress). Cedric Diggory, Hufflepuff extraordinaire, is chosen by the Cup. Out of every entrant from EVERY house, Diggory is chosen. Hence, he is the most worthy. Furthermore, without Diggory, Harry would have failed the tournament and never likely figured out the challenge at the Black Lake. Diggory also helped Harry fight through the last challenge, the maze, and agreed, YES, AGREED (because Hufflepuffs are loyal, just, and KIND), to make the win a tie and grab the cup at the same time (hence them both being transported by the Portkey). Yes, he did end up dying, but he died valiantly at the hands of the most evil wizard that ever lived protecting a friend that he cared for.

    So, in summation, Cedric Diggory is the perfect student example of why Hufflepuffs are the best. Point. Blank. Period. No further questions.

  4. Out of all of the Houses, Hufflepuff is the only one to accept ALL people regardless of their courage, smarts, or otherwise.

    In another Sorting Hat song that takes place during the Goblet of Fire, the Hat outlines the things that are valued most to each of the House founders (Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin):“By Gryffindor, the bravest were
    Prized far beyond the rest;
    For Ravenclaw, the cleverest
    Would always be the best;
    For Hufflepuff, hard workers were
    Most worthy of admission;
    And power-hungry Slytherin
    Loved those of great ambition.”

    Notice how Gryffindor values bravery, Ravenclaw values those who are clever, and Slytherin values ambition. Hufflepuff on the other hand? They value those who are hard workers and willing to do their best. To me, this means that Hufflepuff is the most inclusive House of all, taking students on who want to be there and are willing to put in the work to be successful. Forget about the rest, if you want to be here, we will take you!

  5. Hufflepuff and dark wizards? Nah, man. 

    Every single house has boasted lots of dark wizards. When Voldemort started gaining more and more power, Death Eaters from each house came out in abundance to show their support. Hufflepuffs didn’t have a seat at that table. Why? Again… loyal, just, kind, patient, morally sound. Hufflepuffs don’t kill their friends… they just don’t!

Alright, friends. Are you convinced that Hufflepuff is the best house yet? I will admit that I give Gryffindor an honorable mention here, but if I had to choose my house over again, I would still choose Hufflepuff every time.

What is your Hogwarts House and why are YOU proud to be in it?

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

Top 10 Novels of 2017

Top 10 Novels of 2017

Hello, friends!

It’s hard to believe that I am sitting in my room writing this post on the last day of 2017. This year has been… special to say the very least. Roller coaster of emotions and unfortunate circumstances is an understatement. BUT, so many incredible things happened as well and I am more than thankful for how blessed I have been in health, love, and family.

Anyway, let’s get to the books. In 2017, I read 90 books. 90!! I am so proud of myself because in 2016, I only read about 25 books total. I almost quadrupled my total read number. How cool is that? While I read so many books that touched my heart, made me laugh, or helped me grow as a person, these 10 novels shaped up to be my Top 10 Novels of 2017 (not in any order)!

 

  1. The Darker Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. SchwabIf you have been around me or my bookstagram (@worldswithinpages) in the past 5 months, you will know how obsessed I am with this series. And yes, I am counting all three of them as one because it’s only fair. This series is to my adult life what Harry Potter was to my childhood. It brought me so much joy and so much magic and I definitely foresee a reread in the near future!
  2. Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore 

    This book was so incredibly unique and well-written. It’s one that took me by absolute surprise and captivated me in every chapter. I loved the alternations between timelines, the deep and intriguing characters, and the idea that living life to the fullest is the only way to live.

  3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng 

    Thanks to Book of the Month Club, I was introduced to this lovely novel that I otherwise would have never picked up. This book ended up being one of my favorites because the characters were so relatable. While they may have made decisions I didn’t agree with, I could feel their pain, their happiness, and I knew them well enough to understand their motives. I also liked that despite it being adult fiction, we got to see the perspectives of some of the young teens in the novel. It made the book read like a YA novel and I loved that! I also loved that this book helped to define, and not define, what a mother is and what it means to us all.

  4. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman 

    It’s incredibly easy for me to say that I loved this book considering Neil Gaiman is my favorite author. It also doesn’t help that I am a mythology buff and my excitement to learn about Norse mythology thrilled me to no end. While I studied mythology in college, some of it Norse, Gaiman spun these stories into something recognizable but entirely new. I found myself laughing at his descriptions of characters, his sarcasm, and his caricaturization of these crazy Gods and Goddesses. I highly recommend this book!

  5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty 

    While I am not the largest fan of thriller novels, Big Little Lies had be whipping through pages, impatiently waiting to find out what happened. I also loved that the TV show did the book justice so well (I know that’s not related to the book per se, but I still appreciated it)! I can’t wait to read more of her novels in 2018!

  6. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon 

    For a YA love story, this book packed a major punch. There was an entire story and entire lives outside of two people just falling in love. There were race and immigration themes that I truly appreciated reading, as it’s not something that’s commonly written about in YA. I recommend this one for those who like YA, but are looking for something with a bit more substance.

  7. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

    You all already know how much I love Taylor Jenkins Reid, but this book is my favorite of hers by far. Taylor stepped into a new genre this year with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and I enjoyed it immensely! I can’t wait to see what she writes next after the high from this one.

  8. The Golden House by Salman Rushdie 

    This being my first Rushdie novel, I had no idea what to expect and I was blown away. While it was not an easy read by far, I still loved the rich symbolism, the incredibly flawed characters, and the depth in which Rushdie explored each characters with their flaws and strengths.

  9. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater 

    Decided to pick these books up on a whim and I am so glad that I did! I loved The Raven Boys so much and the unique magic associated with each of the characters. This is a series I am very much looking forward to completing in the early months of 2018.

  10. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah 

    I love books that teach me something and I learned A LOT while reading Born A Crime. Learning about Trevor’s childhood, his path to being the incredible person he is today, and about the racial injustices and imbalances that still exist today was totally eye-opening. Oh, and he made me laugh along the way! I loved learning more about his hilarious and strong family and I am so thankful to have read this book.

 

There you have it! My Top 10 Novels of 2017. What was your favorite read from this year? Let me know!

Thanks for reading!

-Alisa

Why Reading Saved My Life in 2017

Why Reading Saved My Life in 2017

There is an unwritten agreement between my books and I. I open them, and they help me breathe and live. To many bookworms, this is a common agreement. In fact, there is a famous quote that reads

“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” -Anne Dillard

This quote has always been true to me, but this year it came to life in ways that I never would have imagined.

2017 was a rough year for me and the end of 2016 set me up to have one of the worst years of my life. In late 2016, I found out that not one, but two of my VERY close loved ones had been diagnosed with cancer. This was a shock to me, as both of these family members were people who had never struggled with their health until this point. My family had a hard time coping with the news, and we still are. Then, of course, November 8, 2016 rolls around and a man (read: demon) was elected as president. This threw me into a constant state of fear, anger at the world and at him, worry for the horrible things surely to come (spoiler alert to past me: you were right to be concerned), and disbelief that a country I had previously had pride in suddenly made me feel shame to even be associated with it. But that was only the beginning.

Throughout 2017, the following things happened that made this year a not-so-great one: Seven, yes, seven of my family members were either diagnosed with cancer or passed away. My closest aunt was involved in a horrific car accident (she was okay, but it was still very scary). My childhood dog I had since I was 12/13 years old had to be put to sleep because she could no longer walk and get around. Following a terrible windstorm in the early spring, the roof of our home was severely damaged, resulting in an incredibly expensive, financially draining repair process. And of course, this new government administration has been wreaking havoc on my sense of peace almost every day since day one (and I know I am not the only one here). This isn’t a fully comprehensive list, but you get the point, a lot happened in 2017 that was really hard to get through. When the stress of one incident subsided, another one would step in and take its place.

While 2017 was a really hard year for me, there was one thing in 2017 that made the hard days just a little bit easier: Reading. Reading, as I mentioned, has always helped me breathe a little better. It’s my absolute favorite form of escapism and has truly helped my mental health and wellbeing throughout my entire life. While spending time within the pages of my books, the rest of the world just falls away. This year, I read more books than I ever have in one year in my entire life. I read more diverse books by authors I had never heard of before with stories I had never lived. I read more fun books that I may not have tried had I not been on the lookout for new and exciting novels. I read more books that had important lessons in them that helped me grow as a person. I read more books PERIOD and despite the pain happening outside the pages, my books saved my life.

Without books, I would have drowned in my depression, my anxiety, and my overall lack of hope. I would have been someone who didn’t see that a world can get better once it implodes because there are people in it that are good. I would have felt isolated by the pain I was feeling for my family members, but through books, I realized that I was not alone. I would have been someone who lost their sense of creativity because when depression hits, everything else about you leaves. But through the creativity of the authors I read and the characters I met, I was able to be inspired constantly, making me a better blogger, photographer, and a better creative professional. Books, you saved me.

Another reason books saved my life is because of my new adventure into bookstagram (aka the book blogger Instagram scene). I had followed bookstagram accounts for years before, watching people post photos that took my breath away and getting book recommendations from people who were just as excited about literature as I was. I had so much fear when it came to starting my own account. I thought it would be unsuccessful, that my pictures wouldn’t be good enough, and that I would want to quit before I even got my account off the ground. Now, almost 5 months later, My account (@worldswithinpages) has grown to over 4,000 followers, I have started a blog to supplement what I want to say about what I am reading, I have started to grow in my photography abilities, and, most importantly, I have met people who I now consider my real friends that I never would have met otherwise. Without bookstagram, I wouldn’t have been so warmly welcomed into a community of people who accept me for who I am. This sense of belonging has been so healing for me and I can’t thank my bookish friends enough for everything they have done for me this year.

There were some great things that did happen to me in 2017 that I am thankful for. Two of the family members who were diagnosed with cancer went through treatment and are now cancer free! I was promoted at work, something I hadn’t expected to happen for another year or so. My library room (aka my safe space) has really come together and is shaping up to be beautiful thanks to some new décor and a few new bookshelves. I recently found out that I am going to be an Aunt for the very first time to my sister-in-law’s baby. I visited Disney World for the 4th time this year. My husband and I have a stronger-than-ever relationship after this year of hardship. The “presidency” has brought together so many people who are willing to fight against the bullcrap more fiercely than ever, which means I have a small amount of hope for 2018 and 2020 elections. Things were not all bad, but I am glad that I had my books along for each hurricane and ray of sunshine.

I am hopeful that 2018 will be better for me. I can only hope, as that is all I have within my control. In the meantime, I will curl up with a cup of tea, close the doors, wrap myself in fuzzy blankets and ride the waves of the storm. Shoot, I may even become the storm.

I owe a lot to reading, but mostly, I owe it my life.

Thanks for reading.

-Alisa