Why I Am Ditching the TBR Pile Concept This Month

Why I Am Ditching the TBR Pile Concept This Month

Hello fellow readers and friends, how are you?! I wanted to do a quick chatty post since it has been a little bit since I last talked to you guys about what I am reading and what I am up to.

You may have noticed that I didn’t post a TBR pile this month on my bookstagram (@worldswithinpages) or here on my blog and there’s a reason for that. These past few weeks have been super weird for me when it comes to reading. I am not in a reading SLUMP per se, but I am definitely going through a weird spot in my reading habits. Let me explain…

Before April, if you would have asked me to read a thriller novel, I would have told you I was not interested. Thriller/mystery used to be my LEAST favorite genre for various reasons and I would avoid them at all costs. However, during April, I completely abandoned that notion and I read almost nothing BUT thrillers back-to-back. I have NO idea what happened, it just did.

It all started when I read The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell. I picked it up randomly and after realizing that it had been on my shelf for quite some time and had not yet been read. I figured, after hearing some amazing reviews for it, that it would be a good bet. It was! I really enjoyed it and I am glad that my whims lead me to want to read it. However, it started a snowball effect of ONLY wanting to read thrillers. I didn’t want to read regular fiction, I didn’t want to read anything YA, and I didn’t want to read fantasy (my long-standing favorite genre). For some reason, all my brain wants right now is thrillers, thrillers, thrillers. Since then, I have read a total of 4 thriller/mystery/horror-type books… and I don’t see myself slowing down or changing course.

I started to fight this feeling for a little while when it first started creeping in, but I realized a few things. The first and most important thing I realized was that I read for fun! I don’t get paid to read and I don’t read for anyone else’s benefit but my own. Why pressure myself to read anything other than EXACTLY what I want to read, when I want to read it? The second thing I realized was that I have been blocked out SO many books by being exclusionary to the thriller genre. I am YEARS behind on reading what thriller fans have been loving and I have so much to catch up on! I will never run out of books to read now haha!

Another reason why I am not setting up a TBR pile this month is because I ALWAYS deviate from it. Every single time I set up a stack of 10+ books, I read maybe 3 from that pile. That’s always okay by me, but then I feel like there’s a feeling of guilt that I put on myself for not acheiving some sort of goal. I also have this weird thing that happens where, as soon as I say I am going to read a book by x date, I don’t want to read it anymore because it feels like a homework assignment (gross). Sitting and thinking about this more makes me wonder if I should never go back to a TBR pile again… time will tell!

Because of my weird reading mood I am currently in, I will not be setting up a TBR pile this month. I am going to read exactly what I want to read, when I want to read it. If that means that I divert away from thrillers to read something else, that’s fine by me! I think my brain is trying to teach me that I need to get back to reading what I love and not what I feel obligated to read and I am going to ride that wave as long as I can! Like I said, I read because I love books and I can’t wait to read more of the books that remind me of that!

I will say that I do have two hopefuls for this month that I would like to read: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood and Final Girls by Riley Sagar. I have heard INCREDIBLE things about both books and I am excited to dive into both of them!

I know this was a bit of a rambly post, but I am still trying to figure out what the heck is happening to my reading mood and feelings lately. I have no explanation for it, so I am just taking it book by book haha!

How do you feel about TBRs? Are you good at adhering to them or do you always deviate like I do?

 

Review: Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

Review: Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

First and foremost, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to my friends at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of Unbury Carol in exchange for an honest review. I am so appreciative of their generosity and I always love working with them!

Unbury Carol is a thrilling novel that takes place in the Wild West and encompasses everything you’d hope to find in a Western story. There are outlaws that are chasing each other, sketchy narrators, shootouts, taverns, booze, and everything in between. However, the most compulsive part of the story, and what originally drew me to wanting to read the book ASAP, was the character of Carol Evers and her unique and terrifying “condition”.

Carol, a wealthy, well-known, and largely-loved individual in her small town suffers from a terrifying condition where, to the outside world, she appears to be completely dead. However, on the inside, Carol is very much alive and existing in a state of perpetual wind and falling that she refers to as “Howltown.” Howltown is an absolutely terrifying concept to me personally. Can you imagine being totally aware of everything happening around you and yet you can’t move, speak, or interact with the people around you? Horrifying!

Carol’s husband, Dwight, is the only person who knows about her condition. The danger in this fact? He also has his eye on her money. So on an emotionally stressful day when Carol unexpectedly falls into her death-like coma, Dwight, being the slimeball he is, decides that he will finally fake her death, bury her alive, and steal her fortune. The only problem? He ISN’T truly the only person who knows about her condition. Enter: James Moxie, Carol’s former love and outlaw extraordinaire.

Upon hearing of Carol’s ill fate, James takes off on his horse into the sunset to try and rescue the woman he used to love. But there’s someone else who is hot on his trail, an evil arsonist named Smoke, who would die to get his hands on James Moxie.

Will Carol be lowered into the ground and never return? Will James Moxie make it to her in time to save her or will Smoke catch up to him before he even has a chance?

 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I had no idea that it was going to be a Western so that was a bit of a surprise and not normally a genre I would dive into. I loved that I got to experience a new genre for me in a creative way!

The characters were also super rich in this book. I felt that I understood and always wanted to know more about them and I was so excited to see how their story would pan out. I do wish that we got to see more focus on the women in this story, including Carol. After chatting with my friend Audra over at @ouija.doodle.reads, we both realized that our favorite component of the book was actually the amazing cool women that were within it. We both agreed that the book would have been greatly strengthened had we been able to see more of all of their stories.

I ended up rating this book a 3/5 stars. I did enjoy it a lot, but I do feel it could have been improved. After reading Malerman’s Bird Box, I was so hoping for a book that would just grip me, keep me interested, disgust me, and scare me a bit. Maybe it was my own expectations for the book that lead to me giving it a lower star rating?

Either way, I can’t wait to see what Malerman comes up with next.

 

Again, thank you to Random House for sending this book my way! If you’re interested in reading the book, make sure you keep an eye out for it when it hits shelves on April 10, 2018.

 

 

My March TBR (For now…)

My March TBR (For now…)

As with all of my TBR lists, this is definitely subject to change. However, I have a good idea of the books I would like to read this month! Let’s get into it…

 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone is the most recent book written by Kristin Hannah and many of my friends have been gushing about how wonderful it is. This month, I am going to be reading this one as a buddy read with a few friends on Bookstagram and I can’t wait!

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man’s Fear is the second novel to the incredible book, The Name of the Wind. I am going to be splitting my time listening to this one on Audible and reading the physical book because at 1,000 pages long, it’s a bit daunting! I am hoping the second book is as good as the first!

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is going to be an incredible read for me, I already know it. I really enjoyed reading The Song of Achilles, her first novel, in February and I am hoping that I enjoy Circe just as much! I also doing a buddy read for this one with Lauren from @lozreadsbooks!

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn is the first book in a series by Brandon Sanderson. As a lover of all things fantasy, I am really looking forward to diving into a new world and a new author that I have never read before. This month is full of buddy reads, as I am reading this one as a buddy read with my favorite fantasy book reading buddy, Hannah from @booknerdnative!

Hating You/Dating You by Christina Lauren

After reading Roomies by Christina Lauren in January, I was very excited to try something new from the duo that is Christina Lauren. This book is said to be a lot of people’s favorites from them. I am hoping it will be a nice respite from everything I am reading that will be a bit more heavy this month.

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

Shadowsong is the second book to the first YA fantasy phenomenon that is Wintersong. I really really enjoyed Wintersong so I am hoping that this one is even better and does not disappoint!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

As a part of the #HarreadPotter marathon created by @mugandnook, I am super excited to be continuing on with this series and diving into my favorite book! There is something so hopeful and beautiful about Book 3 and I am so happy that I get to read it this month.

School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

I feel very fortunate to have been able to receive an ARC of School for Psychics by K.C. Archer from Simon & Schuster. It’s giving me MAJOR X-Men vibes which is very exciting because I love X-Men very much! Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a free copy!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

As someone who adores the idea of a circus-themed novel, Station Eleven has been on my list for months now! After receiving it as a Christmas gift, I am really excited to see what it has in store.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

This book has been on a LOT of people’s radars as of late after it was released and announced as a Book of the Month Club pick for March! Touchstone was kind enough to send me a free ARC copy back in January and with cover art that is as eye-catching as this, who could say no? I can’t wait to see what’s to love about this one!

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

As another quirky romance novel for the month, I have chosen “Surprise Me” by Sophie Kinsella. My husband was kind enough to surprise me with this book and I can’t wait to read it. The thing about this book that is the most appealing to me is the fact that it follows the story of a married couple attempting to rekindle their romance, something that I think is a sorely left-out narrative in many romance novels. I’m excited to see if this one lives up to the incredible hype it’s been receiving lately!

Everything I Never Told you by Celeste Ng

After reading Little Fires Everywhere in September, I started doing some digging to see if Celeste Ng had written any other incredible books. To my delight, Everything I Never Told You popped up in my search results! I have been told that this book is even better than Little Fires, so let’s hope that ends up being the case. I LOVED Little Fires, so it’s hard for me to fathom anything better!

 

That is all I have for this month on my TBR! Like I said, this is definitely subject to change, but I am feeling pretty great about my choices!

-Alisa

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

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.