Ain’t No HollerBACKLIST

Ain’t No HollerBACKLIST

“Why should [new releases] get to stomp around like a giant, while the rest of us try not to get smushed under his big feet? What’s so great about [new releases]? Hm? [backlist books are] just as cute as [new releases]. [Backlist books are] just as smart as [new releases]. (starts talking quickly) People totally like [backlist] just as much as they like [new releases]. And when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody, huh? Because that’s not what [bookstagram] is about. We should totally just STAB [new releases]!” – Gretchen Weiners, Mean Girls

Can you tell I am feeling goofy today?

Anyway… let’s talk about some of my favorite backlist titles, friends. 😉

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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Love the idea of a cranky but lovable bookstore owner with a story that will warm your heart? This book is a sip of hot chocolate on a cold day.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

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Fantasy at its finest and most unique, this book is the first in a beloved fantasy series that is a huge favorite among bookworms everywhere!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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The fact that Reese Witherspoon is starring in an upcoming adaptation of this book MAY have something to do with the fact that it is at the top of my mind for this list! Family drama that transcends the idea of the “perfect American family” and kicks your heartstrings is in store for you in this read, so buckle up!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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If you are a fan of historical fiction (or even if you aren’t), you NEED to read this book. As a lot of historical fiction novels do, this book takes place during WW2, but the characters (two sisters who are polar opposites) and their coming together and falling apart kept me hooked and wanting to keep exploring.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

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With so much constant hype surrounding the TV show, it’s hard to believe that the books the show is based on first hit shelves almost 30 years ago (the first book, Outlander, was published in 1991). Heed this warning, though: If you easily fall in love with hot Scottish gentleman, you WILL become obsessed with Jamie Fraser.

Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith

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This book is overlooked FAR too much despite is beautiful prose and heartwarming premise. I highly recommend this book to those who love books about love, but are also not afraid to cry a little (lot) while they read.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

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If you’re looking for a story that will unsettle you and creep you the hell out, I highly recommend you give this book a try.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

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The Bill Hodges trilogy’s gripping and stomach-hurt inducing genesis is one of my favorite books I have ever read. This book isn’t King’s typical “straight up scary horror” type of novel, but it will give you the creeps. Also, if you have been loving the new show The Outsider on HBO, this series is the “prequel” to the novel that The Outsider is based on! You’ll even recognize some familiar characters from the show in this series. If you like thrillers/mysteries/books that make you cringe, pick this book as your next read!

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

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Easily one of my favorite romance novels of all time, this book brings the best of the best when it comes to “teen love gone awry to second chance at love as adults.” I LOVE stories that have “second chance romance” vibes to them so much. Something about the idea of the power of love defying the odds is so cozy and inspiring to me. Love love love this book!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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If you ask me what my favorite book of all time is, I may just end up telling you it’s this one. I credit this book for helping me to fall deeply in love with high fantasy, and for that, I will be forever grateful. Yes, it is longggggg, but TRUST me when I tell you that the journey is so so so SO worth it.

 

As an avid backlist reader, I know there are other favorites I am missing, but I hope that these add just a few more titles to your TBR (which I am SO sure you needed lol…).

What are your favorite backlist titles? Do you try to prioritize reading backlist books or do you mostly stick to new releases?

Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

After almost a decade after the release of The Night Circus, The Starless Sea, released in early November of this year, was an incredibly highly-anticipated new novel from Erin Morgenstern.

All over Instagram, Goodreads, and anywhere books are talked about, The Starless Sea has been getting rave reviews from people who have been relentless evangelicals for this novel. Because of this hype, I wanted to offer my thoughts in a more in-depth, but spoiler free, review from my perspective.

What I Liked About the Novel:

Overall, I enjoyed my time reading The Starless Sea. It’s incredibly reminiscent of the dreamlike atmosphere Morgenstern created in The Night Circus and kept me guessing, entertained, and captivated by its whimsy.

One thing that I kept comparing this story to, which is not a negative thing, is Alice and Wonderland. The idea that someone falls down a “rabbit hole” of sorts and experiences otherworldly things that they have to figure out along the way is not a “new idea,” but Morgenstern’s execution of this trope was unique. While the setup was familiar, nothing else about the story was. I really loved the setting of this novel which was so book-focused and centered on literature. Despite the high level of adventure, there was comfort and a sense of “home” that made you desperate to visit the underground library/world in which it takes place.

In addition to the overall richness of the story, I was constantly highlighting quotes throughout the entire novel. There were so many hard-hitting (in a good way) nuggets of beautiful prose that resonated with me so fully. Here are a few of my favorites:

“”You’re not wearing shoes.” “I hate shoes.” “Hate is a strong emotion for footwear,” Zachary observes. “Most of my emotions are strong,” Dorian responds.”

“We’re here to wander through other people’s stories, searching for our own. To seeking,” Dorian says, tilting the bottle toward Zachary.”

“No, each one’s different. They have similar elements, though. All stories do, no matter what form they take. Something was, and then something changed. Change is what a story is, after all.”

 

What Did Not Work for Me About the Novel:

The characters in this book are, in my opinion, definitely not the main focus of this story. You hear their stories, follow their perspectives, but the world building of the story and the “once upon a time” setup leaves little room for “who are these characters” and “what motivates them.” While this is something that a lot of readers don’t mind, I find that, especially with fantasy novels, I need to have more character development to be able to really connect with the fantastic themes. Even character physical descriptions would have been nice just to be able to picture them in your mind. Some authors leave out descriptions on purpose so the reader can form them in their minds, so maybe that was a purposeful omission, but I would have liked even small hints.

While I enjoyed the interwoven stories from the magical books featured within the worlds of this story, I felt distracted by the fact that I was required to remember themes, characters, and storylines I was told hundreds of pages ago to be able to connect them to things that were currently happening in the main plot. If you did not remember the importance or finer details of those side stories, you would miss them and quickly become lost. Because I read the book so slowly over a few weeks, I think I shot myself in the foot in this regard. I should have taken notes or added bookmarks with markers of those side stories so I could revisit them when the context popped up later on, but I didn’t and found myself having to flip back and forth for reminders. This hurt my understanding especially when characters in the “now plot” ended up being one or two different characters with one or two different connections in the “side story plots.”

The last thing I felt could have been better executed in this book were the romantic themes. Because this is intended to be a spoiler-free review, I won’t mention whose romance arc I wasn’t convinced of, but for those who have read it, as a hint, it is the romance of those who travel into a wardrobe together (amidst Narnia jokes) and attend a ball. I really wish there would have been a more natural progression of the romance between them so we could see it flower and feel more connected to their love as an observer.

 

Overall Thoughts:

As I mentioned, I did enjoy this story. I do think I could have been a better reader of this book and I feel my slow reading and lack of attentiveness may have contributed to my enjoying it maybe a bit less than others.

For those who like star ratings, I give this novel a  3.5/5 stars with a caveat that “it’s not you… it’s me, The Starless Sea.”

 

 

 

The Major Do’s and Don’ts of Bookstagram

The Major Do’s and Don’ts of Bookstagram

We’ve all been there, right? Someone on bookstagram does or says something that makes you roll your eyes to the back of your head and say “How did they not know that doing this was a faux pas?! So rude! Ugh!” If I had a dollar for every single time I got that overwhelming feeling, I would have many dollars.

In the grand scheme of things, there are worse things going on in the world than people doing or saying relatively harmless things on bookstagram. Truly, it’s just an app that features “fake” realities. However, because I spend so much time on bookstagram, as a lot of us do, I feel like we owe it to one another to be honest about the things we are saying behind closed doors about things within the community that just aren’t working and that drive us BONKERS (and in some cases, drive us to quit the app all together).

With that in mind, I wanted to put together a list of a few Do’s and Don’ts that I personally adhere to and I would hope that others would adhere to as well so that we can all live in bookish harmony and happiness. As a disclaimer, doing or not doing any of these things doesn’t make you a bad person, these are all just topics we can use to start a discussion about how we interact with one another on the bookstagram platform.

Let’s start with the Do’s!

Do…

  • Treat people on the platform how you would treat a stranger standing in front of you. Would you ask intrusive, overly personal questions to someone you just happened to run into on the sidewalk? Hopefully not. Even though we internet folks share a lot of our lives with you, that doesn’t mean that you have unlimited access to poke and prod at us like science experiments. Basically, don’t make this weird by asking really personal questions to people you don’t know and who do not know you!
  • Make time to support other creators. It’s hard to look away from your own content sometimes to take a step back, scroll through your feed/stories, and interact with others. But supporting other people by commenting, liking, and replying to stories in a genuine way is what makes an online community a COMMUNITY. Sure, you answer comments on your own posts and reply to DM’s, but that isn’t the same as giving other people “snaps” for the hard work they are putting into their content.
  • Read what brings you joy. It can be easy to fall into the hurricane of wanting to read what everyone else is reading and posting about. But for me, personally, I find more joy in reading whatever I want based on my own personal moods and interests. It also shows in my content when I feel passionate about a book/genre and when I don’t. People can tell when you’re not being genuine about a book and that usually hurts you more than not reading the hottest and latest titles. Trust me!
  • Follow people whose feeds and lives don’t look like yours. There is more strength in the community you build if it is dedicated to being a diverse platform of incredible people who can learn from and support one another versus a totally monotone grouping of people.
  • Tag authors and publishers in reviews of books you loved! It seems like an easy and no-brainer thing to do, but I can’t tell you how many times an author has thanked me for a positive review on my feed. It means more to them than you know!
  • Feel free to reach out to people, regardless of following size, and tell them you appreciate their work/love their feed, want to talk about a book they read that you also loved, or to share something with them that made you think of them. A lot of people feel intimidated by people with large followings, but they are just people who love talking about books, just like you. Starting conversations can be awkward, but the friendships you form because of the awkwardness are so worth it!

And now, for a list of the Don’ts… buckle up people, it’s a long one!

Don’t…

  • Message someone asking them something you are physically capable of finding the answer for on Google/Goodreads/etc. I know that it’s super easy just to ask someone for an answer to something. It’s less work for you to do so, I assume. But there is so much information out there already available to you for free. If you’re already great friends with the person you’re asking OR if you are truly incapable of Googling it yourself, I totally understand. However, for those of us privileged enough to be able to do our own research, stretch those Google muscles and do it up!
  • A few examples of these types of questions (which I have received multiples times each) are:
    • “Hey, is that book a part of a series?”
  • Message someone with spoilers for a book they haven’t even started yet OR tell them “oh my gosh I hated that book/it was so bad/it’s garbage.” People get really excited about the books they want to read and/or just bought and it can be really disheartening to have someone barge in and say negative things about it before you even have the chance to form your own opinion. Once they have read it, sure, feel free to discuss if the person you are messaging is willing. But don’t be mean and make someone feel disappointed about something they were excited for.
  • Ask for shout outs. Oh my goodness, just please don’t do it. It’s never going to go over well and you will look greedy and like a follower leech. Just. Don’t. Do it.
  • Ask someone to send you free books (even if you offer to pay for shipping). Again, treat people on the internet like strangers. Would you ask a stranger on a bus to give you something of theirs they had in their hands for free? Probably (hopefully) not! Again, if you have a good relationship with that person, they may be more open to it and probably won’t take it poorly, but be respectful of the fact that people may not be willing to give their book away (and that is okay).
  • Steal other people’s photos or photo ideas without their consent. It’s hard to take TRULY original photos of books (I mean, how many books and coffee mug pictures are out there?! I have at least 57 on my own feed lol). But, it’s not okay to totally ripoff someone’s work without prior permission OR without recreating it to be totally your own and tagging them to let them know they inspired you. Just be kind and respectful!
  • Get discouraged on bad engagement days. They’re tough. They make you question yourself and your platform’s worth like no other. But those days will come and go in a cyclical fashion and no matter what, you can’t always win. There’s no way to guarantee that every post you make is going to absolutely kill it. We are not Beyonce, we are going to have bad days on instagram and they will pass. And then they will come back… and then they will pass… and then they will come back… and then they…

 

All of these Do’s and Don’ts are, of course, my opinions, but I think that I speak for a lot of us on most of these. This platform is “what we make it, so let’s make it rock!” – Hannah Montana.

What are some of your Do’s and Don’ts? Do you have any you agree with or disagree with me about? Let me know!

In the meantime, feel free to follow me on instagram @worldswithinpages… but make sure you ACT RIGHT, OKAY??? NO NONSENSE!!!!! 😉

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.

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

 

 

 

 

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 Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The adventures of the Raven Boys and Blue continues with this amazing sequel! I can’t say much about what happens in this book without giving too much away, but here is what I can tell you: I am falling more and more in love with this series and its characters with each page turned.

As I mentioned in my last review post, I am trying out a new reviewing format that I think will be much more fun than my normal droning on about a book you may have never read. For my reviews, I will tell you what the book made me feel, what it made me think, and what I learned from it. After all, these are the most important gifts that books give us: Feelings, thoughts, and lessons.

 

What this book made me feel: In this second installment of The Raven Cycle, there was a lot of emotions running high as the characters start to shift into place for who they will become throughout the rest of the series. A few major things I felt during this book were anticipation, sadness, and fear. Anticipation to find out who the heck this illusive “Gray Man” is, trying to figure out what Ronan is and why he can do what he can do (very vague, but trying not to spoil anything…), and who Blue will choose in the deeply heart-wrenching love triangle (because what YA novel doesn’t have SOME kind of love triangle after all)? My highest anticipation comes from that cliffhanger at the end of the book though where a character thought long gone comes back. What does this mean for Cabeswater and for the rest of the family? I felt sadness for a character who always seems to be getting the short end of the stick (Adam), for what Ronan finds out about the Gray Man, and for Blue, who can’t seem to come to terms with who she is and how her contributes to the story. The fear came in when monsters were afoot, but I will leave that for you to discover on your own!

What this book made me think: One of the things that this book made me think a lot about was the implications of the actions that you have on other people’s lives. Something that you may not realize will follow you for your entire life truly could. This is certainly the case with Ronan in this book and I felt awful that he had to deal with what he did. I also thought a lot about how Adam’s family’s actions toward him have made him in the person he is in this book and how our home life truly does shape who we become as human beings.

What I learned from this book: For a YA novel, there was definitely a lot to learn from this book. The main thing I learned is that no matter what, family comes first. Regardless of the odds that are against you, you need to do whatever you can to make sure that your family is safe and happy. They are the ones who, in the end, will be there for you to pull you through whatever hell it is that you are facing. Friends too, but family first.

 

In case you couldn’t tell already, I am LOVING this series so far. I can’t wait to finish it very soon and I will make sure to keep you all updated on how I continue to like it.

Let me know if you have read this series and enjoyed it! Who is your favorite character?

Thank you for reading!

 

-Alisa