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

 

 

Author Interview: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Author Interview: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor-Jenkins-Reid-Photo

If you are a fan of modern fiction, it’s likely you’ve heard of novels written by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Her books have been featured as “Best Books of Summer” by People, Cosmopolitan, InStyle, Popsugar, and Buzzfeed and have been listed as New York Times Bestsellers.

Most recently, Taylor’s newest novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, was nominated for a Goodreads Award for Historical Fiction and is currently in the running for “Book of the Year” or “The Lolly Award” over at Book of the Month Club. As a huge fan of Taylor and every single one of her books I have read, I wanted to learn a little bit more from her about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and her writing process and goals in general when it came to this book. Her answers, as expected, were absolute perfection and I am so excited to share this interview with you. Thank you, Taylor, for being so kind and congratulations on your nominations!

Evelyn is the epitome of a Hollywood starlet. From her looks, to her talent, to the way the public reacts to her, it’s clear she was made for fame! However, the thing that inspired me the most about Evelyn was her strong, confident, and do-what-it-takes-to-get-what-I-want attitude. How important is it to you to create characters like Evelyn who are strong and powerful women? What message do you hope that sends to your readers?

Taylor: I think it is easier to understand ourselves when we have outside examples that resonate. That’s why representing various types of women, different types of marriages, different types of value systems, is important to me in my work. My hope is that Evelyn represents a different way to be – for better or worse. I’m not advocating that people do what Evelyn does. But I am advocating that women believe that their desires are paramount the way Evelyn does. Ambition, passion, confidence, relentlessness, power, even selfishness — these are traits I wanted to see more of in female characters so I wrote a woman with them.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was nominated for a Goodreads Award for Historical Fiction and is currently in the running for the “Book of the Year” aka the “Lolly” over at Book of the Month Club. What are you the most proud of, besides award nominations, when it comes to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Did you have any “writing goals” you accomplished in writing this book? 

Taylor: My hope with this book is that it would inspire intense reactions. I very much wanted Evelyn to be a character that people felt strongly about even when they felt conflicted about her. This book does seem to have made people think about their preconceived notions about some aspects of feminity and sexuality — and I know it has brought comfort to people fighting some of the same fights that Evelyn and Monique face. That was always my goal, is always my goal with every book.

Throughout the novel, Evelyn is being interviewed by an author. This author turns out to be the person who publishes the one and only book that tells the true story of Evelyn’s life. If you could choose one person whose life you would want to write the book for, who would you choose and why? Conversely, which author would you like to have write the story of your life? 

Taylor: I would love to know the whole truth behind the life of Lucille Ball. She has long been a hero of mine. As a child, I worshipped her talent and when I became an adult, I realized the depths of her business acumen and her accomplishments as a producer and head of a studio. I would have been honored to have been the one to tell her story.

As for my own, that is a tough question. So many of my favorite authors come to mind but it is hard to know who, exactly, I want to be filtered through. My best guess would be Cheryl Strayed. I suspect she would see things in me and my life that I have yet to discover for myself.

 

As a reader of almost every single one of your books (reading Maybe in Another Life later this month and completing the list!), I truly appreciate your work and recommend your novels to friends and family constantly. If someone were a “first time” Taylor Jenkins Reid reader, which book would you want them to read first and why?

Taylor: I think it depends on what they are looking for! But maybe One True Loves is a good place to start. It has both the romantic contemporary quality I had been writing up until Evelyn Hugo but also hints at some of the more daring women to come in my work. 

This is a random but fun question: What is your Hogwarts House?

Taylor: I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read or seen any of the Harry Potter stories. I realize this is heresy.  If it makes it any easier to bear, I have long planned on reading them all with my daughter once she is old enough. That being said, I took a sorting quiz to answer this question and after doing a very small amount of research, it seems to be pretty accurate. I’m in Hufflepuff! Which I’m happy about because I didn’t want to claim to be Gryffindor — that seems like saying you’re a Carrie when asked if you’re a Samantha, Miranda, or Charlotte.

 

If you haven’t read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo yet, make sure you put it on your TBR as soon as possible. All of her books are phenomenal, but this one is by far my favorite of hers. It’s so unique, daring, and inspiring.

Thank you again to Taylor for answering my questions and thanks to all of you for reading!

-Alisa

 

*Taylor Jenkins Reid image provided by taylorjenkinsreid.com 

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-Alisa

Review: The Next Together by Lauren James

Review: The Next Together by Lauren James

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-Alisa