June Reading Wrap Up

June Reading Wrap Up

In the month of June, I read a large book that, apparently, has taken others MONTHS to finish. While I am proud and happy with this massive undertaking, it also means that I didn’t read a large quantity of books. Not mad about it though, because I really liked all of what I read and had an overall REALLY phenomenal reading month. I have also been really enjoying SLOWING THE EFF DOWN with my reading, but that is another blog post for another time… {foreshadowing??

In the month of June, I read four books (technically, I am still making my way through the fourth book, but shhhh…..). I read the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Miracle Creek by Angie Kim, The Whisper Man by Alex North, and I am about halfway through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. To read a quick and snappy overview of what I thought about what I read, keep reading!

 

  1. Miracle Creek by Angie KimOverall rating: 5/5 stars

    Miracle Creek: A Novel by [Kim, Angie]

    What I loved about this book is that it tied turbulent family dynamics and drama into a bow wrapped around a mystery that you couldn’t help but remain on the edge of your seat for. It is always extremely refreshing to have authors go full throttle into the lives of their characters while balancing the overall plot, neither outweighing the other. Angie Kim did a PHENOMENAL job with this book and I highly recommend this one to people who love mysteries surrounding small towns, domestic drama, legal proceedings, and overall anxiety and tensions between characters. 

  2. Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinOverall rating: 5/5 stars

    A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) by [Martin, George R. R.]

    After the last episode aired on the final season of Game of Thrones, I finally had an excuse to start the books. I have really been enjoying visiting my friends and foes in Westeros and I am really excited to start the second book in July. Yes, these books are MASSIVE and yes, they are a bit over hyped in terms of popularity. But take it from someone who never lies about the quality of books regardless of their popularity: The series is (so far) so freaking GOOD. SO GOOD. I love it so much. In case you were wondering, which a lot of people do, yes, I do think you should watch the show before reading the books. This may seem backwards coming from a reader, but having the characters faces/storylines/etc. to reference as you work your way through the book makes it about 10x easier to remember who people are, where they come from, and why they’re relevant (or irrelevant) to the story. I recommend this series to people who love the show, love large fantasy novels, enjoy rotating character perspectives, and those who love a good political fantasy tome.

  3. The Whisper Man by Alex NorthOverall rating: 4/5 stars

    The Whisper Man: A Novel by [North, Alex]
    I am so grateful to Celadon Books for sending me an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of The Whisper Man by Alex North. I believe that this novel was previously published in Europe, but it will be available in the US for the first time on August 20, 2019. If you like books that will make you peek around corners, watching for dangerous serial killers, you will find exactly what your spooky heart needs in this novel. Trust me, I read a lot of horror and it takes a LOT to really rock my boat. This book creeped me OUT. It probably didn’t help that my husband was away for work while I was reading it, but STILL. This one has minimal gore, a hint of supernatural, a heartwarming undertone, and spine tingling creepiness. Basically, it’s perfect, and you should all read it! The only reason I did not give it 5 stars is because I would have liked it to have been a bit longer to really flesh out some of the smaller characters and interactions people had with one another.

  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt 

    Overall rating: First half of the book is a 3.5/5, final rating TBDThe Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) by [Tartt, Donna]

    Here’s the thing about this book for me: While it is beautifully written, explores topics that people would rather not talk about (i.e. the death of a parent), and has kept my attention for quite some time, I do think that this book is way too long and would benefit from “wrapping things up” in about half the time it is currently using. Yes, I understand that the depth of the book is intentional and needed for this Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel to shine in all its glory, but I think a good cutback of about 25% of this book would be beneficial to my overall interest and compulsion to read it. I have started to listen to the audiobook versus reading the paperback because a) the narrator is great and b) I don’t think I would make it through this book on my own haha. TBD how much I end up liking it once I complete it.

 

 

That’s it! That’s my June monthly wrap up! I am hoping to have a few more books to talk about next month, but we shall see. What did you read this month? Any new favorites?

 

Until then, thank you for reading and I will see you next time!

-Alisa

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.

 

 

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

 

Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5 stars for this adorable read!

Thank you so much for reading!

-Alisa

Review: 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