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.”

 

 

 

15 of the Best Books to Buy Right Now On Book Outlet

15 of the Best Books to Buy Right Now On Book Outlet

Hey book-a-holics!

*Let me start this blog post off by saying that I am NOT being asked or paid to promote this blog post. I am writing and posting this of my own accord!!*

If you’re as obsessed with books and reading as I am, you probably already know about the magical world that is bookoutlet.com. Essentially, Book Outlet is an online book company that offers massive discounts on popular books.

The books they sell are what are sometimes called “remainder books” and are, usually, books that publishers sell to retailers for a low price once they have fulfilled public demand and have books “left over” that they hope to clear out of their warehouses. These are brand new books and the only “flaw” that marks them as any different is a little tiny dot of felt tip marker on the bottom, essentially, a total nonissue. For up to 90% off on new books, I’ll take the little dot happily!

The cool news is, if you haven’t heard of Book Outlet or you haven’t made an order with them before, you can use my affiliate code and you will get $10 off your first order of $25!! If you do decide to order something from my list of book recommendations, make sure you use THIS LINK TO PLACE YOUR FINAL ORDER AND CLAIM YOUR $10 OFF! I will also get a $10 credit if you do this, so it’s truly a win-win! 😉

Now for the books!! Here are a few books I recommend you snag on Book Outlet. Keep in mind that these books are normally limited stock and may be sold out if you don’t purchase them shortly after reading this post. If something is sold out that you were hoping to purchase, let me know and I can recommend something new for you!

15 Books You Should Buy Right Now!!

 

  1. Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce– $5.49
  2. Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown – $5.49
  3. Vicious by V.E. Schwab – $6.49
  4. The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry – $5.49
  5. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman – $4.89
  6. The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst – $2.29
  7. Station Eleven by Emily St. Jon Mandel – $5.49
  8. The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz – $5.49
  9. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – $6.49
  10. The Shades of Magic Trilogy Series Box Set by V.E. Schwab – $15.09
  11. The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons – $6.49
  12. Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren – $5.49
  13. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris – $6.49
  14. From Scratch by Tembi Locke – $6.49
  15. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – $6.49

If you don’t see anything on this list that piques your interest, there are literally thousands of other options you can choose from! I love Book Outlet and, like I said, I am not getting paid to say this at all. This is coming right from my lil heart!! 🙂 Don’t forget to use this link to make sure you get $10 off your first order of $25 or more!

Let me know if you end up buying anything from my list or if you find something else you’re excited about!

Why I Am Ditching the TBR Pile Concept This Month

Why I Am Ditching the TBR Pile Concept This Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Review: Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

Review: Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

My March TBR (For now…)

My March TBR (For now…)

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

 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

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

Circe by Madeline Miller

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

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

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

Hating You/Dating You by Christina Lauren

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

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

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

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

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

School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

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

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

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

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

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

Everything I Never Told you by Celeste Ng

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

 

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

-Alisa

Review: 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

 

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 BrenĂ© Brown speak at a conference. While I had heard of BrenĂ© 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, BrenĂ©’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 BrenĂ© 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, BrenĂ©, 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.