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.”

 

 

 

My Absolute Favorite Bookish Things

My Absolute Favorite Bookish Things

The thing about being a hardcore bookworm is that, somewhere in the midst of constant Google searches and talking for hours to your bookish friends, you find a plethora of bookish resources and tools that help you be the #bookwormgoals of your dreams!

Thankfully, my 2+ years book blogging has meant that I have had ample time to discover the best of the best bookish resources. From apps, to podcasts, to email newsletters, I am constantly surrounded by bookish content, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I wanted to share with you some of my very favorite resources for finding new books, new recommendations, or just enjoying some bookish content. Once you take a look at my favorite picks, let me know if you have any recommendations I should add to my list!

The Best Book Podcasts You Should Listen To

All the Books by Book Riot
All The Books
LISTEN HERE>

If you are looking for a podcast to listen to that will keep you in the know of new book releases happening each week, All the Books should be your go to. Liberty Hardy (aka who I want to be when I grow up) is one of the hosts of this stellar podcast and I always trust her commentary and reviews on books of all genres. I also particularly love Liberty’s All the Backlist episodes where she talks about her favorite backlist titles, usually following a particular theme. It also helps that she opens each episode with “I’m little in the middle, but I’ve got much backlist.” I never fail to smile at that one.

He Read She Read Podcast
HRSR
LISTEN HERE>

I may be a liiiiittle biased here in listing the He Read She Read podcast, I will admit that upfront. This podcast is SOOO much fun and is hosted by a sweet friend of mine, Chelsey, and her husband Curtis. What I love about this podcast is that Chelsey and Curtis bring their relationship, and marriage as a whole, into the forefront of a lot of their discussions. As someone who is also married to a bookworm, I love listening to Chelsey and Curtis chat about books and using what they’re talking about as conversation starters for me and my husband. I also love that my reading tastes are a good blend of both Chelsey’s AND Curtis’ picks. Chelsey, if you’re reading this, I love your love for historical romance and fantasy, meaning you probably would accept my love of Outlander with open arms! Curtis, if you’re reading this, I see your love for Patrick Rothfuss and I would gladly buy you a drink at the Eolian if I could!

What Should I Read Next?

LISTEN HERE>

I think I would be messing up BIG time if I didn’t mention “What Should I Read Next?” in this list. Anne Bogel is a literary legend/superstar and many book bloggers look to her as the pioneer of bookish content online. What I like about Anne’s podcast is that she frequently introduces topics that are outside of the norm of what we tend to see on other podcasts. You can tell that Anne works really hard on creating content that will entice people to listen and think about their bookish lives in a whole new way. I also really enjoy that Anne features TONS of different special guests on her show. It’s always refreshing to hear so many different perspectives!

The Stacks Podcast

LISTEN HERE>

The Stacks Podcast’s “About” page on their website describes why I love this podcast better than I probably could on my own: “Listening to The Stacks is like a smart, bookish brunch with the literary pals you’ve been waiting for.” This podcast completely transports me into intelligent book chat that always leaves me feeling full of questions and self reflection. Traci, the podcast host, is, in my opinion, one of the most well-spoken, well read, and intentional podcasters in the game. What I appreciate about Traci, in addition to the aforementioned, is her fierce dedication to reading, promoting, and discussing diverse literature and having conversations that don’t shy away from addressing societal bullshit like racism, sexism, and homophobia. My favorite recent episode of Traci’s is her episode featuring another dear friend of mine, Allison from @allisonreadsdc. Make sure you check it out!

 

The Best Book Newsletters You Should Subscribe To

Book Riot

BOOK RIOT

Book Riot is the BOSS of the newsletter world. What I love about Book Riot newsletters is that, no matter what genre you are into or what kind of content you are looking for, Book Riot has a newsletter for you. I personally enjoy their Science Fiction and Fantasy newsletter!

Check out the newsletter picks here>

Girls Night In

Girls Night In

While this newsletter isn’t ONLY about books, it’s deeply centered on the idea that reading great books can be an integral part of your self care routine. If you are looking for a female-focused, empowering weekly newsletter that asks you to take a step back and take care of yourself, this newsletter might be a good fit for your inbox!

Check out the newsletter here>

Literary Hub

Literary Hub

The Literary Hub is one of THE most conclusive book blogs and newsletters I have ever seen. Truly. If you are looking for an article about books OR are not even really sure what you are looking for, Literary Hub has it. Reviews, comparison posts, author interviews, staff picks, listicles as far as the eye can see, and etc etc etc etc. Trust me. you will find what you never knew you needed!

Check out the newsletter here> 

 

The Best Bookish Merchandise Stores You Should Buy From

Melvis Makes

Melvis Makes

There are a LOT of book sleeve makers out there nowadays, but I stand by the fact that Melanie of Melvis Makes sews THE most high quality book sleeves (or, Book Buddy as she calls them) I have ever purchased in my life. I also love that she adds unique elements to her sleeves including front pockets, snaps, and, more recently, a strap so you can wear your book sleeve like a cute little purse! My most recent Book Buddy purchase from Melanie was this PHENOMENALLY cute Wizard of Oz booksleeve!

Check out the shop here>

Ink & Wonder Woodmarks

ink-and-wonder.jpg

There is something SO cool about the idea of a wooden bookmark (aka “woodmark”) to keep your spot in your current read. Ink & Wonder Designs has SUCH cool options to choose from including designs based on some bookstagram faves! I love their Game of Thrones woodmarks SO much. Crap… now I feel like I need to go look and see what’s new lol. They also sell a few different other types of products, so feel free to take a peek!

Check out the shop here>

Out of Print

Out of Print.JPG

I am sure that about 90% of you have already heard of Out of Print, but hey, I can’t not mention them here. I LOVE Out of Print and have quite a few different products from them. I am not really sure what they make their sweaters out of, but it’s the SOFTEST fuzziest coziest material EVER. Love. Big love.

Check out the shop here>

Frostbeard Studio

Frost Beard

Have you ever wanted to take a big freaking whiff of what your favorite book might smell like? Or even the very IDEA of a bookish concept such as “Sherlock’s Study” or “Beach & Books”? Then Frostbeard Studio may have what you are looking for! This is also a great idea for anyone who is looking for a holiday gift idea for their favorite bookworm.

Check out the shop here>
Well, those are a few of my favorite (bookish) things! I hope I listed something new to you that maybe you’ll get just as excited about as I have been. Like I said above, if you have any recommendations that I should add to my list, please let me know and I will check it out! 🙂

Happy reading, bookworms!!

 

*Note: All company logos are the property of the accompanied website/podcast/etc. owner which I found on their respective websites. Please do not distribute these images in any way without crediting the owner.*

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

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?

 

Braving the Wilderness: The Book That Healed Me

Braving the Wilderness: The Book That Healed Me

In September of 2016, I had the absolute honor of seeing Brené Brown speak at a conference. While I had heard of Brené before and had many bookworms telling me how much her books meant to them, it never really stuck to me that she was someone who was on a “need-to-read-basis.”

When I saw Brené speak that day in September, my mind drastically changed. Not just my mind, but something deeper within me. Something that clicked itself into place in the fiber of my being and changed the way I viewed people I interacted with forever. Because of this drastic change, I made the not-so-difficult decision to research and find every single book Brené has written and acquire the ones that spoke to me.

Braving the Wilderness, Brené’s newest novel, was one she made references to throughout multiple points in her presentation. When I heard the basic message behind the novel, I knew I had to buy it. This month, I finally sat down and read it, deciding that I was READY for it. You can’t just pick up life-changing novels on a whim, your heart and soul must decide the timeline for you. Ironically, this was the pick for Reese Witherspoon’s book club this month, so really, how could I have timed that any better?

While many of the points Brené makes in the book hit me to my core, forcing literal tears from my eyes and drowning me in “aha!” moments, there was one theme in Braving the Wilderness that stood out among the rest: Compassion for our fellow human beings.

At a time where political polarization is running rampant in our country, spreading us further apart morally and in some cases physically, this book challenged me to think of why. Why is this phenomenon happening? It’s not hard to conclude that it’s happening because differences in opinion leading to a “them versus us” mentality are sown into the fabric of our nation. But what is the cost of all of this discourse? What is the end result? At the end of the day, the end result is a lack of compassion and complete dehumanization.

I will be the first to admit that I am someone who will stand by their beliefs and cast stones at individuals who disagree with me. Under the guise of social justice, I have dehumanized people in my mind. I have funneled an enormous amount of hatred toward Trump supporters. I have belittled people online for their opposing beliefs. I have sought opportunities to argue with people when I know it will just anger them. I have called people names. I have accused them of things they “must be” without truly knowing who they are and what lies at the center of their reasons for acting and saying the things they do. I have done that. And I am tired of carrying around hate if it costs me my compassion and kindness.

I want to make something clear: I am not sorry for fighting against injustices and I do not regret standing up for my beliefs and speaking out against hatred. I believe in myself and my stance on the topics I’m passionate about and I will never falter on them. However, most of my outward actions which put my morals into practice went against my own code of ethics. I need to be better at staying true to who I am regardless of how I feel at the “heat of the moment.” I need to be better so that I can be more effective with my message and so that others can hear what I have to say.

My most important trait I possess is my ability to put kindness into action. That doesn’t mean that I will let people walk all over me. If I feel disrespected, I’ll bite back. BUT… above all, what’s most important to me is that I maintain a level of compassion that speaks volumes to what I stand for regardless of how others treat me.

In the past few months, life circumstances have forced me to take a look at myself and evaluate WHO I want to be and WHAT I want to do about it. Reading Braving the Wilderness was a breath of much needed fresh air, pointing me toward my True North. I was feeling so lost in the “Wilderness”, wondering what my next step would be. But as long as I keep stepping toward kindness and compassion, I know that I will always be on the path I’m meant to travel. Whatever is on that path will challenge me every single day, but the reward will be great.

Thank you, Brené, for getting me through an incredibly hard time in my life. Your voice while I was listening to you narrate your audiobook healed my soul. I felt like you were listening to ME rather than vice versa and I can’t tell you how much that means to me to be heard. Standing in the wilderness won’t be fun and I am standing here alone. But I’m here, I’m present, I showed up, and I’m ready for the adventure.

5/5 stars for this book.

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5 stars for this adorable read!

Thank you so much for reading!

-Alisa

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

 

 

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