Thursday, August 30, 2018

Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
Published: September 2011

Two starcrossed magicians engage in a deadly game of cunning in The Night Circus, the spellbinding bestseller that has captured the world's imagination. 

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

Yes, I know I’m behind the times. But I FINALLY read The Night Circus and I can now say with a great deal of conviction that this beautiful piece of art is worth all the hype. The world Erin Morgenstern has created drew me in with its tantalizing descriptions and magic. So, if you’re one of the few people left who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading The Night Circus, please do. 

The book spans many years and journeys many places. We meet so many wonderful characters and experience such highs and lows. And, from the moment I met little Celia and her magician father, I was invested. 

Actually, scratch that. From the very first sentence I was hooked. From the very first description of this elegant, mysterious circus, I knew I had found my next favorite book. The circus itself is a living, breathing character in the story. And with each description of its magical tents and delicious aromas, I felt an increasing sense of longing to go there myself. 

Of course, there is a constant tension throughout the story. The story is about a competition after all. And it’s exciting and scary and mysterious. However, this competition breeds romance. And the romance between Celia and Marco is exquisitely breathtaking and fairytale-esque. 

But Celia and Marco aren’t the only wonderful characters. The whole cast is extraordinary. Herr Friedrick, a clockmaker, was a dearly beloved character to me. Of course, as a ballet dancer myself, I had a certain fondness for Ana Padva.  I had so much fun with Poppet and Widget. And Bailey Clark is the unsung hero of the story.

When I finished the book, I felt as if something had been taken from me. I felt like a resident of some town in Europe who had experienced the wonders of Le Cirque de Rêves, and went back eagerly the next night to discover it gone - relocated to some new lucky place. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Blog Tour and Review: A Room Away from the Wolves

Hosted by FFBC Tours

A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma 
Release Date: September 4th, 2018
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Mystery

Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.

Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave...

Nova Ren Suma is such an amazing writer. One of my favorite books of all time is her book The Walls Around Us. You should definitely go pick that one up! While A Room Away from the Wolves didn't quite reach the awesomeness of TWAU, I still immensely enjoyed it. It was an exquisitely crafted story that left me hanging onto each and every word. 

So, first of all, I love the inspiration for one of the parts of this book. Suma visited an old house with a portrait with eyes that followed her. The portrait became the inspiration for Catherine de Barra's portrait in Catherine House. Isn't that deliciously eery? The whole book is full of easter eggs like that. 

The characters are amazing. Bina (Sabina) is such a tricky narrator, but I still grew attached. And the mother-daughter dynamic explored was so interesting. And dark. In fact, the thriller/mystery qualities of the book were so visceral and made me want to keep reading. There's also so many side characters such as Anjali and Lacey. Oh and, by the way, this is a ghost story... a strange, bizarre ghost story. 

The ending of the story is a bit confusing, but it's beautiful and haunting and makes me want to read the book all over again so I can understand it better. Perfection. 

Overall, I would recommend this book to those willing to be lost at points. You have to be willing to have things revealed slowly. Just read the pages and enjoy the beautiful words. This book is not for the faint of heart; it's not a book where everything is straightforward. It's so much more fun!

4/5 Stars
*Received for free in exchange for an honest review*

About the Author

Nova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novels THE WALLS AROUND US as well as the YA novels IMAGINARY GIRLS and 17 & GONE, which were both named 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound by YALSA. Her middle-grade novel, DANI NOIR, was reissued for a YA audience under the title FADE OUT. 

She has a BA in writing & photography from Antioch College and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has been awarded fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Millay Colony, and an NEA fellowship for a residency at the Hambidge Center. She worked for years behind the scenes in publishing, at places such as HarperCollins, Penguin, Marvel Comics, and RAW Books, and now she teaches writing workshops. She is from various small towns across the Hudson Valley and lives and writes in New York City.
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Friday, August 10, 2018

Review: Scythe

Scythe by Neal Shusterman 
Publication Date: November 2016

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. 

Woah. I was not expecting to love this book so much. I had avoided it for so long but finally the hype got to me - and I'm glad it did! Scythe was so well crafted, original, and addicting. 

The world Shusterman built was so believable even though I was skeptical from the description. This utopian (if you discount the scythes) world was so interesting. I can't wait to find out more about the Thunder Head - the creator of this utopian world in our future. 

Now, onto the most interesting part: the scythes. Wow. They were scary, disturbing, and horrifying. Some were downright evil and others I grew to respect. Shusterman really got into my head and I couldn't stop think about the ethics of death. From the very first Scythe journal entry, I was fascinated.

The characters are also well developed and I was rooting for each one. I won't say much more but I was majorly impressed with the morals and conscience of both Citra and Rowan. (Although there were definitely times I was worried about Rowan.) And there's a hint of romance! And, although the main characters were awesome, I was also blown away by the complexity of the older scythes such as their mentor, Scythe Faraday.  

I really would just recommend this book to everybody. There isn't a book on the market quite like it; you are in for a harrowing but amazing experience. Don't worry about the synopsis and just give Scythe a go! You won't be able to stop flipping the pages.