Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

     I read a little blurb about this book in my Entertainment Weekly and was instantly intrigued. So I got a coupon for 50% off at my B&N, I naturally raced in to pick up a copy. And let me tell you, this book is MAGICAL. I mean, really, really, magical. Even the physical book is a reflection of the wonderful story within, with its black cover with silver inscribing and black & white illustrations that echo La Cirque de Reves. (It's beautiful.... I recommend reading it in hardcover, but a Nook will do in a pinch).
     First, a quick (really inadequate) synopsis: Two seemingly immortal magicians recruit young proteges to compete against each other after years of training (Celia and Marco).  The venue? An ever changing, ever moving circus. The rules? Only one - that you cannot interfere with the other's work. The stakes? Unknown to the competitors. The young man and woman who are forced to compete in this mysterious challenge build a mystical world that visitors lose themselves in for a night, some for a lifetime. But as the competition progresses, it becomes dangerous to both the artists and bystanders. And when competitors find a deeper love than either have ever known, the risk becomes even greater for all of those involved.
     This is Morgenstern's debut, and it was hard to believe that it could possibly live up to the hype. I have heard mixed reviews... most people love it, some hate it. I can see why the book is divisive. Some people believe it starts off too slow, too descriptive, with too many plotlines. However, I am firmly in the camp of those who love it. Love, love, love it! I completely lost myself in the story. When I put the book down, I couldn't wait until the next time I could pick it up to return to La Cirque de Reves. I found myself becoming one of the "reveurs"... the characters in the book who come to love the circus so much, that they follow it from town to town, even from continent to continent. The author writes with such detailed prose that the reader can smell the caramel popcorn, and see the black and white stripes of the circus tents rising in the air. Beneath this enchanting world that she has created, is a subtle darkness, and a slow-building love story that propels the tale forward. Morgenstern artfully weaves together multiple storylines, and even timelines, that converge in the final few chapters of the book and bring the reader to a stunning conclusion. It may be difficult to follow the jumping around at times, but Morgenstern keeps each chapter fairly short and easy to follow.
     Truthfully, I don't think my review will do this book justice. I have read a lot of books this year. Still, this is definitely one of my absolute favorites and probably one of the few that I will read again. There are so many subtleties and nuances that I think I will appreciate even more now that I see the "bigger picture". It is one of the more unique books that I have recently read, and the rights have already been sold to Summit Entertainment to turn it into a movie (surprise, surprise). So make sure you read it before it comes out on film in a couple years! This is a book for readers who use a lot of imagination, and if you do... you will find yourself lost in the world of The Night Circus.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Undomestic Goddess

by Sophie Kinsella

My sister recommended The Undomestic Goddess to me when I was looking for a "feel good" book. Life can be overwhelming, and sometimes it's good to have a simple book to escape to.  And this book definitely delivered exactly what I was looking for. Sophie Kinsella is a British writer who's mastered writing humorous, and yet emotionally relevant, stories for the modern woman (best known for Confessions of a Shopaholic - the book is ten times better than the movie!). The story follows Samantha, a crazy tense lawyer that is attached to her Crack Berry. Through a series of mishaps she stumbles into a position as a housekeeper in the Cotswolds. Here, she learns to turn off her phone, bake a loaf of bread from scratch, build authentic relationships, and enjoy the simple things in life. Some women may argue that this book is an anti-feminist work, advocating for women to leave the office and return to the kitchen. However, Samantha addresses this issue in the book by stating that she's not trying to be a leader for women to leave the workforce, but just that she has rediscovered happiness in her life away from the expectations that she had placed on herself. Kinsella was obviously aware that her readers may find fault with the heroine finding happiness away from the world of a high-powered lawyer. I think the real point here, is that it is important to have balance in your life. Instead of running around focused solely on her own success and working 70 hours a week, Samantha slows down to really enjoy her life, her true passions, and the love she finds along the way. Two thumbs up.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Name of the Wind

by Patrick Rothfuss

     I was gifted this book by my fabulous friend Stephanie. She is an absolutely voracious reader, and I trust her reading opinion implicitly. When she gave The Name of the Wind to me for my birthday, it was because she's (and I quote) "obsessed" with the series, and "you like books like this". I do? I do! At first, I wasn't sure if I was a fan of  the fantasy genre, but on closer reflection it's pretty clear that I am. Especially since The Name of the Wind runs along the fantasy lines found in books like Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, which I LOVE. Add a mix of the magical academia found in Harry Potter, and I'm hopelessly sucked in.
     Enough rambling, back to the review. Set. Go. I'm not going to hold back... this book was fantastic. It is the beginning of an epic story that is supposed to last over the course of three huge novels (this one was over 700 pages long). The story is told by the hero Quothe in his later years, when he is discovered hiding from the world  and his past in a small tavern during a time when unspeakable creatures roam the countryside. Through his own storytelling, we learn about his early life and years at the university, his triumphs and his flaws. With his honesty, Quothe becomes a totally relatable hero despite his almost inhuman capabilities. There is a side plot regarding a drug-addicted dragon that I don't think was strictly necessary, but it added another opportunity for Quothe to demonstrate the hero that he was slowly developing into. Rothfuss mixes action, magic, love, and a hero story with seamless effort that I lost myself in. As soon as I feel up to starting another fat novel, his follow up in the series will be on my bedside table.