Monday, December 10, 2018

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

4.75 stars

“The circus arrives without warning.”

The Night Circus follows a circus that travels in the night. Its colors are black and white and the magic inside is unlike anything you will ever see. There’s an illusionist whose illusions are more grounded in reality than they seem. A fortune teller whose tarot card readings prove true once you leave the curtains. A contortionist who can bend in ways that seem impossible for the human body. The thing is that Le Cirque des Rêves is as magical as it seems. It’s the structure for an epic tournament between two powerful magicians—Celia and Marco— and the impact that magic can have on those who invest in it of their own free will or just happenstance. The game must go on and it doesn’t care who it hurts, including the two young contestants who have fallen for one another. I read The Night Circus when it first came out years ago. I remember I was scrolling on Amazon and I saw this book in my recommended section. The cover was beautiful and mesmerizing. My mom gets Doubleday catalogues and when I saw this book inside, I begged her to buy it for me. I was so excited. I remember cracking it open and preparing myself for a sweeping love story steeped with magic. I got those things, but not in the way I desired them. If I’m being honest, this story was far too sophisticated for me when I was eleven-years-old. I knew in my heart that I would return to this story and give it another ago one day. It was something I knew in my bones and I believe that’s why this book made it through twenty unhauls and stayed tucked away on my shelf waiting to be picked up again. I think rereading books that you don’t always like, but have appreciation for is important and this is one of those instances where I’m proven right. I’m not discrediting my younger self’s opinion by any means because I was valid in my opinions. I do still think this book is confusing and at times it takes shuffling around to get everything sorted out. I, however, do love time jumps and stories told out of chronological order usually hold a dear place in my heart. So, that’s a huge change from my original opinions. My biggest problem, I remember, was the love story between Marco and Celia. It wasn’t nearly dramatic enough for little ole me, but oh did this romance tug on my heart. It’s quiet and stunning. It creeps up slowly and then the little comments of endearment become comments with intention and love behind them. My heart was squealing and I just felt fluttery. There was something there in this quiet, slow-burning passion that ignited my heart to ship these two people.

Morgenstern’s writing is exquisite and magical. There are no other words for me at this moment than utter astonishment. The Cirque des Rêves has become a place I want to get lost in. I want to wander under the Labyrinth, cause mischief with Poppet and Widget, gorge on delights, and see the spectacle unfold. The different points of view was a brilliant way to show that this dual severely impacted countless of lives over decades. It was more than just a game. My heart races at thinking how well-crafted each chapter was. Amidst the countless POVs we have these small little second person passages that walk you through the circus and I loved it. It was so brilliant. It was like walking into rooms and seeing another level of the story unfolding. The writing is truly a labor of love and I’m betting money that Morgenstern is an illusionist whose skill is in words.

I also listened to the audiobook by Jim Dale. Jim Dale is the same man who narrated the HP series. He is FANTASTIC. The voices and the atmosphere of his tone illicit a whimsical and dark presence that made feel as if I was entering the circus at all times.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 5

Narration Scale: 5

Celia is an interesting character. Her childhood is depressing. She was groomed and basically tortured into becoming a stronger magician by her father. She is quite strong in both magic and in heart. She runs the circus and is its heartbeat. She isn’t a favorite character for me, but there is something about her that I really love.

Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 4.5

Marco is a bit more complex. I kind of want to hate him because he led Isabel on for so long while being in love with Celia. He wasn’t with Isabel at the time, but he didn’t tell her that he didn’t feel the same way. It caused unnecessary drama. I do like Marco though. Besides that one major flaw. He is kind and noble. Not a favorite and not the dreamiest of men, but he’s a good man who just made a bad mistake that lead to people dying.

Swoon Worthy Scale: 4

The Villain- I’ve always seen Prospero and Mr. H as the villains. They have created countless duels that have wrecked peoples lives and they go to great lengths to keep this game alive. The game itself is a beast of its own. Magic is a deadly thing when pacts are made.

Villain Scale: 5

Oh, the characters. There are so many and I love them all. Widget and Poppet are my favorite. Especially Poppet who can read the future in the stars. Bailey, a young boy destined to be a shepherd who loves the circus, was a character I didn’t like when I first read this, but this time around he stole my heart. He reminds me of King David (yes, that David). He was a shepherd destined for more, but in this case, he just happened to be in the right place and was chosen. Tsukiko is also a character I originally wasn’t sure about, but as an adult I see this incredibly woman who has been broken by the game. Isobel is a character that I pity. I like her, but she is so tied to her love for Marco that I have trouble differentiating her outside of that. I wish that she would’ve bee more than just the girl who loved Marco and read tarot cards. I loved Chandresh. He was always there and he seemed to be incredibly mischievous and insightful to the circus and its going-ons. Friedrick Thiessen also hurt my heart. He’s a brilliant clock maker who is a rêver, someone dedicated to following the circus, and he’s so sweet. He’s that nice guy who you want only good things to happen to, but ends up meeting a tragic end. These characters stole my heart this time around in a way that they hadn’t before. They made this story for me.

Character Scale: 5

Revisiting The Night Circus was something I was bound to eventually do, but I didn’t know I’d be encountering it as an audiobook. I think that is what made me fall so head over heels with this story a second time. It has its faults and there are times in the middle where it lagged and the pacing is slow because the dual its takes decades to unravel, but I appreciated it in a way I hadn’t years ago. Overall, I have been on the meh-side and the fan-side of this novel, but I think I’m more of a fan this time around. I’ll be keeping my copy of this novel on my shelf and I think it’ll be something I return to again one day. This reread was a success because my mind changed, but also because I fell in love with storytelling again.

Plotastic Scale: 5

Cover Thoughts: This is one of my all-time favorite covers. All of the covers for this book are spectacular, but the clock and the circus in the hand is so symbolic and I just adore it.

Have you read The Night Circus? Which side are you in- love or hate?  What was your favorite part of Le Cirque des Rêves? What are some of your favorite dark fantasy novels? Let me know down below in the comments!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Books I've Read in 2018 #32-36

Hey, everyone! It's been forever since I sat down a filmed a video talking about books. I missed it and I got to film a couple today. So, here's one of the ones that I was able to film today. I forgot how fun it was to just make videos and discuss books. I love the process of it so much!

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Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter 5 stars This is dark, gritty, gruesome, and at times disgusting. I absolutely loved it and I think it may be all-time favorite suspense/psychological thriller. 
Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter 3.25 stars This is the prequel novella to Pretty Girls and it's depressing because we follow the sister that ends up going missing from the novel. It's heartbreaking, but not as gripping as the novel it's tied to.
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan 4 stars This is fun and I see why it's so beloved. I enjoyed it for what it is, but I don't think it's a groundbreaking novel. I did enjoy the Greek mythology and I think it's a well-done integration into the story.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita DNF @ page 53 (1 star) I wasn't a fan. The idea was cheesy and cute, but not cute enough or cheesy enough to win me over. Check out my review here.
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut 4.5 stars I haven't read a Vonnegut since high school, but this reminded me that I still love him. He's a satirist and this is hysterical dark comedy at its finest. I can't tell you what it's about because it would probably spoil everything. Just know it has Eliot Rosewater (yes, the one from Slaughterhouse-Five) and Kilgore Trout.

Recommend the Most:
Pretty Girls is the best of this bunch and it's one of the best novels I read this year. It is definitely more the reader who likes darker plots, characters, and can handle gory situations. Slaughter is one of my new favorite authors and I'm going to kindly shove this down your throat (which is not a pun, I promise).
Books Reviewed: 1
Books Rated Over 4 stars: 2
New Favorites: 1
Books That Changed My Life: 1
Owned: 2
Have you read any of these books? Which ones are you most interested in? Are you a Karin Slaughter fan? Let me know down below in the comments!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Newborn on Her Doorstep: Harlequin Manga by Ellie Darkins & Yuki Mizusawa

Newborn on Her Doorstep: Harlequin Manga by Ellie Darkins & Yuki Mizusawa

3 stars

Lily wakes up to find a newborn on her doorstep one morning and her world changes. Her best friend’s brother shows up and a romance ensues. The plot obviously isn’t the most sophisticated, but this is a Harlequin romance turned into a manga, so it provides exactly what it promises. I was a little thrown off because the reader is just thrown into the story and things are just going, going, gone and the pacing is incredibly fast (too fast for a romance, in my opinion). The writing isn’t gripping, but the story is cute enough to fly through. I really like the art style because it’s your typical shojo manga.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 3

Art Scale: 4

Lily is the main female character and I really liked her. She’s level-headed most of the time and she was all for communication and overcoming hardships, which I was all for and then she decided to run away. I still liked her despite this annoying change of character.

Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 3.25

Nic is rich and handsome plus he has a heart for saving children from unfair working environments. He also takes Lily to fancy restaurants despite her having a baby, a trip to Rome, and being romantic as all get out. He checked all the boxes for swoony and while I wasn’t head over heels for him, I was definitely rooting for him.

Swoon Worthy Scale: 3

Kate, the friend of the heroine and brother of the hero, cracks me up. I aspire to be as meddlesome in people’s lives as her. I’m also obsessed with babies in manga and anime because they always look so freaking adorable. Obviously, Rosie was the highlight of the whole story.

Character Scale: 3

Overall, this story is cute. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the manga and the story, but it was a nice little thirty minute read and it gave me some feels. My inner romantic was fed by cuteness and babies. I think this is something worth checking out if you want to fill your stomach with cheese.

Plotastic Scale: 2

Cover Thoughts: It’s cute. Not amazing, but I do love the yellow flowers and the pink together.

Thank you, Netgalley and Harlequin, for providing me with a copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review.

Are you interested in the Harlequin Mangas? What are some of your favorite manga and anime with swoony romances that can give me feels? I want some recommendations, please! Let me know in the comments down below!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Nightingale by Amy Lukavics

Nightingale by Amy Lukavics

3.5 stars

June Hardie is your typical seventeen-year-old girl living in 1951. She has a boyfriend, comes from a good wholesome family, goes to school, and is learning how to cook. Except nothing is as it seems and the truth is her boyfriend is just another ploy for her father to have a booming business, her family is stilted and she hates her mother as much as her mother seems to hate her, all she wants is to go to college, and cooking doesn’t please her. Writing is her passion. June loves to write about the aliens that are torturing and rearranging her heroine. June Hardie can’t stop writing her story. Everything went wrong one morning and she woke up to find her parents replaced. Her parents are her parents now she is trapped in the Institution alongside girls who all have seemed to have encounters as strange as June. The Institution doesn’t want to help June and the girls have no hope of getting out the easy way. Getting better doesn’t seem to be an option. That synopsis that I wrote is a lot and it’s not even half of this story. This story is wild and there is far too much going on. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, but that’s what I like about Lukavics she packs a lot of social commentaries into a horror setting (usually not present day). I’ve always been fascinated by the 1950s housewife. I’m a huge fan of Revolutionary Road and I’ve written countless essays on the topic for literature classes, so this was right up my alley. It is all very Virginia Wolff combined with Sylvia Plath thrown into an outrageous horror setting. Lukavics’ writing is palpable and addicting. She is a well-crafted horror writer who knows how to intrigue and shock the reader. I wasn’t able to put this book down and felt like I just had to know what was going to happen next. The problem, however, was that I wasn’t a fan of the ending or the conclusion. It was lackluster, but I’ll speak more about that towards the end of my review.

“June thought of the story she wrote, thought about the aliens, always taking people away and changing them and trying to put them back as if nothing had happened. But nobody was ever quite right after coming back.”

Whimsical Writing Scale: 3.75

The main female character is June. I’ve noticed a pattern with Lukavics’ main heroines. I can’t stand them. They are usually very contrived women who are appealing to my inner feminist in the sense of me being like, “YAS, girl! Down with the patriarchy and the stifling confines of society, but also can you stop creeping me out?” The last heroine I encounter from her in Daughters Unto Devils was demon-possessed and wanted to murder her siblings. This girl wants to murder everyone and some point “satisfyingly” taints her family’s homecooked meal with her blood. It was weird, y’all. She has a lot of weird imaginings where she sees herself in the most horrifying and gruesome visions and she enjoys them. It’s a little too weird for my liking and she just feels skeevy. I felt like I was encountering a psychopath (and I kind of was, but no spoilers because it’s not that simple). She wasn’t a horrible character, but I wasn’t rooting for her. I just wanted to know what the heck was going on and why she was in this weird situation in the first place.

“She loved stories like that, the ones that made you realize how very created our ideas of safety and basic rights were.”

Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 3

There is some girl group power in the Institution, but I didn’t really buy any of their friendships as a group dynamic. Everyone kind of seemed to be doing their own thing and was out for themselves. Eleanor is June’s roommate and she is one of the major characters in the Institution and is eventually June’s lover. I honestly wasn’t buying the romance because it all of a sudden happened, but it was different to see a lesbian romance in a horror story outside of American Horror Story. I just wasn’t buying it and also, that ending. How cliché. June’s family was a lot to take in. I didn’t like them and I’m not supposed to, but I kind of wished that their dynamic wasn’t so tainted. Also, the plot with her brother, Fred, escalated. I was supposed to believe he was this evil man, but really he was just a stand in for defeating the patriarchy in familial situations, which I’m not against, but I would have preferred more character development to get me to hate him.

“This wasn’t supposed to be a nightmare house, it was supposed to be a place built to make people feel better.”

Character Scale: 3.5

The Villain- Joya… Nurse Joya. She is like Sister Mary Eunice minus the nun costume and she’s less demonic and more Lovecraftian. This was all very Lovecraftian and I wasn’t against it because intergalactic feuds are interesting, but also, I know nothing about anything. I have more questions than answers.

“She savored her gift from the land of stars and voids.”

Villain Scale: 3.5

So, this horror novel is incredibly feminist and I loved that. It has a lot of wonderful commentary on the 1950s, suburbia, women writers, mental health treatment, hysteria, lobotomies, and family confines and expectations. I love all these things and it was a treat to read, but I have to talk about that ending and how I can’t really wrap my head around it, so here’s a quote that references Virginia Wolff and I’ll leave you with that before I give spoilers.

“Maybe having to exist in a single room forever wouldn’t be too awful of a thing.”
All along June’s story was about herself and her own alien abduction at ten-years-old. Which makes sense to me because I suspected that must be the case because she knew too well how she wanted her character to be tortured and she just kind of was able to get it all down at unearthly speed. I don’t know anything about the aliens who abducted her or why. Then the whole thing about Joya and the other nurses being one entity and race that eats people to survive – they are basically earth bottom feeders and the aliens want to destroy them. It’s all very all over the place. The showdown was kind of cool and different from what I expected. But the ending, June has all these powers from her abductions (mind control, manipulation, healing, etc.) and she manipulates her fiancée into being her slave forever and then murdered her brother because he ruined her chance to go write and he had to go because reasons? It was just weird. I was unfulfilled and just felt kind of knocked off my rocker a bit by where the story decided to go. I just don't know exactly how I feel. Do I like this or hate it? No, but I am confused on processing my thoughts.

Overall, I really enjoyed Nightingale and it has a lot of interesting facets that make it stand out from the horror YA genre. It’s not my favorite by Lukavics, but I do think it’ll find its fans. Especially those who love aliens and feminism and maybe Lovecraftian weirdness. This is one I definitely recommend!

Plotastic Scale: 3.25

Cover Thoughts: I live for this cover. The colors. The creepiness

Thank you, Netgalley and Harlequin Teen, for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Are you planning to read Nightingale? What are some of your favorite YA horror novels? Let me know down below in the comments!

October & November Reading Wrap-Up + Last Round of Goals Catch-Up

Hi, everyone! Sorry that I wasn't able to post an October wrap-up earlier, but since I have finished my finals for the fall semester (WHOOP!) I decided to combine my wrap-ups from those two months. This semester was taxing and I was able to take away a lot of things and I have really grown a lot this semester. I didn't do a ton of reading, but I did get some reading done!

Books Read in October:
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The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware 3 stars This is my first Ruth Ware and I wasn't a huge fan. I loved the atmosphere and the narrator has the creepiest voices (highly recommend), but the mystery was lackluster and I couldn't really get into the story. I wasn't captured in the way that I hoped I would be, but I don't regret spending time on this one. I just wasn't blown away.
You by Caroline Kepnes 5 stars Y'all, this book is as creepy as everyone said it was and Joe was a likable guy which made it even creepier. I loved this so much and the audiobook was funny, held me captive (HAHAHAHA), and is hands down one of the best listening experiences I've had this year. Truly terrifying and it never stopped shocking me. It kept going and it always packed a punch. (Also, I'm over halfway through the TV show and I love it.)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 4.25 stars I loved listening to this and it has great satirical commentary, but I didn't love it like I thought I would. It was great, but I wanted more and I'm not sure if I want to continue with the series because I felt pretty fulfilled by the ending. Is it worth continuing?
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han 3 stars This was so disappointing compared to To All the Boys I've Loved Before. It was cute and I love the family dynamic, but the drama was drawn out and this is a book that doesn't need to exist. Check out my review here.

Overall Thoughts (for October):
I read a total of 4 books in October (5 if you can't the textbook for social justice education that I counted on GR) and they were all audiobooks. I did read physical books, but I did not finish any. Okay, technically I read some of You physically, but I listened to it more than read it. It was a dual reading experience. Also, I'm kind of bummed that I didn't read in spooky books this year during the season, but You was scary enough. You is the book I recommend the most and it's not horror, so don't let it the fact that it is unsettling deter you because it's amazing!

Books Read in November:
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A Passage to India by E.M. Forester 3.5 stars This is one of those classics that I had on my TBR but never actually had intentions to pick up. I'm glad that my Brit Lit class forced me to though because I learned so much in our discussions and about British colonization in India. The novel itself is not particularly amazing, but it focuses on really important topics within the dynamics of oppression and racism.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan 4.25 stars This is not my kind of book, but I loved it a lot. I couldn't stop laughing at the antics of Nick's family and it has its faults, but it's so enjoyable. I wasn't a huge fan of the movie, but I did really like it. I'm looking forward to listening to the rest of the series!
White Teeth by Zadie Smith 4.5 stars This novel is spectacular. It's a fantastic social study of British people who have been impacted by colonization. The problem is that the characters don't hold your attention. Things happen to them and you are fine with these outrageous tragedies, but they don't move you. That's why I can't give this novel a perfect rating because as much as I loved it, I also felt disconnected to it.
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton 2.25 stars I had been trying to finish this book for months and I was so happy that I finally did at the end of the month. This book has a fantastic premise about a man who wakes up in the bodies of multiple hosts every day to discover the truth behind a murder, but it was a slog. Check out my review here.

Overall Thoughts (for November):
I finished 4 books in November and they all had ties to British colonization and the effect of Western culture. Well except Evelyn Hardcastle, but it felt very British. The book I recommend the most is White Teeth. It's an absurd novel that spans multiple decades and Smith's writing is enchanting.

2018 Goals:
 -I want to finish at least three series (five doesn't seem doable). COMPLETED 4/3 
*I finished The 5th Wave Trilogy with reading two novels!
*Burn for Burn trilogy was finally finished!
*I read and started The Lord of the Rings trilogy in one month! 
*I finished the original Sevenwaters trilogy by Juliet Marillier with two novels read.
-I want to read five sequels (I don't have to finish the series). COMPLETED 11/5 
*Flawless by Sara Shepard is book 2 in the PLL series. 
*The Infinite Sea and The Last Star by Rick Yancey are the 2nd and 3rd book in The 5th Wave series.
*The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon is the fifth book in the Outlander series. 
*The Lord of the Rings: The Towers and The Return of the King are the first and second in the LOTR trilogy.
*Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian is the last book in the Burn for Burn trilogy.
 *Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier is the second book in the Sevenwaters series.
*Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier is the third and final novel in the original Sevenwaters trilogy. 
*A Court of Frost and Starlight is the novella in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series 
*Prince Caspian is the second book in the Chronicles of Narnia. 
*P.S. I Still Love You is the second book in the To All the Boys I've Loved Before trilogy.
-I also want to read four short story collections. COMPLETED 6/4 
 *Harry Potter and Philosophy. 
*Manga Classics: The Jungle Book
*Manga Classics: The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe.
*The Merry Spinster 
*A Wilderness Station
-I want to read three classics that are not Stephen King novels. COMPLETED 19/3 
*Manga Classics: The Jungle Book
*Anne Frank Remembered
*The ABC Murders
*Manga Classics: The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
*The Master Plan of Evangelism (Christian Classic) 
*The Lord of the Rings Trilogy 
*Heaven (It's one of the few real V.C. Andrews novels.)
*The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
*The Pursuit of Holiness (Christian Classic) 
*A Wilderness Station
*Against Forgetting 
*The Stepford Wives
 *Prince Caspian
*The Bible
*The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 
*A Passage to India
-I want to read five Stephen King novels (I've already read one in 2018). 4/5  
*The Long Walk (5 stars)
*Gerald's Game (5 stars) 
*IT (5 stars-reread) 
*The Shining (5 stars)
Read 2018 ARCs. Read 25!
Books I Posted on End of the Year Survey. YES! 7/18
*The Fiery Cross
*Ashes to Ashes
*Gerald's Game 
*God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
*Son of the Shadows 
*The Shining 

Currently Reading/ Hoping to Finish in December:
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Already Finished: Pieces of Her, Nightingale
Netgalley ARCs: Nightingale, Salt, A Darker Shade of Magic
Eldeweiss ARCs: Amity
I would love to finish all of these books to start the year fresh in 2019 with no old reads weighing me down. In reality, I don't know if I'll actually do that because I want to start other stuff, too.

Books I Want to Try to Get To:
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I'm trying to get back to Netgalley ARCs. I'd also like to try some 2018 releases that I couldn't get to, but we shall see if I do that.

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The top three are audiobooks I've started and I need to finish, so I'm praying that I get these back before the end of the month. The rest are books I have holds for!

Books I Own 
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I've been listening to These Broken Stars for months. I'm not a big fan and I think that's why it keeps expiring and I keep having to renew it. This time I will finish it! I've read In Cold Blood before, but I want to listen to the audiobook! I've never read Gone with the Wind before and it intimidates me, so hopefully I can get pulled in by the audiobook!

Have you read any of these books? Let me know your thoughts on them down below in the comments!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 4.75 stars “The circus arrives without warning.” The Night Circus follows a circus that trave...