The Night Circus

13330943by Erin Morgenstern
Fantasy
5 of 5 stars
Debut novel: September 13, 2011

I have been meaning to read this book for years, and I finally bought myself a copy so that I could leisurely make my way through the 500 pages. This is one of the best stories I’ve ever read–ever.

Told over the span of decades, through multiple characters, bouncing back and forth through time and different countries, it drew me in from the first page, promising not just a story, but an experience. And it completely delivered that for me! I seriously considered not finishing the book just to prolong the feeling of the circus.

As children, Celia and Marco are bound to a magical competition by their instructors, unaware that only one can survive the challenge. After years of training, the Night Circus is created to showcase their abilities as exhibitors, and drawing innocent people into the web of the contest. When Celia and Marco fall in love, things get even more complicated.

I just adored this story–the magic is beautiful and interesting and at times just fun, reminiscent of Harry Potter. It’s immersive, and although the plot is slow, the enjoyment of this book comes from the journey and the little moments of detail in each chapter. It is one of those stories that makes you long to be there yourself. Definitely a new favorite for me, and a wonderful way to close out this year!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Night Circus is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Agnieszka knows her perfect best friend is going to be the local wizard’s captive apprentice—except when he comes to choose a girl it isn’t Kasia. Incredible world-building, dark magic, excellent twists. Addictive and immersive! See my review here.
  • A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi – A captured princess and cunning prince team up to compete in the Tournament of Wishes, which will test their resolve in every way imaginable. As enthralling as it is emotional, I adore this story. It’s a love letter to stories and readers. See my review here.
  • When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Lush prose that draws you into a small town filled with magic, secrets, and romance. Sam and Miel have been best friends their whole lives, but when the Bonner sisters decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrists, protecting Miel could reveal all the secrets Sam and Miel have kept from each other and themselves. See my review here.
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What’s new this month

A few awesome reads to wrap up this year!

11/7 – The November Girl – by Lydia Kang33509082

On an island in Lake Superior a half-human half-elemental named Anda chooses to shelter runaway Hector. Anda is the daughter of the Lake, and the sailors that perish in her storms keep her island alive. Hector is fleeing violence, but Anda is not a safe harbor for humans despite her human heart. I love any story featuring magical beings born from nature and this sounds like an icy clandestine romance perfect for a cold winter night!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


3356687111/7 – The Speaker – by Traci Chee

This series comes highly recommended and I can’t wait to see where it goes! Sefia and Archer are on the run from the Guard and planning their next moves. As Sefia continues to decipher the Book’s secrets, Archer focuses on freeing boys from impressors. But as his need for battles and blood grows, Sefia fears she will no longer recognize him. If they want to avoid a war, they must subvert the Guards’ plans before it’s too late, but Sefia has a lot of mysteries to solve before they stand a chance. There’s a lot happening in this series and I’m sure many more puzzles to look forward to!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


11/14 – City of Brass – by  S.A. Chakraborty32718027

A con-woman named Nahri with healing abilities accidentally summons a djinn warrior who whisks her away to the mythical (very real) City of Brass where legends live and fierce court politics threaten both of their lives. Nahri must uncover what her connection is to this strange city before it’s too late. The inspiration and research behind creating this world reminds me of Alex Bracken’s attention to detail, so I’m sure this will be equally immersive! This debut sounds rich in world-building and mythology and I can’t wait to explore it!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


3156398211/14 – Whichwood – by Tahereh Mafi

This companion to last year’s Furthermore is set in the same whimsical, dangerous world of magic, color, and adventure. But Laylee has none of that: her job is to wash the bodies of the dead to prepare them for the afterlife. It is depressing, lonely work. She can barely remember earlier times with her father and happiness and laughter. That is going to change when some familiar strangers arrive and offer their friendship. I adored Furthermore and I’m so excited to return to this world with new characters!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

What’s new this month

Fall release season part two!

3012293810/3 – Among the Red Stars – by Gwen C. Katz

A novel about a female pilot during World War Two, inspired by the true story of the Night Witches—a thousand times yes! Valka knows she can fly as well as any man, so when an all-female aviation group forms she signs up to defend Russia. Valka must deal with her love of flying being transformed into violence, and the fatigue of war that wars on her and the boy she’s known all of her life who is fighting on the front lines. This sounds sad but inspiring.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


10/3 – Wild Beauty – by Anna-Marie McLemore33158561

The Nomeolvides women tend the most beautiful garden in the world, La Pradera, but their dark secret is that if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers disappear. But when Estrella finds a strange boy in the garden with no memory, she decides to help Fel remember his past. Wandering La Pradera leads to threatening secrets and knowledge…that I assume could threaten everything? It’s mysterious! I am so ready for this, I adored her previous book and I’m confident this will be another lush, emotional read.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


3395823010/10 – Forest of a Thousand Lanterns – by Julie C. Dao

An East Asian retelling of the Evil Queen—well I love evil characters so let’s see how evil she can be! Xifeng is beautiful and destined to be Empress, but it comes at the cost of embracing the darkness within and rejecting the man who loves her. Her magic comes from eating the hearts of the recently killed, and a god has placed her on this path. I cannot say enough how amazing this sounds!!! Evil queen, dark magic, destiny, a haunting world, all my sweet spots for a fantasy book! Picking this up on release day! It’s a duology, so I’m dying to know whether Xifeng decides to redeem herself or if she goes all-in on her path to power.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


10/10 – Gray Wolf Island – by Tracey Neithercott29906023

Her sister Sadie’s dying wish was for Ruby to find the treasure hidden on Gray Wolf Island. But Ruby and her three friends—all with strange powers—must give up their most precious secrets if they want a chance at finding it. I love stories about tight-knit friend groups and of course weird powers always get my attention. A girl who never sleeps? A boy who knows his own death? I am so intrigued! This could be one of those books that stays in my mind for ages.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


3379908610/10 – Race to the Bottom of the Sea – by Lindsay Eagar

I have been waiting for her next book since I devoured Hour of the Bees! A girl with a passion for inventing wants to uncover pirate treasure! Fidelia blames herself for her parents deaths in a submarine of her invention. But when the pirate Merrick the Monstrous kidnaps her, she is dragged from her grief into a quest for his buried treasure. Stranger still, Merrick clearly expects not to live long enough to enjoy his loot. Fidelia has a lot to figure out and not much time to do it. I am confident this will be amazing!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


10/17 – Like Water – by Rebecca Podos31556136

A bisexual performing mermaid who feels trapped in her New Mexico small town because her father has Huntington’s disease and she takes care of him. Disappointed that she can’t leave for college, Savannah distracts herself with her water park job and a string of boys. But then she meets Leigh, who isn’t a “nice girl” but is a friend she desperately needs—and then more than a friend. Falling in love means Savannah has to deal with long-buried questions. This sounds emotional in the best way possible.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


3339523410/31 – Beasts Made of Night – by Tochi Onyebuchi

Within a walled city called Kos live mages, sinners, and sin-eaters. When a mage magically calls the sin out of a sinner it creates a sin-beast that an indentured sin-eater must slay. But when the sin-beasts are killed, a tattoo of the beast appears on the sin-eater, and the guilt of the sin enters their mind. Eventually, the guilt drives them mad. Taj is the best sin-eater in Kos, and takes pride in providing for his family. But when a royal sin reveals a plan to destroy the city, he must fight to save the princess he loves, and himself. Everything about this book makes me want it immediately!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

33958230by Julie C. Dao
YA Fantasy / Fantasy
5 of 5 stars
Debut novel: October 10, 2017
*ARC review

This was one of my most-anticipated releases for this fall and I was lucky enough to snag an advanced reading copy at ALA this summer. This swept me away from the first chapter and I’m so sad this dark dream is over!

Xifeng’s impoverished existence is shadowed by her aunt Guma’s continual predictions for her greatness. Every time she reads Xifeng’s cards, they indicate she is meant to be Empress. Xifeng scoffs at the idea. She is no one, her incredible beauty and cleverness wasted in obscurity. Guma wants her to reject Wei, the man who loves her, because of her destiny, but Xifeng continues to see him–enduring brutal beatings from her aunt as a result. When Wei gives her the chance to run away, Xifeng thinks she is free of Guma’s abuse and can find her own fate. But her journey takes her to the imperial palace, and Xifeng decides to embrace her destiny and enter the palace as a lady-in-waiting. The competitive house of women tests Xifeng’s cunning in ways she didn’t expect, but each choice and gamble brings her closer to her goal. But becoming Empress will mean sacrificing everything she values and the man who loves her to claim the Emperor’s heart.

This is such a dark, addictive character study of a woman who believes her only worth lies in her flawless face and the power it provides. Xifeng is ruthless yet insecure as she feels the pull of destiny unraveling her morality. All she wants is the ability to control her own life, but as a woman in a patriarchal society her options are limited. Becoming Empress symbolizes safety and happiness for her because no one would outrank her.

Based on the stories of the Evil Queen, the fairy tale skeleton is visible beneath layers of fresh material and it provides additional significance to key moments in the best way. Xifeng’s journey feels inevitable and yet it’s clearly happening based on the choices she makes. Despite her darkness I could never bring myself to stop hoping she succeeded.

Although this is marketed as YA fantasy, I think the pacing, style, and themes better fit adult fantasy. Any readers who enjoy fairy tale re-tellings would enjoy this though!

The writing is vibrant, poetic, yet just as direct as its protagonist. Xifeng is unapologetically ambitious and I just wanted this story to last forever. Her rise from lowly peasant to life in the palace reads like a magical, disturbing Jane Austen / royal court drama and I was completely addicted to her bold game of chance and fate. I can’t wait for the sequel!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Agnieszka knows her perfect best friend is going to be the local wizard’s captive apprentice—except when he comes to choose a girl it isn’t Kasia. Incredible world-building, dark magic, excellent twists. This is the only fantasy novel nearly as dark and addictive as Forest that I’ve come across. See my review here.
  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer – The Queen of Hearts used to be a girl that wanted to open a bakery, but from the day she makes tarts for the King her parents try to push her towards royal ambitions. Cath is convinced she doesn’t want status or riches, but she doesn’t expect a forbidden romance with a joker to change her fate. See my review here.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Kell is one of the last Antari, magicians that can travel between the four parallel worlds. Officially, he works for the king of Red London (where magic is vibrant and free) but unofficially, he smuggles objects between the worlds for those willing to pay. But when he accidentally smuggles a piece of Black London (which should be extinct) into Red London, all hell breaks loose across the four worlds. See my review here.
  • The Rose Society by Marie Lu – Adelina’s journey to power and descent into darkness becomes more compelling and dangerous in this sequel. The stakes continue to rise and Adelina must continually sacrifice to achieve her dark dreams. See my review here.

What’s new this month

It’s almost time for fall releases but these are some interesting reads to tide you over til September!

329560088/1 – Sour Heart: Stories – by Jenny Zhang

A collection of seven stories about immigrants coming to terms with their families, cultures, and identity in 1990’s NYC. Renowned for her poetry, this is something new for the author and I’m intrigued the themes of family history complicating your present. This is coming out under Lena Dunham’s new imprint so I’m also guessing feminism and sexuality will be explored too. Waiting to see what else is in store with this read!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


320517208/15 – Wicked Like a Wildfire – by Lana Popović

Two sisters, two gifts, and a secret family curse. Iris and Melina have different powers that let them control beauty. For Iris it’s glasswork, for Melina it’s music. But their mother has rules: don’t tell anyone about your gifts. Don’t fall in love. Their quiet small-town life is rocked when their mother is attacked, and the sisters begin uncovering family secrets to find out why and whether the powers that have bonded them will rip them apart. Sounds like a good debut to me!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


327136628/16 – Crushed: A Graphic Memoir – by Trinidad Escobar

This sounds so interesting and bittersweet! The story of Trinidad’s adoption by a California family and her quest at age 25 to discover her biological family’s roots to better understand herself. While her life in America was full of love, she feels out of place, and dark visions plague her mind, distorting what’s true. When she visits the Dorognas in the Philippines, they are more than happy to give her the stories of their lives to help her piece together who she is.

More here: Goodreads and Tattered Cover


327117018/22 – Dress Codes for Small Towns – by Courtney Stevens

I met the author at an event a few months ago and what she told me about this book put it on my list! “It’s the small town from Footloose but about queer identity instead of dancing.” Preacher’s daughter Billie has her group of friends that gets into trouble and always looks out for one another. But when Janie Lee tells Billie she’s in love with Woods, Billie realizes she might be in love with both of them. I love groups of friends, I love Billie’s hesitance to mess with the group dynamic, I love that this will explore fluidity instead of labels. Sign me up!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


323362768/29 – Wonder Woman: Warbringer – by Leigh Bardugo

I am not really a superhero fan, but I have to admit I’ve been loving the Wonder Woman projects this year! This origin story follows Diana, Princess of the Amazons and destined to become Wonder Woman, and Alia, the girl Diana saves, who is a descendant of Helen of Troy, a Warbringer. Diana’s choice to save Alia will force them to face and fight all kinds of enemies who want to decide the Warbringer’s fate. Friendship and superpowers and adventure from one of the queens of fantasy!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

The Hate U Give

32075671by Angie Thomas
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars
Debut novel: February 28, 2017

I don’t know what to say that hasn’t been said – important, powerful, emotional, hopeful – all of those things and more.

Starr Carter has two identities. She is one of the only black students at her preppy high school, careful never to present herself as “sassy” “loud” “angry” or any other stereotype that will make her friends raise an eyebrow. In her neighborhood, she’s Big Mav’s daughter who works at the store, “too snobby” to hang out at parties or date any guys. (Her boyfriend is Chris–rich, white, and definitely a secret). When she does go to a neighborhood party with her friend Khalil, they have to leave when shots ring out. But on their drive home, a cop stops them–and five minutes later, Khalil is dead. Starr is the only witness to the shooting, and what she decides to say or not say about that night will have far-reaching consequences.

Although there are definitely moments of humor, love, and hope, the overall mood is somber, as it should be. I suppose the pacing is unhurried, but it definitely captures the feeling that law enforcement is unhurried when you need them. When it’s your situation, the waiting is agonizing. Around all that, Starr shows us how her two worlds are colliding and it can be the best or worst thing imaginable.

The true strength of this story is Starr’s voice. Everyone you meet and every place you go feels so real you could blink and be there. I loved her, her parents, her friends (even her “annoying” younger brother). This story doesn’t pull any punches–I teared up so many times–and it’s something I will recommend to everyone.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Hate U Give is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner – When Julia puts a graffiti mural over an offensive slur meant for her best friend, she’s shocked when her friend rats her out. Being expelled and becoming the only Deaf student in her new high school is another shock. This is a fun, fast read that deftly takes you to new turf. See my review here.
  • The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – A brutal, unflinching take-down of rape culture in America. Alex Craft took vengeance into her own hands when her sister’s killer walked free, but keeping that secret becomes harder when star athlete Jack and preacher’s daughter Peekay befriend her during senior year. See my review here.
  • The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – An excellent and uncomfortable portrayal how insidious toxic relationships are, especially when it’s someone in your immediate family. Cassie is determined to put her abusive relationship with her mother behind her as she goes to college, but when her mother turns up promising a fresh start and the love Cassie has craved her whole life, she wonders where a second chance will lead. See my review here.
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Gabi is caught between two worlds, trying to please her traditional Mexican American family, and trying to fit in at school. Both worlds give her nothing but stress: college apps, one best friend coming out to his religious family, her pregnant sister, her father’s drug habit, and her mother’s constant advice to lose weight. Finding her voice through poetry might be the only way she survives. See my review here.

What’s new this month

I’m so excited for this month’s books! I tend to gravitate towards contemporary stories in the summer and I will have plenty to choose from:

303128605/2 – Always & Forever, Lara Jean – by Jenny Han

Lara Jean is a senior now, and she has her wonderful boyfriend Peter and her dad is getting remarried–which means Margot is coming home for the summer! But it’s Lara Jean’s turn to make the tough decisions Margot faced: where to go to college, and what that means for her relationship with Peter. I love these sister relationships and I’m ready for one more story with Lara Jean! These are fun, light-hearted summer reads with gorgeous covers.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


278302875/9 – It Started with Goodbye – by Christina June

This debut’s gorgeous cover grabbed me months ago and I’m so excited to dive into this modern-day Cinderella retelling. Tatum Elsea is stuck in her grandmother’s house for the summer after being falsely accused of a crime. Between community service and her secret graphic arts job she’s keeping busy–and then she finds out she isn’t the only one in the house with secrets. I’m so intrigued by the hint of romance and what her “step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother” is going to do for her!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

 


314492275/9 – Ramona Blue – by Julie Murphy

This book has received a lot of attention due to a somewhat confusing synopsis. Ramona Blue is described as one of only two out lesbians in her small town. The town is recovering from Hurricane Katrina, her younger sister is pregnant, and Ramona picks up a lot of responsibilities around the house thanks to her parents’ issues. Then her childhood best friend Freddie returns, and they start swimming together–and then Ramona might have feelings for him. The description has changed a few times, but I think the intent is for a girl who thought she was a lesbian to discover she is bisexual, which can be polarizing.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


233080875/16 – Flame in the Mist – by Renee Ahdieh

My fantasy pick for this month! Pitched as a Mulan-inspired story of Mariko, a girl pledged in an arranged marriage for her family, only to be attacked on her way to her betrothed. Disguised as a boy, she infiltrates the ranks of the Black Clan hired to assassinate her, and uncovers a lengthy history secrets and murders. I have not had a girl-impersonating-a-boy story in so long, and I’m so curious how this one will go and what Mariko will do to set herself free!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


300389065/16 – The Names They Gave Us – by Emery Lord

Emery Lord, my feminist giver of life advice, finally has a new book out! Lucy has the rug pulled out from under her this summer. Her mother’s cancer reappears, her boyfriend wants to take a break, and instead of working at the Christian Bible camp she is assigned to a camp for “troubled” kids. She attempts to be positive about all these changes, but she can’t fully stifle her questions and doubts; and when family secrets come to light she will have to decide how to handle her relationships and her future. Her books always make me laugh and cry and I’m sure this will be no different!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


284585985/30 – When Dimple Met Rishi – by Sandhya Menon

Another debut! An arranged marriage between two Indian-American teens with both of their POVs. Dimple and Rishi have completely different ideas about romance and relationships, but when they both show interest in the same web-developer summer program their parents think it might be a good match. This sounds so cute! Their opposing views, natural attraction that was possibly influenced by their parents without Dimple’s knowledge–this sounds like the perfect rom-com setup and I’m sure I’ll devour this with a big smile!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

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