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.
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Born a Crime

29780253by Trevor Noah
Nonfiction
5 of 5 stars

This is an incredible story that I couldn’t put down! Part history lesson, part autobiography, full of dry humor and even more grit.

Chronicling his childhood and teenage years in South Africa before his career on the comedy circuit, this is as much his mother’s story as his. A single woman raising a child with a white father during the final years of apartheid, her faith in Jesus was the only constant in a life spent hiding and running.

Noah holds nothing back–the darker stories of his upbringing and the racial tensions are only occasionally lightened with humor. The details of surviving through pirating music and DJ-ing parties are thrown together with his abusive stepfather, and continually searching for a group to belong to as a mixed race child. (Because even with everyone stringently categorized, he is alone). He examines all the aspects of white privilege as deftly as family dynamics and religion. Every chapter is riveting! This should be taught in high schools.

I’ll be recommending this to everyone! It presents the complexities of identity in a compelling, honest way with vivid language, the emotions bleeding through the carefully thought out anecdotes.

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


Similar reads:

  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari – A study of how romance has changed in the last few decades, with plenty of humor! See my review here.
  • The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey –  This is an excellent illustration of the sacredness of life in any state or size and has similar insights into knowing and accepting yourself as you are. See my review here.
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler – A funny and inspiring autobiography about being a woman in comedy and television. I really enjoyed her perspective! See my review here.

Warcross

29385546by Marie Lu
Science Fiction
5 of 5 stars

This book blew me away! Some stories are just FUN to read and this is one of them! It’s completely different from Lu’s last trilogy (which I loved) and I was sucked in the same way. I’ve never wanted to be a part of a sci-fi world before, but this one is as addictive as the virtual reality game at its heart!

Emika Chen has been a coder, hacker, and bounty hunter since her father died. Warcross is the biggest game in the world, and gambling on it is illegal, but commonplace. Emika hunts these gamblers for the police to pay her debts, but it hasn’t been going well. When she accidentally glitches herself into the Warcross tournament, she catches the eye of the game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka. He wants her to be his bounty hunter, because someone else has been expertly hacking Warcross, and he wants to catch them.

There’s a lot to explain about this world, Warcross, and the tournament, but Emika takes us through it all with ease, filling you in yet keeping her own secrets (good and bad) from you until she chooses to divulge them. Although Emika’s voice is very matter-of-fact, there are surprising emotional moments that punch you in the gut.

The pacing is perfect, and the reveals are satisfying. Each beat tugs your heart in just the right way, like a perfect popcorn / spy / adventure flick. Even the cover clicks into the story in the best way. It was an absolute pleasure to read and I can’t wait for the sequel!

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


Similar reads:

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  • Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh – This debut explore futuristic Korea through the eyes of Jaewon, a soldier commissioned to guard a girl in a test program for people given superhuman abilities. Jaewon will have to guard his heart as well as Tera if he wants to succeed–but success means choosing to support a regime that goes against everything his parents fought for.

American Street

30256109by Ibi Zoboi
YA Contemporary / Magical Realism
4 of 5 stars

This cover grabbed me and the story inside is just as vibrant and layered.

Fabiola and her mother arrive in New Jersey from Haiti as they journey to join her aunt in Michigan. But her mother is detained, and Fabiola arrives in Detroit with their luggage to meet their family for the first time in years. She’s alone, adrift, and unsure what to make of her three cousins, Chantal, Donna and Pri. The American dream isn’t what she expected. Fabiola clings to her vodou faith as she tries to get her mother to Detroit and make a place for herself in a birth country she barely knows.

Young adult novels are full of insecure characters learning to find and use their voice. Fabiola was a refreshing new perspective! She is confident in herself and her faith. Her decisions revolve around how and when to use her voice, not finding it, and her self-assurance in the face of everything unknown is inspiring. She learns that the money sent to her and her mother over the years might not come from a legitimate source, and she has to face uncomfortable truths about her aunt’s business, her cousin’s boyfriend. What she chooses to do with this information and a curious detective that claims she can get Fabiola’s mother to Detroit could destroy her newfound extended family.

The complexity of family relationships and loyalty is explored in humorous and horrifying situations. Fabiola struggles to discern whether her spirit guides are opening doors or whether she’s seeing what she wants to see. All of the women in this story fight for their dreams despite everything that tries to claw their hopes out of their hearts. I highly recommend this!

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


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  • 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.
  • Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali – Janna is constantly balancing her family’s expectations with forming her own beliefs, which is complicated enough. But only Janna knows the dark secret of the golden Muslim boy in her community, and telling the truth could alienate her friends and family for good. See my review here.

A Line in the Dark

9780803739260_NearlyGone_JKT.inddby Malinda Lo
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars
*ARC review

This quietly creepy read is perfect for October!

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. No one knows about her secret crush on Angie, and that’s fine with her. But when Margot Adams from the nearby boarding school develops an interest in Angie, Jess is pushed aside to deal with her jealousy alone. And not just jealousy–there’s something dark and secretive about Margot.

This engrossing love triangle comes to life through each girl’s warped longing, and I was sucked into their world wholeheartedly. The interpersonal drama unfolds against the backdrop of a fateful party one winter night, and you don’t know who is telling the truth or what lies in store for the girls’ relationships. I really loved how the artwork was integrated to the story, just enough to add some doubt and anxiety, but not enough to overpower what was actually happening.

As with any fun mystery, the smallest observations and word choices offer meanings that get twisted through the narrative lens. When I finished, I immediately had to go back and see everything in a new light!

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


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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren decides to find her biological father on her 16th birthday—largely because she wakes up that morning to discover her mother has abandoned her. Maren doesn’t blame her mother—it was for her own safety after all. Maren has a tendency to consume the people who care about her, bones and all. She hopes finding her father will explain why she can’t stop herself from eating human flesh. See my review here.

Want

32333174by Cindy Pon
Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

Cindy Pon has been recommended to me many times and I’m so glad I finally grabbed one of her books! This was fun to read and balances a healthy push towards activism–particularly when it comes to climate change–with a tight plot and characters that feel like a version of you (you know, if you rode airborne motorcycles and could climb skyscrapers like a super-spy).

Jason Zhou and his group of friends live in futuristic Taipei, when pollution is so bad that the wealthy buy special suits to protect them from bad air and acid rain. Most people don’t have that luxury, and lifespans have shrunk to 40 years or less. With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the wealthiest circle in the city, growing close to Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO–the suit manufacturer worth billions. He hopes she will be the key to accessing Jin Corp’s secrets and shutting down the company from the inside. What he didn’t count on was falling for her.

This world is gritty and largely unpleasant, but Zhou’s undying love for his city is a bright spot in the darkness. (Literal darkness–the air is so polluted the sun is dim and the skies are brown). He has an interesting dynamic with his friends. They’ve known each other for years, yet he’s told none of them his real name. There’s a carefully cultivated distance rarely breached, yet they risk their lives for each other. It’s an interesting mirror to our friendships, when technology allows you to craft a persona and it can be difficult to allow any true intimacy.

Although this centers around people wearing protective suits and helmets and keeping all kind of barriers intact, this allows the blend of sensory details to flood your mind in ways they normally don’t. When Zhou is rock climbing, or gardening outside his secret apartment, or telling Daiyu about the rumored blue skies of the past, the imagery is compelling, wistful, and vulnerable.

This is a timely story and Zhou is the voice of everyone who feels frustrated and powerless. As he finds a path to creating change, you feel as if you can do the same.

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


Similar reads:

  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas has spent her whole life training Reckoner beasts to fight pirates in the NeoPacific, but her first solo trip goes horribly wrong. Pirate Queen Santa Elena captures Cas and orders her to train a stolen Reckoner for the pirates, under the watchful eye of Swift, a girl who seems to understand the darkest parts of Cas. See my review here.
  • Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh – This debut explore futuristic Korea through the eyes of Jaewon, a soldier commissioned to guard a girl in a test program for people given superhuman abilities. Jaewon will have to guard his heart as well as Tera if he wants to succeed–but success means choosing to support a regime that goes against everything his parents fought for.
  • A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – A sci-fi retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Rosalinda Fitzroy awakens from 62 years of stasis to find out her family is dead and she is the missing heiress to a global conglomerate. The acting CEO is not pleased to hear she was found, and Rosalinda must come to terms with her past if she is to survive the fight for her future.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

12000020by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

Aristotle and Dante meet one day at their local swimming pool, and Dante’s offer to teach Aristotle to swim will change their lives. The two strike up an unlikely friendship (Aristotle is angry about a lot of things, mainly not knowing why his older brother is in prison and Dante seems happy-go-lucky). Both of them are introspective, struggling to find their identities in a world they don’t fully understand, and their conversations involve a lot of musing and laughing as they wait to grow up and receive some answers. Then an accident changes their relationship forever.

Ari might be angry and prickly but the things he loves bring out the best parts of him and make you feel for this boy that wants so desperately to find his place in the world. I fell in love with his desert and his family and his dog and his truck. I wanted him to find answers and the things he learns along the way are meaningful to everyone. It would be easy for this book to sound instructional or preachy, but it never does.

This is a deceptively simple book about a boy trying to solve the mystery of himself that pulls you into every day life and then rips the rug out from under your feelings to leave you a sobbing mess. The relationships manage to be nuanced and real when we only glimpse them in “ordinary” moments. I enjoyed the first 3/4, but it’s the end that made me LOVE it.

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


Similar reads:

  • Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy – Ramona is as well-known in her small southern town for her blue hair as she is for being a lesbian. But her surety of her identity is tested when an old friend moves back and she discovers not everyone fits into a box. See my review here.
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Simon is only “out” with his mysterious email pen pal Blue. Both of them haven’t told each other their real names, but their growing relationship is threatened by another student who will expose their emails to the school unless Simon helps him land a girlfriend. See my review here.
  • You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner – An art-filled story of friendship–and rivalry. When Julia is expelled and becomes the only Deaf girl in a mainstream school, she throws herself into her art even more. But she unwittingly stumbles into a turf war and must figure out who is trying to push her out. See my review here.

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