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!


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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.
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  • 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!


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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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  • 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.

Modern Romance

23453112by Aziz Ansari
Nonfiction
4 of 5 stars

This came highly recommended to me and I loved how in-depth it is! This is a funny but well-researched book on how dating and romance have changed in the age of the Internet, and I found myself fascinated. I grew up right in the middle of the transition–in high school, it was unusual to have your own cell phone. Then in college it was uncommon to have a smartphone. Now of course, they are omnipresent, and Aziz’s observations tended to line up with mine.

There are a lot of “rules” people almost instinctively observe (if you don’t have the instinct, you will fall in line pretty fast don’t worry) when it comes to response times, length of messages, punctuation / emojis and subtext that I had been taking for granted until I saw it laid out in bullet points. That quickly cleared up why communication is exhausting! When you add the hopes and fears of starting a romantic relationship, it’s mind-boggling in its intensity. I definitely share the fear of commitment to meeting up in person, but apparently the only cures for social anxiety or nerves is to just do it. Everyone else is just as nervous as you!

Basically, we’ll all be happier if we choose to live more in the real world than in the phone world, so it’s worth remembering that no matter how much fear you have of missing out on something online, the sure way to miss out is to ONLY be present online.

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


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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.
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Beasts Made of Night

33395234by Tochi Onyebuchi
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars
Debut: October 31, 2017
*ARC review

Taj is the best sin-eater in Kos, but when he’s called to Eat the sin of the city’s prince, he’s drawn into a web of intrigue that will determine not only his fate, but that of the city he loves.

This is such a fascinating world! Kos is ruled by a religious monarchy, and sins can make people physically ill. Only the wealthy can afford an aki, or sin-eater, to Eat the sin that a mage calls from their body. The sinner is left purified, the aki is left to bear the guilt and emotional trauma of the sin, while a tattoo of an animal brands their body for each sin they Eat. Taj’s sin-spots don’t fade with time, which has given him a reputation among the aki and makes everyone else shun his “impurity.” The more sins an aki eats, the quicker they will go mad with the guilt.

Obviously, there is so much to explore here in regards to religion and sin and social classes and economics. My main disappointment with this book is that it’s so short! I would have loved to spend more time in Kos, exploring the city, and getting more information about the religion and sins from Taj. He’s instantly likable, and a great window into this world, but I felt so rushed through this story. I wanted more of his relationships with Bo, the princess, and the scholar. There are plenty of surprising and dark revelations about the sin-beasts and the magic in this world that will keep you turning pages and wishing you could sneak away to the mage library.

Probably my favorite aspect was the micro-setting of Kos. The city breathes life on every page and there’s something new around every corner! Taj races through it with expertise, and I felt like I knew it so well by the end.

This is a great fast-paced read, but you will definitely want a sequel!

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


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