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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“Once they were librarians, but that is a subject they will only discuss if heavily intoxicated.”

Since childhood, Celia and Marco have been trained to battle each other in a magical competition that neither is fully certain of all the rules. They are not even certain of each others identity. The venue, Le Cirque des Rêves, is a circus that is only open at night. As the battle continues to weave its way across the circus and those who call the circus home, it becomes clear that only one will remain standing.

The story is unique. I’ve read circus stories before but not with this premise and it is refreshing to find a different angle in a book that is getting a lot of press. However, the atmosphere is where it is at. From the beautiful language (Morgenstern had me as exsanguinated) and lush descriptions to the building romantic interests it grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go. The chapters are short so it also appeals to the reader who likes a quicker read and perhaps this is why it is such a successful book. It reaches several of the different appeal characteristics without seeming to sacrifice anything. While I don’t think it lives up to the hype (really what book can) it is a beautiful book. 2011, 387 pages

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Fantasy

 

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

“I’ll know when you get your memory back.”
“How?” said Alice.
“The way you look at me. As soon as you remember, I’ll see it in your eyes.”

Alice wakes up after a fall from her bike in Spin Class (boy have I been there) believing she is 29 and about to have her first child. Life couldn’t be grander with her adoring husband Nick and the new fixer upper they just purchased. Trouble is, Alice soon discovers that she is actually 39, the mother to three children she doesn’t remember and is in the middle of a horribly nasty divorce from Nick. Every single memory of the last ten years of her life is gone.

This could easily have been a fairly light chick lit book. Instead it is a unique take on the midlife crisis. What if everything you’ve become in the last ten years is wiped away and you are dealing with the present with your past mentality? How does that help you or harm your growth as a person? A strong character study with a touch of mystery as the reader hangs on wondering what really happened with Nick and how it will all play out. Two side stories-journal entries from Alice’s sister about her troubles having a child and letters her Aunt Fannie writes to a mysterious man-add to the journey of discovery the book provides. 2011, 432 pages.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in General Fiction

 

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Horns by Joe Hill

“He threw the Bible into the trumpet case as well. There had to be something in there, some useful tips for his situation, a homeopathic remedy you could apply when you came down with a bad case of the devil.”

Ignatius Perrish is having a rough year. Merrin, the love of his life, was brutally murdered and while there is nothing linking him to the crime most of the town is certain he did it. So, when he wakes up in a drunken stupor with no memory of the night previous, Ig is certain he’s just imagining the horns growing out of his head. Soon he discovers that with his new head accessories comes new powers. People start telling him things-how they really feel about him and also, what they really know. Determined to find the real killer Ig starts a journey of revenge and personal transformation. For, as we all know, the devil is in the details. (oh, you knew I was going there.)

Joe Hill is also on my short list of authors that are automatic purchases. Feel free to analyze me-it is great fun. He has said that horror is rooted in sympathy…in understanding what it would be like to suffer the worst. His books have that gift of touching that base humanity in the reader while scaring the bejesus out of you. Horns is a character driven novel told mostly from the viewpoint of Ig with flashbacks to his life growing up as well as flashbacks told from the viewpoint of other characters. Part mystery, part horror, part commentary on life, love and religion, Horns is the kind of read that will make you wax poetic about the nature of good and evil with your best friend at the bar on a Saturday night. 2010, 370 pages.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Horror

 

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The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

“She thought about what Sebastian said about every life needing a little space, and how that leaves room for good things to enter.”

In Walls of Water, North Carolina strange things are afoot. Paxton Osgood, local good girl who still lives with her parents and is the president of the Women’s Society Club has everyone fooled that she can do anything. Renovations on the stunning Blue Ridge Madam into a B&B are almost complete and Paxton is determined to have the 75th anniversary of the club celebration there.

Willa Jackson, part of the Jackson family that used to own the Blue Ridge Madam, has returned to Walls of Water and is trying to lead a quiet life that her father would have been proud of. Her reputation as a prankster in high school follows her constantly. When a body is found under a peach tree on the grounds of the mansion, Paxton and Willa join forces to find out the identity of the body and perhaps find a way to break out of the self-made molds they are living in.

Sarah Addison Allen has become an automatic purchase for me. As my first boss and queen of readers’ advisory taught me-there are some books that you just know you want to read again in retirement. Indeed. Allen wraps together an intriguing mystery with raw, emotional characters with a touch of magic in a southern package that is hard to resist. Light, easy and by the end you usually have a happy sigh and want to eat a cupcake. Did I really just say that? Yes, yes I did. That is the ultimate compliment I can pay to an author. Peach Keeper isn’t her best but the elements that have garnered her many fans are there. 2011, 288 pages.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in General Fiction

 

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The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

“I make it easier for people to leave by making them hate me a little.”

Tamara Goodwin has always gets everything she wants and lives a life of spoiled luxury in Dublin, Ireland. Everything changes when her father commits suicide and she is forced to move with her mother to the Irish countryside. Tamara is used to a great deal of freedom and bristles under the ever-vigilant watch of her Aunt Rosaleen. Life is never going to be the same but when Tamara finds a book on the traveling library that appears to tell the future, maybe she can find the life she was meant to live.

This is a classic coming of age story with a magical twist. The story has a relaxed pace and is character driven. The secondary characters are interesting enough that you really want to know more about them but their back stories are absent. What I like about Ahern is the way she throws her characters into everyday life that everyone can relate to with a touch of magic that adds a sense of wonder to it all. What I didn’t like about this specific book is the feeling that the author wanted to dabble in creating a suspense novel with Rosaleen and her odd behavior. For this reader it was just awkward. 2011, 312 pages.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Chick Lit

 

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Bi-curious. Volume 1, Serenity by Natalie Weber

For a straight girl, Serenity is surrounded by lesbians. Her older sister, college roommate etc… While her boyfriend Rock would love for her to be more “curious”, Serenity is certain she ain’t like that. Uh huh. When she meets Sadie, the lesbian version of every player you’ve ever known, her fantasies get the best of her and they begin an affair.  As we all know, first comes lust then comes lots and lots of complications.

Urban lit with a lesbian twist is a new trend I’ll be the first to admit I’m still adjusting to it. There is plenty of urban drama here and the requisite, “Oh girl, what DO you think you’re doing?”  This is a quick read with a lot of sex. Despite the lesbian slant-it felt very straight with male sexual terminology(with no men present) and strictly defined roles for the women characters. The story is predictable and a few pages in it will be clear what is going to happen.  However, Natalie Weber is the sister-in-law of Carl Weber so expect demand. 2011, 288 pages.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2011 in GLBTQ, Urban Lit

 

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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Dr. Diana Bishop is a historian doing research at Oxford’s Bodleian Library when she unknowingly unearths a rare Ashmole alchemical text that has been missing for centuries. What she is reluctant to admit is that she comes from a long line of witches that can trace back to the first witch killed in Salem, Massachusetts. When the magical community (vampires, witches and demons) realize what she has found and that it may give them all answers to their species origins there are more magical creatures than humans in the library and Bishop has to find a way to embrace her magical past…and future.

I am very mixed on this book. Despite its nearly 600 pages, it was a quick read. Deborah Harkness is also a history professor with a distinguished academic background so the story is sprinkled with many thought-provoking ideas and figures throughout history. It is a smart read and the reader can spend many hours reading up on different topics from Elias Ashmole to Darwin’s Origin of Species. The atmosphere is perfectly creepy. It’s when the emotional component gets thrown in that I started rolling my eyes. Yes, a 1500 yr old vampire, Matthew is the love interest and protector of Diana. They fall in love quickly and dramatically. He is very protective of her and tells her what to do because you know, he’s never felt this way about anyone. She agrees because she loves him soooo much despite her seemingly intelligent and independent (to this point at least) life. They don’t consummate their relationship and despite the growing knowledge that she may be the most powerful witch ever-she is constantly falling into sleep from exhaustion or sorrow when Matthew is gone. I’m sorry but did the last half of my review remind anyone of another Vampire book? Maybe one with sparkly vampires and a ton of teenage angst? Of course, I’ll read the second one due out in 2012 because there is a lot here. Just calm down on the Twilight bits…please! 2011, 579 pages.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Fantasy

 

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