Monday, August 27, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

"The circus arrives without warning.  No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers.  It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen.  No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world."

These opening lines in Erin Morgenstern's fabulous novel just begin to describe the beauty of Le Cirque des Reves (The Circus of Dreams).  Her descriptions of the night circus make you wish that it was a real circus of which you could attend.  I do not believe I have read a book so good in quite some time.  

While I highly recommend this book, I will say that I have struggled with how to give a brief summary of it.  It is not written in chronological order, but each chapter has a date and time stamp.  While this is a little confusing in the beginning, it adds quite a bit of suspense and excitement as the story progresses. That being said, I have decided to tell you just a little about a few of the characters and then you can read the book to find out the rest!

Celia Bowen has been left by her mother to live with her father, Hector Bowen (also known as Prospero).  Hector is a magician who is training Celia to follow in his footsteps.  Hector and his former teacher, Alexander, have different ideas about how magic should be taught and used.  This difference of opinion leads to challenges where both Hector and Alexander choose a student to teach using their methods and then have them dual in an agreed upon venue. For this particular challenge, Hector chooses his daughter and Alexander chooses a boy from an orphanage who comes to be known as Marco. 

Bailey, a young boy living on his family's farm, is a lover of Le Cirque des Reves.  When the circus comes to his town of Concord, Massachusetts he spends as many nights as he possibly can exploring the many tents within the circus boundaries. While knowing that the circus is off limits during the day, Bailey responds to a dare from his sister to sneak into its gates before nightfall. While there, he meets a beautiful red haired girl known as Poppet who will help him make one of the most important decisions of his life.  

Erin Morgenstern intricately weaves the lives of these (along with many more) characters together and the result is a book that is sure to be talked about for years to come. 

Note:  If you like audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to The Night Circus.  The narrator is fabulous.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue, eccentric child of a psychic, has no psychic ability of her own.  She lives not only with her mother, but with her cousin Orla and her mother's two best friends who are also gifted with psychic abilities.  Over and over Blue has been told by these women that if she kisses her true love, he will die.  Unsure of how this would actually happen, Blue does not give it too much consideration until her Aunt Neeve comes into town and foretells that this will be the year Blue will fall in love. 

With money, friends, and a car, Gansey appears to have it all.  But, what he is really interested in is tales of sleeping kings, specifically one that he thinks is located in Henrietta, Virginia.  Being a student at Aglionby Academy provides him the perfect opportunity to explore the ley line where he thinks the sleeping king, Owen Glendower, is located.  Legend tells that the first to wake him will be granted a favor. 

One of the things I like most about this book is how Maggie begins by developing the characters individually and then has them cross paths.  Each of the characters is unique in their own way, but they all fit together so well.  Another thing I have really enjoyed about Maggie's books (I just read The Scorpio Races before this book), is that she comes up with great story lines based on some sort of mythology.  I had never heard anything about sleeping kings until I read this book and was very interested to find out more about the legend.  From what I have read, Maggie does a fantastic job of incorporating elements from the legend into the novel (but, I would expect nothing less!!).  This is just the beginning of The Raven Boys (this refers to the boys that go to Aglionby Academy) four book series and I can't wait to find out what happens next.  

**This is a review of an ARC that I received at a conference.  This book is scheduled to come out September 18, 2012.  You can pre-order a copy here.   

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stefivater

In this award winning novel, Maggie Stiefvater takes readers to the fictional island of Thisby where flesh eating water horses, better known as capaill uisce, inhabit the surrounding waters.  Thisby is home of the annual Scorpio Races where islanders attempt to train and race the capaill uisce and tourists travel from all around to see the race.  

Kate "Puck" Connolly lives with her two brothers, Gabe and Finn.  Their parents were killed by a capaill uisce and they were left to take care of one another.  Gabe, Puck's older brother, decides that he can no longer stand to live on the island of Thisby, and makes plans to move to the mainland.  In an attempt to stop him Puck decides that she will race in the Scorpio Races, but cannot bear to ride one of the capaill uisce that killed her parents.  She instead decides to ride her land mare, Dove.  

Sean Kendrick, four time winner of the Scorpio Races, longs to be free of his current employer and owner of most of the island, Benjamin Malvern.  Malvern refuses to sell Sean the capaill uisce, Corr, that once belonged to his father.  But this year, Malvern has agreed to sell Corr to him if he wins the race.  

Who will win the Scorpio Races?  A large cash prize awaits whomever crosses the finish line first.  Both Puck and Sean need the money, but someone will come back empty handed.  

The first books I read by Maggie Steifvater were The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.   I really enjoyed them and even had the opportunity to meet Maggie at a conference I went to in 2011.  At this conference she was handing out (and signing) free copies of The Scorpio Races.  I have been meaning to pick it up and read it for some time now, but just haven't had the chance.  I was further motivated to read it when Maggie won a 2011 Printz Honor Award for the book.  It definitely deserved the award.  I love how she develops her characters and how she creates the setting of the island of Thisby.  As I was reading, I kept thinking that I would really like to visit Thisby only to have to remind myself that it does not exist.  While I definitely love Sean and Puck, I think that Puck's younger brother Finn is my favorite character.  He is quite humorous and I love his interactions with the other characters in the novel.   Lastly, I will say that Maggie's prose in this novel are just beautiful.  I loved The Scorpio Races so much that my next read is her new book that I received an advance copy of: The Raven Boys.  It is part of a four book series and is due to come out in September 2012.  

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