The Night Circus

I love reading fantasy novels - I found this book on the recommendation shelf at Bookshop Santa Cruz.  Since I worship the ground that store is built on, I don't take their recommendations lightly.

I had a hard time in the beginning of the book because there is so much detail and there are quite a few characters to become acquainted with.  But about halfway through the book really got me, so don't get discouraged if you read this and have the same experience.  Morgenstern's writing style has that indescribable little 'something' that gives great visuals and mentally takes you inside the world of the mysterious night circus.  The night circus is created from pure magic to be the setting for a lifelong duel between two gifted magicians, neither of whom know who their opponent actually is.  Many characters weave into the story and are at risk in this magical fight to the death.  The magicians must figure out a way to complete and end the duel without one of them having to lose their lives, and try to do it without bringing anyone else in harm's way.

Overall, the pieces of the story didn't all fit together perfectly - there were parts that felt a little thoughtless, like she had a great intricate story built in her mind but didn't quite connect all of the dots on paper.  However, after I digested it I realized I really liked it that way... it left room for me to use my imagination and try to impart my own meaning to the story.  A love story mixed with intrigue and magic - it's definitely worth a read!

A Discovery of Witches

I am definitely off to a slow start, but I can finally check a book off of my summer bucket list goal to finish 6 books by the end of the season.  I picked this book up at my favorite bookstore downtown a few months ago.  The short summary on the back sounded like it would be a bit like a feminine Da Vinci Code... a bit of history, suspense, great lead characters, etc.  and of course there's a dark, handsome vampire character to fall in love with.  This is the first book of a trilogy, of which the 2nd book has just been released.  I will definitely pick it up - this first book was an easy, entertaining read and I enjoyed the historical references woven with the fantasy of the witches' powers.  It left off on a bit of a cliffhanger so I'm looking forward to read the next adventure.  It's definitely not a crazy "I can't put it down" kind of book, but it was a good summer read.


The Book Thief

It took me a while to read this book.  A friend recommended it to me a couple years ago and I started it, read about 90 pages, and never finished.  I think I lost interest the first time because it takes place in Germany in the thick of WWII - I've read enough Holocaust literature to know exactly the emotions this story would evoke in me, and I didn't want to deal with the heavy subject matter at that time in my life. A few months ago I picked it up and started from the beginning again. This time I was much more receptive to the sensitive subject matter.  The book is centered around death - literally - it's narrated from death's perspective... and what an interesting perspective it turned out to be.  I had expected him to be dark and evil, but instead he was simply overworked and worn out from the many souls for which he was responsible during that time.  He had grown weary and his opinion of the human race was unfavorable at best... that is, until he found the book thief's hand written autobiography in the rubble of a small town while he was taking the souls of its sleeping residents.  The book thief's story illustrates the resilience of the human soul and its immense capability to love.  I fell not for the plot of the novel, but for the characters in the story.  I felt a connection to the relationships - young love, a secret friendship, and the love between the book thief and her foster father.

I would definitely recommend it - it was one of those books that I had no trouble crying openly in public as I read the last few chapters.  Heartwarming, sad, cathartic, and inspiring.