Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

This book knocked my socks off!

"The circus arrives without warning ... The towering tents are striped in black and white ... No color at all ... the black sign painted in white letters ... reads: Opens at night fall / Closes at dawn. 'What kind of circus is only open at night?' people ask...

Le Cirque des Reves

...The Circus of Dreams."

This is hands down the best book I've read in years. I want to use all the cliché reviewer terms like "astounding debut" and "richly imagined" and perhaps even - heaven forbid - "tour de force"!

Some people will call this book magical realism. I will not. For me, it's flat out magical.

There is a lot of descriptive detail in this book, but none if it is superfluous. The circus Morgenstern has created is astonishing, and she conjures it beautifully with her words. There are no other books I would compare this to, but if I had to pick a mood to compare, it would be to Murakami. The sense you get while reading is so encompassing I felt jolted when I'd look away from the text and find that I was in my home.

Katherine Dunn said it perfectly, this book has a "leisurely but persistent suspense." I wanted to savor every word, but couldn't wait to get to the end.

Even though it is couched in the context of magic, this book contains one of the best descriptions of physical (romantic) chemistry I've ever read. What is chemistry if not magic?

I wish I could emphatically state that this book is for everybody, but it isn't. I think of readers I know well ... My step-father will love it, my mother might, my father won't. Then again, this book is so surprising, I could be completely wrong.

For me, it was flawless.

Bon Reves.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Leftovers - Tom Perrotta

My only experience with Perrotta prior to this was two movies - Little Children, which I liked, and Election which I didn't. His books definitely seem like something up my alley, but I'd never been compelled to pick one up.

This one sounded ideal for me. I love the different portrayals authors make of those "left behind" or in this case, "Leftover."

The prologue, for me, was genius. Absolutely hilarious. I thought it was setting the stage for what was going to be an uproarious social satire. It was not. Though there were moments of humor beyond the start, they were few and far between. What I found most about this book was that it was subtle.

For a long while it felt to me like "The Stepford Wives: The Rapture Years". I'm not a plot point type of reviewer, so this is nothing that you can't read on the jacket copy. There was an event, and a lot people disappeared from the planet. But this isn't some kind of 12 Monkey's type world. It's about normal people, with cell phones and jobs, coming to terms with what happened, and moving on with their lives. The aftermath of the aftermath if you will.

I was feeling really critical of the book because for a long time it felt so emotionless. Some people lost entire families, yet there was no grief. I didn't feel connected to anybody, and the back of the book said "a colorful cast of characters" and I just wasn't getting it, at all (with one minor exception.)

And then it sort of transcended and all came together. And what felt subtle and emotionless as I was going through it, left me feeling ultimately as though I'd been on an emotional journey the whole time.

Being unfamiliar with Perrotta's work, I'm not sure if this is par for his course. But I think that this book has potential to feel disappointing at points through the course of reading it. If it feels like that, I'd encourage you to stick with it. The book rarely veers from its subtlety, and I'm not promising a great ending ... But the way in which it evolved was quite masterful.

4/5 stars

Monday, July 18, 2011

Books I Read in 2011

1. Ella Minnow Pea - (1/1) - Mark Dunn 224p
2. A Stranger on the Planet - (1/2) - Adam Schwartz 336p
3. The Imperfectionists: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle) - (1/9) - Tom Rachman 304p
4. The Fates Will Find Their Way - (1/15) - Hannah Pittard 256p
5. The Crying of Lot 49 - (1/22) - Thomas Pynhcon 192p
6. The Pearl (Centennial Edition) - (1/29) - John Steinbeck 92p
7. This Is Where I Leave You: A Novel - (2/2) - Jonathan Tropper 352p
8. Unwind - (2/6) - Neal Shusterman 352p
9. The Host: A Novel - (2/20) - Stephenie Meyer 656p
10. Tanglewreck - (2/26) - Jeanette Winterson 414p
11. Flight: A Novel - (2/27) Sherman Alexie 208p
12. Night - (3/2) - Elie Wiesel 120p
13. The Picture of Dorian Gray - (3/13) - Oscar Wilde 178p
14. We Have Always Lived in the Castle - (3/19) - Shirley Jackson 160p
15. Little House in the Big Woods - (3/20) - Laura Ingalls Wilder 256p
16. The Collector - (4/1) - John Fowles 320p
17. The Peach Keeper - (4/3) - Sarah Addison Allen 288p
18. Bossypants - (4/22) - Tina Fey 288p
19. The Crimson Petal and the White - (5/7) Michael Faber 944p
20. In the Garden of Beasts - (5/15) - Erik Larson 464p
21. The True Story of Hansel and Gretel: A Novel of War and Survival - (5/28) - Louise Murphy 297p
22. Reasons to Live - (5/29) - Amy Hempel 144p
23. The Diary of a Young Girl - (6/4) - Anne Frank 340p
24. An Abundance of Katherines - (6/16) - John Green 272p
25. Rituals (Harvest Book) - (6/17) - Cees Nooteboom 156p
26. The Woodcutter - (6/26) - Reginald Hill 528p
27. A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One - (7/11) - George R. R. Martin 864p
28. Dead and Gone: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel - (7/14) - Charlaine Harris 320p
29. The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics) - (7/15) - Shirley Jackson 208p
30. A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2) = (7/24) - George R. R. Martin 1040p
31. The Leftovers - (7/26) - Tom Perrotta 368p
32. The Night Circus - (7/30) - Erin Morgenstern 400p
33. The Griff - (8/1) - Christopher Moore and Ian Corson 160p


1. Freedom - Jonathan Franzen 5/5 stars
2. All Clear - Connie Willis 3/5 stars
3. Dracula - Bram Stoker 4/5 stars
4. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Audiobook): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race - Jon Stewart et al 4/5 stars
5. The Contortionist's Handbook - Craig Clevenger 5/5 stars
6. The Oracle of Stamboul: A Novel - Michael David Lukas 3.5/5 stars
7. The Other Life - Ellen Meister 4/5 stars
8. Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories - Chuck Palahnuik 3/5 stars
9. Escape from Alcatraz - J. Campbell Bruce 3.5/5 stars
10. The Tiger's Wife - Tea Obreht 3.5/5 stars
11. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption - Laura Hillenbrand 5/5 stars
12. Will Grayson, Will Grayson - (7/2) - John Green 5/5 stars

Woefully unupdated. The complete list can be found here: