Tag: Erin Morgenstern


Review – The Night Circus

Posted 6 November, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 10 Comments

Cover of The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Originally reviewed 16th September, 2012

This book is an enchantment. From the very start it slowly catches you up in the circus itself. You can never imagine every inch of it, never know it, but you feel like a rêveur yourself, as if you’ve walked through the tents and tried the food and smelt the popcorn and chocolate mice and fire and all the strange perfumes of the circus. I think it’s that, more than anything, that made me love this book so much: I was interested in the fate of Celia and Marco, but mostly because it impacted the circus, and I couldn’t stand the idea of anything bad happening to the circus.

I did get caught up in the other parts of the plot too, don’t get me wrong: I loved the references to Merlin, which sort of clued me in on where certain things were going; I liked a lot of the characters, especially the ones with secrets; I loved all the details, and how they all came together.

Possibly this is not quite a five star book, compared to some of the other books I’ve rated five stars, but it swept me off my feet, so I’m giving it five stars anyway. I found it magical — and I’m keeping a copy around, because I think I’ll reread it someday.

Rating: 5/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 3 March, 2015 by in General / 10 Comments

This week’s prompt for Top Ten Tuesday is “Top Ten Books You Would Classify As ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 years”. Which is a cruel one, I think, because argh, there are so many, and how can I remember when I read them all? But here’s a rough guess. These are, of course, books I’ve read in the last three years, not books published in the last three years, because I say so.

  1. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison. C’mon, you called it.
  2. Among Others, Jo Walton. This might be a bit out of the range now, but I’ve reread it in the last three years!
  3. Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge. I might shut up about this, someday.
  4. Behind the Shock Machine, Gina Perry. So much research went into this, and it’s a fascinating view on a very famous experiment.
  5. The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin Extence. Lots of issues that fascinate me, wrapped up in an emotional book.
  6. The Dragon Waiting, John M. Ford. Man, this took so much digging through layers of stuff. I loved it.
  7. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, Allie Brosh. Because <3.
  8. The Grand Sophy, Georgette Heyer. Heyer is awesome, okay.
  9. The Carpet Makers, Andreas Eschbach. I remember this blowing my mind!
  10. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. Gorgeous. <3

Tahdah! Now I daren’t look at other people’s lists, you’ll make me want stuff…

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Review – A Face Like Glass

Posted 12 December, 2014 by in Reviews / 8 Comments

Cover of A Face Like Glass by Frances HardingeA Face Like Glass, Frances Hardinge
Review from November 24th, 2012

I’d never heard of Frances Hardinge before, and I have no idea how I came across this on the Kindle store, but I’m so very glad I did. It’s an enchantment of a book — I think I said something similar, recently, about Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and I can see the similarities there: the long games being played in both plots, the dazzling strangeness of the worldbuilding, the magic of it all. But at the same time, they’re very different stories: it’s just something about the flavour that’s similar.

A Face Like Glass is marketed as YA, but I don’t think you should see that as a discouragement. It’s not one of those YA books that slots neatly into the ranks of the YA books that’ve come before: it’s something wild and entirely itself. The same goes for the fact that I’ve tagged it as dystopia — it doesn’t follow the current dystopia tropes either. It felt like a breath of fresh air for me.

I got hooked on it from Amazon’s preview, which is worth a look: it’s a slowish start compared to the pace the book gets to near the end, but if you’re intrigued by it, you’re in for a wonderful ride. I loved every scrap of it, to the extent where I’m almost afraid to look for Frances Hardinge’s other books in case they aren’t as good. I love Neverfell and I love the bizarre details of the world and all the weird concepts like people being unable to perform expressions without learning them and…

Basically, it’s a heck of a ride. Best impulse buy of my year, up to and including my big plush Moomin. Possibly excluding only the ticket I bought to the screening of Avengers Assemble that got me hooked.

Rating: 5/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 7 October, 2014 by in General / 24 Comments

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “Ten Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels”. I thought this one would be easy, initially, since characters are really important to me when I read, but it’s actually tougher than I thought.

  1. Pretty much anything by Guy Gavriel Kay. Even where his writing was less polished, more derivative, I fell completely in love with the characters. He’s one of the few authors who can reliably make me cry.
  2. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb. Sure, there’s a lot of plot too, but Fitz’s voice is the most important aspect of the story, and you just want to reach in and bang his head against something to force the sense in, sometimes.
  3. Sunshine, Robin McKinley. Not only is it vampires-done-right, but it’s first person narration, and everything Sunshine is as a character shapes the way the plot turns out.
  4. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. If you count the circus as a character almost on its own (I do), then yeah, this one definitely counts.
  5. Seaward, Susan Cooper. I need to reread this soon. I loved it so much, and despite the shortness of the book, Cooper built up a relationship between the two main characters that I genuinely loved and wanted to follow.
  6. The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers. Actually, as far as being character-driven goes, you’re best reading the whole series chronologically, to get a feel for the way everything fits together, for the way the characters develop. I don’t even think I’d necessarily say I’d start with this one. But it’s the one that really made me understand Lord Peter.
  7. Chime, Franny BillingsleyTo say much about this would be to spoil it. A brief excerpt from my review: “Briony isn’t an easy narrator, and she isn’t reliable either, as she constantly tells us. The narrative isn’t a straightforward quest, it’s a maze, it’s full of funhouse mirrors.”
  8. Heart’s Blood, Juliet Marillier. This is the book where me and Marillier really clicked — I tried some before this one, and wasn’t impressed. But I got really involved with this, with the characters and their problems.
  9. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin. The narration is brilliant, the way it all slowly comes together, and I love what Jemisin does with her main character, and with the characters of the gods around her. Particularly when it comes to the child-god, Sieh, who has to act in accord with his nature, or he suffers.
  10. Among Others, Jo Walton. I strongly connected with this because I connected with Mori. Watching her grow up and begin to understand her world better over the course of the novel is a delight.

Wow, that actually took a lot of thought. Veeeery keen to see other people’s picks for this one!

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 22 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Uh. God. I think the most recent thing might be Attachments (Rainbow Rowell), which is lovely and warm and I love surprisingly much. Wow, that’s not a good sign — I’m not reading as much as I should. On the other hand…

What are you currently reading?
A lot. I started Patricia A. McKillip’s The Riddle-master of Hed while waiting for my grandmother to get an x-ray, and nearly finished it all in one go. I’m still reading My Real Children (Jo Walton), because I don’t want anything bad to happen to the characters in either timeline and I’m a little worried something will. I’m also reading Six Feet Over (Mary Roach), which is about what might happen after death from an attempted objective point of view. So far, not sure what I think of that. And then there’s also Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell), which sucks me in as much as Attachments, but which I’m a little unsure about because of all the criticism I’m reading about it re: racism. Oh, and I’ve started reading Yendi (Steven Brust), and am still in the process of finding my feet, narrative wise.

What will you read next?
Ahaha, does anyone believe a word I say about this, honestly? But the idea is: more Patricia A. McKillip, a reread of The Night Circus (Erin Morgernstern), finally finishing Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell). More Steven Brust. And getting round to Rachel Bach’s books. I think that about covers my immediate, laughably unlikely plans!

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Nothing says I love you like a book

Posted 22 November, 2013 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

No matter what the occasion, I try to buy people a book. It means some adaptation, and buying books I don’t normally buy — paranormal romance for my sister, certain types of non-fiction for my dad, violent crime fiction for one of my ex-housemates — but I do like to think about it, to pick out something that just fits. (I have one major failure: my best friend since childhood, Laura. Craft books, yes, but anything you could settle down and read… she doesn’t have the time/patience for it unless she’s on holiday, and then her taste is for chick lit type stuff. Hm, an idea strikes…) Luckily, a lot of people around me share my taste: Amy, my partner, my mum, to a great extent my sister.

So yeah, you know I love you when I come home from the charity shop glowing with glee and a stack of books carefully picked out just to suit your taste. My former housemates should be pretty familiar with this situation.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a couple of my happily united book couple successes — and then, if you like, you can comment with a book and some facts about someone, and see whether I can think of something.

For Dad: You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney. Because whether he likes it or not, some of it is very relevant to things he believes about himself. Granted, he probably didn’t see it that way, but he did carry the book around with him from Christmas to the New Year. He’s a non-fiction reader, gave up on fiction a long time ago, but his knowledge tends to be widespread and general, so I always try to aim for something like this, rather than something super-technical.

For Mum: The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay. The Fionavar Tapestry and Tigana came first, I think, but it was Lions that had her texting me at three in the morning from Italy or Spain or whatever fancy conference she was at. (This is reciprocal more than any other book-giving relationship I have: she introduced me to Isaac Asimov, Robin Hobb and Dorothy L. Sayers, among others.)

For Squirt (my sister): The most memorable occasion was when I handed over her first Alastair Reynolds book, Century Rain. She’s been a fan ever since, and it actually kickstarted her into doing a lot more reading. I think her trust for my taste began at that moment. We actually went to a reading/signing by Alastair Reynolds, and her knees were practically knocking with nerves — my fierce little sister’s knees were knocking!

For the girlfriend: Occasionally I try and break her heart with stuff like Civil War: Iron Man, but mostly I’m nice and push books like The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern) and A Face Like Glass (Frances Hardinge) her way. One of our oldest literary successes was The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper). There was also Robin McKinley’s Sunshine and Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry, and more recently Jo Walton’s work you can see we share very similar taste in books. On the other hand, Cherie Priest’s Bloodshot and Hellbent bored her to death, where I love love love loved them, so it’s not all perfect.

For Amy (former housemate): The biggest hit was Garth Nix’s work. It’s now become a yearly Christmas tradition: a Garth Nix book or series, every year. He’ll need to write more, soon, or I’m doomed. Given that Amy’s dyslexic, Spellwright by Blake Charlton could’ve gone either way, but she ended up liking it.

For Ruth (former housemate): This was a lucky one. She mentioned being interested in the Tudors and particularly Lady Jane Grey. I found Alison Weir’s Innocent Traitor a couple of days later in a charity shop.

For Lynn E. O’Connacht: I can’t actually remember anything specific here, but we’ve traded books fairly frequently, starting with her sending me King Arthur’s Death (trans. Brian Stone), which contains the alliterative and stanzaic Morte Arthure poems. Anna Elliott’s Twilight of Avalon is another Lynn sent me.

So… yeah. If I love you, expect a book this Christmas (if I can get you anything at all, which is a different matter).

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Reading and rereading

Posted 19 October, 2013 by Nikki in General, Reviews / 5 Comments

I was thinking about the sort of content I can post here, and how to make sure there’s always some content going up at least once a week. I’ve pretty much decided that all reviews of ARCs will go up here, and any reviews of books I found particularly interesting. There’ll also be some giveaways, I’ll have my readathon progress posts here, and then there’ll be posts like this one: random topics related to books.

And what is this post about? Well, I was thinking today that I couldn’t actually pick my ten favourite books ever. But I could tell you the ten books/series I reread most. I am a rereader: it never actually occurred to me that was an odd thing until someone on Goodreads treated the idea with scorn. But while there’s so many books out there for me to get round to reading, there’s always more to find in the books I’ve already read — at least the good ones. So without further ado, and in no particular order because it already pains me to come up with a top ten in the first place…

(Well, okay, a bit extra ado — I’m adding links to reviews of these on Goodreads. If you have an account, I would super appreciate you clicking the like button there, if you do like them. It helps me get more ARCs, etc.)

#1 – The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

As a kid, I loved The Hobbit, and agitated for the day when my mother would let me read LotR. When she finally did, I was hooked. I probably read it at least once a year ’til I was about sixteen, and then I sort of caught the general bug going round about the various things wrong with Tolkien and lost interest. For a while. It was Ursula Le Guin’s essays in The Wave in the Mind that got me thinking about Tolkien again, and rediscovering his work; it was my MA that really got me digging into it. And god, guys, there’s so much there. I can actually understand people who find it boring, people who are troubled by his (lack of) portrayals of women, of non-white people, etc. But the sheer scale of the world he created, the seriousness he treated it with, I can’t help but love. I’ve reread LotR twice this year, I think — and I’m partway through a third time.

Reviews (from when I read the three books in twenty-four hours!): The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King.

#2 – Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay

Or probably just about anything by GGK. I actually usually have a problem getting into his books in the first place: his style takes some getting used to, for me, and some aspects of it annoy me (especially in his early novels). I love the world of Tigana, though, the characters and their intense feelings, the criticisms of colonialism that’re going on, and the way that he makes no promises of a happy ending. He walks a line of moral ambiguity quite well, allowing you to sympathise with both sides of the fight (at least in most cases; there is one unequivocal villain, but he isn’t really at the emotional heart of the story anyway).

Review.

#3 – The Dark is Rising Sequence, Susan Cooper

I suspect people who know me well are probably surprised this wasn’t the first one that came into my mind. I’m kind of surprised, too. I first experience The Dark is Rising through the BBC radio adaptation of the second book of the sequence — the cast was excellent, just perfect, and it gave me chills. I didn’t actually read the series until I was older, maybe about fifteen. And then I fell in love. It helps that the last two books are set in Wales. People who claim it’s morally black and white aren’t reading closely enough: there’s an absolutely lovely scene between John Rowlands and Will Stanton where they talk about that very issue, and conclude that while the Light and the Dark are like that, humanity is all shades in between.

The Arthurian elements help, too.

Reviews: Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, Silver on the Tree.

#4 – Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, Dorothy L. Sayers

Particularly Strong Poison and Gaudy Night, where Peter and Harriet first meet and where Harriet finally agrees to marry Peter, respectively. I have a huge soft spot for all forms of this: the books, the tv series, the radio adaptations… Edward Petherbridge and Ian Carmichael were both such perfect Peters in different ways. When I was in hospital recovering from having my gallbladder removed, and I was having serious panic attacks (my blood oxygenation % was in the low 80s, I believe), they wouldn’t let my mother stay with me, so she put a Peter Wimsey audiobook on and left it by my pillow. I have no idea which book it was or even which narrator, though I think it was Edward Petherbridge, but I closed my eyes and focused on that and up came my blood oxygenation levels. Like magic. I love that Peter is mentally ill (PTSD), I love that he’s such an ass but he cares so much, I love his relationship with Harriet… the mysteries are second for me to the characters.

Selected reviews: Clouds of Witness, Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night.

#5 – Sunshine, Robin McKinley

If you can read this and not end up craving cinnamon rolls and all such things, I don’t think you’re human. I love that here we have a vampire who is a good guy and is still unsettling as anything. It’s not easy for him and Sunshine to get along — and Sunshine is a strong heroine and a real person who is scared and unsure and doesn’t know what the heck is going on, and doesn’t want to. Sometimes, she even does really stupid stuff. But you’re with her all the way, anyway.

Review.

#6 – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, anonymous

My partner refuses to read this on the grounds that if she didn’t like this, I’d probably break up with her. It’s not quite true, but I would be pretty upset. I didn’t think that much of it… and then I did a module devoted to it during my BA. We focused closely on the language, picking apart all of it for the rich tapestry of allusions and influence and… It’s just genius, and it’s awfully fun to read aloud, too. My favourite translation is probably the least accurate one, by Simon Armitage, but there are several other good ones. I own at least seven different translations, plus one with the original Middle English.

Selected reviews: Simon Armitage’s verse translation, J.R.R. Tolkien’s verse translation, W.R.J. Barron’s prose translation.

#7 – The Inheritance Trilogy, N.K. Jemisin

The first time I started reading this, I finished the first book that evening and pounced on the next book as soon as I could. I love the diversity in these books — race, gender, ability, sexuality, class… I just fell in love with the world right away, and never looked back. I’m less of a fan of her Dreamblood duology, but The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and its sequels are wonderful. She has a real knack with creating interesting narrators, and with telling a story that’s gripping and involving even if you don’t 100% like the characters. I would happily buy any of Jemisin’s work without even stopping to check the blurb, in future.

Reviews: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods.

#8 – The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, John Steinbeck

It actually starts out fairly weak, but as Steinbeck found his voice, he began to make the stories really live for me. They’re amusing and tender and fresh all at once — and yes, freshness is kind of hard when you’re working in the Arthurian tradition, especially when you’re retelling a specific version (in this case, Malory). This is one of the few versions of the story where I sympathise with Guinevere and Lancelot. Steinbeck never finished or properly edited this, and yet it’s still so powerful… I’d be almost scared to read it if he’d finished it. I’d definitely cry.

Review.

#9 – FAKE, Sanami Matoh

This was one of the first series of manga I ever read, and one of the first LGBT stories I ever came across outside of fandom. I loved Dee and Ryo and the development of their relationship, and when I’m feeling down, I often feel tempted to grab the first volume and dive right back in. What I really liked is that it isn’t just about how much Dee wants to bone Ryo: they take care of each other, they have personal crises and work crises, and they fight crime. And they fall in love. And it’s funny.

(I don’t have a good review to link to, for this series.)

#10 – Sword at Sunset, Rosemary Sutcliff

Technically, I’d be happy to read the whole series over and over again, but the arc from The Eagle of the Ninth is pretty tangential in this book — I wouldn’t be surprised if most people don’t notice it. I love the relationships in this book, the way that Gwenhwyfar and Arthur so honestly try to love one another, the way that Bedwyr and Arthur (and most of Arthur’s men, in fact), so palpably love one another. The intensity of that friendship… well, it can definitely be read as bordering on homoerotic. It’s also heart-wrenching, and just… the whole thing is beautiful.

Review.

And I could go on… I won’t, though. I will add two books that I suspect will make this list in future, though.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern: I thought it was just gorgeous, the language and the ideas and the imagery and the relationships and the magic and, and, and…
A Face Like Glass, Frances Hardinge: It actually reminded me of The Night Circus, for a younger audience, in some undefinable way, that same sense of magic and wonder. I loved every scrap of it. I bought it on a whim and read it all in one go, and then started buying copies for everyone else — and asked for Hardinge’s other books for Christmas without even checking the blurbs, which is pretty rare for me. They’re still sat on my shelf, waiting for when I really deserve a treat…

The minute I post this, I will realise I’ve left someone off and agonise about who I could strike out to add them in. In fact, make that before I’ve even posted it — obviously Ursula Le Guin deserves to be in the list, probably more than a few of the others. The Earthsea Quartet is another of those series I could read over and over. My favourite thing about it is probably the way that throughout the stories, Le Guin recognises what she’s lacking (female characters, female power) and begins to critique her own work through adding to it.

You see what I did there? I snuck in thirteen books/series in all. Hah.

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