Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book is magical!  I was drawn in so quickly and read it every chance I got!  It kept my attention, and even though the ending let me down a bit, I recommend it.

The very first chapter of the story describes the Night Circus.  These descriptive second person point of view chapters are interspersed through out the book and give you the overall affect of the circus. "Your curiosity got the better of you, as curiosity is wont to do." The other chapters alternate--randomly--between the lives of a few main players.  Marco, Celia, Herr Thiessen, Bailey, and a few more I'm forgetting.  They are told in third person, but each provides a rich story in itself, and it only gets better as they weave into one another.  The chapters are dated, and toward the middle I found myself remembering to look at these, and they help piece the story together.  At one point you are switching back and forth between two stories exactly a year apart.  Thrilling!

The book itself felt like a magical night circus.  Some parts followed as you thought they would, but others were unpredictable.  "Aspects settle temporarily and then vanish into distorted shadows once more, never remaining steady for more than a moment." You are unsure who is really magic, and who is playing along.  The characters are eccentric, but important.  Heroes, victims, and sometimes they surprise you!  I'm usually the first to be annoyed with description, but the pictures are painted so well in this book!  I felt myself imagining details that I usually don't bother with when I read. Just like every element works together to make the circus,"each part melding seamlessly into a whole,"  so do the parts of the book.  The dreamy, poetic writing, the elegant, quirky characters, and the secretive, illusive chapters all work together to make the book feel magical and mystical.

Sadly, when the book begins its ending, it loses some of its charm.  I felt like I didn't believe or understand how the circus was dependent on Celia and Marco, I never really understood why Marco couldn't leave London to travel with the circus, and even though I loved Bailey--his story was a little muddled.  Maybe I wanted the book to be longer because I was enjoying reading the story so much.  For me it ended too quickly.  While I liked the resolution, it seemed almost sudden and without enough explanation.  I felt like I had to read between the lines too much.

I still think you should read The Night Circus, and I'd love to hear what you thought!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The 100-year-old Man who Climbed out the WIndow and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

This was a fun book to read!  I thought the story was hilarious, and it is reminiscent of books like Candide, or The Alchemist in the way that the main character is taking a life-changing journey.  BUT it doesn't take itself to seriously, and the story borders on ridiculous. 

The chapters rotate between Allan (the 100 year old man who climbed out his window), the chief inspector that is following him, a couple other men who are trying to find him on both sides of the law, and then chapters that are flashbacks.

I enjoyed the stories of Allan's past lives and adventures the most.  These parts are why people compare this book to Forrest Gump, but I really think it transcends.  Through quirky coincidences and choices, Allan has crossed the path of many famous people and had influenced history all over the world!  I thought these episodes were creative and fun to read.  And really well thought out.

It took me awhile to get thorough this book, but not because it was boring.  I was busy, and it is the kind of book that you can put down and come back to.

I recommend it!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin

This book came highly recommended to me by my friend Sara.  It is really good.  It is really sad.  I think it would be great to read in a classroom with middle school-ish aged kids because it could lead to so many different discussions.

Sasha is 10 years old and in love with the security Stalin's communism provides for he and his father.  He is strongly loyal and very excited to join the Young Pioneers.  Suddenly everything he knows and believes in is turned upside down.  It is sad and frightening as you realize there is no winning or happy ending possible.  If you aren't turning in others, you are guilty.  Its a theme we've read before, but so powerful when you read it through the eyes of a child.

This was also my first experience listening to a book on CD with a couple other people.  I listened to it with my son and my mom.  We were all mesmerized.  I was stressed the whole time about what horrible thing was going to happened next.  BUT the character is OK.  The ending is promising.

I really prefer reading to listening, so I'll be tracking down a hard copy of this.