And so as I have come to the end of a spectacular holiday, I have inevitably romped through another pile of books. Here is a list of what I read, and what I thought about them:
The night circus by Erin Morgenstern:
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.”
At the beginning, this book was a magical confusion of different plots. One was the reader’s own personal story as you were taken on your own journey through the night circus. I felt completely included in the book and I think that’s an incredible thing to achieve – to make the reader feel as though they are a part of the story, not just observing it. Then there was the actual story to contend with (a brilliant story I might add) full of mystery, excitement, and a little star crossed love.
The two main characters who at the beginning of the book had been separate, eventually met, as did all of the other lines of plot. They joined together creating new twists and hardships.
It was a truly entrancing book which I recommend, 5/5 rating.
The Elite by Kiera Cass:
“Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.
America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, she is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.”
This was the second novel in the selection series (I reviewed the first book ‘The Selection’ in ‘Holiday Reading’).
I’m still not necessarily sure what this book has to offer content-wise, as the storyline seems to be much of the same as the last book; the main character America is part of a selection of girls fighting for the prince’s hand, but she is still having trouble deciding whether she wants him, or her ex boyfriend (personally I’m rooting for the prince). The problem is, she can’t seem to make up her mind and goes back and forth between the two poor men. I was disappointed by the fact that she still hadn’t chosen by the end of the second book. Really, I feel that the first two books could have been condensed into one.
Nevertheless, despite lacking in value somewhat, I shall still read on as I cannot deny that it’s a captivating book (I read it in a day!). However, if she doesn’t make up her mind in the next book, I will give up (given the title of the next book, I’m feeling hopeful!)
Still a good book, 3/5 rating.
If I stay by Gayle Forman:
“Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the one decision she has left—the most important decision she’ll ever make.”
I read this book last year, but recently watched the movie, so I thought I’d reread it.
I love the way the book is presented, it starts out present day with a girl called Mia who plays the cello. When she and her family is in a car crash, she goes into a coma. However, she is standing and moving, able to watch as her body is carted off to hospital. Apparently in this out of body experience, she has to choose whether she stays or dies.
The present day scenario (the crash) is interspersed with Mia’s memories so that slowly, you can piece together her life and relationships to learn more about her. It’s beautifully clever how the author makes you feel connected to Mia, it happens very subtly and is extremely well done. The pieces of her life you are given make you realize that she could choose either option, and that makes the book all the more gripping. It was a very thought provoking book, and I have to say that the film was done quite well too (although naturally there were things that annoyed me!). 5/5 rating.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards:
“On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down’s Syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this story that unfolds over a quarter of a century – in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that long-ago winter night. Norah Henry, who knows only that her daughter died at birth, remains inconsolable; her grief weighs heavily on their marriage. And Paul, their son, raises himself as best he can, in a house grown cold with mourning. Meanwhile, Phoebe, the lost daughter, grows from a sunny child to a vibrant young woman whose mother loves her as fiercely as if she were her own.”
This was a book that I picked off a shelf at random from the house I was staying at in France, so I didn’t know what to expect.
It was a heartwarming tale mixed with sorrow and loss. It is about a doctor and his wife; when the doctor has to deliver his wife’s baby he gets a shock. She has twins, and whilst the first baby is healthy, the second has down syndrome. He makes a decision and gives the baby to a nurse to take care of and tells his wife the baby died.
The book plays out the consequences of the doctor’s decision, showing the stories of both twins. I liked the way the book was structured; instead of the perspective changing every chapter, the story was divided into chunks so that you were left in suspense of how one twin was faring.
It was a lovely holiday read, 4/5 rating.
The observations by Jane Harris:
“Scotland, 1863. In an attempt to escape her not-so-innocent past in Glasgow, Bessy Buckley, a wide-eyed and feisty young Irish girl, takes a job as a maid in a big house outside Edinburgh working for the beautiful Arabella, the missus. Bessy lacks the necessary scullery skills for her new position, but as she finds out, it is her ability to read and write that makes her such a desirable property. Bessy is intrigued by her new employer but puzzled by her increasingly strange requests and her insistence that Bessy keep a journal of her mundane chores and most intimate thoughts. And it seems that the missus has a few secrets of her own, including her near-obsessive affection for Nora, a former maid who died in mysterious circumstances.
Giving in to her curiosity, Bessy makes an infuriating discovery and, out of jealousy, concocts a childish prank that backfires and threatens to jeopardize all that she has come to hold dear. Yet even when caught up in a tangle of madness, ghosts, sex, and lies, she remains devoted to Arabella. But who is really responsible for what happened to her predecessor Nora? As her past threatens to catch up with her and raise the stakes even further, Bessy begins to realize that she has not quite landed on her feet.”
This was another book that I picked at random and whilst it was quite good, I didn’t have the chance to finish it. I got about halfway and whilst the story was interesting, I can’t foresee myself tracking down a copy to finish it.
It was set in the past, from the perspective of a maid who goes to work for a new mistress. Her new mistress is strange however, and asks her to do many odd tasks. Soon, murky areas of her own, and her mistress’s past are dug up and events lead to actions being taken by the maid who feels used by her mistress.
I liked how old English was used, as it characterized the maid more because you could hear her own individual voice. As far as I had read, it was an OK book, 3/5 rating.