Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher: Doubleday

fantasy, Alex Award, audiobook

In her debut novel, Morgenstern creates a mystical circus that arrives without warning and is only open at night. Le Cirque des Rêves lives up to its name filled with black and white stripped tents filled with the stuff dreams are made of: an ice garden, a wishing tree, and a cloud maze you can float through. Fierce followers called rêveurs trail the circus’ every move enjoying the sites unknowingly while this amazing backdrop is also the setting for a challenge to the death between two illusionists. Hand picked and trained from a young age, Celia and Marco are pitted against each other by their instructors. But perhaps they are too perfectly picked for each other because their feelings get in the way of their challenge.

My only complaint is that Morgenstern spends so much energy on building atmosphere that some substance is lacking. Other than some last minute information from one of the instructors, we don’t get much of an explanation for the challenge though it seems to continually end very badly for the unwitting players. However, I was completely caught up in her beautiful world building so I don’t like to complain about it too much.

If you enjoy magical mystery such as Harry Potter, Circus Mirandus, or Stardust, you will definitely enjoy this book. I can also highly recommend the audiobook read by Jim Dale. Listening to him describe the sights, sounds, and smells of the circus actually caused me to stop what I was doing and go get some caramel popcorn at one point. His voice is delicious… I will pretty much listen to anything he reads. That is actually what prompted me to listen to this when I did.

This is also a great transitional book from “YA” to “adult” fiction, although it seems pretty clear that those terms don’t mean much anymore. In fact, it won the Alex Award from ALA, books written for adults that would appeal to teens.

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Book Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Book Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams: A Diviners NovelLair of Dreams: A Diviners Novel by Libba Bray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bray’s follow up to The Diviners continues following Evie and friends in the turmoil that followed the Pentacle Killer. After Evie reveals her powers to the press, being a Diviner is the latest trend. Evie becomes known as The Sweetheart Seer, has her own fans and radio program, and is on the outs with Will and Jericho. But things are far from jake as a sleeping sickness in Chinatown causes panic and suspicion. Mystery continues to shroud the melting pot.

Bray does a great job of writing diverse characters. Her plot is allegorical, using fictional situations to highlight very real social issues, both historical and current including racism, clashing cultural differences, homophobia, stereotypes, oppression, gender, and disability.

I had come to like Evie in Diviners but I really disliked her in Lair of Dreams. It was hard to think of her as the same character, really. Here she was extremely shallow. Though she was still a major character, her internal dialogue seemed power hungry, boy crazy, and selfish. Perhaps that was Bray’s way of having Evie deal with the things she went through in Diviners or maybe she just needed to pull back from Evie to let the other characters breathe and grow. Either way it was disappointing.

January LaVoy as narrator of the audiobook from Listening Library has a stunningly wide vocal range. Her vocal interpretation was spot on for many characters. I didn’t care for some of her male voices and found them distracting but overall, she definitely added depth to the story.

Unless a series is really compelling, I don’t make it past the first book. Many times I feel like I “get it”. Though a bit slow at times, this was an interesting middle book and I look forward to seeing how she wraps this up.

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