THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern

the night circus4 out of 5

The circus comes without warning, setting up practically in your backyard without you ever hearing word of its approach. The sign on the entry gates tells you that it only opens at night, which you think is odd. But you’re willing to wait anyway. At nightfall, a crowd gathers outside the gates. You are amongst them. You pay the fee and step inside. You are surrounded by varying shades of black and white. There is no colour anywhere, but that doesn’t matter. You follow paths that twist and turn amongst a variety of tents, each one featuring a unique sight, all of them following the same black and white theme. You see things that shouldn’t be possible, but somehow are. Suddenly it feels as if there isn’t enough night-time in the world and you vow that you will return to it the next night, and the next. But the circus leaves with just as little warning as it came, and you find yourself thirsting for more.

Little do you know that the circus is more than what you at first think. It is also the venue for an intricate game being played out between two competitors, each with magical skills of their own, pitted against each other by two ancient magicians vying to see which school of thought is better. The object: compete until there is a winner. The consequences: life, love, death, and loss. Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is a wild ride through the intricate workings of a magical circus and the people whose lives it touches, from the competitors themselves to a number of others, each with their own unique abilities. In this book, the ordinary becomes magical, and the magical becomes ordinary. Morgenstern will leave you as drunk on the circus as every single one of its visitors, dying to know where and when it will pop up next.

The Night Circus is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, and the most unique one of 2015 thus far. It was almost like reading the directions to a stage play, which definitely added to the effect of feeling submersed in the world. It was as if I was walking through the circus myself and someone was whispering the words into my ear. The writing was absolutely gorgeous. It made the whole experience of reading feel like a fantastical dream. It seems that Morgenstern’s strength is description: I could picture everything down to the minutest detail, and it had me longing for Heirr Thiessen to be real and for his clocks to actually exist. They sound mesmerizing.

The story had a steampunk vibe to it, which was cool. It was an incredible mix of fantasy and reality, almost like Harry Potter, except this was more dream-like, almost as if you were watching the story unfold under-water. I only wish it had ebbed more on the fantasy side—that perhaps it had taken place in some distant, unheard-of land in order to take its strange vibe even further. My only other complaint is that, because the book switches focus so often, it was hard to become really invested in the characters. I did, however, find myself more attached to characters that I hadn’t expected myself to become attached to, which was a nice surprise. This book was like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I would happily read more of Morgenstern’s work.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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Currently reading: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

What are you guys reading/watching/enjoying right now? What books are in your TBR pile?

On Being Kind and Eric Smith’s INKED

Hello everyone. About a month ago I won a contest to receive Eric Smith’s book Inked as well as a poster. I was super excited because up until that point I had basically won, well, nothing. Not in this type of contest, anyway. We got in touch and worked out a way for me to receive these gifts. However, a month later they still hadn’t arrived, which was disappointing because I had really been looking forward to reading the book and reviewing it so that more people could hear and get excited about Inked.

I reached out to Eric Smith, thinking he had perhaps gotten busy and forgotten. Turns out he hadn’t forgotten at all. He realized a while ago that he couldn’t gift Kobo copies of the book, so he had chosen to send a gift card with the poster, which appears to have gotten lost in the mail. I can’t tell you how touched I was by this, you guys. Upon realizing that he couldn’t gift me a free copy of the book, he hadn’t simply said, “Sorry, but I have to pick another winner. Better luck next time.” He’d actually gone out of his way to try to make sure I got a copy.

I just wanted to share this with you because I was having a terrible week and finding out that he had been that kind to me really tugged at my heartstrings. It’s not every day that people go out of their way to be kind.

Eric Smith did.

I’m so excited to read his novel and put a review up on here. I’m sure it will be great, and I urge you all to go out and do the same. Kind people deserve kind things to happen to them.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

P.S. If they do happen to come in the mail, I will either send Eric’s gift card back to him OR purchase the book for somebody else. I’ll ask him what he prefers and go that route. We’ll see.

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Waiting on Wednesday: SAINT ANYTHING

saint anything

Hey everyone!

I saw all of these “Waiting on Wednesday” posts popping up on my timeline and I decided to give it a try. I can’t guarantee that these posts will be regular occurrences (I have other ideas for posts that I think could be really fun and interesting…) but for today, at least, you shall know what I’m excited about.

My WoW pick is Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. A little story: me and Sarah Dessen go way back, and I mean about ten years back. When I was twelve I picked up this here little beauty… the_truth_about_forever

I have to be honest here for a second. I am the type of person who will buy a book solely based on the cover, at that age especially (I was about twelve at the time). Now I like to read the back or the inside sleeve, sometimes a paragraph or two. I’ve become jaded in my old age, apparently. I’m much pickier.

Anyways, I saw this particular cover and instantly fell in love. I hadn’t read any YA before—though I had accidentally read a quite steamy Adult novel which was my introduction to oral sex but HAVE NO FEAR! I simply believed oral sex meant two people sitting across from each other and talking about the sexual things they’d like to do. I was a fairly innocent child.

Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever was my introduction to the YA genre, and I was instantly hooked. I read every single one of her books that were out at that time, and have been a dedicated fan since (though I have not yet read The Moon and More. I’m a little bit scared that the MC cheats on her boyfriend and it would make me so sad…).

I’ve heard a lot of really great things about Saint Anything. The cover is beautiful, the MC is named Sydney which is a name I LOVE, and it seems to have a bit of a darker feel which I’m excited to experience. Sarah Dessen never disappoints me. We’re thick as thieves, her books and me. I’ll be picking this one up as soon as it’s out.

A few other things I’m eagerly awaiting:

  1. The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  2. Pitch Perfect 2
  3. Star Wars Episode IX
  4. Batman vs. Superman
  5. Astoria by Marianas Trench (CD)

Have a great Wednesday!

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater

shiver4 out of 5

Grace is your ordinary, hard-working student. As a child, she was attacked by wolves lurking on the edge of the forest that lines her backyard. Ever since, she has had a fascination with the yellow-eyed wolf. She knows nothing about him except that he somehow saved her from the rest of the hungry pack. Ever since, she has had a connection with him that cannot be explained.

Sam is anything but ordinary. Attacked by wolves as a child, he is different from Grace in that he turned. Now a man in the summer and a wolf in the winter, he too feels a connection to Grace, the girl he saved from the pack many winters ago. When a boy from Grace’s town is attacked and presumed dead, and the order is released to have the wolves killed, Sam is shot. He crawls to Grace’s back door where she finds him lying naked in the cold—human—and she knows it is her wolf. But this may very well be Sam’s last year and once he makes the change back into a wolf—something he can’t control—he may never turn back into a human again.

Grace and Sam must fight against the seasons to spend what little time together they have left. A love story as endearing as it is haunting, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater will leave readers dying to know what happens next in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series.

Their love was real. This is what I find myself thinking over and over again post-read, despite the improbability and strangeness of their relationship at the beginning of the story. Part of the problem I had stemmed from the fact that Grace and Sam continuously refer to themselves as having obsessions with each other and being creepy. This definitely added to my initial sense of the book being very weird, which I otherwise would not have felt quite so strongly. Grace also constantly pointed out how clichéd Sam’s character was, which lead to me seeing him that way. It was as if Stiefvater’s insecurities about her writing were coming into the text; had she left me alone to take the book as it came and just enjoy it, I might have never thought certain negative things about Grace and Sam.

On the topic of characters, Rachel was pointless. One of Grace’s best friends (Olivia being the third member of their trio), she was said to be the one who held their group of three together, but she was never presented that way. She was introduced in the beginning and then largely ignored once Sam hit the scene, and rightly so. My biggest problem with Rachel is that she was constantly described as being “hyper” or high on caffeine, but she really came off as ditzy. Unfortunately, I feel as if Stiefvater was trying to write “the way teenagers sound,” and this never ends well. Isabel was another character who came off sounding strange because it seemed like the author was trying too hard to make her “sound like a teenager.”

The book did feel a bit like Twilight/Jacob fan-fic. From the bland way Grace’s character was presented to the fact that Sam hints at possibly being “native” (page 13 in the eBook), they have Bella and Jacob written all over them. Some of the names of the wolves in the pack were even the same. Twilight was published in 2005 and Shiver was published in 2009. I think it’s definitely a possibility which, if I am correct, is disappointing.

Even still, despite their love being unrealistic at first, I was eventually sucked in. I don’t think anyone can help but fall in love with Sam, despite his clichés. There was also a good deal of suspense. With the dark, looming winter backdrop and the ominous presence of hungry wolves, the setting was on the verge of creepy, almost Supernatural-esque. I hope that in Linger the author adds to this and raises the spook factor a little more. This book left off in a great way in that the series can go in any genre direction: romance, horror, thriller, or supernatural. Definitely worth the read.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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INSURGENT, the Movie

insurgent film

*SPOILER ALERT*

Wow. I just saw the film adaptation of Insurgent by Veronica Roth and I have to say, it was so much better than the book. (You can find my review of the book here on the blog.) Everything that I picked apart in my review was either changed, cut out entirely, or made a million times better in the film version. The acting was awesome, the pacing and suspense were good (though my boyfriend seems to think the movie started out slow—I see where he’s coming from but don’t entirely agree; besides, in comparison to how slow the beginning of the book was, the film’s beginning moved at the speed of light), and Tris’s character was transformed in the movie version to the mature—albeit damaged—young woman that I would have liked to have seen in the book.

Now, I’m no film expert so I have to bring this back to my expertise: books. I will never not see Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley together as anyone but Gus and Hazel, which made the betrayal so much worse. It was one thing knowing that Caleb betrayed Tris in the book, but to see Gus betray Hazel in the movie? Man. Am I the only one who will forever see them on the same screen as Gus and Hazel? Am I the only one still entirely hung up on The Fault in Our Stars?

As I said, not being a film expert I will end my ramblings here on the matter. I just wanted to say that though I only gave the book a 4 out of 5, this movie topped all of my expectations and made up for everything the book lacked. It was awesome. Everyone needs to go see it. Go! Go! Go!

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

P.S. I am currently reading two books on the eReader: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I’m finding Shiver a bit difficult to get through. Is it just me, or does it seem like Twilight/Jacob fan-fic? If anyone out there has read this book: should I keep going?

ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins

isla5 out of 5

*Spoiler Alert*

Not since The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has a book left me feeling so emotionally drained, in a good way. Perkins’ writing is so intense that the reader is forced to ride Isla’s roller coaster of emotions as she struggles to discover herself through love and heartbreak.

When I first started Isla and the Happily Ever After, I wanted to give it 4/5 stars. But the middle and the ending influenced my entire experience of this book, blocking out the beginning and its occasional silly bits almost entirely. The beginning, I realized, was just getting me to the best parts. Beginnings don’t have to be perfect, or 5-star worthy, to make the whole experience completely and utterly worth it.

At first, I thought the love story was unrealistic because of Isla’s infatuation with her love interest, Josh. The problem with crushes, in YA contemporary as much as in real life, is that sometimes emotions and ideals can get projected onto the character’s crush and the person turns out not to be who the MC expected. Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill is a prime, though incredibly sweet, example of this. It seemed like this was going to be the plot of Isla and the Happily Ever After and my thoughts were, “Not again…” But I was wrong. Perkins greatly exceeded my expectations in writing about young love. The characters are mature, their attitudes towards their relationships and sexuality are healthy, and all-in-all it is a highly refreshing read. There are a few too-good-to-be-true moments that made me cringe a little bit, but that is more than made up for when Isla’s world comes crashing down.

I loved that the happily-ever-after doesn’t come when Prince Charming tracks her down with nothing but a shoe, or when he saves her from a gigantic octopus that’s keeping her trapped in a whirlpool at the bottom of the ocean (though The Little Mermaid is my favourite Disney movie ever). Isla takes the time to figure out who she is and what she wants as an independent young woman, and it is THEN that she ends up with the handsome prince. I think this book projects a great message for young women and I was highly inspired by Isla’s character.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard

red queen3 out of 5

*Spoiler Alert*

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard disappoints. Set in a futuristic world that blends modern technologies with medieval-esque fashion and gladiator-style arenas, Red Queen is just too much like The Hunger Games to be overly original. The sole difference between the two novels is the fact that the characters’ “skills,” which they train in and are tested on (in much the same way as was shown in The Hunger Games), are not learned skills but rather god-like abilities that each Silver character (Mare being the exception) is born with. The book even builds up to a revolution against the too-powerful government, thus crushing together the first two installments of The Hunger Games trilogy to create Red Queen.

For this reason, world-building was satisfying but not overly unique. In the fantasy genre, it is so important to introduce worlds that will stand out on the shelves. Aveyard would have benefitted from exploring the different areas of the kingdom more, or describing them in greater detail. Mare, the MC, spends much of her time cooped up in palaces; excursions occur but are rare, and the places Aveyard takes us to could hardly be described as interesting, such as an abandoned café patio or the mouth of a drain. The description of the capital left me feeling confused, as everything seemed to be muddled together in a very small space, which was unfortunate because the areas controlled by the Silvers seemed promising at first. Even the description of the palaces, which is where ¾ of the book takes place, is almost non-existent and bland when it does occur.

Character building was questionable at best. Aside from Maven and Cal, the characters do not seem to grow or change much. Mare ends exactly as she starts: stubborn, angry, at times immature, and often naïve. As a reader, I wanted to see her grow and change, perhaps start off more innocent but develop a harder, wiser edge as the book progressed. This was not to be. I would much have preferred to see the story through Cal’s or Maven’s eyes—perhaps even Gisa’s, Mare’s younger sister, who has more character growth in the first fifty pages than Mare does in three-hundred eighty-three.

There are holes in the storytelling that made sense in the end, but were such obvious giveaways to the plot and the big revelation that it proved a frustrating read. It was clear that the queen should have figured everything out because she reads minds—the fact that no one ever gets caught trying to rebel against the kingdom proves that she is somehow involved. It is frustrating that Mare never questioned or clued into this factor, even after repeatedly mentioning the queen’s mind-reading abilities. It all felt too convenient, the revelation too easily made, to be fulfilling.

At the same time, Red Queen had a pretty good ending. The action picked up, Aveyard began to delve away from The Hunger Games feel and developed her own tone, and we were left off on a pretty interesting cliff-hanger. Despite the negatives, the writing is fast-paced and action-packed with very few slow parts. This is the type of book for readers who prefer dialogue to lengthy chunks of prose. For readers who prefer more detailed description and internal narrative, this probably isn’t the book for you. All in all, I don’t know if I will continue reading the series. This first installment was disappointing, but at the same time I find myself wondering what Mare, Cal, and the Scarlet Guard are up to now…

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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