The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

There seem to be two schools of thought on this book: either you  love it, or you hate it. I happen to love it! However, I can see how some who read the description of the book might find themselves disappointed, as it does hype the book up to be a little more than it really is. 

The Night Circus is about Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams), a mysterious circus that simply appears over night with no announcement. It is simply there, when the day before it wasn't. The Circus is unlike any other circus that has ever existed. It is completely devoid of color - everything is black and white, or shades of gray. There are no clowns or elephants - instead the attractions of Le Cirque des Rêves are far more mysterious and wondrous.  

The descriptions of the Circus were my favorite parts of the book, however some have criticized them as being too wordy. I disagree with this assessment. I found the descriptions to be a perfect aid to my imagination. The Circus is truly a fantastical and wondrous backdrop to the greater story.

Unknown to the may patrons of Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus is actually a battleground for a challenge taking place between Celia and Marco, two magicians who have been training for this challenge all their lives. Their instructors are old rivals who have held similar challenges throughout the ages, both claiming that their teaching methods are superior to the others. Celia and Marco find themselves caught up in this rivalry without a clear explanation as to the rules of the challenge. One thing becomes clear however - the challenge doesn't end until there is only one competitor standing. The use of the word "challenge" is slightly misleading - it implies that there are epic battles of magical power. This is not the case. The challenge is more a battle of endurance - as Celia and Marco attempt to one-up each other with magical creativity, becoming more and more entangled in the magic of the Circus and struggling to maintain it, while protecting the lives of those involved with the Circus. Those expecting action packed battles will be disappointed.

Complicating matters, Marco and Celia fall in love. Their love story is another point of criticism. If you know that ending the challenge will result in the destruction of the one you love, why wouldn't you continue to play? Easy, because the subtle nature of the challenge won't allow it. There has to be a winner. Maintaining the magic of the Circus while continually adding to it is exhausting - eventually one player will not be able to continue. It is almost cruel - Celia and Marco were chosen as pawns in a game between their two teachers who are determined to show the superiority of their methods. They have no regard for the players themselves, willing to sacrifice them if they should lose. What's intriguing is that the players are not only bound to the game, but also each other. They love and understand each other in a way that no one else can. I found the love story between Marco and Celia very sweet and also a little sad. It added a sense of inevitability and tragedy to the fantasy of the Circus - despite their love, they know that one of them must destroy the other, or sacrifice themselves to save the other. 

Summit has bought the film rights to The Night Circus. It will be interesting to see how this book translates onto film. I am excited to see the Circus come to life, but I have a feeling that artistic licenses will be taken and more action will be added to make the film more exciting to the detriment of the story. I hope that this will not be the case, but I guess we shall see...


The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This book has been on my "to read" list for a while now. I read the review in the New York Times and I was intrigued by the idea of the story. As a History buff, the 1960's is one of my favorite time periods to study - in fact I even wrote my senior thesis in college on Jim Crow Laws from Reconstruction through the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. 

It always amazes me how Americans could spout the ideals of equality and freedom, while denying these same ideals to a large portion of the American population. When I read about Hilly's Home Help Sanitation Initiative, which encourages white families to install separate bathrooms for their colored help to prevent the spread of diseases, I can't help but shake my head at the idiocy of the logic that prevailed during this time period. It's sad to think that people really did think that way. It's even sadder to think that there are still some groups in our society who still face these same issues, however one thing has been proven right again and again throughout our history - American might not always get it right the first time, or the second, but in the end equality and freedom always win.

I enjoyed the book and the characters' stories. I found myself laughing at some of the crazier stories, saddened by some, and outraged by some of the injustices faced by some of the characters. 

I particularly liked a conversation between Aibileen and Minny where they talk about lines  - "Aibileen shakes her head. "I used to believe in em. I don't anymore. They in our heads. People like Miss Hilly is always trying to make us believe they there. But they ain't.'" I thought it was an interesting concept - the idea of lines, and it made me think how often we stop ourselves from doing something because we are afraid to cross those imaginary lines. It's so easy to imprison ourselves in these lines without even realizing it, to hide behind them because it's easier than admitting that they really don't exist. That's what the Civil Rights Movement was all about - making people realize that these "lines" didn't exist - that there was no need for them.

The ending disappointed me a little. There was a huge build up to the question of what would happen after the book was published, but to me the resolution was almost nonexistent. I felt like I was on a roller coaster climbing the track for the expected plunge, only to reach the top and realize the coaster has run out of track, so it slowly just reverses back the way it came. The endings of the characters' stories were short and lacking detail. As I turned the last page, I found myself saying, "That's it?" Despite the ending, I did like the book. It's not one of my favorites, but definitely worth the read.


All You Desire by Kirsten Miller

All You Desire is the second book in the Eternal Ones series. The first book followed a girl named Haven Moore - an outcast in her small southern town, known for her strange visions - as she learns that she is in fact an Eternal One, and the visions she has are not in fact visions, but memories from her previous lives. These memories draw her to her soul mate, Iain Marrow, and they both narrowly escape the clutches of Adam Rosier - a more than human force who has a sick obsession with Haven. Adam is the leader of the Ouroboros Society, an organization whose members all have past lives.

At the end of the first book, Haven and Iain, having faked his own death, escape to Rome where they spend a blissful year. This is where All You Desire picks up - one year later in Rome. Haven is called back to New York when Beau, her best friend (and brother in their past lives) suddenly goes missing. Haven is forced to enlist the help of an underground group called the Horae to save Beau, and in exchange for their help becomes a pawn in their plot to destroy Adam Rosier and the Ouroboros Society. In the process, Haven finds herself drawn to Adam and questioning and risking everything and everyone important in her life.

All You Desire was a good follow up to The Eternal Ones. I enjoy the series, and am intrigued by the idea of past lives, which is what originally drew me to the series. Many of the characters experience "flashbacks" that appeal to the historian in me - All You Desire has Haven reliving a past life in Florence at the outbreak of the Black Death. It's not the best series I've ever read, and it's not one that I will read over and over again, but Kirsten Miller is a good storyteller and mixes the right amount of suspense in with romance. The twists in the plot are not always predictable, which makes for an interesting read. Like the first book, this is a quick read. I would recommend it if you have a short flight or are just looking to waste away the afternoon.  


Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance is the fourth, and final (although, Christopher Paolini is not ruling out a return to Alagaësia...here's hoping he is true to his word!) book in the Inheritance series, which chronicles the adventures of Eragon - Shadeslayer and Dragon Rider - as he seeks to rid all of Alagaësia from the clutches of Galbatorix.

**Warning: I am going to try not to give too much away, but there are a few points that I must discuss. If you have not read the book, or in the process of reading it, and do not want to read any spoilers, proceed with caution.**


He Kissed Me: Poetic Worship by Tara D. Lewis

Today I had the privilege of attending a book release party for my good friend, Tara. She has joined the self-publishing movement and published a collection of devotional poems.

Tara has an amazing way with words and is a true example of a person who walks through life with faith. This collection of poems makes an excellent addition to any Christian's devotional collection.

Congratulations Tara - I'm so proud of you, and wish you all the success that you deserve!

 Tara's book is now available on Amazon.com. I have my copy...do you have yours?


Dive For Dreams by E.E. Cummings

dive for dreams or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots and wind is wind) 
trust your heart if the seas catch fire
(and live by love though the stars walk backward)
honour the past but welcome the future
(and dance your death away at the wedding) 
never mind a world with its villains or heroes
(for good likes girls and tomorrow and the earth) 
in spite of everything which breathes and moves, since Doom 
(with white longest hands neating each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds -before leaving my room i turn, 
and (stooping through the morning) kiss this pillow, 
dear where our heads lived and were. 

silently if, out of not knowable 
silently if, out of not knowable 
night's utmost nothing,wanders a little guess 
(only which is this world)
more my life does not leap than with the mystery your smile 
sings or if (spiraling as luminous they climb oblivion)voices who are dreams, 
less into heaven certainly earth swims 
than each my deeper death becomes your kiss 
losing through you what seemed myself,i find 
selves unimaginably mine;beyond 
sorrow's own joys and hoping's very fears 
yours is the light by which my spirit's born: 
yours is the darkness of my soul's return 
-you are my sun,my moon,and all my stars