December Hopefuls

Christmas, Presents, Gifts, Winter, December

Ahh. The holiday season. *wipes tear*

Welcome.

December is a busy time, so I never anticipate that I will read much. There are two books that I do plan to read this month, and they are annual reads.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol

I have reread this book every year around Christmas time for the past 10 years. It’s such a classic, and I love the story (and film adaptations)!

Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

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I received this book from a friend last year, and I will be reading it annually. The book is a series of letters that Tolkien wrote his kids while pretending to be Father Christmas. The letters are hilarious, filled with troublesome polar bears and elves and incredible pictures that Tolkien drew himself. Ian and I would read each other a letter every night before bed, and I can’t wait to continue the tradition this year!

What else am I reading?

Glad you asked.

The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)

I picked this up last week and flew through the first 130 pages. This book is a historical military fantasy and I was captivated the moment I started. The main character, Rin, is so interesting.

Britt-Marie Was Here

Do I expect to get my heart torn out by Backman yet again? Yes. Will I continue to read his books knowing I will ugly cry, holding my chest and wondering why the world is so cruel and beautiful at the same time? Also yes.

Hoping that I will finish both of these books in January! Who knows — maybe I’ll finish one of these this month!

What are you reading?

And, see what I’ve read so far in 2021!

January Wrap-Up

February Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

April Wrap-Up

May to September Wrap-Up

October Wrap-Up

November Wrap-Up

November Wrap-Up

It’s hard to believe that November has already come and gone and we are almost done with 2021.

November was a very successful month for reading; I read 8 books! The past few months I felt really behind on meeting my Goodreads goal of 50 books, but now I have only 2 to go until I complete the challenge!

Here’s what I read in November:

On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Robert Bucknam and Gary Enzo

On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep

As a first-time mom, I will take all and any book recommendations from parent friends. This book was super helpful and provided some great tips on how to help your baby develop a sleep routine. While a lot of the stuff in here was a little dated, I did appreciate their take and will adopt some of their practices into my parenting style.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious (Villains, #1)

This book was just alright for me. I was not a fan of Addie LaRue, but many friends encouraged me to try this series out as well as A Darker Shade of Magic. I will not be reading the second in this series, but I plan to give Darker Shades a try in January. The writing is good in this one, but I really didn’t enjoy the story and the characters. I found myself quite bored throughout … even though I read it fast.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose Code

Thank goodness for Kate Quinn. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that The Rose Code is now one of my favorite books of the year. You can read my full thoughts in my book review, but I will share that this book is fast-paced (even though it’s a long one). It is also captivating and profound. This book really delivered, hitting all of my favorite topics: historical fiction, feminism, and (recently) historical romance.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus

… Eh. This book is a little overhyped. I go into more detail in my book review, but my high level thoughts are this: beautiful prose should not be used as a distraction to hide a lackluster plot and flat-as-can-be characters. I found this same issue with Starless Sea, a book that was also overhyped for its beautiful writing. Don’t get me wrong, Morgenstern can write some pretty prose, but when I am sitting there wondering where the “fierce competition” or “deep, magical love story” is, you’ve lost a lot of stars.

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge) by Linda Åkeson McGurk

There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom's Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge)

This is another good parenting book that I highly recommend. While I skimmed through a lot of the personal stories (there were just too many), I appreciated the author’s take on getting kids outside and the importance of exposing your children (and yourself, really) to fresh air at an early age. My husband and I read this one together and we found so many useful nuggets that we will adopt with our little one.

Zen Mamas by Teresa Palmer and Sarah Wright Olsen

Zen Mamas

Another parenting book, but this one was OK. It got a little too earthy crunchy at some parts, but I did appreciate their insight and learned a lot about what kind of mom I want to be!

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

Boy. I really, really wanted to love this book. The premise was right up my alley: historical fiction, libraries, feminism … but instead I encountered a poorly written book that was lacking in insightful dialogue, likable characters, and plot development. Gosh, this was just not good. The characters were flat, the prose was choppy and messy. Cringy dialogue and a stupid whodunnit at the end. Predictable twists and turns. Just an all-around stinker.

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

The Deal of a Lifetime

When in doubt, turn to Backman. After I finished the book above, I went right to my favorite author. I started Britt-Marie Was Here and then read this novella in one sitting. This 60-ish page novella was absolutely breaktaking. Like all of Backman’s work, I was left speechless and in tears after his brilliant writing tore my soul apart. This is a great holiday read that teaches you about the importance of family and living every moment to the fullest.

What did you read in November? Share some books below!

And, see what I’ve been reading this year:

January Wrap-Up

February Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

April Wrap-Up

May to September Wrap-Up

October Wrap-Up

Book Review | The Night Circus

I finished The Night Circus this week. When I read The Starless Sea in February and didn’t enjoy it, a bunch of readers told me to read this one, promising that it would be a different, much better experience. They weren’t wrong … but they weren’t entirely right either.

The Night Circus

A little more about The Night Circus:

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.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

My thoughts

I will start my review by reflecting on the synopsis (above) because that was my largest issue with the book. I can’t help but wonder if the person who wrote the synopsis read the book. Did the author write her own synopsis? Did she realize it didn’t match the book she wrote? Who wrote the synopsis?!

After reading the book description, I expected to be thrown into a world with magical duels … but this “fierce competition” in the book is anything but. Sure, the “remarkable battle of imagination and will” is a little more accurate, but if you’re expecting anything fast-paced and exciting, you won’t get that with this book. You’ll just witness two characters who create tents and magical things for each other and call that fierce competition. Really lame and very flat.

Speaking of flat, Celia and Marco “tumbling” in love … eh? Yeah, when they touch hands things happen, but the characters are so two-dimensional that their love for each other seems forced and only for plot purposes. One moment, they are talking and clearly interested in each other for “competition” purposes. The next, they are hiding and kissing and in love with no context in-between. Not to mention, their first interaction and second “in love” interaction happens in a span of three years. Yeesh. I was lost.

This book promises a high stakes, competition-driven, heartbreaking romance, but the execution of the book was saturated. Don’t get me wrong — Morgenstern knows how to write flowery prose that captures your attention, but it’s almost used as a guise to hide her lack of skill in details and plot cohesion. So, again, the same issues that I found in The Starless Sea (her later work), were ever so present in The Night Circus. Lame. I don’t want to read a book JUST for its beautiful language. Especially if it is lacking in all of the areas that make it … a book?

Everything just seemed so fragmented, from the disconnect to the basic premise of the book to the disjointed storyline. Bouncing between timelines got very confusing . I kind of stopped paying attention because I just couldn’t keep track of the dates and times anymore. It got too much.

I am still working through my emotions here, but I liked the world that she created and the magic within the text. Despite all of the characters being flat, despite the lack of duel or anything of that nature, despite the not-so-convincing love story between Celia and Marco, I still read it in a few days. On Sunday, I read about 300 pages, not putting it down until it was completed. I just wish the author would pay more attention to her characters and plot.

After this experience, I have decided not to read any more of her books — even if she writes fantasy books.

Anyone else? Who has read The Night Circus? Did you love it or hate it? Do you agree or disagree with my views?

Book Review | The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite books that I’ve read all year: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn.

If you’ve been following along, I’ve read a few duds this year. And after a few blahs last month, I decided to craft my November TBR with my favorite genres in mind: historical fiction and fantasy.

So far this month, I’ve read Vicious by V.E. Schwab (which I really enjoyed; I won’t review that one until I read Vengeful later this month) and then this beauty, The Rose Code.

A little bit about The Rose Code:

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to the mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, a product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer…

My thoughts

The Rose Code was everything I wanted in a historical fiction novel. I read The Alice Network a few years back and really enjoyed Quinn’s storytelling (I am going to read The Huntress next month), so I went into this one with high expectations. I was not disappointed!

This book is full of rich history and masterful explanations of the process of cryptanalysis during WWII. I never heard of Bletchley Park and was fascinated to hear that there were brilliant women who worked alongside men during the war to help undermine Germany and its allies. Osla, Mab, and Beth played different roles at BP, and it was truly amazing to witness their work unfold and follow their journeys. I just loved the characters that Quinn created.

Of course, they all followed different paths. Osla, a deb who was fluent in a few languages, including German, worked to decode and translate messages during the war. Mab, who came from poverty in east-end London, worked with the giant Enigma machines, breaking codes. Mab was my favorite of the three. I loved her maturity, dedication to her sister, Lucy, and how she protected her friends. And lastly, Beth, who was good at crosswords, worked in one of the most prestigious huts and as one of the park’s few female cryptanalysts. All workers at BP were sworn to secrecy, but that didn’t stop Osla, Mab, and Beth from creating a long-lasting, yet fractured sisterhood. They all were big bookworms too, and the group formed the Mad Hatters Society, a book club with more colorful characters.

I just really enjoyed reading this one. Along with the work at BP, Quinn throws in some royal family history with Osla’s love interest being Prince Phillip. Of course, we know how that turns out. Mab meets an amazing man, Francis Gray, and you witness unconditional, fierce, love. Beth is also entwined in romance while she navigates leaving her mother’s strict house and her own self-discovery. Beth is also sent to a mental institution by someone who betrays her, and readers also get to witness the ugly truths of how women with mental illnesses were treated.

This book is equal parts enticing and maddening. It’s such a beautiful story. Every twist and turn, every climatic point. The Rose Code will make you laugh, cry, and hurt. It comes together so holistically, and I closed it wanting more.