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?

Bookstagrammer Highlight: @once_upon_a_library_

Friends, meet Kailee. Kailee and I met while grumbling about our grad school journeys in a bookstagram buddy chat, and we became fast friends. We have a LOT in common (aside from books) — like our love for cats and spooky season!

Learn about how awesome Kailee is below … and give her a follow!

Why did you start a bookstagram?

I started a bookstagram out of boredom. Suddenly, I wasn’t working at a law firm anymore and I was back in grad school (but totally online) and I just needed some sort of community. And my bookstagram was born!

What is your go-to genre and why?

When in doubt, I always choose mystery. Not even thriller/mystery, but pure whodunnit mystery. I just really love the puzzle aspect of it. I spend the entire time trying to figure out the puzzle and beat the author. It’s fun when I figure it out, but it’s even more fun when I don’t. That’s the best kind of mystery.

Tell me something about yourself that a lot of people don’t know about.

I’ve been scuba diving with Mickey Mouse.

If you could only listen to one soundtrack/album the rest of your life, what would it be?

Hozier’s self-titled first album. I listen to it entirely too much.

This is a hard one: What are your top five books … ever?

Well, this is a rude question. I typically split this category into series and standalone, so here are two answers!

Top 5 standalone books:

  1. The Night Circus
  2. The Shadow of the Wind 
  3. Six of Crows (technically a series but whatever, I’m making the rules)
  4. Good Omens
  5. Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts


Top 5 series:

  1. Red Rising (first trilogy only)
  2. Ember in the Ashes
  3. A Darker Shade of Magic
  4. The Winternight Trilogy
  5. Harry Potter

Wow, this was really hard and I’m not even sure I’m right lol.

What is one trend you just can’t get behind?

Ugh, rainbow bookshelves. They’re pretty but too chaotic for my brain.

Tell me more about your shop. What is the name and what do you sell? Why did you decide to open a shop?

My shop is on Etsy and also called OnceUponALibrary. I mostly sell booksleeves, zipper pouches, and custom bags! The custom orders are my favorite because I love designing things that are EXACTLY what someone wants.

What makes a book a 5-star read?

I’ll try to be more descriptive than just saying “vibe” lol. But a book is a five-star read if I can’t stop thinking about it, if I want to gush about it to everyone, if the story really surprises me. But bad writing will ruin a good idea, so it also has to be well written.

What is your favorite holiday?

Halloween, hands down! Spooky season is the best season and I will die on this hill.

Follow the wonderful Kailee on Instagram.

Want to be featured on my blog? You don’t have to be a bookstagrammer! If you have a small business, podcast, or something creative that you want to share, please email me at kass.readsbooks@gmail.com!

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.

Book Series Review | Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

*pants*

OK, I did it.

I finished.

*slips into inevitable book hangover*

This was me back in June when I finished Kingdom of Ash, the final book in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. I started the journey about a year ago, reading Throne of Glass (the first book) along with a fabulous group of bookstagrammers. Our goal was to finish the series by this April. Some bookworms in the group breezed through the series, reading one book after the other and finished well before April, but I decided to stay true to the schedule and finish at my own pace.

I already miss this series. If I had to choose between TOG and ACOTAR (A Court of Thorns and Roses for those who aren’t SJM fans) I enjoyed Throne of Glass a lot more. I appreciated the multiple points of view, I loved the characters, was engrossed in the storyline and action, and appreciated that there was less smut. This series is more geared toward the young adult audience (though there are some sex scenes), but overall, I enjoyed the story more and the characters more than what you’d find in ACOTAR.

A little about Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass is a young adult fantasy series that follows the journey of Celaena Sardothien, a teenage assassin in the Kingdom of Ardalan. She is released from a prison-like camp, Endovier, after she accepts an offer from Crown Prince Dorian, the king’s son, to compete with other thieves to become the King’s Champion and gain her freedom. Over time, she forms close ties with Dorian and Chaol, and … well, a lot happens.

Like a lot. These books are FULL of action and plotlines. As you continue through the series, more characters are introduced. There are battles and secrets and magic and lots of romance. There’s a lot of betrayal and death. And, in true SJM fashion, there is healing and self-love and sisterhood that left me bawling at the end.

Ugh. I could read these books all over again (and I probably will).

My thoughts

There are so many things that happen in this series and I will do my best to convey my thoughts in a coherent matter. I loved these books. I loved the characters. I loved the plot. I was never bored. I was always entranced by Maas’s story and always found myself wishing that these books were movies so I can watch them over and over. I guess I’ll have to do a reread soon! 🙂

It may be best to break down each book and write a paragraph about what I liked (and even what I didn’t like … not all of them were 5 star reads!) to give you a feel of what to expect if you ever plan to read these books. This will also be interesting because I feel like I don’t remember everything that happened!

Here goes:

Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

I’ll admit: I had some fears going into this one. A Court of Thorns and Roses (SJM’s other fantasy series) did not start out great, but I was pleasantly surprised with Throne of Glass as the first book in the series. I was hooked from the start. Celaena is released from Endovier and trains to compete with other deadly assassins in the kingdom. She is quick-witted, headstrong, smart and beautiful. She loves to read and eat. She captivates Dorian and Chaol, and forms a strong bond with Princess Nehemia, who is visiting from her own faraway kingdom. There are duels. There are monsters. There is magic. It is all so interesting; I couldn’t put this book down. I ended the book hungry for more.

The Assassin’s Blade

The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1-0.5)

Now, this one was a bit of a miss for me. This book contains five novellas and they are all important when it comes to context for future books in the series. I found that I enjoyed some stories more than others. While they are all separate novellas, they are sequential in a way, and follow the story of Celaena and her first love, Sam. Celaena forms relationships (some good, some bad) with other colorful characters across Erilea and the book ends with you appreciating learning more about her backstory and ready to read more about Dorian and Chaol.

Crown of Midnight

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)

This is when things get a little wild and crazy, and I was totally here for it. Like Throne of Glass, I tore through this book, needing to know what happened next. A romance starts to bud between Celaena and a certain individual (shock, shock) and there is tons of violence, betrayal, kidnappings, and thievery. Honestly, I just think Celaena is too cool. Magic and witches are introduced, and Celaena leaves for Wendlyn, telling Chaol a secret that changes everything.

Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)

This one was definitely my least favorite in the series, but there were many elements that I enjoyed. The main snag was that Maas was introducing dual perspectives in this book (hello, Manon. I love you), but it unfortunately was rough to get through. I think Maas was just learning how to navigate multiple POVs, and it showed. In this book, Celaena also meets Rowan, who I extremely dislike. He kind of grew on me in the series, but honestly, I find a lot of the men in Maas’s books to be misogynistic and problematic. I have never been on the “but he’s so dreamy who cares” train with her books. I was never Team Edward either. Stop glorifying toxic men, mainstream culture!

Anyways, this book left me heartbroken and nauseous and OMG I had to read more. So, I pressed on despite the ickiness.

Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)

Oh, boy, am I glad I did. This book was my absolute favorite of the series. So many amazing characters are introduced. Nesryn. Lysandra. Aedion. Lorcan. So much happens. Magic. Demons. Murder. I was floored when it ended. I would reread just this one if I could and my TBR list wasn’t 300 books high. Heck. I might just do it anyways.

Empire of Storms

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5)

Elide. ELIDE. I love Elide. ELIDEEEEE.

I loved learning more about Manon and watching her character grow. I loved all the romance that was budding among the characters. Yeesh. It just keeps getting better. Characters from the novellas come into play. Celaena continues to be absolutely badass — and the ending, will, again, break your heart. So much happens! I immediately picked up the next one.

Tower of Dawn

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass, #6)

Now, some SJM fans do a tandem read with Empire of Storms. And while I did not do that the first time around, I would like to do it the second time I read this series. Tower of Dawn as a standalone, however, is really good. I enjoyed learning more about Chaol and Nesryn and I REALLY enjoyed meeting other amazing characters: Yrene and Sartaq. Love. Them. Everything really comes together in this one and I finished satisfied.

Kingdom of Ash

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, #7)

You may be wondering how the author could possibly close out an entire series with so many storylines and characters in 984 pages. I wondered the same thing. I will say that it wasn’t done as thoroughly as I would have hoped. While I still enjoyed the reading experience, I found lots of holes and wanted more with some storylines. I loved how the story ended for most of the characters, and there were parts that wrecked me. There were some cringe storylines and parts that I could have done without, but, hey. Overall, I closed the book satisfied and then went into that book hangover I was talking about earlier.

Thanks for reading this far if you did. Whew. What a journey. And thank you, Sarah, for helping me get through this pandemic so far!