It’s AP week. If you’re not American/don’t go to an American school, just know that it means that I’m spending lots of time in exam halls. It also means I’m really stressed. So, it’s a mini-review sort of week. Have fun reading.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.(Four stars)
I *mostly* loved The Night Circus. I really liked the style of storytelling, the parts and the occasional second person, and how well planned it was. The gorgeous imagery worked really well to convey the atmosphere. The concept was amazing. I liked the lovers fighting, because the dynamic was so fun to read. I guess my problem was that there was a lot of implicit stuff. It was sort of left open to interpretation– and I never really understood the magic system. I get that a lot of the characters were in the same boat, but on the fighting, the nature of the game, the nature of the circus, the characters feelings were sometimes made unclear by nature of the writing style that I also liked. It’s a complicated book, and I can really appreciate all that Morgenstern has done– but the fact remains that at the end of the day I couldn’t tell you much about Marcos and Celia except that they didn’t want to kill each other.
P.S. My favourite character was totally Isobel. She was Baroness Schraeder in the best of ways, with a mysterious past and some evil thrown in to boot.
Cloudwish by Fiona Wood (four stars)
Cloudwish was really good. I wasn’t expecting it to be as much of a love story as it was, but I still enjoyed it. I also liked the way that the magic was dealt with, though it was more contemporary than I expected. Still, the concept was fabulous, and I loved the Melbourne setting- I’ve been to Melbourne and recognising places made me happy. Van Uoc is a fabulous character, and I identified with her workaholic scholarschip-girl-at-private-school struggles, because I’ve encountered some of them myself. I also have Asian parents but my situation is very different– still, I liked that part of the story. I wished there was a bit more resolution on her parents story but that was okay, and the refugee aspect– in fact, all the diversity made me cheer, and provided a fantastic counterpoint to the romance. (also, it made me hate some aspects of the Australian government more) Read Cloudwish for a fun contemporary about finding who you really are and fulfilling expectations.
The End of Night by Paul Bogard. (five stars)
<non-fiction, non-YA alert>
I don’t live on a road. I live in the middle of a forest. But still, the nearby city leaches it’s light into my sky. I see only a few stars. I have, however, encountered true night, one on the Bortle scale. I found it at midnight in the Indian Himalaya, on a cool summer night when it was five degrees outside. It was glorious.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because Bogard’s central thesis is that the unpolluted night sky is a deeply nourishing sight for humans. If we love and know the night sky, we can fight to protect it. But urbanisation and urban lights are isolating people from this most vital of experiences.
This is seriously one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. I picked it up because I was doing research for a project about light, and saw Bogard and his book mentioned on James Madison University’s page about light. The first three chapters were particularly relevant for my project, and by the time I had read those I was hooked into the rest of the book. The End of Night is seriously well written. I would describe the prose style as ‘practical and beautiful’. He doesn’t waste words, but makes you deeply invested in what he’s saying– and does it so, so well. Bogard covers a LOT in The End of Night, from lighting design to urbanisation to telescopes to legends, and it’s all fascinating. From doing some research of my own, I had a bit more context, but he really introduces the topic really well, and it’s so interesting. I read this in Dehli, as well, a city plagued by horrible air and noise and water and yes, light pollution, a city isolated from the beauty of the natural world in many ways. I guess my one complaint with The End of Night was that Bogard didn’t talk much about LDC’s, staying fairly American centric.
Seriously, if you are interested in stars and night-time and the issue of light pollution or just want to read good writing, read The End of Night.
</non-fiction, non-YA alert>
The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander (3 stars)
The The Art of Not Breathing was an interesting book. I liked the mystery, the descriptions of freediving, the setting in Scotland, Elsie’s attitude towards school, the way it portrayed the issues with eating and the idea that your family can break you and make you. But I didn’t really like Elsie herself, even though she was interesting, and it just felt excessively dramatic at times. Hence, the 3 stars. The mystery was really interesting though, and that’s why I stuck with this novel.
Have you read any of these? What’s the most awesome non-fiction you’ve ever encountered? Tell me in the comments (but bear in mind that it’ll take me a while to reply)