It’s Monday, 28 January: What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! It’s time for Book Journey’s fabulous weekly posting “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?”

Two books finished in one week, two reviews up on the site. I am quite happy with my progress. I hope to keep riding the wave of productivity, but it might slow down a little bit here as I start my class this week – and have been trying to make good headway with my thesis.

I find I am starting three books this week, which means I may not finish one. I started Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places the other evening on my Kindle. Sunday morning I decided to start Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington (I scored this from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers) and then I also thought about the fact that I start training on Monday for a half marathon and so I finally wanted to start reading Christopher McDougal’s Born to Run (which my husband gave me as a present when I crossed the finish line after my first half marathon).  All three are very different books so at the very least I will not find myself bored in the coming week.

Here’s my last week in review:

Books Finished:
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon
Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin (I received this book for review from the publisher)

Reviews Posted:
True Believers by Kurt Andersen
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

So that’s my week. How about you? What did you finish up in your reading world, and what will you be picking up next?

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

0307744434.01._SX140_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_I am sitting here at my computer wondering where to begin on my review for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I don’t know if I have the words to properly convey how delightful and enchanting I found this book. I see that I don’t because those adjectives are not really proper here because that makes the book sound like it is fluff fare – which it is definitely not. Morgenstern’s tale of a master illusionist challenge with a charmed circus as the playing field was as imaginative as it was well-written.

As you can imagine, when dealing with a charmed circus, there are many different plots and characters to follow, so I will try and keep this pretty simple. Aside from the illusions, and charms, and mystery, this book is about love. At the center of the tale are Celia and Marco – our charmed-crossed lovers, entangled in a battle not of their choosing. From their youth, each was marked by their mentor to play, and win, an ultimate game of one-ups-manship in the world of illusions. The fact that they were pitted against each other made it a near certainty that they were fated for each other. It is not until they realize and declare their love that they learn the true nature of their challenge, that when a winner is declared, it is because there literally is only one left standing.

Before I started to read this book, someone mentioned on my blog that it was good I was reading a paper version (rather than electronic) because it would make it easier to follow the chronology, and I have to agree. I did find myself flipping back to check on the dates of chapters, it does jump a little. Of course with a story like this, I can see that keeping the reader a little off kilter is just what this story dictates.

Review: True Believers by Kurt Andersen

True BelieversHaving a narrator who jumps in time from past to present can sometimes present a challenge to even the most comprehensive reader if the author isn’t up to the task. In True Believers, Kurt Andersen takes his reader to the 1960s and back with each progressive chapter in a fluid page turn that kept me compelled to keep on reading long past my bedtime because I wanted to see the progression of 1960s idealistic to radical Karen and present day almost Supreme Court nominee Karen. Andersen had me emotionally invested in both Karens in a way I wouldn’t have expected.

1960s Karen starts out as the upper middle class midwestern Catholic girl who is a great student, with her “quirk” being a love of James Bond novels and acting out Bond-style missions with her two best friends Alex and Chuck. The reader experiences Karen’s awakening sexually and politically, and follows along with her and her radicalization in her hometown, to hyper-radicalization as she becomes a Radcliffe college freshman, while Alex and Chuck follow the same path of radicalization to Harvard along with her. Or do they?

This story plays out as a window into the 60s, and a mystery of counter-intel-pro as present day Karen writes her memoirs and comes to grips with what Radcliffe Karen did with Alex and Chuck. She plans to write a tell-all book and works to put the missing pieces together.

I won’t tell you any more, lest I lead you to jump to some conclusions that might spoil the story. I’ll just say at the end of the day, I really enjoyed the book. That’s not to say it was perfect – It is long and there were certainly times that I was wishing Andersen would just get on with it already, and the sub-plot of Karen’s radical granddaughter seemed a little unnecessary for my taste, but it was both an enjoyable and informative piece of historical fiction. And if I taken nothing else from the book, while I may have known (or at least heard it before), I will now never forget that Jimi Hendrix was an opening act for the Monkees!

Waiting on Wednesday, 23 January

Oh the wait, oh the alliteration — it is Waiting on Wednesday hosted by Breaking the Spine which chronicles new books we can’t wait to get.

The House GirlThis week, in keeping with my resolution to finish up my pile of magazines and keep up with the ones that I subscribe to, I was reading the February issue of Marie Claire and in the Books section there was a write-up about a new book called The House Girl by Tara Conklin that I was really taken with, so much so that later that day I wound-up pre-ordering it. It comes out on February 12, and I am looking forward to finding it in my mailbox.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t say that I am also waiting on May 14 and the release of Dan Brown’s new book Inferno. This will be a good one to have ready for the beach season that will only be a few weeks away.

It’s Monday, 21 January So What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! It’s time for Book Journey’s fabulous weekly posting “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?”

It was another good reading and blogging week for me. I hoped to finish The Night Circus, and I did! OMG – it was amazing, I really did not want it to end. I can’t say enough good things about that book, but I will try when I work on the review this upcoming week.

That was the only book I finished, but I did make some more good progress in Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

I received a book for review: Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin. The book’s release date is January 29th, so I will start that book this week and hope to have it finished and a review up for next Tuesday. Fingers crossed!

Here’s my last week in review:

Book Finished:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Reviews Posted:
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
The Widow Clicquot by Tilar Mazzeo

So that’s my week. How about you? What did you finish up in your reading world, and what will you be picking up next?

Review: The Widow Clicquot by Tilar Mazzeo

Widow ClicquotA strong female character, a look at the consequences of the French Revolution outside the walls of Paris and a history of the ubiquitous celebratory bubbly – this great historical look at the Barbe-Nicole Clicquot was as informative as it was enjoyable.

Yes, I was a little late to the game of Tilar Mazzeo’s The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It (the paperback came out in 2009), I had heard about it, and even had a borrowed version sitting on my shelf for quite a while – so I aimed to finish it by New Year’s Eve 2012, which I did. I came into the book knowing very little about The Widow and her history so I really fell right into her story. Coming from a privileged background, she married but became a young widow. She had worked with her husband on their wine business, and with the rules of the time, as a widow in France, she could become a businesswoman in her own right – and she did. Barbe-Nicole’s story really does show her perseverance, the business was taken to the brink many times but through her hard work, ingenuity, grit and sometime just pure luck she made it through to create one of the most famous brands in the world.

Regardless of how long ago this book came out, it is a story that doesn’t grow old, and really is an inspiring lesson from a strong woman.

Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

1594135517.01._SX140_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_Even though the movie isn’t coming out now until later this year, I feel like I had an All Things Gatsby sort of 2012. In addition to anxiously waiting for the movie (and being disappointed in its Christmas release date delay), I took a class looking at American ex-Pats in Paris between WWI and WWII. So I guess there is little surprise that I ended (well almost) 2012 with a very Gatsby-esque book: Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility.

Now don’t worry – I do remember my history and my Gatsby (even if I did forget a major character’s name while I was writing this), I know it takes place in the 20s, pre-crash and Rules is set in the late 30s. But as I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but think that I was reading about the next generation Gatsby, Nick, Daisy and Tom. However, this book chronicles the life of Katey Kontent – she is our Nick, not given a privileged life, but actively seeking it through contacts, intrigue and affairs. Katey is a fabulous heroine she works hard, actively striving to develop a career for herself in this new New York, and she is definitely multifaceted displaying character strengths and flaws equally.

Can you tell … I really loved this book and Katey. I mean this book had me in the opening chapter which starts with an older Katey at a Walker Evans show in the 60s, before she goes on to remember her life in the 30s, and it only got better from there.