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Books #15-16

Book #15 was "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern as an audibook. I loved, loved this book! I've read some reviews who say they feel like individual scenes and descriptions are beautiful but that the characters are "cookie cutter" and that the plot is nothing special. I can't say that the plotting was amazing, but it was intricate enough to keep me reading. The atmosphere of the book is what drew me in and dazzled me, though. In a magical Victorian London and U.S., two old sorcerers are pitting their best students against one another in a magical contest. The unusual Night Circus is the venue for their magical duel. You meet many of the unusual characters in and around the circus and get to see how the competition between Celia and Marco plays out, turning out to be more of a collaboration than a competition over time. The book has been compared to both "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell," but it stands on its own two feet as a lovely and magical novel. I adored it.

Book #16 was "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" by Anne Bronte. I've read "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights" by Anne's sisters both two times, and I also read a group biography of the Bronte family a few years ago, but I've just now gotten around to reading this book by one of the lesser-known Bronte sisters. I thought it was remarkable in every way. The book concerns a woman with a young son who begins living in the decrepit Wildfell Hall and the young man, Gilbert Markham, who becomes intrigued with her. Rumors start swirling around the woman, Helen, and Gilbert tries to defend her from the gossip but begins to believe it might be true when he witnesses her talking to a man he believes is her secret lover. The middle part of the book is Helen's diary, explaining who she is and how she came to be living under an assumed name in the country. I love Anne Bronte's descriptions of people and of nature, and her observations about family life. For instance, early on, there's a scene where Gilbert's family is in church and he is gawking at the new woman in town. Gilbert's brother elbows him in the ribs, and in return, he steps on his brother's foot. This is obviously a book written by someone who comes from a family of many siblings. The plot wasn't super suspenseful for me since I figured a few key things out very early on, but the book is wonderfully written and doesn't shrink away from describing domestic abuse, alcoholism and other subjects very taboo in the Brontes' society. It's marvelous, and I recommend it highly if you have enjoyed novels by the other Bronte sisters.

1. Death's End (3rd in the "Three-Body Problem" trilogy) [fiction]- Cixin Liu (translation by Ken Liu)
2. Brat Farrar [fiction]- Josephine Tey
3. Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored [nonfiction]- Mary Gabriel
4. Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home [fiction]-  Sheri Booker
5. Heap House (1st in the Iremonger trilogy) [fiction]- Edward Carey
6. Air [fiction]- Geoff Ryman
7. The Intuitionist [fiction]- Colson Whitehead
8. The Monster of Florence: A True Story [nonfiction]- Douglas Preston, with Mario Spezi
9. Foulsham (2nd in the Iremonger trilogy) [fiction]- Edward Carey
10. The Secret Place [fiction]- Tana French (unabridged audiobook
11. Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga [nonfiction]- Pamela Newkirk
12. Between the World and Me [nonfiction]- Ta-nehisi Coates
13. Everfair [fiction]- Nisi Shawl
14. The Departed (first in the "The Departed" trilogy) [fiction]- Kristy Cooper

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