REVIEW: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea is Morgenstern’s second novel coming after the success of her first novel, The Night Circus. I’d read The Night Circus a while ago and remembered loving it, but didn’t know if it would hold up to a reread. Recently, I tried the audio book for The Night Circus (read by Jim Dale!) and it was AMAZING. Highly, highly recommend. Le Cirque des Rêves was just as captivating as I remembered it. All of that is just to say that my expectations for this book were already HIGH, but then the synopsis of this book comes out including secret societies and underground libraries and quests… If it was possible, my expectations rose even higher.

Now, you may have heard some conflicting things about this book. I’ve read some reviews that strongly disliked this book. Let me just say, this book is very different and it’s not one that can be zoomed through (as I typically zoom through books). If I’m really enjoying a book (300-400 page range) I can usually finish it in about three days max (usually less). This book is around 500 pages, so a little longer than my average and it took me almost four WEEKS to read (26 days to be precise). Caveat: I wasn’t reading this book exclusively or reading every single day, also we were in the process of moving house to another state for some of that time. With that being said, however, this is a book that DEMANDS you take your time to read it. If you don’t, you’ll get confused and you’ll miss out on all of the wonderful complexities that this book holds.

The story is made up of several different sections and multiple perspective shifts with interwoven short stories. It’s confusing, especially at the beginning, but after a while I found that I liked the variation of the chapters. It’s amazing to me to think about Morgenstern writing this book. There are just so many pieces to it and I feel that she really masterfully weaves them together into a cohesive tapestry of deliciousness.

There has been a lot of criticism calling this book “boring” and “plotless”. A lot of people have especially had a problem with the main character, Zachary Ezra Rawlins, feeling like he just purposelessly drifts through the story with no development. I strongly disagree on both of those points. First, no this book isn’t what I would call fast-paced, but I wouldn’t call it boring by any stretch of the imagination! The short stories are beautiful, well-written, and frankly not that long compared to Zachary’s chapters. I, personally, was sucked into Zachary’s story immediately. There’s mystery and magic(?) and even a little action thrown into the mix as well. I think that Zachary’s character makes a lot more sense if you remember that he’s a grad student studying video games. He often views his journey as a video game and I think that informs some of the decisions that he makes. He’s not delusional or anything, he doesn’t think he’s ACTUALLY in a video game, but the “aimless wandering” that a lot of people have a problem with makes more sense if you view it from that lens. A lot of exploring type video games have a main quest, side quests, and then a bunch of other random stuff that you can explore. Zachary does a lot of exploring that I guess some people found to be boring, however, I did not.

As a character, I think Zachary undoubtedly develops. He’s not the same boy that he was when he first encountered a door painted on the side of a wall. He starts the book as a 2D character, but ends as a fully fleshed out being. There are decisions that he makes towards the end of the book that he simply would not have made at the beginning. Zachary does not finish the book as the same person that he was.

I’m finding it really hard to put into words EXACTLY what I loved so much about this book. It’s just so cozy. I loved all of the little stories and I loved when the pieces started to overlap and click together. Some people had a problem with the ending, but I thought it was perfect and right and fit the book precisely. The writing was beautiful and whimsical and the setting of the Harbor was just as magical as Le Cirque des Rêves, in my opinion. And then The Kitchen. Oh how I loved The Kitchen. This is the kind of book that you want to start over immediately after finishing because now you finally get it and can pick up on things that you missed the first time.

I’ll just end this review by pleading with you to not let the negative reviews scare you away. Give it a try and if it’s not for you, that’s fine. But where others found this book boring, I found it captivating. Where others found the descriptions to be too long, I found them to be beautiful and evocative. Just one warning: because of all of the interweaving stories I’d probably not recommend this as an audio book–I think it would just be confusing. But as a physical book or an eBook? Magical. You will never find another book like this.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Reading Stats for 2019

Reading Stats 2019

This is the first year that I’ve really kept a reading log. I’ve done a journal basically ever since I started blogging to keep track of notes, ratings, etc. For my new log I just used a few basic categories: Title, Author, Date Finished, # Pages, Genre, Type (physical vs eBook), Source, Rating, Position in Series, Continue Series?

I liked having some basic reading categories and then the series categories were really helpful for me as well. I have a hard time remembering sometimes if I really want to continue on with a series so I’m hoping this will help in the future.

But now…graphs!

Format

I’m actually really happy with the number of physical books that I read compared to eBooks. I think in the past I’ve read probably 90% eBooks. I’m also surprised by how many audio books I read this year! I didn’t realize it was that many.

Source

I’m so happy with the number of library books I read this year! I think I typically do read a lot of eBooks from the library, but I know a TON of these were physical books that I checked out as well.

Genre

I still read mostly YA Fiction (not surprising) but I’m happy that I’ve started branching out into Adult fiction as well. I’m thinking this year I need to try to increase that nonfiction number too.

Per Month

I’m kind of amazed by how much I read this summer. March was the month I discovered the LumberJanes series, so a lot of those books are those graphic novels. June and December were both moving months so that explains why those numbers are a little lower.

Ratings

Let me tell you, it didn’t FEEL like I had this many 4 star books, but I guess I did? If I had to guess, I would have guessed that most of my reads were 3 or 3.5 stars. Apparently I read better books than I remembered.

So there you go! Making these graphs was really interesting for me and I’m definitely going to keep this same reading log this year as well. I’d also like to give a shout out to my husband who made these graphs for me! Best husband ever.

Did you keep a log of reading stats for 2019? If so, link your post in the comments!

True Crime + LA + Libraries = Heart Eyes | The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library BookOn April 28, 1986 there was a huge fire at the LA Public Library. While this was obviously a big deal, the news got lost as Chernobyl happened the same day. When Susan Orlean moved to LA with her husband and son, she discovered this largely untold story and started doing some investigating. This book details the history of the LA Public Library, the fire itself, and the arson investigation that took place afterwards. Woven throughout that narrative is Orlean’s love letter to libraries themselves.

TL;DR – Orlean seamlessly intertwines several narratives. LA history, arson investigations, and the day-to-day of public libraries are all presented as equally fascinating.

eBook | Hardcover

First, let me say for anyone thinking about purchasing this book, it is GORGEOUS. Definitely bookstagrammable. However, if you decide to get the hardcover on Amazon (link above) just be warned that it does come with that “Reese’s book club” stamp (eye roll) which is not removable. If you would like an unmarred copy, I’d suggest getting a copy in person and B&N or something.

On to my review. My love affair with non-fiction continues! My husband helped me to discover recently that I’ve really been enjoying non-fiction books written by journalists (see Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and recently Kirk Wallace Johnson). Susan Orlean was a journalist for the New York Times before writing this book so she fits right in my wheelhouse. Plus libraries, so it was always going to be a slam dunk.

This story is actually so fascinating, but the parts I loved most about this book were the descriptions of the day-to-day life of the library. At the very beginning when she’s writing about the library opening for the day, I legitimately got chills. I loved seeing all the different departments from her perspective and I could definitely relate to some of the stories.

I also really liked how she opened each chapter with some catalog listings that fit what the chapter was going to be about. I just thought it was a really nice touch and I liked guessing what kind of stuff was going to be in each chapter.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. If you love libraries, read this book. If you love true crime, read this book. If you love LA, read this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

6 WORST things about working at a library!

Some of you may remember that I started working at my local library towards the end of last year. I’m an Adult/Teen Services and Reference Librarian. I LOVE my job. It’s basically my dream job, but no job is perfect, right? (Related, if you know of any perfect jobs, hmu in the comments). Now that I’ve been there for about 6 months, I’ve noticed some things that are…not so fun about being a librarian.

1. You get sick more often

Just working with the public means that you’re coming into contact with a lot of different people and a lot of different germs. We have these huge bottles of hand sanitizer at the reference desk which I utilize often, but still. Since I’ve started, I’ve probably had like 4 minor colds and 1 major one. I made sure to get my flu shot, but it’s still a little worrisome since I’ve got a baby at home and I’m trying not to bring home any extra germs if I can help it. I always sanitize right before I leave work and wash my hands first thing when I get home.

2. Being surrounded by books all the time

This may not sound like a big deal–it might even sound like the best thing in the world! (Who am I kidding? It kind of is). But, being surrounded by books all day means that my TBR just grows and grows and grows. All the time, I find myself coming home with books that I wasn’t planning on picking up and adding them to my already enormous stack of library books.

3. Having to remind patrons of library policies

Oof. This is the hardest one for me. I do not like confrontation at all but there are times when we do have to approach a patron and ask them to follow our library rules. An example: our second floor is our quiet floor (there are signs posted literally EVERYWHERE) and you’re asked not to talk above a whisper or answer your phones on that floor, but you can totally do those things on our first floor. Well, despite our plethora of signs, people routinely break that rule and I have to shush them. 75% of the time, they’re really good about it, but some people get so grumpy! I’ve also had experiences with other, more concerning behaviors and it is NOT fun. I envy Circulation, because they don’t have to deal with this.

4. Maintaining a balanced collection even if you don’t personally agree with materials

The other day I was looking through a list of books from my collection that have gone “missing”. One of the titles is clearly on the racist end of the spectrum, but when I looked it up, I saw that it’s circulation numbers were pretty good (which is…alarming). If this were any other book, I would immediately replace it. As it is, I’m struggling hardcore with feeling strongly that I don’t want to add it to my collection, but also feeling like I probably should. But that’s what being a library is about–having a balanced collection despite personal beliefs. Obviously there are lines and I’m trying to decide which side of the line this particular book falls on.

5. Not always getting to attend events

My library has a ton of author visits (six this month alone!) but they’re often at night. Unfortunately, I work nights and weekends so I’m usually working the desk while these events are happening so I don’t get to go 😦

6. Writing book summaries

This might seem super trivial to some, but writing book summaries is HARD! At least, for me it is. And as a librarian, I’ve had to write A LOT of book summaries. Book lists, reviews, etc. It gets exhausting.

Fellow librarians/library workers: what’s your least favorite part of the job? Non-library workers: what do you think your favorite part of working at a library would be?

Let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve read some of these books [Mini-Reviews]

There are so many books that I read last year that I still haven’t gotten around to reviewing. Hopefully, this post can make a (small) dent in that list.

mini-reviews

The Conspiracy of Us and Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

map of fates

conspiracy of us

I really thought I was going to like these books because it seemed like it was going to be one massive treasure hunt. Instead, we’re gifted with insta-love and a completely unnecessary love triangle. I also don’t really understand why there’s this slight magical element? I mean, one of the characters is literally fireproof and I don’t know how that can be explained without magic. The main character is so naive and very annoying. I never understand why protagonists have such a hard time being left behind on “missions” when they have no training and would clearly only get in the way. I, personally, would be happy to sit on my behind in the hotel room and let people with ACTUAL TRAINING take care of the dangerous stuff. I honestly don’t know why I even bothered with the second book, but I am definitely NOT going to be reading the third one. 3/5

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Orphan Monster SpyI wasn’t super impressed by this book. I thought it actually started off pretty strong, but it didn’t maintain that excitement through to the end. While I felt like it had a different tone from most books, that didn’t really make things any more interesting. The plot was fine, but not super engaging and I had a hard time figuring out what the end goal was supposed to be. Our main character is going through a bunch of stuff, but for what? I also didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters. The main character was…fine. Kind of bland–you really don’t get to know her that well. The author also chose to include some pretty messed up characters, but I didn’t really feel like they added to the story. 3/5

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The ArchivedThis book had been on my TBR forever because I really liked the Monsters of Verity duology. Also, I love any kind of twist on the “library” so if you know any good alternate library books, let me know in the comments! To get into my review, I felt like the world was pretty complex and didn’t really get explained very well at the beginning, which just left me feeling confused. I was also very confused for the first three chapters because I didn’t realize that Da and Dad were not both Mackenzie’s father. I liked Mackenzie as a main character, but she made some really questionable decisions. I never really understood her resistance for sharing information with the librarians, but especially Roland. He seemed to obviously be on her side and some things could have been prevented if she had been more transparent. I thought Wesley was a bit much as a character, but I did like watching his relationship with Mackenzie develop. Owen, on the other hand…that relationship seemed to come out of nowhere. In the end, there was a twist that I did NOT see coming and I’m just left with so many questions. Like, what is up with Ms. Angelli? Such a mystery. 4/5

ebook | Paperback

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

The ChristmasaurusThis is such a fun middle grade Christmas book. The language was pretty silly throughout, so I would definitely recommend for younger middle grade readers, but I think that age will find the silly language really enjoyable. This book has wheelchair representation which I don’t think I’ve seen in any other books–let alone middle grade. I’m no expert, but it felt like it was portrayed accurately and definitely felt super respectful. I also thought that the characters developed in a realistic way. Even though Brenda is horrible, I felt like I understood her and that’s not always the case with antagonists. I loved all of the illustrations throughout and the Christmas feels were SO STRONG. There’s a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming (am I just oblivious???) which was such a fun surprise. I recommend getting the version of the book that comes with the soundtrack–not necessary, but a really fun and festive bonus. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Musical Edition

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Two Dark ReignsOkay, I’m hoping to get through this review without any spoilers, but it’s book three in the series, so I’m really sorry if I reveal anything from the first two books–unintentional. After the second book I wasn’t sure how invested I would be in the rest of the story–I didn’t really see where Blake could take it from there. However, the third book got me reinvested real quick. I found myself liking this book much more than the second one and the different POVs continued to be a nice change of pace. I enjoyed each POV equally. There continue to be many, many questions and I need the next book asap. The ending took me by surprise and I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on or what’s going to happen. There’s some interesting things going on on the island and I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton

my plain janeI love this series! The tone is fun and light and easy to enjoy. Once again, I thought the rotating perspective worked well, but Jane’s sections were probably my least favorite. I do wish that I’d read Jane Eyre first, though, because there are certain plot points that were so strange and I don’t know if they were extra or if they’re part of the original text. This is partly why one of my 2019 reading goals is to read Jane Eyre. I also liked that this is somewhat of a “Jane Eyre origin story”. The plot itself was good, but not completely thought out or explained. Why do the talismans work on ghosts? What really determines if a ghost moves on or not? Is a special “moving on” room really necessary? I also felt like red rooms were mentioned several times and I don’t really know why. Despite all that, the tone of the book is so enjoyable that I happily overlooked the times when things weren’t fully explained and I’m excited to continue on with this series. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover


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DISCUSSION: What it’s like to work at a library

Hello everyone! I’ve been so flaky on here lately and I APOLOGIZE. Life has been hectic to say the least. New baby, new job…you know how it goes. But everything’s good and everyone’s good and I’m finally ready to share a new part of my life with you!

I just started a part-time job at my local public library and I LOVE IT. I’d been sitting on my MLS for a couple of years without doing anything with it because I already had a full-time job with great benefits and I wasn’t finding any comparable library jobs opening up in my area. Then I had my baby and I’ve been concentrating on that for a bit. In September, I saw a listing for a part-time Librarian position and it felt like good timing for me to go back to work so I applied and I got it! I started at the end of September so I’ve only been working for a couple of months, but it’s been a really great experience so far.

Right now I’m working 24 hours a week as an Adult/Teen Services & Reference Librarian. Here are some of my day-to-day duties:

  • Reference desk – This consists of helping patrons face-to-face with questions or problems they may have, book recommendations, selling internet passes, and scheduling our private study rooms.
  • Collection Development – I’m over the 900s which is mostly Travel and History. I’m in charge of maintaining the collection and purchasing new materials.
  • Various library teams – I’m currently on teams for Supplies, Inter-Library Loans, and Booklists.
  • Programming – I have yet to do any programming, but my first active teen program is scheduled for February. I’ll also be doing some family programming.
  • Professional Development/Training – My manager puts out a job chart every month with various tasks like exploring our Special Collections, making sure we know how to use various services that we provide, etc.

One of the big things that stood out to me with this library is that all librarians, even the part-timers like me, are over a collection. I think that’s so cool! I’ve loved everything that I’ve been asked to do so far, but I’m a little nervous about doing programs. I’m not really a “stand at the front of the room” kind of person…so we’ll see how that goes.

Now I’ll toss it over to you guys, do you have any questions about what it’s like to work in a library? Or, if you also work in a library, what has it been like for you?

The Evil Library Strikes Again | Paper & Fire by Rachel Caine [ARC]

Warning: This is the second book in a series and so may contain spoilers for the first book. Click here to read my review on the first book, Ink & Bone.

JesPaper and Fires Brightwell has been adjusting to life as one of the High Garda, but that’s not all he’s been doing. He has reason to believe that his friend, Thomas Schreiber, is not actually dead like he’s been told. Jess thinks that finding the Black Archives may be the key to locating where Thomas is being kept, but nobody knows if the Black Archives actually exist. As Jess and his fellow former-postulants research this sensitive topic, they will find that they have uncovered much more than they bargained for. In order to survive, each of them will have to choose: Friends? Or the Library?

This was a great follow-up to the first book. Each character stays true to their original descriptions and I felt like their motivations and actions in this book still made sense. I like the variety that we have with characters too. We have Glain who’s super tough, then there’s Dario who we all still kind of hate, and then there’s Khalila who is smart and just so kind. They all contribute to make the group dynamic really interesting and enjoyable. There are a couple of characters who I don’t enjoy as much–mostly I feel like they tend to stand in the way of moving the plot forward–but overall the group is enjoyable.

Something that I didn’t necessarily anticipate is the depth of the characters’ relationships with each other. Thinking back on the events of the first book I guess it makes sense that they’ve all formed such a strong bond, but I didn’t feel like that bond was ever really shown or developed all that much in the first book. At least, I didn’t see it. This carries over to Jess’s relationship with Morgan. All of the sudden they’re really serious about each other and I’m just left going, “Wait, what? Where did all of these super strong feelings come from?”

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed this series. This book ends on such a cliffhanger! I can’t wait for the third book to come out. Another thing is that I LOVE these covers! They’re just colorful and interesting, yet kind of subtle at the same time. I definitely recommend these books.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.