Books About Strong Women For Strong Women

Christmas is coming up very soon and if you are trying to find a last minute gift idea for a strong woman in your life, then why not get her a book? When I think about strong women in my life, I think about my mom and my grandma because they inspire me to work hard. I’m sure whoever you think of in your life, would love to read about inspirational women like themselves.

Here is a list of books with a strong female character that is brave, resilient, and everything in between. This list contains nonfiction and fiction because even fictional women characters can be inspirational. I have read some of these, but not all of them. Some of them are ones I hope to read in the future.

Books I’ve Read

1. I am Malala- Malala Yousafzai

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This is a powerful biography about Malala’s life before and after she was shot by the Taliban for speaking out for girls’ education. I got a lot out of this book and learned a lot about Malala’s activism and about the history of Pakistan. Malala was the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate at age sixteen and continues to advocate for the right for girls to get an education. She also has a movie called I am Malala that was very good.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” ~Malala Yousafzai

2. Americanah- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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This is a story about two Nigerians named Obinze and Ifemelu who are in love. It chronicles each of their journeys as they leave a military dictatorship in Nigeria. Ifemelu heads to America, while Obinze goes to England. In Ifemelu’s part of the story, we are able to see her adjustment to life in America as an immigrant and the adversity that she faces. Ifemelu’s dialogue throughout the story is smart and witty and she is a very lovable character. I love Chimamanda’s writing style and will definitely read more of her books. She has also given some great TedTalks that I will link here…

The Danger of a Single Story

We Should All Be Feminists

“How easy it was to lie to strangers, to create with strangers the versions of our lives we imagined.”~Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

3. Wild- Cheryl Strayed

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This is Cheryl Strayed’s story about how she hiked The Pacific Crest Trail alone in order to deal with her mother’s death. This book chronicles all of the challenges that she faced on her hike and how it ultimately healed her. I actually watched the movie before reading this and it made me want to pick the book up so I would definitely recommend the movie as well.

” The universe, I’d learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.” ~Cheryl Strayed

Books I Want to Read

1. A Thousand Splendid Suns- Khaled Hosseini

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This is about two women living in Kabul, Afghanistan who form a close fond. It deals with their struggles with family, war, and loss. I have seen a lot of really good reviews for this, so I’m expecting to like it a lot. I also read Hosseini’s other book, The Kite Runner, and loved it.

“One could not count the moons that shiver on her roofs or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.” ~Khaled Hosseini

2. The Diary of A Young Girl- Anne Frank

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This one is pretty obvious. I think everyone has heard of Anne Frank and at least a little bit of her story with the Holocaust. I feel like it’s about time that I finally read her diary. She was definitely very inspirational.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”~Anne Frank

3. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings- Maya Angelou

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This book follows the life and struggles of a girl named Maya who has to deal with the feeling of abandonment from her mother and an attack from a man much older than her. This is a story of personal growth and how Maya learns to love herself. This would be the perfect gift for any Maya Angelou fans.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” ~Maya Angelou

Hopefully, this list gave you some good ideas about what to gift someone in your life who has inspired you!

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Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description (Goodreads)

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. 

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

My Thoughts

I feel like many people read this as a child and if they did then they loved it and hold it in high regards. I definitely owned this book as a child, but for some reason I never read it. However, reading it now makes me feel like I really missed out! This is the type of book that I think I would have really liked as a kid (not saying I didn’t like it now; I’m just thinking back to childhood).

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I loved how unique the concept was and how it made me think of time and space in a very new way. Everything about this story was like nothing I have ever read before and that was very nice.

I also really liked the three main characters, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin. They were all very loveable and I enjoyed reading about their journey. I wish I were part of there trio (but I guess, then it wouldn’t be a trio anymore). Nonetheless, they were all people who I would love to be friends with.

One really big thing that I loved about the book was how much it emphasized Meg’s realization that adults can’t fix everything. I thought it showed this in a really clever way. It made me feel like I came to this realization with Meg because the whole time I was thinking that the older people in the story would know what to do and everything would be ok if they took care of it. Once I realized this wasn’t the case and everyone was in very real danger, I got really worried for all the characters and thought that there was absolutely no way for everything to work out alright. You’ll just have to read the book to see if it did or not.

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The reason I didn’t give this book a higher rating was completely a personal reason. I feel like if I had read it as a kid, then I would have felt a little more connected to the story. I don’t want to make it seem like I didn’t love this book, it’s just that I read it pretty quickly and am not quite sure if I got really invested in it. I know that is a little confusing, but that’s just how I felt after finishing it.

The characters Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who were so fun to read. The fact that they couldn’t even describe what they were to humans made me think about how little we probably know about the universe. This was also the case when Meg got to know the creature from a different planet and she couldn’t figure out how to describe sight to something that only feels.

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One last thing…. I think there is a movie coming out based on this book and I am really excited to see it after reading the book! I know the book is usually better, but that doesn’t mean the movie adaptations aren’t fun to watch too!

Book Review: Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both. 

Are psychological thrillers the books for me?

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I have to admit, that this is a very new genre for me. I think the only other psychological thriller novel that I have read, was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Well, I guess you could classify The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon as a thriller, but I wouldn’t say it’s psychological….it’s more historical fiction.

So this is is pretty new territory for me and that begs the question of whether or not I will continue on with the genre after reading this book. The answer is yes, but in small quantities and not very frequently. Now, I will try to explain why this is the case in the following paragraphs.

Creepiness Factor

I realize that the creepiness factor is kind of a necessity when it comes to thrillers….especially PSYCHOLOGICAL thrillers. Nonetheless though, I’m still debating how much of this I can take. This book was filled with characters that confused me and creeped me out.

It seemed almost like at the end of each chapter, there would be a sentence from the character’s perspective that was so incredibly out there that I would automatically think, “That’s it! They’re the killer! They must be! Only the killer would know that information! Only the killer would think something like that, right?”.

Honestly, the fact that every chapter ended this way, made me not want to put this book down. I was so engrossed in the story and could not stop turning page after page.

Therefore, I can probably sum up how I feel by saying that this book was really good and something I couldn’t put down, but at the same time, it was so creepy that I think I can only handle small doses of something like this again in the future. However, we’ll just have to wait and see…

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Not Everyone is What You Perceive Them As

I know I keep saying that a lot of the characters in this story are really creepy (and they are), but I was also able to empathize with their struggles and their longings. I think that is the sign of really good character development.

This story really tried to empathize the fact that you will never be able to fully know another person without actually being them. This is the case, no matter how close you are towards them.


“You can only see fifty-nine percent of the moon from the earth’s surface. No matter where you go, in the entire world, you’ll only ever see the same face. That fifty-nine percent.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I’m just saying. We know this fact, but it doesn’t stop us from staring.”


I think this lesson also played a big role in the way that I perceived the characters. There were a couple of characters who I borderline hated at the beginning, but as it got towards the end, I realized that I only hated them because of the way that I perceived them from the outside. Once I knew their motives, it changed my perspective a tad bit. I’m not saying that it made me absolutely love them, but it did make me not completely hate them. There was one character though that I did end up liking.

That’s the beauty of books and how we are able to see into a character’s thoughts. Anyways, I’m not going to say any more because you should go into the story knowing very little about the specifics of any of the people.

Beautiful Writing

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I really enjoyed the writing in this book. It was beautiful and I personally found it really easy to read. Also, there were few quotes that kept reminding me of ways that John Green usually phrases and describes things.

About halfway through this story, I was ready to classify it as a creepy/philosophical/mysterious/John Greenish type book. Seriously, this book was way more philosophical than I was expecting. If you’ve read this already and totally disagree with me, that’s ok, that is just what I kept thinking while reading it. Here are some quotes so you can see what I’m talking about….

  • “Shock is just sadness that hasn’t reached the gut”
  • “A series of plateaus. You keep sliding down, and eventually, you hit the water. You look around at the black and endless expanse, and you swim because you’ve known no other landscape. You’re sure that on the other side of the reservoir there’s another mountain waiting, with other cliffs.”
  • ” It makes you wonder, doesn’t it– how it’s possible to be a secondary character in your own story.”
  • “Pine Ridge Point was like the middle of your favorite song– between the bridge and the chorus, where you held your breath and waited for the inevitable boom of music to take you away.”

 

ARC Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

My Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: September 5th 2017

Page Count: 372

Description

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Overall

This is a creative, fairytale retelling of a combination of Snow White and Frozen. Doesn’t that sound awesome! It markets itself as a feminist fairytale and I would agree because I found the two leading female characters to be quite strong and empowering. I generally enjoyed this story, but I couldn’t give it a higher rating because I did have a few issues with it. Mainly, it was because the middle of the story seemed a bit slow. It didn’t seem like that much action was going on and the plot kind of dragged. However, when I began to reach the end, it started to pick up and I was able to get more engaged in the book. I also thought that the writing was a bit simple and didn’t leave much for the reader to assume. Overall though, I liked the concept of this book and the creativity behind the retelling.

Creativity

To be honest, I didn’t know that this was a snow white/frozen retelling going into the story, but once I realized that it was, it was nice seeing all of the connections that were made. I appreciated how clever and creative the storyline was. It seemed like all of the details fit together well, however, I would have liked to have had a little more detail on the magic in this world and the rules behind it. I think to compensate for the lack of magical background, the story tried to stay more centered around the development of the characters. Character development is something this book did very well. I liked how none of the characters were all good or all bad. They each were flawed and complex people in their own way. If you like books with good characters, then this is the book for you!

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Mina

Mina is the stepmother of the princess, Lynet, and the queen of the kingdom. I really enjoyed Mina’s character. I thought she was very complex and well thought out. Throughout the story, she was forced to grapple with either becoming evil and letting her father win or letting love win. I really liked the relationship between Mina and Lynet because we get to know their backstories and how they came to be so close to each other. Mina was a refreshing spin on the classic evil queen.

Feminist Fairytale

The book has alternating points of view throughout the chapters from both Mina and Lynet, and this was definitely the way to do it. Both of these characters were able to show their growth and how they became stronger from their setbacks. A feminist fairytale is a great way to describe this because there was no prince sweeping in to save the day. Everything was up to the cleverness of the two female characters. There was a romantic relationship between Lynet and another girl and I thought this was quite nice because you don’t see that represented very often in books. Nonetheless though, romance did not take over the plot.

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Conclusion

If you are looking for a retelling story to read, then I think this would be a good one. It didn’t blow me away, but I appreciated its creativity. Even though I probably wouldn’t pick it up again, I have a feeling that other people might really enjoy this depending on their reading tastes.

I won this arc in a giveaway from Flatiron Books, but all of the opinions in this review are my own. 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass releases on September 5th 2017 so be on the lookout for this book soon!

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My Goodreads Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description

Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.

Overall

This book is a nonfiction book and I rarely if ever pick up nonfiction books. I would have read this book for a health sciences class that I almost took in high school, but I didn’t end up taking the class and therefore, never read it. However, I heard a lot of people raving about it and knew that I had to pick it up at some point. I finally did and I’m so  happy to report that it was such a good book! This story was fascinating and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t want to put it down. I was in a reading slump before I read this and I cannot believe that this book got me out of that slump (seriously, who would think that a nonfiction read would get me out of a reading slump??). I feel like I learned so much from this book in regards to medical ethics, cell culture in labs, and the debate over informed consent when it comes to using a person’s tissue samples for medical research. I hope to someday go into a medically related career (not sure what yet) and I think this book will really benefit me as I go on to college to study science. In fact, I feel like this book is a must read for anyone who is thinking about going into the medical field. It made me want to read more books that deal with medical topics and to learn more about current scientific issues.

The Importance of HeLa Cells

I had absolutely no idea the immense role that HeLa cells have played and have yet to play in scientific research. Some of these things include developing the first polio vaccine, helping scientists discover the 46 chromosomes in humans, helping determine that HPV causes cancer, helping to study the effects of radiation, helping develop treatments for Parkinson’s Disease/ influenza/ leukemia/ hemophilia, helping in research on what causes aging, and many other things. HeLa cells are used around the world and yet they were taken from one woman, Henrietta Lacks, who was a black woman in America. She is one of the most important people in medical history and she never knew that her cells were taken from her for research.

The Issues of Informed Consent and Compensation

I think this book showed us very well how much trouble the Lacks family went through due to Henrietta’s cells being used so widely in research. They were never compensated for their mother’s contribution to science nor were they told much of anything that was going on at all. The family went through a lot of distress from not being told much about the uses of Henrietta’s cells and it really made me feel bad for them. I learned a lot about how important informed consent is in today’s society because in the 50’s it wasn’t a thing and it caused a lot of problems. I also learned how complicated the topic of compensation is in the world of tissue/cell research. On one hand, the book shows us how hard it was on the Lacks family to not have benefitted from their mother’s cells, but on the other hand, it shows us how hard it would be to compensate every person for their contribution to tissue/cell research and still make progressive advances toward scientific discoveries. This story made me think a lot about how steps toward compensation for the use of a person’s cells in research should be handled. If you want to be in the know about this very important debate in science, then read this book.

Structure of the Story

This story is structured around the journey that the author, Rebecca Skloot, takes in gathering all of her knowledge on the subject. Some of the chapters are just the story of Henrietta’s life, while others follow Rebecca’s interviews with members of the Lacks family and other important people related to HeLa cells. I personally liked the way that this was set up because it made me feel as though I was going on the research journey with her and discovering things as she did. I also really appreciated the fact that she kept the dialogue of the characters exactly how they would speak in real life. This made it feel very authentic.

Quotes

“She’s the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother is so important to science, why can’t we get health insurance?”

“When he asked if she was okay, her eyes welled with tears and she said, “Like I’m always telling my brothers, if you gonna go into history, you can’t do it with a hate attitude. You got to remember, times was different.”

“Black scientists and technicians, many of them women, used cells from a black woman to help save the lives of millions of Americans, most of them white. And they did so on the same campus—and at the very same time—that state officials were conducting the infamous Tuskegee syphilis studies.”

Please read this book, I highly recommend it!

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars

I had a lot of trouble rating this one. When I first finished it, I remember being very impressed by the ending so I wanted to rate it really high (4.5 stars). However, I decided to give it a day and let it digest, but now I am conflicted. I like to keep my highest book ratings (my 5’s and 4.5’s) for books that I know will stay with me for awhile and I’m still not sure whether or not this one will. Nonetheless though, this story was really good and I’m really glad I picked it up. Here is what this story is about….

Description

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

Will this Story Stay With Me?

As for whether or not this story will stay with me… I guess the only way to find out is with the passing of time. In the meantime though, I don’t want that to be a deciding factor over whether or not YOU should pick this one up. I think this is the perfect book to read if you want a terrifying story that will make you genuinely fearful for the main character. I would suggest reading this around Halloween time because I think that would be fun. So please just know that this was a great book and that I highly recommend it.

Overall

I think the biggest thing I got from this book is that there are no limitations in this world! I came to this conclusion from the story and just thinking about how Neil Gaiman’s mind came up with this storyline. Seriously, how in the world?? It kind of makes me wonder if he had some sort of nightmare one night that gave him this idea. I say this because, that’s what this book felt like to me— A nightmare that I might have had as a child (or now too I guess). However, I really shouldn’t have been surprised by this since this is Gaiman’s specialty. This book was whimsical, mystical, terrifying, fairytaleish (not a word), and unique. Man, that’s a lot of adjectives, but honestly I can’t describe the story using less. I have now read his books Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and this one. And I definitely want to read more.

 

The Feelings I Felt While Reading

I felt a combination of fear, hate, trust, and wonder while reading this. The characters seemed really real and I am only realizing now as I sit down to write this review that the main character didn’t even have a name! That is crazy and I feel so stupid for only realizing this now! I suspect that this was done on purpose in order to make it feel as though the reader is experiencing everything personally and it totally worked! I genuinely felt like I could trust Lettie with my life, that the Hempstocks would keep me safe, that the parents couldn’t be confided in, that Ursula would destroy my happiness, and that I should feel guilty for letting go.

Quotes

There were a lot of really great quotes in this story and here are some of my favorites:

  • ” Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one in the whole wide world.” She thought for a moment Then she smiled. “Except for Granny, of course.”
  • “Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.”
  • “Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”

 

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 Stars

Goodreads Description (shortened version):

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, 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.

Overall

I really enjoyed this book. It was mystical, magical, and enchanting. Basically, this book was right up my alley with things that I enjoy in a book. It made me feel like magic is real and it had quirky/unique characters. I loved Bailey and I thought the idea of the reveurs for the circus was really cool. The reason I couldn’t give this one four stars though is because I think I read it too slowly for all of the details that were needed to be remembered (I was in a reading slump). There were a lot of confusing things in this story, but I am hoping that this was done on purpose. The competition taking place in the circus is supposed to be very unclear to the two main characters (Marco and Celia), therefore, it is very unclear to the audience as well. I don’t have any problem with that though! I think that is what helped make the story so magical, because magic should not be able to be explained. However, the switching between different times and the foreshadowing (especially when some characters knew the future) messed with my mind a bit. I think I might need to read this one again sometime in the future, now that I have a better understanding of it. Maybe then I will have a better experience.

Trusting the Reader to Assume Things

I’ve never thought about this aspect of a book before, but for some reason I thought that this book did a really good job of it. The Night Circus is supposed to be a giant enigma, therefore, if Morgenstern would have had the characters explain everything that they were thinking and talking about, then the story would not have been the same. There were a lot of places in this story where I just had to infer as to what the characters were trying to allude to and I kind of enjoyed that.

Atmosphere of the Story

The atmosphere and the setting of this story is almost incomparable to anything I have read before. The creativity behind what was inside each of the circus tents was so fun to read! I will admit though, that I did lose focus while reading the descriptions of a lot of the magical places and had to go back and reread them. This is because I’m not fond of reading too much into the setting of places in a story. However, I think it says a lot about the book that I did find reading about the circus enjoyable (whenever I was able to focus).

Quotes

There were a lot of quotes in the story that I really liked. Here are a few that I marked…

  • “People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told they see.”
  • “It is too difficult to see a situation for what it is when you are in the middle of it,”Tsukiko says. “It is too familiar. Too comfortable.”
  • “People don’t pay to much attention to anything unless you give them reason to.”
  • “I am haunted by the ghost of my father, I think that should allow me to quote Hamlet as much as I please.”
  • “And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur […]”

Conclusion

I feel like I have been really lucky lately because I can’t think of any bad book that I have recently read. Thankfully The Night Circus didn’t break this streak!