THE BOOKS I READ ABROAD

Dear Reader,

I always try to make reading a priority. This is a lot easier when I have more free time, but even when I have free time, I don’t always devote it to reading. I haven’t read nearly as many books this summer as I would’ve liked–although I will argue that I’ve been productive. I’ve been trying to write and organize some things and I’ve actually left the apartment on occasion to go to the rec and work out. Big things are happening.

It’s funny, though, because I had a lot less free time in Europe, but I spent the majority of it reading. Wifi wasn’t always available (or reliable), but I had three books in my bags that always were. Also, while I enjoyed the people on the trip, it was exhausting having to constantly interact with people. I would often slip to the back of the bus or up to my hotel room when I needed an escape.

God I love books.

I started chipping away at The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern at the beginning of the trip. The storyline is really intricate and seems pretty convoluted at first, so I would just read a few chapters before bed while I stayed in Luxembourg. At the end of the week, though, we took a six-hour bus ride to Switzerland.

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This was heaven. I claimed the last row of seats, sprawled out, and read the last 200-or-so pages.

I really don’t binge books like this that often. The only books I read in one sitting tend to be graphic novels or short books that I need to finish for class. The Night Circus was completely different for me.

The story jumps back and forth between time and tells it from multiple different perspectives, but once you get to the point of the book where you’ve figured it all out–and once you get to the point where all the side stories are reaching their climaxes–it’s hard to put it down.

I was completely captivated–and I’m sure the people around me would’ve noticed my occasional audible reactions if they weren’t asleep or had headphones on. I wouldn’t have cared, though. I was nestled up against the window so the falling rain would be in my peripheral and didn’t take my nose out of the book until it was done.

The writing is so vivid that I saw it all playing out like a movie in my head, but I think that it would work so well as a series because there are so many twists and turns–it wouldn’t be hard to ensure that each episode has a cliffhanger or two. I would love if this turned into a Netflix series or something. In this day, we have so much that could ensure that it would be visually stunning and truly magical.

Of course, that’s a risky thing to wish for because I would hate if they screwed it up–Eragon and Percy Jackson fans were pumped for their movies, and those certainly didn’t live up. That’s the risk when you have a book that good–and The Night Circus is that good.

It’s definitely one of my new favorites and is a story that’s going to stay with me. After I put it down and went back to the real world, I felt like I could see the beautiful things in life so much clearer. It might’ve been because I was in Europe and seeing cool sites anyway, but a week after I finished it, I was walking around Prater in Vienna–not a circus, but an amusement park. It might have reminded me of this book because of how old it is and all the history it has, but I was walking around, thinking, there’s definitely magic in this air.

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While in Luxembourg, my friends and I went to an English bookstore. I picked up a book called Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend and knew I had to buy it after reading the back. Ultimately, it’s a story about a girl who travels from Sweden to the US to visit a friend. She ends up in a town in the middle of nowhere and ends up opening a bookstore.

First of all, I’m a sucker for books about books. I think most booklovers are. When books you already love are mentioned, you gain a connection to the story and the characters that are talking about them, and when books you haven’t yet read are brought up, you get more books to add to your reading list. Plus, the protagonist that loves books more than people is too relatable.

Second, I knew I had to buy it as a memento from the trip. I’m constantly trying to build my library, and when I put this one in my classroom, I can say that it’s a book that I bought while I was studying other school systems and learning how to be a better teacher, which I think is cool as hell. It also at least mentions travelling/Europe, so it’s relevant in that case, and it’s translated from Swedish to English–which I also think is cool.

As for the story, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Again, though, this is in part because I’m a sucker. The story begins by describing the main character as too plain to be a protagonist and too focused on stories to have a life of her own. This immediately sets the book up to be relatable, and then when everything that you would expect to happen happens, you just feel comforted.

There are enough secondary storylines and gems within the novel (book recommendations, fun anecdotes, good quotes) that I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything by spelling out the pattern.

Young woman moves to small town and falls in love with the life she ends up living there. She opens a bookstore, makes friends, and falls in love. That’s the dream. That’s the cliche, and it’s all set up from the beginning that her life is not like a book–but then, obviously, her life has to end up as a story worth telling.

So I really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t rate it 5 stars or even recommend it to everyone–I told Sarah to read it and she decided she was done with it within 100 pages. It’s pretty lengthy, and while it drags in some places, I would say it even leaves a bit to be desired. Still, I liked it. And I liked that I read it abroad. I’ll look at it on my shelf and think back to buying it in Luxembourg and reading it in the Swiss Alps. I smiled like a goof at some of the pages and decided almost immediately that I would love to own a bookstore one day. It’s not for everyone, but I was entertained and even a bit inspired. That’s a good read by my standards.

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Around Christmastime, I bought Where’d You Go, Bernadette and was really excited about it because I had heard how smart and funny it was. So I started it in January–around the same time that I also started a classical mythology class that turned out to be way more demanding than I had figured. That was the main reason why I put the book back on the shelf after finishing “Part 1,” but the reason why I never went back to it is because I just wasn’t that interested.

I certainly saw merit in the praise it received. I thought the characters were really well developed and the writing was great–everything was smart and funny all around. I guess I just didn’t see the point of the book, I guess. This is kind of funny now that I’ve finished it because I can see it clearly now–and I can see why I was so uninterested. Though there is a driving plot in the story, this novel is so much more about what it has to say, now what it has to tell about what happened.

The story is about Bernadette, a wife and mother, who disappears, and her young teen daughter who is trying to find her. The story is told from letters and emails from multiple characters and direct narration from Bee (the daughter), but because Bernadette’s voice is still present throughout, you’re not worried that she’s really gone or won’t be found–or, at least, I wasn’t.

So even though the plot summary may make it seem like it’s a gripping mystery, that’s probably not the best expectation to have. It’s more a story about family and love. Bernadette is neurotic and has crazy standards for success and it’s interesting to see watch as everything comes together.

It really is an enjoyable read. All of the characters are super intelligent and Bee is so lovable–even when Bernadette isn’t. I’ll definitely be rereading it, though, and I’m excited to see how I see the story with the new perspective I now have because of it.

God, aren’t books great?

Sincerely,

Sammy

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2 thoughts on “THE BOOKS I READ ABROAD

  1. Kathy @ Books & Munches says:

    I immediately added The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend to my TBR. Like you said, if you’re a bookworm you just cannot not read a book about another booklover. Or about books in general. That’s just not possible, haha.

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