September Reads

Another month has gone by! Once again, my opportunities to read were limited: studying astrophysics is a full-time job, and along with my actual full-time design job, I rarely have a chance to sit down and read. It feels weird not reading ARCs anymore!

But I have been slowly tackling my TBR. Here are a few of the books I read this month.

Church of Marvels

25308876New York, 1895. Sylvan Threadgill, a night soiler cleaning out the privies behind the tenement houses, finds an abandoned newborn baby in the muck. An orphan himself, Sylvan rescues the child, determined to find where she belongs.

Odile Church and her beautiful sister, Belle, were raised amid the applause and magical pageantry of The Church of Marvels, their mother’s spectacular Coney Island sideshow. But the Church has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in its ashes. Now Belle, the family’s star, has vanished into the bowels of Manhattan, leaving Odile alone and desperate to find her.

A young woman named Alphie awakens to find herself trapped across the river in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum—sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband’s vile, overbearing mother. On the ward she meets another young woman of ethereal beauty who does not speak, a girl with an extraordinary talent that might save them both.

As these strangers’ lives become increasingly connected, their stories and secrets unfold. Moving from the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular human circus to a brutal, terrifying asylum, Church of Marvels takes readers back to turn-of-the-century New York—a city of hardship and dreams, love and loneliness, hope and danger. In magnetic, luminous prose, Leslie Parry offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past in a narrative of astonishing beauty, full of wondrous enchantments-a marvelous debut that will leave readers breathless.

This was one of the books I got in my massive “book of the month club” haul, and one I had been meaning to read for quite a long time. I had an odd fascination with turn of the century NYC, and Church of Marvels promised me coney island sideshows, asylums, and orphans. It sounded fun!

And it delivered. Wow. What a great book! Amazing twists, great characters… the way it all ties together took me completely by surprise. It was completely unexpected, yet fit so well, as if the author wove a perfect tapestry. It’s not fast-paced, but it is engrossing.

My review: ★★★★☆


 

When Dimple Met Rishi

28458598Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

I can definitely see why so many people recommended this book. It’s so cute! It’s so sweet! It’s got everything I want from a novel: awesome main characters, a girl who loves coding (my heart!), dance offs, friendships, and of course, a growing romance.

Dimple is such a sweet, brilliant, relatable main character. Other having Indian heritage, I was JUST like her when I graduated high school! She’s passionate and smart, but doesn’t have any of the nerd tropes. She’s human! And adorable.

And Rishi… he wears his heart on a sleeve, he’s just so honest and loving. He loves his family, which is why he respects their wishes. He loves Dimple, despite not knowing her at all, and then falls in love with her all over again once they meet.

The ending is perfect and just like warm Nutella for your heart. Don’t miss this one!

My review: ★★★★☆


The Princess Diarist

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The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

This book is not what I expected: the book jacket is very misleading. When I bought it, I thought I was going to get an inside view of what life was like on the set of Star Wars, but in fact, it’s closer to Carrie Fisher’s Wishful drinking. A retrospective – an introspective retrospective – about her life in general, and how Star Wars changed her world forever. Which is not to say we don’t get a bit of her time on set, but that portion focuses on her affair with Harrison Ford.

Carrie’s voice is perfect. Her wit is perfect. Her poetry is perfect. It’s a fantastic look inside her brain, both as she was writing the novel, and 40 years ago. How she lived and dealt with the hordes of fans. But the focus really is on Carrison (taking up at least the middle half the book) when I picked up this book expecting something entirely different.

My review: ★★★☆☆


Home (Binti #2)

It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she left her family to pursue her dream.And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.

But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.

After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

I discovered Binti a few months ago and was instantly hooked. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The first novella transported me to a world where mathematicians were harmonizers, humans were minorities in the alien order, and Binti is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University.

In the sequel, Binti has been at Oomza University for year, and she struggles with post-traumatic stress from her original encounter with the Meduse.  That’s a huge problem for someone who’s supposed to be a master harmonizer and a master of meditation through mathematics. She believes that the issue is that she needs to return home and go on pilgrimage with other Himba.

What I love about this series is how it presents a completely alien world to us… despite the Himba being real people from Namibia. Seeing a future that’s not centered on the cultures I know changes my view of the universe entirely.

WHile it really had the feel of a second book in a trilogy, and doesn’t wrap up anywhere near as neatly as the first book, it give us a reasonable explanation for the central deus ex machina from the first book (Binti’s possession of the edan) and makes us long for book three, which comes out in January.

My review: ★★★★★


 

Have you read these books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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