Book Review: The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

Goodreads

I am about to gush and swoon all over the place (and this might also be a bit stream of consciousness), so be prepared.

That summary from Goodreads does not do this book justice.

The Starless Sea is love stories, and fairy tales, and metaphors, and stories within stories, and stories about stories, and though Fate doesn’t like any of it being described this way, The Starless Sea is magic. It is truly magical.

I find it so hard to talk about books that I fall in love with. It’s so hard to put into words what these books make me feel. Because aside from the writing and the story (stories) being just lovely, The Starless Sea is a feeling. It is a feeling of glowing warmth starting in my center and radiating outward. It is the feeling I get when I have been away from loved ones for a long time and I finally get to be with them and hug them and spend time with them. It is a yearning feeling that comes from wanting magic and magical lands to be real.

The Starless Sea is one of those books that truly sucked me in and made me feel like I was there, following Zachary and Dorian and Mirabel, watching them move through the many stories they find themselves in.

And oh, but what I wouldn’t give for it all to be true, and to find a random, beautifully-painted door where a door shouldn’t be, to open that door and find myself in a Harbor on the the Starless Sea, to become an acolyte or a guardian or the Keeper herself. Loving stories like The Starless Sea and wanting them to be real is a bittersweet ache in the center of my chest. As long as people like Erin Morgenstern continue to write stories like these, I will continue to read them and pretend that they are possible, that someone somewhere is living a magical life and I’m happy for them, even if that someone isn’t me and I’m just watching from the sidelines.

Do you understand now how much I loved this book?

Morgenstern borrowed a few ideas and tidbits from other stories to write this one, and I also love those stories. I don’t know if they were meant to be Easter eggs or if they were meant to be more obvious than that, but every time I found one, I smiled.

I don’t know what else I can say to convince you to read The Starless Sea. Stories are meant to be shared and I want to share this one with everyone I know. Of all the books I’ve read and enjoyed so far this year, this one is easily at the top of my list now and I’m quite sure it will stay there. I want to start from the beginning and reread it right now (and I just finished it fifteen minutes ago).

But this is not where their story ends.
Their story is only just beginning.
And no story ever truly ends as long as it is told.

Thank you, Erin Morgenstern.

2020 First Quarter Update and Stuff

Boy, do I have a lot of reviews to write. I’ve been able to read so much since this whole thing started and I haven’t been able to go to work. My university’s spring break was extended by a week, so even though I’ve already been taking classes solely online, I still got an extra week off. SO MUCH READING. Silver lining to all of this? I’ll definitely meet my Goodreads goal this year! Wooooooo!

Anyway, I thought I would give a quarterly update about how my reading has been going and how I’ve been doing with the challenges I’m “participating in” this year.

For the Popsugar Reading Challenge, I’ve completed 18 of the 50 prompts, which means I’m 36% done.

As far as the Around the Year in 52 Books challenge, I’ve completed 19 of the 52 prompts, or 36%.

I feel like I’m in a good place to finish both challenges, even though I’ve read a few books that don’t fit on one list or the other. There will come a time when I’m down to looking for books that fit certain prompts, but I’m sure I’ll be able to find something out of the hundreds of books I want to read.

For the #20For20Books challenge on Goodreads, I’ve only read one of the books on my list, and it wasn’t a good start (I’m side-eyeing you, Where the Crawdads Sing). But I’m still looking forward to reading the rest of the books on the list I chose. I’ll get to them — this is a challenge I know I’ll finish this year.

Sj and I started an Apocalypse Book Club on Facebook because we’ve been feeling like reading a lot of apocalyptic fiction lately. So far the group has read World War Z, and now we’re reading The Stand. Well, I mean, I assume others are reading The Stand. With everything going on, we’re just kind of reading at our own paces and doing what we can. The club was just a way to get people together who feel like reading that kind of stuff right now (I’m sure plenty of other people think we’re out of our minds). Both books are rereads for me. I’m about halfway through The Stand right now and loving it.

Other updates:

Pennsylvania libraries are now closed “until further notice,” so it looks like I’ll be “working” from home a bit longer. I’m still making library cards for people and a few of us are going in to the library on Friday to get some administrative work done. I miss going to work and I miss my people, but the silver lining to this is being able to do school work starting next week without also worrying about going to a full-time job. That’s something. It also means more time for reading. My husband has two jobs, both of which are considered “essential,” so he’s still going to work like normal (and being very, very careful).

In some ways I was made for this situation we’ve got going on, and in some ways I wasn’t. I’m fine with staying at home. The older I get, the more introverted I get. But I haaaaate cooking, and I’m tired of trying to decide what I can eat for meals that doesn’t involve too much of that. Ugh. I’m dealing with it, but it sucks. Also — and I’ve said this elsewhere — having super short hair is all fun and games until there’s a pandemic. I got my hair cut right before we had to start staying home, but my next appointment is supposed to be on April 21, and THAT’S not going to happen. Sigh. I will be unfit to live with if I can’t get my hair cut until May (only 50% joking, maybe less).

ANYWAY, I have things to keep me busy…books to read, reviews to write, library cards to make, and naps to take.

How is your reading going so far this year? How is everyone holding up? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

UNPOPULAR OPINION FORTHCOMING!

Well, folks…

The Hype Monster got me on this one.

But before I get into my feelings about it, here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

Goodreads

Okay, where to start?

Where the Crawdads Sing was published In August 2018, and I *think* it’s been on the bestseller list ever since. It’s fourth on the NYT best seller list right now, and according to that, it’s been on the list for 77 weeks. Y’all, this book has been HYPED. People LOVE it. I don’t think I’ve heard one bad thing about it. People can’t stop raving about it and recommending it.

Hello, Hype Monster.

I think my expectations were too high. The publisher’s blurb about the book (taken from Goodreads and the copy I read) also says that Where the Crawdads Sing is “perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver.” Well, I’m a Barbara Kingsolver fan, and while I can see one particular similarity, that statement is misleading. This book is not on par with Kingsolver’s work.

There was something I really liked about the book, so let me speak on that first.

I loved Kya’s ecosystem and her relationship to it. This is where the Kingsolver statement comes in, I think. Kya is a natural biologist, even as a child. She doesn’t just live in the marsh, she is a part of the marsh. She knows more about her marsh ecosystem than any biologist. She interacts with every living thing in the marsh, and she treats the plants and animals of the marsh like family. Considering her family is so shitty and everyone abandons her, this isn’t surprising. Reading about the marsh and Kya’s relationship to it was the best part of the book, and I loved it.

I could have left the rest of it. The story didn’t draw me in at all. Typically, I can only read for pleasure on the weekends, and when I have to put a book down on Sunday evening that won’t be opened again until Saturday morning, I’m upset about that. All week I’m left wondering what’s going to happen next. That was not the case with Where the Crawdads Sing. I put it down on a Sunday night, and almost didn’t pick it back up again the next Saturday morning. I almost DNF’d it because I really didn’t care how it ended. The only reason I kept reading was because I had maybe 80 pages left to read and finished it out of principle.

And I can’t quite put my finger on where it went wrong. The story felt…cliche? I don’t know if that’s the word I want, necessarily. It didn’t feel original. It felt like a million other stories I’ve read, just in a different setting. The characters fell flat for me. I’m not sure I can believe Kya’s transformation. I’m not sure I’m cool with everyone who had any effect on Kya’s life — good or bad — being men. There were only a couple women in the story who really helped her, and they barely get any page time; they’re part of the background. I just…I don’t know. And I don’t like Owens’ writing style. The writing felt a bit choppy or stilted.

Why is it that I can write more about a book I didn’t like than I can about a book I loved? Sigh.

I gave the book three stars on Goodreads because the descriptions of the marsh and the way Kya interacted with it really saved the book for me. I loved that part of it. But I don’t think it deserves the amount of praise and hype it’s getting from all corners of the reading world. I don’t understand the high praise. Again though, that Hype Monster is real, and maybe my expectations were too high. The letdown might have been inevitable in this case.

Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? Were you as enamored with it as everyone else seems to be? If not, what didn’t you like about it? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

#20For20Books

If you’re like me (and I’ll bet you are if you’re reading this), a new book comes out or you see a book in a book sale, and you think, ‘OMG, I MUST HAVE THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW’…

…and then those books sit on your TBR pile(s) for months. Or years.

There are SO MANY BOOKS and there is so little time (in my case, at least). My intention is always to read that must-have book right away. IT WILL BE THE NEXT BOOK I READ, I vow. Heh.

Well. My TBR pile spans whole bookcases and sits in multiple stacks on the floor in my home library.

But @jetwithjess on IG has started a #20For20Books “challenge” in which the goal is to pick 20 books from your TBR pile that you will finally read in 2020. It’s super chill — if you read all 20, that’s great…if you don’t, oh well. Better luck next year! Hahaha!

I read 73 books in 2019. I will have the summer of 2020 off in between undergrad and grad school. I can easily get to the 20 books I’ve chosen for this. They are:

  • The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey
  • Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  • End of Watch by Stephen King
  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
  • Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
  • Strange Weather by Joe Hill
  • A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
  • The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • You by Caroline Kepnes

Not pictured: The Diviners by Libba Bray and Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (ebooks)

I’ll be providing updates on my progress both here and on IG. I can do this, y’all.

What are some books on your TBR pile(s) that you’ve been meaning to get to? Will you be reading any of them this year?

2020 Reading Challenges: Wingin’ It!

When I started blogging in 2013 (at Between the Covers), I was into ALL THE THINGS. I did reading challenges, readathons, readalongs, and all that stuff. But that was before I went back to work and back to school, so I had a lot of free time. And I ended up getting tired of reading things specifically for reading challenges instead of reading whatever the f*ck I wanted (which started a whole “Read Whatever the F*ck I Want” thing with my friend sj, heh).

Now that I’m blogging again, I want to get back into the book blogging community, so I’ve decided to do a couple of reading challenges this year, with one caveat: I’m not going to wear myself out trying to find books that fit into the challenges. I’m kind of interested to see if the stuff I choose to read just happens to fit into those challenges, so that’s what I’m going to do. There might be times when I seek out certain books to fit the challenges, but I’m not going to go out of my way all year to do that. Then I’ll just see how it turned out at the end of the year.

Click to view my 2020 Popsugar Reading Challenge page here on Froodian Slip.

With that said, I am going to “join” the 2020 Popsugar Reading Challenge, and the Around the Year in 52 Books challenge that is based in a group on Goodreads. We’re also doing a 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge at the library for our patrons, but I’m joining that one informally because I’m staff (and I always read more than 52 books in a year).

Click to view my 2020 Around the Year in 52 Books challenge page here on Froodian Slip.

I’m just going to wing it and see what happens, but I’m looking forward to it just the same.

Are you joining any reading challenges in 2020? Which one(s)? Let me know in the comments!