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Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt


The Secret History by Donna Tartt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Secret History is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read forever. According to my Kindle account, I purchased a copy more than five years ago; somehow, I just never got around to reading it. It’s one of those books that sounds so perfect for me that I’m afraid to read it for fear of it failing to meet the irrationally high expectations I have for it. When my co-blogger Emma informed me that it was one of her favorite books ever, I decided to take the plunge. I’m so glad I did. Far from failing to meet my absurd expectations, The Secret History blew them out of the water and is now happily ensconced on my favorites shelf.

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely?”

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Book Review: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Book Review: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes


The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I was so hesitant to pick up this book. I’ve only read one other book by Moyes, Me Before You, and was absolutely infuriated by it. Not because it was a bad book, mind you; on the contrary, it was incredibly compelling and introduced some characters for whom I came to care deeply. But I felt so emotionally manipulated by the ending that I seriously considered burning my copy. I didn’t, because I consider book burning akin to sacrilege, but in my opinion the ending that Moyes chose to go with felt like it was chosen not because it served the plot, but because it was shocking and memorable. I hated it with my entire being. I don’t believe myself to be a reader who demands happy endings, but the final scenes of Me Before You felt like a right hook when I was expecting a warm handshake or something of the sort.

“… some things are a gift, even if you don’t get to keep them.”

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Book Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Book Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern


The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

“We are all stardust and stories.”

I adore The Night Circus, and have been eagerly anticipating Morgenstern’s sophomore novel for eight years. I really should have tempered my expectations. The Starless Sea is the type of book that, in the beginning, I believed would strong feelings. You should either love it and be completely entranced by the atmospheric quiet of the tale, or be bored to tears by the apparent lack of action and a more common pacing. That’s what I expected when I read the first few pages. Unfortunately, if fell short for me. Instead of either loving or hating it, I mostly just find myself disappointed by it.

“If all endings are beginnings, are all beginnings also endings?”

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Book Review: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Book Review: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager


Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me over a week to read the first 150 pages of this book. Then I read the last half in an evening. While it took a while for the story to really get off the ground, the back half of the book was truly addictive and I couldn’t stop reading. Even when I should have been asleep.

From the beginning, we know things have gone horribly wrong for our narrator, who has been apartment sitting in the most illustrious residence in New York City. The Bartholomew is insanely famous, having been the home of countless celebrities over the decades. When recently unemployed Jules stumbles across an opportunity to live in the glamorous building while she gets back on her feet, and actually get paid a thousand dollars a week to do so, it’s too good a chance to pass up. But the Bartholomew isn’t what it seems, and the learning the truth behind the famous gargoyled facade could prove dangerous. Or even fatal.

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Book Review: Misery by Stephen King

Book Review: Misery by Stephen King


Misery by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

October is all about the spooky for me, and King is my preferred supplier. I’ve read roughly a third of his body of work and, while I’ve enjoyed all of them for the most part, most of them have been suitably creepy without actually scaring me. Exceptions to this have been Revival and IT the first time I tried to read it. I can now add Misery to that list. This book legitimately gave me nightmares while I was reading, because, though not probable, every event in the book is actually possible.

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Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”

The origin of this novel is almost as famous as the book itself. A group of friends seek to outdo one another with their ghost stories. Mary, the youngest and least famous of the group, writes not a ghost story but a brief novel that has far outlived the works of every other member of the party, and that is often cited as the first science fiction novel. I recently attended a lecture on Frankenstein, in which the lecturer pointed out that there was no real science present in the novel as Mary had not been well educated in the subject, and so cannot really be considered science fiction. While I admit that she has a very valid point, I still believe that Frankenstein is indeed science fiction because the plot could not have existed without some nebulous and unexplained scientific discoveries, and helped propel this speculative genre into the popularity it still enjoys today. Even though Shelley was poorly educated in the sciences, she created something that continues to entrance and repel members of the scientific community hundreds of years after she first penned her only famous work of literature.

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Guest (Adam Weller) Post: In Defense of Elitism by Joel Stein book review

Guest (Adam Weller) Post: In Defense of Elitism by Joel Stein book review

Today, Novel Notions is hosting a guest post by Adam Weller aka Swiff from Fantasy Book Review.  Adam will be reviewing an upcoming non-fiction political humour book by Joel Stein.


In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You Are Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book by Joel Stein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Standalone

Genre: Non-fiction, Politics

Pages: 336 pages (Hardcover)

Published: 22nd October 2019 by Grand Central Publishing


Twenty-nineteen America: some of the country wonders what the hell happened, and how the hell we got to this point. Others wonder what took so damn long. ‘The real struggle for America is not between Democrats and Republicans, but between the mainstream American… populists and the ruling political elites,’ argues humorist and journalist Joel Stein in his new book, In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You’re Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book. It is a smart, incisive, and very funny collection of Stein’s adventures and revelations as he attempts to bridge the gap between the country’s divided parties while shedding light on the values that fuels each side.

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Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King

Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King


The Institute by Stephen King
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

“Great events turn on small hinges.”

I love Stephen King. This has not been a lifelong truth, and my infatuation began a mere 5 or so years ago. Since then, I’ve read a third of his body of work, and I’ve been largely impressed. While I do believe that King would benefit from a harsher editor, and that he often fails to stick that landing with his endings, Stephen King has an incredible mind. The plots he dreams up, and the characters he creates to populate those stories, are pretty spectacular and always feel original. While I’ve enjoyed everything of his I’ve read at least in part, some of his books are more successful than others. The Institute is just such a book. The plot was disturbing and vaguely supernatural without seeming implausible. The cast of characters was beautifully fleshed out and varied. And the ending didn’t suck!

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Book Review: The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Book Review: The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Standalone

Genre: Literary fiction, Historical fiction

Pages: 567 pages (Kindle edition)

Published: 9th February 2017 by Doubleday (UK) & 22nd August 2017 by Hogarth Press (US)


The Heart’s Invisible Furies is beautiful, heartbreaking, dark, and occasionally humorous.

If you follow my reviews, you should know already that literary fiction isn’t my favorite genre to read; I probably read, at most, one or two literary fiction book per year. But when I finished A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne, which I enjoyed very much, at the end of last year, I knew that I had to give his most highly-praised work, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, a read and I’m glad I did.

“But for all that we had, for all the luxury to which we were accustomed, we were both denied love, and this deficiency would be scorched into our future lives like an ill-considered tattoo inscribed on buttocks after a drunken night out, leading each of us inevitably toward isolation and disaster.”

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Book Review: Under Currents by Nora Roberts

Book Review: Under Currents by Nora Roberts


Under Currents by Nora Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m sure most everyone who follows my reviews has noticed this by now, but I really love Nora Roberts. I don’t tend to read all that much in the contemporary or romance genres, but she’s my exception. I’ve been reading my way through her back catalogue since I was fifteen or so, and for the past ten years have been reading her new releases as soon as I can get my hands on them. Now, she’s one of the few authors who is an insta-buy for me. While Under Currents didn’t blow me away, it was another strong offering that demonstrated to me once again that Nora seems incapable of producing a dud. She’s just awesome.

“The couldn’t take who we are away from us. We’re who we are despite them.”

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