Showing posts with label emily st john mandel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label emily st john mandel. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2015!

IT'S FAVORITES TIME!!!

It is time to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2015!

As I always disclaim with this list: you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?

As in past years, this list is in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews:

1. Day Four by Sarah Lotz
If you haven't read Lotz's The Three yet, do that first, and then do yourself a favor and read this book.  The Three was on my 2014 favorites list, and the sequel did not disappoint!

2. The Shore by Sara Taylor
Potentially the most unique novel I read this year.  I can't wait to see what else Taylor has in store.

3. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
One of the only 5-star reviews I gave all year.  This story is heart-wrenching and beautifully told.

4. Missoula by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer is still one of my favorite nonfiction writers.  He handles this delicate subject with the same objectivity and fastidiousness that is the trademark of his other works.

5. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
A truly awesome reading experience from cover to cover, made even more enjoyable because I did not originally expect so much from it!  I love it when a novel makes me bend my typical genre preferences.

6. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
This novel made me feel all the feelings.  Not the most uplifting choice on my list, but certainly one that continues to stay with me.

7. Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Few nonfiction writers can bring their subjects to life the way Larson can.  These real-life events read with the suspense of a fiction novel, while still capturing all of the historical detail needed to make this an enlightening read.

8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
You had me at "post-apocalyptic literary fiction."

9. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
This is one of those books for which I did not write an especially amazing review, but due to the fact that I continue to mull it over and over, and hit my friends with random factoids from it all the time, it has still earned a spot on the favorites list for this year.

10. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Ughhhh, I feel so bandwagon-y and lemming-like putting this on here.  I mean, it's on every list EVER, right?  But I can't deny it was one of the top 10 books I read this year.  Fact.

That's a wrap!  What made YOUR best-read list for 2015?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it. 


My Review:

A novel in which everyone (well, almost everyone) dies of the flu!  As a low-grade germaphobe, this book review is brought to you by my favorite little friend, Waterless Hand Sanitizer.  Which I have been using a lot more of since I read this book.
Don't leave home without it!
Anyway...another well-hyped, new-ish novel!  I just can't stay away from the New Releases shelf at my library the last few months.  Plus, this one won The Morning News's Tournament of Books (think Final Four for books) this year, so that's saying a lot.

I suppose that Station Eleven could be summarized as an apocalypse novel.  Catastrophic flu, 99% of the population dead, bye bye Internet, etc.  If you're into that sort of reading, you'll certainly find it here.  However, that simple description also does the book a bit of a disservice, as it has a lot of the literary merits that might be lacking in a more action-based novel.  It's not entirely an Oryx and Crake, or The Road, but it's also not The Hunger Games or Feed.  Somewhere in the in-between.

I loved this book.  Mandel wrapped me into the post-apocalyptic world that she created right from page one, and I never wanted to put the book down once she did.  Though truthfully, I'd be lying if I said that it left me feeling happy at the end.  Bereft would be a more likely descriptor.  There's just so much sadness to process here.  Of course, you have the devastation of the pandemic, but then there's all of the interpersonal relationships between the characters--lots of divorce, death, abandonment, violence.  Don't get me wrong, the book is amazingly well-written, it's just not a feel-good story by any means.  I was deeply affected by these characters by the end of the book, flu pandemic or not, which says a lot about the quality of the writing.

I can't pinpoint the one thing that made this book great for me.  It's just all of it...the alternating storylines (which cover both pre- and post-pandemic), the world building, the story-within-a-story (as the title comes from a comic book that is introduced in the novel)...this book is a puzzle that Mandel put together perfectly.  I can't think of an adult fiction reader who this would not appeal to in some way.  (Unless a germaphobic-reader-who-only-loves-happy-books is out there...then by all means, avoid.)

Station Eleven.  Read it.  Love it.

Be honest, people--based on your survival/sanitation skillz, what are your chances of surviving the flu-based apocalypse??

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The To-Be-Read Tag

I have seen this fun little questionnaire pop up on a lot of blogs lately, and while I haven't been tagged specifically, many bloggers have just said that they invite anyone reading it to play along.  I will take that as my invitation to participate!  :)

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

I suppose my only "official" TBR pile is the one I keep on Goodreads.  However, it is OUT OF CONTROL and doesn't even include everything I want to read, because I kind of gave up on it long ago.  I suppose my true TBR pile is rather infinite. 

2. Is your TBR mostly print or eBook?

I'd say mostly print.  But I have a boatload of eBooks on my Kindle waiting to be read...so many, in fact, that I've forgotten which ones I own already (oops).
 
3. How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

Changes by the day!  Sometimes I want a classic, sometimes I want a backlist title from a favorite author, sometimes I want to pick from the TBR Book Baggie, sometimes I want an ARC...the list goes on.
 
4. A book that’s been on your TBR list the longest?

If you go by my Goodreads list, The World According to Garp by John Irving has been there the longest.  I've owned a paperback copy from my mom for ages, and have yet to make time for it.

5. A book you recently added to your TBR?

One of the most recently added to my Goodreads list is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  I am excited to get that one soon.

6. A book on your TBR strictly because of it’s beautiful cover.

I don't really look at covers much, to be honest!  I wouldn't say it's beautiful, per se, but I enjoy the eye-catching cover of Mira Grant's Symbiont (book 2 in the Parasitology series)...it's on my TBR list, even though I've heard this sequel is hugely disappointing.

7. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading.

Probably World Without End by Ken Follett.  It's the sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, which I didn't even particularly like...why is this on my list, then??

8. An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer.  It comes out this April.  I would read Krakauer's grocery list, if he'd let me have the privilege.
 
9. A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read but you.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  I get continually reminded by MANY people that I should have read it by now!
 
10. A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you.

See above answer! 

11. A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read.

I can only pick one?  How about Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. 

12. How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?

1078.  I told you it was out of control.

Feel free to jump into this little questionnaire, if you haven't already!  Tell me about your TBR pile, friends!
 
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