Book Review – Station Eleven

Random Observation

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Why I Picked It:
 Technically, I didn’t. Book Club did. But since it is in the post-apocalyptic genre, there is a good chance I would’ve gotten around to it eventually.  Especially since it continues to appear on so many “must read” lists (see here, herehere and here) and was a National Book Award Finalist and the Arthur C. Clarke award winner.

Details/Topics:  Pandemic, art/theater, survival, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” (or, Arthur Leander as the case may be.)

The author does an amazing job of telling a multitude of characters’ stories and weaving them all together (hence the Six Degrees of KB reference) byt the end. Fascinating.

Station-Eleven

Favorite Quotes:

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”

“Because survival is insufficient.”

“The more you remember, the more you’ve lost.”

Book Review – The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope

Books

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Why I Picked It: I will admit I selected this book because Amazon.com described it at as “an unconventional love story as breathless and romantic as The Time Traveler’s Wife” –  which just so happens to be my all time favorite love story. It didn’t sweep me up in quite the same way, but I found the opening chapters to be intriguing in a “scratching my head” sort of way.  adam hope
Details/Topics: A young woman (Evelyn) living alone on farm discovers, what she believes to be an injured man, buried in the mud on her farm.  She takes him in out of the rain, and in discovering who and what he is, falls in love.  This is their love story.
Favorite Quotes:
“Looking into those eyes, which were now a pure, lucid blue, I saw no harm or malice. Only strange, expansive otherness. Sitting on the floor, cradling his head in the bend of my knee as his odd voice hummed through me, I fell not so much in love but into fascination, into a deep and tender accord.”

“Do you know who you are, Evelyn? Who all of you are? Where do you come from? You don’t know any more than I do.”

“People whose children have died do not believe in God the same way everyone else does. The death of a child is an earthquake of the soul. The landscape changes forever.”

 

Book Review: Eleanor and Park

Books

I’m sure that Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary and S.E. Hinton were initially responsible for my love of books in general. But Suzanne Collins, John Green and now Rainbow Rowell have contributed to my enduring love for Young Adult fiction specifically.

Or maybe I’m just immature.

Whatever the reason, I’m a huge fan of the YA genre and rarely disappointed by a book I’ve discovered in the YA section.

20150308-141424-51264609.jpg

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell was no exception. Like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, I found the dialogue between the two main characters to be so authentic and smart. (Warning: there IS quite a bit of crude language – the type you overhear in any public high school.) I was completely mesmerized by the story of these two self-identified “misfits” and their experience of first love.

Eleanor’s home life totally sucks and is made even more complicated by issues of poverty and domestic violence. Park has two loving parents, a room of his own, and all the “extras” that typical American kids in suburbia have. But he is bi-racial (Korean/Caucasian) and he doesn’t feel like his dad truly accepts him for who he is.

Eleanor and Park bond over comic books and mix-tapes and their shared experience of feeling different.

Reading this book brought back memories of some of those awkward teenaged years. But I also identified with and found myself cheering for Park’s mom and dad who, despite being imperfect parents, were doing their very best to do be “a village.” Though not immediate, Park’s parents felt a responsibility to provide a safe and loving place for Eleanor to hang out, as well as an opportunity to experience healthy family dynamics. We’ve felt that same sense of responsibility with some of our own kids’ friends.

Sometimes, even when I love a book, I am disappointed by the ending. With only one or two pages left I was afraid this was going to be the case with Eleanor and Park. But thankfully that was not the case. The very last sentence of the book was open-ended, profoundly hopeful and utterly lovely. May all first loves be the same.

Book Review: We Were Liars

Books

Another book started and finished in a day. (Thank you, Arkansas weather.)

20150308-132445-48285823.jpg

I do love Young Adult fiction.  We Were Liars falls in that genre if only because of the age of the narrator and protagonist Cadence and her coming of age/loss of innocence story. But WWL also has much more universal themes including: class in America (specifically the American oligarchy), amnesia – both the medical/psychological sort as well as the selective version as in “that which we do not speak of,” and the struggle to hold on to optimism as we face the realities of our imperfect world.

Cadence and her extended family spend every summer on their own private island near Martha’s Vineyard. The summers there seem idyllic, despite what is happening within her family the other 9 months of the year.

Then something happens and Cadence is injured and, as a result, suffers from migraines and amnesia. No one in her family seems willing to help her fill in the blanks to understand what happened and how.

Putting together the pieces becomes as important (and ultimately shocking) to the reader as it is to Cadence.

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Books

Forgive the long preamble… Or SKIP to the actual Review.

It’s rare that I have an entire day to read. It’s even more rare that I read an entire book in one day. But yesterday brought about that perfect storm.

On Friday night we held the first meeting of our new book club. (I was worried it might be cancelled by the unexpected snowfall that took us all by surprise. But several of us really NEEDED that girls night out so Josh warmed up his trusty 4Runner and safely delivered us to Heather’s house.)

We discussed our February selection and then talked at length about what we would read next. I had never even heard of the book we decided on, The Girl on the Train, but a quick glance at the description on Amazon and I was ready to dive in. (The fact that the book was currently OUT oF STOCK at Amazon was a sign of its popularity. And, I later learned that there are 67 “holds” on the 5 copies at our local library.)

When I got home I downloaded a “sample” of the book on my iPad. Let me tell you, whoever figured out the “stopping point” of that sample selection was BRILLIANT! The sample included the first full chapter, plus the first paragraph of chapter two. The stopping point left me hanging so I immediately returned to Amazon and purchased and downloaded the entire book.

I spent the bulk of Saturday inside the head of the three narrators: Rachel, Megan and Anna.
Girl on the Train
Rachel rides the same train every morning and evening. She’s a rather miserable and lonely individual with a drinking problem. Every day she passes the same houses on her train ride and one house, and it a occupants in particular, capture her attention and her imagination.

Megan is one half of Rachel’s idealized perfect couple. “They’re a match. They’re a set. They’re happy, I can tell. They’re what I used to be, they’re Tom and I five years ago. They are what I lost, they’re everything I want to be.” But Megan and Scott aren’t perfect.

Anna is Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife. The mother of his new baby daughter. And the occupant of her former dream home. She is also the recipient of Rachel’s drunken, harassing phone calls.

The three perspectives, told from varying points in time, were weaved together in such a compelling fashion. I could hardly put this book down, and yet when I did, I was completely satisfied. I would highly recommend it.

The Girl on the Train is ultimately a suspense story (it’s been compared to Gone GIrl, Rear Window and Gas Light) but it is also a story that reminds us that things are not always what they seem – especially people.