Devotion

by Katika Schneider
Reviewed by SA

It’s self published Saturday again! Yes, twice in a row! This book just came out yesterday and I highly recommend you rush to amazon to pick it up stat. I haven’t reviewed any fantasy in a while, so let me tell you, I am hard to please when it comes to that genre. But I was blown away by Devotion, the debut novel of Katika Schneider, and I thought I absolutely has to tell you about it.

Summary29753421

Demons were nothing but legends…

Or so the young General Nessix Teradhel had always believed. Abandoned by her god and caught in a political trap with her late father’s old comrade, Nessix had barely kept herself together even before these startling reports appeared.

But now Mathias Sagewind, the fabled White Paladin, has arrived on her quiet island nation of Elidae with confirmation of such terrors. Wielding the name of the Mother Goddess and divine strength not seen in years, he is Elidae’s best chance at victory. In the wake of a holy war, Nessix must learn to trust Mathias as he attempts to guide her from a troubled past and protect her from a tragic future.

So, you take Nessix, this badass young woman whose duty is to lead her nation. She’s a general at a young age, but usually her land, Elidae, is a peaceful one, so she’ll have time to ease into it, right? Nope, demons are back, and suddenly this young lady has to lead her people to war. Not to mention the fact that her god has kind of ‘left the building’ (or pretty much the entire world) and she’s got no one to rely on in this new holy war.

Luckily Mathias, the white paladin, has come to her aid. With incredible knowledge and skills (some magical), his help is essential to their survival. He’s fought the demons before, and he knows their weaknesses: his only issue is getting Nes to actually trust him.

Throw in some womanizing neighboring royals (Veed, I’m looking at you!) and Nes’s entourage of war advisors, and you’ve got everything you need for a complex war and some brilliant bickering. Honestly it’s the dialogue I loved the most in this novel: the chemistry between Nes and Mathias on the rocky path to building a bond of trust was both a gripping part of the plot and the source of most of so much snark.

Nes’s character growth (and personal growth) is incredibly well written, and you see her blossom as a warrior and as a leader over the course of her many battles. She really is an amazing character, and goes on the list of ‘ladies in fiction I’d like to hang out with’. If you’re looking for a book with a badass young lady, you’re going to want to read devotion: the decisions she has to make are sometimes heartbreaking.

So if you’re looking for a novel with medieval battles, a war between good and evil, badass young ladies and complex relationships, you’re going to want to read devotion. It’s fun, it’s clever, and it’s epic fantasy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Check it out on amazon – here

Dissolution

by Lee S. Hawke
Reviewed by SA

Ah, Self Published Saturday! The day we here at Readcommendations celebrate amazing self published books that deserve a place on your bookshelf. And I have read a lot of self pubbed books this month, let me tell you! Yet none of them stood out to me as much as Dissolution, a brilliant (YA) science fiction novel which will have your mind in knots for days.

Summary29603794

What would you sell yourself for?

Madeline knows. She’s spent the last eighteen years impatiently waiting for her Auctioning so she can sell herself to MERCE Solutions Limited for a hundred thousand credits. But when the Auctioneer fails to call her and two suits show up at her doorstep, Madeline discovers there are far worse bargains to be made.

So when your loved ones are in danger, there’s a bounty on your head and your entire city might turn out to be a lie… what would you sell yourself for?

The future Madeline lives in isn’t a bright one. Toxic rivers, arid deserts: the world beyond the wall is beyond hope of saving. But her city, Unilox, seems to be a beacon of life and hope, minus the freedom. You see, the city is run entirely by corporations, and being a citizen means being a part of one of them. Not just as an employee… but as a purchased product what belongs to them. At 18, gaining citizenship means being auctioned off, and having your contract purchased by any one of these corporations. Your life belongs to them, and they decide your value.

But it’s a system that works. Everyone gets along swimmingly in this future: there are incredibly high tech body augmentations available to everyone, which allow you to have bionic eyes, or to have  tastes fed to your brain which make the nutrient mush you eat taste like anything you want. People are healthy, and happy. The problem is that they all wear collars.

Madeline belongs to ANRON, the medical corporation. They run tests on everything, and her own parents have payed the cost with their own health, being experimental themselves. Madeline wants to be purchased by MERCE, the tech industry, but when she isn’t even called up at the auction, her hopes of reaching her dreams are shattered. When she learns that ANRON never intended to give up her license, and they would rather have her on a metal slab to slice her open, she must make a daring escape to fight for her freedom in a world where only a handful are truly free.

Hawke creates an amazing world for us to fall into. The world of people as products and human auctions almost feels real, and somehow completely believable. From the first page we’re pulled into Unilox, and we’re rooting for Madeline as she nervously prepares to be sold at auction. Yup, we’re excited for her.

At first glance, you might think this looks like the ‘usual’ YA, but I’m here to tell you that it’s much much more. For one, you don’t have a silly love triangle getting in the way of the plot. Madeline’s relationship with Jake is something that both drives her and motivates her, and it’s healthy and heartbreaking. Honestly it was refreshing to read! Even though it broke me in the end…

The plot is also intensely gripping. Madeline’s only goal is to survive, and this leads her to discover the true workings of her city, and realize that it’s not right. We can’t help but cheer for her when she realizes what we’ve known from the start: that people are not products, and that companies may have the same rights as a human being, but they are only as strong as the people who make them up. But this makes the read even more enjoyable: a clear goal, a world bent on catching her, Madeline’s plight is something we can latch on to.

As a matter of fact, I would only call this YA because of the age of the protagonist (18). It is so much better than those ‘trendy’ books out there! The plot is rich and exciting. The protagonist is relatable and you want to root for her.  And the ending absolutely destroyed me, making me feel like I’ve been ripped apart. It is such a brilliant way to shut the book. And now I’m stuck here, with feels.

Trust me on this:  you won’t read another book like Dissolution. Pick it up on amazon STAT!

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DEGTLGK
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/dissolution/id1096943300?mt=11

A Gathering of Shadows

by V.E. Schwab
Reviewed by SA

For those of you who have been with us since the beginning (we love you!) you may know that I’m slightly obsessed with the Darker Shade of Magic world. I even found ADSoM to be my favorite book of 2015. It was brilliant! So naturally, when the sequel came out, I pounced on it. And it did not disappoint: it filled me with the magic I sorely missed.

A Gathering of Shadows FinalSummary

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

The plot is so, well, cheerful, this time around (until the end that absolutely destroys you, you have been warned.) Everything revolves around the Essen Tasch, or Element games. Lila has returned to London for the event, and many of our friends have gone undercover just so they can participate. But something dark is lurking back in White London, where a certain left-for-dead Antari has returned and is bringing his world back to life, at a price.

That’s probably what makes this book so much fun: the looming threat is known only by the reader, so the other characters have their own struggles to deal with while we do all the worrying for them. And the Games themselves are incredibly fun, as if the Olympics had pro-bending as their main event (speaking of which, anybody else try to imagine if Korra had entered? Now there’s a crossover I want to see.)

What’s fantastic is that the author also expands on the world she’s created. We learn more about Red London, and the other countries that surround it, about the political situation, about life on the sea, and we learn more about Magic. This is worldbuilding at its best.

But the best part is those amazing characters we came to love in ADSoM: Lila is more than she seems, and is badass per usual. I can’t wait to see where her story leads. Kell’s life has changed since the events of the last book, and he’s learning to fight. Rhy’s now linked to Kell, and his lifestyle must adapt. And who is this Alucard, whom Kell seems to hate and Lila begrudgingly admire?

Some may argue that this book is slower than the first, as there is much less going on. It’s all building up to the games, and then the ultimate conclusion (which, even if I saw coming, made me anxious as heck). Which seems like little for 500 pages. But I blew through this, and it felt like only 40 minutes had gone by. For me, there was never a dull moment, and I was excited from start to finish.

So basically – if you likes ADSoM, you are going to love A Gathering of Shadows. And if you haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic, what are you waiting for?

 

The Secret King: Lethao

by Dawn Chapman
Reviewed by SA

It’s another self published Saturday! This week I’ve had the pleasure to read an amazing science fiction novel that needs to be in your hands immediately. It’s fast, gripping, complex, and reads like a season (yes, an entire season) of Battlestar Galactica. So if you want some brilliant science fiction, this is the book for you: now let me tell you why.

Summary26220955

Kendro, King of the Aonise, can do nothing to prevent their sun from collapsing, consuming their home planet Letháo in a single fiery blast. Running out of time and options, he evacuates the entire population, setting off into the unknown galaxy in four crowded ships. Under constant danger from their ancient enemy, the Zefron, treasonous dissent seeps into his inner circle. Threatened inside and out, Kendro struggles with who to trust, until a mysterious vision finally brings hope to the distraught King. A new home awaits the Aonise, if Kendro can only unite them long enough to survive the journey.

Their world is dying, and the Aonise must evacuate their planet, heading to the stars in massive ships in hope of finding a new world. But their journey is not without its threats: they are hunted by the Zefron, an ancient enemy who seem hell-bent on trying to destroy them, as well as whispers of treason from within. Kendro. the king of the Aonise and their hope for the future, must protect himself while trying to save his people, not to mention his wife and unborn son. The risks are great, and the journey ahead is not an easy one…

The first thing that hit me about this novel was just how gripping it was. Much like in “The Martian” (Andy Weir), the second the Aonise think they are safe, as soon as one problem has been solved, they are thrown head first into another life or death situation. There is never a dull moment or a lull in the plot. They must work together to save their species, or none will survive. Because of this constant action, the book is incredibly difficult to put down and is addicting as heck.

There are multiple characters to follow, which makes the book read a lot like a show. This brings you to different parts of the ship, and introduces you to many aspects of their culture and customs. They’re humanoid, but in many ways they differ completely from us humans, showing the quality of the author’s world building. For example, every Aonise is born with a birthmark, which differs from person to person and across the houses. Their life forces, if you will, contain actual power: Croex. It runs through their veins and has tremendous potential. It lights their birthmark with raw emotion, meaning their feelings are always on display. This, and the croex itself, binds the people together, the king connected to every single one of his people, feeling their pain and anguish as his own. It’s incredibly how the author has managed to make this aspect of their lives seem so natural to the reader when we have nothing like it here on earth.

It’s a space saga of epic proportions. Not only is there the military aspect, but the life of these characters is studied, we share in their loss and their loves and their joys. We are following in their darkest times and their greatest hopes. It gives us surprising emotion, for a science fiction novel. You can’t help but cheer for Kendro, whose faith in his people is remarkable, even when he knows there are those who wish him dead. Some of the storylines are a little more difficult, darker, like Octav’s for example: he has difficult decisions, with his home life falling apart and his own emotions in turmoil. Life on the run, trying to keep your people safe, is not easy.

All in all, as a Sci Fi fan, I got my fill with this fantastic beginning of an awesome saga. With brilliant world building, tough characters, and great writing, I’m hooked and I can’t wait for more. Hopefully we’ll get the sequel soon!

The Casquette Girls

by Alys Arden

Reviewed by SA

Having read nothing but fast books these days, I wanted a novel I could really ‘sink my teeth into’ (as my grandmother says). I didn’t know what to expect from The Casquette Girls, as I was first drawn in by the gorgeous cover rather than the blurb, but I was amazingly surprised. This novel is a simmering pot of mystery and magic in a setting that will blow you away.

25917801Summary

Seven girls tied by time.
Five powers that bind.
One curse to lock the horror away.
One attic to keep the monsters at bay.

After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne wants nothing more than her now silent city to return to normal. But with home resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.

As the city murder rate soars, Adele finds herself tangled in a web of magic that weaves back to her own ancestors. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, who can she trust when everyone has a secret and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless . . . you’re immortal.

Adele returns to New Orleans after its quasi-total destruction by a hurricane without equal. Nothing is the same: her city looks like something out of an apocalypse film, the people are almost all gone, her best friend moved away and seems to have no plans to ever return, and strange things are happening all around her. Is it possible that she can do… things?

This novel started slow, and yet I was captured all the same. The writing is beautiful and unique: the destroyed New Orleans setting gives it all an eerie, isolated feeling, and I was blown away by its depth. It’s a place of mystery and magic, but also of growing romance, which blossoms from its destruction. That juxtaposition really worked for me.

Adele herself isn’t just kind of sticker character: she’s got a depth that I rarely see in YA novels. She loves her father, her city; she’s smart and sophisticated in many ways, but also still learning, still trying, in others. She’s always caught between two worlds, the sophisticated french side of her mother, and of her new school,  and the down to earth, honest side of her, with comes from her father, and the city where she was raised. And that side is pretty badass.

The other characters are just as interesting. Admittedly, though, at first I had a bit of trouble keeping all their names straight. There definitely are  a whole slew of possible love interest characters.

When I first saw the word Vampires, though, I groaned and almost put the book down. I am not a fan. But I am more than glad I hung in there. The story that arrises is spooky, and takes you back in time to when the city was only just beginning, to the 18th century, and to ancestors with dark secrets.

Magic, mystery, and a twist on an amazing city. What else could you possibly want from a novel? I highly recommend picking it up!

Whippoorwill

by Joseph Monninger

Reviewed by SA

I reviewed this book on Saturday on our Tumblr, but the truth is I liked it so freaking much that I had to put it on our main blog. This book is fantastic, and I still can’t put my finger on the reason why: it just was. It was heartfelt, truthful, and the first book to bring me to tears this year.

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Clair Taylor has neighbors who are what locals call whippoorwills, the kind of people who fill their yards with rusty junk. Clair tries to ignore her surroundings, choosing instead to dream of a future beyond her rural New Hampshire town. But, when a black dog named Wally is chained up to a pole next door, Clair can’t look the other way. Clair decides to save Wally, and the immediate connection she has with the lovable dog catches her off-guard, but even more surprising is her bond with eighteen-year-old Danny Stewart, the boy next door.
I picked up this book thinking nothing of it: not expecting it to affect me the way it did. It looked like some kind of romance (maybe?) with a dog (super cute, that cover gets to me) set in a more rural community. Now I am amazingly glad I read this amazing book: I’m still emotional over how it ended. There were tears. Even if the summary doesn’t appeal to you, please pick it up anyways, I am sure it will surprise you.

Whippoorwill is a term for people who hang onto their junk – just like Clair’s neighbors, the Stewards, whose yard is crammed full of trash. One really shouldn’t be called junk, though, even if he’s treated as such: Wally, the labrador/great dane mutt who wants nothing more than to play. Clair has decided to take action: she’s going to treat the dog right, save Wally. But she didn’t expect Danny, the boy-next-door, to be something different.

It’s amazing how the author brings us to see how quickly we judge, see things as junk, while to others they can be treasures. How some see Wally as junk, and others will see him as the perfect dog. How some people will throw out what others will use to create art, like Clair’s mom does. How people will quickly judge others as being worthless, or not worth their time, when they can be golden. I was impressed by how much this theme of trash and treasure really spoke to me.

What struck me as well was how realistic and honest this novel felt. It didn’t seem pulled out of hat, or as if it relied on coincidences to drive the plot forward. Everything felt as if it could actually happen, as if it was happening. Even the somewhat magical ending seemed plausible and perfect – proof of a love a father has for his daughter.

It was amazing how quickly I was drawn into Clair’s story, connecting with her. She’s a relatable young woman, smart, caring, but not an idiot. She doesn’t throw herself into rash actions. I liked being a part of her life, as she seemed like someone I really could get to know through the pages of this book.

The relationship with Danny is also something incredibly realistic. You don’t have the usual tropes you see in novels these days, no grand immediate crush, but a slow, growing connection that blossoms from a genuine respect for each other. And as some of Danny’s actions seem odd, Clair is quick to notice them as well, and the ending wraps them up well. All the points I found strange – or somewhat creepy – made sense when we reached the end.

The ending was both perfect and horrible – horrible in the way it left me inside. I have so many questions! I want to know what happens to them all next, and I felt such a loss as Clair – well I’m not going to spoil that for you. We only get closure on a few points, though possibly the only one that really matters. Once you know this character is safe and settled, everything else can be left int he air, however much it hurts.

What really blew me away though was Wally. A lot of books have people connecting over dogs (Marley and Me for example, which also brings you to tears) but Wally seemed more real for me. I cannot stand for animal abuse, and maybe that’s what related me to Clair so quickly: she takes action against this kind of thing. Over the course of the novel, she buys a book written by a priest who loves dogs (which reminds me, any dog lovers out there, How to be your dog’s best friend was written by monks and it’s possibly the best guide to owning a dog you will ever read.) and used it to train Wally to be the best dog he can be. This helps her bond with Danny, but also allows her to share some important life lessons: about finding your pack, about effective communication, about caring. It’s amazing how much you learn about people through learning about dogs.

Whippoorwill will leave you emotionally in need of ice cream for the soul. It comes out September 1st.

Signal to Noise

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Reviewed by SA

Magic. Sometimes you pick up a book, and you just feel the magic flowing through it. Signal to Noise was a novel that surprised me in the way it caught me so early on; there was an instant connection between reader and characters, and the magic in the music just compelled me to read more.

Summary – Curtesy of Goodreads

Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends — Sebastian and Daniela — and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. With help from this newfound magic, the three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…
Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, and it revives memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? And, is there any magic left?

I can’t think of any teenager that didn’t dream of magic when they were young. Who dreamed of being able to influence events, to make the world go their way, especially in that awkward period of your life where everything is zits and school and crushes. Meche is no different: she is a smart young woman who struggles with boys she likes and teachers that cause her trouble. Her friends are as awkward as her, each trying to navigate high school and adolescence. So of course when Meche realizes she can use her record collection to influence the future, the three of them take matters into their own hands.

What’s fantastic is that the Magic comes from the music Meche loves, from classic rock to jazz, fantastic songs that don’t make you doubt for a second that magic really does exist. Someone even made a playlist from the songs mentioned int he novel – check it out here!

The one thing that annoyed me slightly when reading this novel was the lack of information on the rules of their magic. What are its limits? What can they do with records, and why is it that sometimes, music is not needed? However, I like to think that ads to the charm: the teens are inexperienced with Magic, they are not instantly experts. They go with what works, play and expand on stories and gut feelings. The magic is more, well, magical in that way.

The novel bounces from 1988 to 2009, between Meche the teen and Meche the woman. It is strange to see Meche in the present. She’s followed the career she always wanted to, lives in Europe, can be considered quite successful, and very accomplished. Yet there doesn’t seem to be any magic left in this present: it reads colder, maybe because of the death that hangs in the air. Sometimes it was hard to relate present Meche with the girl she used to be, but even so, the author still manages to make us care for the young woman.

Signal to Noise is a fun, peculiar novel. It’s magical in and of itself, enjoyable, and you can’t help but feel captivated by the plight of the awkward trio; while at the same time, I felt odd while reading it, a slight worry in the pit of my stomach that I knew what was coming. Fueled by hints dropped by the author, some ominous foreboding hung over me. This did not make the read any less enjoyable, it only made it more unique.

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia comes out February 10th.

When Reason Breaks

by Cindy L. Rodriguez

Reviewed by SA

I am always nervous when I pick up YA novels (I say pretty much the same thing every time I start a review of a YA), as it is so hard to find a book that defies formula, breaks into new territory, and rips your heart out. Guess what? When Reason Breaks (Cindy L. Rodriguez) is most definitely a great novel. Plus, it’s a diverse book!

When Reason BreaksTwo sophomore girls come from different worlds. Emily is the sweet, smart daughter of a lawyer/politician father who controls most aspects of her life; she loves her friends Sarah and Abby, and her boyfriend, Kevin. Elizabeth is a dark goth girl whose father has recently run out on, making her the ‘basket case’ of the school, with anger issues and a tendency to draw dark pictures. When their English teacher, Ms. Diaz, places them together in class, they grow together over a love of Emily Dickinson, whose poetry will push them to reconsider many aspects of their lives.

The novel deals with the harsh topics of mental illness and suicide, while drawing parallels between the lives of the two young protagonists and Emily Dickinson herself. It will have your heart racing, your hands stuck to the cover, unable to put the book down.

Full disclosure; for the first half of the novel, I wasn’t convinced about if I liked it or not. I found the protagonists slightly pretentious, slightly predictable, and I felt as if I had seen them before. But as the plot progressed, I realized that the feeling of familiarity came from the fact that I did  know people just like them. I recognized their thoughts and feelings as those I had myself felt, or had experienced second hand as I stood alongside a friend through a tough time.

It was honestly the end of the third act (if you would want to call it that – you’ll know what I mean when you read it yourself) when the book grabbed me. The book begins with a dark chapter, after which the novel then takes you back eight months, to show what series of events has brought them to this point. Just like Ms. Diaz, I made assumptions about this moment; when I saw that I was wrong, my entire perception of the book shifted. My heart raced as I realized… “I am part of the problem,” a scary thought. I suddenly saw the novel in a different light; when I finally finished it, I had to put it down, stare at the ceiling, and think everything over in my head. Just… wow.

But what made it so much more interesting was the introduction of Emily Dickinson as the inspiration for the women. During the course of the book, the protagonist offer different interpretations to some of the most famous poems, making them their own. And after the novel ends, the author offers insight into the life of our favorite lady poet, showing us just how every character reflects part of her past. It’s fantastic how she is able to do this without making the book feel like a perfect replica of Dickinson’s life, or preachy in any way: it’s subtle.

It was an actual emotional roller coaster; it reminded me of Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher), crossed over with The Breakfast Club. I recommend tissues!

When Reason Breaks comes out February 10th.

Oh look, a book trailer!

I Am Radar

22571542By Reif Larsen Reviewed by SA Stop everything and pre-order I Am Radar (Reif Larsen), because you can’t spend another second without having read this book. This novel is fantastic, and just might be my new favorite book – ever. I would like to say that it was as if Kurt Vonnegut wrote “Cloud Atlas”, but at the same time, it’s practically impossible to put the feeling I had reading this book into words.

Brief, spoiler free summary: In 1975, during a blackout, a boy is born coal black to a white couple, and the child is named Radar;  during the second world war, a group of Norwegian teachers create a society of artists and scientists that puts on radical performances in wartime; a man creates small puppet shows in black boxes in Serbia, so incredible you may think they are alive; and a child is found on a rubber plantation in Cambodia, his adoptive father deciding to raise him to be the greatest physicist the country has ever seen. Spanning decades and crossing the globe, I Am Radar takes you on an unforgettable journey, bridging art and science in an epic novel you will be unable to put down.

It’s a difficult plot to explain, because of how character driven this novel is. Just like Miro with his small black boxes, Larsen seems able to breathe life into his creations, giving every character incredible depth and dimension. I felt deeply connected to everyone I was introduced to, even minor characters, which made switching from one part (or perspective) to the next almost painful. Remarkably, the characters grow and change, a reminder that we are never the same person through our lives, and that life is unexpected, and will throw anything at us. Never before have a read a book where I was so aware of what made the characters tick.

To add to the realism, the author often ‘sources’ his facts, using photos, newspaper clippings, and other physical ‘evidence’ to support what his story. It blurred the line between fact and fiction, making me wonder where the truth ended and the story began. It makes the reader want to research for themselves, to see if any of these people really existed, or if the events ever happened.

But the best part of this novel for me was the melding or science and art. The artists use puppetry – think less muppet, more Royal de Luxe – to create both installation and performance pieces, using incredibly skilled techniques, pushing the limits of science to create beauty. These performances are told to us in such detail that we ourselves can imagine being there, and we can interpret these fictitious events for ourselves as true works of art, transcending the page. I wish I would have seen the ‘Conference of the Birds’ act for myself. I guess that’s why I came our of reading this book feeling the awe that I did: it was an incredible read, and I want to share it with everyone. I want to talk to my friends about the performances, as if they had actually happened, and what they would mean. I want to meet the author and say… Wow. 

I Am Radar comes out on February 25th.

Sarah’s 2014 Favorite – Station Eleven

by Emily St John Mandel
Reviewed by SA

I’m so late to this party. It’s the end of the year, and EVERYONE has done nothing but praise this new novel for the past few months. Best book of the year? Station Eleven sure is on a whole lot of people’s lists. And for good reason.

Post-Apocalypse novels seem almost overdone these days: somehow, civilization has fallen, the world as we know it is changed forever, and those who survive the initial cataclysm have a lot of adjustments to make. Picking up Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel’s new novel, I was expecting more of the same; but I was pleasantly surprised.

So yes: civilization as we know it as ended. The Georgia flu, a viral pandemic of extraordinary proportions, kills off 99% of the planet’s population. We find ourselves twenty years later, following a troop of Shakespearian actors as they travel from settlement to settlement, working their magic on those of us who are left.

And it is beautiful.

StationelevenUKHCMany people have described Station Eleven as Mandel’s ‘Love letter to humanity’, and that is exactly the tone of the novel: civilization may have fallen, but we have gotten back on our feet, we still love and respect the good things, and we can adapt to new situations. The human race is adapting; newspapers are being written again, art is still being made, and people are still living. Even Shakespeare lives on.

The book divides itself between the world after the flu, following Kirsten, who was just a child when the world changed, as she performs and travels with the troop, and the days, months, and years before the pandemic, our present. The lives of the characters are intertwined around each other, sometimes in ways that seem far too coincidental to be believable, and the novel allows us to piece together the pieces as we go along.

Everyone seems somehow connected to Arthur Leander, a well know actor with a string of failed marriages. We follow his rise to fame; his many marriages; all the way to his final performance, which is actually where the book begins. We see Kirsten’s obsession with finding clues to Arthur’s life, and her attachment to the comic books, ‘Station Eleven’, whom no one seems to have ever heard of. We follow Jeevan, a paparazzi turned paramedic; Miranda, Arthur’s first wife, whose pet project seems to taint her relationships; Clark, Arthur’s older friend; and then there is this mysterious prophet, whom we don’t know too much about…

While the coincidences that connect the characters are sometimes too far fetched – I snorted aloud at more than one occasion – I thoroughly enjoyed how each of them were drawn out. These were characters with real dimension, that you began to care about and connect to, even if you were only with them for a short time.

There is just so much hope in this novel. It reflects a human race that deals with catastrophe with its chin up, and manages to make it through and survive through the most difficult trials. Some chapters begin by telling us the things that are gone, some making you close the book and pause to consider, but then they move on, showing that what remains is us, and we’re capable of so much more. The world has changed, but we’re still living, and we’re still acting.

Station Eleven is a fantastic read. The plot is captivating and enjoyable to follow, but the writing is what sells it. The beauty in the way Mandel describes the new world, and even in how she shows our current one. A book to be enjoyed and re-read over and over again.

One thing I found fantastic was the surprise page 305; if you purchased the ‘Picador’ edition, you will know what I mean.