Ink and Bone

by Rachel Caine
Reviewed by SA

I won a giveaway! I could not believe it when NovelReveries and BerkleyPub told me I won this awesome book I had been dying to read for ages. I mean, it had me at the premise alone: a world where the Library of Alexandria never burned down. What the world looks like, today, when the value of a book exceeds that of a person. And it sure did not disappoint.

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Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…

There is just so much going on in this book. Jess is a young book smuggler who joins the latest class of librarians in Alexandria in hopes of one day working for the great library… and of being in the right place when his father needs him.  He lives in a world where no one owns original books, only copies that exist through the codex – a bit like a kindle/internet thing – which exists through the work of Obscurists. The later are able to transfer contents of books from one place to another and keep the library running… but at what cost to real, physical books?

The author wastes no time explaining to us how the world is different: she shows us, right off the bat. There’s no long winded exposition, and the story flows naturally. I loved the fact that we slowly gleamed tidbits of how different history was as the novel goes on, without her saying anything explicitly. The world both feels foreign and yet completely likely… and relatable. Most of the countries we know exist, but England and Wales are at war, and Austria is no longer anywhere.

Jess himself is a great protagonist, as he’s still learning the truth about the library and his place within in. His perspective on things mimics ours: our disgust at the ink-lickers (My jaw was hanging in this very early scene) or oven his shock at the Burners are exactly how the audience would feel. But his views on the value of a book are a little convoluted, a little warped by the world he lives in. Are books really worth more than human lives?

Perfect world building in this novel. And you all know how much I love books about libraries! Plus, alternate histories? Completely my jam. Plus, no weird love triangles! What a fantastic read. Gosh, I loved it.

So I have to thank Berkley Publishing and Novel Reveries for organizing the giveaway and allowing me to read this fantastic book. I can’t wait for the sequel!

The Devourers

by Indra Das
Reviewed by SA

The second I read “werewolf” on the first page, I was ready to put this down. Thank god I kept on reading, because this is NOT a werewolf story: no, this novel is something much more. It’s incredible, unique, unforgettable in so many ways. If you’re a fan of indian folklore, and aren’t afraid of some pretty hard topics, then you’re going to need this book right away.

CW/TW: Sexual Assault, Rape. 

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For readers of Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, China Mieville, and David Mitchell comes a striking debut novel by a storyteller of keen insight and captivating imagination.

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.

It is the story of Alok, a lonely professor in India, who is approached by a stranger who wants him to type up an old manuscript. It’s the story of Fenrir, the story of Cyrah, the story of the stranger, and the story of Alok, all at once, each one flowing into the other effortlessly.

It was interesting to see the trope of werewolves in such a way. Only they’re not werewolves, they’re shape shifters, but it’s complicated. Their race has a culture, has a history, has rules and dogmas. And it’s so vastly complex it’ll make you rethink any story you’ve heard of them, ever. For it to be set in India only makes it more interesting.

What marked me most about this novel was really how it did deal with rape. Not once is it defined as anything but. The way the novel deals with monsters and man intertwines with this, and heck I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say this marked me and will probably be a passage I will never forget.

This novel is complex. Unique. It really is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. The last chapter left me shaking. If you’re looking for something incredible to read, well, you’ve got it.

Comes out today from Random House.

Foul is Fair

by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
Reviewed by SA

This week we’re tackling an amazing fantasy novel for Self Published Saturday, a novel you’re sure to love: Foul is Fair, the first novel in the recently concluded Fair Folk Chronicles. It’s a brilliant book that takes you deep into the heart of Faerie, full of magic and danger… and dancing, too.

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Lots of girls play Fairy Princess when they’re little. Megan O’Reilly had no idea the real thing was like playing chess, guitar, and hockey all at once. Megan had known for a long time that she wasn’t an entirely typical girl. But living with ADHD—and her mother’s obsessions—was a very different thing from finding out she wasn’t entirely human. Somewhere out there, in a completely different world, her father needs help. There’s a conflict, revolving around Faerie seasonal rituals, that could have consequences for humanity—and if Megan’s getting the terminology straight, it sounds like her family aren’t even supposed to be the good guys. As she’s further and further swept up in trying to save her father, Megan may be getting too good at not being human.

When Megan discovers her dad – as well as her best friend – are mythical, she takes it all in one stride: she’s got a quest to follow! She has her father to save, let alone the whole world, the balance of which rests upon him being able to attend a dance that changes the seasons. She’s focused and determined, even without her medication, and she’s ready to take on this challenge if it means making things right for the world.

Megan is a skilled artist (thought she might be addicted to doodling) and begins to slowly see the power of music and signing. She’s got a knack for it, which some might call a little magic. I loved Megan as a character, and her friend Lani just as much. Their friendship is a powerful drive in Megan’s life and gives her strength and determination, as well as support as her world is turned on her head. And I’m such a sucker for female friendships in great novels.

My favorite characters, however, were not the main ones: no, I loved Cassia and Ashling a whole lot. Ashling might be my favorite pixie of all time: she’s sassy, funny, and crazy witty. Not to mention she’s technically living with a pixie disability, and her ‘service animal’ is a crow named Count who’s a personality all to himself. I’ve NEVER read a book like this before! Ashling’s comedic responses to Megan’s whole slew of questions – especially her variety of answers as to why Count is names Count  or where fairies come from – had me rolling on the floor laughing.

While some parts of the novel were exposition heavy, I found the overall creativity of the novel to make up for that. I loved the use of other myths from around the world that I had never heard of: Lani, for example, is part Menehune, which (I only just learned this) is a myth from Hawaii. This gives her a talent for engineering and creating things.

To recap all the amazing things about this book: great representation, love of art and music, love of science and creativity, the world of Faerie, myths from around the world, great adventure… and did I mention it’s a great read for any age?

“I’ve been a huge mythology nerd most of my life, so getting to play with the old myths, and have a series centered around the 4 treasures of Ireland, the 4 lost cities of the fae, and the 4 big seasonal events of the calendar was a lot of fun,” The author told me when I asked about his inspiration, “Thor #279 was one of the first things I ever really read, when I was 5. It sent me scrambling to learn the real myths. So I liked the idea of writing something where readers, especially teens, maybe could, or even would occasionally go running to google some of the things in the books, or read Celtic myth, Hawaiian myth, etc.”

And it worked! I ended up by starting to google “Menehune”and spend a few hours just browsing the interwebs, using this book as a guide. And I learned so much!

If you want a fun and creative take on the world of Faerie, then you’re going to love Foul is Fair. There are four books to this series, all available on amazon. The ebook for book 2 is on .99 sale on kindle through this weekend, as it is the summer solstice!

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The Dark Side

By Anthony O’Neill
Reviewed by SA

Give me a fantastic Sci Fi any day, and I wont be able to move until I’ve finished reading it. With The Dark Side, I physically could not put it down, or else I would be stuck thinking about it every second until it was in my hands again. This book was gripping, thrilling, clever, and even funny, with such amazing science that I was completely engrossed from page one.

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In this dark and gripping sci-fi noir, an exiled police detective arrives at a lunar penal colony just as a psychotic android begins a murderous odyssey across the far side of the moon.

Purgatory is the lawless moon colony of eccentric billionaire, Fletcher Brass: a mecca for war criminals, murderers, sex fiends, and adventurous tourists. You can’t find better drugs, cheaper plastic surgery, or a more ominous travel advisory anywhere in the universe. But trouble is brewing in Brass’s black-market heaven. When an exiled cop arrives in this wild new frontier, he immediately finds himself investigating a string of ruthless assassinations in which Brass himself—and his equally ambitious daughter—are the chief suspects.

Meanwhile, two-thousand kilometers away, an amnesiac android, Leonardo Black, rampages across the lunar surface. Programmed with only the notorious “Brass Code”—a compendium of corporate laws that would make Ayn Rand blush—Black has only one goal in mind: to find Purgatory and conquer it.

The name Anthony O’Neill is going to soon become synonymous with impeccable world building. This author evokes a rich, complex world that follows the laws of science themselves. As a science geek, I absolutely loved how he infused the novel with the small details: like the large rain you would get in a humid hab on a rock where the gravity is so much lighter. Or the beautiful dust clouds created where the night meets day on the moon’s surface. Those beautiful, evocative details create a believable world you could almost imagine being in.

Not only that, but before each encounter with Leonardo Black, the Android walking the moon just to follow a set of programmed motivationals, the author details the life of the character who’s about to come into play. He shows us what it’s like back on earth, what it is to be a criminal in this near future. What line of thought can bring a person to live on the moon. The complexity of his background characters is astounding, and I honestly think he could write an entire book about each of them.

I myself could have read an entire book about Leonardo Black. This android was hilarious, even in his murderous rampage. His Brass code sounds like something out of the mouth of Donald Trump or Ann Rand. For example, he literally cannot spell surrender. He is motivated by a need to “Find Oz” and “become the wizard.” He’s a psycho, and yet he was my favorite character.

The main plot revolves around an Exiled cop, detective Justus, who’s trying to stop a wave of murders int he city of Purgatory. At first, I didn’t see how this storyline met  with that of Leonardo Black, but it all came together in the end in a really creative way. I loved how it felt like a noir detective novel from the 1950s, only set on the moon in a scientifically accurate future.

This book was pure FUN. I loved it. Think “The Martian” crossed over with a 1950s Noir novel. Fun for fans of thrillers and science fiction alike!

This novel comes out June 28th from Simon & Schuster.

The God Virus

by Indigo Voyager 
Reviewed by SA
It’s Self Published saturday! Today, we’ve got an awesome scifi novel from Indie Author Indigo Voyager: The God Virus. What a fascinating novel: pure science fiction at every level. I can’t think of a novel that works its way through every consequence of a premise like this one does. It’s so detailed, complex, and has fantastic characters you’ll love to follow.

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Infected by a DNA-altering virus, Derek and Alessandra develop strange and unnerving superpowers that challenge everything they thought they knew about the world ― allowing them to amass a fortune.

As they fall in love, they battle ruthless criminal mobs bent on harvesting the virus from their brains and intelligence agencies that try to enslave them.

When Derek signs up for an experimental drug treatment, he never expects to have his entire DNA changed. Soon, he’s able to experience out of body travels, and begins to develop abilities that stretch far beyond what is normal. Heck, he isn’t even human anymore…

After Allie contracts these same changes from him, the two of them are suddenly the only two people of their kind, and they’re hunted by everyone who wants to get their hands on this human enhancing ‘drug’. No one is safe: not Derek or Allie, nor their families, their friends… as the two fall in love with each other, they must fight the mob and angry governments in order to keep themselves, and everyone they love, safe from harm.

I can’t decide what I liked best about this book. As a scifi nerd, I absolutely the science behind it all. There was just so much in this book, and small, real sources and facts to back it all up. Do you remember the movie ‘Lucy’? This is how that movie could have succeeded. Humans outgrowing their humanity and becoming something more: backed by (somewhat feasible) science, and a thrilling plot that has you caring for them all the way through, urging them to succeed.

What marked me was, even as Derek and Allie stop being human, they never lose their humanity. They care so much about their families. This determination not only to care for their own, but to make the world a better place along the way, makes them incredibly likable. As they grow into their new abilities, they’re supportive of each other, and work through the hard times together. It makes them both relatable and lovable.

Surprisingly, all the ‘background’ characters have so much depth as well. From the mobster grandfather to the Hawaiian boyfriend, everyone has an intricate story to tell. When they were in trouble, you want to save them as quick as possible; while, when they were happy, you feel energized and excited for them.

The novel also deals with questions such as parallel universes and timelines; building and creating a society or civilization; making big bucks with stocks; Souls and Spirit Realms; and the Russian mob, too. As you can tell, there’s a whole lot going on!

All in all, if you need a good, complex science fiction novel, then you’re going to want to read The God Virus. It’s a fantastic, thrilling story which is incredibly memorable. Scifi fans everywhere are going to want to read more!

Purchase it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/God-Virus-Indigo-Adventures-Book-ebook/dp/B01CPM6R5M

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Moxyland

by Lauren Beukes
Reviewed by SA

Prepare yourselves for an insane thrill ride, not for the feint of heart. This novel is everything a science fiction novel should be an more, and you’re going to fall in love with Beukes’s writing. And you’ll probably come out hating humans, but we all need a good dose of that from time to time.

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A frighteningly persuasive, high-tech fable, this novel follows the lives of four narrators living in an alternative futuristic Cape Town, South Africa. Kendra, an art-school dropout, brands herself for a nanotech marketing program; Lerato, an ambitious AIDS baby, plots to defect from her corporate employers; Tendeka, a hot-headed activist, is becoming increasingly rabid; and Toby, a roguish blogger, discovers that the video games he plays for cash are much more than they seem. On a collision course that will rewire their lives, this story crackles with bold and infectious ideas, connecting a ruthless corporate-apartheid government with video games, biotech attack dogs, slippery online identities, a township soccer school, shocking cell phones, addictive branding, and genetically modified art. Taking hedonistic trends in society to their ultimate conclusions, this tale paints anything but a forecasted utopia, satirically undermining the reified idea of progress as society’s white knight.

Moxyland is very character driven. All four characters live in South Africa, and their lives all intersect and their paths cross in interesting ways. And each of them are just so incredibly relatable: they’re all a little hot-headed, maybe entitled, self absorbed, and cynical about the world they live in. Whether they like it or not, they all have an important role to play.

We have Kendra, the artist, who’s trying to be independent: she joins a nanotech research program/marketing scheme, which will change her life forever. There’s Lerato, who’s trying to climb the corporate ladder while still hating the corporations. Ten, a activist who slowly begins to cross the line into terrorism, and Toby, a gamer and blogger who just wants to live his comfortable lifestyle. They all have different views of the world they live in, many too comfortable to do anything to change it, while others may try and do too much. it can all end in tears.

The future that Burkes imagines for South Africa is a very plausible one. Everyone is very dependent on their smart phone, as it carries their identity, their bank account, and will even be used in riot control or police arrests. Losing your phone is being tossed out of society. This, and other cool technologies I won’t spoil for you, made so much sense for the world of tomorrow.

The plot itself is a little complicated to get into at first, to see how everyone fits together, but it grows until a climax that is absolutely heart stopping. Seriously, I could not put this book down. It was so exciting, and terrifying… but no, no spoilers!

The novel is also a bit of a social commentary on us (well, a lot of a social commentary), about the power of consumerism and corporations, about complacency, about giving up our freedoms for perceived comfort. It’s not exactly eye opening, but still an amazing study. It kind of makes you hate us current humans.

For fans of Snow Crash, and cyberpunk, who love classics like Brave New World. This book will leave you breathless.

A new paperback edition comes out 16 Aug 2016 from Mulholland Books.

 

The Crown’s Game

By Evelyn Skye
Reviewed by SA

I have been excited for this book for ages: I mean, magic in imperial Russia? Yes please! And I was so thrilled that it did not disappoint. I couldn’t put it down: quite literally, actually, as I sat down and read it in about two hours, and didn’t see time go by.

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Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love… or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear… the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

I loved the world the author created, melding a well researched imperial Russia with the promise of magic and enchantment. The descriptions of not only St Petersburg, but also the Steppe, and the islands truly made you feel transported there. I could almost feel everything around me as I was reading, which is what made it so difficult for me to pull away.

The magic itself is something beautiful. Evanescing, the enchanted way to travel, is something described in such a gorgeous way that I wished I could travel like that, too. However, I was disappointed when I realized there would not be strong magical battles (Like in A Gathering of Shadows) but that was quickly remedied when I was sucked into the beautiful creations of our two heroes. At each turn of the game, they compete to outshine each other, and the result is quite beautiful.

As for the characters themselves, well, some I loved, some I hated, and some I loved and hated through the novel.  I did relate to Vika and Nicolai, and quite enjoyed their difference in magic (one being more elemental, the other more technical) and how they complemented each other. Vika’s fiery and fierce, headstrong and independent. Nicolai was more book loving, a bit Nerdy, but a bit of an artist. While some of their decisions seemed illogical, I’ll put that down to them just being young. I make irrational decisions too.

While Pasha seemed fantastic to me, his family seemed quite two dimensional. Actually, most minor characters seemed to suffer this lack of depth, some of whom can be written up into just one word. The secondary villain (if you can call her that) actually built up great, but then just kind of fell flat and stopped being the threat we expected her to be. She fizzled.

But boy, did I like this world. I loved how the magic worked, I loved the enchanted mountain, the idea of volcanic nymphs, the beautiful descriptions. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, actually.

I think you’ll like it too!

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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!

We Should Hang Out Sometime

By Josh Sundquist

Reviewed by SA

9780316251020_p0_v2_s260x420Next Tuesday, a fantastic new books hits the shelves: We Should Hang Out Sometime’ by Josh Sundquist, a brutally honest look at dating. It’s one of the Advance Reader Copies I was given at BookCon, and I admit that this review was published on my old blog (which no one needs to see.) But seeing as how the wait is finally over, I thought it best to share it with you all here.

The book itself is a memoir of the author’s experiences as a teenager/Young adult, chronicling his attempts (and failures) at finding a girlfriend. According to the author himself, it is a ‘semiscientific, wholly hilarious investigation’ into what went wrong in his pursuits of love. And by semiscientific, he means he forms hypotheses, investigates, tracks those women down, and asks them point blank why it never worked out between them.

I love the scientific approach to understanding where the relationships went wrong, as it ads to the charm of the book.
And there are charts. Very funny, very accurate charts, drawn in sharpie, placed here and there all throughout the novel, giving you insight into the author’s mind and a good laugh (or a sincere awww) in most cases.

The story itself is so brutally honest that I can’t help but feel connected to the life of young Josh, and the challenges he faces trying to find a girlfriend. It’s incredibly engaging. The reader finds themselves relating to his thoughts and feelings as he comes up against the challenges of finding love. The fear of rejection is a poignant reoccurring theme throughout the entire novel, which both holds him back from asking out the women he crushes on and taints his memory of the relationship, which we can se through the hypotheses he forms about why it never worked out between them. “She may have liked me, but…” is a repeated consideration of the author with almost each of the potentials. And it doesn’t help that he does get rejected right off the bat one of the only times he does go for it.

However, with almost every woman, the results of the investigation surprise Josh, and the reader – except in the few cases where the reader can see what young Josh couldn’t, and wants to scream at the page “She’s obviously into you! Go for it!”

The book is an incredibly quick read, both because the author manages to convey some of the key concepts through well thought out charts, and also because the reader just simply wants to know what’s coming next. I sat down and read the book in less three hours, on the bus on the way from BookCon to Philly. It reads like you’re sitting with a friend and he’s telling you his worst dating experiences. It’s engrossing, captivating, grabbing the reader and making them a participant in the investigation. It has some real laugh out loud moments, and I found myself laughing not only because of the absurdity of his predicament, but also because of how much I related to what he was feeling.

But the truth is, the book isn’t just about finding a girlfriend, findingtumblr_mbejmiwQ811qddjxro1_r1_400 love; it’s about our own insecurities, fears, our self esteem. It’s about you. It’s about all of us, because we can all relate to these, even if we aren’t missing a leg. This book isn’t just about finding love in others, but learning to love yourself.

Josh begins the book by stating that the reason behind his investigation, other than curiosity, is to find out what was wrong with him, if it was something like annoying habit, that he could change, or something permanent, that he would just have to live with. Each time, he asks what was wrong with him. And, SPOILER ALERT! Nothing is. The problem is that he believes there is.

Which is why I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone who’s ever felt that deep set feeling that they’re just not good enough. Everyone can relate to Josh’s struggles. Everyone has felt insecure, for different reasons: maybe we didn’t even realize it at the time.

I really recommend this book. It’s a fantastically fun read that I’d happily share with others, and it offers a fantastic lesson – a truth – without being preachy. It’s one of those books that makes you wish you were friends with the author, so you could call them up and talk to them what you thought.

Random thoughts about the book:

  • Have any of you read An Abundance of Katherines (John Green)? Parts of the book felt a lot like that. Maybe it was the format of “This woman – this experience – This ending”. Maybe it was the theme of teenage love. Or coming of age. So if you like reading John Green, you’ll probably enjoy this novel.
  • After reading the book, I checked out Josh’s youtube channel and realized I recognized him from his “Doctor Who for Math Nerds” video. I watched a few vlogs and was shocked out how his voice is so recognizable from the book. it really is an honest novel, and he’s not trying to be anybody but himself.
  • I’m not a man or an amputee, but I really related to this book. Wowza.
  • We should hang out sometime! is quite accurately the best pickup line. Full disclosure, I’m probably going to use it in my future.

Originally posted on The Adventures of Gap Year Girl, June 2014.

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.