Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Published by Knopf on September 9th 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Survival Stories
Pages: 336
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An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
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.

“What I mean to say is, the more you remember, the more you’ve lost.”

Confession: I went into this book not really expecting to like it. It’s very hyped and has gotten many raving reviews, and yet I didn’t think I would enjoy it. Why? Because this book can – I believe – be classified as literary fiction and for some reason, I still see myself as not being capable of grasping these kinds of novels. I have the preconceived notion that as someone who reads primarily YA, I cannot appreciate these types of books (which I realize is actually kind of offensive towards YA readers). I thought I would be bored and confused. Fortunately though, it turns out I was wrong. Station Eleven didn’t confuse me in the slightest and I really enjoyed it.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Half a King by Joe AbercrombieHalf a King by Joe Abercrombie
Published by Del Rey on July 15th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Royalty, Survival Stories
Pages: 336
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Betrayed by his family and left for dead, Prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted.
But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself – all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, traps and tragedy…

The fool strikes. The wise man smiles, and watches, and learns. Then strikes.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Ashfall by Mike MullinAshfall by Mike Mullin
Published by Tanglewood Press Genres: Survival Stories, Young Adult
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Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don't know it's there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.
For Alex, being left alone for the weekend means having the freedom to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek to search for his family and finds help in Darla, a travel partner he meets along the way. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster.

I’m such a sucker for a plausible survival story. I loved… and hated this book. This reminded me of Life As We Knew It only better.
Hated it because these are the kind of books that speak to my personal fears. If I were to be a prepper it would be for a natural disaster scenario, lol. It’s like this Mayan dust up we have right now (and, ok, this is an older review but oh well). I don’t believe in it. Then I read this and think about how Alex was separated from his family, and I totally catch myself thinking about how I’m sending the kids to school that day (because I don’t believe anything will happen) and then what a dick I would feel like should I be proved wrong, lol. Then what. Le sigh. Stupid book making me think of all the horrible things I don’t want to think about.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes by Sara RaaschSnow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Published by Harper Collins on October 14th 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Action & Adventure, Survival Stories, Love & Romance, Family, Orphans & Foster Homes, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 432
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A striking fantasy tale of dark magic, dangerous politics, and discovering your true self—perfect for fans of Game of Thrones, An Ember in the Ashes and A Court of Thorns and Roses.
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now the Winterians' only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter's magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter's defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter's future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again.
So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter's magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics—and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy WeirThe Martian by Andy Weir
Published by Crown on February 11th 2014
Genres: Hard Science Fiction, Space Exploration, Action & Adventure
Pages: 384
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Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

 

The Martian by Andy Wier
 

Yeah, science! I hope you like it, because this book is all science, all the time. Oh, and math. Mathematical science and scientific math. Yeah! Lol. You would think that this combo would make for a boring book, but you’d be wrong.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie RyanDaughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on May 26th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Action & Adventure, Survival Stories, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Death & Dying, Family, Orphans & Foster Homes
Pages: 375
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I’m the daughter of murdered parents.I’m the friend of a dead girl.I’m the lover of my enemy.And I will have my revenge.   In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.   Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

Daughter of Deep Silence demonstrates how an author can tell you one thing, but show something completely different.
It demonstrates how a narrator can take centre stage, metaphorically throw her hands in the air and declare herself an unlikable and complex character hell-bent on revenge, but never give any indication that she’s anything more than an incompetent fool who lusts after a boy she believes is involved in her parents’ deaths.
People love them these days: the unlikable narrators. The complex individuals. The revenge-seekers. From Kill Bill to The Count of Monte Cristo to Black Iris, we just love it when an author can take a character we shouldn’t love and peel back the layers of their mind until we understand them and sympathize with them. I’ve given books high ratings for having such characters.
BUT sometimes, often in YA, authors cheat. They give us fake unlikable narrators that actually – when you take a closer look – never do or think anything the average person wouldn’t. Oh, you don’t care if the people involved in your loved ones’ deaths die? Well, whoop-de-doo, neither would fucking I. Oh, you harbor feelings of resentment towards the people that ruined your whole life? Goddamn, you must be evil.
It’s bullshit. Frances can say whatever the hell she wants about being all broody and vengeful but, in reality, all she wants is to get together with Grey – the guy who at best is covering up a mass homicide, at worst actually helped cause it. In fact, I felt the book breezed over the events of her parents’ deaths without emotion; the real feelings being reserved for when she’s in Grey’s sexy arms.
The book opens with Frances being rescued after spending seven days adrift at sea, following an armed attack on the Persephone in which her parents were killed. The only other survivors – Grey and his father – lie to the press and say it was a rogue wave that brought down the boat. Her friend Libby died on the raft before they were rescued and Libby’s father is the only one who will believe Frances’ story. So he encourages Frances to pretend to be Libby (coincidentally, they look alike), in order to avoid people coming after her. Four years later, Frances – “Libby” – returns for revenge. Or so she says.
Let’s look at the reality.
Frances says:
“Everything about me is perfected and polished, and thoroughly, thoroughly Libby.”
The reality: The very first time she really needs to pretend to be Libby, she calls Libby’s dad “Cecil”.
“The whole point of hosting this thing is because the Senator supported Cecil’s efforts along the coast.”
Shepherd stares at me for a long moment. “So you call him Cecil now?”

So you’ve perfected the art of being Libby but – oops! – you can’t even remember to call her dad “Dad”?
Frances says:
“The only brightness in the black I’d plunged myself into.
Truth.
Another, darker word followed quickly after.
Revenge.”

The reality:
“But there’s another part of me that only cares that, after all these years, I’m finally in his arms again.”
Frances says:
“Rage is a powerful emotion. Strong enough not just to burn away the pain but also sear back the whispering tendrils of fear.”
The reality:
“Yet, somehow, this is the situation I’ve found myself in. Desperate for him to continue loving the girl I used to be.”
And don’t even get me started on that part where she goes out alone at night to meet up with a guy she believes to be involved in a mass homicide. Shepherd expresses concern for her safety and she’s like “I’m badass, whatever.”
Revenge? Yeah, right. This is another angsty love story with a stupid heroine.

One Star