Review | Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

ABOUT THE BOOK

Published: Sept 9th, 2014
Genre: Literary Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
Edition: Kindle eBook
Length: 333 pgs.

GoodReads | Amazon | BookDepository

THE BLURB

An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, from the author of three highly acclaimed previous novels.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, 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.

☁  ☁  ☁  ☁  ☁

ramblings

This is one of these rare times when I actually bought a newly released book (on sale!) and started reading it in a day. Because this is such a rare event, I knew I had to review this book. Station Eleven is a literary fiction novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting.

The dystopia isn’t a major part of this book, but this book does take a very different approach to the usual dystopians that have come out in recent years. I am, of course, thinking along the lines The Hunger Games or Divergent, but even in terms of other dystopians, this novel stands separate from the usual tropes of dystopias. The setting of this novel feels more melancholic and nostalgic than the general expectation of terror and chaos. Once civilization has collapsed, governments have dismantled and lawlessness reigns. Everyone is on their own and though there are some obvious concerns to be addressed in this sort of situation, it’s not as bad as one would think. Once all the luxuries that we in the twenty-first century enjoy have been taken away, people simply began to adapt. The basic survival instinct that we have as a species takes over and people began to gather, hunt, guard, and organize. The only dangerous situation one can find themselves in in this world is to be alone and make yourself vulnerable as an easy target for theft, assault, or rape. Perhaps this is simply my take on this setting or maybe I am understanding this due to the fact that we follow only one major group of artists as they are traveling but they all seem pretty normal and no one is running around screaming for war or any kind of revolution.

The writing, similarly, is very straightforward and sincere, which merely enhances the tranquility of the setting. It almost felt like the fact that this a lot of story that takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting is simply a coincidence and doesn’t have much to add to the story other than helping us see how people would adapt in such a situation.

There were a few too many characters in this story for me to follow at first but that might be due to the fact that this was a rare occasion in which I never bothered to read the synopsis before jumping into the book. The synopsis actually does an excellent job of setting up the story, in my opinion, as it tells us of the five major perspectives we follow and once we categorize the perspectives while reading, it becomes easier to follow the separate stories. Additionally, these people and their life do eventually connect back together by the end of the story. “Station Eleven” is a title that refers to a comic series written and illustrated by Arthur’s first wife, Miranda, and though that is one object that connects these people, the stories are entwined in one manner or another and eventually we make these connections through Arthur’s life—which played a bigger role than I initially imagined.

The characters themselves don’t seem to have much to say particularly; I think their actions and life experiences speak louder and more clearly at times—this would a book where it would be redundant to try and pick a favorite character because it’s kind of like picking a favorite person in your real life. Arthur, himself, I couldn’t understand completely until I realized he isn’t as important as the role he played in other’s lives. But these characters are as realistic as they can get and because of this I believe they were harder to categorize.

There is some ambiguity about the “big picture” in such a setting which I was slightly curious about and disappointed wasn’t discussed but because that wasn’t the focus, it wasn’t a big deal. I was most definitely annoyed by the existence of the “Prophet” in the novel. It was both agitating and comical that everything in the world has been wiped out but we still have some ignorant form of religion in existence that continues to terrify the population. The lack of background story on the Prophet was the only major suspense in the story and, unfortunately, just about a couple chapters before the Prophet’s identity is revealed, I had already guessed who he was which made me both sad (knowing the person he was) and—obviously—satisfied that I could figured it out for myself.

Overall, this is a very relaxing, serene novel that is not only easy to read but speeds by once you really start connecting with the characters. It’s not overly done or pretentious; Mandel writes a story that almost makes us wishful for such a tranquil existence in which we can finally begin to enjoy life as it was given without squandering our time obsessed with artificial and materialistic things.

This review is also available on BookLikes.

4star

Top 5 Wednesday: Recommendations for Halloween

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Top 5 Recommendations for Halloween

I don’t read “horror” books at all so I’m going to have to be satisfied with grim and gothic picks for this one. :)

5. The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham

Due to the ambiguity of whether or not this “magician” is really a magician, this was somewhat of a creepy read.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

4. Dracula by Bram Stoker

A bit more dull and dry than Frankenstein but a bit more creepy too.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

3. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Recently read this. Whether you buy the supernatural bits or whether you read it without them, this is one heck of a creepy read.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

2. Locke and Key by Joe Hill

Ahh…so I do have a horror pick! It’s a graphic novel and pretty horrific in my opinion. There are some really gory details and pretty disturbing images that are hard to shake off later.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

1. The Monk: A Romance by Matthew Lewis

If you get through the first half, which is pretty boring in my opinion, the second half is really disturbing and might possibly scare you (didn’t scare me but that might just be me).


Please feel free to leave a link to your Top 5 Wednesday post, I would love to see what you have for the week! If you have read any of these titles, share your thoughts below. :)

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Happy Reading!

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Titles

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Top 5 Favorite Titles
(just “titles” not books right?)

5. Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff

Didn’t love the book, loved the title.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

4. The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson

Pretty powerful title.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Another powerful title! Loved the book too.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

2. Moab is my Washpot by Stephen Fry

Loved the title. Loved the book. LOVE the author.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

1. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Didn’t really love the book as I had hoped but that is one of the catchiest titles ever. Perfect.


Please feel free to leave a link to your Top 5 Wednesday post, I would love to see what you have for the week! If you have read any of these titles, share your thoughts below. :)

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Happy Reading!

Top 5 Wednesday: Books that you weren’t expecting to like but did

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Top 5 books that you weren’t expecting to like but did

5. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Dystopians aren’t really my thing but I liked this one, despite still having avoided The Hunger Games at that time. The series loses its touch pretty quickly though. :(

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

4. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

I thought it would be boring but though it kind of was, it was really epic in some ways.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

3. The English Patient by Michael Ondaajte

I had to pick this up for Uni after having to struggle through Atonement and really was not in the mood for another war novel. Surprisingly, this wasn’t half bad. Not very realistic, but love the narrative and writing.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

2. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

It’s not something I thought I would ever like. Way to depressing for me but I kind of loved it.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

1. The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

From all the negative reviews on these books and comments about it being slow and boring, I had my doubts. I ended up loving The Hobbit but even when starting LOTR, I had to pick up and set back down The Fellowship of the Ring several times before I began to enjoy the books.


Please feel free to leave a link to your Top 5 Wednesday post, I would love to see what you have for the week! If you have read any of these titles, share your thoughts below. :)

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Happy Reading!

Review | The Monk: A Romance by Matthew Lewis

The Monk by Matthew Lewis

ABOUT THE BOOK

Published: 1795
Genre: Gothic Horror
Edition: Paperback
Length: 425 pgs.

GoodReads | Amazon | BookDepository

THE BLURB

Set in the sinister monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid, The Monk is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest. The struggle between maintaining monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions leads its main character, the monk Ambrosio, to temptation and the breaking of his vows, then to sexual obsession and rape, and finally to murder in order to conceal his guilt.

Inspired by German horror romanticism and he work of Ann Radcliffe, Lewis produced his masterpiece at the age of 19. It contains many typical Gothic elements – seduction in a monastery, lustful monks, evil abbesses, bandits an beautiful heroines. But Lewis also played with convention, ranging from gruesome realism to social comedy, and even parodied the genre in which he was writing.

☁  ☁  ☁  ☁  ☁

ramblings

Seizing the opportunity to read this macabre book for the “Spooky Reads Challenge”, I was extremely happy to get to The Monk. Although I did have some issues with it, generally, I was quite impressed by this piece of work. I don’t really read horror books so The Monk is as close to horror as I can read. Also, this review will be a short one, I mainly just want to address two main issues I had with this book.

Going into this book, there were two concerns preying on my mind from other’s opinions and comments: 1) the book is incredibly slow and 2) it has so many characters I might lose track of who is who (I got this impression from all the characters that were mentioned in different reviews). My second concern was dismissed quickly—I had no problem keeping up with the characters at all. Sure, there are a quite a few but not as many and they are, to some extent and only until the very end, two distinct story lines so that helped to keep some characters apart until the ending ties everything and everyone together.

My first concern, though, was real. The Monk definitely stars off quite slow and tends to really drag in some places (for me, it dragged quite a bit in Raymond’s flashback narrative). I would agree with the belief that the main story doesn’t really even start until you get halfway into a book. Which, considering this is a classic and 400+ pgs. long, takes some time. And there is also, to some extent, a superfluous use of language and description. Sometimes, one or two lines would do to explain what is happening or what the character is going through but the narrator takes quite a long time to move past from that and onto what happens next. I have to admit, however, that once you do make it to the halfway point, the story speeds up and becomes far more engrossing.

Aside from that, they only other problem for me was the portrayal of women in this novel. Well, “portrayal” is perhaps the wrong word to use but I was really unsettled by everything that happens to each of the female characters in this novel. I cannot go deeply into this without spoiling everything so I’m simply going to ask you to examine the female characters in this novel when you read it or perhaps if you have, look at everything that happens to each of them and you’ll understand what I mean. They’re just miserable. No sense of justice is given to these women. And when they try to attain it for themselves, worse things happen (like the bleeding nun who hinders Agnes’s plans of escape).

Futhermore, a lot of the injustice delivered to the women is done by the hands of other women. Antonia, for example, is refused marriage with Lorenzo by her mother, Elvira, and is even encouraged to forget him completely because of her own petty fears. Agnes, as you find in the beginning, ends up where she does because of the jealous nature of her aunt. Even a character like Virginia, who barely appears in the story, was plotting to remove affection from Lorenzo’s mind—right after he loses another woman. It’s really quite upsetting. Nothing much happens to the men except for Ambrosio, even then, as fantastic as the ending was, it wasn’t enough in my opinion.

Despite all my objections, I am really happy to have read this book. I was also very impressed with the fact that Lewis (the author) published this when he just 19. Not that 19 years old cannot write, but they probably don’t have much time or concentration to able to see through with a novel and have it published by 19. And though I was irked by the flowery passages, I was amazed at the writing.

If you still have some reading time left over in October, give this creepy book a try!

This review is also available on BookLikes. If you would like a review with spoilers but with some more details, please click here.

3star

Top 5 Wednesday: Female Characters

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Top 5 Female Characters

5. Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pretty self-explanatory, I suppose?

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

4. Margaret Hale from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I think she’s slightly stronger than Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice so she takes the 4th prize.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

3. Amelia Peabody from the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters

For a woman who is living in the Victorian era, Amelia is as spunky as they come.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

2. Aria Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

For a little girl, Aria Stark, can kick some ass. Even in a land of men who slaughter each other without care, for a little girl to survive so long is a major accomplishment wouldn’t you say?

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

1. Agnes from Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Fictional or non-fictional, I really felt for Agnes. She was stronger than I would have ever been in the type of situations she was put in.

>>>>>> <<<<<<

(A few) honorary mentions: Hermione from Harry Potter (I feel like I pick Harry Potter for everything so this time, she gets the back seat), Yelena from the Study series (if you don’t count Fire Study), and Annabel from Percy Jackson and the Olympians.


Please feel free to leave a link to your Top 5 Wednesday post, I would love to see what you have for the week! If you have read any of these titles, share your thoughts below. :)

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Happy Reading!

September Reads. October TBR.

wrapup

21 BOOKS. Honestly, I was thinking I would barely get through 10. It was my birthday month after all. :)

Here’s what I read:

  1. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco – ★★★★
  2. The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett – ★★★
  3. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – ★★★★★
  4. Amulet Vol. 3 The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi – ★★★★
  5. Amulet Vol. 4 The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi – ★★★★
  6. Amulet Vol. 5 Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi – ★★★★
  7. The Sweet Tooth Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire – ★★★
  8. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – ★★★★
  9. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – ★★★★
  10. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – ★★★
  11. The Belgariad: #1 The Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings – ★★★★
  12. Half Bad by Sally Green – ★★★
  13. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – ★★
  14. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – ★★★★★
  15. The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman – ★★★★
  16. Atonement by Ian McEwan – ★
  17. Amelia Peabody: #1 Crocodile on the Sandback by Elizabeth Peters – ★★★★
  18. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje – ★★★★
  19. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – ★★★★★
  20. Locke and Key, Vol. 1 by Joe Hill – ★★★★
  21. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – ★★★

I have to read for 3 other classes starting in September so I didn’t get to read a lot for pleasure (at least not those I intended too). :( I did get a lot of books though! But I have yet to post my August haul so…I’m behind on the hauls.

I also posted 2 discussions of “Book Talk”: Importance of Book Covers and Reading, Reviewing, and Rating as well as posted my nominations for One Lovely Blog Award after being nominated myself by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. So even if I only posted 3 reviews, I did manage to keep this blog alive and breathing…for now. :P


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BookTube Reading Buddies is having a “Spooky Reads Challenge” so head over there to participate by choosing to read 3 of the books that were nominated by members (the first three books listed below are for that).

    1. The Monk by Matthew Lewis
    2. The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft
    3. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson
    4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
    5. Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
    6. Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
    7. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
    8. Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
    9. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

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What are you reading in October? Have you read any of the books I mentioned above? Share your thoughts below!