Saturday, January 31, 2015

Station Eleven

Station Eleven
by  Emily St. John Mandel

Genre:  Science fiction; Suspense; Dystopia
Publisher: Random House Audio on 
09 September 2014
Reading with my ears:  Unabridged 
10 hours 49 minutes
Narrator:  Kirsten Potter
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.
My thoughts:
I loved this one.
"Survival is insufficient".

Star Trek: Voyager

The story revolves around characters that were connected to Arthur Leander, an actor who's fame was starting to faze out.  Arthurs dies on stage in the opening scenes of the book but he is the centre of this story.  Almost everyone in the story can be traced back to him in one way or another.

On the night Arthur dies, a terrible flu starts to erase life as we know it.   And civilisation dies.

Through flash backs we get to know Arthur, his friends and his ex-wives.  His first wife, Miranda, created a comic book called Station Eleven.  This comic becomes a favourite escape for Kirsten, twenty years after it was given to her by Arthur when she was a little girl in the King Lear production he dies in.  

We do not get a lot of the epidemic and it's effects (the parts that I always love), this is more about the people and their relationships with each other almost twenty years after.  It is all about how the past and actions taken then can impact today.

Another great narrator that added to my enjoyment of the book.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Ruins

The Ruins
by  Scott Smith

Genre:  Horror; Science fiction; Suspense
Publisher: Simon & Schuster  on 
18 July 2006
Reading with my ears:  Unabridged 
14 hours 39 minutes
Narrator:  Patrick Wilson

Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine. Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day-trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site . . . and the terrifying presence that lurks there.
My thoughts:
I saw the movie a few years ago, not great but very entertaining.  I forgot all about it until I saw someone talk about the book on a Halloween video on BookTube.  I was intrigued, I remembered bits and pieces of the horror and wanted to experience some of that suspense again.  

Just let me start by admitting, the characters are all dumb assesses.  Yeah, I said it!  Don't get me wrong, they are not unlikeable, in fact you will be hoping they find a way out of this mess they got themselves into.  But they had clues all through the beginning chapters, even Mayans trying to warn them away but no . . .  they had to keep going.  Just over the next hill . . . 

I loved this book.  The atmosphere and the desperation were described so well that I was reaching for my bottled water a few times.  I could actually feel the heat and the thirst. There are some gore and the descriptions get very detailed but it is all part of the story and nothing is there just for shock value. 

The narrator builds the creepy atmosphere of people trapped in an awful situation with no way out.  His voice was perfect for this story.  He definitely added to the enjoyment for me.

I can recommend this audiobook highly - it was an enjoyable ride.

Monday, January 19, 2015

We are all Completely Fine

We are all Completely Fine
by  Daryl Gregory

Genre:  Horror; Speculative Fiction; Fantasy
Publisher: Tachyon Publications on 
12 August 2014
Source:  NetGalley - 182 pages
Reading with my ears:  Unabridged 
04 hours 14 minutes
Narrator:  Tavia Gilbert

Harrison is the Monster Detective, a storybook hero. Now he’s in his mid-thirties and spends most of his time not sleeping.
Stan became a minor celebrity after being partially eaten by cannibals. Barbara is haunted by the messages carved upon her bones. Greta may or may not be a mass-murdering arsonist. And for some reason, Martin never takes off his sunglasses.
Unsurprisingly, no one believes their horrific tales until they are sought out by psychotherapist Dr. Jan Sayer. What happens when these likely-insane outcasts join a support group? Together they must discover which monsters they face are within and which are lurking in plain sight.

My thoughts:
I have not been in therapy myself but this was exactly as I would imagine group therapy sessions to be.  Awkward meetings that slowly turn into meetings that are looked forward to. Strangers that turn into friends or at least people you are comfortable with.

Off course it would have to include those in the group you would like and those that just want to share too much all the time.  And even in this little group of trauma survivors, this is true.  You will like some of the characters and others will leave you cold.

This small group has been the victims of some terrible crimes and slowly you begin to see that their perpetrators might not be all human all the time.   You are given little tidbits of the crimes as the novella progresses and all seems a little "off".  

I don't want to give too much away - this is a story that you have to into blind.  It is only a short novella so there is not much fluff to fill out pages.  The story is presented to you in black and white.

I will recommend it for a few hours' escape.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Is it still worth requesting titles from NetGalley?

I have been "away" from reviewing books for a while and what a shock when I returned to NetGalley.  Almost all the "most requested/popular" books are only for American/European or Australian readers.


Once again we are the unpopular kids on the playground.  If you are not in the "in crowd" it is unlikely you will get any hyped ARC's.  I would think that an author would like his or her book to be given to many different types of readers as possible.  But apparently I am wrong.

I saw a book from an South African author (BeastKeeper) on NetGalley today and I am keeping an eye on it.  It is not open for request yet.  It will be interesting to see if this book will also be "limited". If so, I might just stop coming back for a look . . .  

What happened to this popular site?

Is it still worth being a member of NetGalley?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Open and Shut

Open and Shut
by  David Rosenfelt

Series:  Andy Carpenter #1
Genre:  Mystery, Crime, Humor
Publisher: Listen & Live on
03 April 2008
Reading with my ears:  Unabridged
06 hours 50 minutes
Narrator:   Grover Gardner
Whether duelling with new forensics or the local old boys' network, irreverent defence attorney Andy Carpenter always leaves them awed with his biting wit and winning fourth-quarter game plan. But Andy prefers the company of his best friend, Tara, to the people he encounters in the courtroom. Tara, a golden retriever, is clearly smarter than half the lawyers who clog the courts of Passaic County. However, just as it seems Andy has everything figured out, his dad, New Jersey's legendary ex-D.A., drops dead in front of him at a game in Yankee Stadium. The shocks pile on as he discovers his dad left him with two unexpected legacies: a fortune of $22 million that Andy never knew existed . . . and a murder case with enough racial tinder to burn down City Hall. Struggling to serve justice and bring honor to his father, Andy must dig up some explosive political skeletons-and an astonishing family secret that can close his case (and his mouth) for good.
My thoughts:
What a fun read!  Someone in my Facebook bookclub read one of the books later in this series and was telling us about this lawyer and his lovely golden retriever, Tara.  (I love dogs so how could I resist taking a look!)  I have a problem with not starting a series at the beginning, so I went in search of where it all started, way back in 2003 - with the audiobook published in 2008 - a lifetime ago.  But it has not aged at all, I felt as if it could have been written yesterday.  

Andy is not your usual buttoned-down lawyer.  In the beginning of the book, he seemed too fond of dishonest (in my opinion) theatrics in the court room.  I was doubting my choice but after a few chapters this disappeared and he got more serious about defending his client which I appreciated much more.  

All in all, Andy has a good heart, even taking payment in watermelons when defending a client :)

After the fiasco of my previous read, I needed something light and fluffy and that is exactly what I got. It left me with a huge smile on my face.  

The narrator was great with a soothing voice not interfering with the story at all.  I enjoyed this one and would recommend if for a fluffy read.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Red Rising

Red Rising
by  Pierce Brown

Series:  Red Rising Trilogy #1
Genre:  Science Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Recorded Books on
28 January 2014
Reading with my ears:  Unabridged
16 hours 12 minutes
Narrator:   Tim Gerard Reynolds
The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity's last hope. Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie. That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought. Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield - and Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda.
My thoughts:
I first saw this book on BookTube (a new addiction which my bandwidth hates) where most reviews raved about it.  I could not wait to pick it up and the first few hours were wonderful.  I enjoyed the world building of the Reds living underground on Mars.  The characters were interesting and flawed. Unfortunately this was not what the story was really about and I was soon bored.

When Darrow infiltrates the Gold's world, the story changes.  In some parts I found my mind wandering and I had to consciously remind myself to get my head back into the story.  The story becomes one of the "dime-a-dozen" young adult books where the main character is prettier and smarter than most.  He (or she) is thrown into a "school type setting" where he has to fight his classmates (to the death for the most part) for the top winner position.  As in most dystopian young adult fiction there are lots of fighting, cruelty and death.  Not my favourite characteristics of young adult books although I love dystopian/technology advanced worlds.

And then there is Darrow. . . I disliked Darrow.  I mean I really disliked him which is a problem as he is our main protagonist.  He claimed an undying love for his wife, Eo in the first few chapters of the book but this was very easily forgotten when he was immersed in the Gold's world.  I also felt that he was a bit too comfortable in this new life and conveniently seems to forget what the true purpose of his presence is.

I loved the narration by Tim Gerard Reynolds.  I really enjoyed his calm voice which starts with a vague Irish accent for the Reds and turns British-ish for the Golds.

I am in the minority with my thoughts above as the reviews on Goodreads almost all screams praise of this book. So you might have to read it for yourself to see . . .

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Challenges for 2015

In 2015 I am planning on doing three challenges.  Yep, only three.  I am notoriously bad at sticking to them, so next year no pressure.

my read shelf:
Chrizette's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)
Firstly, I will off course be doing the Goodreads challenge.  I will be trying for 50 books which is going to be tough - it means almost a book a week and that might be a bit ambitious for me.  But it needs to be a challenge.  For two years now I have stuck to 25 books and have reached that goal, so next year . . . a challenge.

Secondly, the Audiobook challenge.  This year I made the challenge easily and next year will be the "Look Ma no hands - 50+" level for me.  As I said previously, 50 books is a bit ambitious but hey, let's give it a go!

Lastly, I have made this list below.  A fun idea for bringing a wider choice of books into your life.  I have borrowed ideas for various lists and if you have any ideas to add, please let me know.  The ones that I do not get to fill, will be moved over to next year.  I want to try and keep the list going . . .

That is it - what are your challenges for the new year?

My own Challenge list (compiled from all the challenges out there)

1.  A book with more than 500 pages.
2.  A book that became a movie.
The Ruins (21/01/2015)
3.  A book that became a TV series.
4.  A book with a number in the title.
Station Eleven (23/01/2015)
5.  A book written by someone under 30.
6.  A book with non human characters.
Horns by Joe Hill (13/01/2015)
7.  A funny book.
8.  A book with a one-word title.
9.  A book of short stories.
10. A non-fiction book.
11. A popular author's first book.
12. A Prize winning book.
13. A book based on a true story.
14. A book chosen entirely based on the cover.
15.  A book with food/cooking featuring heavily.
16. A trilogy.
17. A book with a colour in the title.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown (03/01/2015)
18. A book that made you cry.
19. A graphic novel.
Saga Volume 1 (23/01/2015)
20. A book set during Christmas.
21. A book you started but never finished.
22. A book by an "auto-buy-for-you" author.
23. A book published this year.
24. A book published in 2014.
The Truth of the cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman (11/01/2015)
24. A book published before 2014.
25. A book published before you were born.
26. A book published within the last month.
27. A book where you hated the main character.
The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison (07/01/2015)
28. A re-read.
29. A book with a fun dog-character.
Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt (04/01/2015)
30. A book written by a celebrity.
31. A book you saw someone reading.
32. A memoir.
33. A biography.
34. A horror book.
35. A traditional/contemporary fiction book.
36. A historical novel.
37. A mystery book.
38. A psychological thriller.
39. A science fiction book set in future on earth.
40. A science fiction book set in another world.
41. A cozy mystery.
42. A book with an angel.
43. A book written by a South African author.
44. A re-telling of a classic story.
45. A book featuring books or a bookstore.
46. A book where the main character is being hunted (can be a killer, a victim, etc)
47. A book with a day of the week in the title.
48. A book with a month in the title.
49. A book with a game being a big part of the story (online games, TV show games, etc)
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (16/01/2015)

A - Z Location Challenge:
C  -  Chicago, USA  -  The Silent Wife (07/01/2015)
G  -  Gideon, New Hampshire, USA - Horns (13/01/2015)
M  -  Mars - Red Rising (03/01/2015)
P   -  Passaic County, USA  - Open and Shut (04/01/2015)
S  -  Scotland - The Truth of the cave in the Black Mountains (11/01/2015)
T  - Toronto, Canada  -  Station Eleven (23/01/2015)

A - Z Character Name Challenge:
A  -  Andy  - Open and Shut (04/01/2015)
D  -  Darrow - Red Rising (03/01/2015)
I  -  Ig  -  Horns (13/01/2015)
J  -  Jodi  -  The Silent Wife (07/01/2015)
K  - Kirsten - Station Eleven (23/01/2015)
S  -  Sean  - Wolf in White Van (16/01/2015)