Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Published by Picador
Ebook
Published 10 September 2014
352 pages
Library book

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WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

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 Travelling 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.”

OPENING 

THE KING STOOD in a pool of blue light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. Earlier in the evening, three little girls had played a clapping game onstage as the audience entered, childhood versions of Lear’s daughters, and now they’d returned as hallucinations in the mad scene. The king stumbled and reached for them as they flitted here and there in the shadows. His name was Arthur Leander. He was fifty-one years old and there were flowers his hair.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I really enjoyed Station Eleven. I’m a huge fan of apocalyptic fiction so knew this would be right up my street. I was impressed by the fact the author offers a refreshing scenario for the end of the world and chose something other than the old zombie apocalypse which has been done to death. Station Eleven is a breath of fresh air. What I also like was how simple and quiet the book was, moving back and forth in time showing the day the flu came and what happened to civilisation in the twenty years after the world ended. A trope of apocalyptic fiction is battles between survivors or survivors and something nasty left behind at the end of the world. There are no scenes with burning cities, epic battles or riots in Station Eleven. A refreshing change. Station Eleven is about people trying to find a place in a decimated world. I found it riveting and would highly recommend it.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Lost Boy ARC

Lost Boy ARC

Lost Boy by Christina Henry
Published by Titan Books
Ebook
Expected publication 4 July 2017
304 pages
Review Copy

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I was given an ARC by the publisher and voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. Once I loved a boy called Peter Pan. Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. He wants always to be that shining sun that we all revolve around. He’ll do anything to be that sun. Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever. Peter will say I’m a villain, that I wronged him, that I never was his friend. Peter Lies.

EXTRACT 

Once I was young, and young forever and always, until I wasn’t. Once I loved a boy called Peter Pan.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I only have a vague understanding of the story of Peter Pan gleamed from Disney movies and the film Hook (which I love by the way). I thought Lost Boy was amazing. I loved that Peter comes across as the villain in the book when stories tend to paint him a hero, the boy who never grew up, who lived on a magical island with the boys who adored him. Lost Boy is darker than I expected. I loved it. I loved the way the most common ideas and themes from Peter Pan are twisted, distorted and a little darker. Jamie is a great narrator. Just when I thought I couldn’t love Lost Boy anymore, Jamie’s real identity is revealed at the end. I probably should have guess who he was but I didn’t so my jaw got bruised when it hit the floor. Well done for fooling me. Lost Boy is fantastic. I’d highly recommend it.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

This Is The End Of The Story

This Is The End Of The Story

This Is The End Of The Story by Jan Fortune
Published by Liquorice Fish Books
Paperback
Published 1 February 2017
206 pages
Owned

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WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Belief is Cassie’s gift, so much so that she believes herself to be whoever those in her life tell her she is Cassie, Kat, Kitty, even, as Miriam insists, Casilda, an 11th century Muslim princess from Toledo. Cassie s loyalty to Miriam s extraordinary internal world survives a traumatic incident on a beach and a coming of age fraught with hostility, but is strained by an act of betrayal that propels her towards Liam, another person waiting to tell Cassie who she really is.

EXTRACT

 She watched Miriam sleep, hair a tangle of soot and pitch. Four years and many defeats ago, Miriam had told her she’d chosen her for three things: the thick fair plait that swung below her waist; that she was so small; and for her name. Cassie thinks of herself as the ram caught in the thicket, the replacement sacrifice when Abraham was no longer compelled to kill his son. She continually warns Miriam not to go looking for trouble. Let’s find another road, she says. But she hadn’t see trouble coming today.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I thought This Is The End of the Story was great. I found it absorbing. I loved the way the author portrays the intense almost disturbing friendship between Cassie and Miriam. It reminded me a lot of the relationship between the two girls in the movie Heavenly Creatures. The book uses an unusual structure, the narrative is non-linear and there is very little signposting to help ground you in a place or time. I would have expected this to be confusing but it works in This Is The End Of The Story. I loved the way the author portrays the friendship between Miriam and Cassie. I found their obsession with each other fascinating if a little disturbing. Miriam disturbed me. She sees Cassie as more than a friend and is obsessed to the point of jealousy almost as if Cassie is her lover. I loved the way the narrative gradually reveals information drip by drip especially the shocking incident at the beach when both girls are teenagers. I loved This Is The End Of The Story and would highly recommend it.#

RATING

5 STAR RATING

Ashes

Ashes

Ashes by Sarah Mitchell-Jackson
Published by Blue Moon Publishers
Ebook
Expected publication 9 June 2017
240 pages
NetGalley

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WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

When Eva emerges from a burning building, she is unable to remember anything that happened before Dan rescued her. Where will she go until someone claims her?

Dan wants to keep her to fill the space which is growing between him and his wife. Can they heal together or will grief pull them apart?

Carrie-Anne lives in a grainy fug of depression, alcohol and denial, sleeping through days and drinking away nights. Can she find the strength to tie up loose ends?

OPENING 

The house was well under way by the time they got there.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

Ashes is one of the saddest books I’ve read in a while. The ending actually made me cry. I thought something good was going to happen then the author took out my heart and ate it in front of me while laughing. I was not prepared for that. Ashes is really well written and a great read. Each time I sat down at my Kindle I got lost in Eva’s world. I liked the way the novel is structured with chapters written from Eva’s point of view, Dan who Eva lived with for a while and Carrie-Anne, her real mother. I like reading different perspectives. Ashes is an enjoyable read and I’d recommend it.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Published by Faber and Faber
Paperback
Published 2 March 2006
282 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book buy an author from a country you’ve never visited’.  

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have re-entered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day.

EXTRACT 

My name is Kathy H.

WHAT I THOUGHT

My confession: I saw the movie a few years ago and loved it so I knew how things turned out. A book is always a richer experience than a movie though. I absolutely adored this book. It’s one of the most unsettling books I’ve read in a while. Kathy H is a brilliant, unreliable narrator. She’s unreliable because she reveals so little about her society and Hailsham and being a carer or a donor while seeing to be sharing a lot of information. Kathy H is quite a detached person and she reveals what should be horrifying details about her world in a sort of detached, nonchalant kind of way, not bothering to get emotional or upset because this is just the way things are. What fascinated me the most and chilled me to the bone is how little information is given about what being a carer or a donor in Kathy H’s world really means. Nothing is clearly stated until about three chapters from the end and information is just drip fed along the way. Never Let Me Go is chilling and unsettling and horrifying plausible. I loved it and would highly recommend it.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

Stillhouse Lake

Stillhouse Lake

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine
Published by Thomas & Mercer
Ebook
Expected publication 1 July 2017
302 pages
Kindle First

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This was my Kindle First choice for June.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

EXTRACT 

Gina never asked about the garage.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I thought Stillhouse Lake was an excellent read, a top notch psychological thriller. I liked the concept, not something I’ve really come across in the thriller genre before. The book opens with a bang with the skinned body of a woman being found as a result of a drunk driver crashing into the side of a garage unleashing terrible dark secrets. I knew I had to read on when I read this corker of an opener. I liked the characters. Gwen has had to become tough to take care of her kids in the fallout from her husband’s crimes and distance herself as much as possible from gullible, easily duped Gina Royal. I enjoyed the way the tension really builds in the novel from the moment the first body is found and Gwen struggles to hold onto the fragile life she’s built. Stillhouse Lake is the definition of a page turner. What spoiled it for me was the cliff-hanger ending. I’m not opposed to them as long as they work and there are enough unknowns to make a second or third book work. This isn’t the case with Stillhouse Lake. I felt the story concludes and there’s no need to drag the plot out for a second book. If there will be one otherwise a cliff-hanger is pointless. Stillhouse Lake is good and recommended but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

If We Were Villains ARC

If We Were Villains ARC

If We Were Villains by M.L Rio
Published by Titan Books
Ebook
Expected publication 16 June 2017
400 pages
Review Copy

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I was given an ARC by the publisher and voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.

As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.

When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

EXTRACT

 I sit with my wrists cuffed to the table and think, But that I am forbid / To tell the secrets of my prison house / I could tale unfold whose lightest word I would harrow up thy soul. The guard stands by the door, watching me, like he’s waiting for something to happen.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

If We Were Villains is a great read and held my attention from start to finish. This book reminded me a lot of The Secret History by Donna Tartt which is also a great read. I liked the layout of the book, split into scenes and acts like a play. The characters are all well-written and really come to life, especially Oliver who is a great first person narrator. The book is a little darker than I expected at times but this works really well. If We Were Villains has an almighty twist towards the end when Oliver reveals what really happened the night his friend died. A twist can work really well or completely ruin the book depending on how it’s written. Rio really pulls it off. I had no idea what really happened so the truth floored me a little. My only issue is that Richard, the murdered friend, gradually turns into a cartoon-like villain in the weeks leading up to his death so when he breathes his last his friends are sort of relieved. I thought this was a bit over the top. Nevertheless, If We Were Villains is a great mystery and well worth a read if you’re tired of police procedurals.

RATING

4 STAR RATING