What if there were no more cookies to be had for the rest of your life?

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

emily mandel - station eleven

[Image courtesy of Amazon.com.]

Oh I love this book.

Station Eleven is one of those books that have made me pause and think about my life, appreciate the world around me a little bit more, and given me more than one “hmmm…” moments.

I picked up the book thinking it was a science fiction novel that talks about what happened when the end of civilization came in the form of a flu pandemic, how the main characters fought for a chance to live, and finally survived to see that the world had not collapsed after all (think “The Day After Tomorrow”). I was only right on the first part about the flu pandemic. 

The story spans across time to give snapshots of the lives of the main characters before the collapse, and describes the lives of those who survived after. And the characters are all connected through one thread (I’ll leave it to you to find out which thread). This style of switching between different time periods and characters can be confusing if the writer is not skillful enough (believe me, I’ve read my fair share of those that have done an excellent job of leaving me with a big “HUH?”), but Mandel has done such a good job that she has kept me glued to the book from beginning to end without me losing any part of the narration. And the bits about the end of air travel, the end of electricity, the end of the internet, even the end of chocolate chip cookies (What? Noooooo! Me want cookie!) gave me goosebumps. But I’m glad the book ended on an optimistic note, so that’s something to look forward to if you’re going to give it a read.

I’d always thought that one day, Mother Earth will just die from how we humans have been abusing her since we existed, but now I think otherwise. Maybe one day Mother Earth will put an end to her suffering by allowing a pandemic to wipe out 90% of the human population so that the remaining 10% can learn how to live in harmony with nature all over again. That’s really scary, and I’m not sure if I want to be one of the survivors. (Yup, this is one of the revelations I got from the book.)

VERDICT: If you’re looking for an action-packed story about the end of the world and how humans survived the disaster, you will not find it in this book. But if you’re looking for a book that will set you thinking about your own relationships and the beauty in life, art and the world around us, this is the book for you. 

[For those of you who’d like to read the synopsis of the book, here’s one taken from Goodreads:

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.    ]

You’ve Got Mail!

book in the mail canva

I came home the other day to a package from Book Depository sitting on the dining table and I literally pounced on it. One of my recent purchases had finally arrived after more than two weeks, and I just couldn’t wait to discover which one it was.

I’ve always had this thing for receiving books in the mail, ever since I started buying them online. Seeing the package and knowing a brand new book is waiting for me in there always give me the same sense of thrill and anticipation whenever I step into a bookstore.

I know there are some folks out there who don’t like to buy books online because of the longer wait (and because it kills bookstores). Yes, I’ve been through that struggle too. Whenever a new book that I’ve been waiting for hits the store shelves, I have this urge to buy it and start reading it straight away. But the rational part of me tells me that (1) I still have a huge stack of to-be-reads sitting on my bookshelf, (2) I will regret buying the book in its hardcover version especially if it’s a huge tome, and (3) I should wait a while for discounts so that I can use whatever I can save for the next new book. And so, if buying the book online can give me that lead time for reducing the to-be-read stack and saving me some money while allowing me to pre-order a paperback version, why not? It helps too that I like receiving books in the mail.

Having said that, nothing beats walking into a bookstore, discovering a fresh read out of serendipity and then walking out with the new book sitting triumphantly in my bag. Maybe that’s what Amazon has realized about book lovers and why they’ve decided to open brick and mortar stores. I just hope they don’t drown out my favourite local stores like they almost did when they started selling books online. I don’t want to be browsing the same stores online and off.

 

Need some simple fun? Press here. [A Review]

Press Here by Herve Tullet

herve tullet - press here

[Image courtesy of bookdepository.com]

I ordered this from Book Depository and waited three weeks before it finally came in the mail (but then, what can I expect with good discounts and free shipping all the way from the UK?). It came at a time when my little one (I’m going to call her Little Lam from now on) was down with fever and a bad cough (a.k.a. grouchy-clingy-time) and I literally shredded the packaging to get to the one thing that I hadn’t exhausted in the house just to raise the spirits of both a sick child and a tired Mama. And it worked wonders.

It’s a picture book made up entirely of coloured dots and some instructions for the young reader on every page that make up some sort of interactive activity as part of the reading experience. It’s not a storybook, but because it’s such a simple book, I think it’s possible to make up some story along the way too if you’re reading it with your kid and have some creative juices to spare. Check you the book trailer here.

I had expected Little Lam to like the book but she actually loves it. Her smile widened with every page we turned, and she broke into laughter I hadn’t heard for a few days, somewhere in the book where we had to shake it to “mess up” the coloured dots. Another thing that I hadn’t expected was that she asked to read the book again and again and again and again and… well, you get the picture. I was expecting the novelty of it to wane after a few reads, but she still found it fun after we had gone through the pages for the umpteenth time. I ended up being the one who got bored and wanted to stop, and finally resorted to varying the “commentaries” and “instructions” in the book, which probably added to the “again” problem. 

It’s been a week since the book arrived, but Little Lam will still pull it out of her bookshelf now and then to request for a read, sometimes more than once in a day. 

VERDICT: If you’re looking to have some quality fun time with your kid, this is an excellent choice. It will probably work better with the younger kids for whom the novelty might last a while (Little Lam is two.). I’m not sure it’ll keep the attention of children (4 and above) after a few reads. Then again, you can always make up stories with your little ones throughout the book to keep the fun fresh. I think my SGD16 on this book was well-spent.

Goodbye, Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell (A Review)

The Sword of Truth: Richard and Kahlan series (4 books) by Terry Goodkind

The Omen Machine, The Third Kingdom, Severed Souls, Warheart

terry goodkind - omen machine terry goodkind - third kingdom terry goodkind - severed souls terry goodkind - warheart

[Images courtesy of Goodreads.com and Amazon.com]

This is funny. I’m actually starting a reading blog with a farewell to two of my favourite book characters – at least for now. 

With the publication of the final book in the Sword of Truth: Richard and Kahlan series in November last year, I had wanted to get my hands on all the four books and read them at one go. But I didn’t get round to it till recently. I had read The Omen Machine when it came out a few years back, and because I thought that book ended quite abruptly, I stopped following the series because I didn’t want to go through the long wait for the remaining books wondering what’s next and how many more books there would be. As it turned out, Terry Goodkind took four years to complete this series, and it felt so much better being able to read all four books in immediate succession. And yes, I had to re-read The Omen Machine.

Goodkind’s simple prose and tight pace made this an easy read and a page-turner, although he took a while to explain Richard’s mission in The Third Kingdom. I have to admit I managed to get the idea even though I only skimmed through those parts very quickly – yes, that was how much dialogue and description he used to explain. Most of the action was in Severed Souls and Warheart naturally, and I enjoyed those, but there were too many deaths in there, including the sudden demise of one of my favourite characters! *sob* 

VERDICT: Read this if you’re looking for entertainment over a lazy weekend, and only if you have all four books with you, because (1) you don’t want to be left hanging over an abrupt ending from one of the first three books, and (2) the books are such an easy read that anything fewer than the four books will not last you the whole weekend if you read your fiction as fast as I do. Oh, and if you’ve been a fan of the Sword of Truth series, don’t expect these four books to be as good as Goodkind’s first few books in terms of characterization and suspense.