Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tales from the Bookshelf - Station Eleven & Fangirl

I have so many book reviews to catch up on! Today I'm only going to catch up on two of them, though - Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, and Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell! I actually finished one of them back in the beginning of October...oops. Uhm, anywaaayyy...

Station Eleven

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. - Goodreads

An apoclypse book without any zombies! This alone gets the book some brownie points from me. Station Eleven was published in January 2014, but after winning a bunch of awards in 2015 it's just getting even more popular. I really liked some parts of it, but felt that other parts were really lacking. The book opens in the middle of a performance of King Lear with Arthur Leander, actor and sort-of womanizer. He's playing the starring role, and acting alongside him is child actress Kirsten Raymonde. In the audience is Jeevan Chaudhary, ex-magazine reporter turned EMT, who runs onstage as Arthur falls over from a heart attack. As Jeevan leaves the theatre that night we learn about the soon-to-be apocalypse, which starts off simply as a flu brought to the states on an airplane from Russia. The story is told in various segments told from Arthur, Kirsten, and Jeevan, along with Arthur's first wife, Miranda, and his former best friend, Clark.

Station Eleven comic
Art by Nathan Burton

Shortly before his death, Arthur gave Kirsten a set of comics called “Station Eleven," which she still carries with her twenty years later. It's about a space station designed to be like a small planet, trapped in two different states of twilight or total darkness. The main character in the comic, Dr. Eleven, tries to forget “the sweetness of earth” while Kristen is still trying to remember what the world used to be like. Arthur and this comic is mostly what ties all the characters together.

I'm usually iffy on stories from multiple perspectives. Sometimes they're really fascinating (Cloud Atlas) and sometimes they're a mess (The Night Circus). In Station Eleven sometimes the stories were pieced really well together, but other times I found myself asking what Part A had to do with Part B. For example I often found Jeevan's chapters kinda pointless after the flu started to spread. Overall I enjoyed this book, but I felt like it was left unfinished. There are a lot of threads picked up that don't really go anywhere :(


Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, everybody is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath it's something more. Fandom is life. It's what got her and her sister, Wren, through losing their mom. It's what kept them close.
And now that she's starting college, introverted Cath isn't sure what's supposed to get her through. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? - Goodreads

I originally picked up Fangirl because NovelTea Bookclub is reading Carry On for November (the sort-of-but-not-really-sequel). I ordered Carry On from the library, but it still hasn't shown up :( Anyway, I'd had my eye on Fangirl for awhile, but never felt like I had to read it right away because it's based around fanfiction, which I don't read and am not super interested in (sorry). I'm so glad I finally read it, though! Random tidbit I recently learned - Fangirl started off as a NaNoWriMo novel. I always think it's so cool when I learn that a NaNoWriMo book, written in a MONTH, has turned into a bestseller. Other books in this category are Water for Elephants, Cinder (she also wrote the follow ups Scarlet and Cress in that same month), The Night Circus, and Wool. Not a bad club to be in.

Anyway, let's talk about the actual story. I really liked Cath! She is awesome. When she's in awkward or sticky situations, she doesn't always make the "right" choices, but she makes the one that most of us probably would have made, too. In fact, I found all of the characters really well written. Even the ones I didn't like (I didn't care for Wren, along with another male character who I won't name but if you've read it then you already know who I'm talking about)! You really got a feel for what they were all like, as if you were meeting them in person.

Cath gets a lot of flack for being a super-crazy-huge Simon Snow fan, and she's really big (like, REALLY big) in the fanfiction community. In my head I pictured Simon Snow to be the equivalent to a Harry Potter-esque universe :) Most of the people Cath meets just don't understand that it's such a big deal for Cath, and she's often teased or made to feel bad or guilty about it. I felt really bad for Cath because I know how it feels when people just don't get it, and it can be really hard.

I actually experienced some of it just recently, regarding my BlizzCon virtual ticket. Some people thought it was stupid to have one because "you're not actually there, so what's the point?" I turned down my friends for hanging out that weekend, because I wanted to be home watching (and writing about) BlizzCon. I should mention that they're friends who live in town, so it's not like I'll never see them again, hahah. I'm not that mean. Anyway. If you don't care about the Blizzard universe then I know it doesn't make much sense (and that's ok), but for someone like me, who's been heavily involved in the stories for years, who probably won't ever be able to afford to physically attend BlizzCon - still being able to watch all the new content unfold (live!!! squee!) and spending two days geeking out with millions of other people about it (which only happens once a year) - is a big deal to me! We can't expect everyone to understand everything we're into, so you just gotta learn how to deal. So yeah, I get it. You do you, Cath. Hahah.

What have you been reading? Tell me about it in the comments, and if you've read either of these books let me know what you thought about them!

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