Station Eleven

Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel
Published June 2, 2015
Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
Originally published by Alfred Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
Read February 2016
333 Pages

Station Eleven came highly recommended from a trusted reading advisor. Two years later, it is still a book that makes me think and causes me to question what the future of humanity might look like. I don’t want to provide too much description because that is the beauty of this book. It unfolds in ways you don’t expect.

This is one of those books that I think EVERYONE should read. Perfect for middle school through adult and certainly one I plan on re-reading. A debut novel, St. John Mandel knocks it out of the park.

One of the things I love about this book is that it is dystopic without a government overthrow or violent war. It makes it seem so real, like the world event that causes a societal collapse could happen today. This is truly a book that shows just how fragile humans are and how incredibly delicate our everyday life experiences are. Showcasing the interconnectedness we take for granted, this book does a soul touching job of making you understand just how outstanding civilizations are and how quickly they can fall.

I think about this book almost daily. Twenty years from now, what foods would still be viable to eat from the abandon homes? How long would it take to re-learn basic medicine that relies on plants and natural remedies? Why does no one raid the library in “end of the world books” post-apocalypse? How long would the power grid last? What about everyone’s pets? Start down the rabbit hole and this book will give you plenty to think about and question your role in the world.

If you are stuck in a reading rut and want something to give you a kick start, Station Eleven is a book perfect for any mood and any time. You are going to want to own this one and re-read it. This book is on my top 10 favorite reads of all time. I hope you will agree.

Selected quotes:
“Of all of them at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city.” Page 15

“People want what was best about the world.” Page 38

“hell is the absence of the people you long for.” Page 144

“What I mean to say is, the more you remember, the more you’ve lost.” Page 195

“She slipped away from them, walking alone for a hundred miles, whispering French to herself because all the horror in her life had transpired in English and she thought switching languages might save her.” Page 266

 

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Need by Joelle Charbonneau

NeedNeed book on laptop
Reprint edition published April 4, 2017
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
By Joelle Charbonneau

Started March 26, 2018
Finished March 29, 2018
Pages 338

Brief synopsis:
Need takes place in the middle of a small Wisconsin town. The local high school students all receive a mysterious invitation to join a new social network called NEED. It is dark web meets real, everyday life. As students are asked to do ever more character changing tasks to receive what they think the need, the small community is struck by tragedy after tragedy. An interpretation of how selfish humans can be and a warning about how fast cyber bullying can take a turn to the unchangeable.

Why this book and why now:
My oldest is in middle school. His school librarian posed a challenge to all the students to read a series of six pre-selected books. Need is one of those books. While my son had no interest initially, my friend’s daughter (and my son’s classmate) did. I challenged her to read it with me and the reward would be a special outing to a local ceramics shop. She had already read four of the six, but wasn’t too keen on finishing the challenge. Well, game on! She’s already halfway through after just a couple of days.

I wasn’t too optimistic about a young adult/juvenile fiction book about cyber bullying would keep my interest, but since I had a middle schooler and knew that social media wasn’t going away, I thought this book would be a good conversation starter with both my son and his classmates.

There is plenty of content to start those conversations. From parent/young adult relationships, suicide, taking responsibility for your actions, and the importance of trust, if you have a teenager, it should be easy to find a story line to get your teen talking.

The overall pace and feel of the book had a Maze Runner meets Hunger Games on the internet vibe. Charbonneau introduced a lot of characters one short chapter at a time. There were so many characters and they did not spend much time face to face interacting that it was difficult to remember who was who. More time on developing the social structure and the who’s who at the beginning would have made it easy to understand the nuances that Charbonneau was trying to explain with characters like Jack and Gina . Their perception of self likely is very different then how their classmates viewed them and I think that would have added to the story development.

There were a few trigger topics that I was surprised to come across in the books. Especially for Bryan who had thoughts of suicide and discussed the methods he had considered. I would want any parent to know that this topic is broached in this book so that you can have a conversation with your pre-teen or teen. Having sons, I do worry that heartbreak or not meeting expectations and the resulting emotions will lead them to consider things with irreversible consequences.

Other difficult topics include, death of a parent, death of a classmate, anaphylaxis due to food allergies, adultery, siblings with a potentially terminal disease, murder, deceit and lying.

Recommended reading for:
While this book was suggested to middle school students, I would err on the side of 8th graders and older. The book revolves around high school students and the topics discussed are geared more toward a young adult stage of life. The romantic relationships are not physical, surprisingly so considering the number of times the teens are left alone.

If you are looking for a way to have a conversation with your kid about online behavior or just looking for a way to connect, this should be a book they are interested in reading and one that keeps a parent turning the pages without too many eye rolls.

The final word:
Need does not leave me needing more, but I am optimistic that it will give me a segue into deeper conversations with my son and his peers. Based on the pace and depth of the book, I think Charbonneau absolutely meets her target audience of young teens, giving them just enough to think about without the complication of overdone scene set ups. She takes advantage of their assumptions as to how a high school social structure works and allows them to project their own experiences within the story likely making the characters more relatable to them since they are filling in some of the gaps Charbonneau allowed.

Naked Greed by Stuart Woods

Woods, Stuart Naked GreedI started listening to Naked Greed by Stuart Woods today. I’m giving blood through the American Red Cross and wanted to find something to keep me distracted during the process. This book was available through my public library e-books so here we are. Just a few chapters in and I’m rolling my eyes. My how many easy coincidences there are for the main character, Stone Barrington, to fall in to so easily. The dialogue, especially being read out loud, comes across as too formal and over-explained. It sounds more like a movie script. The first few chapters have been very repetitive, explaining the same two minute story three times to three different characters. I’m hopeful the story will pick up, but based on the Amazon reviews I’ve read, I don’t expect it to.

This is my first Stuart Woods book, one of the appeals of picking this one up this week. It’s also the first time in awhile that I’ve “read” a thriller. I’ll let you know if it’s worth a read. If you don’t hear from me again about this one, you can take that as your answer.

2015 Reading List

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Partial stack of 2015 books read. Most books not shown were borrowed from the library.

This past year was a record setting year for books and pages read. Since I started this blog mid-year, I thought it best to list all the books read in 2015 in one places. Odds are good this will become an annual list.

My goal for 2015 was 45 books, turns out I only got around to reading 24. Here’s to a better 2016 challenge (Goal of 40 books)!

Alphabetically listed, past post links provided in bold:
The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2; Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr. (Illustrator)
Ape House by Sara Gruen review
The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) 
by Samantha Shannon
Champion (Legend #3)
 by Marie Lu
Counting By 7s 
by Holly Goldberg Sloan review
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
If I Stay (If I Stay #1) by Gayle Forman
The Husband’s Secret
 by Liane Moriarty
Landline by Rainbow Rowell review
Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
by Marie Kondō, Cathy Hirano (Translator) review
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Martian by Andy Weir
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) by Samantha Shannon
The Mine (Northwest Passage #1) by John A. Heldt
The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan
Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline review
The Sacred Mirror: Evangelicalism, Honor, and Identity in the Deep South, 1790-1860
by Robert Elder review
Serena by Ron Rash
Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle Forman
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz #1) by L. Frank Baum, W.W. Denslow (Illustrations)
The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers

Highlights from 2015:
Here’s the short list of books that I didn’t get to review officially, but are well worth a read. I loved The Husband’s SecretMiddlesex is a well deserved Pulitzer Prize winning book that provides a beautiful story about a hermaphrodite. The Bone Season and The Mime Order are from my favorite series right now by Samanatha Shannon. The Third installment is due out this fall. The Martian and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand were fun and entertaining reads that are well worth the time. Landline is by another one of my favorite authors, Rainbow Rowell, she is a great writer and I compare her style and cadence to that of John Green’sSerena was made into a movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawerence that apparently went straight to DVD. The book was a bit of a thriller and did not go the way I thought it would! Don’t let the netflix description of the movie fool you, the book’s main theme is not the loss of a child.

I read The Wizard of Oz out loud to my kindergartner. This was a lot of fun and became a theme recently for us. We’ve watched the movie and our local theater did a production of it that he and I went on a special date to see! Not to mention, our neighboring town used to host an annual Wizard of Oz festival that was world renowned.

If you have question about any of the other books listed, send me a message or ask in the comments! All of these books can be found on Amazon and many can be found at your local public library.

 

Wild in Audiobook

IronMan
Iron Man cross-stitch. Work in progress. Will be 8×10 and 70k stitches when complete!

I’ve been a little slow to start on my reading challenges for 2016, let alone finding time to write more than one sentence at a time. Call me distracted, I’ve been working on a cross-stitch of Iron Man, an American Flag full size crochet quilt, trying (and failing) to launch a handicrafts store, Leslie A Curry-Handicrafts, Crochet, and Mosaic, and trying to manage a chaotic phase of life. What better way to multi-task while reading than to use an audiobook? Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed had been highly recommended by one of my girlfriends a couple of years ago, so when it was available through my public library’s electronic catalog, I decided it was time to give it a go.

Why this book and why now:
I started listening to this Wild (315 pages) as a distraction during a dental appointment for a crown prep. A few minutes in, and I wasn’t sure it was the right choice. Graphic detailing of toenails falling off didn’t help much to distract me from the pain and discomfort of the drilling happening in my mouth.

The story of Cheryl’s relationship with her mother and the process of losing her pulled me in for what I anticipated to be a much different story. Many of the details of this book have left me since I read it back in January, but much of what I remember has to do with Cheryl making one mind-boggling decision after another in regards to her personal safety. I understand that Cheryl was dealing with depression and perhaps some PTSD after her childhood experiences. I wish more of the book and self exploration acknowledged these traumas. Instead, Cheryl continued to put herself in one dangerous situation after another without drawing any understanding to the idea that she was actually perhaps suffering from some very big emotional issues. I was mystified that while waiting for a DJ she just met at a random club to get off work for their “date” that she willingly went into a strange man’s van to smoke weed. After which she traipses off with the DJ to his house way out in the middle of nowhere to hopefully have sex. All the while, no one knew where she was or who she was going with. This is after she dabbled with heroine or meth after leaving her self-admitted very good husband.

I understand that everyone’s personal journey is different and that the ways we each cope with stress, anxiety, depression, joy, fear, you name it, can be expressed or experienced in absolute contradiction to how another copes. I wish for Cheryl, that she had had someone who would have helped her find a safer way to deal with her mother’s death and need for self discovery. I’m still trying to understand why Cheryl felt it was acceptable to cause her body so much harm and pain in forcing her way through the PCT. Many of her stories in the book graphically describe her feet that were mangled, scabs and bruises that took weeks to heal, drastic dehydration. This is not heroic in my opinion, this is self-mutilation.

I am glad for Cheryl’s sake that her story has a peaceful ending. I’m grateful that for all the seedy situations she put herself in, she walked away unharmed by another human during her trek.

Recommended reading for:
This is not a book I would recommend, however, if you are looking for a memoir about a young woman who is able to come out the other side of some questionable choices, then you might want to give this one a try. I’d recommend two books on a similar topic before this one: The Glass Castle: a Memoir by Jeanette Walls or The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

The final word:
I’m certainly glad I experienced Wild as an audiobook. Had I been reading it in book form, I am almost certain it would have been added to my “won’t ever finish” list on goodreads.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up


So about that promised review of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I suppose it is past due. And those promised photos? Didn’t happen. Here’s why. I didn’t find the book as helpful as I had hoped. I didn’t like reading the book, it took me six months to finish and it would have been longer if I hadn’t been trying to beat my friend (see his book blog here) in our annual book challenge. The very top of the trees concepts of only keeping things or buying things that truly bring you joy were certainly worth some meditation. The writing in this book? Left much to be desired, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to “lost in translation”. I believe this book is better classified as a memoir than an actual self-help book. Most of the book is spent reflecting on Kondo’s own life and thoughts rather than the practical application of her technique.

The most helpful part of the book was the revelation that some (read: many) of us were never actually taught how to tidy. This point was a bit of a gut check as I recalled how often I reprimanded my sons for not tidying their rooms well enough. Shortly after reading this passage, I did a little decluttering session with my 9 year old and his dresser drawers. I sensed he was keeping some clothes only because he thought I wanted him to keep them, so I set the record straight. I told him to clean out all his drawers and only keep the items he knew he would wear and the ones he really liked. We went through each piece of clothing together and when I thought he was keeping it to please me, I reminded him he would not offend me by making his room more pleasing to him. We got rid of a lot of clothes! It also helped me to see what sort of style he preferred.

We were so successful with his clothes, my husband and I set to work on all the books in both of our sons’ rooms. We emptied both of their bookshelves onto the kitchen table. MOUNDS of books! I knew we had a lot, but it was a little shocking to see it all laid out. And wouldn’t you know, we had duplicates! Books, especially books in the library of my growing and varied children, are hard for me to let go of, however by making my boys part of the process we got rid of two paper boxes of books. This lead to them reading more on their own since their book shelves weren’t busting at the seams, ready to spill on top of them lest a jenga tile be removed too quickly.

Speaking of books, Kondo’s whole section dedicated to books was one section that provided a new outlook on decluttering my library. A couple of Kondo’s observations worth mentioning:

“You read books for the experience of reading. Books you have read have already been experienced and their content is inside you, even if you don’t remember it.” Page 89

Books to Keep “The most difficult ones are those that give you moderate pleasure–those with words and phrases that moved your heart and that you might want to read again.” Page 93

Since starting this blog (and my reading notebook, the source of most of this content), it has become much easier to pass along a book. I have captured the emotions the book made me feel. And I have a very tangible, detailed list of what I have ready, why I have read it, what it has taught me. My bookshelves are lighter since starting this blog because I am able to “keep” those parts of the books  that have changed me.

“The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it.” Page 95

The final word:
This is not a book I particularly enjoyed reading. It is only because of writing this post that I realize how much I did in fact learn. Ideally, Marie Kondo’s newest book, Spark Joy will address some of the practical implication parts that were missing from this book. This book is a good fit for someone just getting started with decluttering or who does not have a lot of practice with minimalism.
Other Selected Quotes:
“Order is dependent on the extremely personal values of what a person wants to live with.” Page 6

“I’m sure many of us have been scolded (during our childhoods) for not tidying up our rooms, but how many of our parents consciously taught us how to tidy as part of our upbringing?” Page 10

“You only have to experience a state of perfect order once to be able to maintain it.” Page 30

“We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” Page 41

“It is actually our rational judgement that causes problems.” Page 59 Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book on this concept Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. I listened to it as an audiobook in 2014.

“The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not “things”, but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.” Page 108

“Things that are cherished shine.” Page 200

Sunmark Publishing 2013

 

Book Indexing The Sacred Mirror

Happy New Year! I hope you had a restful holiday season celebrating with family and reading something new!

As well as spending a lot of time with all of our extended family, I spent a large portion of my holiday break indexing a book! The Sacred Mirror by Robert Edler is the work I had the privilege of working through this holiday. The experience and process of indexing is always thrilling! To be such an important, albeit anonymous, part of a finished book gets my adrenaline flowing. I feel elated when helping an author in this final stage of writing their book. It truly is a privilege to be entrusted with this important resource. Book indexing has been a rewarding and educational experience for me. An experience I hope to continue to pursue with more intention.

The Sacred Mirror by Robert Elder will be available in April 2016 (University of North Carolina Press). The topic of the book thoroughly discusses evangelicalism, identity, and honor culture in the deep south. With our current political climate and other civil issues hitting the headlines, the timing of this book could not be better. The whole time I was reading (and reading, and re-reading) this book I felt like many of the issues and observations Dr. Elder were making could apply to our societal structure today. I particularly find myself thinking on his observations about the shaming and guilt people of the south felt during the antebellum period as a result of their church affiliations whether Methodist, Baptist or Presbyterian . It’s quite astounding to realize that some of the sexual impurity issues “society” finds taboo to discuss or teach about today are rooted in traditions dating back to the founding of this country. Reading this book has opened my mind and understanding of the world we live in. While this book is a scholarly work intended to be a resource for those studying the antebellum time period of evangelicalism, anyone interested in understanding the roots of our nation would benefit from reading this work.

This is why I love to index books. Constantly learning something new, problem solving through a difficult entry, getting in the mindset of the end user of the book to make the index that much more effective. Indexing is not something I sought out, but it has found me. My passion for books, for learning, for reading, for helping others, for doing something unique, it all comes together when I index. It truly is a happy place for me. If you are interested in learning more about indexing, I suggest you check out the American Society for Indexing for robust resources. You may also want to grab a copy of Indexing Books by Nancy Mulvany.

The Sacred Mirror is the fifth book that I have indexed. My other indexes can be found in the backs of these books:

Emigration, Nation, Vocation: The Literature of English Emigration to Canada, 1825-1900 by Carter F. Hanson (Oct. 2009, Michigan State University Press)

Anselm (Great Medieval Thinkers) By Sandra Visser and Thomas Williams (2008, Oxford University Press)

The Devil’s Topographer: Ambrose Bierce and the American War Story by David M. Owens (Aug. 2006, Univ. of Tennessee Press)