Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What a great book to kick off the year! I cannot believe I had not read it before. It was wonderful, 5 stars, and I really enjoyed taking my time reading it because I didn’t want it to end, and I’m still thinking about it a lot.

So, this is a post-apocalyptic novel, one where the apocalyptic event was a pandemic. This particular pandemic was very fast and killed approximately 99% of the population. Here’s the thing I can’t stop thinking about. In the 20 years after the even world there are lots of the usual post apocalyptic things you might expect–no cars, electricity, people have scavenged, formed little towns, there are cuckoo and violent prophets, and the generation that has grown up in that 20 years don’t have any concept of air travel, internet, smart phones, etc. even though the older people do. And what’s kind of crazy is-it’s not like those things ceased to exist. There wasn’t an EMP. It’s just that without people to keep things going, they don’t keep going on their own. Who will run the power station? Of the few people left alive, do any happen to be scientists or robotics engineers or diesel mechanics or oil rig operators or what have you? The human knowledge of the world didn’t exactly go away-it was still in books. But it was no longer applicable. I really can’t stop thinking about that.
What I thought was great about this was the way the story was put together. All starting with an aging actor’s final performance in King Lear. His death curiously ends up bringing together a variety of people in the post apocalyptic world many years later. I liked it that the characters we followed all had some connection to him. Between King Lear and the Traveling Symphony and the Station Eleven comic book, it is nice to see the arts stubbornly sticking around even in humanity’s darkest times.
There were so many parts of this book that I found just deeply sad. They weren’t flashy bits, no dramatic deaths, just all very realistic and intensely sad things to think about. I found myself today thinking that if there was a pandemic I don’t think I want to be the brave survivor-I’d rather be the person who quickly dies in a couple hours.
This was a 5 star book to start the year!

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The High Season by Judy Blundell

Well look at that–turns out I actually read 101 books this year. I read The High Season way back in June and never logged it here or on Goodreads. Someone mentioned the book tonight and I figured it out. So better late than never.
I did really enjoy this book–set in a super rich part of Long Island that I basically never heard of-not the Hamptons, but above the Hamptons. The main character manages to own a home there and loves it, but she’s not part of the upper echelon. Alas, her marriage falls apart. And basically everything terrible happens to her. As much as I loved all the details about the ridiculously wealthy and this steamy summer and absurd behavior, I really did get extremely upset on her behalf at the number of outrageous things that happened to her and how she was treated. I think I was ultimately satisfied by the the ending, but not as much as I wanted to be (because there was only one outcome that would make me happy and that was neither realistic nor great storytelling.)

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

I wanted to end the year and this challenge with a good book and I’m pleased to say this did the trick. (100th book of 2018!) I was immediately caught up in this and really couldn’t put it down.
Giant statues appear around the world and April May, a young graphic designer, is the first to encounter one and, with her friend, film a video about it and post it. It goes viral and that’s when she finds out that it wasn’t just an art installation. April is catapulted into fame, which is really what much of this story is about–fame, creating a persona, becoming a persona. It was an interesting take on something that happens to very few people. This book had a lot to say about social media, fame, and society, but the story I was most interested in was what makes all of that happen, the science fiction aspect of the story.
I loved the idea that people across the world all share the same dream, which is a place where they can solve thousands of puzzles. In fact, I would have liked to have known even more about these puzzles.
This felt like a combination of Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (I’m not exactly sure why), as well as being a reflection of current times.  As with most unknown dramatic events in fiction (and real life?), the world responds with people dividing into factions, one of which is the angry aggressive awful people led by an awful Fox News type guy.
I thought this was great, but I felt a little bummed out just now to log it on Goodreads and see it listed as “Absolutely Remarkable Thing #1”

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

I’m startled to see that this is #12 in the series because I’m fairly certain I haven’t read twelve Her Royal Spynesses. I guess that means that I can always go back and have more to read-it certainly doesn’t make you unable to follow what’s going on. I love this series so much. It’s mystery the way I like it-light and British and historical. And, although I consider these light and fun books, Bowen’s historical detail is wonderful.
In this latest installment Lady Georgiana is finally (FINALLY) about to be married to Darcy, having received approval to renounce her right to the throne (because honestly, if she were to be queen a crazy plague would have had to wipe out at least 35 members of the royal family.) I was getting a bit annoyed with how drawn out this was, so was glad it was finally about to happen.
I enjoyed this one very much, in part because I enjoyed seeing Lady Georgiana finally get bold and assert herself in various areas of her life (that nasty Fig! those terrible servants flaunting her instructions! even Darcy!)
As usual she is able to pick up on all sorts of clues that something is not quite right and bravely investigate and put pieces together.
Tremendously enjoyable

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

I was getting extremely tense that I wouldn’t meet my Goodreads goal for this year and there’s less than a week left in it and I was dragging my heels through a Marcia Willett book .How can that be? I love Willett’s book! But it just wasn’t moving very quickly. I needed a quicker fun book and picked this off my stack. It was just the ticket-fun and fast paced. I was slightly apprehensive because I didn’t love her first book as much as everyone did. This one is quite similar to the first in style, romance, sex, friends, successful careers, and geography. It was halfway into the book before I realized that the main character of this book is the bff of the main character of the other book (which also provides a little peek into an epilogue of sorts for those characters.)
I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads, which is a bit skimpy-if there were fractions I’d give it 3.5 or .75. I especially enjoyed all the small side stories and secondary characters. Perfect vacation fun reading.

Time and Again by Jack Finney

I read this book many years ago and it was one of the ones I wanted to reread this year. In particular, two scenes from this book had stayed with me, and I thought of them often when I thought of time travel (as one does.) The one scene was in the beginning when Si is on a catwalk in a warehouse looking down on a hot summer day in a recreated small town from another time period and first learning of the time travel project.  Of all the time travel books I’ve read I always thought this was the most bizarre method created-that one would be so immersed in a time they would just slip into it being real not recreated (having separated themselves from things of this time.)
I found this a little slow and that may have been because I just was eager to get to the time travel itself. In fact, once I got to that scene I remembered I thought I might just stop there, having scratched my itch of wanting to read that scene again. But, I found that I was hooked on the story and wanted to see it though. I’d forgotten that there were sketches and historical photographs included in the story. And, it turns out, I’d forgotten the major plot event! So all in all, I really enjoyed this story all over again though I did find the writing a little odd. I’m curious if this style writing would be published today (first published in 1970.)
There is a sequel to this, which I don’t recall if I read, but perhaps I will.

Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

Why don’t I have “heartwarming” as a category? Because that would be the #1 category of this book. I knew this was a sequel to Arthur Truluv, but didn’t recall what happened in that book. No matter–it all came back to me as we were easily reminded of that lovely story. Are either of these books groundbreaking, deeply thoughtful, wildly innovative literature? No, they are not. Are they lovely stories, well written, charming, and sweet? Yes, they are. (And perfect for my Thanksgiving holiday reading.)

I thought this was a wonderful sequel-reminding us of the characters in the first book, but this time squarely focused on Lucille and some new characters. I especially liked all the stuff about Lucille’s baking. The young mother with leukemia was very sad and reminded me of earlier Berg books (the one where someone gets hit on the head with ice and ends up in a coma? SO sad.

A wonderful feel good book with young and old characters and plenty of bittersweet beginnings and endings.