NetGalley Devours: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

NetGalley President, Susan Ruszala shares her review for Station Eleven! Do you love Emily St. John Mandel, too? Share your feedback via the Feedback section in NetGalley, or on Facebook and Twitter! (#NGdevours)


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Knopf; Pub Date: Sept 9, 2014

When NetGalley first launched, one of the very first books we had on the site was Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel. Today both NetGalley’s and St. John Mandel’s profiles have grown tremendously, but reviewing Station Eleven still feels a bit like coming home.

In the last three books I’ve read, the world as we know it has ended: a disquieting trend that has me catching my kids for an extra kiss, just in case. I started with California, the Colbert-fueled sensation by Edan Lepucki, and moved to The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber, featured in the latest edition of the Buzz Book project we promote in partnership with Publishers Lunch. Of the three, Station Eleven is preferred.

(Though a quick note on The Book of Strange New Things, which has not garnered nearly the same media attention: the central character, a priest with a checkered history of alcohol and drug abuse, addresses questions of faith so beautifully and simply, it’s worth a read. The missives between the priest, who is serving as a missionary on a new planet, and his wife, who remains on Earth as the world deteriorates, strike a perfect balance of the mundane and profound in a way that all couples can relate. It’s a book to give to a friend who likes to ponder, can appreciate clever and sophisticated writing and themes, but has a good sense of fun, too. There is a current of understated humor running throughout.

But back to Station Eleven, where the motto of the book’s traveling symphony is cheekily taken from Star Trek: Because survival is insufficient. The book is a swan song for all that is lost in the world, big and small, and the author captures that sentiment in a way that had me looking around for days at all the “taken for granted miracles that had persisted all around them.” The characters in the book are connected cleverly throughout the book—-a paperweight passes from friend to ex-wife to mistress; a dog’s name persists from pre-apocalypse to Year 15 of a new world; and more. The book cleverly see-saws between the character’s connections at the end of the current world, and their roles and histories twenty years hence.

Most of all (and missing from the other two books) Station Eleven is hopeful. In the most bitter of environments, Shakespeare persists, costumes are meaningful, and objects continue to have sentimental meaning. It’s that element that had us select this book at our UK Book of the Month (check out the UK cover here) and why it’s sure to top many lists over the coming months.

—Reviewed by Susan Ruszala, President, NetGalley

 

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NetGalley Devours: Eleven Days by Stav Sherez

Hot on the heels of London Book Fair last month, UK Community Manager Stuart Evers reviews a title available only for UK requests! Do you love Stav Sherez, too? Share your feedback via the Feedback section in NetGalley, or on Facebook and Twitter! (#NGdevours)

Eleven Days by Stav Sherez
Faber and Faber LTD; Pub Date: May 2, 2013
Eleven Days

Recipe

Take four decades of secrets and deceptions, a house full of murdered nuns, and some nasty internal politics, mix in South American radical Liberation Theology and two complex cops – and chill to the bone.

Description

A fire rages through a sleepy West London square, engulfing a small convent hidden away among the residential houses. When DI Jack Carrigan and DS Geneva Miller arrive at the scene they discover eleven bodies, yet there were only supposed to be ten nuns in residence.
Continue reading “NetGalley Devours: Eleven Days”

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NetGalley Devours: Dragonflies: Shadow of Drones by Andy Straka

Today I’m excited to review a Sci-Fi/thriller title from one of our independent publishers.  If you’ve already read and reviewed this book, be sure to share your review via the Feedback section in NetGalley, or on Facebook and Twitter! (#NGdevours)

Dragonflies: Shadow of Drones by Andy Straka
LLW Media; Pub Date May 14, 2013

Dragonflies

Description:

Shamus-Award winning crime novelist Andy Straka breaks new ground with this near-future science fiction thriller.

Former Army helicopter pilot Raina Sanchez is plagued by nightmares. She can’t erase the memories of being shot down in Afghanistan, of losing her foot in the crash, and the death of her commanding officer. When asked by an ex-military contact to participate in a secret drone operation with ties to the war, she jumps at the chance to exorcise some of her demons.

She joins Tye Palmer, the decorated ex-infantryman who rescued her from the flaming wreckage of her Kiowa chopper.  As civilian private investigators, together they embark on a sensitive, risky effort: using cutting-edge micro air vehicle drones in an attempt to expose the son of media mogul Nathan Kurn as a campus date rapist.

But as Raina and Tye come closer to the truth about Kurn and his powerful allies, Raina’s loyalties take a potential detour when she begins to understand a chilling reality. In a world where surveillance devices as small as tiny insects are being piloted into places most would never imagine, public and private forces both large and small are maneuvering to control them with inevitable consequences. For Raina and Tye the danger didn’t end when they finished their military careers−the threat has just begun. [From the Publisher]

Review:

I have to first applaud the author’s understanding that there will be those who read this book and may not understand a lot of military terms and slang, and he gracefully explains each acronym and term so that the reader is effortlessly educated without it feeling forced or awkward. Bravo! It made the story very accessible so that I could focus on what was happening, as opposed to trying to figure out the definition of key terms.
Continue reading “NetGalley Devours: Dragonflies: Shadow of Drones”

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NetGalley Devours: Rotten by Michael Northrop

Author Michael Northrop recently visited NetGalley President Susan Ruszala’s local middle school and this week she reviews Rotten, Northrop’s middle grade novel. School librarians, read on for Susan’s take on that visit. Have you read Rotten? Share your thoughts via the Feedback section in NetGalley, or on Facebook and Twitter! (#NGdevours)

Rotten by Michael Northrop
Scholastic; Pub Date April 1, 2013
Rotten

Description:

A troubled teen. A rescued Rottweiler. An unlikely friendship. Jimmer “JD” Dobbs is back in town after spending the summer “upstate.” No one believes his story about visiting his aunt, and it’s pretty clear that he has something to hide. It’s also pretty clear that his mom made a new friend while he was away—a rescued Rottweiler that JD immediately renames Johnny Rotten (yes, after that guy in the Sex Pistols). Both tough but damaged, JD and Johnny slowly learn to trust each other, but their new-found bond is threatened by a treacherous friend and one snap of Johnny’s powerful jaws. As the secrets JD has tried so hard to keep under wraps start to unravel, he suddenly has something much bigger to worry about: saving his dog. [From the Publisher]

Review:

Rotten is a modern-day story of redemption and will connect with all kinds of readers: boys like Jimmer who are anything but mainstream; and girls and boys who need to be reminded that almost everyone loses their way from time to time. Readers will quickly and deeply love the ironically-named “Rotten” (a large Rottweiler), and it’s easy to draw parallels between Rotten, who’s made a few mistakes himself, and Jimmer, the main character. Boy and dog progress steadily, if unevenly, and it’s the series of set-backs and bad decisions for both Jimmer and Rotten that will make this book relevant for young readers.
Continue reading “NetGalley Devours: Rotten”

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NetGalley Devours: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

This month NetGalley Devours teen and YA books! Did you catch our earlier reviews of The Nightmare Affair and Creeps?Today Kristina reviews If You Could Be Mine. Have you read and reviewed it too? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter! #NGDevours

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Algonquin Young Readers; Pub Date Aug 20, 2013
If You Could Be Mine

Description:

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self? [From the publisher]

Review:

I originally clicked open this book in NetGalley because of the question inherent in the title—If You Could Be Mine… what? Why can’t she? And when I read the description my next question was, well could she? And that hope prompted me to read and review this title. Continue reading “NetGalley Devours: If You Could Be Mine”

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NetGalley Devours: Big Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans

We have one more children’s book review for you this month! Keep an eye out for the Children’s Book Roundup in your inbox later today for even more great children’s titles available on NetGalley.

Have you read and reviewed Big Change for Stuart too? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter! #NGDevours

Big Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans
(Random House Children’s Publishers UK, pub date: May 2, 2013)
Big Change for Stuart

Recipe

Mix magic mayhem and mystery with fiendish puzzles and pulsating peril to make a truly compelling confection.

Description

Stuart Horten – ten, but looks younger – is now the owner of a magician’s workshop. Except that without his Great-Uncle’s Last Will and Testament, he can’t actually prove it. Which is a problem, since someone else wants it as well: someone who has a lot of money.

The workshop contains seven magnificent stage illusions, but when Stuart starts to investigate them, he discovers that each is the gateway to a magical adventure, with a puzzle to solve, and a clue to extract.

As the clues mount up, the adventures become riskier. Friendship is strained, danger looms, and Stuart has to decide what sort of prize he really, truly wants. [From the publisher]

Review

I have to confess I don’t read much Children’s fiction – but this title really caught my eye. My favourite book as a child was Stuart Little and finding another little Stuart was too much to resist, especially as my first child is due in a month! Continue reading “NetGalley Devours: Big Change for Stuart”

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NetGalley Devours: World on a String by Larry Phifer, Illustrator: Danny Popovici

Last week, Lindsey devoured World on a String. Have you read and reviewed this title too? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter! #NGDevours
Check back soon for another children’s book review from Stuart, NetGalley’s newest Concierge!

World on a String by Larry Phifer, Illustrator: Danny Popovici
Storytime Works/Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Member; Pub Date: Jun 4 2013
World on a String

Description: Picture book that offers a uniquely uplifting perspective on loss. World on a String is the story of a young boy, Charlie, who finds and befriends a big red balloon. Soon, Charlie and his balloon become best friends. They play together. They go to school together. They do everything together. Then, one night, Charlie’s balloon comes untied in a thunderstorm. At first, Charlie is very sad. He imagines that his friend is lost, tangled and all alone. However, by remembering the happy times they shared, Charlie is able to shift his perspective, deal with his loss and, ultimately, he imagines his balloon as a very important part of the starry sky. [From the publisher]

Review: I stumbled across World on a Stringand instantly did what we’re all told not to do—judged it by its cover, but in a good way. I was intrigued and wanted to see more, and since this IBPA member title is currently available to READ NOW in the NetGalley catalog, was able to download it right away. The illustrations hooked me by the second page, and …I found myself relishing in the little details and inherent movement of the artwork. Then I started to read the text—sweet rhymes that I knew would easily appeal to my two-year-old daughter. I did a complete read-through in just a few moments (this is a short picture book, after all) but ended up surprised at how quickly the story touched me. Continue reading “NetGalley Devours: World on a String”

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NetGalley Devours: An Infidel in Paradise by S.J. Laidlaw

Happy February! This month the NetGalley team will be looking at children’s and middle grade titles. Check back soon for even more reviews. Have you read and reviewed this title too? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter! #NGDevours

An Infidel in Paradise by S.J. Laidlaw 
(Tundra Books/Random House Canada, pub date: February 12, 2013)

An Infidel in Paradise

Description: Sixteen-year-old Emma is no stranger to moving. The daughter of a Canadian diplomat, her life has been a series of changing landscapes, cultures and friendships. But when her parents split up and she and her siblings are forced to move to Pakistan with her mother, her feelings of loss and culture shock are overwhelming. Add to that rising political tensions and her attraction to a local boy who has been promised to someone else, Emma’s life very quickly spirals out of control, putting herself and those she loves in mortal danger. [From the publisher]

Review: Ages 12 and up. I’ve always enjoyed books set in a place I’m unlikely to visit—-a pseudo-vacation, in a way. So I chose An Infidel in Paradise because it takes place in Pakistan, where Emma, the main character, has just moved. Emma’s mother is a busy and often disengaged diplomat, and her parents have recently separated, with her beloved father remaining in the Philippines at their family’s last post. Emma has lived all over the world, but she’s shattered by the changes in her family and the adjustments of living in a restrictive and sometimes hostile country.

The book’s not complicated, but it’s rich in details and brings to life the stark differences between the cultures (Emma is Canadian) in a way that will be appealing to teens because …it sneaks under the radar. You’ll learn what traditional Pakistanis wear, but because the girls go shopping; you’ll learn about arranged marriages, but through the eyes of the “hot” love interest. Laidlaw does a thorough job of introducing characters with different perspectives, from the wealthy Pakistani students who attend Emma’s school, to the poor children who collect trash outside the diplomatic compound and the servants who look after Emma’s family.

As a parent, this book reminded me of how unsettling and lonely the teen years can be, no matter where in the world you are. My heart ached for Emma for most of the book—-as she gets angry and says something she later regrets, as she pushes her friends away so she doesn’t have to risk losing them, as she misses her father but refuses to forgive him. She makes reckless but human decisions, but she loves and is loved genuinely, and the book comes full circle at the end as she regains her footing.

Middle-grade readers will like the casual language of the book, the teen-appropriate connection between Emma and Musa, and its quick pace. Adults will enjoy recommending it because of the cultural references and current events focus. A final note: the ending, though a bit dramatic for adults, is perfect for this genre.

I requested the book from the NetGalley catalog, and read on my iPad using the Bluefire Reader app.

If you would like to purchase An Infidel in Paradise you can do so at any of these locations:

Canada:
Print:
Amazon
Indigo

eBook:
Kobo
Amazon

United States:
Print:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

eBook:
Kobo
Amazon

– Review written by Susan Ruszala, NetGalley President

 

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NetGalley Devours:
Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman & 

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Welcome to a new blog series from NetGalley! NETGALLEY DEVOURS is dedicated to our staff reviews of titles that have been posted on www.NetGalley.com. Just like all of you, we at NetGalley are avid readers! Each month we’ll be picking a few titles that we’ve read, and telling you what we thought. Have you read and reviewed these titles too? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter! #NGDevours

Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman (Soho Press, On Sale: January 8, 2013)

Little Wolves

Recipe:
Mix one part loner with two parts violence to get an ethereal story run through with Norse mythology rooted firmly in realism.

Description:
A tragic act of violence echoes through a rural Minnesota town in a haunting new novel from Alex Award winning author of The Night Birds, Thomas Maltman. 

Set on the Minnesota prairie in the late 1980s during a drought season that’s pushing family farms to the brink, Little Wolves features the intertwining stories of a father searching for answers after his son commits a heinous murder, and a pastor’s wife (and washed-out scholar of early Anglo-Saxon literature) who has returned to the town for mysterious reasons of her own. A penetrating look at small-town America from the award-winning author of The Night Birds, Little Wolves weaves together elements of folklore and Norse mythology while being driven by a powerful murder mystery; a page-turning literary triumph.

Review:
Little Wolves is a story full of quiet grief and malice. Although the story starts with a literal bang, the protagonists are left to wade through a miasma of questions—why did he do it? How could I have prevented it? Who am I? How do I move on? 



This is a novel that lives in the grey-area between past and present, good and evil, power and weakness. Maltman weaves the lives of his characters together into tighter and tighter knots, giving us more than a simple mystery. Wolves and ghosts roam the realistic narrative (it’s based on true events) and I love this book for its stark portrait of a small-town dealing with tragedy and the individuals within that community who can’t simply accept that everything is as it appears.

If you would like to add Little Wolves to your collection, personal or professional, you can purchase it at any of these locations: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Google Play, Indiebound

I read this title on my Bluefire Reader app on the iPad.

– Review written by Kristina Radke, Community Concierge

Tenth of December by George Saunders (Random House, publication date: January 8, 2013)
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Recipe:
One of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation, George Saunders is an undisputed master of the short story, and Tenth of December is his most honest, accessible, and moving collection yet. [From the publisher]

Description:
In the taut opener, “Victory Lap,” a boy witnesses the attempted abduction of the girl next door and is faced with a harrowing choice: Does he ignore what he sees, or override years of smothering advice from his parents and act? In “Home,” a combat-damaged soldier moves back in with his mother and struggles to reconcile the world he left with the one to which he has returned. And in the title story, a stunning meditation on imagination, memory, and loss, a middle-aged cancer patient walks into the woods to commit suicide, only to encounter a troubled young boy who, over the course of a fateful morning, gives the dying man a final chance to recall who he really is. A hapless, deluded owner of an antiques store; two mothers struggling to do the right thing; a teenage girl whose idealism is challenged by a brutal brush with reality; a man tormented by a series of pharmaceutical experiments that force him to lust, to love, to kill-the unforgettable characters that populate the pages of Tenth of December are vividly and lovingly infused with Saunders’s signature blend of exuberant prose, deep humanity, and stylistic innovation.

Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.

Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in Tenth of December-through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit-not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhov’s dictum that art should “prepare us for tenderness.”

Review:
The NY Times Magazine ran a feature story in their January 3, 2013 edition, “George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year,” more of a homage than a review, really, to coincide with the publication of Saunders’ newest collection of short stories, Tenth of December (Random House, January 8, 2013). I requested the book from the NetGalley catalog, and read on my iPad using the Bluefire Reader app.

Since short stories aren’t my favorite, I actually, ashamedly, hadn’t read any of Saunders’ previous works (he is often described as “one of the great writers of our time”). But there was something about the NYT article that drew me in: “… the main thing about it, which tends not to get its due, is how much it makes you feel… One thing is that you read them and you feel known, if that makes any sense.” And truth be told, it does make sense; he has a way of writing that captures familiar human emotion in the most absurd circumstances, from the teenaged girl being kidnapped in the first story, “Victory Lap,” to the futuristic mind-altering drugs in “Escape from Spiderhead.” His writing is creative and exciting.

From a literary perspective, there’s no doubt that Saunders is one of the finest writers you’ll experience. Many times I found myself stopping to admire the beauty of a turn of phrase or collection of sentences, as if the book were an art museum. (I love books like this—Junot Diaz of course comes to mind, and Paul Harding’s Tinkers, too.)

But if you are a reader not particularly interested in the pedigree, it bears mentioning that the stories are wry, witty and clever. You will identify with the characters in just a few pages, will be anxious about what will happen next, and miss them when the story ends and a new one begins. Each story is surprisingly different, yet the collection is harmonious and many themes echo throughout. And although many of situations Saunders describes are despicable and ugly, life’s relentless penchant for beauty shines through again and again. (Saunders says it best, “Why were we made just so, to find so many things that happened every day pretty?”) And… well, I could go on.

The collection is short – less than 120 pages – and a quick and enjoyable read. If you’d like to own a copy (as I would), you can purchase it at any of these locations: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Kindle, Nook, iBookstore

 – Review written by Susan Ruszala, NetGalley President

Check out the other titles we’ve reviewed – 2012 NetGalley Picks!

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