I realized after titling this post that ‘adult edition’ makes it sound like these are all going to be porn and that’s entirely misleading (psych!) but I’m too lazy to think of a new title and three out of four aren’t YA so whatever. My bad if I lured you here under false pretenses.
Anyways, I’ve been on a bit of an unofficial hiatus lately. Life has been a tad overwhelming and I’ve been having trouble getting into a lot of my review books and while it’s all quite irritating, I have a read a handful of things I think are very much worth shouting at you all about so I’m borrowing Steph’s thing and doing a handful of mini-reviews.
You by Caroline Kepnes
When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.
There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.
As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.
This book is creepy as all hell. It’s the story of a stalking (and I mean stalking, not like a quirky ‘haha I’m super interested in this person so I researched them really well’ commentary on the information age and it turns out Joe’s actually just misunderstood, this guy is seriously fucked up) from the stalker’s perspective.
You is written in second person which I generally find to be a really difficult trick to pull off but it works really well in this case. It keeps you hyper aware of the situation and makes it so chillingly personal while amping the off balance factor created by the intense, unreliable narration. You’re in Joe’s head and you’re entirely strapped in for the ride and it is quite a ride. He goes up and down seamlessly switching from on top of the world in love with everything before crashing down, down, down, ready to burn the world and everyone in it. It’s fucking scary and seriously amazing.
One of my favorite parts of this book, aside from the super dark fucked up-ness of it all, is how persuasive it is. Joe has a sort of smug, dry humor cynical outlook on the world that spoke to me. One of the creepiest parts for me was how I’d catch myself nodding along with his pop culture/societal commentary only to snap out of it like wait, no, not the guy I want to agree with.
If you’re in the mood for a twisted, psychological thriller and you’re cool with being at least vaguely disgusted with to outright horrified by every character in the book, I highly recommend checking out You.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
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 Eleventells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
This is a weird one to explain why I liked it so much because I liked it for reasons that I don’t normally go for and also those reasons kind of sound like they’d make it a not-amazing book. For instance, the characters don’t really stand out and there isn’t all that much by way of plot but somehow these things worked in its favor in a way I can’t really explain (I am an excellent book reviewer, I know).
The thing that I loved about Station Eleven is how thoughtful and vaguely poetic it is. Most of the time, end of the world/post-apocalyptic fiction focuses on the epicenter of the action because, duh, action. In this case, there isn’t really an epicenter to focus on. The world is hit with a fast acting, killer flu and there’s nothing can be done about it. No bad guys to fight, no missions to embark on, the world is there one day and then suddenly everyone’s getting sick and before anyone can figure out what to do pretty much everyone is dead and most of this information is passed along second hand. This book is a thorough, novel length answer to the question ‘seriously think about it, what would you, a random, ordinary person, do if the end of the world happened and you survived when everyone you knew died and then what would you do with yourself when life as you knew it was over? What would humanity look like?’
I also quite liked the storytelling technique. Station Eleven is told in a Crash-like manner (disclaimer, I overall hated Crash but loved the format), snapshots of seemingly unconnected people with a random common thread running through their lives.
Bottom line, Station Eleven is a beautifully told story of survival, endurance and hope and while it wasn’t a rollercoaster of feelings, it was an incredibly engrossing and lovely read.
The Martian by Andy Weir
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, tho, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
I’d seen Tatum shouting about The Martian awhile back and picked it up but never got around to reading it until recently and I am the stupidest of all the girls for waiting as long as I did because this book is fantastic.
To be honest, I’m a bit surprised I wasn’t hospitalized at any point while reading The Martian. Reading this book is kind of like what I’d imagine it be like if you clamped some jumper cables to a car battery and completed the circuit with your body. It’s intense as shit is what I’m trying to get across here. I am 100% serious when I say I read the last 20% or so of the book with sweaty, shaky palms, completely unable to catch my breath and fully convinced my heart was going to give out before I got to the end.
The story opens with Mark Watney being stranded on Mars. So, you know, you go in fully aware that Mark is pretty much fucked and that sucks because Mark is amazing. For a dude that does an incredible amount of complicated math in his head, I latched on to him like whoa (I am super incredibly bad at math and physics and generally avoid them like the plague but was so damn relatable the overwhelming amounts were (vaguely) followable and didn’t send me running in the opposite direction). For a guy in an absolute shit situation, he’s hilarious, upbeat and heart-breakingly resourceful (I say heartbreaking because the endless cycle of I FIXED IT-EVERYTHING IS FUCKED UP-I FIXED IT-EVERYTHING IS FUCKED UP gave me actual chest pains). He puns like a champion, appreciates the divinity of duct tape and creates his own measurement unit called ninjas. I fucking love this guy.
In addition to Mark pushing back his so-likely-it’s-basically-inevitable demise moment by teeth-grindingly tense moment, The Martian also depicts how Earth reacts to one of their own being stuck on a neighboring planet and it’s so beautiful. Nations come together, social media rises to the occasion, the whole world watches NASA’s every move like ‘Yo, so, when are we saving this guy? Let’s go.’ (basically exactly what you’d expect unless you’re a cynical asshole like me and the efficient, selfless, international cooperation caught you off guard and made you cry bittersweet ‘if only’ tears).
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
This is another Tatum rec and what I’ve learned from this experience is to listen to her when she says a book is the best. It’s been awhile since I’ve been so into a book I’ve stayed up until 2.30 in the morning with work the next day because I couldn’t put said book down and I am pleased to inform you that Ready Player One broke my dry spell.
This book is like an extended episode of VH1’s I Love the ‘80s if that show was also a virtual reality MMORPG adventure. So, you know, I loved every fucking word. If you’re not the kind of person who goes nuts for pop culture references and/or gaming and ‘80s trivia aren’t your thing, I’d still recommend giving it a shot. The world-building is top notch, the characters are fantastic and vivid, the story is engaging as all hell and the ending is epic.
In spite of it being a fairly serious story (as in, not a constant fluff parade) with some intense, dark moments, Ready Player One is so much fun. It’s fascinating and exciting and I’m running out of adjectives. I also hugely appreciated that a book centered around the fabulousness of gaming had a running theme of ‘as awesome as the internet is, don’t forget that a) you’re dealing with real live people and b) there is a life outside the internet and that can be pretty cool too’ because hello relevance and truth.
Because I’m feeling the love and sharing is caring, I’m giving away one of the books mentioned above.
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