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Powell's Q&A | September 3, 2014

Emily St. John Mandel: IMG Powell’s Q&A: Emily St. John Mandel

Describe your latest book. My new novel is called Station Eleven. It's about a traveling Shakespearean theatre company in a post-apocalyptic North... Continue »
  1. $17.47 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Station Eleven

    Emily St. John Mandel 9780385353304


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Ryan DeJonghe has commented on (95) products.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
The Bone Clocks

Ryan DeJonghe, September 11, 2014

“Our most lusted-after gong, the Brittan Prize, has--scandalously--eluded his grasp so far, but many believe that 2015 could finally be his year.” Alas, as the nearly-prophetic David Mitchell transcribes, this year, just shy of 2015, is not his year, either. Mere days ago that prize eluded him once more.

The week has been bitter-sweet, though. Three days into sales and Mitchell’s THE BONE CLOCKS has been seizing top rankings from New York’s finest newspaper. Rightfully so, performing better than his self-created reflective characters. Congrats, Sir Mitchell.

I’m sour mostly because in both CLOUD ATLAS and now in THE BONE CLOCKS the character authors are my favorite. They seem to connect me with near- intimacy to the genius author’s mind. Yes, pieces of Mitchell lie scattered about: a stammer mention, a reference to Tom Hanks, but the most provocative and drawing are the inmost thoughts of the penmen. Take for instance:

“A writer flirts with schizophrenia, nurtures synesthesia, and embraces obsessive-compulsive disorder. Your art feeds on you, your soul, and, yes, to a degree, your sanity. Writing novels worth reading will bugger up your mind, jeopardize your relationships, and distend your life. You have been warned.”

Sigh. Perhaps his craftsmanship is too great for the prize. The first chapter of CLOUD ATLAS could not be read without an accompanying dictionary; each layer of time withdrew a complexity of articulation. The opening of THE BONE CLOCKS drops us into a teenage mind during the era of Cyndi Lauper. Judging by the ease of reading and the warmth of character, I would dare say the craft of writing was no less of a task--rather far more difficult--making effort seem without.

That’s okay, because I still enjoyed this book immensely. It played my emotions, it toyed with my thoughts, and it danced in my heart. What else does a good book need?

I conclude with another self-prophesizing quote from THE BONE CLOCKS, “He was doing quite well until the last sentence, but if you bare your arse to a vengeful unicorn, the number of possible outcomes dwindles to one.” That outcome for me resulted in deep appreciation. Wonderful.

Thank you Random House for sending this to me for review.
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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven

Ryan DeJonghe, September 9, 2014

Last night was a beautiful night. The moon was full and reflecting gorgeously over the water. A ship was waiting off the coast with its lights on, probably waiting to pull into New York today. As I took in the scene, I was reminded Emily St. John Mandel’s novel STATION ELEVEN. In it, a character was sitting on a similar beach, yet in a country across the world and at a different time. Yet that beauty was shared. And throughout this novel, even at the worst and most tragic of times, beauty remains.

There are leaves holding several places in my copy of this book. I read most of this in the woods sitting by a campfire last week. The leaves mark places of the book I enjoyed��"there are many. The leaves remind me of the rustic future Emily paints. There are no more airplanes, no more refrigerators, no more of our daily conveniences: the things that we so easily take for granted and let slip through our daily lives unnoticed. Poignant would be a great word to describe the effectiveness of this novel’s writing.

The characters are shown in various time periods: the fondness of yesteryear, the reality of today, and the glimpse of future, both cursed and hopeful. Connections are shared throughout, showing how one act precipitates another. There is a sense of tightness though the chapters are often broken in their order.

As with other great authors, but unique in her own voice, Emily St. John Mandel brings out the enriched, realness of each character and emotion. What stood out brilliantly in my mind are the simple things of life--the things from which produce happiness and satisfaction. Poetic would be another excellent word to describe STATION ELEVEN. It is not spare like McCarthy, but neither does it flounce in excessive verbiage.

In the end, my message is this: this book is about beauty, everyday beauty. Cherish it, embrace it, be it. Thanks to Emily St. John Mandel, we can see it.

Thanks to A.A. Knopf for sending this to me for review.
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Bend Your Brain: 151 Puzzles, Tips, and Tricks to Blow (and Grow) Your Mind by Lindsay Gaskins
Bend Your Brain: 151 Puzzles, Tips, and Tricks to Blow (and Grow) Your Mind

Ryan DeJonghe, September 8, 2014

I’ve been trying the puzzles in BEND YOUR BRAIN the last few days, and my brain hurts. That’s a good thing! Thanks to the variety of included puzzles, I can feel myself thinking differently. Sounds weird, but it’s true. In my recently reviewed books like THE ORGANIZED MIND or HOW WE LEARN, I know to pick up associations and patterns and to minimize distractions: this book helps me do that. Doing these puzzles over the weekend has helped my work performance today.

Variety is king. A lot of these types of puzzles I’ve seen before: mazes, Sudoku, and crosswords, etc. Then they change the method (and madness) on several of these: random letters instead of numbers in Sudoku, mazes covering front-and-back pages, and several hundred dot-to-dots. Then!--they add puzzles I’ve never seen before such as linking words through various shapes, strategizing the placement of battleships, and making compound words from pictures.

There are various levels of intensity, but some of the “mind blowing” puzzles may seem easier than the “warming up” puzzles. Depends on the person, I suppose.

All that is not without its faults. Sometimes I can’t tell what something is by its black & white picture (is that a piece of gum or sandpaper?). They ask me to identify a corporate logo I’ve never seen before. The dot-to-dots run down into the crease of the book. They ask me to recall the date the original TWILIGHT book was released (really?!?). They ask me to know the year the Starz movie channel was founded (again, really?!?). And they want me to identify celebrities by the photos of their mouths (fill-in-the-blank nonetheless).

Overall the good outweighs the bad or frustrating. I like this book so much that I want more! There are a lot of challenging and fun puzzles that I’ll continue to look forward to completing.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for sending this book to me for review.
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The Small Big: Small Changes That Spark Big Influence by Steve J Martin
The Small Big: Small Changes That Spark Big Influence

Ryan DeJonghe, September 8, 2014

I just finished THE SMALL BIG yesterday and have already implemented one of the 52 ideas today. I have plans to use another idea later today, and I’ll still be implementing these ideas tomorrow and the next day. Here’s my advice: buy this book and keep it near your desk.

Similarly-themed books feature studies done by other scientists��"which is cool��"but there was a surprising amount of research conducted by the authors themselves. The intimate feel of the self-conducted research and their writing made each small BIG feel approachable and applicable. There’s a plethora of journal studies conducted by other formable scientists, too. Each of the 52 chapters feature one-to-three studies each: all referenced in the back of the book.

Every chapter is short (about three to five pages), making it perfectly digestible for reading a few a day. They are all outlined at the beginning so you can pick and choose what you think you’ll need. Some chapters build on each other; the authors do a great job of highlighting what you may have missed. Everything is covered from employee productivity to gaining effective online reviews. The writing is clear and concise. I would have liked more bullet-pointed features or bolding, such as their counterpart books offer, but the brevity of chapters and italicized subjects worked fine.

The biggest issue I want addressed is the length of each study. For instance, one small BIG was to provide meaning to the task. The authors used a study where call center employees were given something to read that provided intrinsic motivation for the job. This group’s calls drew more donations compared to the control groups. However, what happens to their motivation over time? Would this approach desensitize if used daily over a month or a year?

The authors include a final chapter showing how some techniques can be combined, while other combination effects could come across as gimmicky or un-authentic. That’s the catch of it all: knowing and implementing these tools without appearing as the stereotypical used car salesman. You know what I mean. Learn the tools of influence, but keep it real. You’ll sleep better at night.

Whether you are the boss or the employee, the parent or the teacher, the neighbor or the friend, these are some great tools powered by the latest research that will surely benefit your life. Like I said before, keep this book at your desk and you’ll be using this tools today and tomorrow, too.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for sending this book to me for review.

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The Moment of Everything by Shelly King
The Moment of Everything

Ryan DeJonghe, September 2, 2014

Shelly King has stolen my heart: books, love, and fantastic writing.

A few months ago a great book called THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY came out. It had everything I like in a book; it was essentially a love letter to people who love books. The only faults may be that the story was straight-forward and a bit short. Predictable, if you will. Author Shelly King takes these premises and fills in any shortcoming in her newest book THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING. Indeed, she has offered everything.

As a tech lover and fellow nerd, I found much to relate to within King’s writing. Her experiences working within Silicon Valley shine through, from everything from Farmville references, to beating tunes on Guitar Hero, to programming the latest iPHone app. King won me over with her written description of becoming “the mayor” of a local independent book store��"two wins: books and tech.

I couldn’t put this down. I know, I know, you’ve heard that cliché before. But seriously, King’s writing displays such a warmth and comfortable feeling that you’ll instantly connect. Go ahead, check out the first page of the preview: I bet you can’t resist turning to the second page. King taunts you, by telling you that books aren’t the magic elixir everyone says they are. And yet…

The plot. I had no idea where King was taking me. Sure, I read the description and even peeked at the end-of-book group discussion guide, but the story was wonderful (and as mentioned before…addictive). There are several levels of characters, both the ones we meet in the margins of a classic and heavily used book, and the ones frequenting the book store. Each one is relatable and recognizable to our everyday life.

Bottom line, this is a great story written incredibly well. This will be a big hit for anyone loving a good book, especially those appreciating books in used condition, and for anyone looking for an unexpected love story. Bravo, Shelly King.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for sending this to me for review.
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