Book Review – Station Eleven

Station Eleven is the first book that I have read by Emily St. John Mandel and is the one that has been her most successful novel so far. I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Kirsten Potter. The book was a National Book Award finalist and was also adapted for a recent series on HBO Max.

Paid links help to support this blog.

Here is the blurb:

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 Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.


This was an odd book and is more literary than what I usually read. But despite being a bit out of my comfort zone, I did enjoy it. The opening chapter that describes Arthur Leander’s on-stage heart attack, and the segue into the outbreak of the Georgia flu, hooked my interest enough that when the story meandered to other characters, I remained engaged with the tale.

Station Eleven was published in 2014. After experiencing 2020 and the outbreak of COVID-19, the actions of people who were confronted with this fictional plague in Station Eleven were eerily true to how people behaved as the world shut down.

Through the book, the title’s Station Eleven graphic novel is developed by a secondary character and influences the rest of these linked people in their separate lives. This creation is described in a few short passages that contain such engaging details that I wish it truly existed so that I could read it as an adjunct work.

I’m currently the latest release by the same author – The Sea of Tranquility – so expect a review on that one soon.

Have you read Station Eleven? Have you watched the series? Let me know in the comments above. I will have to subscribe to HBO Max soon so that I can see it.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – The River of Silver

The River of Silver is a collection of short stories set in the world of The Daevabad Trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty. I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Soneela Nankani. It appears that this book is not available in print or as an e-book until October 2022, so the audio version is your only option for an early return to this stunning world.

I reviewed the books in the original trilogy here:

Paid links help to support this blog.

Here is the blurb:

Bestselling author S.A. Chakraborty’s acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy gets expanded with this new compilation of stories from before, during, and after the events of The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, and The Empire of Gold, all from the perspective of characters both beloved and hated, and even those without a voice in the novels. The River of Silver gathers material both seen and new—including a special coda fans will need to read—making this the perfect complement to those incredible novels.

A prospective new queen joins a court whose lethal history may overwhelm her own political savvy…

An imprisoned royal from a fallen dynasty and a young woman wrenched from her home cross paths in an enchanted garden…

A pair of scouts stumble upon a secret in a cursed winter wood that will turn over their world…

Now together in one place, these stories of Daevabad enrich a world already teeming with magic and wonder. From Manizheh’s first steps towards rebellion to adventures that take place after The Empire of Gold, this is a must-have collection for those who can’t get enough of Nahri, Ali, and Dara and all that unfolded around them.


This book is for readers who have already enjoyed The Daevabad Trilogy, and while the stories would be readable to someone unfamiliar with the plot and characters of the books, much of the impact of these tales would be lost. The River of Silver is a collection of deleted scenes, character backstory, and moments of resolution that either didn’t fit in the main trilogy, would have given away spoilers too soon, or would have dragged out the ending of The Empire of Gold.

For anyone reading the trilogy and wanting just a little more, The River of Silver will deliver on that. Each story is prefaced by a short note from the author that lets the reader know when it occurs in relation to the books and if there was any other history behind it. For example, one story was an alternate prologue to one of the books.

The narrator is the same woman who read the original trilogy, and her voice took me immediately back to Daevabad. The slight variations in tone allowed me to discern different characters without needing to be otherwise told.

Overall this was a fun addition to the world of Daevabad and helped to ease the sadness of finishing the trilogy and knowing that such a wonderful story was over.

Did you read any of The Daevabad Trilogy? Have you picked up The River of Silver yet? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – The New Jim Crow

I have too many books that I want to read and not enough time. But with certain books, I will make a special effort to carve out time to read them, and that is the case with The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. I had wanted to read this for the past couple of years and I picked up the audiobook edition, narrated by Karen Chilton.

Paid links help to support this blog.

Here is the blurb:

“Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”

As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them.

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community–and all of us–to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.


I remember learning about the “War on Drugs” since I grew up primarily in the 1980’s. Living near Washington, D.C., I saw local news coverage of the crack epidemic there, and I remember how it was all portrayed in a rather sensationalized manner. In The New Jim Crow, the author relates the history of drug policy and how the creation of laws that were not inherently racist allowed police and prosecutors to use them in a biased fashion that ultimately led to the mass incarceration of disproportionate numbers of black men in America.

The author makes many valid points and it was easy to follow the logic of her argument. However, I feel like the book belabors the point and that some of her conclusions could have been made more concisely. Overall, for a book on a similar topic, I found Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson to be a better read.

The audiobook narration was effective. I often turn to audiobooks when I read non-fiction because I have an easier time keeping up my reading momentum in this genre. The recording was clear and I listened to it at a normal speed.

Have you read The New Jim Crow? Let me know in the comments above. Do you have any suggestions for what should I read next on this subject?

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Instinct

I picked up Instinct by Jason M. Hough because I met the author many years ago and a con and I’ve enjoyed his other books. This one was a bit of a departure from his earlier novels because it isn’t science fiction, but more of a straight-forward thriller. I listed to this as an audiobook, narrated by Nancy Wu and George Newbern.

For my reviews on Jason’s other books, look here:

Paid links help to support this blog.

Here is the blurb:

Welcome to Silvertown, Washington. Population 602 (for now).

Despite its small size, the small mountain town is home to more conspiracy theories than any other place in America. Officer Mary Whittaker is slowly acclimating to the daily weirdness of life here, but when the chief of police takes a leave of absence, she is left alone to confront a series of abnormal incidents—strange even by Silvertown standards.

An “indoor kid” who abhors nature dies on a random midnight walkabout with no explanation.

A hiker is found dead on a trail, smiling serenely after being mauled by a bear.

A woman known for being a helicopter parent abandons her toddler twins without a second thought.

It’s almost as if the townsfolk are losing their survival instinct, one by one…

As Whittaker digs deeper into her investigation, she uncovers a larger conspiracy with more twists and turns than a mountain road, and danger around every corner. To save Silvertown, she must distinguish the truth from paranoia-fueled lies before she ends up losing her own instincts…and her life!

This book kept me enthralled throughout and was a quick listen. Mary Whittaker is a sympathetic and competent protagonist and her actions are believable as she tries to figure out what has afflicted Silvertown. The action ramps up and places Mary and the entire town into life-threatening danger.

The mystery behind the strange incidents kept me guessing up until the end. I did figure out a few aspects of the plot before Mary herself solved them, but I think that added to the tension. And while this is a stand-alone novel, a few loose ends to the plot leave an opening for a sequel.

Have you read any of Jason Hough’s other novels? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Harrow the Ninth

Harrow the Ninth is the second book in The Locked Tomb series by New Zealand author Tamsyn Muir. Like my read of the first book (Gideon the Ninth – review here), I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Moira Quirk.

Paid links help to support this blog.

Here is the blurb:

She answered the Emperor’s call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?

I really wanted to like this book, but it was hard to follow and I found myself confused for much of it. The story is told in the present day, written in second person, and also has flashbacks that appear to be an alternate version of the events of Gideon the Ninth. The characters are superbly drawn and their interactions are fascinating, even if I didn’t understand the relevance of much of it.

The unique portrayal of necromancy continues in this volume with wonderfully creative descriptions of bone and blood magic. The narrator provides each character with a slightly different manner of speech and subtle differences in accent which helps to follow more complicated conversations.

I just wish more was cleared up by the end of this book. The confusion was the worst at the very beginning and then in the end. Don’t expect any resolution or explanations in this series yet. It looks like two more books are planned, with the next one (Nona the Ninth) releasing later this year.

Have you read anything by Tamsyn Muir? What did you think? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Klara and the Sun

I had never read anything by Kazuo Ishiguro before this, probably because his books seem to be regarded more as literary fiction than science fiction. However, I thought I’d try this one since I’d heard a lot about it recently. I listened to Klara and the Sun as an audiobook, narrated by Sura Siu.

Paid links help to support this blog.

Here is the blurb:

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: What does it mean to love?

I found myself more entranced by Klara and her world in the first half of the book than I did in the later parts. Klara is a type of android who is supposed to be incredibly smart, but seems to lack understanding of much of the world. However, her curiosity and her desire to fulfill her job as an Artificial Friend, easily endear her to the reader.

Her teenage companion is Josie, a girl with some sort of sickness that killed her older sister. The details of this are gradually revealed through the book as Klara tries to find a way to heal Josie. The narrator in the audiobook was wonderful and easy to listen to.

I started to find Josie irritating as the book went on and Klara’s misguided attempts to help her were mystifying for an AI creation that’s supposed to be so intelligent. When things work out later on, it didn’t make sense to me. I also felt let down by the ending and Klara’s ultimate outcome. I guess this is why I usually stay away from literary fiction.

Have you read anything by Kazuo Ishiguro? Is there a different book you’d recommend by the author? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

I don’t remember where I heard about this book, but I picked this up as part of my attempt to read non-fiction from time to time. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is a fascinating look at how people learn and apply skills in fields stretching from chess to music to science. I listened to this as an audiobook, which seems to be my preference for non-fiction in particular.

Paid links help to support this blog.

Here is the blurb:

What’s the most effective path to success in any domain? It’s not what you think.
Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.

David Epstein examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields–especially those that are complex and unpredictable–generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.

Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.

I enjoyed this book for both the concepts and the stories. The author has clearly done his research and I learned some fascinating history in this book, particularly in the section on music.

The variety of fields that the author explores is another reason why I enjoyed reading this book. He brings in examples from sports, music, chess, science, art, writing, medicine, and engineering, showing how people with a wider range of experiences can sometimes make the discoveries that a more narrowly-focused expert cannot see.

The audiobook was easy to listen to and nothing in this book is too dense for the audio format. This was an easy non-fiction book to follow and one of my favorite books so far this year.

Have you read anything by David Epstein? Please let me know in the comments.

Find more of my reviews here.

Follow Blog via Email

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 319 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: