Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I have finished reading in 2018.
This page is built leveraging the goodreads API.
JapanesePod101: Beginner Season 1 cover
Currently Reading
JapanesePod101: Beginner Season 1

by JapanesePod101 (2006)
Publisher review: In this monster 170-lesson series, you will hear a variety of situational conversations between our cast of hosts and characters. This series is geared towards beginner level Japanese students ready to break out of the Absolute Beginner level. You will learn how to conjugate verbs into several different forms and how to use them in conversation. You'll also learn basic Japanese vocabulary and relevant cultural tips and insight. Both formal and informal Japanese is spoken.
Started: Jul 14 2018
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies cover
Currently Reading
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

by Jared Diamond (2005)
Publisher review: "Diamond has written a book of remarkable scope ... one of the most important and readable works on the human past published in recent years." Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a national bestseller: the global account of the rise of civilization that is also a stunning refutation of ideas of human development based on race. In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed writing, technology, government, and organized religion—as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war—and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth Club of California's Gold Medal
Started: Jul 27 2018
Forward the Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #2) cover
Currently Reading
Forward the Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #2)

by Isaac Asimov (1994)
Publisher review: For more than forty years, Isaac Asimov thrilled millions of readers with his bestselling Foundation series, a spellbinding tale of the future that spans thousands of years and dozens of worlds. Completed just two weeks before his death in April 1992, Foward the Foundation is the seventh and concluding volume of this masterwork, which was awarded a Hugo for the 'Best All-Time Science Fiction Series.' In the earliest Foundation novels, Hari Seldon, the guiding genius of the Foundation, was a figure of history. By going back to the great mathematician's life, in Foward the Foundation, Asimov fills in the remaining gaps in his epic history. Asimov acknowledged that he always regarded Seldon as his alter ego, and this novel is all the more poignant for the fact that he himself died only weeks after writing aout Seldon's death. A resounding tour de force, Foward the Foundation offers the dramatic climax to the Foundation series, and perhaps the greatest moment in science fiction to date.
Started: Aug 10 2018
The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #8) cover
Currently Reading
The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #8)

by Lemony Snicket (2001)
Publisher review: There is nothing to be found in the pages of these books but misery and despair. You still have time to choose something else to read. But if you must know what unpleasantries befall the charming and clever Baudelaire children read on...The Hostile Hospital - There are many pleasant things to read about, but this book contains none of them. Within its pages are such burdensome details as a suspicious shopkeeper, unnecessary surgery, heartshaped balloons, and some very starling news about a fire. Clearly you do not want to read about such things.
Started: Aug 14 2018
The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #7) cover
The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #7)
by Lemony Snicket (2001)
Publisher review: Dear Reader, You have undoubtedly picked up this book by mistake, so please put it down. Nobody in their right mind would read this particular book about the lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire on purpose, because each dismal moment of their stay in the village of V.F.D. has been faithfully and dreadfully recorded in these pages. I can think of no single reason why anyone would want to open a book containing such unpleasant matters as migrating crows, an angry mob, a newspaper headline, the arrest of innocent people, the Deluxe Cell, and some very strange hats. It is my solemn and sacred occupation to research each detail of the Baudelaire children's lives and write them all down, but you may prefer to do some other solemn and sacred thing, such as reading another book instead. With all due respect, Lemony Snicket
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Aug 07 2018 Finished: Aug 12 2018
Taste of Marrow (River of Teeth, #2) cover
Taste of Marrow (River of Teeth, #2)
by Sarah Gailey (2017)
My review: Even if this book series genre is not my usual cup of tea (I am not a big fan of western books and movies), I enjoyed River of Teethquite a lot and I was looking forward reading this sequel. I was not disappointed.
The story is set few months after the event of the previous book when Winslow Houndstooth put together a crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the damn that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway.
This book follows the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, with that crew scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they have become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law. (★★★)
Started: Aug 01 2018 Finished: Aug 10 2018
The Red Threads of Fortune (Tensorate #2) cover
The Red Threads of Fortune (Tensorate #2)
by J.Y. Yang (2017)
My review: I really enjoyed The Black Tides of Heaven, the first book of the Tensorate series, and I was looking forward its sequel. While I found the beginning a little slow, I ended up liking the book a lot once it picks up. The character, the fictional universe, the plot are all very compelling.
The main character of The Red Threads of Fortune is the twin sister of the main character of the previous book: Sanao Mokoya, fallen prophet, master of the elements, and daughter of the supreme Protector. Broken by the loss of her young daughter, she now hunts deadly, sky-obscuring naga in the harsh outer reaches of the kingdom, far from everything she used to love. On the trail of a massive naga that threatens the rebellious mining city of Bataanar, Mokoya meets the mysterious and alluring Rider. But all is not as it seems: the beast they both hunt harbors a secret that could ignite war throughout the Protectorate. As she is drawn into a conspiracy of magic and betrayal, Mokoya must come to terms with her extraordinary and dangerous gifts, or risk losing the little she has left to hold dear. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2018 Finished: Aug 01 2018
We Can Be Mended (Divergent, #3.5) cover
We Can Be Mended (Divergent, #3.5)
by Veronica Roth (2017)
Publisher review: We Can Be Mended is a short-story epilogue that focuses on Four and takes place five years after Allegiant, the conclusion of the Divergent series.
My rating: ★★
Started: Aug 01 2018 Finished: Aug 01 2018
Rebel Rising cover
Rebel Rising
by Beth Revis (2017)
My review: I was disappointed by Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, the previous book set in the Rogue One universe, and I was a little hesitant to pick this one up. I should have not hesitated, this is vastly better.
The book follows Jyn Erso from age five, to the days just before the main event of the Rogue One Movie. When she was five years old, her mother was murdered and her father taken from her to serve the Empire. But despite the loss of her parents she is not completely alone: Saw Gerrera, a man willing to go to any extremes necessary in order to resist Imperial tyranny, takes her in as his own, and gives her not only a home but all the abilities and resources she needs to become a rebel herself.
Jyn dedicates herself to the cause and the man. But fighting alongside Saw and his people brings with it danger and the question of just how far Jyn is willing to go as one of Saw's soldiers. When she faces an unthinkable betrayal that shatters her world, Jyn will have to pull the pieces of herself back together and figure out what she truly believes in... and who she can really trust. (★★★)
Started: Jul 14 2018 Finished: Jul 26 2018
Black Friday: A Original cover
Black Friday: A Original
by Alex Irvine (2018)
My review: A dystopian short story, set in a dark near future America where consumerism, reality TV voyeurism, and gun culture are unchecked. This is the story of a young family that teams up to celebrate the first shopping day of the Christmas season in the most patriotic possible: with a televised armed assault at the mall. (★★★★)
Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire, #3) cover
Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire, #3)
by Yoon Ha Lee (2018)
My review: I did like the previous two books of the series, but this third one is on a different league: it's very remarkable. I loved the plot, the characters, the narrative style. I hope to read more by this author soon.
The story starts with a new Shuos Jedao waking up. His few memories tell him that he's a seventeen year old cadet, but his body belongs to a man decades older. Hexarch Nirai Kujen orders Jedao to reconquer the fractured hexarchate on his behalf even though Jedao has no memory of ever being a soldier, let alone a general. Surely a knack for video games doesn't qualify you to take charge of an army? Soon Jedao learns the situation is even worse. The Kel soldiers under his command may be compelled to obey him, but they hate him thanks to a massacre he can't remember committing. Kujen's friendliness can't hide the fact that he's a tyrant. And what's worse, Jedao and Kujen are being hunted by an enemy who knows more about Jedao and his crimes than he does himself... (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 04 2018 Finished: Jul 22 2018
The Terrorist's Son: A Story of Choice cover
The Terrorist's Son: A Story of Choice
by Zak Ebrahim (2014)
My review: Despite the fact that parts of the book may have been "ghostwritten" by the co-author, despite the fact that, at times, I felt like a narrative was being pushed a little bit too hard on the real event, I am grateful to have read this story. It does offer some insight on what turns ordinary devoted men into terrorists, and what happens to their innocent families.
This book is a behind the scenes life of an American boy raised by his terrorist father, the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Zak Ebrahim was only seven years old when, on November 5th, 1990, his father El-Sayyid Nosair shot and killed the leader of the Jewish Defense League. While in prison, Nosair helped plan the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. In one of his infamous video messages, Osama Bin Laden urged the world to "Remember El-Sayyid Nosair".
For Zak Ebrahim, a childhood amongst terrorism was all he knew. After his father's incarceration, his family moved often, and as the perpetual new kid in class, he faced constant teasing and bullying. Yet, though his radicalized father and uncles modeled fanatical beliefs, he did not succumb to that.
In this book, Ebrahim dispels the myth that terrorism is a foregone conclusion for people trained to hate. Based on his own remarkable journey, he shows that hate is always a choice, but so is tolerance. Though Ebrahim was subjected to a violent, intolerant ideology throughout his childhood, he did not become radicalized. Ebrahim argues that people conditioned to be terrorists are actually well positioned to combat terrorism, because of their ability to bring seemingly incompatible ideologies together in conversation and advocate in the fight for peace. Ebrahim argues that everyone, regardless of their upbringing or circumstances, can learn to tap into their inherent empathy and embrace tolerance over hatred. (★★★)
Started: Jul 12 2018 Finished: Jul 13 2018
Call Me By Your Name cover
Call Me By Your Name
by André Aciman (2017)
My review: I had seen Luca Guadagnino's movie adaptation of this book, and I loved it. I loved the perfect and meticulous reconstruction of the Italy of my youth. In particular the portrait of the languid and slow Italian summers in the 70s and 80s is the best I have ever seen.
I was a little hesitant to read the book: I was concerned that it would ruin my memory of the movie.
It turns out the two are quite different. Despite having a very similar plot, the feel and the focus could not be more different. While both good, the movie is far better. It really capture the Italy that was, and everything in the book is exactly as things could have happened. The movie feels almost like a diary, it evokes memories, scents, and flavors from my Italian past. The book does not even come close to do that. Still, it's an interesting story.
The book is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents' cliff side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks' duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 24 2018 Finished: Jul 10 2018
The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #6) cover
The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #6)
by Lemony Snicket (2001)
My review: After escaping for the 5th time from Count Olaf Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire end up in a very posh and "in" neighborhood. For once their guardians are wealthy and they do not demand them to perform crazy tasks... unfortunately they are so into fashion trends to make their own lives miserable: they live in darkness, and they sip disgusting parsley soda, just because it is "in".
I was hoping to learn more of the overall plot-line that the author started hinting at in the previous installment of this series, but really little is said, and a lot more is left unsaid. I cannot wait to read the next book of A Series of Unfortunate Events! (★★★★)
Started: Jul 04 2018 Finished: Jul 09 2018
Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel cover
Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
by James Luceno (2016)
My review: I did not have high expectations, but I was nevertheless quite disappointed: the book is a collection of long and boring info-dumps that might appeal to the most devoted Star Wars fans, but not to me. The book narrates the story of some of the characters that appear in Rogue One, and gives a little bit more depth to that movie. The plot is surprisingly relatively thin: War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine's top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic's, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key. Galen's energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, to get the Erso family deeply in Krennic's debt...
I think the book would benefit if drastically edited and condensed to one forth of its current length. (★★)
Started: Jun 18 2018 Finished: Jul 04 2018
Our King and His Court cover
Our King and His Court
by Rich Larson
My review: This short story is set in a near future world devastated by climate change and by the collapse of democratic governments. Criminal lords have now taken over, and they use scientific discoveries to extend their power as much as possible. The main character is a high-ranking soldier in a criminal gang who has conflicting loyalties to his monstrous boss and that boss’s innocent young son. (★★★)
Started: Jul 02 2018 Finished: Jul 03 2018
Recoveries cover
by Susan Palwick (2018)
My review: A clever and fun short story, about two women who have been friends since they were children. One is a recovering alcoholic brought up by parents who believe they're alien abductees. The other is an orphan, passed around from one foster family to another, with a serious eating disorder. In Recoveries they contend with secret that might doom their friendship. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 01 2018 Finished: Jul 01 2018
River of Teeth (River of Teeth, #1) cover
River of Teeth (River of Teeth, #1)
by Sarah Gailey (2017)
My review: Apparently in the 19th century in the non fictional United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. Hippos are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. This was a terrible plan. Inspired by this real yet bizarre historical fact, Sarah Gailey developed this alternative history novel, set in a fictional United States where the government did end up approving the introduction of hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana. Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
This is a hard to classify novel: a western with hippos taking the place of horses, and set in Louisiana instead of Texas. It would not be normally my cup of tea, but the writing and the storytelling are both excellent. I will read the rest of the series! (★★★★)
Started: Jun 28 2018 Finished: Jul 01 2018
Worth Her Weight in Gold cover
Worth Her Weight in Gold
by Sarah Gailey (2018)
My review: I have been reading Sarah Gailey's River of Teeth series and I could not resist reading this short story set in the same alternate America. An 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe.
This is the story of Winslow Remington Houdstooth, notorious outlaw, handsomest heartbreaker in the American South. He has just finished a lucrative job, but he's faced with a hippo-sized problem that would test even the most seasoned of hoppers.
Short, yet fun. If you are reading the River of Teeth series, you should not skip it! (★★★)
Started: Jul 01 2018 Finished: Jul 01 2018
Six Wakes cover
Six Wakes
by Mur Lafferty (2017)
My review: What a fun, fast paced, enjoyable book! I am really happy to have picked it up!
Six Wakes is a space adventure set in a future where cloning and memory transfers has given humans an immortality of sort. I confess I would not consider having a series of clones with my memory a form of life extensions, but the concept is very fascinating, and it is adroitly used to drive the plot. The action is set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer... before they kill again. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 20 2018 Finished: Jun 27 2018
Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire, #2) cover
Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire, #2)
by Yoon Ha Lee (2017)
My review: In the previous installment of The Machineries of the Empire series, the hexarchate's gifted young captain Kel Cheris summoned the ghost of the long dead General Shuos Jedao to help her put down a rebellion. She didn't reckon on his breaking free of centuries of imprisonment and possessing her.
Now things are getting even worse, the enemy Hafn are invading, and Jedao takes over General Kel Khiruev's fleet, which was tasked with stopping them. Only one of Khiruev's subordinates, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, seems to be able to resist the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao. Jedao claims to be interested in defending the hexarchate, but can Khiruev or Brezan trust him? For that matter, will the hexarchate's masters wipe out the entire fleet to destroy the rogue general?
This second book is as intriguing as the first, and I cannot wait to read the third and final instalment of this series. (★★★★)
Started: May 28 2018 Finished: Jun 20 2018
The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #5) cover
The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #5)
by Lemony Snicket (2000)
My review: After escaping for the 4th time from Count Olaf Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire end up at a boarding school. They are intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well there. Unfortunately For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives. Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this story, the children face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system.
All the previous book followed a very similar structure: the children find themselves in a new weird situation, soon Olaf shows up, and at the end, thanks to their whims they manage to outsmart him. I was worried that I would get bored of the template after few books, but finally a framing story is starting to emerge. It is just hinted for now, but I am getting intrigued. Let's see what happens next! (★★★)
Started: Jun 11 2018 Finished: Jun 17 2018
The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #4) cover
The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #4)
by Lemony Snicket (2000)
My review: As you may expect if you have read any of the previous books in the series, accidents, evil plots, and general misfortune abound in The Miserable Mill. The story starts with the Beaudelaire orphans sent to live and work in a sinister lumber mill. Unsurprisingly they are thrust into the jaws of danger and intrigue at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, where Violet, Klaus, and Sunny spend their miserable days debarking trees and bundling wood. Then Klaus breaks his glasses and he ended up being hypnotized by the town optometrist in cahoots with the nefarious Count Olaf.
The book is enjoyable and darkly funny, one of the best books in the series so far. (★★★)
Started: Jun 08 2018 Finished: Jun 11 2018
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow cover
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
by Yuval Noah Harari (2017)
My review: This is the second book by Yuval Noah Harari I read. Both book managed to deeply challenge and change the way I thought about humans and the world.
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow examines what might happen to the world when old myths are coupled with new godlike technologies, such as artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. Humans conquered the world thanks to their unique ability to believe in collective myths about gods, money, equality and freedom, as the author explained in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. In Homo Deus, Prof. Harari looks to the future and explores how global power might shift, as the principal force of evolution, natural selection, is replaced by intelligent design.
What will happen to democracy when Google and Facebook come to know our likes and our political preferences better than we know them ourselves? What will happen to the welfare state when computers push humans out of the job market and create a massive new "useless class"? How might Islam handle genetic engineering? Will Silicon Valley end up producing new religions, rather than just novel gadgets?
As Homo Sapiens becomes Homo Deus, what new destinies will we set for ourselves? As the self-made gods of planet earth, which projects should we undertake, and how will we protect this fragile planet and humankind itself from our own destructive powers? This book gives us a glimpse of the dreams and nightmares that will shape our future. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 13 2018 Finished: Jun 08 2018
The Power cover
The Power
by Naomi Alderman (2019)
My review: In The Power the world is a recognizable place: there's a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power: they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly. This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.
By far one of the best book I have ever read. (★★★★★)
Started: May 19 2018 Finished: Jun 07 2018
California Statewide Direct Primary Election Tuesday June 5, 2018 Official Voter Information Guide cover
California Statewide Direct Primary Election Tuesday June 5, 2018 Official Voter Information Guide
by California Secretary of State (2018)
My review: There is no greater right than the right to vote. America's democracy thrives when every eligible voter participates and does her/his due diligence to come prepared to the vote. This guide was created to assist voters for the Statewide Direct Primary in June 5th, 2018. This Voter Guide aim is to help us make informed decisions. It includes impartial analysis, arguments in favor and against numerous ballot measures, declarations of the candidates, the Voter Bill of Rights and other important information. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 03 2018 Finished: Jun 03 2018
Voter Information Pamphlet & Sample Ballot cover
Voter Information Pamphlet & Sample Ballot
by City and County of San Francisco (2018)
My review: There is no greater right than the right to vote. America's democracy thrives when every eligible voter participates and does her/his due diligence to come prepared. The San Francisco Department of Elections prepares a Voter Information Pamphlet before each election, which is sent to all registered voters. This guide includes a sample ballot, information about voting in San Francisco, and information about local candidates and ballot measures. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 03 2018 Finished: Jun 03 2018
Provenance cover
by Ann Leckie (2017)
My review: I loved Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy (the winner of Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus Awards!), and I was quite curious to read this new stand alone book, set in the same universe.
Provenance is the story of Ingray, a power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artifacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned. Of course things are much complex than expected... and on her return to her home world she finds her planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict.
I ended up liking the book a lot. It is much more readable and entertaining, yet much less groundbreaking and original than the previous trilogy. It is a great candidate for the Hugo award for best Novel, but not the one on top of my list. (★★★★)
Started: May 12 2018 Finished: May 28 2018
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End cover
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul Gawande (2014)
My review: In Being Mortal, Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine should not only improve life but also the process of its ending. Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extends suffering. Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.
I confess I would have not picked it up if it was not chosen by my book club. The topic is not one people like to think about, or discuss. This is the exact reason why I am glad I read this book. It did change my perspective on the topic, and I now feel much more prepared to deal with the aging of my loved ones, and mine. (★★★)
Started: May 04 2018 Finished: May 18 2018
New York 2140 cover
New York 2140
by Kim Stanley Robinson (2017)
My review: This is the first time I read a book by this author, and I had heard a lot of good things about this particular book so I was quite eager to give it a try. I am not sure why, but I expected a pulpy, action packed, fun yet forgettable book. Instead the book is very light on the plot side, yet very deep in the political and sociological side. It is also a love letter to New York City, a story that celebrates its past, its spirit, while it imagines its future. I am very glad I read it, and even if it is not my favorite Hugo finalist, it is definitely Hugo worthy, and a top contender.
The story is set in 2140. As expected no action was taken to stop global warming, the ocean waters rose, and New York City is submerged (as the vast majority of the big cities on Earth). NYC residents adapted and it remained the bustling, vibrant metropolis it had always been, yet changed forever. Every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. Through the eyes of the varied inhabitants of one building, Kim Stanley Robinson shows us how one of our great cities will change with the rising tides. And how we too will change. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 21 2018 Finished: May 12 2018
Regarding Your Application Status cover
Regarding Your Application Status
by John Scalzi (2018)
My review: A short-story set in a near future when human has discovered that there is a galaxy-spanning federation of planets out there, and we humans of Earth are super excited about it, and we want to join in! But when we ask "Can we join?", they say "Well, you can apply".... The story is the alien answer to our request. You can probably guess how it goes. It's a cute and fun to read short-story, but it did not strike me as the most original. Yet, it is free, so I cannot complain! (★★★)
Started: May 10 2018 Finished: May 10 2018
The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1) cover
The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1)
by John Scalzi (2017)
My review: I really enjoyed Scalzi's Old Man's War series, and I was looking forward reading this first installment of his new space-opera. The book is certainly entertaining and fun, but a little bit on the short side. The length, coupled with the cliffhanger ending, left me with the impression I had just finished the first half of a book. I am looking forward reading the rest, and a little mad that I have to wait months to see what happen next.
The book is set in a relatively far future in our universe where faster than light travel is still not possible... until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars. Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It's a hedge against interstellar war, and a system of control for the rulers of the empire. The Flow is eternal and static... or so people believe. But just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it's discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals, a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency, are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse. (★★★)
Started: Apr 09 2018 Finished: Apr 20 2018
We Should All Be Feminists cover
We Should All Be Feminists
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014)
My review: I discovered this lovely short book at my local library, where it was a highly recommended short-read. The title sounded appealing, so I decided to give it a try, and I am glad I did. We should all be feminists is a reflection of what "feminism" mean today, it is a a personal, eloquently argued essay, adapted from the author much viewed TEDx talk of the same name. With humor and levity, Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences, in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad, offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in an observant, witty and clever prose, this is one remarkable author's exploration of what it means to be a woman today, and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 14 2018 Finished: Apr 14 2018
The Vegetarian cover
The Vegetarian
by Han Kang (2016)
My review: I was browsing through my local library list of popular books when I ran into this novella. The cover was intriguing, and the title was familiar: a google search quickly reminded me I read rave reviews of it when it won the first new Man Booker International Prize in 2016. I decided to give it a try, and I was quickly trapped: while the book is not what would be my usual cup of tea, it soon deeply captivated me. The main character of the story is Yeong-hye, a woman that before a nightmare, lived a quite ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision to embrace a more "plant-like" existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye, impossibly, ecstatically, tragically, far from her once-known self altogether.
When I finished to book I find myself confused. I felt like some big truth was shown to me, but I was unable to grasp it. Maybe the truth that is shown is too complex to grasp. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 06 2018 Finished: Apr 12 2018
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The Secret Life of Bots
by Suzanne Palmer (2017)
My review: The Secret Life of Bots is set in a future where the human race is fighting a war against an alien civilization... and losing it. After having all their spaceships destroyed, the humans recover a previously retired spaceship, governed by an AI that while very loyal is quite bitter about being previously disposed. Humanity only hope of survival is placed on a secret and dangerous mission, to be executed on that very ship. The refurbished ship has many robots, all reporting to it. One of these is Bot 9, the main character of the story, that has been in storage for a very long while. It's a dated model with a reputation for instability, but when the ship runs into a crisis, even temperamental old multibots are called to assist. 9 is to deal with a pest problem, something is chewing through the walls, and while it would prefer a more important job, it dutifully sets about hunting down vermin.
The story is extremely entertaining and a strong contender for the 2018 Hugo award for best novelette. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 09 2018 Finished: Apr 09 2018
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A Series of Steaks
by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2017)
My review: Helena Li Yuanhui of Splendid Beef Enterprises is an expert in counterfeiting real beef with 3D bio-printed one. Her printed beef is perfect in texture, color, scent, and flavor. She is working hard to try to raise enough money to change her identity and escape from the past she is so hard trying to escape from... until one day, someone learn about it, and decides to blackmail Helena...
The world building is sublime: Helena's world is credible, futuristic, yet it contains many of the horror and the contradictions of our present world. This is definitely another good contender for the Hugo Award for best novelette. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 08 2018 Finished: Apr 08 2018
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Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time
by K.M. Szpara (2017)
My review: This is the story of Finley, a man like many others, that one day encounters Andreas, a vampire that cannot resist the temptation to bit and turn Finley. Unfortunately it is against the law to bit without consent, and even worst to turn without going through the necessary legal procedures. On top of it Finley is an F2M transgender man, and the law does not allow transgender men to be turned.
A great novelette, a vampire story with a very novel twist. The vampiric turning give the opportunity to Finley to explore what transition and gender confirmation meant for him. Very interesting and novel. A very strong contender for the best novelette Hugo Award. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 07 2018 Finished: Apr 08 2018
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Wind Will Rove
by Sarah Pinsker (2017)
My review: A great story set on a generational ship leaving behind a troubled earth and moving towards a far away planet. The story focuses on the people on the ship, on their culture and dreams, and analyze their relationship with the planet that their ancestors have left behind. It's definitely a strong contender for the Hugo Award for best novelette. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 05 2018 Finished: Apr 06 2018
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Who Rules the World?
by Noam Chomsky (2016)
My review: In an incisive thorough analysis of the current international situation, Noam Chomsky examines the way that the United States, despite the rise of Europe and Asia, still largely sets the terms of global discourse.
Drawing on a wide range of examples, from the history of U.S. involvement with Cuba to the sanctions on Iran, Chomsky's argues that America's rhetoric of freedom and human rights often diverges from its actions. He delves deep into the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel-Palestine, providing unexpected and nuanced insights into the workings of what he describes as the American imperial power on our increasingly chaotic planet.
This was the first time I read a book from Chomsky, but I was finally convinced to give it a try when i discovered it was one of the trending books at my local library. I was not disappointed: while I may not be convinced by all his arguments, he waves a though provoking and sobering telling of recent American history. I just wish the book was edited more aggressively: the book is probably a collection of stitched together essays, with tons of repetitions. There are entire chapters that are combinations of parts from previous chapters. A good editor could have cut a good 40% of the text without losing any information.
I read that the latest edition of this book comes with an afterword, where he addresses the election of Donald Trump. This was not included in my edition, but I am really eager to read it. (★★★)
Started: Mar 24 2018 Finished: Apr 05 2018
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Children of Thorns, Children of Water (Dominion of the Fallen, #1.5)
by Aliette de Bodard (2017)
My review: I read a lot of good reviews for the Dominion of the Fallen series and I was looking forward reading this novelette set in that fictional world. While it can be read as a stand alone story, I regret reading it without having read the The House of Shattered Wings first: I had the constant feeling I was missing something, some backstory.
The story is set during a yearly tradition for House of Hawthorn: the test of the Houseless. For those chosen, success means the difference between a safe life and the devastation of the streets. However, for Thuan and his friend Kim Cuc, dragons in human shapes and envoys from the dying underwater kingdom of the Seine, the stakes are entirely different. Charged with infiltrating a House that keeps encroaching on the Seine, if they are caught, they face a painful death. Worse, mysterious children of thorns stalk the candidates through Hawthorn’s corridors. Will Thuan and Kim Cuc survive and succeed? (★★)
Started: Apr 04 2018 Finished: Apr 05 2018
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Fandom for Robots
by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2017)
My review: While the story is quite simple, it is nevertheless entertaining. The main character is an old artificial intelligence, living inside a museum, that one day discovers a Japanese anime (Hyperdimension Warp Record) and become a fan. Then, it discovers fan-fiction and the online fandom. (★★★)
Started: Apr 02 2018 Finished: Apr 03 2018
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Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand
by Fran Wilde (2017)
My review: A word of advice: do not read this when you are sleepy or distracted. This is not an easy read, and it requires your full attention. I made the mistake to read it at night just before falling asleep... and I ended up having to read it again later because I had no idea of what I just read.
The story is an unsettling and grotesque tour of a museum / freak show, a reflection on what being differently abled meant in the past and means today. It is emotionally intense and disturbing, but the plot is quite thin. (★★★)
Started: Apr 03 2018 Finished: Apr 03 2018
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Carnival Nine
by Caroline M. Yoachim (2017)
My review: A moving and cleverly written short story, using very clever fantasy allegories to explore how human copes with the fact that their existence is limited, and its length is not equitably distributed. The story explore aging, and how sometimes life doesn't play out the way we envisioned for ourselves, and sometimes we need to abandon our childhood dreams to follow our hearts, or for our loved ones.
This is definitely a strong finalist for the 2018 Hugo Award for Short Stories. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 02 2018 Finished: Apr 02 2018
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Sun, Moon, Dust
by Ursula Vernon (2017)
My review: The story starts at Allpa's grandmother deathbed. Allpa's turned out quite different from the warrior that grandma expected her descendant to be. He seems to be far more interested in working the farm he inherited, than mastering the art of the sword. To Allpa's immense surprise, his grandma gives him her magic sword. His not excited about it, but he takes it home, to honor his grandma's memory. Then, as he unleashes the sword, three fearsome warriors emerge: sun, moon and dust. They are ready to train him to became a strong warrior, but Allpa's is not interested, an eventually they realize that. But perhaps his grandmother, the fearsome Anka the clear eyed, did not intend to push him towards a warrior's life, but to give him something far more valuable... (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 01 2018 Finished: Apr 01 2018
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Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience
by Rebecca Roanhorse (2017)
My review: This is the story of Jesse Turnblatt, a Native American working in a Virtual Reality store in Sedona, as a guide to the VR cyber tour "Authentic Indian Experience". He recognize that there is very little authenticity in the tour, and he worries that his English sounding name may turn tourist off. One day a Caucasian man approaches him, and the two become quickly fast friends...
The story is a symbolic retelling of the historical encounter between European "settlers" and the First Nations Americans, and describe the cultural appropriation that have taken place afterwards.
The short story starts with very fitting words by Sherman Alexie: In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written, all of the white people will be Indians and all of the Indians will be ghosts. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 31 2018 Finished: Apr 01 2018
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Domestic Violence
by Madeline Ashby (2018)
My review: An interesting investigation in fictional form of domestic violence in its various forms, gender power dynamics, and the role of technologies of aiding the perpetrators. The story is also captivating and notable.
I would also recommend the companion piece The Complicated Relationship Between Abuse and Tech: An expert on domestic violence and technology responds to Madeline Ashby's short story that Slate published, that provide some non fictional background of the role of technology in domestic violence and abuse. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2018 Finished: Apr 01 2018
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Parable of the Talents (Earthseed, #2)
by Octavia E. Butler (2001)
My review: This Nebula Award-winning novel is the second installment of the Earthseed series, and it is fantastic. I loved "parable of the sower", but the second volume is even better. The plot is more complex, the narrative devices used by Butler are more intriguing (multiple alternative POV with very different prospective of the events), and the ending is much more satisfying and complete. It turns out that the first two novels, the only one to be published, are two halves of the same stand alone story. The other planed yet never published books (4!!!!) were a sequel with very distinct characters and plot line.
The book continues the story of Lauren Olamina in socially and economically depressed California in the 2030s. Convinced that her community should colonize the stars, Lauren and her followers make preparations. But the collapse of society and rise of fanatics result in Lauren's followers being enslaved, and her daughter stolen from her. Now, Lauren must fight back to save the new world order.
The book has some very dark and tragic moment, but it is way more hopeful than the first.
The story is really is as relevant today as it was when it was published in the 90s. In the fictional America of the book, a new peson is running for president on an anti muslim, anti immigrant populist platform, and his campaign slogan is "make america great again".
Last but not least.... I recommend the following articles (BEWARE SPOILERS! DO NOT READ UNTIL YOU HAVE READ BOTH BOOKS):

The Octavia E. Butler Plants an Earthseed: an interview with the author after the publication of the second volume.

There's Nothing New / Under The Sun, / But There Are New Suns: Recovering Octavia E. Butler’s Lost Parables by Gerry Canavan: The author of this articles looked at all the notes of Octavia Butler's regarding the never published sequels to the original published duology.

Octavia Butler's Prescient Vision of a Zealot Elected to "Make America Great Again" by Abby Aguirre: the New Yorker's take on the book. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 19 2018 Finished: Mar 29 2018
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A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo
by Jill Twiss (2018)
My review: A sweet children book, following Marlon Bundo, a lonely bunny who lives with his Grampa, Mike Pence, the Vice President of the United States. On this Very Special Day, Marlon's life is about to change forever after he meets and falls in love with another boy bunny. With its message of tolerance and advocacy, this charming children's book explores issues of same sex marriage and democracy. Sweet, funny, and beautifully illustrated, this book is dedicated to every bunny who has ever felt different. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project and AIDS United. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 27 2018 Finished: Mar 27 2018
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The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #3)
by Lemony Snicket (2000)
My review: I read this book first in 2009, and it was the last book of the series I have ever read. While I found the series entertaining, the format of each book is similar, and I am afraid that, in the long run, it may turn repetitive and boring. But it is not so yet: I still enjoyed the story, despite the utter stupidity of some of the adult characters, that keep falling for the obvious disguises of Count Olaf. Shouldn't they have learned by now?
In the third installment of the series the Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are as filled with bad luck and misery as always. The story includes a hurricane, a signalling device, hungry human eating leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny. (★★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Apr 28 2009 Finished (first time): May 04 2009
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The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #2)
by Lemony Snicket (1999)
My review: I received the first volume as a present, and it intrigued me. The style is quite unusual for a children book, and it has a dark cynical tone, but... I enjoyed it. I then decided to read the second, and I enjoyed it as well. After losing their parents, and after escaping from Count Olaf, the Baudelaire orphans are adopted by a distant uncle, a world renown herpetologist with a huge passion for reptiles. Despite the unusual line of work, the uncle turns out to be a great adoptive parent... but it will not last long. Soon the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the appearance of a person they'd hoped never to see again (can you guess who?). I cannot wait to read the next book of this very unusual series. (★★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Jan 17 2009 Finished (first time): Jan 25 2009
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Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3)
by Seanan McGuire (2018)
My review: Another story set in Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children fictional universe, featuring many of the characters introduced in Every Heart a Doorway and few new ones. I would recommend reading the first book of the series before this one (the second one is a good book, but is not required to fully appreciate this one).
The story focuses on Sumi, that died in the first book of the series, years before her prophesied daughter could be born, and on Rini that was born anyway in the sugary nonsensical word beyond Sumi's doorway, and that is now trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic, Earth. (★★★)
Started: Mar 13 2018 Finished: Mar 19 2018
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The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1)
by Lemony Snicket (1999)
My review: The series has a very distinctive and extremely (ironically) cynical style. Life is presents as a series of unfortunate events to such extent to be (intentionally) hilarious.
This first short book introduces us to the Baudelaire orphans. After losing their parents in a mysterious fire, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.
I really enjoyed reading it, and I guess I'll end up reading the whole series.
Note: I first read the book many years ago, and more recently I listened to the audio-book version. I was not as fond of the audio adaptation though: while the voice acting is great (the narrator accent is simply perfect!), the background noises and sounds that were added to create the right atmosphere make at times hard to hear the voice actors. (★★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Sep 23 2006 Finished (first time): Sep 24 2006
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Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
My review: One of the more interesting books I have ever read, definitely something that should be a required read in every school in the United States of America (and abroad).
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of "race", a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men, bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates's attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son and readers the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children's lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 09 2018 Finished: Mar 14 2018
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A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1)
by Madeleine L'Engle (2017)
My review: I grew up in Italy, and over there A Wrinkle in Time is not as popular as it is here in the United States of America. After hearing so much about it I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately it is a book intended for children, and it is not as entertaining for an adult. Moreover since it was probably the original inspiration of many later works I read, it was not as original to read for me.
The books follows Meg Murry, living with her small brother Charles Wallace, two bigger twin brothers, and her mother. Her father is vanished while working for the government.... The book is loosely based on some scientific discovery of the time it was written, but it reads like a fantasy book, with a lot of strong theist messages sprinkled through the story. (★★)
Started: Mar 07 2018 Finished: Mar 13 2018
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Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
by Carlo Rovelli (2016)
My review: I confess I felt a little odd to listen to the English version of this book, while I could have read the original that was written in my mother tongue, but my local library only had the English audio-book version, so I went with it. The book is read by the author himself, Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, who speaks English perfectly, but with a very lovely accent. After reading A Brief History of Time I was looking for something similar, and this book seemed to fit the bill. It claims to tell us everything we need to know about the beauty of modern physics in less than 100 pages. The book is a playful, entertaining and mind-bending introduction to modern physics, and it was a major bestseller in Italy. It explains general relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary particles, gravity, black holes, the complex architecture of the universe, and the role of humans in the strange world Rovelli describes. This is a book about the joy of discovery. It takes readers to the frontiers of our knowledge: to the most minute reaches of the fabric of space, back to the origins of the cosmos, and into the workings of our minds. Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world, Rovelli writes. And it’s breathtaking. The book is quite poetic, but I preferred Stephen Hawking's book much more. (★★★)
Started: Mar 07 2018 Finished: Mar 09 2018
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Breakwater: A original
by Simon Bestwick (2018)
My review: Breakwater is a science fiction novelette about Cally Baker, an engineer, who, with her late, marine biologist husband, designed an underwater research platform, and is caught up in the war between humans and mysterious creatures beneath the seas that are destroying coastal cities around the world. Cally refuses to believe that this war is the answer, and tries to contact the creatures, with no luck.
Breakwater is a steamy and sexy story, that is very enjoyable to read. (★★★)
Started: Mar 05 2018 Finished: Mar 07 2018
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The Universe in a Nutshell
by Stephen Hawking (2001)
My review: I really enjoyed A Brief History of Time, and I decided to read more by the same author. The Universe in a Nutshell was hailed as a major publishing event, a sequel that unravels the mysteries of the major breakthroughs that have occurred in the years since the release of his acclaimed first book. The books touches topics as Quantum mechanics, M-theory, General relativity, 11 dimensional supergravity, 10 dimensional membranes, Superstrings, P-branes, and Black holes.
As in the previous book, Hawking takes us to the cutting edge of theoretical physics, where truth is often stranger than fiction, to explain in laymen's terms the principles that control our universe. He takes us to the wild frontiers of science, where superstring theory and p-branes may hold the final clue to the puzzle. And he lets us behind the scenes of one of his most exciting intellectual adventures as he seeks "to combine Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Richard Feynman's idea of multiple histories into one complete unified theory that will describe everything that happens in the universe".
I am told that the book is richly and gorgeously illustrated. Unfortunately I had the bad idea to listed to the audiobook. That was a big mistake, because the text continuously reference the images and it relies on them to illustrate the most difficult points. As a result I was unable to grasp some of the most interesting parts. (★★★)
Started: Mar 01 2018 Finished: Mar 06 2018
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Parable of the Sower (Earthseed, #1)
by Octavia E. Butler (2012)
My review: I only recently discovered Octavia Butler, and I have quickly become a big fan of her work. Parable of the Sower did not disappoint. The story is set in 2025, when the world is descending into madness and anarchy, and one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.
Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren's father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others. When fire destroys their compound, Lauren's family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.
Started: Feb 23 2018 Finished: Mar 04 2018
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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah Harari (2015)
My review: I have read many books in my life, but none has impacted me so deeply, and make me think and reconsider my assumptions and way of thinking. It now sits on top of the list of books I recommend to others.
The books tells the story of Homo Sapiens from 100,000 years ago, when at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical, and sometimes devastating, breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2018 Finished: Feb 28 2018
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Where Would You Be Now?
by Carrie Vaughn (2018)
My review: This short story is a prequel to the events of the Carrie Vaughn's The Coast Road series. It can be read as a stand-alone story (I did), but I was left with the impression that I would have enjoyed it more if I recognized some of the characters and I knew what will happen to them.
In this story the world as we know it is ending, and a new world is taking its place. Among the doctors and nurses of a clinic-turned-fortress, young Kath is coming of age in this new world, and helping to define it. But that doesn't make letting go of the old any easier. (★★★)
Started: Feb 22 2018 Finished: Feb 23 2018
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The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate, #1)
by J.Y. Yang (2017)
My review: I recently discovered J.Y. Yang short stories, and I quickly became a huge fan of their work. I was looking forward reading some of her longer work, and they did not disappoint. The Black Tides of Heaven is a silkpunk novella, set in the fictional word of the Tensorate where power is held by a small minority of strong magic user. It is the story of two twins, Mokoya and Akeha, the children of the Protector, given to the Grand Monastery as a payment for their help quenching a rebellion. While Mokoya develops strange prophetic gift, Akeha is always the one who see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister receives visions of what would be, Akeha realizes what can be. What's more, he sees the sickness at the heart of his mother's Protectorate. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 17 2018 Finished: Feb 21 2018
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All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)
by Martha Wells (2017)
My review: A very entertaining novella, impossible to put down, written from the eyes of one of the most interesting characters I have seen in a while: an organic android, deprived of any legal right, yet completely human and full of mirth. The story is short, and there was not space yet for a lot of character development, but there are promising premises and signs... I cannot wait to read the next installments of the series.
In a corporate-dominated space-faring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn't a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied android, a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as "Murderbot". Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 13 2018 Finished: Feb 16 2018
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And Then There Were [N-One]
by Sarah Pinsker (2017)
My review: This novella is showing up in many favorite lists, and it is highly likely to end up in the Hugo finalists' list. I decided to read the source of so much interest, and it was indeed an interesting story with a clever plot. It is a mystery, a detective story, directly inspired by Agatha Christie: a group of people is stuck in a big hotel on an island, cut of from the rest of society because of the weather, and then a body is found. It also have a science fictional element: the people in the hotels are all Sarah Pinsker, coming from many different parallel universes, each one born and split from ours at a particular point of time because a seemingly insignificant choice was made. This is also a memoir of sort, where the author reflects on her past choices and on what ifs. This is definitely a strong contender for this year Hugo award. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 09 2018 Finished: Feb 13 2018
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Combustion Hour
by Yoon Ha Lee (2014)
My review: I am enjoying reading The Machineries of Empire series, and I was curious to read more stories by the same author. This one is quite intriguing, with fantastic two dimensional characters from the world of shadow puppets. I was left wondering if the story would have benefited from a longer format, to give more space to the world building and to the characters' histories. (★★★)
Started: Feb 08 2018 Finished: Feb 09 2018
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The Ghoul Goes West
by Dale Bailey (2018)
My review: The Ghoul Goes West is a novelette about two brothers, both obsessed with movies. One a not very successful screenwriter, the other an academic. When one dies from a drug overdose, his brother travels to Hollywood to investigate, and make amends for not being as supportive as he could have been.
The genre of this story is "magical realism": the story is deeply rooted in real history (in particular I learned a lot about the life of Bela Lugosi, the actor that deeply affected the lives of the two fictional brothers of the story), and the plot is completely realistic, but for a very small, limited, element. The fantastic element is not the focus of the story, but more of a catalyst for other realist events that follows. (★★★)
Started: Feb 09 2018 Finished: Feb 09 2018
Sleeper cover
by Jo Walton (2014)
My review: A very interesting story, set in a dystopian yet realistic future where human rights have been eroded by unregulated capitalism turned evil. In this bleak future, technology enable artists to program work of art with artificial intelligence beings that human can interact with. This is the story of an artist's attempt to change the future with the help of another, long dead one.
A reflection of the role of art in shaping our society, and its future. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 09 2018 Finished: Feb 09 2018
The Night Masquerade (Binti, #3) cover
The Night Masquerade (Binti, #3)
by Nnedi Okorafor (2018)
My review: The Night Masquerade is the conclusion of the Binti trilogy, one of the most interesting science fiction series in recent years. The first two volumes were moving and original, and I had very high expectations for this last installment. The book was solid, but it does not reach the heights of the previous installments. The main issue I have is that some of the plot threads come to anti-climatic conclusion. Despite that, the story is intriguing, the characters are very interesting, and the world-building is fantastic. I loved how Binti is always open towards other alien and human cultures, and let each encounter with a different culture transform her deeply, becoming more than what she was before. I really do hope that the author will take us back to this fictional universe.
In this novella, Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse. Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her. Once again it is up to Binti, and her intriguing new friend Mwinyi, to intervene, though the elders of her people do not entirely trust her motives, and try to prevent a war that could wipe out her people, once and for all. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 03 2018 Finished: Feb 08 2018
Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2) cover
Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)
by Seanan McGuire (2017)
My review: Another story set in Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children fictional universe, focusing on the backstory of two of the main characters encountered in Every Heart a Doorway. This said, the book can be read as a stand alone story without any problem.
This novella is a fairy tale of sort, but the morale of the story is not addressed to young readers, but to the grown-up parents reading it aloud. It is a reminder that kids are people that deserve to be what they are, and not be forced to become what we dream them to be.
The story focuses on twin sisters Jack and Jill. They were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is the story of what happened before that. Jacqueline was her mother's perfect daughter, polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father's perfect daughter, adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got. They were five when they learned that grown-ups can't be trusted. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 29 2018 Finished: Feb 02 2018
Shikasta cover
by Doris Lessing
My review: I was quite excited to read a science fiction book written by a Nobel Prize Winner. My expectations were quite high, and as a result I was quite disappointed. The book does not even pretend to be allegorical, it often is a political commentary on historical and contemporary events. The science fiction element seems unnecessary, the book would have worked as well, or even better, if the fantastical element was dropped.
This is the first volume in the series of novels Doris Lessing calls collectively Canopus in Argos: Archives, but it can be read and appreciated as a stand alone story. It is a compilation of fictional documents, reports, letters, speeches and journal entries, presented as a general study of the planet Shikasta, clearly the planet Earth, to be used by history students of the higher planet Canopus and to be stored in the Canopian archives. For eons, galactic empires have struggled against one another, and Shikasta is one of the main battlegrounds. Johar, an emissary from Canopus and the primary contributor to the archives, visits Shikasta over the millennia from the time of the giants and the biblical great flood up to the present. With every visit he tries to distract Shikastans from the evil influences of the planet Shammat but notes with dismay the ever-growing chaos and destruction of Shikasta as its people hurl themselves towards World War III and annihilation.
Shikasta's humanity is presented as with no agency, unable to determine or alter its fate, that is predetermined by cosmic energies and powers. Moreover the critique to the evils of colonialism is rendered ineffective by the actions of Canopus, that while presented as morally superior and god-like, treats Shikastan as the most horrible of the colonialist ever was: Canopus values its morals and believes as superior, it perpetrates genocide more than once, and constantly use eugenics to "improve" the local population.
Despite this serious shortcomings, the book has some redeeming qualities: when the author stops focusing on politics and inter-planetary conflicts, when she focuses on single characters, on their stories and inner emotions... then she really shines. The diaries of Rachel are incredibly well written and moving.
I recommend reading Ursula Le Guin's review of Shikasta on New Republic. (★★)
Started: Jan 10 2018 Finished: Jan 28 2018
The Very Old Folk cover
The Very Old Folk
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: Once in a while I discover a short story by Lovecraft that I have not read before, and I decide to pick it up and read it, and 99 out of 100 cases I regret it. This seminal work is not an exception: it has nothing to justify the time invested reading it. It is an epistolary recollection of a dream (and the reader is left to believe this may have been more than a dream), set in Roman times, when the Empire army has close and unfortunate encounters with an ancient cult. The story builds up to the final moment of confrontation... and then it abruptly finishes, letting us wondering what really happened at the end. Final verdict: this is one of the worst stories by this author, I would pick another one and skip this. (★)
Started: Jan 07 2018 Finished: Jan 08 2018
Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue cover
Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue
by Charlie Jane Anders (2017)
My review: This is probably the favorite story by this author I read so far. I will not lie: the dystopian near future it portraits is deeply scary and very disturbingly close to our present at times. The story centers on two childhood friends, Rachel and Jeffrey. Rachel's loss of bodily autonomy perpetrated by "Love and Dignity for Everyone" is adroitly portrayed, as well as Jeffrey's attempt to rationalize and justify his role in the crime. I did not know that Boston Review was publishing such high quality fiction, I will keep an eye on them! (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 08 2018 Finished: Jan 08 2018
The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3) cover
The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3)
by N.K. Jemisin (2017)
My review: The Stone Sky is the conclusion of what I consider the best fantasy series of the decades. All the plot threads started in the previous volume are expertly waved into an incredible story that provide insights on human nature and human society.
As for the previous books of the series the writing is exquisite, the story is moving, intriguing, and enticing, the characters are memorable and adroitly crafted. Last but not least the world building is original and astounding.
This last book focuses on two women, mother and daughter, Essun and Nassun. Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe. For Nassun, her mother's mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 02 2017 Finished: Jan 06 2018