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.
Mira's Last Dance (Penric and Desdemona, #4) cover
Mira's Last Dance (Penric and Desdemona, #4)
by Lois McMaster Bujold (2018)
My review: I have grown fond of the Penric and Desdemona series of novella, and I was looking forward reading this latest installment. I was surpised: while the previous ones were pretty much self-contained, Mira's Last Dance is a sequel (and should be read after) Penric's Mission. This surprised me, but in a good way: Penric's Mission is one of the best novellas of the series, and I was glad to read about what happened next.
In this novella the injured Penric, a temple sorcerer and learned divine, tries to guide the betrayed General Arisaydia and his widowed sister Nikys across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia to safety in the Duchy of Orbas. In the town of Sosie the fugitive party encounters unexpected delays, and even more unexpected opportunities and hazards, as the courtesan Mira of Adria, one of the ten dead women whose imprints make up the personality of the chaos demon Desdemona, comes to the fore with her own special expertise.
A greatly entertaining read, that makes me want to read more. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 27 2018 Finished: Dec 30 2018
Anthem cover
by Ayn Rand
My review: I read mixed reviews about Ayn Rand: some people worship her work, some people hate it. I decided to give it a try, reading this short work of fiction to err on the safe side. I found it a fine example of dystopian science fiction: good world building, and great story telling. It is also message fiction, a genre that I actually like a lot when an author manages to make it work. In those cases the author does not even need to make her/his point, since it is obvious from the story. But in Anthem, the point is not clear, and Ayn Rand is forced to write a 2 chapters long speech to get her point across. Despite its limitations as message-fiction, it is an interesting sci-fi dystopian short story though.
In Anthem, Rand examines a frightening future in which individuals have no name, no independence, and no values. Equality 7-2521 lives in the dark ages of the future where all decisions are made by committee, all people live in collectives, and all traces of individualism have been wiped out. Despite such a restrictive environment, the spark of individual thought and freedom still burns in him, a passion which he has been taught to call sinful. In a purely egalitarian world, Equality 7-2521 dares to stand apart from the herd, to think and choose for himself, to discover electricity, and to love the woman of his choice. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 27 2018 Finished: Dec 28 2018
People of the Book cover
People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks (2008)
My review: Many years ago I read Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders and I loved it. I could not wait to read more from this author, but I was disappointed by the Pulitzer Prize winner March. After many years I decided to give a try to this book, and I am glad I did, because it is incredibly good.
This is the story of the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war. In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding, an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair, she begins to unlock the book's mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book's journey from its salvation back to its creation. In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city's rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah's extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna's investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love. Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 15 2018 Finished: Dec 27 2018
Penric's Demon (Penric and Desdemona, #1) cover
Penric's Demon (Penric and Desdemona, #1)
by Lois McMaster Bujold (2016)
My review: I read Penric's Demon as part of my Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
Lois McMaster Bujold is an established well-known award winning author, and this latest work does not disappoint. While it is set on the world of the five gods, it can be fully enjoyed as a stand alone novella.
The book is the story of Lord Penric that, on the way to his bethrodal, comes upon a riding accident with an elderly lady. As he approaches to help, he discovers that the lady is a Temple divine. Her avowed god is The Bastard, "master of all disasters out of season", and with her dying breath she bequeaths her mysterious powers to Penric. From that moment on, Penric's life is irreversibly changed, and his life is in danger from those who envy or fear him.
The novella is quite entertaining, and a fun read, perfect to fill a long commute or a short airplane ride.
Note: I re-read this novelette years later (at the end of 2018) and I enjoyed it again. It's an entertaining short read! (★★★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Dec 25 2018 Finished (first time): Dec 27 2018
An Interview With Santa’s Lawyer cover
An Interview With Santa’s Lawyer
by John Scalzi (2018)
My review: An entertaining story, in the form of an interview to a fictional lawyer of a (corporate) Santa Claus. A fun short read, perfect to kill few minutes while waiting for or riding a bus. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 26 2018 Finished: Dec 26 2018
The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #11) cover
The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #11)
by Lemony Snicket (2004)
My review: More and more mysteries are getting revealed and finally the Baudelaire siblings get to meet some VFD members!
In the 11th installment of the A Series of Unfortunate Events series, our heroes find themselves in a submarine, exploring underground caves and ancient VFD sites. The horrors they encounter along the way are too numerous to list, and includes mushrooms, a desperate search for something lost, a mechanical monster, a distressing message from a lost friend, and tap dancing.
I cannot wait to read what happen next! (★★★★)
Started: Dec 16 2018 Finished: Dec 23 2018
Boy Meets Boy cover
Boy Meets Boy
by David Levithan (2005)
My review: A sweet and cheerful teen romantic heartwarming comedy with a uplifting message. It is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: the cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen, Infinite Darlene, is also the star quarterback. When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he's found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul's not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.
I felt some of the plot thread were left a little too open-ended., but overall I liked the book, it was sweet, cheerful, and funny. I would have probably loved in my high school / early college days.
Started: Dec 07 2018 Finished: Dec 15 2018
Penric's Mission (Penric and Desdemona, #3) cover
Penric's Mission (Penric and Desdemona, #3)
by Lois McMaster Bujold
My review: I am growing fond of this series. There is nothing Earth shattering and novel, but it is very enjoyable, the characters are endearing, and the author is a good story teller.
Learned Penric, a sorcerer and divine of the Bastard's Order, travels across the sea to sunlit Cedonia on his first covert diplomatic mission, to attempt to secure the services of a disaffected Cedonian general for the Duke of Adria. However, nothing is as it seems: Penric is betrayed and thrown into a dungeon, and worse follows for the general and his kin. Penric's narrow escapes and adventures, including his interest in a young widow, are told with remarkable energy, wit and humor. I can't wait to read what will happen next! (★★★★)
Started: Dec 08 2018 Finished: Dec 15 2018
Many Waters (Time Quintet, #4) cover
Many Waters (Time Quintet, #4)
by Madeleine L'Engle
My review: I confess I was not particularly fond of the previous installments of the Time Quintet series, but this forth one is by far the worst book. Before I start discussing what i liked, and what I did not like, let me provide a quick summary: the twins Sandy and Dennys, are the practical, down-to-earth members of the Murry family. They have never paid much attention to their scientist parents' talk of highly theoretical things like tesseracts and farondalae. But now something has happened to Sandy and Dennys that drastically stretches their powers of belief... they end up in the middle of a biblical story! And, when disaster threatens the oasis where they have made their home, can they find a way back to their own time?
So let's get back to what did and did not work for me. Let's start with what I did like: the author is a good story teller and the book is, at times, quite entertaining to read. Unfortunately the story is marred by xenophobic, misogynistic, and anti-scientific stances to the point of making it hard to read. I love fantasy stories that leverage and reflect on religious stories and legends, and I love both soft ans hard science fiction stories. What I do not like are stories that pretend to be hard science fiction while they distort and misinterpret scientific theories. I love stories that explore and reflects on worst side of humanity, from xenophobia to misogyny, yet I hate books that criticize old racist theories on one page but then depicts "primitive humans" as "short, dark, and simple" and angels and advanced humans as "white skinned and blue eyed" in the following page. Similarly this book criticizes the patriarchy, and yet fail the Bechdel test and have men doing all the rescuing.
And on the religious side... I realize people beliefs are quite diverse, but I find the representation of faith in the book quite problematic and scary. In the biblical story, יהוה‬ kills the wicked, and Noah unsuccessfully try hard to warn them of the upcoming disaster. In this story we get to meet the soon to be slaughtered "wicked", and while many of them are definitely not role models, and many are criminals, none of them come close to deserving death. Even Mary Ness, a big fan of Madeleine L'Engle, disliked this book for the same reason. She writes in [her review]: at no point does the society feel evil enough to deserve the flood. Genesis is quite clear on the subject: God sends the flood because humans are wicked, evil, violent and corrupt. Some of the mortals in Many Waters are decidedly grey, and sliding towards evil, but apart from [one] kidnapping, and even then, none of the humans seem to reach the levels described in Genesis, and this is fairly troubling. יהוה‬ decision as is presented in this story seems quite evil, and Noah and the twins unquestioning faith and complicity to the act come across as wicked complicity to the terrorist act of religious extremists. (★)
Started: Nov 19 2018 Finished: Dec 06 2018
The Silent Gondoliers cover
The Silent Gondoliers
by William Goldman
My review: William Goldman takes back the role of S. Morgenstern, the fictional role of the princess bride.
This time the story is set in Northern Italy, in Venice. Once upon a time, the gondoliers of the Serenissima possessed the finest voices in all the world. But, alas, few remember those days, and fewer still were ever blessed to hear such glorious singing. No one since has discovered the secret behind the sudden silence of the golden-voiced gondoliers. No one, it seems, but S. Morgenstern. Now Morgenstern recounts the sad and noble story of the ambitions, frustrations, and eventual triumph of Luigi, the gondolier with the goony smile. Here, in this brilliantly illustrated exposition of the surprising facts behind this all-but-forgotten mystery, S. Morgenstern reveals the fascinating truths about John the Bastard, Laura Lorenzini, the centenarian Cristaldi the Pickle, Enrico Caruso, Porky XII, the Great Sorrento, the Queen of Corsica, and of course, the one and only Luigi.
A funny read, that somehow managed to capture a little of the real Venice in it. You know you can trust me on that, since I was born and raised there! (★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2018 Finished: Dec 04 2018
Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers, #3) cover
Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers, #3)
by Becky Chambers (2018)
My review: I have loved the previous two installments of the Wayfarers series, but with this one Becky Chambers really outdid herself. I like that while the stories are set in the same fictional universe, each of them has a very unique voice. This third volume focuses on humans living in the Exodus Fleet.
Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.
Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.
Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn't know where to find it.
Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.
When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination? From the ground, we stand. From our ship, we live. By the stars, we hope. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 09 2018 Finished: Nov 26 2018
Automated Customer Service cover
Automated Customer Service
by John Scalzi (2018)
My review: This short story was written and read at the author's book tour. It was then released on Whatever for the 2018 thanksgiving festivities. It is an hilarious story of technology getting very wrong and customer service getting even more wrong. And the funnier part is that what is described is not that far from what we have now, and what I believe we are going to face soon. LOL (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2018 Finished: Nov 19 2018
21 Lessons for the 21st Century cover
21 Lessons for the 21st Century
by Yuval Noah Harari
My review: I loved the previous two books by this author because they shattered the myths I was taking for granted, and forced me to see things in a different way. While in "Sapiens: a brief history of humankind" he spoke about our past, and in "Home Deus" about our future, in "
21 Lessons for the 21st Century" he focuses on the present to make sense of today's most pressing issues.
How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our children?
As technology advances faster than our understanding of it, hacking becomes a tactic of war, and the world feels more polarized than ever, Harari addresses the challenge of navigating life in the face of constant and disorienting change and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to survive.
In twenty-one chapters that are both provocative and profound, Harari builds on the ideas explored in his previous books, untangling political, technological, social, and existential issues and offering advice on how to prepare for a very different future from the world we now live in: how can we retain freedom of choice when Big Data is watching us? What will the future workforce look like, and how should we ready ourselves for it? How should we deal with the threat of terrorism? Why is liberal democracy in crisis?
I loved this book almost as much as his previous two. While it feels a little less polished, more a collection of 21 essays than a book, it is nevertheless as eye opening and recommendable as Sapiens and Home Deus. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 03 2018 Finished: Nov 18 2018
Fen cover
by Daisy Johnson
My review: The lighthouse keeper was first published as part of Fen, a collection of stories that uses elements of myth, legend, and folklore to capture the complexity of small, isolated and isolating communities. The collection focuses on family, friends, relationships and explores what it means to be a woman engaged in this world.
The Lighthouse Keeper is the final story of the collection. In this short story a woman comes across a fish she's never seen before. She becomes obsessed with catching it, and one night after two bottles of wine, she notes that "It moved with an almost human intelligence. Not a food source or a pretty thing to watch but, maybe, a friend". The lighthouse keeper fears for the fish, watching as boats (manned by men) begin hunting it: "They would catch the fish: most of them drunk … Barely enough for a bite each and with the taste of marshes and fen earth, but more of a ritual than anything else, as potent as taking church bread onto your tongue". ()
Started: Nov 18 2018 Finished: Nov 18 2018
The Princess Bride cover
The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
My review: I remember watching the movie adaptation when I was a kid, but I did not remember anything at all about the plot. I did not even remember it was a comedy, I confess I was expecting to read a fantasy book when I picked it up. The book is definitely enjoyable, and the different level of narrations are interesting and clever. This said it miserably fails the Bechdel test: the only female character is a lightheaded and shallow beauty. Hopefully it is intended as a critique to the genre?
As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she'll meet Vizzini, the criminal philosopher who'll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik, the gentle giant; Inigo, the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen, the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup's one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.
Oh and the 30 year edition comes with a little short sequel, that is even more enjoyable than the original. (★★★)
Started: Oct 23 2018 Finished: Nov 08 2018
The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #10) cover
The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #10)
by Lemony Snicket (2003)
My review: I have enjoyed the previous installment of the series, and I was growing more and more curious about the many mysteries in the plot. Finally this 10th chapter of the Baudelaire's orphans saga cast light on many of those mysteries. But for every mystery solved, a new one is introduced.
In The Slippery Slope Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire run into more than their fair share of slipperiness during their harrowing journey up and down a range of strange and distressing mountains. The story contains a secret message, a toboggan, a deceitful map, a swarm of snow gnats, a scheming villain, a troupe of organized youngsters, a covered casserole dish, and a surprising survivor of a terrible fire. I can't wait to read the next volume! (★★★★)
Started: Oct 28 2018 Finished: Nov 03 2018
Kin cover
by Bruce McAllister
My review: The story is set in a far future where mankind has populated the galaxy, and some planets are starting to deal with overpopulation. This is the story of a young boy, Kim, that decide to approach an renown assassin alien for help. The alien first refuses but is later won over because it senses something special in the boy. The alien helps the boy and offers him the chance to travel the stars. At the heart of the story is the interaction between Kim and the alien, whom the boy manipulates by playing on his cultural taboos and conventions, and for whom he feels equal measures of fascination, revulsion and fear. Kim holds his own against the alien, but there's always a palpable sense of how close he's skirting to genuine danger, and, more importantly, of how incomplete his understanding of that danger is.
The short story is enjoyable and many people liked the subtle depiction of the relationship between the young boy and the alien assassin. It was one of the finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 2007 (it did not win though). (★★)
Started: Oct 27 2018 Finished: Oct 28 2018
A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time Quintet, #3) cover
A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time Quintet, #3)
by Madeleine L'Engle (2007)
My review: While I did not particularly enjoy the previous installments of the series, I decided to read the entire quintet anyway. This third installment of the series has very interesting elements, in particular I really liked the portrayal of the horrifying Salem witch trials and of the European settlers xenophobic attacks of the first nation people. What I did find very disturbing though is that the saviors and heroes that are able to channel the divine powers are the one with blue eyes whose blood can be traced back to an early Welsh ancestor. It seems to fit the definition of the white saviour thrope.
In this story a fifteen year old Charles Wallace and the unicorn Gaudior undertake a perilous journey through time in a desperate attempt to stop the destruction of the world by the mad dictator Madog Branzillo. They are not alone in their quest. Charles Wallace's sister, Meg (now grown and expecting her first child, but still able to enter her brother's thoughts and emotions by "kything") goes with him in spirit. But in overcoming the challenges, Charles Wallace must face the ultimate test of his faith and will, as he is sent within four people from another time, there to search for a way to avert the tragedy threatening them all. (★★)
Started: Oct 17 2018 Finished: Oct 24 2018
Ubik cover
by Philip K. Dick
My review: A really enjoyable read, where every time you think you finally understand what is happening, you soon realize you were wrong, and things are even more complex than you thought.
The story is set in a far future where people with psychic powers exists and where life can be temporarily postponed, keeping the departing ones in a state of half-life, a dreamlike state of suspended animation, reachable for a limited time via a computer interface.
In this world, Glen Runciter runs a lucrative business, deploying his teams of anti-psychics to corporate clients who want privacy and security from psychic spies. But when he and his top team are ambushed by a rival, he is gravely injured and placed in "half-life". Soon, though, the surviving members of the team begin experiencing some strange phenomena, such as Runciter's face appearing on coins and the world seeming to move backward in time. As consumables deteriorate and technology gets ever more primitive, the group needs to find out what is causing the shifts and what a mysterious product called Ubik has to do with it all. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 13 2018 Finished: Oct 22 2018
Voter Information Pamphlet & Sample Ballot: November 2018 cover
Voter Information Pamphlet & Sample Ballot: November 2018
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 for the November 2018 elections. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 20 2018 Finished: Oct 20 2018
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1) cover
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)
by Charlaine Harris (2001)
My review: I really like the HBO True Blood TV series, and I decided to read the book that inspired it. The book was as entertaining as the show, and there are enough differences here and there to surprise you even if you have seen it already on TV.
This said, there are some parts of the book that I did not really like, including the fact that the main character seems to be OK with "vigilante justice style" murder. Moreover some of the interactions between her and Bill really looks like rape to me. (★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Oct 06 2018 Finished (first time): Oct 17 2018
The Kite Maker cover
The Kite Maker
by Brenda Peynado (2018)
My review: A great novelette that touches in metaphorical the currently very hot topic of immigration with extreme sensibility and honesty.
The story is set in a near future, in a world where aliens arrive on earth and humans do the unthinkable out of fear. An alien walks into a human kite maker's store, coveting her kites, and the human struggles with her guilt over her part in the alien massacres, while neo-Nazis draw a violent line between aliens and humans.
A great read and a strong candidate for next year Hugo award. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 12 2018 Finished: Oct 13 2018
Penric's Fox (Penric and Desdemona, #5) cover
Penric's Fox (Penric and Desdemona, #5)
by Lois McMaster Bujold (2018)
My review: I enjoyed the previous installments of the series, and I was looking forward this new story. It was fun, and I do not regret reading it, but I did like the previous novellas more.
Penric's Fox is set eight months after the events of Penric and the Shaman. Learned Penric, sorcerer and scholar, travels to Easthome, the capital of the Weald. There he again meets his friends Shaman Inglis and Locator Oswyl. When the body of a sorceress is found in the woods, Oswyl draws him into another investigation; they must all work together to uncover a mystery mixing magic, murder and the strange realities of Temple demons. (★★★)
Started: Oct 07 2018 Finished: Oct 12 2018
Head On (Lock In, #2) cover
Head On (Lock In, #2)
by John Scalzi
My review: I am not a big fan of mysteries and detective stories, even when they are in a science fictional setting. Despite that I really enjoy this book. It has an entertaining plot, nice character, and quite hilarious moments.
Head On is the follow-up to Lock In. It brings Scalzi's trademark snappy dialogue and technological speculation to the future world of sports. Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent's head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are threeps, robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden's Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it. Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field. Is it an accident or murder? FBI Agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth, and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 30 2018 Finished: Oct 07 2018
The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #9) cover
The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #9)
by Lemony Snicket (2002)
My review: I am enjoying reading this YA series and I cannot wait for all the mysteries surrounding the Baudelaire orphans to be finally revealed. In this installment the Baudelaire children find themselves living with Count Olaf protected by a "carnival freak" disguise. Count Olaf for once is not as bright and clever as usual and cannot see past their costumes. I was a little bit weary about the treatment of disfigured people in the story, but the book treat them with respect, while making it quite clear that the practice of exposing people that looks different in a carnival is reprehensible. The story finish with a huge cliff hunger... and I cannot wait to read the next book of the series! (★★★)
Started: Sep 28 2018 Finished: Oct 05 2018
Uncanny Magazine, Issue 15, March/April 2017 cover
Uncanny Magazine, Issue 15, March/April 2017
by Lynne M. Thomas
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.

Merged review:

If you are not familiar with Singapore recent history, I would strongly suggest to read the wikipedia page of Lee Kuan Yew [here] before reading this short story, since it is a science-fiction reflection on what he did and what he accomplished in his life. This story is set in a not too far future when cloning is possible and not frown upon. Clones of historical figures are created and trained to help society with the skill set that made them famous. The story focuses on one of the Harry Lee as he relieves during training some of the key moments of his original life. (★★★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Sep 28 2018 Finished (first time): Sep 30 2018
How to Die:  An Ancient Guide to the End of Life cover
How to Die: An Ancient Guide to the End of Life
by Seneca (2018)
My review: "It takes an entire lifetime to learn how to die", wrote the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BC–65 AD). He counseled readers to "study death always", and took his own advice, returning to the subject again and again in all his writings. This book collects all his meditation on the subjects in a single book.
Seneca believed that life is only a journey toward death and that one must rehearse for death throughout life. Here, he tells us how to practice for death, how to die well, and how to understand the role of a good death in a good life. He stresses the universality of death, its importance as life’s final rite of passage, and its ability to liberate us from pain, slavery, or political oppression.
While interesting I found it a little bit repetitive. Despite the book short length, I think the book would benefit from being edited and shortened. (★★★)
Started: Sep 24 2018 Finished: Sep 28 2018
Nine Last Days on Planet Earth cover
Nine Last Days on Planet Earth
by Daryl Gregory
My review: A remarkable short story full of mystery and great portrayal of intra family relationships.
The story starts when strange seeds rain down from deep space. We are left wandering if this may be the first stage of an alien invasion... or something else entirely. How much time do we have left, and do we even understand what timescale to use? As a slow apocalypse blooms across the Earth, planets and plants, animals and microbes, all live and die and evolve at different scales. Is one human life long enough to unravel the mystery? (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 26 2018 Finished: Sep 28 2018
No Flight Without the Shatter cover
No Flight Without the Shatter
by Brooke Bolander
My review: This is the story of the world's end and of the very last young human left on Earth. She is raised by the avatars of the animal that we human pushed to extinction, and she is given a chance to learn a final lesson from them.
The story reads like an oneiric requiem for all the species we extinguished with our greed and incomprehension. While I am not fond of oneiric narratives, the short story is very strong and I liked it a lot. (★★★)
Started: Sep 25 2018 Finished: Sep 26 2018
Triquetra cover
by Kirstyn McDermott
My review: This is by far one of the best subversions of a classic fairy tales, SnowWhite. This dark fantasy novelette starts where the fairy tale finished, after the "and they lived happy ever after". Unfortunately reality is often different from the fairy tales that we tell to each other, or that others try to sell us. The story initially focuses on the fraught relationship between Snow White and her stepmother after Snow White has married the prince and has her own child. She visits her stepmother monthly promising to kill her in ever more horrible ways, at the same time attempting to stay away from the mirror that started it all. But while it is easy for SnowWhite to hate her step mother, reality is never simple, and events are never as black and white as they are always portrayed.
One of the best short stories I have read so far this year, and one of my nominations for the Hugo awards next year.
Trigger warnings: pedophilia, torture, violence against women. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 24 2018 Finished: Sep 25 2018
The Descent of Monsters (Tensorate, #3) cover
The Descent of Monsters (Tensorate, #3)
by Neon Yang (2018)
My review: I am a big fan of J.Y. Yang work, and I was thrilled when it was announced that their tensorate series was going to be extended to include two extra books. I was really pleased with The Descent of Monsters: it is entertaining and fascinating. The storytelling is also improved from the previous volume, that was a little bit less coherent.
The books starts letting us know that something very terrible happened at the Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods. When the Tensorate's investigators arrived, they found a sea of blood and bones as far as the eye could see. One of the institute's experiments got loose, and its rage left no survivors. The investigators returned to the capital with few clues and two prisoners: the terrorist leader Sanao Akeha and a companion known only as Rider.
The story is told by the point of view of investigator Chuwan that was given the task to investigate the accident, with the clear understanding that she should not do any investigation, and just blame the Machinist for it. What really happened at the institute? What drew the Machinists there? What are her superiors trying to cover up? And why does she feel as if her strange dreams are forcing her down a narrowing path she cannot escape? (★★★★)
Started: Sep 21 2018 Finished: Sep 24 2018
A Wind in the Door (Time Quintet, #2) cover
A Wind in the Door (Time Quintet, #2)
by Madeleine L'Engle (2007)
My review: I am a completist, and while I did not really enjoy A Wrinkle in Time, I decided to complete the Quintet. Unfortunately I was not crazy about this second installment either. I did like the lead character, because she is relatable and remarkable. I did like her and her family love for science. What I found disturbing is the attempt of passing as real science the odd mixture of science and "magic" (for want of better words) featured in the book. I am still planning to read the entire series though. (★★)
Started: Sep 18 2018 Finished: Sep 23 2018
Uncanny Magazine Issue 24 September/October 2018: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue cover
Uncanny Magazine Issue 24 September/October 2018: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue
by Lynne M. Thomas (2018)
My review: Uncanny is a very well-known science fiction and fantasy magazine. Even in science fiction, supposedly the genre of limitless possibility, where everyone is invited to the adventure, minorities are often underrepresented. Four year ago Lightspeed magazine started the "destroy science fiction" series, a yearly program focusing on underrepresented minorities to give them a voice, and to see what they have to offer and to contribute to the genre. In 2014 they focused on women. In 2015 on queer authors and themes. In 2016 on people of colour. This year (2018) Uncanny decided to continue the initiative focusing on differently abled authors and themes.
While sci-fi is considered by many the more open of the literary genres, abled bodied protagonist are the default, to the extent that everything else is "deviation," and must be eyed with suspicion. But all science fiction is real science fiction. Science fiction is vast, and incredible fascinating in all its facets. It is inclusive. Science fiction is about people, and differently abled people, are a big part of that. They always have been. They are just sometimes harder to see. So, in the interests of visibility and breaking stuff, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! tell us the stories of the long excluded. The issue also include an interesting assortment of author and artist spotlights, interviews, nonfiction features, plus more than twenty personal essays from writers about their experiences being differently abled reading and writing science fiction. A very interesting read, looking forward reading the next "destroy" issue. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 15 2018 Finished: Sep 21 2018
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Waldo and Magic, Inc
by Robert A. Heinlein (1986)
My review: Despite various controversies Robert A. Heinlein is considered one of the fathers of American science fiction. I have never read anything by this author and I was eager to read this novellette when it was sent to me as part of the retro-Hugo award packet.
The story is entertaining, original, and well-written but there are some sexist comments that rendered the book hard to like for me. They are so bad that it is not clear if they are intended as a satirical critique of the sexist attitudes of the time, or not. I will try to read some of his most celebrated work next time! (★★)
Started: Sep 07 2018 Finished: Sep 15 2018
Redshirts cover
by John Scalzi
My review: I have always liked Scalzi, John's fiction and as a result I had read almost all his books. I somehow never managed to read this one, despite the fact he won a Hugo for it!
As you can guess from the title, the book is making fun of all the tropes of the genre, and of cheap sci-fi shows of the past. It is definitely quite entertaining, and it does have a decent and interesting plot. I definitely is deserving of a Hugo but I do love Scalzi's Old Man's War series more.
This is the story of Ensign Andrew Dahl that was just assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship's Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn't be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that:
(1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
(2) the ship's captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
(3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.
Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues' understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 01 2018 Finished: Sep 07 2018
The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #8) cover
The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #8)
by Lemony Snicket (2003)
My review: The previous installment of the Boudelaire's orphans has left them hiding in a hospital while wrongly accused of murder. In this book we get to see what happens there... more details come to light regarding the background mystery, and while a small sliver of hope is given, at the end the children barely escape alive to find themselves in the middle of Count Olaf's minions clutches. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 14 2018 Finished: Sep 02 2018
Starlings cover
by Jo Walton (2018)
My review: Walton's Among Others was the book that introduced me to sci-fi fandom and transformed me from a sci-fi reader to a enthusiast. I was looking forward reading more by the same author, and I picked this book at Worldcon 76 at a signing event. Jo Walton turn out to be a very interesting person in the real world as well! As soon as I got back home I started reading Starlings and i was not disappointed. While I had read already some of the collected short stories, I enjoyed the collection tremendously. The stories are quite diverse. One is the story of an Eritrean coin traveling from lovers to thieves, gathering stories before meeting its match. In another Google becomes sentient and proceeds toward an existential crisis. In one of my favorite ones an idealistic dancer on a generation ship makes an impassioned plea for creativity and survival. The last short story is A Burden Shared, a story set in a near future there has been a medical break-through in the field of pain management. While the pain still cannot be removed, it can now been shared. This is the story of a loving mother, that decided to share an heavy burden for the love of her daughter. A very interesting analysis of the impact of such a technology on families and society.
I am looking forward reading more by the author. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 25 2018 Finished: Sep 01 2018
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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
by Jared Diamond (2005)
My review: A very interesting book that I strongly recommend for everyone. It is the global account of the rise of civilization that is also a stunning refutation of ideas of human development based on race.
The author 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. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2018 Finished: Aug 29 2018
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Blind Alley
by Isaac Asimov (1945)
My review: I recently completed a full re-read of the entire extended foundation series (that merge together Asimov's Robots, Empire, and Foundation series). It took many years to read my way through, and it was a bitter sweet moment to finish this reading project. As soon as I finished, I discovered that my re-read was not complete: there was a very hard to find, out of print short story set in the Empire universe. After a web search I managed to locate a PDF copy of the story (thanks Google!) and fill the gap.
The story is very interesting, and deals with themes that never appear in any of the other Foundation's stories: the encounter between a race of intelligent non humans and humans. The relations between the two have some parallels with the encounters between European and non-European in the Colonialist era.
Started: Aug 25 2018 Finished: Aug 25 2018
Forward the Foundation cover
Forward the Foundation
by Isaac Asimov
My review: Even if the book is kinda mediocre, I am so attached to the characters and the story, that I did not want it to finish. In the past 10 years or so I have been slowly re-reading all the "extended Asimov's foundation series" (that combines the entire robot, empire, and foundation books)... This was the last one. Reading it was a better sweet experience, and I realize I cannot be unbiased while reviewing it.
This was the last book published by the author that knew at the time he was dying of AIDS contracted through a blood transfusion at the hospital. Not surprisingly, the book reads as a goodbye, and it has many interesting autobiographical elements. After reading it, I went back to the first foundation book and read the first story (The Psychohistorians) to see how all the pieces fit together. They do, and quite well. (★★★)
Started: Aug 10 2018 Finished: Aug 24 2018
The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #7) cover
The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #7)
by Lemony Snicket (2001)
My review: The story starts as in every previous installment of this series: Mr Poe's does a very poor job in identifying a legal guardian for the three orphans Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire. This time he decides to assign them to the care of an entire village! The name of the village is a mysterious acronyms, V.F.D, the same acronyms that the Quagmire's triplet left them before being abducted by evil Count Olaf!
The story includes migrating crows, an angry mob, a newspaper headline, the arrest of innocent people, the Deluxe Cell, and some very strange hats. Very slowly, more and more clues are given of what the mysterious background story is... And I cannot wait to learn more about V.F.D., the eye tattoo, and Beatrix. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 07 2018 Finished: Aug 12 2018
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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 Neon Yang
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)
My review: After the series was completed, the author decided to come back and write a very short story, set five years after the trilogy conclusion. It is intended as an epilogue, and it focuses on Four, and how his life has slowly mended over time.
The story is really just OK, it does not add anything to the story, and I would recommend not reading it. Allegiant's epilogue is much more satisfying, this reads more like an attempt by the author to squeeze an extra dollar from his successful franchise.
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 cover
Black Friday
by Alexander C. 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. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 23 2018 Finished: Jul 23 2018
Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire, #3) cover
Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire, #3)
by Yoon Ha Lee
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 (TED Books) cover
The Terrorist's Son: A Story of Choice (TED Books)
by Zak Ebrahim
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 (Call Me By Your Name, #1) cover
Call Me By Your Name (Call Me By Your Name, #1)
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
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Our King and His Court
by Rich Larson (2018)
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
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 (River of Teeth, #0.5) cover
Worth Her Weight in Gold (River of Teeth, #0.5)
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
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
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Six Wakes
by Mur Lafferty
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
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
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Homo Deus
by Yuval Noah Harari
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
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
Voter Information Pamphlet & Sample Ballot: June 2018 cover
Voter Information Pamphlet & Sample Ballot: June 2018
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
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
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
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 132, September 2017 cover
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 132, September 2017
by Neil Clarke (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
Uncanny Magazine Issue 16: May/June 2017 cover
Uncanny Magazine Issue 16: May/June 2017
by Lynne M. Thomas
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...

Merged 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. (★★★★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Apr 07 2018 Finished (first time): Apr 08 2018
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 124, January 2017 cover
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 124, January 2017
by Neil Clarke (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
Asimov's Science Fiction, September/October 2017 cover
Asimov's Science Fiction, September/October 2017
by Sheila Williams (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
Who Rules the World? cover
Who Rules the World?
by Noam Chomsky
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
Children of Thorns, Children of Water (Dominion of the Fallen, #1.5) cover
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
Uncanny Magazine Issue 18: September/October 2017 cover
Uncanny Magazine Issue 18: September/October 2017
by Lynne M. Thomas
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.

Merged 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. (★★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Apr 03 2018 Finished (first time): Apr 03 2018
Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #225 cover
Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #225
by Scott H. Andrews (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
Apex Magazine, Issue 99 August 2017 cover
Apex Magazine, Issue 99 August 2017
by Jason Sizemore (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 has 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
Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow cover
Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow
by Kirsten Berg
My review: I read a few of the stories collected in this book. I had read and reviewed them separately, but Goodreads has decided to merge the short stories and my reviews into the book that collects them so... here we are.

Domestic Violence by Madeline Ashby’s
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.

The Minnesota Diet by Charlie Jane Anders
This short story was first published as part of Future Tense, a series of short stories about how technology and science will change our lives. The series is a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, Slate, and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. The series features many prominent science fiction author, and the author of this story, Charlie Jane Anders, is no exception: she won the Nebula award for best novel and she is a personal favorite.
The story is set in a future where augmented reality is mainstream, and in the Utopian city of New Lincoln, built using GM self-repairing bio materials. In this city a group of friends spend their days fine tuning apps and their free time hanging out in virtual reality spaces. One day the fully automated city food supply chain breaks down.
The author explores how frail our modern supply chain is, as demonstrated by the New York City's food shortage that occurred in few days after Hurricane Sandy hit. But the author also touches a lot of other interesting themes: like what is living life in the tech bubble, how reliance on pure algorithms may have unintended consequences, and how people reacts in the face of emergencies. (★★★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Feb 14 2019 Finished (first time): Feb 15 2019
Parable of the Talents (Earthseed, #2) cover
Parable of the Talents (Earthseed, #2)
by Octavia E. Butler
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
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo cover
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
The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #3) cover
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): Mar 20 2018 Finished (first time): Mar 24 2018
The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #2) cover
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): Mar 17 2018 Finished (first time): Mar 20 2018
Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3) cover
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
The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1) cover
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): Mar 14 2018 Finished (first time): Mar 16 2018
Between the World and Me cover
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
A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1) cover
A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1)
by Madeleine L'Engle
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
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics cover
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
by Carlo Rovelli
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
Breakwater cover
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
The Universe in a Nutshell cover
The Universe in a Nutshell
by Stephen Hawking
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 (2014)
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 Neon Yang
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. (★★★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Jul 07 2019 Finished (first time): Jul 12 2019
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Combustion Hour
by Yoon Ha Lee
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
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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
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Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)
by Seanan McGuire
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
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
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Global Dystopias
by Junot Díaz (2017)
My review: This review is for Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue by Charlie Jane Anders (goodreads keeps merging the short story with a collection that includes it despite the fact that the short story was published separately on its own).
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