Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I have finished reading in 2019.
This page is built leveraging the goodreads API.
State Tectonics (The Centenal Cycle, #3) cover
Currently Reading
State Tectonics (The Centenal Cycle, #3)

by Malka Ann Older (2018)
Publisher review: The future of democracy must evolve or die. The last time Information held an election, a global network outage, two counts of sabotage by major world governments, and a devastating earthquake almost shook micro-democracy apart. Five years later it’s time to vote again, and the system that has ensured global peace for 25 years is more vulnerable than ever. Unknown enemies are attacking Information’s network infrastructure. Spies, former superpowers, and revolutionaries sharpen their knives in the shadows. And Information’s best agents question whether the data monopoly they’ve served all their lives is worth saving, or whether it’s time to burn the world down and start anew.
Started: Nov 12 2019
The Raven Tower cover
The Raven Tower
by Ann Leckie (2019)
Publisher review: Gods meddle in the fates of men, men play with the fates of gods, and a pretender must be cast down from the throne in this breathtaking first fantasy novel from Ann Leckie, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven's Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven's watch, the city flourishes. But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo--aide to Mawat, the true Lease--arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven's Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself...and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Nov 12 2019 Finished: Nov 30 2019
How Long 'til Black Future Month? cover
How Long 'til Black Future Month?
by N.K. Jemisin (2018)
My review: N.K. Jemisin is one of my favorite authors. Her Broken Earth trilogy is a masterpiece, and one of the best book series I have ever read. This is why I was quite eager to read this collection of short stories when I learned it was coming out.
I had already read some of the best stories that were previously published in a variety of places, so I was left with less than I hopped for. :(
In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises.
The book is a little of a mixed bag: some short stories are excellent and intriguing (I particularly liked Red Dirt Witch and Valedictorian), some are just OK. Overall it's a good book, but if you have not read anything by this author before, I would not start from here. (★★★★)
Number of times I read it: 2
Started (first time): Jul 23 2019 Finished (first time): Nov 12 2019
The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, #3) cover
The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, #3)
by Stephen King (2003)
My review: I have been slowly reading through the entire extended Dark tower series. I was not crazy about it when i started, but it has grown on me, and I now want to see where this long story goes.
Several months have passed from the events described in the previous book, and Roland's two new tet-mates have become proficient gunslingers. Eddie Dean has given up heroin, and Odetta's two selves have joined, becoming the stronger and more balanced personality of Susannah Dean. But while battling The Pusher in 1977 New York, Roland altered ka by saving the life of Jake Chambers, a boy who, in Roland's where and when, has already died. Now Roland and Jake exist in different worlds, but they are joined by the same madness: the paradox of double memories. Roland, Susannah, and Eddie must draw Jake into Mid-World then follow the Path of the Beam all the way to the Dark Tower. But nothing is easy in Mid-World...
The story is quite enjoyable, even if at times I felt like it is going nowhere. I'll keep reading, let's see what happens! (★★★)
Started: Sep 18 2019 Finished: Nov 12 2019
Daddy cover
Daddy
by Victor LaValle (2019)
My review: I had previously read some work by this author (e.g. The Ballad of Black Tom) that I loved, and I was eager to read more of his work. Daddy starts quite strong, but I was a little disappointed by the ending... Overall it is still a solid short story.
The story focuses on a father that vows to protect his son from the man, an unknown intruder on the roof... (★★★)
Started: Nov 06 2019 Finished: Nov 08 2019
This Guy cover
This Guy
by Chuck Wendig (2019)
My review: I heard really good things about this author, but I never read anything by him before. I decided to start with this short horror story, to get a sense of his writing story.
This is the story of a man as he descend into madness. He begins losing time, but the one thing he always remembers is that same guy he kills every single day.
Despite the relative short length, the story is disturbing and interesting. I should give the author's longer fiction a try! (★★★)
Started: Nov 08 2019 Finished: Nov 08 2019
No Matter Which Way We Turned cover
No Matter Which Way We Turned
by Brian Evenson (2019)
My review: Very interesting world building and ideas, but the story is so short that they fell wasted. I really hope the author takes the ideas and develop them into something longer where they can be explored and developed as they should.
This is a chilling short story about a girl who doesn't have a face.... and I cannot say more without spoiling the entire story. (★★)
Started: Nov 06 2019 Finished: Nov 06 2019
The Hate U Give cover
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas (2017)
My review: I read this book as part of the 2019 Banned Book Week, an annual international celebration of the freedom to read, aimed at raising awareness of the constant attempt to limits this hard fought right. As in previous years I participated to the initiative reading some of the most challenged books in the USA in the previous year. I picked The Hate You Give, a National Book Award nominee and three time winner of Goodreads Choice Awards, that was strongly recommended to me by many friends.
This is the story of sixteen year old Starr Carter. She moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does, or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
It is a beautifully written story, deeply moving and touching. It was almost impossible for me to put down at times... and then I reached a point in the book that made me put it down quickly because I suspected I knew what was going to happen next, and it was going to be really terrible. And while the characters are fictional, these stories are all too real.
This reminded me of how privileged I am to be able to NOT experience this directly, but just through books that I can close at any time.
What a fantastic book. I will send a copy to my elementary school. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 09 2019 Finished: Oct 31 2019
The Beast in the Cave cover
The Beast in the Cave
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Years ago I decided to read the complete work of this author, a choice that I came to regret: while Lovecraft's contribution to the field is indisputable, and while a small number of his stories are good, the vast majority of his work is mediocre at best, and often marred by horrifying xenophobia. I thought I was done reading his work, when I came across this short story that I had previously missed. The story is not great or particularly original, but it was written by the author at a very young age. It is quite remarkable for being written by a 14 years old!
The story is relatively simple: the unnamed narrator decide to leave his guide while visiting the famous Mammoth caves and gets lost getting way more he bargained for. (★★)
Started: Oct 12 2019 Finished: Oct 12 2019
Into the Gray cover
Into the Gray
by Margaret Killjoy (2018)
My review: I had previously read some short fiction by the author, and I really loved some of their work (in particular I thought that Everything That Isn't Winter was excellent, and I strongly recommend it). I was quite excited to read more of their work.
Into the Gray is a short fantasy story, with some fairy tales elements. It is the story of Laria, a poor girl that survives taking to their death bad men eager to prey on desperate poor young girl like her, and stealing their moneys. She take them to the pool where her love, the Lady of the Waking Waters, an immortal mermaid, lives.
It's a good story, and I am looking forward reading more by this author. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 12 2019 Finished: Oct 12 2019
Null States (The Centenal Cycle, #2) cover
Null States (The Centenal Cycle, #2)
by Malka Ann Older (2017)
My review: I read the first installment of the series, Infomocracy, back in 2017 and I loved it. My review called that book "an incredible, eye opening literary achievement", and it is a book that I strongly recommend to everyone.
Because of it, I was quite eager to read its sequel, Null States. I was a little disappointed. Do not get me wrong, it is a very enjoyable and well crafted book, with very interesting reflections on international political dynamics, but it is not as groundbreaking as Infomocracy. It did not help that I had forgotten some of the characters by the time I picked this second book up.
The story starts after the last controversial global election covered in the previous book, as the global infomocracy that has ensured thirty years of world peace is fraying at the edges. As the new Supermajority government struggles to establish its legitimacy, agents of Information across the globe strive to keep the peace and maintain the flows of data that feed the new world order. In the newly-incorporated DarFur, a governor dies in a fiery explosion. In Geneva, a superpower hatches plans to bring microdemocracy to its knees. In Central Asia, a sprawling war among archaic states threatens to explode into a global crisis. And across the world, a shadowy plot is growing, threatening to strangle Information with the reins of power. (★★★)
Started: Sep 07 2019 Finished: Oct 11 2019
Star Wars: Lando's Luck (Flight of the Falcon, #1) cover
Star Wars: Lando's Luck (Flight of the Falcon, #1)
by Justina Ireland (2018)
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it, and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi were even better than the original series. Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books during my commute. The quality is not always that great, but they are almost always enjoyable.
Lando's luck tells the story of a young Lando Calrissian and L3-37 well before the events of Solo. When Lando Calrissian gets caught smuggling on the planet Hynestia, the queen agrees to let him go if he delivers something called the Solstice Globe to the Empire on her behalf. Lando is relieved that his punishment is a simple delivery mission... but things are not as simple as they seem. The queen's daughter, Princess Rinetta, has stowed away on the Millennium Falcon and demands that Lando and L3-37 take the globe back to its home planet, which needs the globe to survive. Now Lando has to choose: do what's right or do what's best for Lando? If he's lucky enough, he just might be able to do both...
Quite an enjoyable story, that really made me like L3-37 a lot. I really hope I will get to read or see more of her in the future. (★★★)
Started: Sep 10 2019 Finished: Sep 17 2019
Queen's Shadow cover
Queen's Shadow
by E.K. Johnston (2019)
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it, and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi were even better than the original series. Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books during my commute. The quality is not always that great, but they are almost always enjoyable.
This is the story of Padmé Naberrie, "Queen Amidala" of Naboo in the period of time between the first and the second prequel movies. As she steps down from her position, she is asked by the newly-elected queen to become Naboo's representative in the Galactic Senate. Padmé is unsure about taking on the new role, but cannot turn down the request to serve her people. Together with her most loyal handmaidens, Padmé must figure out how to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and forge a new identity beyond the queen's shadow.
It was definitely an enjoyable read, with very interesting characters, but a little bit thin on the plot side. (★★★)
Started: Aug 24 2019 Finished: Sep 10 2019
The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money cover
The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money
by Bryan Caplan (2018)
My review: Dr Caplan, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, takes a hard look at Education. He claims that Education, despite being immensely popular, it is also grossly overrated. He argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students' skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity, in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. He claims that the labor market values grades over knowledge, and that the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers. He argues that graduation is our society's top conformity signal, and that even the most useless degrees can certify employability. He advocates two major policy responses: educational austerity, and more vocational education.
The author painstakingly bases his arguments on ton of studies and quotations (the reference section takes a good half of the book), and the book reads more like a textbook than a text intended for the mass market, making it a time a little slow going.
The Case Against Education is definitely though provoking, and it makes some quite interesting and credible points. I am glad to have read it. At the same time, the book reads like a click-bait, taking very extreme position to get talked about and sell. It obviously worked. (★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2019 Finished: Sep 07 2019
The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, #2) cover
The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, #2)
by Stephen King (2003)
My review: I had read The Gunslinger before, and I had mixed feeling about it. Some elements, especially towards the end, were quite intriguing, but it did not feel it had a clear coherent story. I felt like I was reading an early draft. Overall it was not one of my favorite King's book. Things really changed with this second installment of the series. This is a much better written book, with interesting characters and plots, touching difficult issues like substance abuse and xenophobia.
The story begins when the previous one left off: while pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland, the last gunslinger, encounters three mysterious doorways on the beach. Each one enters into the life of a different person living in contemporary New York. Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean and the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.
It was overall a very hard to put down book, and I am looking forward reading the next installments of the series. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 04 2019 Finished: Aug 24 2019
The Ascent to Godhood (Tensorate, #4) cover
The Ascent to Godhood (Tensorate, #4)
by J.Y. Yang (2019)
My review: I felt in love with J.Y. Yang's work when I read their masterpiece Waiting on a Bright Moon. I really liked the previous installments opf the Tensorate series, and I was eager to read this forth (and I am afraid final) book set in the Protectorate. I was NOT disappointed. The book was a immense pleasure to read.
The book offers a nuanced portrait of Protector Hekate, the mother of the twins featured in the series first duology, as seen through the eye of Lady Han.
For fifty years, the Protector ruled, reshaping her country in her image and driving her enemies to the corners of the map. For half a century the world turned around her as she built her armies, trained her Tensors, and grasped at the reins of fate itself. Now she is dead. Her followers will quiver, her enemies rejoice. But in one tavern, deep in rebel territory, her greatest enemy drowns her sorrows. Lady Han raised a movement that sought the Protector's head, yet now she can only mourn her loss. She remembers how it all began, when the Protector was young, not yet crowned, and a desperate dancing girl dared to fall in love with her.
A strongly recommended reading, that leave me wanting to ready more by the author. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 14 2019 Finished: Aug 16 2019
In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4) cover
In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)
by Seanan McGuire
My review: I have enjoyed the previous installments of the Wayward Children series, and I was curious to see where the author was going to take us next. All the books after the firsts, including this one, are prequels focusing on the backstory of one of the characters featured in the award winning Every Heart a Doorway. This time, we learn more about Lundy's past. Lundy was a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should. When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she's found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.
This was one of my favorite books of the series: while there is a little bit less action than usual, the character development is very interesting. I particularly enjoyed the representation of the tension between the desire to meet family and society expectations and the need to be true to oneself. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 04 2019 Finished: Aug 14 2019
Ahsoka cover
Ahsoka
by E.K. Johnston (2016)
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it, and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi were even better than the original series. Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books during my commute. The quality is not always that great, but they are almost always enjoyable.
This books takes place between two of the Star Wars animated series (the clone wars and rebels) and feels the gap between the two. I have not watched either, but I still loved the series. The book follows Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance.
A very enjoyable short story, I just wish that [spoilers removed]. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 22 2019 Finished: Aug 02 2019
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas cover
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
by Ursula K. Le Guin (1997)
My review: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is one of the most famous and most quoted books by Ursula K. Le Guin. I never had a chance to read it before, and I had build up very high expectations. Maybe because of these high expectations, despite really appreciating and liking the story, I was a little disappointed, expecting something even more. This said I definitely appreciate the story, and the author's ability to force us to face the cruelty and inhumanity of the exploitation of others that enable us to leave a life of never experienced before wealth and comfort.
The story is set in the fictional city of Omelas, a city of plenty and of happiness. The city where everyone but one is happy. This is the social contract in Omelas: one child suffers horribly so that the rest can be happy. If the child were let free or comforted, Omelas would be destroyed. Most people feel horrible for the child, and some parents hold their kids tighter, and then they return to their happiness. But some go to see the child in the room and then keep walking. They don’t want to be part of that social contract. "They leave Omelas; they walk ahead into the darkness and they do not come back". (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 01 2019 Finished: Aug 02 2019
Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4) cover
Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)
by Martha Wells (2018)
My review: I am very fond of The Murderbot Diaries series, and I was looking forward reading the fourth (and at least for now) final installment of the series. The story picks up where it was left, and bring back many of the characters of All System Red.
Murderbot wasn't programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right? Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading home to help Dr. Mensah, its former owner / protector / friend?, submit evidence that could prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit. But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue? And what will become of it when it’s caught?
A good ending for one of the most entertaining series of the decade. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 25 2019 Finished: Aug 01 2019
Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3) cover
Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3)
by Martha Wells (2018)
My review: I am very fond of The Murderbot Diaries series, and I was looking forward reading the third installment of the series.
The story picks up again exactly where the previous one left of: the case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation that tried to kill Murderbot and her humans in All System Red is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah's SecUnit is. And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.
The story is very well written and very enjoyable. It is getting less original and novel book after book though: while I love to read more of the same great stuff, I am less amazed by it. I can't wait to see where the story will go next though. (★★★)
Started: Jul 15 2019 Finished: Jul 23 2019
Canto Bight (Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, #1) cover
Canto Bight (Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, #1)
by Saladin Ahmed (2017)
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it, and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi are much better than the original series. Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books during my commute. The quality is not always that great, but they are almost always enjoyable.
Canto Bight is definitelly not one of the best, but it is quite enjoyable. It is a collection of 4 short stories set in the casino city of Canto Bight, first seen in The last Jedi, a place where exotic aliens, captivating creatures, and other would-be high rollers are willing to risk everything to make their fortunes. In Canto Bight, one is free to revel in excess, untouched from the problems of a galaxy once again descending into chaos and war. Dreams can become reality, but the stakes have never been higher... for there is a darkness obscured by all the glamour and luxury.
The four stories are set in the same evening, and they are very loosely interconnected.
Story #1 by Saladin Ahmed: an honest salesman meets a career criminal as a dream vacation turns into the worst nightmare imaginable. This one is often hilarious and sweet.
Story #2 by Mira Grant: dreams and schemes collide when a deal over a priceless bottle of wine becomes a struggle for survival.
Story #3 by Rae Carson: Old habits die hard when a servant is forced into a mad struggle for power among Canto Bight's elite. Probably one of my favorites among the 4.
Story #4 by John Jackson Miller: A deadbeat gambler has one last chance to turn his luck around; all he has to do is survive one wild night. Another funny story.
This is definitely not one of my favorite Star Wars books, mainly because it does not feature any major event or character. It is an attempt to worldbuild and give more depth to the city of canto Bight. While it succeed in doing that, it just the story of a relatively unremarkable location of the saga. The writers are quite good though, I would be curious to read more of their work. (★★)
Started: Jun 19 2019 Finished: Jul 21 2019
The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion (Danielle Cain, #1) cover
The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion (Danielle Cain, #1)
by Margaret Killjoy (2017)
My review: I had read another book by this author (Everything That Isn't Winter) and I really liked it, so i was eager to read this book, especially after reading all the very positive critics reviews.
The book is definitely well written, the story-line original and with a distinctive voice. I also enjoyed reading a book written by an author with political beliefs that do not match mine.
This is the story of Danielle Cain, a queer punk rock traveller, jaded from a decade on the road. Searching for clues about her best friend's mysterious and sudden suicide, she ventures to the squatter, utopian town of Freedom, Iowa. All is not well in Freedom, however: things went awry after the town's residents summoned a protector spirit to serve as their judge and executioner.
Danielle shows up in time to witness the spirit (a blood-red, three-antlered deer) begin to turn on its summoners. Danielle and her new friends have to act fast if they're going to save the town... or get out alive. (★★★)
Started: Jul 14 2019 Finished: Jul 15 2019
Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2) cover
Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)
by Martha Wells (2018)
My review: I read Artificial Condition as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon, but I was already familiar with the Hugo award winner author and I loved the previous installment of the series, hence I was looking forward reading it.
I really liked Artificial Condition, as much as All System Red.
The story picks up exactly where the previous one left of: Murderbot has decided to leave its so called "guardian" claiming its freedom and agency. We also learn that were was another motivation behind Murderbot's choice: it wants to learn more about its dark past, trying to recover what was forcibly erased from its memory after it went rogue the first time.
Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don't want to know what the "A" stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue...
This is definitely one of my favorite Hugo finalist in this category. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 12 2019 Finished: Jul 14 2019
All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) cover
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): Feb 13 2018 Finished (first time): Feb 16 2018
Spinning Silver cover
Spinning Silver
by Naomi Novik (2018)
My review: I read Spinning Silver as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon, but I was already familiar with the Hugo award winner author, and I was looking forward reading it.
The story is very loosely based on an old fairy tale: Rumpelstiltskin. While some of the elements of the fairy tales are retained, the story is quite different, and the problematic tropes of the genre are explored and inverted. The story is told by many different perspectives, but the core one is the one of Miryem, the daughter and granddaughter of Jewish moneylenders... but her father isn't a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife's dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty, until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers' pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed, and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold. But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it's worth, especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.
While lately I am not into fairy tales inspired fantasy settings, I really liked this book. The characters and the plot are very interesting, and the author does an amazing job in exploring, eviscerating, and subverting the antisemitism, sexism, and domestic abuse that are typical in classic fairy tales. This would definitely be a worthy Hugo award winner. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 12 2019 Finished: Jul 05 2019
Master and Apprentice cover
Master and Apprentice
by Claudia Gray (2019)
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it, and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi are much better than the original series. Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books during my commute. The quality is not always that great, but there has been some nice exceptions, including this one. I really enjoyed reading Master and Apprendice and I am looking forward reading some more by this author.
This is the story of a young Obi-Wan Kenobi, still a Padawan, and his mentor, Qui-Gon Jinn. A Jedi must be a fearless warrior, a guardian of justice, and a scholar in the ways of the Force. But perhaps a Jedi's most essential duty is to pass on what they have learned. Master Yoda trained Dooku; Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn; and now Qui-Gon has a Padawan of his own. But while Qui-Gon has faced all manner of threats and danger as a Jedi, nothing has ever scared him like the thought of failing his apprentice.
Obi-Wan Kenobi has deep respect for his Master, but struggles to understand him. Why must Qui-Gon so often disregard the laws that bind the Jedi? Why is Qui-Gon drawn to ancient Jedi prophecies instead of more practical concerns? And why wasn't Obi-Wan told that Qui-Gon is considering an invitation to join the Jedi Council, knowing it would mean the end of their partnership? The simple answer scares him: Obi-Wan has failed his Master.
When Jedi Rael Averross, another former student of Dooku, requests their assistance with a political dispute, Jinn and Kenobi travel to the royal court of Pijal for what may be their final mission together. What should be a simple assignment quickly becomes clouded by deceit, and by visions of violent disaster that take hold in Qui-Gon's mind. As Qui-Gon's faith in prophecy grows, Obi-Wan's faith in him is tested—just as a threat surfaces that will demand that Master and apprentice come together as never before, or be divided forever. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 02 2019 Finished: Jun 19 2019
Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1) cover
Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)
by Rebecca Roanhorse (2018)
My review: I read Trail of Lightning as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon, but I was already familiar with the Hugo award winner author, and I was looking forward reading it.
The story in a near future where most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse. The world is in chaos but Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last and best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine. Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the reservation to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology. As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past, if she wants to survive.
I really enjoyed the story, it's great to read a fantasy that does not use the same European mythological that have been used and reused to death. Finally something that reads (to the average user) very novel and intriguing. I also loved the characters, all very flawed and well rounded.
I am looking forward reading the next installments of the series. (★★★★)
Started: May 29 2019 Finished: Jun 11 2019
The Force Awakens - Rey's Story cover
The Force Awakens - Rey's Story
by Elizabeth Schaefer (2016)
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it, and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi are much better than the original series.
I picked up this book thinking it was a prequel to the new trilogy focusing on Rey. Instead I was a little disappointed to discover that this is The Force Awaken told from Rey's point of view. While entertaining, it was not what I was hopping for.
For those few of you that never watched the movie, Rey is a poor young girl, abandoned by her parents, barely surviving savaging electronics from crashed spaceships. She never thought she would leave the desert planet of Jakku, but her life is turned upside down when she meets BB-8, a small droid with a big secret. Like it or not, Rey is about to be caught up in something much larger than herself: a galactic war between the evil First Order and the fledgling Resistance. But something is awakening inside of Rey, something that might turn the tides of fortune in the galaxy... (★★★★)
Started: May 29 2019 Finished: Jun 02 2019
Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1) cover
Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)
by Tomi Adeyemi (2018)
My review: I heard incredibly good reviews about this book, so I decided to give it a try. I was blown away by how good this book it is. The characterization, the world building, the story telling... everything is so good!
The book is fantasy, but instead of using the European mythology, it uses the Nigerian one. The result is, at least for a person born and raised in Europe, extremely original and novel. The book does not stop there though: it is inspired by the social injustice and xenophobia of our modern world, creating a story that has a lot t say to the modern reader.
This is the story of Zélie Adebola. She still remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie's Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2019 Finished: May 29 2019
The Tea Master and the Detective cover
The Tea Master and the Detective
by Aliette de Bodard (2018)
My review: I read The Tea Master and the Detective as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon, but I was already familiar with the Hugo award winner author, and I was looking forward reading it.
The book is set in an alternate universe where China discovered the Americas before Europe. The story is set in the future, in the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appearance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood. A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow's Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travelers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow's Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow's Child with her. As they dig deep into the victim's past, The Shadow's Child realizes that the investigation points to Long Chau's own murky past... and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars...
I really enjoyed the story, the characters and the world-building are complex and interesting. I learned that the story is part of a series of stand alone shorts. I am quite intrigued, and I really want to read the others now. (★★★★)
Started: May 27 2019 Finished: May 29 2019
Space Opera cover
Space Opera
by Catherynne M. Valente (2018)
My review: I read Space Opera as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon, but I was already familiar with the Hugo award winner author, and I was looking forward reading it.
The story goes as follows: a century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented, something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding. Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix, part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete. This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny, they must sing. A one-hit-wonder band of human musicians, dancers and roadies from London, Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes, have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock.
I am having an hard time reviewing this book. It contains witty and deep quotable passages, I love the message it conveys, and it is very well written. On the other side, despite loving Eurovision and Euro-pop, I am not into the pop-culture surrounding it. This makes the book hard to like for me: even if a chocolate cake is made by the best baker in town, you are still not going to like it if you do not like chocolate.
(★★★)
Started: May 08 2019 Finished: May 25 2019
Uncanny Magazine Issue 25: November/December 2018 cover
Uncanny Magazine Issue 25: November/December 2018
by Lynne M. Thomas
Publisher review: The November/December 2018 issue of Hugo Award-winning Uncanny Magazine. Featuring new fiction by Isabel Yap, T. Kingfisher, Naomi Kritzer, Monica Valentinelli, and Cassandra Khaw. Reprinted fiction by Sofia Samatar, essays by Diana M. Pho, Steven H Silver, Sarah Goslee, and Nilah Magruder, poetry by Beth Cato, Hal Y. Zhang, Leah Bobet, and Sharon Hsu, and interviews with Isabel Yap and Monica Valentinelli by Caroline M. Yoachim, a cover by John Picacio, and an editorial by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas.
My rating:
Number of times I read it: 2
Dark Disciple cover
Dark Disciple
by Christie Golden (2015)
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it, and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi are much better than the original series.
Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books. The quality is often not that great, but there has been some nice exceptions. The plot tends to be simple, making these books perfect for my commute.
This book focuses on two prequel characters from the Clone Wars TV series: Jedi Master Quinlan Vos and one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. I have not watched the TV series, so I was not familiar with the characters background, but that did not limit the enjoyment of the book at all. I loved the book! It will not change your life, it is not ground breaking, it does not provide any unique insight to the series, but it is extremely entertaining, fun, and satisfying. I loved Ventress in particular even if I am not crazy about the fact that she had to sacrifice her life to save Vos.
The Jedi council realizes that the only way to bring down the dark side's most dangerous warrior may be for Jedi and Sith to join forces. In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. Despite the powers of the Jedi and the military prowess of their clone army, the sheer number of fatalities is taking a terrible toll. And when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself. But the ever elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to bring both sides of the Force's power to bear, pairing brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though Jedi distrust for the cunning killer who once served at Dooku's side still runs deep, Ventress's hatred for her former master runs deeper. She's more than willing to lend her copious talents as a bounty hunter and assassin to Vos's quest. Together, Ventress and Vos are the best hope for eliminating Dooku, as long as the emerging feelings between them don't compromise their mission. But Ventress is determined to have her retribution and at last let go of her dark Sith past. Balancing the complicated emotions she feels for Vos with the fury of her warrior's spirit, she resolves to claim victory on all fronts, a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy... and her own doubt.
(★★★★)
Started: Apr 30 2019 Finished: May 14 2019
The Black God's Drums cover
The Black God's Drums
by P. Djèlí Clark
My review: I read The Black God's Drums as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon, but I was already familiar with the Nebula award winner author, and I was looking forward reading it.
This is the story of Creeper, a scrappy young teen living on the streets of New Orleans. She wants to soar, and her sights are set on securing passage aboard the smuggler airship Midnight Robber. Her ticket: earning Captain Ann-Marie's trust using a secret about a kidnapped Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums. But Creeper keeps another secret close to heart: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, who speaks inside her head and grants her divine powers. And Oya has her own priorities concerning Creeper and Ann-Marie.
This is a great fantasy novella set in an alternate history new Orleans, and leverages on the Yoruba system of belief. (★★★★)
Started: May 01 2019 Finished: May 08 2019
The Perfect Weapon cover
The Perfect Weapon
by Delilah S. Dawson
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it (I still remember watching "a new hope" as a kid at an outdoor movie theater on a hot Italian summer night), and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi are much better than the original series.
Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books. The quality of the ones I read so far has been, hem, not that great. I am told there are some very good ones (e.g. the aftermath trilogy), so I'll keep reading. They tend to have simple plots, and that makes them perfect candidates for my commute!
This book focuses on a character that we just glimpse in "The Force Awaken": Bazine Netal, a quick-witted mercenary who takes big risks for bigger rewards.
There are plenty of mercenaries, spies, and guns for hire in the galaxy. But probably none as dangerous and determined as her. A master of disguise, and lethal with a blade, a blaster, or bare handed, she learned from the best. Now it's her turn to be the teacher, even if schooling an eager but inexperienced recruit in the tricks of her trade is the last thing she wants to do. But it's the only way to score the ship she needs to pull off her latest job. An anonymous client has hired Bazine to track down an ex-stormtrooper and recover the mysterious package he's safeguarding. Payment for the mission promises to be astronomical, but the obstacles facing Bazine will prove to be formidable. And though her eager new sidekick has cyber skills crucial to the mission, only Bazine's razor-sharp talents will mean the difference between success or failure... and life or death.
Despite its short length, this has been one of my favorite Star Wars' books so far. It's very entertaining and fast paced. I hope to read more by this author in the future. (★★★)
Started: Apr 28 2019 Finished: Apr 30 2019
The Only Harmless Great Thing cover
The Only Harmless Great Thing
by Brooke Bolander (2018)
My review: I read The Only Harmless Great Thing as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon. I previously read other short stories by this author in the past and I loved them. I really had high expectations and I was not disappointed. I really loved it.
This book is inspired by two historical facts: in the early years of the 20th century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time, an Indian elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island.
Brooke Bolander intertwine these two tragedies in a dark alternate history of rage, radioactivity, and injustice crying out to be righted. This is a wrenching journey that crosses eras, chronicling histories of cruelty both grand and petty in search of meaning and justice. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 28 2019 Finished: Apr 30 2019
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 145 cover
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 145
by Neil Clarke (2018)
My review: I read When We Were Starless as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon. I had not read anything by this author before, so I did not know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. The story is very interesting and the world-building and the story telling are exquisite.
The story is set after some major conflict has left behind a devastated and poisonous world. The protagonist, Mink, barely survives in this world moving around savaging what has been left behind with his tribe. Everything that was left behind is now seen through the eyes of newly built mythologies and superstitions. For example the protagonist tribe herds "weavers" that apparently are some kind of other robot. The sky is black, courtesy of whatever poisoned the planet.
Mink 's role and duty is to deal with "ghost" and to "lay them to rest" for the safety of her people. But what these beings call a ghost is something quite different from our traditional notion and piece by piece we learn more about what has happened to this world and its inhabitants, of the history that involves many more worlds other than this one.
I cannot wait to read more stories by this author! (★★★★)
Started: Apr 26 2019 Finished: Apr 27 2019
Cobalt Squadron cover
Cobalt Squadron
by Elizabeth E. Wein (2017)
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it (I still remember watching "a new hope" as a kid at an outdoor movie theater on a hot Italian summer night), and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi are much better than the original series.
Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books. The quality of the ones I read so far has been, hem, not that great. I am told there are some very good ones (e.g. the aftermath trilogy), so I'll keep reading. They tend to have simple plots, and that makes them perfect candidates for my commute!
This book focuses on two characters introduced in the sequel trilogy: Rose and Paige Tico. In Cobalt Squadron we learn more about the two sisters, refugees from a planet devastated by the fearsome First Order. After their escape, Rose and Paige join General Leia Organa's Resistance to make sure that no other worlds will suffer the way theirs did. Paige is a top-notch gunner for the Resistance bomber group Cobalt Squadron, and Rose is a technician who helps make sure the ships run smoothly. While investigating reports of a First Order blockade in the Atterra system, Cobalt Squadron is approached by two freedom fighters from Atterra Bravo, desperate to save their world from the stranglehold of the First Order. For Rose and Paige it feels all too personal, reminding them of their lost home. The Resistance devises a daring plan for the bomber ships to help the people of Atterra Bravo right under the nose of the First Order. Will Rose and Paige help save a planet, or will their actions lead to all-out war?
While the book is in the "OK" range, it was entertaining, and I enjoyed reading it during my commute. (★★★)
Started: Apr 11 2019 Finished: Apr 27 2019
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections cover
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections
by Tina Connolly (2018)
My review: I read The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon. I had not read anything by this author before, so I did not know what to expect. I was quite pleased with what I read. I had previously read another story by this author, That Seriously Obnoxious Time I Was Stuck at Witch Rimelda's One Hundredth Birthday Party, that I had loved and I was looking forward reading more by the same author. I was not disappointed, this story was exquisite!
In a world were the monarchy has been taken over by a mischievous sadistic monarch, a baker learn how to re-evoke memories through his careful baking. The monarch force him to cook for him, while keeping his wife hostage. Could emotions and baking save the day? (★★★★)
Started: Apr 25 2019 Finished: Apr 25 2019
If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again cover
If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again
by Zen Cho (2018)
My review: I read If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon. I had not read anything bythis author before, so I did not know what to expect. I was quite pleased with what I read.
A hapless imugi is determined to attain the form of a full-fledged dragon and gain entry to the gates of heaven. For a long time, things don't go well. Then, it meets a girl... A truly remarkable story about love, partnership, and being true to yourself. And it's about reaching your dreams, even when they change, even if you momentarily forget them, even if you feel like giving up. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 22 2019 Finished: Apr 22 2019
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach cover
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach
by Kelly Robson (2018)
My review: I read Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon. I previously read other short stories by this author in the past and I loved them. I really had high expectations and I was not disappointed. I really loved it.
In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity's ancestral habitat. She's spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 19 2019 Finished: Apr 22 2019
Fireside Magazine Issue 52, February 2018 cover
Fireside Magazine Issue 52, February 2018
by Julia Rios (2018)
My review: I read The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon. I had read A Dead Djinn in Cairo by this author in the past that I loved and I was looking forward reading more by the same author.
The story is inspired by a real historical event: we know that Washington false teeth were not wooden, but included human teeth. Moreover, according to his ledger books, these 10 teeth were "purchased" from slaves [source]. P. Djèlí Clark in this short story try to imagine who those slaves were, and what their story was. The stories reads as quite realistic at first, but soon a fantastic elements creeps in.
This is a strong contender for this year Hugo in my opinion. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 20 2019 Finished: Apr 20 2019
Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018 cover
Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018
by Lynne M. Thomas (2018)
My review: I read The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon. I had read another short story by this author in the past that I liked and I was curious to read more by the author. I was initially turned off by the title, but I soon change my mind as I started reading.
The story is very funny. It is set in a medieval alternative reality, where dinosaurs are still around and sentient and smart, and so are smart witches and dump princes. And behind all the funny stories, there is a nice inversion of fairy tales tropes, where women have agencies and their happiness does not depend on adherence to the gender role imposed to them by society. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 17 2019 Finished: Apr 18 2019
Apex Magazine Issue 105, February 2018 cover
Apex Magazine Issue 105, February 2018
by Jason Sizemore
My review: I read A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium Of Portal Fantasies as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon. I had read another short story by this author in the past and I loved it. I really had high expectations and I was not disappointed. I really loved it.
The story does not seem to have any fantastic element at first: it is the story of a cool librarian that takes a strong interest on her library patrons, and in particular of a very young kid that appears to be neglected or worse. Soon the fantastic elements starts to creep in: we learn that the librarian is a witch, and books are not just passive objects.
This is one of the top contenders for the Hugo award for Short Fiction this year in my opinion. I loved the characters, and the carefully and exquisitely crafted storytelling. Strongly recommended to everyone. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 16 2019 Finished: Apr 17 2019
Lightspeed Magazine, January 2018 cover
Lightspeed Magazine, January 2018
by John Joseph Adams
My review: I read The Court magician as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon, but I was already familiar with the Nebula award winner author, and I was looking forward reading it.
This short story focuses on the terrible cost of magic. The main character is someone that like many typical protagonists of fantasy novels has a very humble beginning (in this case a poor orphan), but manages to raise up to one of the highest ranks in the magical world (in this case, he becomes the court magician). This story focuses on the cost associated to such a post, that soon turns out to be a real curse.
This is an excellent short story and a worthy candidate for the Hugo award. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 14 2019 Finished: Apr 14 2019
American Gods cover
American Gods
by Neil Gaiman (2017)
My review: Neil Gaiman won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards for this book, and because of it I always wanted to read it. I knew nothing of the plot, I only had some guesses based on the title. The book turned out quite different from what I expected. It is an attempt to capture and portray the soul of America, this weird country of immigrants, a kaleidoscopic mixture of people and cultures, without a clearly defined one. It's definitely an interesting book. For the first 3/4th of it I kept wondering where the story would end up. Up to that point the book was almost only a collection of random strokes... but towards the end things starts falling into place, and suddenly a clear outline emerges. Well done Neil Gaiman!
The book is the story of Shadow, a man that was locked behind bars for three years, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. All he wants is to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loves, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow's best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself. Life as Wednesday's bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies... and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing: an epic war for the very soul of America. And he is standing squarely in its path. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 17 2019 Finished: Apr 14 2019
Fireside Magazine Issue 60, October 2018 cover
Fireside Magazine Issue 60, October 2018
by Julia Rios (2018)
My review: I read STET as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon, but I was already familiar with the author, and I was looking forward reading more by her. I was not disappointed, this is definitely a strong contender for the prestigious award. I particularly liked the very original and very experimental format: the story is a very short scientific report, annotated with tons of notes between the author and the reviewer. The report itself is very scientific, very objective, and apparently complete, but the footnotes and the back-and-forth captured in the notes shows that there is much more to the story.
Despite its brevity, the story conveys quite effectively the ethical complexities of artificial intelligence, a field that were progress is made at a pace that makes it impossible to really understand the dangers associated with it, especially in terms of unconsciously embedded biases. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 14 2019 Finished: Apr 14 2019
Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure cover
Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure
by Greg Rucka (2015)
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it (I still remember watching "a new hope" as a kid at an outdoor movie theater on a hot Italian summer night), and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi are much better than the original series.
Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books. The quality of the ones I read so far has been, hem, not that great. I am told there are some very good ones (e.g. the aftermath trilogy), so i'll keep reading.
Smuggler's run is set at the end of A New Hope when the freedom fighters of the rebel alliance had just won their most important victory thus far with the destruction of the Empire's ultimate weapon, the Death Star. But the Rebellion has no time to savor its victory. The evil Galactic Empire has recognized the threat the rebels pose, and is now searching the galaxy for any and all information that will lead to the final destruction of the freedom fighters. For the Millenium Falcon's crew, who saved the life of Luke Skywalker during the Battle of Yavin, their involvement with the rebels is at an end. Now Han Solo and Chewbacca hope to take their reward and settle some old debts, but they are cajoled by Leila into another side mission to be done on their way to Tatooine and Jabba The Hutt...
The book is clearly produced for a younger audience, and it is not the most original or groundbreaking novel out there, but it is enjoyable and the plot is simple enough to make it a perfect fit for my commute. (★★)
Started: Apr 04 2019 Finished: Apr 10 2019
Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure cover
Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure
by Cecil Castellucci (2015)
My review: I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it (I still remember watching "a new hope" as a kid at an outdoor movie theater on a hot Italian summer night), and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi are much better than the original series.
Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books. The quality of the ones I read so far has been, hem, not that great. I am told there are some very good ones (e.g. the aftermath trilogy), so i'll keep reading.
Moving Target is one of the best star wars books I have read so far (but the bar was set quite low as I mentioned before). It bas been clearly written for a very junior audience (that made it perfect to read during my commute since it did not require my fully devoted attention), but it is entertaining and fun.
The story is set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... Reeling from their disastrous defeat on Hoth, the heroic freedom fighters of the rebel alliance have scattered throughout space, pursued by the agents of the sinister galactic empire. One rebel task force protects princess Leila, bearing her in secrecy from star to star. As the last survivor of Alderaan's House of Organa, Leia is a symbol of freedom, hunted by the Empire she has opposed for so long. The struggle against Imperial tyranny has claimed many rebel lives. As the Empire closes in, Leia resolves to make a sacrifice of her own, lest the cause of freedom be extinguished from the galaxy. She embark on a mission that will fully test her ethics...
The author tries to incorporate the ethical nuances of Rogue One, simplifying them for a younger audience, but in doing so trivialize it. Again, it may not be the best book I have read, but it is entertaining enough, and it offers a great portrait of the most intriguing characters of the original franchise (Princess Leila). (★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2019 Finished: Apr 03 2019
Articulated Restraint cover
Articulated Restraint
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2019)
My review: After reading all the Lady Astronaut's novels, I was thrilled to discover that there was another short story set in the same universe. It is a good story, with a strong scientific foundation, but it is not on the same league of the previous installment of the series.
Articulated Restraint is the story of Ruby Donaldson, one of the astronaut stationed on the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, recovering from a severely sprained ankle. She is not mentioning her injure to anyone for fear to be labelled as winy and unfit to the space program, a particularly serious risk for female astronauts, given the sexism of the time. She plans to force herself through the scheduled training session but suddenly things turns unexpectedly serious: a spaceship has had a docking accident that has locked the ship to the space station and jammed the airlock. The ship's passengers are stuck, and will run out of air in sixteen hours.... (★★★★)
Started: Mar 15 2019 Finished: Mar 16 2019
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The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut, #2)
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2018)
My review: As for The Calculating Stars, the book is extremely enjoyable, fast paced, exquisitely and adroitly written. The amount of the research that went into this alternative history novel was clearly quite a lot: the United States of America of the 60s and of the space race it's perfectly recreated while never sounding even remotely didascalic. The characters are very interesting, complex, and far from the usual stereotypes.
The Fated Sky continued the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating Stars. It is 1961, and the International Aerospace Coalition has established a colony on the moon. Elma York, the noted Lady Astronaut, is working on rotation, flying shuttles on the moon and returning regularly to Earth.
But humanity must get a foothold on Mars. The first exploratory mission is being planned, and none of the women astronauts is on the crew list. The international Aerospace Coalition has grave reservations about sending their "Lady Astronauts" on such a dangerous mission. The problem with that is the need for midjourney navigation calculations. The new electronic computation machines are not reliable and not easily programmed. It might be okay for a backup, but there will have to be a human computer on board, and all the computers are women...
The book is very strong, and I gave it a full 5 star rating, but I really think The Calculating Stars is even stronger. I would also strongly recommend to read both of them one after the other, as if they were two halves of the same book: while The Calculating Stars is definitely self contained, The fated Sky does read a little like a second half of a whole. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 01 2019 Finished: Mar 15 2019
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The Lessons of History
by Will Durant (2012)
My review: The book was a mixed bag of some interesting and some hair raising ideas.
The Lessons of History is the result of a lifetime of research from Pulitzer Prize–winning historians Will and Ariel Durant. It is an accessible compendium of philosophy and social progress, a journey through history, exploring the possibilities and limitations of humanity over time. Juxtaposing the great lives, ideas, and accomplishments with cycles of war and conquest, the Durants reveal the towering themes of history and give meaning to our own.
I have many issues with the book but the biggest issue is that numerous theories and historical interpretations are put forward, but we are never given any proof or even supporting evidences. At most some historical facts are briefly mentioned as definite proof. Unfortunately stating a theory as a fact does not make it so. The reasoning behind it, the series of facts that led to that conclusion are to me more interesting that the conclusion itself.
Why does he categorize "financial independence of young people from their parents" as an immoral evil while "financial independence of a wife from her husband" as good? The two line argument that he uses to characterize the first as evil can as easily apply to the second. And why is "sexual liberation" immoral while 'birth control" good and advisable? Again I am not interested in somebody stating opinions as facts, I am interested in understanding their reasoning, but none or little is provided.
I enjoy reading books from people that I agree and from people I disagree with. I like to be exposed to new ideas and new line of reasoning, but this book presents very little (or nothing) in terms of reasoning, and a whole lot of claims. This is the main source of my disappointment with this book.
Last but not least, the book is marred by numerous xenophobic, chauvinist, and homophobic claims, again stated as self-evident facts. (★★)
Started: Feb 27 2019 Finished: Mar 08 2019
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Elevation
by Stephen King (2018)
My review: When I was a teenager I read a bunch of King's book. After a while I got tired of them, I started to feel them less novel and more of the same. I picked Elevation because of the rave reviews, and wow, I was not disappointed. It is, by far, one of the strongest book by the author. First of all, this is not even remotely an horror. It does have a fantastic element, but it is not really what make the book so interesting and original. The central element are people, their feeling, and their interactions.
Elevation is the moving story about a man whose mysterious affliction brings a small town together, a timely, upbeat tale about finding common ground despite deep-rooted differences. Although Scott Carey doesn't look any different, he's been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis. In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King's most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade (but escalating) battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott's lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face, including his own, he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott's affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.
I strongly recommend it. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 21 2019 Finished: Feb 27 2019
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Safe Surrender
by Meg Elison (2018)
My review: 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, including some of my favorites. I had not read anything by Meg Elison, and I was quite curious as a result to read this story.
It turns out that the UC Berkeley graduate author is an excellent writer: in particular I loved her writing style and her world building. I am looking forward reading more by this author.
The story is set in a near future where an alien race has made contacts with human. As a result of this contact a lot of mixed race children are born... and unfortunately surrendered by their parents. This is the story of one of this kids, as her past catch up with her. (★★★)
Started: Feb 27 2019 Finished: Feb 27 2019
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The Last Test
by H.P. Lovecraft (1928)
My review: Years ago I decided to read the complete work of this author, a choice that I came to regret: while Lovecraft's contribution to the field is indisputable, and while a small number of his stories are good, the vast majority of his work is mediocre at best, and often marred by horrifying xenophobia. I thought I was done reading his work, when I came across this collaborations between Lovecraft and de Castro that I had previously missed. I decided to give it a try since in my experience some of the best of Lovecraft's stories are collaborations. This is a little bit of an exception though. The story is not horrible, and the xenophobia is less blatant than in the average Lovecraft's story, yet while entertaining, it does not offer anything memorable or remarkable. I did love to read a Lovecraft's story set in San Francisco, instead of the usual East Coast.
The story covers the "Clarendon affair", a fictional scandal which culminated in the death of genius bacteriologist Alfred Clarendon. His longtime friend and supporter, Governor James Dalton, and his sister Georgina, now Mrs. Dalton, know the truth, but they never speak of it.
Clarendon traveled the world seeking an antitoxin to cure the many fevers plaguing mankind. Monomaniacal and negligent of worldly affairs, he relied on Georgina to manage his finances and household. That their father had refused Georgina's hand to Dalton struck him as lucky, for Georgina's memories of her first love kept her single. Who else, after all, would have tolerated such eccentricities as his chosen servants? From Tibet, where he discovered the germ of black fever, he brought home eight skeleton-lean men, black-robed and silent. From Africa, where he worked on intermittent fevers among the Saharan Tuaregs (rumored descendants of the primal race of Atlantis), he acquired a factotum named Surama. Though intelligent and erudite, Surama's bald pate and emaciated features gave him the appearance of a death's-head... (★★)
Started: Feb 24 2019 Finished: Feb 26 2019
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Played Your Eyes
by Jonathan Carroll (2018)
My review: This is one of the most intriguing short stories I have read this year so far. It is hard to review without giving away too much, but this is the story of a woman bequeathed an odd fantastic gift by a former lover who broke up with her, then died: his handwriting. Why did he do this and what does it mean? Did he just gift her his handwriting or something more?
I am looking forward reading more by this author. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 23 2019 Finished: Feb 24 2019
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Fitting In
by Max Gladstone (2018)
My review: While I am not a big fan of superhero stories, I keep reading Wild Cards short stories as they get published by Tor. The Wild Cards series is a 25 years old shared fictional universe where superpowered people are the norm, set in an alternate history. Fitting In is the story of a previously famous super hero, Robin Ruttiger, as he tries to leave a normal life. He is a failed contestant of the superhero reality TV show, American Hero, and he now works as a high school guidance counselor to reluctant students. Things change, however, when a favorite bakery in Jokertown becomes a target of vandalism, and Robin realizes he can play the hero after all. (★★★)
Started: Feb 20 2019 Finished: Feb 23 2019
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An Acceptable Time (Time Quintet, #5)
by Madeleine L'Engle (2007)
My review: One of the recurring issues I had with the Time Quintet series, was its often xenophobic content, and how the author continuously misused scientific concepts to make unrelated religious argument. While I love books that discuss theology and books that discuss science, misquoting scientific terms and theories to explain theological concepts that have nothing to do with those scientific terms and theories is cringe worthy to say the least. Good news: in this book the misuse is kept to a minimum, while the xenophobic elements are reduced.
Unfortunately there are still plenty of (different) issues, so many that I do not even know where to start.
* I agree with the author that different cultures have different customs and ethical systems, and that we should try to understand and respect that. I would have not picked "human sacrifice" as a way to convey this point though.
* The author seems to embrace some discriminatory and false anti-atheist stereotypes, including equating lack of faith with lack of morality.
* The author portrays science as dogmatic and incapable of accept what is in front of our eyes, while the very foundation of the scientific method is based on objective observation.
* While I admire people risking or sacrificing their life for the good of others, I do not see anything noble in Polly's throwing her life away in a known to be futile attempt to save the person that abuse her and traded her life for his own gain. The author frames Polly's decision as similar to the one of ישוע‎ sacrificing his life to save humanity, while to me it reads like the actions of a woman that has been abused to the point of throwing her life away in an attempt to save her abuser.
I would not recommend this book to anyone, especially not to a child. (★)
Started: Feb 05 2019 Finished: Feb 21 2019
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The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir
by Karin Tidbeck (2018)
My review: One day extra-terrestial sentients make contacts with humans... and they give us the gift of the entire universe that we can finally reach via transdimentional travel. Saga is given an opportunity to experience it working as a transdimentional spaceship janitor, and she takes it in an heartbeat. Her new life is a strange one: she finds herself in the company of an officious steward-bird, a surly and mysterious engineer, and the shadowy Captain. Who the odd passengers are, and according to what plan the ship travels, is unclear. Just when Saga has begun to understand the inner workings of Skidbladnir, she discovers that something is wrong. Skidbladnir is sick. And it's up to her and the engineer to fix it.
Another entertaining and notable short story from the gifted author of Listen. I am looking forward reading more of her fiction in the future. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 19 2019 Finished: Feb 20 2019
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Beyond the El
by John Chu (2019)
My review: I really liked John Chu's work in the past and I was eager to read hist latest short story. I was not disappointed. It's a very interesting story, focusing on complex family relation and on their emotional toll.
This is the story of Connor, a food crafter, just getting back into the business after his mother's death. To cope with his grief, Connor spends day after day recreating her potstickers, but they are never quite what he remembers. To move on with his life, he will have to confront his past and to deal with his abusive sister. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 18 2019 Finished: Feb 19 2019
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The Trap
by H.P. Lovecraft (2012)
My review: Years ago I decided to read the complete work of this author, a choice that I came to regret: while Lovecraft's contribution to the field is indisputable, and while a small number of his stories are good, the vast majority of his work is mediocre at best, and often marred by horrifying xenophobia. I thought I was done reading his work, when I came across this collaborations between Lovecraft and Whitehead that I had previously missed. I decided to give it a try since in my experience some of the best of Lovecraft's stories are collaborations. The Trap is not an exception: while it is not a masterpiece, and while some xenophobic attitude ruins it for me, it is entertaining and it has an interesting plot.
This is the story of Canevin, the narrator, that settles as a school tutor after many travels to far away lands that open his mind to the mysteries of the paranormal. He finally get a chance to take out of storage an antique mirror that he found in an abandoned estate house... but the mirror is not just what it appears to be.
(★★★)
Started: Feb 17 2019 Finished: Feb 18 2019
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Bread and Milk and Salt
by Sarah Gailey (2018)
My review: I enjoyed the American Hippo series by this author and I was curious to read more of her work. Bread and Milk and Salt is a very different story that uses some of the fairy tales mythos while exploring violence and abuse. It is a great story, and I am looking forward reading more by Sarah Gailey.
This is the story of a fairy that meets a young boy, and try to kill him as good fairies do. Or so she says. Her actions seems to suggest otherwise: she keep following the boy as he grows up. I am left wondering if she is infatuated... But the young men turns out to be the real monster at the end. (★★★)
Started: Feb 18 2019 Finished: Feb 18 2019
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Under the Spinodal Curve
by Hanuš Seiner (2018)
My review: In a near feature metallurgists souls can be separated from the body and sent inside metals to manipulate them Metallurgists to craft the nano-architecture of metal alloys into perfection. Doing so leaves the body without a soul, inhabited by an echo of their soul until their are reunited few month later... if the soul decides it want to do so, erasing all the memories of its echo.
Near the vast steelworks of Karshad, a journalist has fallen in love with the residual personality of a metallurgist... (★★)
Started: Feb 16 2019 Finished: Feb 17 2019
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The Heart of Owl Abbas
by Kathleen Jennings (2018)
My review: I did not like this story for the same reason I hated Lovecraft's dream cycle stories: while they may be poetically and beautifully written, but I am not fond of ornate and oneiric storytelling. It's just a type of story and a kind of style I cannot stand (but tons of people love, I am just not one of them).
In The Heart of Owl Abbas a composer in an unstable city-state accidentally discovers the perfect singer for his work, that turns out to be a clockwork man. It starts composing songs, inspired by its voice.. and doing so he sows the seeds of revolution. (★★)
Started: Feb 15 2019 Finished: Feb 16 2019
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Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow
by Kirsten Berg (2019)
My review: An interesting investigation in fictional form of domestic violence in its various forms, gender power dynamics, and the role of technologies of aiding the perpetrators. The story is also captivating and notable.
I would also recommend the companion piece The Complicated Relationship Between Abuse and Tech: An expert on domestic violence and technology responds to Madeline Ashby's short story that Slate published, that provide some non fictional background of the role of technology in domestic violence and abuse.

Merged review:

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): Mar 30 2018 Finished (first time): Apr 01 2018
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AI and the Trolley Problem
by Pat Cadigan (2018)
My review: I have been wanting to read something by Pat Cadigan for a while now, but I never had a chance before. I do not know how this compare with the rest of her work, but I quite enjoyed it. AI and the Trolley problem is a story about the relationship between the humans on a British airbase and the AI security system that guards that base. When a group of humans are killed, the question is who is responsible and why. Based on the title, can you guess the rest of the story? (★★★)
Started: Feb 12 2019 Finished: Feb 13 2019
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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
by John Carreyrou
My review: I am usually not into non-fiction books that focus and explore real world crimes, but this book was a big exception. It was extremely fascinating, and imporrible to put down. I read the bulk of it in 2 days.
Bad Blood is the full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers.
In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: the technology didn't work.
In Bad Blood, John Carreyrou tells the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 05 2019 Finished: Feb 12 2019
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The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #13)
by Lemony Snicket (2006)
My review: I started reading A Series of Unfortunate Events back in 2006. I went through the first few books, enjoyed them, but I never completed reading the series back then: the first few books follow a similar plot structure and I was getting a little bored with it. Last year (2018) I decided to restart the series and complete it. Soon I discover that I had left just before things get more interesting: after the first few books the framing story starts emerging and slowly takes over. Each volume become more fun and interesting until book 12, where a lot of revelations are expected and (almost) none are given. I assumed the author was setting up the stage for the grand finale, book 13. I was expecting resolution and revelations, but even less are given. We are told that mysteries are nested inside mysteries, and the explanation of anything is another long story in itself rooted in even longer stories. There is no beginning and there is no end. While I appreciate the philosophical argument, I cannot stop feeling let down and cheated. While the book is well written, intriguing, and original, it is nevertheless disappointing. (★★)
Started: Jan 28 2019 Finished: Feb 05 2019
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You Know How the Story Goes
by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2018)
My review: You know how the story goes is a short horror story that uses a variation of a well-established genre trope: somebody takes a chance and pick up a hitchhiker after midnight when they need some company. Then of course, the hitchhiker will disappear. But this time the role are reversed: the narrator is the hitchhiker, a young men stranded without a ride back after a night at the club. He eventually managed to get a ride from an unusual driver... and there’s a tunnel up ahead. (★★★)
Started: Feb 04 2019 Finished: Feb 05 2019
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Mr. Thursday
by Emily St. John Mandel (2017)
My review: Mr Thursday was initially 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. This story explores time travels and some of this paradoxes (I cannot say more to avoid spoilers). It is enjoyable and well written, and the characters are interesting. (★★)
Started: Feb 03 2019 Finished: Feb 04 2019
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Sweetheart
by Abbey Mei Otis (2010)
My review: Interesting deeply allegorical and unfortunately timely story, set in a near future where extra terrestrial sentient being have come to live with us on Earth. Not surprisingly racism takes route quite quickly, and things escalates. As Wiesenthal famously said, for evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing. This very short story is very disturbing: it very adroitly shows how (unfortunately) easy it is to rationalize and to dismiss what is happening in those situations, how easy is to do nothing without feeling any guilt, or spending any thoughts of it. (★★★)
Started: Feb 03 2019 Finished: Feb 03 2019
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Yiwu
by Lavie Tidhar (2018)
My review: YiWu is an interesting mix of science fictional and fantastic elements. In a highly technological future when man has colonized the solar system there is a lottery that promises, a prize, to turn your dreams to reality. This is the story of a humble shopkeeper in Yiwu, that earn a living selling lottery tickets. Until a winning ticket opens up mysteries he'd never imagined. (★★★)
Started: Feb 03 2019 Finished: Feb 03 2019
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A Year Without a Winter
by Dehlia Hannah (2018)
My review: I had read and deeply loved Dr. Okorafor's work before and I was eager to read more. This short story does not disappoint: as usual the world-building is exquisite and the characters are intriguing. I would love to see this short story expanded into a longer format, since there is so much to this story that cannot fully shine in mere 15 pages. I cannot wait to read more by this author.
The story is set in a future Nigeria, deeply transformed by the GMO industry, where Anwuli find herself shunned by society, family, and friends when her boyfriends turns out to be already married. Pregnant, she find refuge in Obi 3, the sentient home built by her ex... (★★★)
Started: Feb 02 2019 Finished: Feb 02 2019
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The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2018)
My review: It has been a while since I have enjoyed a book so much. It's is extremely enjoyable, fast paced, exquisitely and adroitly written. The amount of the research that went into this alternative history novel was clearly quite a lot: the United States of America of the 50s and of the space race it's perfectly recreated while never sounding even remotely didascalic. The characters are very interesting, complex, and far from the usual stereotype.
Reading this book was an emotional roller-coaster. It starts with an impossible to put down, breathtaking, super fast paced escape from a meteorite blast. It would fit perfectly in a Hollywood blockbuster! Then the thrills of the age of the space race, with all the excitements and the fears of the times. And last but not least, the maddening gender and ethnicity base discrimination.
This is an amazing book, and it will be at the top of My Hugo Award for Best Novel ballot. I really cannot wait to read the sequel!
The story starts on a cold spring night in 1952, when a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.
Elma York's experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition's attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn't take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can't go into space, too... (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 11 2019 Finished: Jan 31 2019
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The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #12)
by Lemony Snicket (2005)
My review: I have been working through the entire A Series of Unfortunate Events series, and I have enjoyed each book. This penultimate book is no exception: it is quite entertaining.
The Baudelaire orphans are taken by Kit Snicket to the last safe place, a very peculiar hotel organized as a library, where both noble and villains volunteers are going to meet soon. They disguise themselves as Baudelaire, and are tasked by Kit to identify noble and villain volunteers. As it become soon clear, the task is incredibly difficult, since we live in a world where nothing is just black or white.
The book features many of the characters that we have previously encountered, and a lot of mysteries are resolved, but many more are encountered. This said, this is the book I liked the least so far: while a lot of things happen, the plot is relatively thin. There are also few points where the characters' actions seem illogical and/or out of character. I am assuming the author is setting up the stage for the next book, that is the last. I am looking forward reading it. (★★★)
Started: Jan 10 2019 Finished: Jan 26 2019
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Time Was
by Ian McDonald (2018)
My review: The book cover describes this book as a love story with a science fiction element. This is not even remotely a love story. Interestingly enough, while I do not like romantic stories, I strongly believe the book would have been much better if the romantic element was moved front and center and expanded.
Despite the misleading description that does great disservice to the book (since it sets the wrong expectations and attracts the wrong readers to it), I found the novella beautifully written, enjoyable, and original.
The story is set in different epochs.
In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.
In today's world a used book dealer who specializes in World War II books stumbles across a love letter between Tom and Ben written during the war. He tries to trace the men, and with a little help ends up finding photos of the couple that shouldn't be possible.
If you like science fiction and/or historical novels, this book is for you! (★★★★)
Started: Jan 06 2019 Finished: Jan 10 2019
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The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
by Jason Fry (2015)
My review: I was looking for a light and short read while traveling, and this seemed to fit the bill. It is far from being a masterpiece, and it's not really memorable, and it does not really offer some interesting insight to the Skywalker saga, but it is enjoyable and entertaining.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.... The rebel alliance has destroyed the Empire's dreaded death star, but the galaxy remains convulsed by civil war, and the Imperial starfleet is hunting the rebels throughout the galaxy. Luke Skywalker, the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, is now hailed as a hero. But Luke seeks only to support the freedom fighters, serving the Rebellion behind the controls of his X-wing fighter. Even as he flies alongside the pilots of Red Squadron, Luke feels stirrings in the mystical energy field known as the Force. And this farm boy turned fighter pilot begins to suspect his destiny lies along a different path....
(★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2019 Finished: Jan 09 2019
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The Prisoner of Limnos (Penric and Desdemona, #6)
by Lois McMaster Bujold (2019)
My review: I have grown fond of the Penric and Desdemona series, and I particularly liked the previous installments of Nikys' story arc started inPenric’s Mission and I was looking forward reading this latest installment. I was not disappointed: the novella is quite entertaining, and it brings the arc to a satisfying conclusion.
In The Prisoner of Limnos temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys's mother has been taken hostage by her brother's enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary. Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 30 2018 Finished: Jan 06 2019
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Fantasy: The Very Best of 2005
by Jonathan Strahan (2006)
My review: This novella was initially collected in "Fantasy: The Best Of The Year (2005 edition)" and later released on the web in PDF format, and as an audiobook. It is the story of a very powerful mage with a very bad reputation, hiring a very adroit thief. The thief is very wary, he does not want to do anything with the mage. But the wizard managed to entice him leveraging on his desire for new challenges... and some threats. It will turn out that the motivations of both characters are not the ones we are led to believe at first. An entertaining short story, a nice read for a raining day. (★★★)
Started: Dec 30 2018 Finished: Jan 01 2019