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.
Space Opera cover
Currently Reading
Space Opera

by Catherynne M. Valente (2018)
Publisher review: IN SPACE EVERYONE CAN HEAR YOU SING 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.
Started: May 08 2019
Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1) cover
Currently Reading
Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)

by Tomi Adeyemi (2018)
Publisher review: They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise. Zélie Adebola 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
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
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
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
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 25: November/December 2018 cover
Uncanny Magazine Issue 25: November/December 2018
by Lynne M. Thomas
My review: I read The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society as part of my Hugo 2019 finalists read-a-thon. I do not remember reading anything from this author before, so I did not know what to expect. I was quite pleased with what I read.
As for another one of this year finalists (The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat) this story takes typical fairy and folk tales tropes and inverts them. This is not a story of poor maidens that get seduced, and as a result of it they lose any hope for happiness or their lives. In here Rose MacGregor is the one doing the seducing, showing that women can have agency, and can be happy and marry if they decide to do so even if they had romantic encounters before the marriage. (★★★★)
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
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
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
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
The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut, #2) cover
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
The Lessons of History cover
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
Safe Surrender cover
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
Elevation cover
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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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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The Minnesota Diet
by Charlie Jane Anders (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, 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. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 14 2019 Finished: Feb 15 2019
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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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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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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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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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A Model Dog
by John Scalzi (2019)
My review: A Model Dog is science fiction short-story full of John Scalzi's hallmark biting humor, sarcasm, and wit. This is the story of an overworked computer engineer that is tasked to worked on the latest whim of his crazy CEO. It is also a sarcastic reflection on today's Tech sector.
An entertaining short story, perfect for your commute or a short plane flight. (★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2019 Finished: Jan 25 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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Empty Places
by Richard Parks
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