Marco's readings

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I read since 2001, ordered chronologically (from oldest to newest)
This page is built leveraging the goodreads.com API.

Tsugumi
by Banana Yoshimoto (1994)
Publisher review: "Giornate di una felicità intensa non capitano spesso nella vita. Ed è inseguendo quel vivido miraggio, che le persone riescono a tirare avanti e a invecchiare... Tsugumi è un romanzo che parla di questo. Di un'estate di un gruppo di ragazzi che non tornerà mai più. Del mare e del primo amore..." Così Banana Yoshimoto parla del suo romanzo tutto dedicato all'adolescenza. Uscito a puntate nell'edizione giapponese di "Marie Claire" e apparso in volume nel 1989, Tsugumi è sicuramente il più grande successo di Banana Yoshimoto, superando i 2 milioni di copie vendute: questa è la prima edizione in lingua occidentale. Maria e Tsugumi sono amiche fin dall'infanzia anche se sono due ragazzine molto diverse. Maria, l'io narrante, è dolce e buona: ha lasciato il piccolo paesino in cui era nata e cresciuta per iscriversi all'università a Tokio. Tsugumi è bellissima ma dotata di un carattere infernale: affabile e dolce con gli estranei, nel privato è un tiranno, parla come un maschio ed è viziata all'inverosimile. Non può spostarsi dalla tranquilla penisola di Izu perché le sue condizioni di salute non glielo permettono. Il suo destino pare segnato... Ma quando due amiche si ritrovano, e se questo accade d'estate, e se è il mare a cullare le rispettive solitudini, allora la magia scaturita dall'attimo può creare sensazionali cambiamenti del mondo reale.
My rating:
Kaiju maximus®: “So Various, So Beautiful, So New”
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2015)
Publisher review:
My rating:
Dieci piccoli indiani - Le due verità
by Agatha Christie (1991)
Publisher review:
My rating:
La Mandragola
by Niccolò Machiavelli
Publisher review: Capolavoro della commedia rinascimentale, la Mandragola fu composta da Machiavelli dopo il suo allontanamento forzoso dalla politica. La vicenda ruota intorno alla beffa giocata da un giovane fiorentino a un marito sciocco per possederne la moglie di cui si era invaghito. Un ruolo determinante nel convincimento della donna ha il suo confessore, corrotto dai denari dell'amante. Nella commedia il tema realistico della beffa, di matrice boccacciana, si rapprende in una perfetta macchina teatrale, rispettosa fin nei particolari più minuti delle regole della commedia antica (Plauto e Terenzio). Attraverso il format della commedia Machiavelli tenta di definire un'antropologia della vita quotidiana, analogamente a come nelle opere politiche veniva descrivendo l'antropologia del potere. Si scopre così che non c'è differenza tra una sfera e l'altra: sono sempre e soltanto l'utile e il piacere a muovere gli uomini. Quando però il simulare e il dissimulare dell'agire politico si trasferiscono nella quotidianità, la realtà si fa doppia o tripla, nascono situazioni paradossali che sono di per sé comiche. Il paradosso tocca i valori della famiglia, della morale privata, della religione. Prendono forma le prime creature fredde e amorali della letteratura moderna, senza che nulla venga sottratto alla vivacità e al divertimento. La Mandragola è presentata qui in un nuovo testo critico e con un commento per la prima volta esauriente.
My rating:
La vendetta di Archimede: gioie e insidie della matematica
by Paul Hoffman (1990)
Publisher review: Le gioie e le insidie della matematica vengono abilmente illustrate nel saggio di Hoffman, che si propone non solo di combattere la visione negativa della matematica, ma anche di illustrarne alcune delle più affascinanti applicazioni moderne.
My rating:
Racconti d'incubo
by Edgar Allan Poe (1993)
Publisher review:
My rating:
Amrita
by Banana Yoshimoto (2002)
Publisher review: La famiglia di Sakumi è composta dalla madre con il compagno molto più giovane, il fratellastro Yoshio, una cugina e una amica. Su tutti loro pesa il ricordo di una sorella morta in un incidente stradale mentre guidava sotto l'effetto do alcol e barbiturici. Con lei Sakumi intrattiene un muto dialogo, che costituisce uno dei molti fili della narrazione.
My rating:
Moll Flanders
by Daniel Defoe (1993)
Publisher review: The Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders (aka Moll Flanders) is a novel by Daniel Defoe, 1st published in 1722. It purports to be the true account of the life of the eponymous Moll, detailing her exploits from birth until old age. By 1721, Defoe had become a recognised novelist, with the success of Robinson Crusoe in 1719. His political work was tapering off at this point, due to the fall of both Whig & Tory party leaders with whom he had been associated; Robert Walpole was beginning his rise. Defoe was never fully at home with the Walpole group. Defoe's Whig views are nevertheless evident in the story of Moll. The novel's full title gives some insight into this & the outline of the plot: "The Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, &c. Who was Born in Newgate, & during a Life of continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest, & died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums."
My rating:
La Divina Commedia: Inferno
by Dante Alighieri (1988)
Publisher review: Guided by the poet Virgil, Dante plunges to the very depths of Hell and embarks on his arduous journey towards God. Together they descend through the twenty-four circles of the underworld and encounter the tormented souls of the damned - from heretics and pagans to gluttons, criminals and seducers - who tell of their sad fates and predict events still to come in Dante's life. In this first part of his Divine Comedy, Dante fused satire and humour with intellect and soaring passion to create an immortal Christian allegory of mankind's search for self-knowledge and spiritual enlightenment.
My rating:
Le avventure di Gordon Pym
by Edgar Allan Poe (1993)
Publisher review: Pubblicato inizialmente a puntate, nel 1937, sul Southern Literary Messenger e l'anno seguente in volume, Le Avventure di Gordon Pym è l'unico romanzo scritto da Poe, l'unico resoconto narrativo di una certa estensione: esso contraddice infatti, in un certo senso, il proposito dello scrittore statunitense di raggiungere la cosiddetta unità d'effetto attraverso la massima concentrazione della materia. Tuttavia qualcosa lo spingeva a tentare articolazioni di più ampia misura creativa, oltre alla tentazione di mostrare come, in un'epoca dominata dal romanzo, anch'egli potesse scriverne. Con Le Avventure di Gordon Pym Poe volle fondere, in un racconto di più ampio respiro, i dati concreti e realistici dell'avventuroso viaggio del giovane Pym con significati simbolici e sfuggenti, innestando su una rocambolesca trama giochi di sperimentazione linguistica e alchimie stilistiche.
My rating:
La divina commedia: Purgatorio
by Dante Alighieri (1993)
Publisher review: Dante (1265-1321) is the greatest of Italian poets and his DIVINE COMEDY is the finest of all Christian allegories. To the consternation of his more academic admirers, who believed Latin to be the only proper language for dignified verse, Dante wrote his COMEDY in colloquial Italian, wanting it to be a poem for the common reader.
My rating:
Miss Marple nei Caraibi - Miss Marple al Bertram Hotel
by Agatha Christie (1992)
Publisher review: Due delle piu' famose storie di Agatha Christie. In Miss Marple ai Caraibi, la dilettante investigatrice inglese visita l'isola di St Honoré, al Golden Palm Tree Hotel. La vita sull'isola trascorre monotona e priva di avvenimenti entusiasmanti, secondo l'anziana investigatrice. Ma un giorno, che si prospettava noioso come gli altri, si rivela invece molto interessante per Miss Marple. Un decesso improvviso, quello del maggiore Palgrave, una misteriosa istantanea scomparsa, molti intrighi, molti sospetti, un altro delitto, quello della cameriera del "Golden Palm Hotel", Victoria Johnson... un altro omicidio per la signorina Lucky Dyson diede a miss Marple un caso molto complesso. Riuscirà a trovarsi degli alleati, come il vecchio signor Rafiel, grazie anche alla sua astuzia, risolverà come sempre il caso. Miss Marple al Bertram Hotel fu pubblicato per la prima volta in Inghilterra dal Collins Crime Club il 15 novembre 1965 e in America da Dodd, Mead and Company l'anno seguente. Il personaggio principale è la detective Miss Marple. In Italia è stato stampato per la prima volta dalla Arnoldo Mondadori Editore nella collana Il Giallo Mondadori con il numero 935.
My rating:
Maschere nude
by Luigi Pirandello (1993)
Publisher review:
My rating:
N.P.
by Banana Yoshimoto (1994)
My review: Sarao Takase, scrittore giapponese che ha vissuto a lungo in America, muore suicida lasciando due figli gemelli, il maschio Otohiko e la femmina Saki, e il manoscritto di un libro incompiuto dal titolo N.P. (che sta per North Point, il titolo di una vecchia canzone). Pubblicato con solo 97 dei 100 racconti previsti, il libro diventa un bestseller negli Stati Uniti. Una giovane giapponese, Kazami, viene in possesso del novantottesimo racconto, inedito, alla cui traduzione stava lavorando il suo amante, Shooji, anche lui morto suicida, e che narra la storia di una passione erotica tra padre e figlia. Kazami incontra i due gemelli e trova Otohiko coinvolto in una tormentata storia d'amore con Sui, che scoprirà essere non solo figlia illegittima dello scrittore suicida ma anche sua amante. Kazami viene risucchiata completamente nel loro mondo, il mondo di N.P., per tutta un'estate, che è il tempo reale in cui si svolge la storia. Dopo alterne vicende, Kazami scopre anche l'esistenza del racconto n°99 in cui Takase rappresenta l'altra faccia della sua realtà, l'aspirazione verso la normalità e l'eterodossia. Ormai manca solo il racconto n°100. Ed è soltanto quando tutti i destini si sono compiuti e il cerchio si chiude che il libro apparirà scritto fino in fondo: N.P. di Banana Yoshimoto è il racconto n°100 che Takase non aveva fatto in tempo a scrivere. (★★★★)
Cent'Anni di Solitudine
by Gabriel García Márquez (1982)
Publisher review: One of the 20th century's enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement of a Nobel Prize winning career. The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America. Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility -- the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth -- these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel Garcia Marquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master. Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.
My rating:
The End of All Things (Old Man's War, #6)
by John Scalzi (2015)
Publisher review: Hugo-award winning author, John Scalzi returns to his best-selling Old Man's War universe with the direct sequel to 2013’s The Human Division Humans expanded into space…only to find a universe populated with multiple alien species bent on their destruction. Thus was the Colonial Union formed, to help protect us from a hostile universe. The Colonial Union used the Earth and its excess population for colonists and soldiers. It was a good arrangement...for the Colonial Union. Then the Earth said: no more.   Now the Colonial Union is living on borrowed time—a couple of decades at most, before the ranks of the Colonial Defense Forces are depleted and the struggling human colonies are vulnerable to the alien species who have been waiting for the first sign of weakness, to drive humanity to ruin. And there’s another problem: A group, lurking in the darkness of space, playing human and alien against each other—and against their own kind —for their own unknown reasons.   In this collapsing universe, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson and the Colonial Union diplomats he works with race against the clock to discover who is behind attacks on the Union and on alien races, to seek peace with a suspicious, angry Earth, and keep humanity’s union intact...or else risk oblivion, and extinction—and the end of all things.
My rating:
Il padiglione d'oro
by Yukio Mishima (1995)
Publisher review: Non c'è recensore, in Giappone e fuori, che, cercando parentele o fonti d'ispirazione per questo capolavoro della letteratura giapponese moderna, non abbia fatto il nome di Dostoevskij. Incominciarono i giapponesi: per quanto la cosa possa apparire sorprendente, la voga di Dostoevskij aveva raggiunto nell'immediato dopoguerra un'ampiezza senza precedenti e nel triennio 1947-50 Delitto e castigo era stato uno dei più clamorosi best-seller della storia dell'editoria nipponica. È appunto nel 1950 che avvenne il fatto che ispirò a Mishima questo Padiglione d'oro, che è del 1958: un giovane accolito buddista, deforme e balbuziente, dà fuoco a uno dei maggiori monumenti dell'arte giapponese, il padiglione di un celebre santuario di Kyoto, il Kinkakuji, il quattrocentesco tempio zen. La storia di questo clamoroso gesto è raccontata da Mishima con aderenza alla cronaca, ma in modo da assegnare un senso simbolico ossia problematico all'azione del piromane. La chiave dell'ossessione di Mizoguchi, Mishima la ricerca in quell'attesa quasi magica della grande distruzione che rappresenta il tema profondo di tutta la prima parte del libro fino al giorno della sconfitta bellica del Giappone. La calata agli inferi si svolge sul tema di straordinarie, attonite rievocazioni di memorie dell'infanzia. Il tema della bellezza suprema del padiglione affonda le sue radici in un'ossessione infantile esorcizzata dallo storpio Mizoguchi con un atto che trova giustificazione anche nella dottrina buddista della morte al mondo e della cancellazione del bello in quanto pura apparenza.
My rating:
Tutti i racconti: 1931-1936
by H.P. Lovecraft (1992)
Publisher review: Questo preciso libro raccoglie tutti i suoi racconti più recenti, alcuni pubblicati postumi, come ad esempio "Il Prete Malvagio", alcuni, per metà, scritti di sua mano e niente meno che le opere più fantastiche, e per metà scritti in collaborazione o di sana pianta per conto di: Henry S. Whitehead, Hazel Heald, E.Hoffmann Price la cui storia ripropone l'ultima delle saghe di Randolph Carter, Duane W.Rimel, R.H. Barlow, William Lumley e Kenneth Sterling.
My rating:
Il Gattopardo
by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Publisher review: Don Fabrizio, principe di Salina, all'arrivo dei Garibaldini, sente inevitabile il declino e la rovina della sua classe. Approva il matrimonio del nipote Tancredi, senza più risorse economiche, con la figlia, che porta con sé una ricca dote, di Calogero Sedara, un astuto borghese. Don Fabrizio rifiuta però il seggio al Senato che gli viene offerto, ormai disincantato e pessimista sulla possibile sopravvivenza di una civiltà in decadenza e propone al suo posto proprio il borghese Calogero Sedara.
My rating:
Fontamara
by Ignazio Silone (1997)
Publisher review: Fontamara fu pubblicato a Zurigo nel 1933. Ambientato in un paesino abruzzese, Fontamara appunto, racconta l'eterno conflitto tra "cafoni" e "cittadini", reso ancora più drammatico dall'avvento del fascismo. I contadini e i braccianti, rassegnati ormai e quasi assuefatti a subire senza reagire catastrofi e soprusi di ogni genere, abbrutiti dalla miseria e dalla lotta per la sopravvivenza, trovano la forza di ribellarsi quando si rendono conto dell'ultima, ennesima truffa ordita sulla loro pelle, che, per una coincidenza non casuale, corrisponde temporalmente all'entrata in scena del regime fascista. Figura centrale del romanzo è Berardo Viola, che rappresenta l'esigenza di riscattare una vita di silenzio e passività, esigenza che diverrà essenziale e imprescindibile anche per gli altri "cafoni" fontamaresi.
My rating:
Dune
by Frank Herbert (2006)
Publisher review: This book was mistakenly published under ISBN13: 9780965017763. Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the 'spice' melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis. Published in 1965, it won the Hugo Award in 1966 and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune is frequently cited as the world's best-selling sf novel.
My rating: ★★★★★
The Foundation Trilogy (Foundation, #1-3)
by Isaac Asimov
Publisher review: A THOUSAND-YEAR EPIC, A GALACTIC STRUGGLE, A MONUMENTAL WORK IN THE ANNALS OF SCIENCE FICTION FOUNDATION begins a new chapter in the story of man's future. As the Old Empire crumbles into barbarism throughout the million worlds of the galaxy, Hari Seldon and his band of psychologists must create a new entity, the Foundation-dedicated to art, science, and technology-as the beginning of a new empire. FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE describes the mighty struggle for power amid the chaos of the stars in which man stands at the threshold of a new enlightened life which could easily be destroyed by the old forces of barbarism. SECOND FOUNDATION follows the Seldon Plan after the First Empire's defeat and describes its greatest threat-a dangerous mutant strain gone wild, which produces a mind capable of bending men's wills, directing their thoughts, reshaping their desires, and destroying the universe.
My rating:
Sonno profondo
by Banana Yoshimoto (1995)
Publisher review: "Il sonno viene come l'avanzare della marea. Opporsi è impossibile". Con Sonno profondo, Banana Yoshimoto indaga nel cuore di tre giovanni donne e ne trae ombre plastiche, insinuanti, che echeggiano il vuoto della notte e la paura della solitudine. Vicina al germogliare segreto delle emozioni, la scrittice disegna con le parole un mondo sfuggente e tuttavia concreto, che accompagna il lettore in un'avventura dell'anima di straordinaria incisività.
My rating:
Yellow Card Man
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2006)
Publisher review: Paolo Bacigalupi tells us the pitiless future of the "Yellow Card Man" was "an outgrowth from an aborted novel." In his latest story, Tranh, who began existence as one of the book's supporting characters, must use any means available to survive in this ruthless and precarious future.
My rating: ★★★★
La morte nel villaggio - Istantanea di un delitto
by Agatha Christie (1991)
Publisher review: Edizione illustrata e annotata con materiale d'archivio storico.
My rating:
Cronaca di una morte annunciata
by Gabriel García Márquez (1987)
Publisher review: Santiago Nasar morirà. I gemelli Vicario hanno già affilato i loro coltelli nel negozio di Faustino Santos. A Manaure, "villaggio bruciato dal sale dei Caraibi", lo sanno tutti: presto i fratelli della bella quanto svanita Angela vendicheranno l'onore di quella verginità rubatale in modo misterioso dall'aitante Santiago, ricco rampollo della locale colonia araba. Tutti lo sanno, ma nessuno fa alcunché per impedirlo: non la madre della vittima designata, non il parroco, non l'alcalde, neppure una delle numerose fanciulle che spasimano per il Nasar. E così la morte annunciata lo sorprende nel fulgore di una splendida mattinata tropicale. Ma non per agguato o per trappola: un destino bizzarro e crudele fa sì che la fine di Santiago si compia per un concorso di fatalità ed equivoci, mentre gli stessi assassini fanno di tutto perché qualcuno impedisca loro l'esecuzione. Basato su un fatto reale, Cronaca di una morte annunciata venne pubblicato nel 1981 (un anno prima del Nobel a García Márquez) e, pur nella brevità, rappresenta uno dei vertici della sua narrativa: un romanzo magistrale che sa fondere i toni della tragedia antica con il ritmo di una detective story in una grandiosa allegoria dell'assurdità della vita, l'apoteosi della fatalità. Edizione priva di ISBN Edition without ISBN Edición sin ISBN
My rating:
Il senso di Smilla per la neve
by Peter Høeg (1996)
Publisher review: "C’è un freddo straordinario, 18 gradi Celsius sotto zero, e nevica, e nella lingua che non è più la mia la neve è qanik, grossi cristalli quasi senza peso che cadono in grande quantità e coprono la terra con uno strato di bianco gelo polverizzato" - inizia così questo suggestivo e malinconico romanzo, che potrebbe essere un giallo senza esserlo fino in fondo, ma che soprattutto è un lirico omaggio al freddo, alle nevi di territori ostili all’uomo, a una civiltà in via di estinzione. La vicenda ruota intorno a un personaggio femminile, Smilla, avvolto nella solitudine e nello sradicamento; per metà danese e per metà inuit, Smilla conosce almeno dieci modi per dire "neve". Ma non solo: come altri possiedono il senso di Dio, lei possiede uno speciale senso per la neve. Ed è per questo che la tragica caduta del piccolo Esajas da un tetto innevato non può apparire come un banale incidente a chi conosce a fondo l’elemento e come le impronte vi lascino i loro solchi. Mentre Copenhagen si prepara per il Natale, Smilla comincia un’indagine ai confini del mondo, alla ricerca di una verità nascosta forse sotto la calotta polare.
My rating:
Dieci Novelle
by Giovanni Verga (1988)
Publisher review: Dieci delle piu' famose novelle di Giovanni Verga.
My rating:
La zona morta
by Stephen King (1994)
Publisher review: Al risveglio da un coma durato quattro anni, Johnny scopre di possedere un dono meraviglioso e nello stesso tempo tremendo: è capace di conoscere il futuro e i segreti della mente altrui con un semplice contatto, anche solo un tocco della mano. E questa facoltà lo conduce dentro un'avventura agghiacciante, in cui è sempre più solo.
My rating:
Peter Camenzind / Demian
by Hermann Hesse (1993)
Publisher review: Due racconti della giovinezza. Nel 1904, a soli 27 anni, Hesse raggiunse, con la pubblicazione di Peter Camenzin, un successo strepitoso: scritto con semplicita' ed eleganza, questo ritratto-autoritratto di un giovano sognatore e introverso che attraversa l'adolescenza giungendo alla cosiddetta maturita' con la consapevolezza di dover sacrificare qualche sogno e un po' di se stesso per il bene comune. Del 1919 e' invece Demian, libro assolutamente inaspettato, audace, che accese le fantasie delle giovani generazioni uscite dal conflitto mondiale e acconto trionfalmente dalla critica.
My rating:
La coscienza di Zeno
by Italo Svevo (1988)
Publisher review: Le pagine della Coscienza di Zeno si chiudono con una terribile profezia: "Forse traverso una catastrofe inaudita prodotta dagli ordigni ritorneremo alla salute. Quando i gas velenosi non basteranno più, un uomo fatto come tutti gli altri, nel segreto di una stanza di questo mondo, inventerà un esplosivo incomparabile, in confronto al quale gli esplosivi attualmente esistenti saranno considerati quali innocui giocattoli. Ed un altro uomo fatto anche lui come tutti gli altri, ma degli altri un po' più ammalato, ruberà tale esplosivo e si arrampicherà al centro della terra per porlo nel punto ove il suo effetto potrà essere il massimo. Ci sarà un'esplosione enorme che nessuno udrà e la terra ritornata alla forma di nebulosa errerà nei cieli priva di parassiti e di malattie". Zeno Cosini conclude così il suo diario di malato interiore, di nevrotico consapevole che si guarisce con la sola persuasione di non essere più un possibile oggetto di studio della "psico-analisi". Nato come forma teraupetica suggerita da un medico, l'auto-racconto di Zeno percorre le tappe di una vita malata, attraverso la lotta contro il fumo, la morte di un padre colpevolizzante, la storia di un matrimonio senza amore, di un adulterio appassionante e infelice, di un'iniziativa commerciale disastrosa. La coscienza di Zeno è uno dei grandi romanzi del Novecento: come Joyce, Musil, Kafka, Italo Svevo affonda qui nelle più oscure e dolorose regioni dell'incertezza umana, per poi risalire alla quieta consapevolezza del "male di vivere".
My rating:
Christine. La macchina infernale
by Stephen King (1984)
Publisher review: Tre adolescenti vivono la loro adolescenza in una tranquilla cittadina di provincia. Le novità sono poche, finchè non compare Christine, un'auto - una Plymonth del 1958 - che Arnie, uno dei ragazzi, vuole ad ogni costo rimettere a nuovo. Un'impresa disperata, che per lui si trasforma in un'ossessione, mentre la macchina inizia a manifestare un'inquietante vita propria. E nelle buie strade del paese la gente comincia a morire... Un indimenticabile viaggio nel terrore firmato dal "maestro" Stephen King. Una superba prova del suo talento da fuoriclasse.
My rating:
Avversario Segreto - Quinta Colonna
by Agatha Christie (1994)
Publisher review:
My rating:
Il nome della rosa
by Umberto Eco (2003)
Publisher review: La vicenda si svolge nel medioevo, nell’arco di sette giorni, in un monastero benedettino in una località imprecisata del nord Italia. Guglielmo da Baskerville, monaco francescano, ex-inquisitore e consigliere dell’Imperatore, si reca insieme al giovane benedettino nonché voce narrante Adso da Melk, in un’abbazia allo scopo di partecipare ad un’importante riunione che vede contrapposti i francescani, fautori della povertà del Cristo, e la delegazione papale. Questo incontro era stato organizzato allo scopo di permettere alle due parti di trovare un accordo. L’abbazia vive ore tormentate. Subito dopo il loro arrivo, l’Abate chiede a Guglielmo di indagare sulle cause della morte violenta di uno dei suoi conventuali. In effetti durante la notte, Adelmo da Otranto, un giovane monaco, è caduto dall’edificio, un’imponente costruzione nella quale si trovano sia il refettorio che l’immensa biblioteca dell’abbazia. Nonostante la libertà di movimento concessa all’ex inquisitore, si susseguono altre morti e tutte sembrano ruotare intorno alla biblioteca e ad un misterioso manoscritto. Questa biblioteca, tra le più grandi della cristianità, è costruita come un labirinto, un luogo segreto, allo scopo di proteggerla dagli intrusi. Non è concesso loro di visitarla: solo lo scriptorium è accessibile. La situazione è complicata dall’imminente convegno e dalla scoperta di due eretici della setta dei Dolciniani, rifugiati presso l’Ordine dei Benedettini. In questa atmosfera inquietante, Guglielmo e Adso si avvicinano sempre più alla verità, fino a scoprire il misterioso manoscritto…
My rating:
Diario di un killer sentimentale
by Luis Sepúlveda (1998)
Publisher review: Un professionista è sempre un professionista, ma la giornata era iniziata male: faceva un caldo infernale a Madrid e la sua amichetta francese l'aveva piantato come un cretino per qualcuno incontrato a Veracruz. La compagnia di una buona bottiglia di whisky e di una mulatta che si portava dietro tutta l'aria dei Caraibi non gli aveva risollevato l'umore, quella ragazzina viziata dai fianchi sodi e dalla bocca rossa lo aveva proprio messo al tappeto. In fondo, dietro i modi da duro, lui era un killer sentimentale. Non che fosse superstizioso, ma in una giornata del genere la cosa migliore sarebbe stata non accettare incarichi, anche se la ricompensa aveva sei zeri sulla destra ed era esentasse. Il tipo che doveva eliminare, uno con l'aria dell'idealista, ma anche di chi non soffre la solitudine fra le lenzuola, non gli piaceva affatto, puzzava troppo di filantropia. I retroscena dell'incarico, però, lo incuriosivano stranamente. Chi voleva la morte di quel messicano? Quali peccati aveva commesso? Come mai due gringo, agenti della D.E.A., sorvegliavano la sua camera? Perché un filantropo appariva coinvolto in traffici di droga? Era sempre rischioso farsi troppe domande in un mestiere come il suo dove non esistevano licenziamenti ma certificati di morte.
My rating:
Madame Bovary
by Gustave Flaubert (1993)
Publisher review: Madame Bovary è il primo romanzo di Gustave Flaubert. Appena pubblicato, fu messo sotto inchiesta per "oltraggio alla morale". Dopo l'assoluzione, il 7 febbraio 1857, divenne un bestseller sotto forma di libro nell'aprile del medesimo anno, ed oggi è considerato uno dei primi esempi di romanzo realista. È imperniato sulla figura della moglie di un ufficiale sanitario, la signora Emma Bovary, che si dà all'adulterio e vive al di sopra dei suoi mezzi per sfuggire alla noia ed alla vacuità della vita di provincia. L'opera attinge alla vera arte nei dettagli e negli schemi nascosti: si sa che Flaubert era un perfezionista della scrittura e si faceva un vanto di essere alla perenne ricerca de "le mot juste" (la parola giusta). Flaubert si ispirò alle vicende realmente accadute di una giovane donna di provincia, Delphine Delamare.
My rating:
Racconti del mistero: le inchieste di Monsieur Dupin
by Edgar Allan Poe (1992)
Publisher review: Contiene, in trad. italiana di Daniela Palladini: The murders in the Rue Morgue, The mystery of Marie Rogêt, The purloined letter.
My rating:
La casa in collina
by Cesare Pavese (1990)
Publisher review: Il momento forse più alto della maturità dello scrittore Cesare Pavese: la storia di una solitudine individuale di fronte all'impegno civile e storico; la contraddizione da risolvere tra vita in campagna e vita in città, nel caos della guerra; il superamento dell'egoismo attraverso la scoperta che ogni caduto somiglia a chi resta e gliene chiede ragione. "Ora che ho visto cos'è la guerra civile, so che tutti, se un giorno finisse, dovrebbero chiedersi: "E dei caduti che facciamo? perché sono morti?" Io non saprei cosa rispondere. Non adesso almeno. Né mi pare che gli altri lo sappiano. Forse lo sanno unicamente i morti, e soltanto per loro la guerra è finita davvero". La grande intuizione delle ultime pagine de La casa in collina sarà ripresa e portata alle estreme conseguenze artistiche e morali nel capolavoro di Cesare Pavese, La luna e i falò.
My rating:
Il gioco di Gerald
by Stephen King (1993)
Publisher review: In una casa idolata su un lago, Jessie si piega all'ennesima fantasia sessuale del marito Gerald, che questa volta l'ammanetta al massiccio letto di legno. Ma quando, umiliata, lei lo allontana con un calcio, l'uomo si affloscia inerte, stroncato da un infarto. Il tempo passa e Jessie, immobilizzata e dolorante, sembra votata a una morte lenta, resa ancora più atroce dalla comparsa di un affamato cane randagio e da un'ombra misteriosa e irreale che fa capolino nella stanza...
My rating:
La lettera scarlatta
by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1993)
Publisher review: Ambientato nel New England puritano nel XVII secolo, il romanzo racconta la storia di Hester Prynne, una donna che, dopo aver dato alla luce una bimba, frutto di una relazione adulterina, rifiuta di rivelare chi è il padre e lotta per crearsi una nuova vita di pentimento e dignità. La lettera scarlatta è la A che per punizione ogni adultera deve portare cucita sul petto e che "marchia" in modo indelebile le azioni e la coscienza della protagonista, stretta in un patologico triangolo con il marito e con l'antico seduttore in un crescendo di tensione, sofferenza, angoscia.
My rating:
Miss Marple
by Agatha Christie (1989)
Publisher review: Una collezione di alcune delle storie piu' famose di Miss Marple: la morte nel villaggio, 7 racconti, e addio miss Marple.
My rating:
L'assassinio di Roger Ackroyd / Assassinio sull'Orient Express
by Agatha Christie (1991)
Publisher review: Edizione illustrata e annotata con materiale d'archivio storico.
My rating:
L'Ingegnoso Cittadino Don Chisciotte Della Mancia (1677)
by Miguel de Cervantes
Publisher review: Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances, that he determines to become a knight-errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, his exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote's fancy often leads him astray – he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants – Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together, and together they have haunted readers' imaginations for nearly four hundred years.
My rating:
Candido o l'ottimismo
by Voltaire (1996)
Publisher review: Con Candido, pubblicato simultaneamente nel 1759 a Parigi, Londra ed Amsterdam, Voltaire portava a perfezione il nuovo genere letterario da lui creato, quel conte philosophique la cui caratteristica essenziale risiede nella tensione dialettica tra allusione ideologica ed illusione narrativa. Le convulse e mirabolanti avventure di Candido, offrono alla scintillante, ironica ed incisiva penna di Voltaire l'opportunità di dimostrare la vanità dell'ottimismo razionalista leibniziano e della teoria del migliore dei mondi possibili. E il lettore di ieri, come quello di oggi, preso dal frenetico ritmo narrativo cede all'incantesimo e si rende partecipe del sottile ed intelligente gioco con il quale la consumata maestria dell'"ultimo degli scrittori felici" (Barthes) lo induce a passare velocemente dall'arbitrio narrativo alla meditazione filosofica.
My rating:
Anfitrione - Bacchidi - Casina - Menecmi - Pseudolo
by Plautus (1985)
Publisher review: Cinque delle più famose opere di Plauto raccolte in questo volume. Della vita di Plauto poco si sa, e del poco si dubita. Probabilmente nato nel 250 a.C. a Sarsina (vicino all'odierna Forlì), era un attore girovago.
My rating:
Dragon Rock.
by Angela Wright (1991)
Publisher review:
My rating:
Tommyknocker. Le creature del buio
by Stephen King (1993)
Publisher review: Roberta Anderson, di professione scrittrice, esce un giorno a cercare legna nel bosco dietro casa e inciampa in un oggetto di metallo che sporge dal terreno. Un oggetto strano, assolutamente inamovibile. È così che scopre la cosa sepolta da milioni di anni, che tuttavia vibra ancora debolmente, palpita di una sconosciuta forma di vita. La donna inizia a scavare. Dapprima titubante, poi con accanimento crescente. E mentre lo scavo procede, gli abitanti di Haven cominciano lentamente a cambiare, a fondersi in un'unica entità spaventevole asservita a misteriosi esseri alieni che, notte dopo notte, s'impossessano della loro mente.
My rating:
It
by Stephen King (1988)
Publisher review: In Derry, Maine, schlummert das Böse in der Kanalisation: Alle 28 Jahre wacht es auf und muss fressen. Jetzt taucht »Es« wieder empor. Sieben Freunde entschließen sich, dem Grauen entgegenzutreten und ein Ende zu setzen.
My rating:
Il mondo alla fine del mondo
by Luis Sepúlveda (1994)
Publisher review: Il 16 giugno del 1988 in un'agenzia giornalistica di Amburgo, legata a Greenpeace, arriva un inquietante fax dal Cile. Secondo il messaggio, la nave giapponese, Nishin Maru, ha perso diciotto marinai, insieme a un numero imprecisato di feriti, e ha subito gravi danni. Il giornalista che riceve il fax, esule dal Cile, suo paese d'origine, per motivi politici, decide di tornare a casa e dedicarsi al caso della Nishin Maru. Durante le indagini giunge alla conclusione che la baleniera, ufficialmente demolita a Timor, stava in realtà praticando illegalmente la caccia ai cetacei nei mari australi.
My rating:
The Tamarisk Hunter
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2006)
Publisher review: Originally appeared in "High Country News"
My rating: ★★★★
The People of Sand and Slag
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2004)
Publisher review: “The People of Sand and Slag” starts as straight military sf — and then twists. It was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 2004.
My rating: ★★★★
Cose prezione: L'ultima storia di Castle Rock
by Stephen King (2012)
Publisher review: Castle Rock è una sonnolenta cittadina del Maine talmente tranquilla da risultare addirittura noiosa. Curiosità e vitalità sembrano rifiorire con l'arrivo di Leland Gaunt, un distinto ed elegante signore che apre, proprio nel centro del paese, il suo nuovo negozio "Cose preziose", una sorta di emporio che vende curiosità e rarità di ogni genere e gusto. Tutta la comunità rimane letteralmente stregata dal fascino del signor Gaunt, abile e diabolico venditore capace di manipolare le persone per i suoi scopi. Per Castle Rock inizia così un vero e proprio incubo caratterizzato da violenza e follia.
My rating:
Crater Lake: The Story Behind the Scenery (Discover America: National Parks)
by Ronald G. Warfield
Publisher review:
My rating:
Started: Nov 22 2012
The Human Division (Old Man's War, #5)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race. The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU’s secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance—an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they’ve invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn't obvious or easy. Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won’t be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant “B Team,” centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you’re struggling to preserve the unity of the human race. Being published online from January to April 2013 as a three-month digital serial, The Human Division will appear as a full-length novel of the Old Man’s War universe, plus—for the first time in print—the first tale of Lieutenant Harry Wilson, and a coda that wasn’t part of the digital serialization.
My rating:
Il fu Mattia Pascal
by Luigi Pirandello (1988)
Publisher review: Pubblicato nel 1904, Il fu Mattia Pascal, il più famoso dei romanzi di Pirandello, riveste un'importanza fondamentale nella letteratura italiana del Novecento. Grottesco antieroe pirandelliano, Mattia Pascal è un uomo senza certezze e senza vocazioni. Creduto morto dopo una fuga da casa, pensa di approfittarne per cambiare vita, ma il desiderio di spezzare le catene delle convenzioni sociali, lo slancio verso la conquista di un'originaria purezza e autenticità falliscono: perchè la vita deve comunque darsi una forma e la fatica che bisogna affrontare per crearne una nuova e sostenerne i compromessi è talora così grande, che costringe a rientrare precipitosamente nella vecchia. La quale, pur con i suoi originari limiti e le sue falsità, rende possibile l'esistenza, allontanando il rischio della disgregazione, impedendo di essere altro da sè stessi, condannando a una realtà fittizia, ma inalienabile.
My rating:
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)
by Douglas Adams (1995)
Publisher review: Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.
My rating:
The Mists of Avalon (Avalon, #1)
by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1984)
Publisher review: A Literary Guild Featured Alternate Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement, THE MISTS OF AVALON will stay with you for a long time to come....
My rating:
Gli uomini con il triangolo rosa
by Heinz Heger (1991)
Publisher review: Ricordo di aver letto questo romanzo per la prima volta quando apparve la traduzione inglese, nel 1981, e di esserne stato scosso: nonostante avessi letto molti libri sull'olocausto nazista, quella era la prima volta che veniva detto che esso aveva coinvolto direttamente gli omosessuali. Si tratta si di un romanzo, ma racconta in effetti vicende documentate da testimonianze autentiche. Questo lo rende diverso da tante ricostruzioni di fantasie intese piu'a tintillare la morbosita' del lettore che a ricostruire una vicenda umana e storica. Inglobando i vari documenti in una narrazione che ha la forma della testimonianza in prima persona , ne e' risultato un libro che ha colpito l'immaginazione degli oomosessuali di tutto il mondo, e ha permesso loro di identificarsi in quella tragedia apparentemente cosi' remota nel tempo e nello spazio. Giovanni dell'Orto, storico
My rating: ★★★★★
Tutti i racconti: 1927-1930
by H.P. Lovecraft (1991)
Publisher review: Da Robert Bloch a Fritz Leiber, Henry Kittner e, indirettamente, Ray Bradbury, Lovecraft ha esercitato un influsso determinante su gran parte della narrativa fantastica del dopoguerra. Nei racconti Lovecraft rivela l'invidiabile capacità di gettare un ponte tra il mondo dei sogni e quello della veglia, finché a poco a poco l'uno trascolora nell'altro in un'amalgama originalissimo. Abissi senza fondo che si spalancano su altre sfere di realtà, corridoi sotterranei che si snodano sotto le fondamenta di edifici familiari, esseri mostruosi che riempiono, al tempo stesso, di meraviglia e di terrore: i protagonisti della narrativa lovecraftiana non sono esseri umani, ma terribili forze arcane dell'ignoto. Questo terzo volume di racconti, che va dal 1927 e il 1930, comprende i racconti scritti da Lovecraft in proprio e quelli scritti in collaborazione.
My rating:
Tutti i racconti: 1923-1926
by H.P. Lovecraft (1990)
Publisher review: Da Robert Bloch a Fritz Leiber, Henry Kittner e, indirettamente, Ray Bradbury, Lovecraft ha esercitato un influsso determinante su gran parte della narrativa fantastica del dopoguerra. Nei suoi racconti lo scrittore statunitense rivela l’invidiabile capacità di gettare un ponte tra il mondo dei sogni e quello della veglia, finché a poco a poco l’uno trascolora nell’altro in un’amalgama originalissimo. Abissi senza fondo che si spalancano su altre sfere di realtà, corridoi sotterranei che si snodano sotto le fondamenta di edifici familiari, esseri mostruosi che riempiono, al tempo stesso, di meraviglia e di terrore: i protagonisti della narrativa lovecraftiana non sono esseri umani, ma terribili forze arcane dell’ignoto. Questo volume comprende i racconti scritti tre il 1923 e il 1926, il periodo più fecondo e creativo di H.P. Lovecraft.
My rating:
Tutti i racconti 1897-1922
by H.P. Lovecraft (1989)
Publisher review: In edizione integrale e in nuove traduzioni l'universo meraviglioso e agghiacciante di Lovecraft.
My rating:
Il Principe
by Niccolò Machiavelli
Publisher review: Quasi ogni epoca si è riconosciuta nel Principe con argomenti sempre diversi. E anche oggi i motivi "attualizzanti" di questo breve classico non sembrano mancare: soprattutto il conflitto tra il desiderio di dominare razionalisticamente la realtà politica e la percezione del momento oscuro della storia, catena di eventi non predeterminabile, appare un legame privilegiato tra Machiavelli e i nostri tempi. Il volume contiene il testo critico del Principe messo a punto da Giorgio Inglese. Inoltre, un commento a pié di pagina assai ricco, con ausili letterali, chiarimenti storico-politici, rimandi culturali e spunti interpretativi a più livelli di lettura.
My rating:
I Malavoglia
by Giovanni Verga (1983)
Publisher review: Nei Malavoglia (1881) Verga si immerge nella realtà locale di un paese siciliano, Aci Trezza, e racconta la semplice e rissosa quotidianità in cui vivono i Toscano, detti appunto i Malavoglia. Avvertendo come poco espressive le realtà borghesi, Verga cerca di rompere l'impianto romanzesco classico, reinventando le regole del gioco narrativo per dare spazio alla coralità dei personaggi, ritratti nella loro vitale specificità. Questa edizione mette in luce la storia e la formazione del testo attraverso i successivi progetti e abbozzi dell'autore. L'ampio commento a piè di pagina, oltre a spiegazioni letterali e notazioni intertestuali, sottolinea l'organizzazione delle sequenze e la funzione dei motivi, individua le voci principali del romanzo e i controcanti interni, fornisce gli elementi per comprendere i congegni della macchina narrativa.
My rating:
Le notti di Salem
by Stephen King (1989)
Publisher review: Una casa abbandonata, un paesino sperduto, vampiri assetati di sangue. Quando il giovane Stephen King decise di trapiantare Bram Stoker nel New England sapeva che la sua idea, nonostante le apparenze, era buona, ma forse neanche la sua fervida immaginazione avrebbe saputo dire quanto. Era il 1975 e, da allora, il racconto dell'avvento del Male a Jerusalem's Lot, meglio conosciuta come Salem's Lot, non ha mai cessato di terrorizzare milioni di lettori, consacrando il suo autore come maestro dell'horror.
My rating:
The End of Eternity
by Isaac Asimov (1971)
Publisher review: Andrew Harlan is an Eternal, a man whose job it is to range through past and present Centuries, monitoring and, where necessary, altering Time's myriad cause-and-effect relationships. But when Harlan meets and falls for a non-Eternal woman, he seeks to use the awesome powers and techniques of the Eternals to twist time for his own purposes, so that he and his love can survive together. Librarian Note: The ISBN (9780449016190) for this book was reused on a completely different book.
My rating:
The Raven
by Edgar Allan Poe (1996)
Publisher review: In Gustave Doré, one of the most prolific and successful book illustrators of the late 19h century, Edgar Allan Poe's renowned poem The Raven found perhaps its most perfect artistic interpreter. Doré's dreamlike, otherworldly style, tinged with melancholy, seems ideally matched to the bleak despair of Poe's celebrated work, among the most popular American poems ever written. This volume reprints all 26 of Doré's detailed, masterly engravings from a rare 19th-century edition of the poem. Relevant lines from the poem are printed on facing pages and the complete text is also included. Admirers of Doré will find ample evidence here of his characteristic ability to capture the mood and meaning of a work of literature in striking imagery; lovers of The Raven will delight in seeing its mournful musing on love and loss given dramatic pictorial form.
My rating:
La morte a Venezia
by Thomas Mann (1990)
Publisher review: Il famoso scrittore tedesco Gustav Aschenbach, che ha basato la sua vita e l'intera opera sulla piú ostinata fedeltà ai canoni classici dell'estetica e dell'etica, è spinto a Venezia da un misterioso impulso. Nell'attimo in cui balena sulla spiaggia del Lido la spietata bellezza del ragazzo polacco Tadzio, Aschenbach avverte il definitivo segno del destino: l'anelito allo sfacelo. La morte a Venezia (1913), oltre che un romanzo, è una cerimonia.
My rating:
Dialoghi con Leucò
by Cesare Pavese (1972)
Publisher review: "Con una frase e talora anche con una sola parola va alla radice perenne del mito, quella che ancora oggi è vitale". Una doppia riflessione, quindi, quella di Pavese: sulla sfera mitica, come luogo archetipo da riportare alla luce, e sull’uomo stesso, il cui segreto non può non emergere da queste profonde e immense radici, costituite all’intrecciarsi della dimensione simbolica, antropologica e psicoanalitica.
My rating:
Racconti dell'impossibile
by Edgar Allan Poe (1994)
Publisher review:
My rating:
L'ultima amante di Hachiko
by Banana Yoshimoto (1999)
Publisher review: L'io narrante è Mao, una ragazza che vive con la madre in una comunità religiosa sorta attorno alla carismatica figura della nonna, guaritrice e veggente. La setta, dopo la morte della fondatrice, ha cominciato a tradirne gli insegnamenti e si è trasformata in impresa a scopo di lucro. Mao se ne allontana sempre più e in occasione di una delle sue fughe incontra una coppia di motociclisti. Chiama lei "mamma"; lui invece si chiama Hachi, è stato abbandonato da piccolo dai genitori hippies giapponesi in India e ai religiosi genitori adottivi ha fatto voto di ritirarsi su una montagna per dedicarsi a una vita ascetica. Con i due Mao instaura una relazione d'amore.
My rating:
Sly
by Banana Yoshimoto (2001)
Publisher review: Tokyo, oggi. Kiyose, la giovane donna che racconta la storia in prima persona, viene a sapere che Takashi, un suo caro amico bisessuale con il quale aveva avuto una relazione, è sieropositivo. La notizia sconvolge il piccolo cerchio di amici di cui fanno parte anche Mimi, l'attuale compagna di Takashi, e Hideo, un giovane gay che a sua volta ne era stato l'amante. Hideo e Kiyose si convincono a fare il test, il cui esito si saprà non prima di due settimane.Per sfuggire all'intollerabile attesa, gli amici decidono di realizzare unvecchio sogno: visitare insieme l'Egitto. Il viaggio, intenso e a tratti rarefatto, prevede come ultima tappa Roma, che riserva loro l'incanto degli attimi che si sanno irripetibili.
My rating:
Tragedie
by Vittorio Alfieri (2008)
Publisher review: In edizione commentata e annotata le tragedie più significative dell'Alfieri (1749-1803): la prima (Filippo), l'ultima (Bruto secondo) e le tre maggiori (Oreste, Saul e Mirra).
My rating:
L'interpretazione dei sogni
by Sigmund Freud (1970)
Publisher review: No ISBN L'interpretazione dei sogni è l'opera fondamentale della Psicoanalisi. Il sogno, considerato fino ad allora un fenomeno privo di interesse scientifico recupera in queste pagine tutto il suo significato profondo, scoprendo con il proprio processo di formazione una zona nascosta e quasi irraggiungibile della psiche: l'inconscio.
My rating:
Il pendolo di Foucault
by Umberto Eco (2001)
Publisher review: "... questo romanzo magico sulla magia, questo romanzo misteriosa sul segreto e sulla creatività della finzione, questo romanzo tumultuoso, questo romanzo luminoso su un mondo sotterraneo..." (Jacques Le Goff, L'Espresso); "Il messaggio del suo libro, se letto - come bisogna fare - come un libro sui misteri della fine del XX secolo, potrebbe anche voler dire che la storia da lui raccontata non è ancora finita..." (Alberto Asor Rosa, La Repubblica); "Il pendolo è libro superiore al Nome della rosa, pur se meno organico, proprio in quanto vi si incontra anche un Eco che non è più ludico ma, come dice Mondo, 'ha messo in gioco tutto se stesso'." (Maria Corti, L'Indice)
My rating:
L'ombra dello scorpione
by Stephen King (2001)
Publisher review: L'errore di un computer, l'incoscienza di pochi uomini e si scatena la fine del mondo. Il morbo sfuggito a un segretissimo laboratorio semina morte e terrore. Il novantanove per cento della popolazione della terra non sopravvive all'apocalittica epidemia e per i pochi scampati c'è una guerra ancora tutta da combattere, una lotta eterna e fatale tra chi ha deciso di seguire il Bene e appoggiarsi alle fragili spalle di Mother Abagail, la veggente ultracentenaria, e chi invece ha scelto di calcare le orme di Randall, il Senza Volto, il Male, il Signore delle Tenebre. Nel 1978 Stephen King ha pubblicato una prima versione di questo romanzo; dopo oltre dieci anni, l'autore lo presenta per la prima volta restituito alle forme e alla lunghezza originali, riscrivendo di fatto il romanzo per una nuova generazione di lettori e sviluppando a ruota libera la sua titanica impresa narrativa.
My rating:
Bent
by Martin Sherman (2000)
Publisher review: (Applause Books). Martin Sherman's worldwide hit play Bent took London by storm in 1979 when it was first performed by the Royal Court Theatre, with Ian McKellen as Max (a character written with the actor in mind). The play itself caused an uproar. "It educated the world," Sherman explains. "People knew about how the Third Reich treated Jews and, to some extent, gypsies and political prisoners. But very little had come out about their treatment of homosexuals." Gays were arrested and interned at work camps prior to the genocide of Jews, gypsies, and handicapped, and continued to be imprisoned even after the fall of the Third Reich and liberation of the camps. The play Bent highlights the reason why - a largely ignored German law, Paragraph 175, making homosexuality a criminal offense, which Hitler reactivated and strengthened during his rise to power.
My rating:
Tutte le novelle
by Giovanni Verga (1992)
Publisher review: La Sicilia è una terra aspra e difficile, che concede poco, ma che ha regalato nel corso del tempo grandi storie, scritte da chi ha saputo coglierne il nucleo incandescente e metterlo in scena in forma narrativa. Tra questi, un posto di primissimo piano spetta a Giovanni Verga, l'autore dei "Malavoglia" e di Mastro don Gesualdo, ma anche di un numero eccezionale di novelle nelle quali si sperimenta un nuovo modo di fare racconto, ricorrendo ai criteri di un realismo asciutto e crudo in grado dì far avvertire al lettore le condizioni di vita -i costumi e le prassi sociali - della Sicilia del secondo Ottocento.
My rating:
Quattro dopo mezzanotte
by Stephen King (1999)
Publisher review: Passata la mezzanotte qualcosa succede al tempo, quel fragile concetto usato dagli uomini per dare un ordine alla percezione degli eventi: si piega, si assottiglia, torna indietro o si spezza... e talvolta la realtà subisce le stesse distorsioni. E che cosa mai accade all'osservatore sbigottito quando la finestra che separa la realtà dall'irrealtà s'infrange e le schegge di vetro schizzano ovunque tutt'intorno? Le quattro agghiaccianti storie raccolte in questo volume avanzano risposte terrificanti a questo singolare interrogativo. Seguendo il ritmico, inesorabile ticchettio dell'orologio, King presenta quattro incubi angosciosi dal suggestivo potere ipnotico. Una dopo mezzanotte: "I Langolieri". Durante un volo notturno Los Angeles-Boston un aereo di linea attraversa un cielo divenuto all'improvviso ostile. All'indecifrabile "turbolenza" solo undici passeggeri sopravvivono, ma quando finalmente atterrano hanno motivo di rimpiangere di essere ancora vivi: perché, infatti, qualcosa di terribile li aspetta... Due dopo mezzanotte: "Finestra Segreta, Giardino Segreto". Lo scrittore Mort Rainey, da poco divorziato, si ritira in preda alla depressione nella sua villa sul lago Tashmore. Il suo isolamento viene tuttavia interrotto dal sopraggiungere di uno sconosciuto che gli sconvolge l'esistenza lanciandogli un'allarmante accusa... Tre dopo mezzanotte: "Il Poliziotto della Biblioteca". Junction City, nell'Iowa, è un luogo pacifico, dove è impensabile si annidi il seme del male. Ma Sam Peebles, piccolo agente immobiliare, comincia tutt'a un tratto a temere per il proprio equilibrio mentale. Il suo nemico è niente meno che... la verità. Se riuscirà a trovarla in tempo forse gli resterà qualche probabilità di salvezza... Quattro dopo mezzanotte: "Il Fotocane". La liscia superficie di una foto scattata con una Polaroid si trasforma per il quindicenne Kevin in un invito a un'indagine nel sovrannaturale. Il vecchio Pop Merrill, il più scaltro affarista di Castle Rock, ha tutte le intenzioni di guastargli la festa per ricavarne un profitto. Ma il fotocane, creatura orribile, è un investimento molto pericoloso.
My rating:
L'idiota
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1982)
Publisher review: Edizione in due volumi indivisibili. Il principe Myškin, ultimo erede di una grande famiglia, decaduta, è una creatura spiritualmente superiore, la cui «idiozia» consiste in un'assoluta mancanza di volontà e in una fede assoluta negli altri. Dopo un lungo soggiorno in Svizzera, al ritorno in patria si trova coinvolto in un vortice di storie d'amore vissute con passione torbida e violenta e che hanno come protagonisti il giovane Rogozin, la bellissima Nastas'ja e l'aristocratica Aglaja. Un'intricatissima sequenza di avvenimenti, raccontati con ritmo incalzante, in cui sfocia un'immensa mole di materiale: da Cristo alla cronaca giudiziaria russa, dall'Apocalisse alla polemica con il socialismo.
My rating:
La luna e i falò
by Cesare Pavese (1971)
Publisher review: La luna e i falò, scrisse Piero Jahier nel '50, quando questo romanzo di Cesare Pavese venne pubblicato, è il viaggio nel tempo di un trovatello cresciuto bracciante in una fattoria delle Langhe, emigrato in America, e tornato con un po' di fortuna nelle sue campagne. Tutto qui è semplice e corale, comunicativo e conseguente, solido e necessario. Anche lo scrittore è rientrato in patria. E nella lingua, come nella rappresentazione di cose e creature, appare qui qualcosa che è nuovo nella letteratura italiana. In nessuna delle sue opere, Pavese era riuscito a condensare in una sintesi narrativa tutti gli elementi della propria personalità spirituale, facendo dimenticare l'impegno dello scrittore nella naturalezza della creazione, come in questo suo libro.
My rating:
Il piacere
by Gabriele D'Annunzio (1990)
Publisher review: Le ambizioni e le contraddizioni di Andrea Sperelli sono al centro di questo che è il primo romanzo dannunziano. Nella Roma umbertina, estetizzante e mondana, il protagonista di quest'opera vive una duplice storia d'amore, diviso fra la sensuale Elena e l'angelica Maria, e finirà per perdere entrambe a causa di una paralizzante immobilità e una congenita incapacità ad agire. Pubblicato nel 1889 presso Treves, il romanzo offriva, con il personaggio di Andrea Sperelli, un modello i cui comportamenti eccezionali ben rispecchiavano gli ideali estetici dominanti. Le sottili analisi psicologiche e la sostanziale inettitudine del protagonista contribuivano anch'esse a inserire l'opera nell'orizzonte del grande romanzo decadente moderno.
My rating:
The Calorie Man
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2005)
Publisher review: Short story from the world of the Windup Girl.
My rating: ★★★★★
I Promessi Sposi
by Alessandro Manzoni (2010)
Publisher review: "Storia milanese del XVII secolo scoperta e rifatta da Alessandro Manzoni" era il sottotitolo con cui l'autore presentava 'I promessi sposi', uno dei capolavori della nostra letteratura, romanzo in cui si fondono poesia, impegno umano e ironia. Questa edizione si avvale di una premessa e di un corredo di note.
My rating:
The Fluted Girl
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2006)
Publisher review:
My rating:
Liolà - Così è
by Luigi Pirandello
Publisher review:
My rating:
La divina commedia: Paradiso
by Dante Alighieri (1991)
Publisher review: Continuing the paperback edition of Charles S. Singleton's translation of "The Divine Comedy," this work provides the English-speaking reader with everything he needs to read and understand the "Paradiso." This volume consists of the prose translation of Giorgio Petrocchi's Italian text (which faces the translation on each page); its companion volume of commentary is a masterpiece of erudition, offering a wide range of information on such subjects as Dante's vocabulary, his characters, and the historical sources of incidents in the poem. Professor Singleton provides a clear and profound analysis of the poem's basic allegory, and the illustrations, diagrams, and map clarify points that have previously confused readers of "The Divine Comedy."
My rating:
Mastro Don Desualdo
by Giovanni Verga (1989)
Publisher review: Con Mastro Don Gesualdo, pubblicato in volume nel 1889 dopo una serie di tormentosi rifacimenti, Verga raggiunge la prima tappa del progettato ciclo dei Vinti, allargando la sua indagine a un ambiente piu' complesso di quello dei Malavoglia. Il romanzo da' vita ad un ampio affresco della provincia siciliana dell'Ottocento.
My rating:
Casa di bambola
by Henrik Ibsen (1991)
Publisher review: Per curare il marito, Nora in passato si è indebitata con un certo Krogstad. Per anni ha lavorato per pagare il debito, senza riuscire a liberarsene. Krogstad, che lavora nella banca di cui il marito di Nora è direttore, ricatta la donna perché gli ottenga una promozione. Quando il marito, che per altri motivi lo vorrebbe licenziare, viene a sapere tutto, si preoccupa solo della sua reputazione e rimprovera aspramente la moglie. La meschinità dell'uomo porta Nora a decidere di allontanarsi, per riflettere da sola su se stessa.
My rating:
Orlando
by Virginia Woolf
Publisher review: Virginia Woolf’s Orlando ‘The longest and most charming love letter in literature’, playfully constructs the figure of Orlando as the fictional embodiment of Woolf’s close friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West. Spanning three centuries, the novel opens as Orlando, a young nobleman in Elizabeth’s England, awaits a visit from the Queen and traces his experience with first love as England under James I lies locked in the embrace of the Great Frost. At the midpoint of the novel, Orlando, now an ambassador in Costantinople, awakes to find that he is a woman, and the novel indulges in farce and irony to consider the roles of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. As the novel ends in 1928, a year consonant with full suffrage for women. Orlando, now a wife and mother, stands poised at the brink of a future that holds new hope and promise for women.
My rating:
Fino all'estremo
by Joseph Conrad (1990)
My review: Tutti i temi piu' tipici di Conrad son presenti in questo romanzo del 1902: il mare, l'avventura, la lotta disperata dell'uomo contro le forze cieche che lo sovrastano - e di cui il mare e' il simbolo, il senso della sconfitta inevitabile, la presenza dominante di un grande, tragico protagonista. Per molti aspetti il libro si puo' leggere come un giallo, offrendo una risposta perfettamente moderna al bisogno di avventura tipico dei ragazzi. ()
Started: Jan 01 1990 Finished: Jan 01 1990
L'avventura d'un povero cristiano
by Ignazio Silone (1998)
My review: Il dramma dell'eremita Pietro Angelerio del Morrone, eletto pontefice nel 1294, con il nome di Celestino V, poi dimessosi perchè convinto dell'impossibilità di conciliare lo spirito del Vangelo con i doveri del trono. (★★★)
Started: Jan 01 1991 Finished: Jan 01 1991
Le metamorfosi o l'asino d'oro
by Apuleius (1977)
My review: Lucio, protagonista e narratore, in Tessaglia per affari, abita a casa di Milone e di sua moglie Panfile, ritenuta una maga. Procuratosi un unguento magico che sapeva aver trasformato Panfile in uccello, Lucio si trasforma però in asino. Dei ladri saccheggiano la casa di Milone e caricano l'asino Lucio del bottino. Giunto poi alla caverna dei briganti, Lucio ascolta la favola di Amore e Psiche, narrata da una vecchia a una fanciulla rapita. Sconfitti i briganti dal fidanzato della ragazza, Lucio passa di padrone in padrone, subendo ogni tipo di tormento, Finché non si addormenta sulla spiaggia di Cencree. In sogno gli appare la dea Iside che gli indica la strada per riprendere la forma umana. Lucio esegue le indicazioni della dea e si fa iniziare al suo culto. ()
Started: Jan 01 1993 Finished: Jan 01 1993
Le poesie
by Catullus (1992)
My review: Catullus carminas are so lyrically powerful, that even if you are not into poetry you are going to love them. I had to translate tons of Latin writings in high school, and Catullus' ones were by far my favorites. How can you read something like C-85 and don't appreciate it? It's adroitly crafted, metrically perfect, and at the same time viscerally moving and steering.
Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris?
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
(★★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 1994 Finished: Jan 01 1994
Vita di Galileo
by Bertolt Brecht (2013)
Publisher review: Frutto di diverse stesure, la commedia nasce negli anni che precedono immediatamente la Seconda guerra mondiale e che vedono sperimentare e utilizzare a fini bellici la scissione dell'atomo, gli anni in cui si compie definitivamente una paurossa frattura tra progresso tecnico e progresso sociale. La figura di Galileo, lo scienziato che con le sue rivoluzionarie intuizioni rischia di mettere a repentaglio gli equilibri teologici e sociali del suo tempo e che si piega alla ritrattazione per timore della tortura e per mancanza di agonismo eroico, è la metafora dello scienzito moderno, dell'intellettuale perseguitato dall'inesorabile binomio scienza-fanatismo. Eppure, nonostante il suo intimo dissidio, la sua contraddittorietà, questo Galileo brechtiano è figura umanamente ricca, moderna proprio perché, pur asserendo in modo geniale la verità contro l'ignoranza, la superstizione e il conformismo, egli resta in bilico perenne tra due fronti. Dramma implicitamente antiatomico, "Vita di Galileo" mantiene oggi, al di là della sua straordinaria efficacia scenica, una notevole attualità proprio tematizzando la figura degli scienziati "deboli", subalterni al potere politico, "gnomi" venali, troppo spesso privi di coraggio etico.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Mar 01 1994
Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis
by Ugo Foscolo (1993)
Publisher review: Librarian's Note: this is an alternate cover edition - ISBN 10: 8817172839
My rating: ★★★★★
Finished: Jul 01 1994
I dolori del giovane Werther
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1993)
My review: La trama è semplice eppure di un agghiacciante realismo: Werther è innamorato di Lotte, di cui sa fin dall'inizio che non è libera, perché legata ad Albert. "Stia attento a non innamorarsene", sarà il consiglio di una cugina a Werther. Ma la tragedia è già innescata. Considerato il primo grande testo del Romanticismo, il Werther supera le barriere storiografiche per divenire il libro di una generazione, di tutte le generazioni, intramontabile. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 01 1994 Finished: Aug 01 1994
Le Cosmicomiche
by Italo Calvino (1993)
Publisher review: “Avevo preso l’abitudine di segnarmi le immagini che mi venivano in mente leggendo un libro per esempio di cosmogonia, cioè partendo da un discorso lontano dal meccanismo di immaginazione che mi è consueto.” Da un’intervista di Calvino del 1965 I grandi miti della fantascienza: astronavi, macchine futuribili, viaggi interstellari, rivisitati e trasformati da una fantasia ironica e intelligente. Una originalissima raccolta di divertenti racconti del grande scrittore.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Jul 20 1995
La Mia Filosofia
by Bertrand Russell (1995)
Publisher review: Questa autobiografia filosofica e' un autentico capolavoro: brillante, intelligente e straordinariamente limpida, ci restituisce nella sua interezza tutto il pensiero elaborato dal filosofo inglese sui piu' diversi aspetti della conoscenza umana. Le opere di Russell son sottili, complesse, articolate; ma troppo spesso, paradossalmente, la luminosa chiarezza dello stile ha oscurato l'acutezza e l'originalita' delle argomentazioni filosofiche, constantemente motivate dalla passione per una verita' impersonale e indipendente dagli uomini, e dalla ricerca di una conoscenza certa.
My rating: ★★
Finished: Apr 07 1997
Dell'amore e di altri demoni
by Gabriel García Márquez (1995)
Publisher review: E' la cronaca della vita di una bellissima marchesina di dodici anni ritenuta indemoniata e del suo disperato amore per un esorcista. Una favola di passione, mistero e morte ambientata nell'esotico mondo dei Caraibi.
My rating:
Finished: Apr 14 1997
Tokyo blues - Norwegian wood
by Haruki Murakami (1995)
Publisher review: Per le strade di Tokyo Toru e Naoko, due ragazzi non ancora ventenni, camminano insieme in silenzio. Non sanno cosa dirsi, o forse hanno paura, parlando, di sfiorare il segreto che li tiene sospesi in mezzo alla folla: il ricordo di una sconvolgente tragedia che li ha legati e divisi per sempre. Una struggente storia d'amore ambientata nel clima inquieto del Sessantotto giapponese, tra lotte studentesche e passioni culturali e politiche. Attraversato dall'esperienza musicale dei Beatles, dei Doors, di Bill Evans e di Miles Davis, il libro è il racconto di un'adolescenza che già sfuma nel mito.
My rating:
Finished: May 05 1997
Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini
by Giorgio Bassani (2001)
Publisher review: Il romanzo si apre con un Prologo in cui Bassani descrive come una sua visita, nel 1957, alla necropoli etrusca di Cerveteri abbia suscitato in lui una breve riflessione sul rapporto dialettico tra la vita e la morte, fortemente intrecciato con quello fra il tempo passato e il presente. L’occasione lo spinge indietro con la memoria, a Ferrara, e al cimitero ebraico in fondo a via Montebello, e in particolare alla tomba monumentale dei Finzi-Contini, dove riposa un unico membro della famiglia che aveva conosciuto negli anni precedenti la seconda guerra mondiale. Il libro è, quindi, un omaggio memoriale postumo a questo gruppo di israeliti, destinati a morire nei lager nazisti, per restituirli alla vita attraverso la forza dell’arte. La vicenda è ambientata nei tempi cupi del fascismo e delle leggi razziali che colpirono tante case ebraiche e che esclusero i giovani dalle scuole pubbliche e da tutte le associazioni culturali e ricreative. Per questo motivo Ermanno e Olga Finzi-Contini rompono la loro cortina di riservatezza e aprono i cancelli del proprio giardino a un gruppo di coetanei dei figli Alberto e Micòl. Fra questi giovani c’è anche l’io narrante, già da tempo affascinato da quel luogo, ma soprattutto dal modo d’agire enigmatico e imprevedibile di Micòl, personaggio simbolico che richiama gli archetipi mitici del viaggio iniziatico dall’adolescenza alla maturità. La delicata storia di un amore tacito e discreto, chiuso nell’ambito di un giardino, di un campo da tennis e di una casa, si apre allora nella prospettiva di una storia più ampia, che coinvolge l’intimo inafferrabile di ogni creatura umana.
My rating:
Finished: Jul 04 1997
La foresta in fiore
by Yukio Mishima (1995)
Publisher review: La foresta in fiore è la prima traduzione mondiale dell'opera d'esordio di Mishima, pubblicata in Giappone nel 1944. I racconti, scritti durante la guerra tra i sedici e i diciotto anni dell'autore, scaturiscono dall'abbandono della mente a uno stato fluttuante, ed evidenziano il rapporto libero e ludico di un adolescente con la poesia e la letteratura. Gli antenati, la tradizione, le antiche capitali, il mondo degli dei, una sottile analisi introspettiva dei personaggi, la creazione di un mondo, onirico e psicologico, alternativo a quello reale, animano questi racconti giovanili nei quali è già possibile intravedere le caratteristiche più profonde di Mishima: l'ispirazione classica, risolta in uno stile enfatico e solenne, e l'analisi distaccata.
My rating:
Finished: Aug 26 1997
Kitchen
by Banana Yoshimoto (1993)
Publisher review: "Non c'è posto al mondo che non ami di più della cucina..." Così comincia il romanzo di Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen. È un romanzo sulla solitudine giovanile. Le cucine, nuovissime e luccicanti o vecchie e vissute, che riempiono i sogni della protagonista Mikage, rimasta sola al mondo dopo la morte della nonna, rappresentano il calore di una famiglia sempre desiderata. Ma la grande trovata di Banana è che la famiglia si possa, non solo scegliere, ma inventare. Così il padre del giovane amico della protagonista Yūichi può diventare o rivelarsi madre e Mikage può eleggerli come propria famiglia, in un crescendo tragicomico di ambiguità. Con questo romanzo, e il breve racconto che lo chiude, Banana Yoshimoto si è imposta all'attenzione del pubblico italiano mostrando un'immagine del Giappone completamente sconosciuta agli occidentali, con un linguaggio assai fresco e originale che vuole essere una rielaborazione letteraria dello stile dei manga.
My rating: ★★★★★
Finished: Nov 11 1997
Lucertola
by Banana Yoshimoto (1997)
Publisher review: Sei racconti intorno al tempo, alla guarigione, al destino, al fato, immersi in una Tokyo sfolgorante di luci notturne e pulsante di vita. I protagonisti sono accumunati dalla stessa sorte: tutti in qualche modo feriti si sono chiusi in un guscio che li protegge, ma contemporaneamente li separa dal mondo, impedendo loro di agire e di interagire con gli altri. Ma sensazioni dimenticate si affacciano alla memoria, la vita, prima paralizzata, ricomincia a scorrere rivelando la catartica necessità di entrare finalmente in azione e di fare i conti con il passato. E' alle soglie di questa trasformazione che lo sguardo di Banana Yoshimoto si posa sui suoi enigmatici personaggi per raccontarne il disagio, l'angoscia, la liberazione.
My rating:
Finished: Mar 01 1998
La donna e la scimmia
by Peter Høeg (1997)
Publisher review: Una storia d'amore tra una donna e una specie di scimmia ancora sconosciuta, un antropoide di straordinaria intelligenza simile all'uomo. La coppia fugge insieme e vive per qualche tempo una vita selvaggia e spregiudicata, sopra i tetti di Londra. Ma la scimmia tuttavia è arrivata in Inghilterra con una missione da compiere, e sarà proprio l'ultimo colpo di scena a rivelarci le origini e lo scopo della sua presenza tra gli uomini.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Mar 31 1998
La Trilogia dei Re
by Acheng (1993)
Publisher review: Il re degli alberi; Il re dei bambini; Il re degli scacchi. Una scrittura semplice ed epica. Uno stile che richiama quello degli antichi cantastorie, l'ironia pacata dei grandi maestri del Dao: così Acheng racconta le vicende tragiche e comiche di studenti e contadini durante la Rivoluzione culturale: da quella del boscaiolo dalla forza prodigiosa (Il re degli alberi), ai conflitti del giovane maestro Lao Gar con la burocrazia rivoluzionaria (Il re dei bambini), alla storia itinerante di Wang Yisheng, povero e geniale giocatore di scacchi nella Cina di Mao. La trilogia dei re segna un punto di rottura con il ""realismo"" della tradizione letteraria cinese. Ha scritto Acheng: ""Negli ultimi quarant'anni, in Cina sono accadute cose che gli stessi cinesi considerano fantastiche. Per questo, quando il Partito chiede ai cosiddetti scrittori di perseverare nel ""realismo socialista"" - dato che secondo me la realtà del socialismo cinese è l'assurdo -, basterebbe descrivere realisticamente l'assurdo per ottenere la realtà"". Con il suo mite sguardo visionario Acheng ha sottratto all'ingenua iconografia realista le gesta di un'intera generazione di cinesi e ne ha reso partecipi migliaia di lettori in tutto il mondo.Nato in Cina nel 1949, Acheng vive dal 1987 a Los Angeles.
My rating:
Finished: Apr 14 1998
Il processo
by Franz Kafka (1988)
Publisher review: Josef K., condannato a morte per una colpa inesistente, è vittima del suo tempo. Sostiene interrogatori, cerca avvocati e testimoni, soltanto per riuscire a giustificare il suo delitto di "esistere". Ma come sempre avviene nella prosa di Kafka, la concretezza incisiva delle situazioni produce, su personaggi assolutamente astratti, il dispiegarsi di una tragedia di portata cosmica. E allora tribunale è il mondo stesso, tutto quello che esiste al di fuori di Josef K. è processo: non resta che attendere l'esecuzione di una condanna da altri pronunciata.
My rating: ★★★
Finished: May 05 1998
Confessioni di una maschera
by Yukio Mishima (1981)
Publisher review: Un giovane, cui "difetta in via assoluta qualsiasi forma di voglia carnale per l'altro sesso", deve imparare a vivere celando la propria autentica identità. In pagine in cui risultano indissolubilmente commisti sessualità e candore, esultanza e disperazione, il protagonista di questo romanzo, un classico della letteratura giapponese moderna, confessa le esperienze cruciali attraverso le quali è giunto a conoscere se stesso: dalla "adorazione indicibile" per un paio di calzoni all'elaborazione di fantasie sadomasochistiche, dall'identificazione con personaggi femminili celebri alle sconcertanti interpretazioni di fiabe e motivi iconografici occidentali... L'accettazione di se stesso come uomo diverso dagli altri uomini non si attua senza una lotta, tanto strenua quanto vana, per conquistare la normalità: simula vizi immaginari per far passare inosservate le proprie vere inclinazioni, si costringe a corteggiare giovinette per chiarire sino a qual punto la donna possa offrire piaceri reali, corregge con zelo manifestazioni di rischiosa passionalità... Ma "le emozioni non hanno simpatia per l'ordine fisso" e i suoi sentimenti reali rimangono, tenaci, quelli nascosti dalla maschera della correttezza ufficiale.
My rating:
Finished: Oct 11 1998
Zuppa d'erba
by Zhang Xianliang (1996)
Publisher review: Nel 1960 ZHang XianLiang era un poeta di 24 anni. Da due anni si trovava in un "campo di rieducazione attraverso il lavoro" nella Cina Nord occidentale per il fatto di essere un letterato, un intellettuale, un "nemico del popolo. Zhang usò la penna per sopravvivere scrivendo un diario.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Nov 14 1998
Il vecchio che leggeva romanzi d'amore
by Luis Sepúlveda (1993)
Publisher review: Il vecchio protagonista vive ai margini della foresta amazzonica equadoriana. Egli custodisce un tesoro inesauribile, un accordo intimo con i ritmi e i segreti della natura. Solo lui potra uccidere il tigrillo, il felino accecato dal dolore per l'inutile sterminio dei suoi piccoli.
My rating:
Finished: Nov 23 1998
L'isola del giorno prima
by Umberto Eco (1994)
Publisher review: Nell'estate del 1643 un giovane piemontese naufraga, nei mari del sud, su di una nave deserta. Di fronte a lui un'Isola che non può raggiungere. Intorno a lui un ambiente apparentemente accogliente. Solo, su un mare sconosciuto, Roberto de la Grive vede per la prima volta in vita sua cieli, acque, uccelli, piante, pesci e coralli che non sa come nominare. Scrive lettere d'amore, attraverso le quali si indovina la sua storia: una lenta e traumatica iniziazione al mondo secentesco della nuova scienza, della ragion di stato, di un cosmo in cui la terra non è più al centro dell'universo. Roberto vive la sua vicenda tutta giocata sulla memoria e sull'attesa di approdare a un'Isola che non è lontana solo nello spazio, ma anche nel tempo.te ad arricchire la bibliografia di Hans Ulrich su quelle che Karl Marx chiamava le 'Robinsonaden', cioè le storie (e le variazioni di storie) che hanno come tema la sopravvivenza di un essere umano dopo un naufragio e le sue capacità di convivere con la propria solitudine, le proprie memorie, sogni, allucinazioni, il proprio patrimonio di conoscenze e abilità pratiche, di adattarsi a un ambiente naturale diverso ed esotico e di misurarsi con lo straordinario 'Dasein' di un'isola misteriosa. Di 'Robinsonaden'ce ne furono già prima dello stesso "Robinson* di Defoe, da quelle della novellistica, della favolistica e dei romanzi antichi d'avventura alle cronache e diari dei marinai dell'epoca delle scoperte, come lo scozzese Alexander Selkirk o il francese Denis Vairasse d'Allais o l'olandese Enrikk Smeek, alle tantissime variazioni successive, romanzesche o cinematografiche fino alle molte barzellette che appartengono a questo preciso sottogenere e compaiono regolarmente nella "Settimana enigmistica". In quest'ultima variante di Umberto Eco, il naufrago, che si chiama Roberto combinando insieme la parte iniziale del nome di Robinson e quella finale del suo inventore e alter ego, sopravvive a lungo su una nave abbandonata e deserta, all'ancora davanti a un'isola, isola artificiale essa stessa che reduplica come in uno specchio l'isola naturale, mentre fra l'una isola e l'altra passa proprio la linea longitudinale del cambiamento di data, quella a noi tutti nota dal "Viaggio in 80 giorni" (di qui il titolo del romanzo)... Mentre Michel Tournier, in "Venerdì o il limbo del Pacifico", ha spostato non solo l'ambientazione geografica ma anche quella temporale del suo rifacimento della storia di Robinson, collocandola nel Settecento di Bougainville e Diderot, Eco, che anche lui ha trasportato la sua robinsonata nell'Oceano Pacifico, l'ha spostata idealmente all'indietro nel tempo. Il suo Robinson, divenuto con uno scherzetto un po' facile sul nome, il monferrina Roberto Pozzo di San Patrizio, o Roberto de la Grive, non si trova ad agire sullo sfondo sociale e marinaresco della nuova borghesia mercantile, ma idealmente più indietro nel tempo, nel Seicento dell'Italia nobile, spagnolesca, gesuitica, scientificizzante e militaresca, sconvolta da una pestilenza che è la stessa dei "Promessi sposi" di Manzoni, o nel Seicento della Francia dei re assoluti e dei cardinali astuti e potenti, della ragion di stato, della gran retorica barocca e delle raffinatezze e vuotezze mondane delle "preziose". Quella di Eco è un'abilissima, astutissima, filosoficamente ambiziosa "robinsonata", condita in salsa postmoderna (che può essere anche definita "neobarocca", se si presta ascolto alle teorie di un discepolo di Eco: Omar Calabrese). Il suo libro è una gran macchina narrativa e romanzesca, che vien fatta funzionare da un esperto di finzioni, da un interprete affezionato e gran lettore non solo di Defoe, ma ano che di Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne e tanti altri creatori di perfette macchine romanzesche (dall'autore, insomma, di "Lector in fabula", delle lezioni harvardiane, ma anche dei non dimenticati studi sul romanzo popolare dell'Ottocento). Spostamenti e rovesciamenti di prospettive sono, in una macchina narrativa meravigliosa e neobarocca, all'ordine del giorno. Mentre Tournier costruisce la sua macchina snella e leggera attorno a un deciso scambio di ruoli fra Robinson e Venerdì e all'esplorazione tematica settecentesca del confronto con l'altro, della psicologia sensistica e della ricerca della natura e della felicità, Eco complica considerevolmente le cose, facendo anzitutto in modo che il suo naufrago non arrivi mai all'isola e si affidi alla fine a un viaggio mistico e dissolutorio nel mare, e poi sostituendo Venerdì con un bizzarro padre gesuita tedesco di nome Caspar, un po' gran sapiente naturalista un po' balengo manipolatore di impiastri e fattuccherie, sdoppiando il suo personaggio e affiancandogli un suo sosia-fratello, di nome Ferrante, che è al tempo stesso una proiezione allucinatoria, un'incarnazione della parte malvagia e perversa della sua natura (un Jekyll di lui come Hyde), un'invenzione narrativa che assume a un certo punto una vita romanzesca indipendente, e diviene personaggio di un controromanzo pensato da Roberto. Di sdoppiamenti e reduplicazioni ce ne sono nel romanzo a bizzeffe. Come macchina neobarocca, come gran teatro del mondo, piazza delle meraviglie, museo e 'Wunderkammer', enciclopedia di tutte le scienze e pseudoscienze rinascimentali, il libro funziona; forse un po' meno funziona come macchina narrativa, anzi come tale, per volontà dello stesso narratore, deliberatamente si inceppa e, se mi si consente l'arguzia barocca, 'desinit in piscem' (nel senso che il povero Roberto finisce in pasto ai pesci). Alexandre Dumas cede frequentemente il posto a Van Loon e all'Enciclopedia dei ragazzi, spiazzando il lettore, alternando momenti di avvincente avventura con altri di divulgazione scientifica e altri ancora di esplorazione di alcuni importanti temi epistemologici e di filosofia esistenziale. Non mancano nel libro i capitoli narrativamente avvincenti, come quello fortemente robinsoniano della scoperta, che viene al culmine di una serie di segnali, indizi inquietanti e vere e proprie orme, dell'esistenza sulla nave di un altro essere umano, per l'appunto il padre Caspar. E neppure mancano le pagine di divertito 'pastiche', di svolazzo filosofico o naturalistico, di ragionamento dialettico o di trascrizione stupefatta di mostri e meraviglie della natura: particolarmente inventivi ed efficaci sono i capitoli sull'esplorazione della barriera corallina e sull'incontro con la Medusa o Pesce Pietra oppure sul pensiero delle Pietre (per esempio: "Che cosa sentirei se fossi davvero una pietra? Anzitutto il movimento degli atomi che mi compongono, ovvero lo stabile vibrare delle posizioni che le parti delle mie parti delle mie parti intrattengono tra loro. Sentirei il ronzare del mio pietrare. Ma non potrei dire "io", perché per dire "io" bisogna pure che ci siano degli altri, qualcosa d'altro a cui oppormi. In principio la pietra non può sapere che ci sia altri fuori di sé. Ronza, pietra se stessa pietrante, e ignora il resto. È un mondo. Un mondo che mondula da sola"). Se si prende "L'isola del giorno prima" come opera enciclopedica, essa diviene immediatamente un giardino di delizie per i cultori del romanzo erudito e accademico, che sembra poi genere assai fortunato nell'epoca postmoderna e neobarocca: la fitta trama dei rinvii intertestuali è un territorio privilegiato, e sarà contesissimo, per la grande industria accademica del commento e della ricerca di sottotetti, ipotesti e ipertesti, è una miniera di grandi meraviglie, un mare pescoso, pieno di perle ma anche di fondi di bottiglia, per un lessicologo e uno schedatore della scrittura barocca e neobarocca, è, per il comune lettore, un pronao sovrabbondante, che fiacca l'appetito e le capacità di digerire. Si tratta di un grande emporio, un romanzo-enciclopedia che si differenzia però dall'opera-enciclopedia o opera-mondo di cui parla Franco Moretti nel suo ultimo libro. Nessuna dimensione epica, nessuna grande sintesi modernistica, nessuna sacralità intrinseca. Qui c'è la risposta postmoderna alle ambizioni eroiche di Goethe, di Wagner, di Joyce, di Broch, condotta con spirito avventuroso e romanzesco, eruditissimo e disinvolto. L'unica cosa in comune è l'effetto, quello di cui parla Moretti: "un'opera molto lunga, e molto noiosa... una forma, diciamo così super-canonica - eppure quasi non letta". Se si prende "L'isola del giorno prima" come romanzo di formazione, si può anche ridurne l'insegnamento finale a una morale in pillole assai semplice. Essa, se fosse chiamato a tirarla un giovane borghese immerso nell'empirismo inglese e nella morale puritana alla Defoe o un illuminista dialettico e problematico alla Tournier, sarebbe questa: non mettetevi in giro per il mondo, soprattutto se volete fare lo spione e carpire i segreti della misurazione della longitudine ai pazzi, millantatori o scienziati veri che stanno navigando nell'Oceano Pacifico proprio per quello scopo, senza prima avere imparato a nuotare. Se invece a tirarla fosse chiamato non un avventuriero dei mari ma piuttosto un giovane che aspira a coltivare la poesia, la scienza e l'oratoria e vuole ricevere la formazione di un perfetto intellettuale moderno, la morale sarebbe questa, sostanzialmente non molto diversa: ricordatevi dei precetti di Guarino e sin dai' primi anni dell'infanzia, all'inizio del vostro processo educativo, imparate a nuotare. Altrimenti sarete condannati al destino del povero Roberto, più fortunato di Robinson al momento del naufragio, ma. diversamente da lui incapace di nuotare. Se si prende "L'isola del giorno prima" come gabinetto delle meraviglie della scrittura letteraria, non si può fare a meno, dopo avere ammirato i tanti esercizi di ingegno e di bravura, i tanti effetti ed effettacci di un 'wit' spesso ridotto a dimensione domestica, o semplicemente goliardica, rimarcarne anche alcune evidenti 'défaillances'. Lo stile neobarocco sembra aver perso, rispetto al suo grande modello, una dimensione essenziale, e cioè quelle della sonorità delle parole. Gli effetti visivi, gli anagrammi, le figure iconiche della cultura barocca vengono mantenuti e spinti semmai all'estremo, come è giusto che avvenga in libri che sono scritti e montati con l'ausilio della tastiera e dei comandi di taglio e di incollo dei moderni Pc. La grandiosa sonorità barocca, il continuo pedale d'organo, il contrappunto armonioso sembrano invece persi, nonostante le possibilità multimediali dello strumento. Nel discorso vengono infilati facili endecasillabi per cercare di tener su artificiosamente quella sonorità ("mai n'ebbe Olimpo pari ai suoi banchetti, soave ambrosia a me dall'imo ponto, il mostro a cui la morte non è vita"), la parodia delle voci umane cade nel grottesco (come avviene per il linguaggio tedeschizzante di padre Caspar). ogni tanto succede che lo stile barocco ceda il passo, quasi inconsapevolmente, al linguaggio ottocentesco, carducciano ("una vicenda di azioni convulse vissute in pieno sole, in modo che le rutilanti giornate dell'assedio, che la memoria gli restituiva, lo compensassero di quel suo pallido vagabondare"). Del resto qualcosa di simile succede anche sul piano della coerenza tematica: il grande scontro fra i due modelli secenteschi dell'amore come passione e dell'amore come libertinaggio ogni tanto tranquillamente vede fare la sua comparsa, anacronisticamente, il gran modello dell'amore romantico, con i suoi inevitabili risvolti melodrammatici. Il gabinetto delle meraviglie contiene anche reperti di dubbia provenienza e veri e propri falsi.
My rating: ★★★
Finished: Mar 15 1999
Incontro d'amore in un paese in guerra
by Luis Sepúlveda (1997)
Publisher review: L'avventura e la politica, l'amore e la guerra, il viaggio e l'utopia. Tutto Sepulveda con le sue passioni e i suoi temi più cari, rappresentati in questo libro che raccoglie 24 racconti dello scrittore cileno. L'appuntamento d'amore tra un sandinista che combatte in Nicaragua contro la dittatura e la moglie di un prigioniero in mano ai rivoltosi; la notte di terrore di un ricercato politico in attesa dell'arrivo di uno "squadrone della morte"; l'impresa di dodici confinati sperduti nel mezzo del deserto cileno; l'incontro mancato tra un esule e la donna amata... E ancora: dittatori senza scrupoli, fieri malavitosi dei porti, vecchi anarchici con un'antica ferita d'amore, coppie senza più speranza, prostitute commoventi e grottesche.
My rating:
Finished: Jun 19 1999
Siddharta
by Hermann Hesse (1985)
Publisher review: Chi è Siddharta? È uno che cerca, e cerca soprattutto di vivere intera la propria vita. Passa di esperienza in esperienza, dal misticismo alla sensualità, dalla meditazione filosofica alla vita degli affari, e non si ferma presso nessun maestro, non considera definitiva nessuna acquisizione, perché ciò che va cercato è il tutto, il misterioso tutto che si veste di mille volti cangianti. E alla fine quel tutto, la ruota delle apparenze, rifluirà dietro il perfetto sorriso di Siddharta, che ripete il «costante, tranquillo, fine, impenetrabile, forse benigno, forse schernevole, saggio, multirugoso sorriso di Gotama, il Buddha, quale egli stesso l’aveva visto centinaia di volte con venerazione».
My rating:
Finished: Jul 22 1999
Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden (1999)
My review: I was just landed in the US, and I decided to start reading some American books to improve my English. My friend Kirsten suggested me a couple of books: this one and "Snow Falling on Cedars" by David Guterson. She lent me this one. I was amazed to be able to read an English book without using the Dictionary... I really enjoyed it. Maybe the happy ending is a bit artificial, but it is a really good book. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2000 Finished: Jan 05 2001
The Seventh Gate (The Death Gate Cycle, #7)
by Margaret Weis (1995)
My review: When I was a young kid I used to read a lot. I was particularly fond of fantasy novels. I started to read the first book of the "Death Gate cycle" when I was 15. I never had the chance to read the last one. When I saw it in the bookshop I bought it immediately. I read the book in one day. (★★★)
Started: Jan 05 2001 Finished: Jan 06 2001
The Lost Language Of Cranes
by David Leavitt (1997)
My review: This book is a Christmas present. Matteo bought it for me while we were in a bookstore in San Francisco. He really enjoyed the book and he wanted to share it with me. I liked reading it, I did not enjoyed it as much as he did. The book is a painfully honest description of ho to different generations came to term with their own homosexuality. (★★★)
Started: Jan 08 2001 Finished: Feb 10 2001
Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance: Chronicles, #1)
by Margaret Weis
My review: This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid, so I decided to read it again in English to improve my English when I moved to the US. It is quite entertaining. I had completely forgot the plot, but not the characters. reading the book felt like meeting again some dear old childhood friends. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 11 2001 Finished: Feb 18 2001
You and Your Aquarium
by Dick Mills (1986)
My review: As soon as I will be able to do it, I am going to buy an aquarium. This is a simple guide to collecting and keeping aquarium fishes. Interesting. I was unable to finish it right away, because Matteo toke it back to Italy. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2001 Finished: May 01 2001
Snow Falling on Cedars
by David Guterson (1995)
My review: This was one of the book Kirsten suggested me. I started it while I was going to the Broadband wireless world forum. It is a good book. (★★★)
Started: Feb 21 2001 Finished: May 06 2001
La filosofia antica
by Emanuele Severino (1984)
My review: Stressato per via della tesi cominciai a leggere dei filosofi studiati in gioventu'. Una lettura interessante che m'ha fatto riscoprire quelle figure che, a suo tempo, avevo assai sottovalutato. (★★)
Started: May 06 2001 Finished: Jun 09 2001
Dragons of Winter Night (Dragonlance: Chronicles, #2)
by Margaret Weis (2000)
My review: I decided to read some of my childhood favorite fantasy books in their original language, in order to improve my English. I was stressed because I was writing my master thesis. I needed something not to complex to read. This was perfect at the time. The plot gets more interesting in the second volume. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 10 2001 Finished: Jun 13 2001
Shadowdale (Forgotten Realms: Avatar #1)
by Scott Ciencin (1989)
My review: I really enjoyed this book when I was young. This time I did not like it as much. The characters are incredibly flat and the plot is not that original. (★★★)
Started: Jun 01 2001 Finished: Jul 04 2001
Tantras (Forgotten Relalms: Avatar #2)
by Scott Ciencin (1989)
My review: The second book of this fantasy saga is better than the first... but it far from being remarkable. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 05 2001 Finished: Jul 23 2001
Waterdeep (Forgotten Realms: Avatar #3)
by Troy Denning (1989)
My review: An entertaining conclusion for the trilogy. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 24 2001 Finished: Aug 01 2001
Dragons of Spring Dawning (Dragonlance: Chronicles, #3)
by Margaret Weis (2003)
My review: The last volume is a really good one, but the ending is a little disappointing: it is quite clear that the authors did want to keep an opening for a possible sequel. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 01 2001 Finished: Sep 01 2001
Time of the Twins (Dragonlance: Legends, #1)
by Margaret Weis (2004)
My review: When I was young, I loved the Dragonlance saga. I was quite disappointed when I read it again as a grown-up: the beloved characters and the plot are so flat! (★★★)
Started: Sep 01 2001 Finished: Sep 05 2001
Honeymoon
by Banana Yoshimoto (2003)
My review: Amo particolarmente i libri di Banana Yoshimoto. Le trame delle sue storie spesso contano assai ben poco. I veri protagonisti sono i sentimenti, le sensazioni, che lei e' abilissima a descrivere in maniera evocativa con pochissime parole. Questa e' la storia d'una giovane coppia, sposatasi prestissimo. Il padre dello sposo sembra far parte di una setta religiosa. Ho finito questo libro in un giorno assai particolare: il giorno della caduta delle torri. Lo shock m'ha impedito di godermi la fine come avrei dovuto. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 10 2001 Finished: Sep 11 2001
War of the Twins (Dragonlance: Legends, #2)
by Margaret Weis (2004)
My review: I read it when I was a kid, and I simply loved it at the time. Probably I set my expectations too high, but I was a little disappointed by this book. The plot was not as intriguing as I remembered, and the beloved characters are quite flat. (★★★)
Started: Sep 12 2001 Finished: Sep 16 2001
Test of the Twins (Dragonlance: Legends, #3)
by Margaret Weis (2004)
My review: The characters may not be well rounded, but I loved them since I was a kid. I always enjoy meeting them again when I read a Dragonlance book. The ending in particular makes reading the trilogy worth the time spent doing it. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 17 2001 Finished: Sep 19 2001
The Second Generation (Dragonlance: The Second Generation, #1)
by Margaret Weis (1995)
My review: I was quite eager to meet again the characters I loved so much when I was a kid. I was slightly disappointed by the new generation of heroes, that failed to fascinate me as much as the previous one did. This said, this collection of short stories is entertaining and worth reading for all the Dragonlance fans. (★★★)
Started: Sep 20 2001 Finished: Sep 24 2001
The Turn of the Screw
by Henry James (1994)
My review: I was in Milan when I realized that I have forgotten the book I was reading (Baudolino) at home. I went to Feltrinelli and I bought this book. I have studied Henry James in high school, but my teacher did not spend any time on this book. It is a typical gothic novel, nothing too original about it. I did not like it too much because of the author style. Thomas Hardy was right when he wrote that "[H. James says] nothing in infinite sentences". (★★★)
Started: Oct 07 2001 Finished: Oct 12 2001
Baudolino
by Umberto Eco (2003)
My review: Ho sempre amato i libri di Umberto Eco, e ho particolarmente amato questo libro. In questo libro il protagonista (Baudolino, nato contadino e arrivato ad essere figlio di Barbarossa) e' narratore, risultando in uno stile ben diverso dallo scolastico ed erudito parlare dell'Eco dei libri precedenti. Il risultato e' piu' facilmente fruibile, piu' scorrevole, ma sempre storicamente accurato e affascinante. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 23 2001 Finished: Oct 13 2001
Moral Essays: Volume I
by Seneca (1928)
My review: Il dialogo spiega come le sventure siano dei provvidi doni del signore per rafforzare i giusti.
(★★)
Started: Oct 20 2001 Finished: Oct 21 2001
De Otio; de Brevitate Vitae
by Seneca (2008)
My review: Il dialogo insegna come la vita non sia poi corta, ma semplicemente si passi in genere il tempo a sprecarla. (★★★)
Started: Oct 21 2001 Finished: Oct 22 2001
A.I. Intelligenza artificiale
by Brian W. Aldiss (2001)
My review: Ero a casa del mio ex a Milano, ove m'ero recato per un colloquio di lavoro. Terminato questo aspettavo ora di cena e cominciai a leggere, terminandolo, il libro sul comodino. Le storie del volume sono abbastanza insignificanti, la migliore e' quella che ha ispirato Spielberg... Ma anche quella non e' poi un granche'. (★★)
Started: Oct 24 2001 Finished: Oct 24 2001
Bartleby and Benito Cereno
by Herman Melville (1990)
My review: I thought that Melville wrote only long and boring books. It was a prejudice: the first novel is really interesting and modern. The language of the second is pretty hard and the plot is less interesting. (★★)
Started: Oct 14 2001 Finished: Nov 26 2001
Il fato e la superstizione
by Plutarch
My review: Il primo dialogo tratta di libero arbitrio e fato. Il secondo analizza la superstizione contrapponendola al suo opposto, l'ateismo. (★★)
Started: Nov 27 2001 Finished: Nov 27 2001
Favola d'amore
by Hermann Hesse (1991)
My review: "Solo in questo consiste per me la vita, nel fluttuare tra due poli, nell'oscillazione tra i due pilastri portanti del mondo. Vorrei con gioia far vedere sempre la beata varieta' del mondo e anche sempre ricordare che al fondo di questa varieta' vi e' un'unita'". (★★★★)
Started: Nov 27 2001 Finished: Nov 27 2001
Frankenstein
by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (2003)
My review: I think this is one of the best books I read in my all life. The book is modern and interesting, the story is touching, the characters well-rounded and far from the typical gothic novel ones. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 27 2001 Finished: Dec 03 2001
Storia vera
by Lucian of Samosata (1994)
My review: Era da tempo che desideravo leggere questo racconto definito da molti "primo esempio di letteratura fantascientifica". Divertente e interessante. (★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2001 Finished: Dec 04 2001
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
by J.K. Rowling (1997)
My review: I really liked the story! It is fun, original and well-written. When you read it, you can almost believe that magic is real. Suddenly I found myself a kid again, satying up late to read "just another chapter". (★★★★)
Started: Dec 04 2001 Finished: Dec 05 2001
The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)
by J.R.R. Tolkien (2003)
My review: I read this book translated in Italian as a young teenager. I did not like it too much then, probably because the translation was poor. I enjoyed reading it more the second time, in its original language. The plot is intriguing and epic, but some parts of the book are just too slow paced (e.g. all he Tom Bombadil segment). (★★★)
Started: Dec 06 2001 Finished: Apr 01 2002
Storia di Roma
by Indro Montanelli (1988)
My review: Un'interessante introduzione alla storia di uno dei piu' grandi imperi del passato, raccontata in maniera accessibile e piacevole. (★★★)
Started: Feb 13 2002 Finished: Apr 15 2002
L'Italia dei secoli bui: Il Medio evo sino al Mille
by Indro Montanelli (2008)
My review: Un'interessante introduzione alla storia italiani durante il medioevo, raccontata in maniera accessibile e piacevole. L'unico limite nasce dal fatto che un solo libro copre un periodo storico lungo e compleasso, con il risultato che a molti avvenimenti non e' accordata la necessaria attenzione. (★★)
Started: May 01 2002 Finished: May 21 2002
Dragons of a Fallen Sun (Dragonlance: The War of Souls, #1)
by Margaret Weis (2001)
My review: The two previous Dragonlance trilogies by Weis and Hickmans are among the favorite books of my childhood. I was literally thrilled to discovered that a new trilogy was available, set in the same world, and featuring the same beloved characters. I expected a sequel of "the second generation". On the contrary a lot has changed, and the reader should first read the "dragons of a new era" trilogy to really enjoy and understand what's happening in this book. (★★★)
Started: May 21 2002 Finished: May 27 2002
2001: A Space Odyssey (Space Odyssey, #1)
by Arthur C. Clarke (2000)
My review: A classic of sci-fi literature, epic in its scope, very original and enthralling. Clarke is able to keep his readers in awe, on the edge of some spiritual and cosmological revelation. The sarcastic humor of the author is the perfect icing on the cake. (★★★★)
Started: May 28 2002 Finished: Jun 02 2002
The Soulforge (Dragonlance: Raistlin Chronicles, #1)
by Margaret Weis (1999)
My review: If you are looking for something easy to read to relax after a long day at work, this may be what you are looking for. For the Dragonlance fans, this is a must read book, providing some background on two of the most interesting characters of the chronicle and legends trilogies: the brothers Majere. (★★★)
Started: Jun 03 2002 Finished: Jun 08 2002
The Dawning of a New Age (Dragonlance: Dragons of a New Age, #1)
by Jean Rabe (2002)
My review: The Ansalon of the new age trilogy is dramatically different from the classic one featured in the previous trilogies by Weis and Hickman. There is really little in common, and this will probably put off every classic Dragonlance fan. This said, the book is quite entertaining, and a pleasure to read. I liked the effort of the author in trying to be inclusive. The book features a diverse set of characters of different ethnicity and with disabilities. (★★★)
Started: Jul 25 2002 Finished: Jul 28 2002
Northanger Abbey
by Jane Austen (2005)
My review: I was expecting a sappy novel when I picked up this book, on the contrary I discovered a novel full of wit and sarcasm. It is the story of a young girl turning into a woman in a world that is surprisingly similar to the contemporary one. (★★★)
Started: Jun 09 2002 Finished: Aug 29 2002
Insomnia
by Stephen King
My review: As a young teenager I was quite fond of Stephen King's books. I consider some of them remarkable literary achievements for the ability of digging into the hidden folds of the human psyche, and the adroit investigation of psychosis and fear. I picked up this book on my way to the airport, expecting something as good as the books I read many years before. I was quite disappointed instead by the flat story-line and the lack of any psychological investigation of the various characters. (★★)
Started: Aug 29 2002 Finished: Sep 30 2002
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)
by J.K. Rowling (1999)
My review: Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed reading this book, it was very hard to put down. This said, it lacks the originality of the first volume of the saga: it really feels like a rehashed version of it. (★★★)
Started: Oct 01 2002 Finished: Oct 06 2002
2010: Odyssey Two (Space Odyssey, #2)
by Arthur C. Clarke (1997)
My review: Almost 20 years after the first book, Clarke wrote this sequel. I was quite surprised to realize how much the world changed in those 20 years just reading the two books one after the other. The world geopolitical balance is changed: for example China enters as a third super power in the second book, and it is not even mentioned in the first. The civil right movement worked hard for a world where every person is given a fair change whatever his or her color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or identity, etc: for example in the second book a character in the Leonov spaceship is gay, and treated with all the respect he deserve. After reading the two books I was filled with hope and faith in human progress. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 07 2002 Finished: Oct 12 2002
The Day of the Tempest (Dragonlance: Dragons of a New Age, #2)
by Jean Rabe (2002)
My review: This second volume of the ""dragons of a new age" trilogy is as entertaining and fast-paced as the first one. I am still a little put off by the dramatic changes introduced in the Dragonlance 5th age, but this did not prevent me from appreciating the book. (★★★)
Started: Oct 13 2002 Finished: Oct 22 2002
The Fig Eater
by Jody Shields (2001)
My review: I usually am not really fond of mystery books, but I quite enjoyed this book, a mix of historical fiction, psychological introspection, mystery, and feminism. It is inspired by one of the most famous and controversial of Freud's cases (Dora's case, a girl that discovers the father infidelity with the father of his best friend, the same friend that later tries to seduce Dora), and it starts with the body of a young girl found dead in the middle of a park in turn-of-the-century Vienna... (★★★★)
Started: Oct 23 2002 Finished: Dec 05 2002
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)
by J.K. Rowling (2004)
My review: I quite enjoyed reading the book, but it lacks the originality of the first volume. It's hard to come up with novel ideas to keep the sage intriguing and surprising. (★★★)
Started: Dec 06 2002 Finished: Dec 12 2002
L'Italia dei Comuni
by Indro Montanelli (2008)
My review: E' interessante riscoprire la storia del Bel paese raccontata in maniera accessibile e informale da Montanelli e Gervaso. Sfortunatamente, come per i volumi precedenti, un periodo storico relativamente lungo e' riassunto in un numero relativamente piccolo di pagine con il risultato ch'e' facile perdersi tra tanti nomi, eventi e date. (★★)
Started: Dec 13 2002 Finished: Dec 21 2002
Year of Wonders
by Geraldine Brooks (2002)
My review: The book is based on a real story: in 1666 a small town in England is hit by the Plague. The town decided to close itself out from the outside world to avoid spreading the disease. As more and more people die in the village, the tension start rising, bringing forth the best and the worst of the human nature. The plot is gripping and fascinating, but what sets the book apart is the stunning emotional characterizations of the various protagonist. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 22 2002 Finished: Feb 06 2003
The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)
by J.R.R. Tolkien (2003)
My review: While the first volume was often too slow paced and fairy-talish, this second one is fast paced, action-packed, and hard to put down. (★★★)
Started: Feb 07 2003 Finished: May 15 2003
The Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett (2002)
My review: In twelfth-century feudal England, a master builder plans to erect a towering cathedral. But, unfortunately, he lives in a world of rigid class structures where corrupt kings and queens rule, and the common man shows eternal promise. Around the construction site swirls a cast of characters in a story of betrayal, revenge, and love. Another epic masterpiece by Ken Follett.
Read more about the Kingsbridge series here: http://goo.gl/5MUZW3 (★★★★)
Started: May 16 2003 Finished: Jun 26 2003
The Eve of the Maelstrom (Dragonlance: Dragons of a New Age, #3)
by Jean Rabe (2002)
My review: The conclusion of the "Dragons of a New Age" trilogy is as fast-paced and entertaining as the previous two instalments. I still miss the "classic" Dragonlance settings, and I do not like the changes introduced with the last editions of the Dragonlance campaign, but this did not prevent me from enjoying the book. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 27 2003 Finished: Jul 09 2003
H/H
by Banana Yoshimoto (2003)
My review: Due racconti che trattano della morte mostrando i diversi modi con cui la si puo' affrontare e mettendo a fuoco il contrasto tra la sofferenza della perdita, la tentazione di sprofondare nel dolore e una inarrestabile voglia di rinascita. (★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2003 Finished: Jul 11 2003
Le Rose di Atacama
by Luis Sepúlveda (2002)
My review: Il viaggio, il vagabondaggio per il mondo, e' il filo conduttore delle storie raccolte in questo libro. Lo scrittore narra le vicende di personaggi anonimi e marginali incontrati per il mondo, uomini e donne che hanno in comune l'aver fatto della propria vita una forma di resistenza. Un amico cileno che ha diretto la rivista Analisis, prima barricata della lotta contro Pinochet. Un cantante che ha partecipato alla Primavera di Praga. Un cameraman olandese ucciso dall'esercito del Salvador. Uomini che non hanno mai sperato di uscire dai margini, ma che per una volta sono affiorati, con le loro storie, dal buio dell'oblio. Come le rose che, in un solo giorno dell'anno, ricoprono il deserto di Atacama. Certi racconti non sono male, altri scivolano sul pateticamente melo'. (★★★)
Started: Jul 12 2003 Finished: Aug 01 2003
Sense and Sensibility
by Jane Austen (2003)
My review: I enjoyed the book, but I was disappointed by the ending: the happiness of Elinor, and the end of the relation between Marianne and Willoughby conform to archaic society rules of convenience. (★★★)
Started: Jun 01 2003 Finished: Sep 01 2003
Girl with a Pearl Earring
by Tracy Chevalier (2005)
My review: With precisely 35 canvases to his credit, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer represents one of the great enigmas of 17th-century art. The meager facts of his biography have been gleaned from a handful of legal documents. Yet Vermeer's extraordinary paintings of domestic life, with their subtle play of light and texture, have come to define the Dutch golden age. His portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earring has exerted a particular fascination for centuries, and it is this magnetic painting that lies at the heart of this novel. Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer's prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel's quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant, and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. I was disappointed by the book. Chevalier vividly evokes the complex domestic tensions of the household, ruled over by the painter's jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law. But... At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic and some epiphanic scenes do not work at all. (★★)
Started: Sep 02 2003 Finished: Sep 15 2003
2061: Odyssey Three (Space Odyssey, #3)
by Arthur C. Clarke (1997)
My review: Fifty years after the alien message forbidding humans to approach the moon Europa, an expedition to Halley's Comet is forced to violate the prohibition in the name of mercy. Though it is entertaining, it lacks the epical tones of the previous volumes. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 16 2003 Finished: Sep 19 2003
Five Quarters of the Orange
by Joanne Harris
My review: Incredible and amazing. This is one of the best book I have ever read. The story is captivating, evocative, powerful and realistic. The characters feels real and alive. The author is an expert, powerful, and incredible storyteller. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 19 2003 Finished: Sep 25 2003
Dragons of a Lost Star (Dragonlance: The War of Souls, #2)
by Margaret Weis (2001)
My review: I was a little thrown off by some inconsistencies with some previous Dragonlance books, the book is quite enjoyable. I found myself reading in the middle of the night just to see what was going to happen next. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 26 2003 Finished: Sep 28 2003
Dragons of a Vanished Moon (Dragonlance: The War of Souls, #3)
by Margaret Weis (2003)
My review: The plot becomes more and more intriguing in this last volume of the war of the souls trilogy. (★★★)
Started: Sep 29 2003 Finished: Oct 01 2003
3001: The Final Odyssey (Space Odyssey, #4)
by Arthur C. Clarke (1999)
My review: This is the conclusion of the saga started with 2001. Despite having none of the epic grandeur of the first installment, the book is very entertaining. I found particularly intriguing the author take on religion and spirituality. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 07 2003 Finished: Nov 08 2003
Chocolat (Chocolat, #1)
by Joanne Harris (2000)
My review: The worst thing that happened to this book, was to be made into a movie. The movie was not bad, but it pales in comparison. There is something magical, awe inspiring in Joanne Harris's writing. Her characters come alive, and feel so real with all their limitations and missteps. The plot is captivating and touching. It's really a little masterpiece. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 01 2003 Finished: Nov 12 2003
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)
by J.K. Rowling (2002)
My review: This is by far my favorite Harry Potter book. The tones change, become darker, and more mature. Suddenly what was just a very entertaining story turns into a book with a message. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 13 2003 Finished: Dec 01 2003
Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, #1)
by Dan Brown (2006)
My review: I really enjoyed the book. It made me go back in time, to the time when I was working at C.E.R.N. in Geneva at the LHC project. In one of the first chapters the main character visits the building where I used to go to do my laundry, he walks in front of the building where I lived and he ends up in a lab close to LHC itself. Even if almost all the Italian quotes are wrong (bad grammar, incorrect word choices, etc), even if the scientific background is not as solid as the author would like us to believe... I liked it a lot. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2003 Finished: Dec 04 2003
Delitto e castigo: Parte I - II - III - IV
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1982)
My review: Era da molto che non leggevo un libro in Italiano e da molto che non leggevo Dostoevsky, e devo dire che questo libro m'ha fatto proprio pentire di aver fatto passare tanto tempo. Dostoevsky e' un genio: la descrizione dello stato morboso in cui si trova Raskolnikov e' incredibilmente realistica ed inquietante. Uniche due note negative del libro: il fatto che solo a meta' il tema del superuomo compaia e il finale aperto... (★★★★)
Started: Oct 01 2003 Finished: Dec 18 2003
Holidays on Ice
by David Sedaris
My review: Well, this was not exactly a Christmas reading, but you won't regret reading it. Some of the short stories are little jewels of sarcasm and irony. My favorite one is "Season's greetings to Our friends and Family!". That's really something! (★★★★)
Started: Dec 19 2003 Finished: Dec 19 2003
Prey
by Michael Crichton (2003)
My review: This is a great summer reading, to relax at the beach without having to think to much.
I enjoyed it in particular because it discusses technologies similar to what I was working on in grad school (UAVs swarms). (★★★)
Started: Dec 19 2003 Finished: Dec 22 2003
Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Brontë (2003)
My review: The book is in part a gothic novel, in part a fairy tale, and it has incredibly modern element in it. It is interesting to compare Jane Eyre with Elinor (from Sense and Sensibility) as a way to understand the evolution of women conditions in England. I found particularly interesting the first Mr Rochester wife, an avatar of the hidden Jane, an embodiment of everything that Jane does not want to show because it is not proper. (★★★)
Started: Dec 23 2003 Finished: Jan 06 2004
Angels in America
by Tony Kushner (2007)
My review: Quite a literary achievement! The characters are painfully human, with all their weaknesses, fears, and dreams. The storytelling is innovative, modern, captivating. The plot is adroitly sewed, so that all the different threads come together to create an awe inspiring, powerful, touching, and intense masterpiece.. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 06 2004 Finished: Jan 07 2004
Code to Zero
by Ken Follett (2005)
My review: I am a big fan of Ken Follett, and this is quite an entertaining book, but it pales in comparison to some of his other books. The historical setting this time is the cold war, and the space race between Russia and the Unites States. The book is an hard to put down suspenseful read, with a lot of unexpected plot twists. (★★★)
Started: Jan 07 2004 Finished: Jan 12 2004
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen (2000)
My review: This is by far the best Austen's novel. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 07 2004 Finished: Jan 24 2004
Wuthering Heights
by Emily Brontë (2002)
My review: I really had high expectations before start reading this book, based upon readings of small sections of the book in high school. I was intrigued by a story that shows how love can turn into a curse, consuming an entire existence. I probably set my expectations too high, and as a result, I was a little disappointed. Still, it is a great classic that it is worth reading.
(★★★)
Started: Jan 24 2004 Finished: Feb 09 2004
The Blackwater Lightship
by Colm Tóibín (2005)
My review: This is an amazing book. It is the story of three women, grandmother, mother and daughter. It is the story of two sick men that are going to die, father and son. Death and sickness are the main catalyst of the plot, which is centered in the complex emotions of the three women at war with themselves. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 09 2004 Finished: Feb 15 2004
Jackdaws
by Ken Follett (2006)
My review: This is the third Follett's book I read and so far my favorite one. It is as fast paced, enjoyable and historical accurate as usual but this book succeed in creating very memorable and well-rounded characters, that manage to fascinate and capture your interest. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2004 Finished: Feb 21 2004
The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde (1998)
My review: I read this book translated in Italian many years ago and I did not like it at all. I guess I was too young or the translation was poor. I read it again, this time in English and I have been surprised: the book is full of wit! Many authors has hitherto wrote about the relationship between moral and moralism. Dorian is the man that free himself from the moralistic preconceptions of society, but he cannot handle such a freedom and he loses himself. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 22 2004 Finished: Feb 28 2004
Magic's Pawn (Valdemar: Last Herald-Mage #1)
by Mercedes Lackey
My review: This book has many of the plot elements and virtues of Harry Potter: an unpopular kid, not loved by the family that is raising him, discovers to be a "chosen" with magical powers. It is taken into a college of magic, when he became powerful and popular. What makes this particular book interesting is the touching description of the path towards self-acceptance and self-respect of the main character. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 28 2004 Finished: Mar 03 2004
A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens (2003)
My review: Seemingly unconnected events are adroitly waved together to form this captivating classic. (★★★)
Started: Mar 04 2004 Finished: Apr 07 2004
Deception Point
by Dan Brown (2002)
My review: Quite enjoyable fast-paced sci-fi thriller full of plot twists and surprises. (★★★)
Started: Apr 09 2004 Finished: Apr 15 2004
Little Women (Little Women, #1)
by Louisa May Alcott (2004)
My review: I found this book fascinating. It is uplifting to read about people that were able to made sacrifices to improve the life of their loved ones and the world. I found quite disconcerting to learn about the condition of women at that time. Austen's book gave me an idea of the situation, but the English writer at least was condemning the situation. On the contrary Louisa seems to believe in a society where the goal of a woman is to get married and where young girl should spend their time to prepare for the duties of the marriage. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 16 2004 Finished: Apr 30 2004
Arrows of the Queen (Heralds of Valdemar, #1)
by Mercedes Lackey
My review: This is the first book set in the Valdemar universe. The author was still a little young and inexperienced, the plot feels a little episodic at times. Despite the limitations, the book is entertaining and uplifting, a great example of the 70s/80s woman fantasy movement. The story features many of the themes that will make Harry Potter a success: an unpopular child that is rescued from an unloving family and sent to a school of magic when she discovers her magical powers. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 30 2004 Finished: May 02 2004
The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (2000)
My review: A touching little masterpiece. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2000 Finished: Aug 01 2004
Dark Rivers of the Heart
by Dean Koontz (2000)
My review: I was at the airport minutes away from a long international flight, when I realized I forgot the book I was reading at home. I run to the closest book store to get something for my trip. The selection was very limited, and I ended up getting Dark Rivers of the Heart, because years ago I had read a book from he same author and I liked it. Well... I did not like this one at all. (★)
Started: Aug 02 2004 Finished: Oct 18 2004
Uncle Tom's Cabin
by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1999)
My review: This is a great masterpiece: it is powerful and moving, intense and breathtaking. It reminded me how important freedom is and how much we take it for granted every day. It also made me understand this country better. (★★★★★)
Started: May 01 2004 Finished: Nov 11 2004
Digital Fortress
by Dan Brown (2004)
My review: Another fast-paced intriguing book by Dan Brown. I find it less interesting than the previous two. I think I am getting used to his style and his books read less and less original. I liked the coded greeting at the end of the book. It toke a little bit to crack it but... it is just a cesar box code, and the numbers can be substituted with letters (hint: use chapter numbers). (★★★)
Started: Nov 11 2004 Finished: Nov 14 2004
A Room with a View
by E.M. Forster (2005)
My review: This is one of the best books I ever read in my life. It is moving to see Leonora waking up inside Lucy. The book is about the struggle between stiff social conventions, symbolized in the book by Victorian English society, and the ability to live life as its fullest following your heart, symbolized by the Italian society. Definitely a must read. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 01 2004 Finished: Dec 07 2004
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
by John Berendt
My review: This book is quite hard to describe: it starts as a diary, a Savannah city guide, a travel book. Soon it turns into dirty-linned airing and mystery book. A surprising and interesting book. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 18 2004 Finished: Dec 29 2004
Arrow's Flight (Heralds of Valdemar, #2)
by Mercedes Lackey (1987)
My review: As for the previous book of the trilogy, the plot feels a little episodic at times. Despite the limitations, the book is entertaining and uplifting, a great example of the 70s/80s woman fantasy movement. The story features many of the themes that will make Harry Potter a success: an unpopular child that is rescued from an unloving family and sent to a school of magic when she discovers her magical powers. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 08 2004 Finished: Dec 31 2004
The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
My review: This is one of the most powerful and touching book I ever read. The first part is such a powerful punch in the stomach that left me breathless more than once. The second part of the book is drastically different and less interesting: it does feel like it was written by a different person. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2005 Finished: Jan 28 2005
Mansfield Park
by Jane Austen (2003)
My review: With Mansfield park, Austen reaches her maturity. It is an enjoyable reading, but the most striking elements of her previous books are gone. In the previous book her characters realize that public morality is just plain moralism, often used to justify convenience. The author had a very liberal and feminist position there. In this book Austin touches the same themes, but with a conservative attitude. The society is following convenience, morality has been forgotten. Fanny is almost as far from a feminist character as one can be. (★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2004 Finished: Feb 19 2005
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)
by J.K. Rowling (2004)
My review: This is by far my favorite Harry Potter book. The tones change, become darker, and more mature. Suddenly what was just a very entertaining story turns into a book with a message. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 01 2005 Finished: Apr 09 2005
Solitudini imperfette
by Andrea Mancinelli (1998)
My review: La storia di un trentenne Milanese, e della sua reazione alla vita d'adulto. Mattia si scopre intrappolato dal tram tram quotidiano, dalla carriera, da rapporti fugaci con amici conosciuto per caso e presto dimenticati. La morte di un caro amico mette in moto profonde riflessioni e lenti assestamenti. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 13 2005 Finished: Apr 17 2005
Mrs. Dalloway
by Virginia Woolf
My review: After reading this novel, it is absolutely clear why this novel is so famous, how it completely revolutionized the field with its groundbreaking storytelling style. I was fascinated by the smooth and seamless switch of focus from character to character. Despite all these accomplishments and merits the novel is not entertaining. (★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2005 Finished: Apr 27 2005
Hornet Flight
by Ken Follett (2003)
My review: A great historical spy thriller set in World War II Denmark. 18-year-old Danish schoolboy Harald Olufsen grows increasingly dissatisfied with his country's cooperation with the German invaders. His resentment of the Wehrmacht leads him to discover the truth about a hidden military installation, a truth known to only a select few in the Nazi organization. Harald knows that he must get to Britain to turn the tides of this war, but to do so in time to save the bombers, Harald has one option: flight. (★★★)
Started: Aug 01 2005 Finished: Aug 19 2005
Emma
by Jane Austen (2003)
My review: Emma is a great book, but I really prefer Austen's earlier work, where the author was critical of the moralist and sexist society of the time. In Emma, she is more cynical and accepting. (★★★)
Started: Apr 01 2005 Finished: Aug 21 2005
The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon, #2)
by Dan Brown (2006)
My review: Another fast-paced intriguing book from Dan Brown. This is by far my favorite, despite the fact that all his books are very similar to each other. I was a little disappointed by the conclusion: the Mary Magdalene "secret" is reveled too soon and after that the book is less interesting to read. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 22 2005 Finished: Aug 25 2005
Holy Fools
by Joanne Harris
My review: Another great book from Joanne Harris, one of my favorite writers. Even if not as powerful and magic as five quarters of the orange, the book is a little masterpiece. One of the main theme of Chocolat is back: the clash between the barren hypocrisy of the church and an ancient sensual and wise superstition. It comes back with a new twist: in here there is a strong attraction between the two opposites. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 21 2005 Finished: Aug 25 2005
Arrow's Fall (Heralds of Valdemar, #3)
by Mercedes Lackey
My review: As for the previous books of the trilogy, the plot feels a little episodic at times. Despite the limitations, the book is entertaining and uplifting, a great example of the 70s/80s woman fantasy movement. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2005 Finished: Dec 02 2005
Brokeback Mountain
by Annie Proulx
My review: This is a short novel, with a great and powerful story. The book teaches how you can sometimes end up ruining your life, losing what you love and what matters the most to you, because your afraid of it and of losing it. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2005 Finished: Dec 05 2005
Dreamcatcher
by Stephen King (2002)
My review: I should have guessed it was not going to be a masterpiece when I bought this book from the "extreme sales" section of a local bookstore. It is by far the worst King's book I have read. On top of being full of gratuitous profanities, homophobic statements and intelligent design arguments, the plot is weak and stale. All the psychological introspection King is famous for does not appear in this book. (★)
Started: Dec 06 2005 Finished: Feb 02 2006
The City of Falling Angels
by John Berendt (2006)
My review: It's strange to follow the author while he guides you through familiar places of your youth, while he introduces you to people and events you are familiar with. All the pieces, all the events that were happening years ago while I was there now appear in a book. It is strange to re-discover them and to re-experience them under a new light. I really liked to immerge myself in this vivid and realistic portrait of what I used to call home. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 11 2006 Finished: Feb 20 2006
The Doom Brigade (Dragonlance: Kang's Regiment, #1)
by Margaret Weis (1998)
My review: This is not one of the main books of the dragonlance series, it is one of the many spin offs around it. This said, it is one of the most entertaining ones, and I strongly recommend it. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 21 2006 Finished: Feb 24 2006
Mistress of Dragons (The Dragonvarld Trilogy, #1)
by Margaret Weis (2004)
My review: It is hard to put down this book when you start reading it, but this does not come as a surprise given that was written by the skillful Margaret Weis. This book really does stand apart from her other ones. The themes and the tones are different, more complex and interesting, closer to the ones of feminist fantasy writers like Marion Zimmer Bradley. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 25 2006 Finished: Mar 08 2006
Walden
by Henry David Thoreau (2004)
My review: When I finished this book I was so relieved. It is a hard book to read. Even if some of the ideas presented in the book are quite interesting, they are repeated and rehashed so many times that is hard to keep reading.. I think this is one of the few books that would greatly benefit from abridging. It is amazing, as a final remark, how modern and how closely related to modern society this book is. What was true then, seems to be even more true today: men work to cumulate treasures without having any time to live their life, men want to explore farther and farther without even starting to try to understand themselves. (★★)
Started: Feb 25 2006 Finished: Mar 11 2006
The Hours
by Michael Cunningham (2002)
My review: This book is an extraordinary literary achievement. It is the story of three women, each of them living in a different place and time. Their stories are though intertwined and the choices of one impact the one of the others. It is a story of depression, suicide and every day miracles that helps people to hold on and go on. Intended as a tribute to Virginia Woolf, this book manages to even surpass the original. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 12 2006 Finished: Mar 25 2006
Draconian Measures (Dragonlance: Kang's Regiment, #2)
by Don Perrin (2012)
My review: The Kang's regimen series is not one of the main books of the Dragonlance saga, but one of the many side plot lines. Surprisingly it is one of the best and most entertaining ones, and I strongly recommend it. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 26 2006 Finished: Mar 29 2006
Persuasion
by Jane Austen (2004)
My review: It is interesting to observe the evolution of the author (and of the English public) perception of nobility and self-made men through Austen's book. The critique of the British nobility was just hinted in Emma's book dedication, but is one of the central theme here. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2006 Finished: Apr 08 2006
The Dragon's Son (The Dragonvarld Trilogy, #2)
by Margaret Weis
My review: I enjoyed the book but the themes suddenly changed from the previous book. There is almost no mention of the intense love of Bellona and Melisande, almost as if the author was afraid to have risked too much in the previous book. This is a little disappointing. (★★★)
Started: Apr 09 2006 Finished: Apr 24 2006
The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1998)
My review: Some books that are meant for children turn out to be some of the most touching and powerful books ever written. This book is one of them. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 25 2006 Finished: Apr 28 2006
Hard Times
by Charles Dickens (2003)
My review: A powerful and captivating classic novel. It was meant to lure readers to purchase Dickens's weekly magazine. It worked, and even today it is hard to put down the book. It reminds me a little of Voltaire's Candid, a book meant to discredit a particular philosopher. Leibniz in the case of the French writer, Malthus and the materialists in this case. It is a very successful description of the Industrial English suburbs, of the horrors of the life of the "hands" and the hypocrisy of the new materialistic approach to life. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 29 2006 Finished: May 19 2006
Sword and Sorceress III
by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1986)
My review: I was very interested to learn more about the feminist fantasy movement. I discovered the existence and the historical importance of this movement only recently, even if I grew up reading novels of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Jennifer Robertson. This anthology of short stories is a good introduction. It is rather interesting that all the main authors belonging to this movement lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and I find rather intriguing to be living where my favorite childhood authors wrote the stories that kept me enthralled as a child. As a grown up I can now appreciate the courage of some of the plots, how the movement revolutionize a sexist and macho-oriented genre and helped bring forward the image of modern women, free to express themselves and pursue their dreams. (★★★★)
Started: May 20 2006 Finished: May 28 2006
As Meat Loves Salt
by Maria McCann (2003)
My review: If you never felt in love, get scared of it, and lost the person you loved, do not read this book, it won't make sense to you. If you have been driven mad by the loss, and you have tried to not let it go using your fingernails, losing it because of it for good... if the searing pain is not abated yet, do not read this book, because the demon of loss and despair will tear your soul apart. It is rare to find a book able to shake you deeply all the way to your core. This is one of them. This is the author first book. It is sometimes slow toward the middle, but the author is always adroit in communicating what is not said or admitted through the cunning use of powerful little gestures, word choices and signs. It is the final though that turn the book into a masterpiece and shows how such a talented writer Maria is. I am looking forward her next book. (★★★★★)
Started: May 29 2006 Finished: Jul 20 2006
Exit to Eden
by Anne Rampling (1996)
My review: I was given this book as a present from a friend. I confess I was expecting something very different from the author of Interview with the Vampire. I was expecting the typical erotic tension of a gothic novel, but the book gives you a way more than that. I enjoyed it. It is the story of Lisa, a woman raised in a claustrophobic and moralist Catholic family that believes to have reached freedom escaping into a world of fetish. In reality the baggage of her childhood are still with her, as she soon realizes when she find herself unable to feel and love. A lot of people can probably relate to this story: the world is full of people that, at first, may seem sexually liberated, even daring, but that are still fighting their sense of guilt and inhibitions inside. (★★★)
Started: Jul 21 2006 Finished: Jul 28 2006
Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens (1998)
My review: This is the most interesting Dickens's book I've read so far. It is more modern in style: the "classic" omniscient narrator is here replaced by the main character himself, an snobbish anti-hero. It is a pleasant book, engaging, often humorous. The plot is pretty sad in itself, very autobiographical. I found it interesting in the its portrait of society and of its dynamics. As in Austen's Persuasion, the book describes an interesting change in English society, the moment in time when people were suddenly able to raise themselves in society, being rich without being born a noble. ()
Started: Jul 29 2006 Finished: Sep 19 2006
The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1)
by Lemony Snicket (1999)
My review: The book is extremely cynical and it presents life as a series of unfortunate events. This said, it was a fun book to read. I guess I'll end up reading the whole series. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 23 2006 Finished: Sep 24 2006
The Oathbound (Valdemar: Vows and Honor, #1)
by Mercedes Lackey (1988)
My review: The book reads like a series of short stories featuring the same characters. Despite the episodic structure, the book is quite entertaining. It's not the masterpiece of the female fantasy movement I was hoping for, but I enjoyed reading it. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 19 2006 Finished: Sep 29 2006
Oathbreakers (Valdemar: Vows and Honor, #2)
by Mercedes Lackey (1989)
My review: The book is less fragmented than the previous volume of the series, and as fun to read. It's not a masterpiece of the female fantasy movement, but I enjoyed reading it. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 29 2006 Finished: Oct 11 2006
The Red Badge of Courage and Other Stories
by Stephen Crane (2006)
My review: War stories are not my favorites, but I realize how interesting is to narrate the story of a man fighting a war. The demonic and godly nature of men fight within each soldier while the battle rage outside. What I found quite interesting was the realistic portrait of people feeling and behaviors during such major historical events. They are not Greek heroes, they are human, full of fears, weaknesses and courage. (★★)
Started: Oct 12 2006 Finished: Nov 29 2006
The Tao of Pooh
by Benjamin Hoff (2003)
My review: Well, he said at last, it is a very nice house, and if your own house is blown down, you must go somewhere else, mustn't you, Piglet? What would you do, if your house was blown down? Before Piglet could think, Pooh answered for him. He'd come and live with me, said Pooh, wouldn't you Piglet? (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2006 Finished: Dec 01 2006
The Story of the Night
by Colm Tóibín (2005)
My review: I read and really liked Toibin's Mothers and Sons a couple of years ago, hence I decided to read more of his work. I was not disappointed. He's a great storyteller, able to communicate in a very powerful way emotions and feelings. He's able to create extremely realistic and credible characters. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 02 2006 Finished: Dec 21 2006
Il cammino di Santiago
by Paulo Coelho (2001)
My review: Questo libro e' una accozzaglia enorme di superstizioni e insensataggini prive di senso. L'unico tema interessante che spicca tra deliri mistici e' quello dell'incapacita' dell'uomo di affrontare una sfida per paura di perderla e ritrovandosi cosi' costretto a non progredire. (★)
Started: Dec 22 2006 Finished: Dec 29 2006
Presagio triste
by Banana Yoshimoto (2003)
My review: Ho sempre amato Banana Yoshimoto per la sua capacita' di comunicare emozioni, stati d'animo e sentimenti con poche minimaliste pennellate. Questa e' la storia di Yayoi e del suo viaggio alla ricerca della sua memoria e vita perduta, ben conscia che cio' che trovera' nell'altra sponda di Lete distruggera' la sua vita com'era, ma che e' ormai impossibile evitare tale passo. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 29 2006 Finished: Dec 30 2006
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years, #1)
by Gregory Maguire (2000)
My review: I was expecting a fairy tale, a simple, unsophisticated book. I was quite surprised to discover that Wicked is something quite different. While the novel is quite entertaining and fun to read, it is a deep investigation of the nature of Evil and a metaphor of Nazi's Germany. Reality is perceived differently by people and History is written by the winners. This is a surprising literary accomplishment. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2006 Finished: Jan 06 2007
La misteriosa fiamma della regina Loana. Romanzo illustrato
by Umberto Eco (2004)
My review: In tutti I romanzi di Eco il protagonista principale e' sempre la storia, ricostruita nei minimi particolari, con precisione certosina. Questo libro non fa eccezione, e l'italia del fascismo e' la protagonista. A differenza dei precedenti romanzi pero', l'autore ha vissuto quel periodo storico. Di colpo il tutto si tinge di autobiografismo e la ricostruzione si colora di emozioni, desideri. Non e' piu' la storia degli storici, ma quella vissuta sulla propria pelle da ragazzini, ove le guerre si mescolano ai fumetti e i film alle cotte. Oltre al tema storico/autobiografico si innesta il tema portante del libro, quello della memoria, dei ricordi e dell'esperienze come elementi di definizione della persona. Questo e' uno dei romanzi piu' riusciti dell'autore, che consiglio vivamente. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 06 2007 Finished: Feb 03 2007
Dragons in the Archives: The Best of Weis & Hickman
by Margaret Weis (2004)
My review: I grew up reading Weis and Hickman's novels, hence even simple collections of stories like this one manage to stir something deep inside of me: the longing for many nights spent reading as a child, lost into fantastic worlds. Krynn's feels like home, the characters are childhood friends. This anthology collects many stories written in the past 20 years and they witness the creative path of the Dragonlance world. It feels like picking up an old photo album from my childhood. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 04 2007 Finished: Feb 09 2007
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)
by J.K. Rowling (2006)
My review: I liked reading the Harry potter saga, but this book was not one of the best. It is as entertaining as the previous ones, but it lacks originality, and it is quite similar to all the others. (★★★)
Started: Feb 08 2007 Finished: Feb 18 2007
Flesh and Blood
by Michael Cunningham
My review: Another incredible literary accomplishment by the author of The hours. The inter-personal relations between the characters, their internal growth and their shortcomings are told with unprecedented realism, sensibility and humanity. Each member of the Stassos family is so well-rounded, so painfully and cynically real, that page after page they become real in the mind of the reader. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 19 2007 Finished: Mar 29 2007
Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)
by Christopher Paolini (2005)
My review: It is just another fantasy book, with nothing too special about it. This said, it is quite entertaining. I was quite surprised to learn it was written by such a young writer, because the book is very readable and well-written. (★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2007 Finished: Apr 20 2007
The White Castle
by Orhan Pamuk (1998)
My review: The book reads, at first, as a classic novel. The first person narrator is the main characters, and everything is seen and described from his point of view. At first, the story is a reckoning of his misadventures (he was a 17th century Venetian, that was captured and enslaved by the Turks). Soon enough the book gets more intriguing. The unnamed Venetian is given in custody to the scholar Hoja, which physically resemble him to an almost sinister degree. The East and the West meet in Hoja's house. They start discussing science and philosophy. They discuss the mysteries of the mind, why we are what we are. Hoja's strongly believes that at the end the Christians European will prevail against the Turks thanks to technological superiority. He strongly recognizes the importance of science, and he laments that its importance is not understood by many others, that he labels "the fools". Discussion after discussion, the characters start to blur one into the other, they take the role of the other and at the end it is not even clear which one is the Turk and which one the Venetian. An incredible literary achievement. I am not surprised that the 2006 Nobel Prize for the literature was awarded to Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures". (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 22 2007 Finished: May 01 2007
The Overcoat
by Nikolai Gogol
My review: I had just started reading The Namesake (by Jhumpa Lahiri) when I decided to read this classic before reading further. This turn out to be quite hard to do: no bookstore had it and I managed to find a copy at a local library. It is quite an interesting short story to read. The story reminds me of some novel of Kafka, where the weak are crushed by the system for no reason and nothing is done to help them. The only think I did not really like was the ending, the almost gothic conclusion that does not really fit with the rest of the story. (★★★★)
Started: May 15 2007 Finished: May 15 2007
The Namesake
by Jhumpa Lahiri
My review: The namesake is the story of Gogol/Nikhil (and his family) and his coming to term with his cultural identity (and with his name): Gogol lives between two words: America and India. (★★★★)
Started: May 01 2007 Finished: Aug 11 2007
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger (2001)
My review: I was looking for a good book at the bookstore when one of my best friends told me that this book is a must read. As a result I picked it up.
I liked the idea of describing society though the eyes of somebody that does not fit into it, somebody unable to conform to a system that he perceives as contradictory, phony and hypocritical. Quite an interesting book. (★★★)
Started: Aug 12 2007 Finished: Aug 14 2007
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)
by J.K. Rowling (2007)
My review: I enjoyed to read the book, even if I did not really like the ending. The part I liked the most was to seeing how wise and powerful Dumbledore end up making unwise mistakes because of love. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 15 2007 Finished: Aug 19 2007
The Bridge of San Luis Rey
by Thornton Wilder
My review: The book starts with the death of 5 people during a bridge collapse. The rest of the book is dedicated to answers to the following questions: Why those people died? Was God punishing them? Was preventing them to do something? Was releasing them from suffering? Or it was just a random accident and our lives are not governed by some higher scheme? But if so what sense our lives and deaths have? Does it make sense to even ask those questions? These reflections are carried over in a fictional setting, quite entertaining to read. The author tries to avoid giving an answer, but it hints at a quite touching one towards the end. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 20 2007 Finished: Sep 01 2007
Oliver Twist
by Charles Dickens (2003)
My review: I would describe the book as a soap opera written at the beginning of the 19th century. The plot is masterfully crafted so that all the pieces at the end perfectly fit. The writing style is classic: an omniscient narrator tells you what to look at and how to interpret it. The author uses the plot as a way to describe and complain about the state of England and some of the "modern" laws (e.g. the Poor law). The story is witty and funny at times, and some descriptions of the city of London are breathtaking. This said, I did not like the xenophobic, sexist and classist innuendo of the book. I understand they were common in England at the time, but it really stains a book otherwise quite remarkable. (★★★)
Started: Sep 02 2007 Finished: Oct 22 2007
Master of Dragons (The Dragonvarld Trilogy, #3)
by Margaret Weis
My review: This is the last book of the Dragonvard trilogy. The first volume was quite interesting, but the following two volumes have been quite disappointing. (★★)
Started: Oct 23 2007 Finished: Oct 25 2007
Blackberry Wine
by Joanne Harris
My review: It was quite a surprise to discover that this book is in part a sequel of Chocolat: the story takes place in the same small town and some of the characters are the same, as a result you get to see what happened to them. It is quite a magical book, where millenniums old folklore and traditions, superstitions and myths are intertwined with the life of the characters. Remarkable. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 26 2007 Finished: Nov 12 2007
Interpreter of Maladies
by Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
My review: I enjoyed The Namesake, but this book is just astounding. A very deserved Pulitzer Prize, the book is a collection of short stories. What makes them special is the incredible ability of the author of portraying the characters with few adroitly placed strokes. The characters are realistic, credible and, as a result, the short stories are powerful and touching. They have a way to work their way into the reader hearts, moving him or her to tears. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 13 2007 Finished: Nov 21 2007
Nemesis
by Isaac Asimov (1990)
My review: I grew up reading Asimov's novels. It was strange to read one of his books after so many years, in the original language it was written. I devoured the book as I devoured his book when I was a child. Definitely a fun book. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 22 2007 Finished: Nov 27 2007
The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James (2003)
My review: I read this book slowly. I was quite surprised at first because nothing really seemed to happen. Then suddenly everything fall in place. Suddenly everything single word has so much meaning. The characters are vivid, realistic, complex, and alive. The psychological motivations of each act are adroitly communicated. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2007 Finished: Feb 16 2008
The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files, #1)
by Charles Stross (2006)
My review: The book is a collection of two related stories. The concepts behind them are quite interesting, but the execution of the first story (i.e. the atrocity archives) is not great. It is confusing and the plot flow does not work well at times. On the contrary the second story (i.e. Concrete Jungle) is great. The interesting ideas are finally used in a adroitly written geeky and fast paced story. The best way to describe this book I can think of is: Lovecraft meet Dilbert. (★★★)
Started: Feb 17 2008 Finished: Mar 03 2008
Il coperchio del mare
by Banana Yoshimoto (2007)
My review: Un'altro piccolo capolavoro di Banana Yoshimoto, una riflessione sul significato della nostra vita ed esistenza. A detta di Mari, siam candele nell'oscurita', presto il vento ci spegnera' e fara' sparire ogni nostra traccia. Ma Hajime le insegna che la vita va vissuta, i ricordi son fiori da raccogliere lungo la via, creando un profumato bouquet da portare con noi fino alla morte. Insegna a Mari che il vero orrore della vita e' l'avidita', la continua corsa alla richezza, che fa perder la capacita' di apprezzare le piccole cose e i nostri piccoli traguardi. Se tutti condividessero questa visione "l'oscurita' sarebbe spezzata per sempre da una grande luce, generata dalla luce di tutte le stelle unite, cosi' luminosa da essere visibile anche nell'ora piu' scura. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 04 2008 Finished: Mar 07 2008
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)
by Philip Pullman (2007)
My review: I was expecting a fun to read fantasy book, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this book is actually quite a literary masterpiece, with interesting reflections on the role of religion and philosophy. I am looking forward reading the next volumes of the series. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2008 Finished: Mar 30 2008
Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)
by Armistead Maupin (1994)
My review: A very accurate portrait of San Francisco in the 70s, when the heat of the summer of love was cooling down and before the AIDS days. At first each chapter reads like a funny stand alone story. In reality is a well thought paint stroke. And stroke after stroke, an incredibly powerful and accurate portrait emerge. The books was written before I was born, but I can still see and feel the Tales of the City's San Francisco in the city I live in today. The book made me understand it a little bit more, even if it is just a work of fiction. I am looking forward reading More tales of the city... (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 31 2008 Finished: Apr 05 2008
The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)
by Philip Pullman (2003)
My review: WOW, this was quite a surprise! I liked the first book, but this second installment is even better. Some of the themes that were just barely hinted in the previous book are now developed and extended. While the first volume was just an interesting fantasy tale, the second volume is a fantasy modern re-edition of the Romantic rebellion against the authority and traditions in the name of freedom and free will. A modern Paradise Lost. The pace is fast, it is really hard to put this book down (I finished it in 3 days even if I was working on my dissertation... as a result I practically haven't slept!), entertainingly and... it goes quite deeper than expected! I strongly recommended! (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 06 2008 Finished: Apr 09 2008
Il delirio di onnipotenza
by Cristiano Capuzzo (2008)
My review: Una piacevole sorpresa, un sorprendente thriller, capace di descrivere i desideri piu' turpi e violenti di un serial killer, e la gioia di vivere e la capacita' di sorridere di fronte alle avversita'. Una lettura consigliatissima. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 10 2008 Finished: May 06 2008
The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)
by Philip Pullman (2003)
My review: A great ending for this masterpiece, able to bridge fantasy and philosophy. Undoubtedly one of the best book of the century. As The Hours find its root in Mrs Dalloway and builds on it, similarly this trilogy find its root in Milton's Paradise Lost, as the starting point of a deep and enlightening reflection on human existence. (★★★★★)
Started: May 07 2008 Finished: Jul 04 2008
The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays
by Oscar Wilde (1985)
My review: I cannot stop thinking how many masterpieces Wilde would have produced if he was not being thrown in a jail because of homophobic laws. He was a genius, able to show to the people of his time how hypocritical they were, with wit and sensibility. Just amazing. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 06 2008 Finished: Aug 10 2008
Ricordi di un vicolo cieco
by Banana Yoshimoto (2006)
My review: Cinque racconti, cinque diverse persone che si ritrovano ad affrontare situazioni difficili, a lottare per dare un significato alla vita e ritrovare la felicita' (★★★)
Started: Sep 01 2008 Finished: Sep 10 2008
One Across, Two Down
by Ruth Rendell (2001)
My review: An interesting analysis of the transformation of a loser into a killer, tempered with clever witticisms. (★★)
Started: Sep 11 2008 Finished: Oct 09 2008
More Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #2)
by Armistead Maupin (1994)
My review: This is a very enjoyable book. After watching the TV series, and reading the first book, the characters are familiar. Beside the witty jokes and the familiar character, this work of fiction turns into a very accurate portrait of the San Francisco and America of the late 70s. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 10 2008 Finished: Oct 18 2008
Unaccustomed Earth
by Jhumpa Lahiri (2008)
My review: Jhumpa Lahiri shines the most when she works on short stories. She manages to capture and to describe with simple and delicate strokes, the feeling and the tragedies of her characters. While all the short stories are interesting, the last three really stand out. These intertwined stories shows reality as perceived through the eyes of the characters (similarly to what Pirandello does). What I particularly loved is the description of the inability of some of the characters to accept their feelings, the struggle between what is considered right and true happiness, between the American and the Indian soul of the characters. It is like Room with a view with a strong ABCD flavor. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 19 2008 Finished: Dec 28 2008
Further Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #3)
by Armistead Maupin
My review: The calamity-prone residents of 28 Barbary Lane are at it again in this deliciously dark novel of romance and betrayal. While Anna Madrigal imprisons an anchorwoman in her basement, Michael Tolliver looks for love at the National Gay Rodeo, DeDe Halcyon Day and Mary Ann Singleton track a charismatic psychopath across Alaska, and society columnist Prue Giroux loses her heart to a derelict living in San Francisco park. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2009 Finished: Jan 16 2009
The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #2)
by Lemony Snicket (1999)
My review: I received the first volume as a present, and it intrigued me. The style is quite unusual for a children book, and it has a dark cynical tone, but... I enjoyed it. Let's see how the story progresses in the next volumes. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2009 Finished: Jan 25 2009
Chie-chan e io
by Banana Yoshimoto (2008)
My review: Ho sempe amato i libri di Banana Yoshimoto, e anche quest'ultimo e' stata una piacevole lettura, ma devo dire che i piu' recenti volumi sfigurano a confronto ai suoi libri della giovinezza. Questa e' la storia di Kaori e Chie-chan, e del loro particolarissimo rapporto. (★★)
Started: Jan 26 2009 Finished: Feb 15 2009
Gentlemen and Players
by Joanne Harris
My review: Joanne Harris managed to awe me again, with this clever and amazing novel. I really enjoyed this book, the characterization and detailed analysis of the main character. The only thing I did not really find great was the final "shocking revelation", that, even if very surprising and unexpected, it is not really convincing. Despite that, it is another masterpiece of Joanne Harris, that I strongly recommend. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2009 Finished: Apr 27 2009
The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #3)
by Lemony Snicket (2000)
My review: A pleasant read, entertaining read. I guess I will have to get the next volumes to see what happens to the orphans. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 28 2009 Finished: May 04 2009
Mothers and Sons
by Colm Tóibín (2007)
My review: A collection of short stories, each of them is an in-depth investigations of the human interactions between mothers and sons. The focus is on their feelings, fears, and desires. As in Blackwater Lightship, the author demonstrates an astounding sensibility and understanding of human nature. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 19 2009 Finished: Jun 24 2009
Specimen Days
by Michael Cunningham
My review: A second masterpiece (after The Hours) by Michael Cunningham. In The hours the lives of three women are intertwined together. In Specimen days we follow three characters in three historical periods, in three apparently unrelated separate novels. The historical background of each story is a different New York: the horrors of the industrial revolution, the fears of the Post September 2001, and a post apocalyptic feature. In each story the same characters come back over and over again, struggling over and over to understand the truth, to see what is hidden behind the reality, and to discover it in awe. (★★★★)
Started: May 05 2009 Finished: Jun 25 2009
A Demon in My View
by Ruth Rendell (2000)
My review: I am usually not fond of thrillers and mysteries, but this is definitely a great exception. I received this book as a present from a friend that swear Ruth Rwndell is the best author on earth. I started reading the book and I was immediately captured by the deep psychological analysis of the characters. The reader can enter in the mind of the main character, a serial killer, understand his way of thinking, even relate and be sympathetic towards him. This is the kind of book that is impossible to put down once started, the kind of book you end up reading until an early hour in the morning to realize you need to be at work few hours later. I was almost at the end of the book, when I discovered that there was a typographic problem with it: the last 2 chapters were missing (and the first 2 were repeated instead). The book vendor was very kind and offered to substitute it but it turned out the book is out of print. I got a refund, but I was craving to read the end. I tried everywhere but I could not find the book. Finally I managed to find it at the public library and I just got to read the end. Finally! The conclusion is almost as good as the rest of the book, even if it fells a little rushed and sudden. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 27 2009 Finished: Jul 19 2009
The Caves of Steel (Robot, #1)
by Isaac Asimov (1991)
My review: I read many Asimov's books when I was a kid, and it has been quite interesting to read them again, in their original language. He was an adroit writer, able to capture the reader. I enjoyed this book, I was very surprised by the author continuous mentions to the bible (given his views on religion). (★★★)
Started: Jul 25 2009 Finished: Jul 31 2009
When You Are Engulfed in Flames
by David Sedaris (2008)
My review: Sedaris has a very peculiar sense of humor, and sometimes his funny stories turn out to be not as silly as he pretend they are. Great book, it made me laugh out loud more than once. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 01 2009 Finished: Aug 05 2009
Homeland (Forgotten Realms: The Dark Elf Trilogy, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #1)
by R.A. Salvatore (2005)
My review: When I was young, I always brought with me a pile of books every time I was going on vacation. Many were beach-friendly light reads, fantasy novels. Given that I was again headed to a beach vacation for the first time after many years I bought this one. It was like traveling back in time. There is nothing better than sun, beach, warm ocean and a fantasy book to read while lulled by the sounds of the waves. Regarding this book in particular, it really reads like a prequel. I have the strong feeling that the author wrote a book that was successful and then later decide to add a prequel to ride the success of the previous books. It is a fun book, but there is nothing special. I'll read the following to see if it gets better. (★★)
Started: Aug 06 2009 Finished: Aug 12 2009
The Naked Sun (Robot, #2)
by Isaac Asimov (1991)
My review: I read many Asimov's books (translated in Italian) when I was young, and I used to love them. I recently started to read them again, in English, and he was clearly a master of mass market (sci-fi) novels. His books are hard to put down. Many of his ideas now are clique, but they weren't at the time. The only disturbing part is to see some sexist comment in the book. Maybe Asimov was not sexist, maybe it was "normal" to treat female differently at the time, but I still find it quite disturbing. (★★★)
Started: Sep 01 2009 Finished: Sep 26 2009
Dragons of the Highlord Skies (Dragonlance: The Lost Chronicles, #2)
by Margaret Weis (2007)
My review: I was traveling to Japan to attend a conference and I wanted something easy and relaxing to read while traveling. This was perfect. The characters are familiar (I literally grew up reading Weis and Hickman books). A fun read, even if the ending is disappointing, and the turn of the event is often unjustified and illogical. (★★)
Started: Sep 26 2009 Finished: Oct 01 2009
Exile (Forgotten Realms: The Dark Elf Trilogy, #2; Legend of Drizzt, #2)
by R.A. Salvatore
My review: I was traveling to Japan to attend a conference and I wanted something easy and relaxing to read while there. This was a perfect candidate. Unfortunately, as the previous book of the series, the story is not that great. It really does feel like a prequel written poorly and quickly to leverage on the success of the previously very successful books. It was entertaining, but I won't recommend it. I will keep reading at this point, hopefully I'll get soon to one of the good ones. (★)
Started: Oct 02 2009 Finished: Oct 05 2009
The Robots of Dawn (Robot #3)
by Isaac Asimov (1994)
My review: In the third volume of Asimov's "Robot" series all the characters of the previous books (Elijah, Daneel, Gladia) are back. The book was written more than 20 years after the first two, and it shows. It is quite interesting to witness the cultural changes occurred in those 2 decades while reading the books. While I was reading the first two volumes, I was quite surprised by the prevalent gender inequality in the "future" societies described in the books. It was rather funny to see the shortcoming of the Western world of the 50s in a "future society". In the third book, things are changed quite a lot. While the previous books were almost puritan, here sexuality is a central element. But while the author describe a society in which sex is quite free, he continues to make the point that sex without love is worthless. It come out a little bit hypocritical: on one side he speaks about free sex to lure readers, on the other he judges it. Anyway, there has been huge social progress in this 20 years, and the progress is astonishing and clear when you read these books. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 06 2009 Finished: Nov 05 2009
Day of the Dragon (WarCraft, #1)
by Richard A. Knaak (2001)
My review: I was expecting quite a bad book, given that it was inspired by a videogame. It turned out to be quite a good book. Yes, granted, is not a masterpiece, but I enjoyed reading it quite a lot. The only things I did not like is that the Demon Soul reminds me of the One Ring. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2009 Finished: Dec 09 2009
Magic's Promise (Valdemar: Last Herald-Mage #2)
by Mercedes Lackey (1990)
My review: The hero of this story is Vanyel, a young man, completely crashed and lost after the tragic loss of his love. Unfortunately for him, there is no time to mourn the loss, he is catapulted in the middle of a multi national crisis involving magic, murder, and a young man, Tashir, that just discovered enormous powers inside himself. In the background, young Vanyel and his family come to terms with their differences. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 10 2009 Finished: Dec 19 2009
Magic's Price (Valdemar: Last Herald-Mage #3)
by Mercedes Lackey (1990)
My review: This is the final chapter of Vanyel's trilogy. Vanyel is now powerful and treated with awe by everybody, but his life is a hell, because he knows that the enemy will attack everybody he loves to get to him (given that they can hardly get at him directly). A very strong sense of duty keep him going until a young bard enter in his life, teaching him to love again. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 20 2009 Finished: Dec 31 2009
Babycakes (Tales of the City, #4)
by Armistead Maupin
My review: We are back to 28 Barbary Lane, San Francisco, following the adventure of Mary Ann, Brian, Mouse and Mona. It's the forth book, and all the character are now so familiar, that they do feel like family. This is, so far, the best written book of the series, Maupin really improved his writing skills over the year (and he was great to start with). The story flows very smoothly now and it's adroitly crafted so that everything falls in place without forcing events. As a result the story feel credible and real. The story takes place during the AIDS years. Mouse is mourning the loss of Jon, Mona is looking for a new life in Seattle, Brian wants a baby to give a meaning to his life, and Mary Ann tries hard to balance married life with her career. A quite amazing snapshot of a San Francisco of the end of the last millennium, witty and touching at the same time. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2010 Finished: Jan 16 2010
Sojourn (Forgotten Realms: Dark Elf Trilogy, #3; Legend of Drizzt, #3)
by R.A. Salvatore (2006)
My review: I love fantasy, D&D, and I was told that the Drizzt series is quite a good one. Unfortunately, as for the previous books in the series, the story is not that great. It really does feel like a prequel written poorly and quickly to leverage on the success of the previously very successful books. It was entertaining, but I won't recommend it. I will keep reading at this point, hopefully I'll get soon to one of the good ones. (★★)
Started: Jan 17 2010 Finished: Feb 01 2010
A Sight for Sore Eyes
by Ruth Rendell (2000)
My review: I started reading the book and I was immediately captured by the deep psychological analysis of the main character, Teddy, a psychopath. The author led the reader in Teddy's mind. Suddenly it is easy to understand his way of thinking, and even relate and be sympathetic towards him. This is the kind of book that is impossible to put down once started, the kind of book you end up reading until an early hour in the morning to realize you need to be at work few hours later. (Spoiler alert, stop reading now if you want to read this book). What bothered me is that the author clearly felt the need to punish her character at the end. The book starts as a completely objective analysis of Teddy, but the ending is a subjective moral judgement of his character. While we all agree with the author, the conclusion goes against the premises of her work and taints her achievement. (★★★★)
Finished: Feb 02 2010
Lord of the Clans (WarCraft, #2)
by Christie Golden
My review: I usually stay away from video-game inspired books. They tend to capitalize on the success of the game and end up being horrible books. That's why this book was such a pleasant surprise. The books tells the story of Thrall, an enslaved Orc, raised by intolerant and racist humans to use him as a weapon. It is the story of an oppressed Race that finds the strength to fight for the right of self-determination and for freedom. I really enjoyed, I strongly recommend it. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 12 2010 Finished: Feb 14 2010
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
by J.K. Rowling (2008)
My review: A collection of fairy tales taking place in the Harry Potter universe. The book very short (done-reading-in-30-minutes short), but it is relatively entertaining. The highlight of the book are the Dumbledore's commentaries: the author get back at the fundamentalists that accused her books of introducing kids to witchcraft. Profits from the book sales goes to a non-profit organization aimed at helping child in need. (★★★)
Started: Feb 18 2010 Finished: Feb 18 2010
The Charioteer
by Mary Renault (2003)
My review: This is the story of Laurie, an injured world war II soldier, recovering from his injuries in a hospital. While there he meets a Quaker and conscience objector, Andrew, whom he slowly falls in love with. The love is strictly platonic, both men haven't even come to terms with their homosexuality, or even realized that they are gay. Then Laurie meets his school senpai, his never confessed first love. It is at this point that the story become quite interesting (after a very slow start) in the discovery of the humanity and fragility of each character. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 19 2010 Finished: Mar 21 2010
The Last Guardian (WarCraft, #3)
by Jeff Grubb
My review: This is the story of the apprenticeship of Khadgar under Medivh, a powerful and revered mage, vested with the title and the power of guardian of Tirisfal. Mysterious events in the background appears to be linked: demons murder mages, orcs are suddenly appearing out of nowhere. The storytelling is quite good, it is hard to put the book down. The story is interesting, but nothing more can be said. (★★★)
Started: Mar 22 2010 Finished: Mar 27 2010
The Crystal Shard (Forgotten Realms: Icewind Dale, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #4)
by R.A. Salvatore (2007)
My review: This is the book that started the legend of Drizzt (interestingly enough, Drizzt is not the main character in here). The book is definitely more compelling and interesting than each of all the three prequel books that I have read so far. I like the message the book sends to young reader: judge people by their actions and by what they are, not by insignificant characteristics like the color of the skin, or their nationality, etc. Free yourself of all the inherited traditional biases and preconceptions. Enjoyable book. (★★★)
Started: Mar 28 2010 Finished: Apr 02 2010
The Master
by Colm Tóibín (2005)
My review: Like Michael Cunningham in The Hours, Colm Toibin captures the extraordinary mind and heart of a great writer. Beautiful and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of a man born into one of America's first intellectual families who leaves his country in the late nineteenth century to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers. In stunningly resonant prose, Toibin captures the loneliness and the hope of a master of psychological subtlety whose forays into intimacy inevitably failed those he tried to love. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 03 2010 Finished: May 09 2010
Streams of Silver (Forgotten Realms: Icewind Dale, #2; Legend of Drizzt, #5)
by R.A. Salvatore (2007)
My review: The original Drizzt trilogy is rather entertaining (and this cannot be said of the later "prequel" volumes). Even if there is nothing really groundbreaking and unique, it is a fun and enjoyable read. It also teaches young reader to go beyond society biases and to judge people by their actions and character. (★★★)
Started: May 10 2010 Finished: May 16 2010
Winds of Fate (Valdemar: Mage Winds #1)
by Mercedes Lackey (1992)
My review: I have been slowly reading Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar book series in order of publication. With this book her writing style and skills have reached maturity. The story flows really well, the characters are surprisingly human, more fascinating because of their limitations and short-falling than for their magic powers. The book uses all the tricks of modern fiction to capture the reader and it is very hard to put down. While very entertaining and well written, there is something missing when compared with her less polished and rougher earlier work. Her earlier work was strongly influenced by / part of the feminist fantasy movement and that made her work more controversial, less mainstream and less easy to sell, but intriguing, interesting and deeper. The fantasy world was used as a setting to investigate real-world issues, or as utopia, a world to look forward to. I really hope these (difficult) themes will come back in her later books. (★★★)
Started: May 17 2010 Finished: Jun 06 2010
The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age, #1)
by David Gaider (2009)
My review: A good read for fans of Dragon Age origins. It explores the history of Ferelden before the beginning of the videogame. This is the story of Prince Maric, the son of the Rebel queen, fighting to get back the throne that was taken from his grandfather by the Orlaisian Emperor. It is rather a sad story, of people sacrificing their love and repressing their feelings in order to perform what they believe to be their duty. Entertaining. (★★★)
Started: Jun 07 2010 Finished: Jun 29 2010
Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire, #3)
by Isaac Asimov (2010)
My review: This book made me understand why Isaac Asimov is considered one of the fathers of science fiction. The book is impossible to put down: I found myself staying up all night to see how it ends. On top of being so entertaining, the book also explores interesting themes like xenophobia, and how Religion ("customs" and "traditions" in the book) can potentially be used to enslave people. I recently read Asimov's Robot's series (that was fun, but not that special), and this is by far superior. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 30 2010 Finished: Jul 02 2010
The Well of Eternity (WarCraft: War of the Ancients, #1)
by Richard A. Knaak (2004)
My review: Rhonin and Krassus (previously featured in "day of the dragon") and Broxigar (an orc working under Thrall, previously featured in "the lord of the clans") separately start investigating a strange and potentially dangerous magic anomaly. The three heroes end up being thrown back in time (just in time to catch the first attempt of Sargas to destroy the world with his burning legions). The book brings together familiar characters from some of the previous Warcraft books. While it is not necessary to read those books before, it certainly helps. The book is fun to read and explore the history of Azeroth. Finally some of the WoW missions are more understandable. This said, the story does not flow naturally: some of the character actions are clearly aimed at pushing the story in a particular direction, but they are often not credible and unnatural. (★★★)
Started: Jul 03 2010 Finished: Jul 09 2010
The Halfling's Gem (Forgotten Realms: Icewind Dale, #3; Legend of Drizzt, #6)
by R.A. Salvatore (2008)
My review: In the third volume of the (original) series, Drizzt, Wulfgar, Cattie-Brie, and Bruenor give chase to the assasin Entreri to save their friend Regis. Entertaining and well written, the third volume focuses on racial (and other types of) bias, and teaches the reader to go beyond the stereotypes that society feed to us. It also focus on the adverse effect of xenophobia (and any other type of prejudice) on the victims and their self-respect. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2010 Finished: Jul 24 2010
Significant Others (Tales of the City Series, Vol. 5)
by Armistead Maupin (1994)
My review: Every volume of Tales of the City is a portrait of San Francisco in a particular moment in time. Each volume captures the dreams, the fears, the atmosphere of the city, and recreates the struggles and the achievements on the time. The actors are, as always, the loved inhabitants of Barbary lane. The settings are San Francisco in the 80s, AIDS, and the new and old struggles of family life (love, career, infidelity, and compromise). Enjoyable read, bitter sweet and wise. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 01 2010 Finished: Aug 15 2010
By the Sword
by Mercedes Lackey (1991)
My review: By The Sword is the story of Kerowyn, the granddaughter of Kethry and Tarma (appeared in the previous book "OathBound" and "OathBreakers"). Kerowyn is a smart intelligent and strong young woman that does not fit at all the model of the "noble women" in her country. Kerowyn slowly understand that her happiness and self-worth is more important of social acceptance by a narrow-minded set of individuals. The feminist themes of the last century american fantasy feminist movement (e.g. Marion Zimmer Bradley) are still there, but softened and made more palatable to the mainstream readers. Entertaining, but not daring as some of Lackey's previous books. (★★★)
Started: Sep 01 2010 Finished: Sep 15 2010
The Legacy (Forgotten Realms: Legacy of the Drow, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #7)
by R.A. Salvatore (2006)
My review: All the characters of the previous books are back in this installment of the Dark Elf series that made Salvatore one of the most famous fantasy writers of the 20th century. Drizzt, Brueneor, and Regis are preparing for the marriage of Cattie-brie and Wulfgar, when some of the enemies of the past (Entreri, Drizzt's surviving siblings) come back when least expected. This is one of the worst books of the dark elf saga. The book appeal is in its familiar characters and settings. (★★)
Started: Sep 16 2010 Finished: Oct 09 2010
The Night Watch
by Sarah Waters
My review: The Night Watch is the story of four commoners in World War II London, coping with personal and historical tragedies during air raids, black-outs and rationing. It is a story of loss, illicit affairs, desperation, hope, and love. Historical novels and movies have the tendency to be epic, to turn the characters into heroes, events into epics. As a result it is hard to identify with the characters, to understand what was like to live those events. The Night Watch does not fall in that trap. Its WWII London and its characters are just commoners, with common weaknesses, hopes, fears and tragedies. As a result it is impossible to not identify with them. It is impossible to not experience all the horrors, the destruction, the fears they experience, or not to share their hopes or their joy for historically insignificant but extremely real events. The result is an extremely powerful novel, able to shake the reader to the core. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 10 2010 Finished: Dec 04 2010
The Demon Soul (WarCraft: War of the Ancients, #2)
by Richard A. Knaak (2004)
My review: While the first volume of the trilogy did not flow smoothly, this second volume does not have the same issues and is quite entertaining and fast paced. While Malfurion Stormrage and his brother, along with Rhonin, Krasus, Brox and Tyrande fight with all the night elves against the demons of the burning legion that are devastating Azeroth, the dragons, guided by Neltharion, are working on a powerful artifact to stop the demons. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 05 2010 Finished: Dec 27 2010
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
by David Sedaris (2004)
My review: A collection of witty, sarcastic, and funny short stories about the author and his family. Sedaris cynicism will not fail to bring a smile on the reader face. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 30 2010 Finished: Jan 07 2011
The Stars, Like Dust (Galactic Empire, #1)
by Isaac Asimov (2009)
My review: This book was quite a disappointment. I really enjoyed the previous volume of the Empire series and I had high expectations. While very entertaining "The Star, Like Dust" has a quite uninteresting storyline. Some of the "twists" are so banal and stereotypical to make you yawn. I guess the book was less un-original in the 50s, but this book has very little to offer to a modern reader. My advice: if pick Asimov's Pebble in the Sky instead. (★★)
Started: Jan 08 2011 Finished: Jan 11 2011
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, #1)
by Lewis Carroll (2008)
My review: I started reading this book when I just started learning English. I found it too difficult at the time and I put it down. Almost 18 years later I started reading it again and it was quite an interesting surprise. I am still trying to find a sense out of it though. I should read the annotated version. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2010 Finished: Jan 22 2011
Of Blood and Honor (WarCraft, #0)
by Chris Metzen (2000)
My review: Warcraft: Of Blood and Honor is the forth novel set in Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft universe. It is the story of Tirion, a human paladin, that struggle with his belief system. He comes to realize that he was prejudiced and biased. Even if it is a short story, it is quite entertaining and heart lifting. The Warcraft book series has been full of unexpected surprises. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 20 2011 Finished: Jan 29 2011
Starless Night (Forgotten Realms: Legacy of the Drow, #2; Legend of Drizzt, #8)
by R.A. Salvatore (2008)
My review: In this volume Drizzt goes back to his homeland, to meet many of the enemies that he thought he had left behind. I was not crazy for the previous volumes of this fantasy series, but this volume is definitely more entertaining than the previous ones. Even if some of the premises and the morals of the story are weak, it is quite enjoyable and fun to read. (★★★)
Started: Jan 30 2011 Finished: Feb 09 2011
The Annotated Alice: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, And, Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll (1970)
My review: This volume contains both Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking-glass, along with annotations by well-known mathematician Martin Gardner. I read few months ago the first story with no annotations, and, even if I liked it, I felt like I was missing something. There are a lot of historical and cultural references that are impossible to get if you are not a Victorian England expert. One of my colleagues came to the rescue and borrowed me this version of the book, and, what a difference those annotation made! It was like reading a different book. Even more interesting was the critical introduction, that really changed my perception of it. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson had a strong fascination for young girls, that was apparently common during the Victorian times. The author cultivated his friendships with his young friends, created stories full of wonders and references to nursery rhymes to fascinate them. The book has plenty of this, mixed with a sense of sorrow at the realization that the child-friends are growing fast and with fear that they are going to forget the author. It is definitely quite an interesting book. I strongly recommend an annotated version to truly understand it and appreciate it. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 10 2011 Finished: Mar 05 2011
The Sundering (WarCraft: War of the Ancients, #3)
by Richard A. Knaak (2005)
My review: I am quite surprised that a book series based on a popular videogame turned out to be so entertaining and enjoyable. In this action packed, fast paced final chapter the beloved characters from the previous war of the ancients trilogy find themselves facing the burning legion, Deathwing, and the ancient Gods at once. On their side the dragons, including the Aspects, and all the semi-gods. The world of Azeroth will dramatically change, sundered into pieces. A good read for the lovers of fantasy even if they never played the videogame. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 06 2011 Finished: Mar 18 2011
Dragons of the Hourglass Mage (Dragonlance: The Lost Chronicles, #3)
by Margaret Weis (2009)
My review: The Dragonlance books will always have a special place in my heart. I used to read them when I was a kid. I still remember many summer days spent outdoors, protected by the hot sun rays by an old silk tree, with my nose in one of the book of the series. I would spend hour after hour lost in those pages, until it was too dark to read or it was time for dinner. Reading this book was like falling back in time. I was no longer in my San Francisco apartment, but I was back again in that field in Italy, under that Silk tree, caressed by the hot Italian sun, surrounded by green walls of flowers. It did not really matter that the story is actually not that great, or that some of the plot twists are forced and do not really make sense. What it matters is to find again those characters that I loved so much and I grew up with, to witness again their adventures. This book is certainly one of the least original of the whole saga, but it is at the same time one of the most touching and powerful. Even if the plot is simple and does not flow smoothly, it manages to bring back the kid that so avidly read all those books in his youth many years ago. It brought me the joy and the happiness of that time, and the bitter realization that those times are over. Reading the last pages was saying goodbye to the characters that saw me grew up, and to that kid that spent so many days with his nose in those books. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 19 2011 Finished: Apr 04 2011
The Currents of Space (Galactic Empire, #2)
by Isaac Asimov
My review: The story take place on the word of Florinia, the only source in the universe of precious kyrt. The inhabitant are subjugated and kept in ignorance by the Sarkite. Things start to change when a scientist is found on Sark with his memories wiped because dangerous for the universe balance. Asimov wrote some extraordinary books, as well as some so-and-so ones. This book sits in the middle. It is well-written and quite entertaining, but it is not as memorable or powerful as others like pebble in the sky. (★★★)
Started: Apr 05 2011 Finished: Apr 16 2011
Siege of Darkness (Forgotten Realms: Legacy of the Drow, #3; Legend of Drizzt, #9)
by R.A. Salvatore (2008)
My review: In this installment of the legend of the drow series, Drizzt, Cattie-brie, Bruenor and their many allies found themselves involved in a mayor war against an invading drow army led by Matron Baenre. Old enemies and allies from the past resurface changing the battle outcome when least expected. Book 9 is more engaging and more epic than the previous ones. (★★★)
Started: Apr 17 2011 Finished: May 17 2011
Cycle of Hatred (World of WarCraft, #1)
by Keith R.A. DeCandido
My review: The frail alliance between the orcs and the human in Durotar is shaky and some forces are working to destabilize them even more. Lady Proudmore and Thrall appears to be the only one believing in it. Even if the scale of the events of the story is not as epic as the one the previous volumes got us used to, the plot is quite intriguing and this short book is quite hard to put down once started. (★★★)
Started: May 18 2011 Finished: May 21 2011
Passage to Dawn (Forgotten Realms: Legacy of the Drow, #4; Legend of Drizzt, #10)
by R.A. Salvatore (2008)
My review: In this volume Drizzt follows Catti-brie south on the sword coast. They join the anti-pirate Captain Deudermont's boat, the Sea Sprite. An enemy from the past, Errtu, helped by the Goddess Loth, is plotting revenge against the dark elf, and disrupts the heroes life again. Assisted by one of the lunatic mages of the Harpel family, Drizzt, Catti-brie and Capitan Deudermont find themselves looking for a mysterious island in the middle of the ocean. The book is entertaining, but there's nothing really original or noticeable to be said about it. (★★)
Started: May 22 2011 Finished: May 26 2011
March
by Geraldine Brooks (2006)
My review: In this Pulitzer prize winner book, Geraldine Brooks follows the steps that led Mr. March (the father of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women) to leave his family behind to join the anti-slavery Union cause during the America Civil War. The story told by Mr. March is drastically different from the optimistic child tale we are accustomed to. The moral certainties and optimistic views of Little Women are shattered in this extremely honest and sincere portrait of a country at war with itself. The horrors of slavery, war, and the weaknesses and hypocrisies of the human nature are exposed and laid bare for the reader to see. But the book is not only an incredible historical portrait of the Civil War, it is also a psychological novel focusing on the complex marriage of a man that struggle to live up to the person that he would like to be, and a courageous woman that has to bear the cost of her husband choices. (★★★★★)
Started: May 27 2011 Finished: Jun 12 2011
Maybe the Moon
by Armistead Maupin (1993)
My review: Armistead Maupin take a break from his beloved "Tales of the city" characters and San Francisco to the sunnier South California. This book is a fictional diary of Cady, a little person, that even if talented, has an hard time to find a job in Hollywood because of her height. The book is a joy to read, fun and witty, and I strongly recommend it. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 13 2011 Finished: Jun 23 2011
Winds of Change (Valdemar: Mage Winds, #2)
by Mercedes Lackey (1993)
My review: The story is entertaining and never boring, but it feels episodic, almost as if it was serialized on a newspaper. I like the settings and the characters created by the author, but this series is not as epic and powerful as the previous two set in the same world of Valdemar. Princess Elspeth has reached K'Sheyna vale to find the long lost gift of magic and to fight Ancar of Hardon. Unfortunately things in the vale are not easy, even after the defeat of the legendary Falconsbane. The magic node at the center of the vale is unstable, and Skif and Nyara, Elspeth and Darkwind must come to term with their feelings. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 24 2011 Finished: Aug 01 2011
The Strain (The Strain Trilogy, #1)
by Guillermo del Toro (2010)
My review: I had very little expectations when I started this book. Even if Del Toro is a great movie director, I had no idea how good a writer he could be: books are a completely different medium. Moreover books with two authors tend to be worse (on average). Well, it may not have a groundbreaking plot, but it's really a page turner, it is impossible to put down once you start it. I burn through the first 200 pages in 2 working days. Unfortunately, the book at the end feel like a screenplay more than a book. Many little scene are stitched together creating a relatively thin plot. Too little focus is given to the main characters: a lot of space is given to side scenes to build the atmosphere, really little to character development. (★★★)
Started: Aug 02 2011 Finished: Aug 10 2011
Winds of Fury (Valdemar: Mage Winds #3)
by Mercedes Lackey (1994)
My review: The final volume of the Mage Winds trilogy is more epic and hard to put down than the previous two. It reference quite often the Mage Wars trilogy, that I recommend to read beforehand. In this book Elspeth, Darkwind, and Firesong are back to a Valdemar that has lost its magic shield protection and it is being attacked by Ancar of Hardon and Falconsbane. The only hope Valdemar survival is a stealth attack to the heart of the enemy kingdom. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 14 2011 Finished: Sep 22 2011
The Fall (The Strain Trilogy, #2)
by Guillermo del Toro (2011)
My review: The second volume of the strain trilogy is a page turner as the first one: it is impossible to put down once you start it. One of the problem I had with The Strain was that it felt more like a screenplay than a book. The plot was thin and too little focus was given to the main characters: a lot of space was given to side scenes to build the atmosphere, really little to character development. The Fall is a little better on this respect, there is more space for the plot to thicken and develop. There is no real character development, but this is a fast paced action book, and it delivers on that regard. (★★★)
Started: Sep 22 2011 Finished: Oct 14 2011
The Silent Blade (Forgotten Realms: Paths of Darkness, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #11)
by R.A. Salvatore (2009)
My review: In the 11th volume of the Dark Elf series, Drizzt, Catti-Brie, Bruenor and Wulfgar travel South to try to destroy the evil Crystal Shard. Along the way Wulfgar has to confront the internal daemons born during his ordeal as a prisoner, Artemis has to come to terms with his new old life, and Jarlaxle is extending his reach further toward the surface. I liked this book, the plot is fast paced and entertaining, but some parts of it really troubled me: I did not like the unjustified use of violence, and the use of hateful language. (★★★)
Started: Oct 15 2011 Finished: Oct 28 2011
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)
by Charlaine Harris (2001)
My review: I really like the HBO True Blood TV series, and I decided to read the book that inspired it. The book was as entertaining as the show, and there are enough differences here and there to surprise you even if you have seen it already on TV. The only troubling part of the book is the killing of three "evil" vampire, burned alive by a mob angry humans. The author seems to find it acceptable, she seems to suggest that is OK for common citizens to bypass the police and justice system and kill whose that are "evil" and their behavior "unacceptable" in their eyes. She even said that those three vampires "asked for it" because of the way they behaved. (★★)
Started: Oct 29 2011 Finished: Nov 06 2011
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
by Mark Twain (1965)
My review: I started readying this short story to celebrate Mark Twain's 176th birthday. Despite the almost nonexistent / extremely thin plot, the story is funny and is able to get even modern readers to smile. The ending really surprised me: I was expecting something to happen, the main plot to begin, while it just ends abruptly, leaving me to wonder if I downloaded only a sample of the story by mistake. (★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2011 Finished: Dec 01 2011
Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy, #1)
by Ken Follett (2010)
My review: It has been a while since I enjoyed so much reading a book. This impossible to put down book follows the interrelated stories of 5 families at the time of the first world war. History is lived through the fictional but historically accurate lives of the characters, German, British and Russian proletarians and nobility. It's mesmerizing to observe empires, political and social systems that have been existing for centuries crumble into dust, and to see a new world order emerging from the ashes of what it was, from all the destruction and the millios of deaths. The book made me realize how much social progress toke place in such a short time span, it made me grateful and appreciative of everything I have, and gave me hope for an even better future. Thanks for all those who fought for justice and democracy, and gave their life to give all of us a better world to live in.
Learn more in this blog post: http://goo.gl/uA4Hh3 (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2011 Finished: Dec 11 2011
Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles, #1)
by Anne Rice (1991)
My review: I have heard so much about this book that I finally decided to read it. Some of the themes of the book have been re-used and re-invented by other authors and they do not feel anymore as original as they probably were, and because of it I was a little disappointed. The book is the story of Louis and his long (pretty unsuccessful) struggle to come to term with his Vampire nature. It's also the disturbingly fascinating story of Claudia, a young kid turned into a vampire, slowly growing into a woman forever trapped inside a body cursed to never age. (★★★)
Started: Dec 12 2011 Finished: Dec 24 2011
Jumping Frog
by Mark Twain (1998)
My review: Mark Twain's "The Jumping Frog" was quite popular after publication and it was translated in many languages. Upon discovering a French translation of this story, Twain back-translated the story into English, word for word, retaining the French grammatical structure and syntax. He then published all three versions again, with humorous results. (★★★)
Started: Dec 24 2011 Finished: Dec 24 2011
Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks
by Ken Jennings
My review: I was given this book as a present, and I started reading it on a plane, with very little expectations. I was quite pleased to discover that the book was quite entertaining and full of interesting trivia, a perfect book to read while on a plane. Maphead is about geography, maps, and map wonks. It starts describing the history and role of maps in the ancient world, but soon it focuses on the lust for discovery and exploration of the unknown. It finishes speaking about today's explorers, stuck in an already charted world, trying to re-create the joy of discovery hiding artificial geo-caches or looking for arbitrary points in the map. (★★★)
Finished: Jan 03 2012
Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, #2)
by Charlaine Harris (2004)
My review: Reading Sookie Stackhouse novels is always a pleasure. Charlaine Harris definitely knows how to entertain and capture the attention of the reader. There is no real substance in the book, and some parts feels quite hypocritical. For example I have the distinct impression that the author enjoy having crazy orgies and sexual promiscuity in her plot, because this fact make her feel "modern, and cool", but at the same time she feel the need to be very judgmental about it. This said, despite all the shortcoming, I really really enjoyed the book and I can't wait to read the next one. It's like eating chocolate: you know it may be not so good for you, but you can't stop eating it. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2012 Finished: Jan 16 2012
The Spine of the World (Forgotten Realms: Paths of Darkness, #2; Legend of Drizzt, #12)
by R.A. Salvatore (2009)
My review: The 12th chapter of the legend of Drizzt series focuses on Wulfgar's fight against his inner demons and Melinda, a farm girl whose beauty stole the heart of the Lord of her fiefdom. The two stories proceed in parallel until the two characters cross their path almost at the end of the book. I did not like how easily the main characters were ready to kill in some of the previous chapters of the series. Monster were killed because they were monsters, not as a result of some evil action, or for self defense. I was very pleased to see this change in this book. Both the main characters stray from the right path and find themselves on the other side of the justice. People made mistakes, but they can redeem themselves if given a chance. And justice can be as evil as the crime that it tries to correct, if this lesson is forgotten. (★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2012 Finished: Jan 29 2012
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
by Suzanne Collins (2008)
My review: Suzanne Collins really knows how to write an impossible to put down book. I literally spent every free second reading the book for few days in a row, losing precious hours of sleep reading it. I was afraid I was going to get in trouble with my sweet half, but he started the book at the same time, and got even more addicted than me, so I guess things worked out at the end. This is not the type of book that shake you to the core, it has not a great message or lesson to deliver. It is just an action packed thrilling ride, where each single chapter finishes with a cliffhanger, and each page make you want to read more and more. It's not the kind of book that make you a better person or help you in the path towards understanding, but it is pure enjoyment. For the curious, the Hunger Games is set in a post apocalyptic North America, where a central government keeps 12 districts in a state of semi-slavery. As a punishment for an ancient rebellion two kids from each district are selected each year and sent into a televised death match, where the only survivor is going to be declared the winner. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 30 2012 Finished: Feb 01 2012
Me Talk Pretty One Day
by David Sedaris
My review: Another painfully and shamelessly hilarious book by Sedaris, this time focusing on his life as an American in France, and on his linguistic problems. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 11 2012
Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)
by Suzanne Collins (2009)
My review: While still enjoyable and hard to put down, this is not as original as the first volume of the series. The plot is quite similar to the previous one and it really reads like an encore. This second installment does not focus entirelly on Katniss and Peeta survival at the games like the previous one, but more space is given to the oppression of the districts and to the growing tension and rebellion. (★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 16 2012
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)
by Suzanne Collins (2010)
My review: This is a great conclusion for one of the most enjoyable book series of the decades. This third installment does not follow the format of the previous two books (that was getting already a little repetitive), but instead focus on Katniss rescued from the Quarter Quell, her willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay, no matter what the personal cost. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 16 2012
Sure of You (Tales of the City #6)
by Armistead Maupin
My review: The familiar Barbary Lane's characters are back, a little older. Reading this book feels like a high school re-union, where familiar faces trigger powerful memories, and we are faced with the realization that those time are gone, and time flew by. Michael moved to the Castro with his partner, living what would be a great life if not for the HIV virus in his blood. Mrs Madrigal and her daughter Mona travel to the Greek islands, and Mary Ann is given a great work opportunity that may strain her relationship with Brian. As always, Maupin excels in the deep psychological portrait of his characters, and his amazing ability to portray the spirit of San Francisco, its contradictions and inner turmoil at a particular moment in time. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 17 2012
Rendezvous with Rama (Rama, #1)
by Arthur C. Clarke (2006)
My review: Clarke was a skillful writer and a scientist, and this shows in his writing: the focus is on the science part of science fiction. This is why his plots are plausible and scientifically accurate, and incredibly fascinating. Rama is an extra-terrestrial artificial planet, coming from the depth of space toward Earth. The world is built inside a rotating cylinder, creating artificial gravity using inertia. The book reads like a (readable and entertaining) science article, were strange phenomena are explained using physics. It is also reads like a explorer journal, filling the reader with wonder and awe. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 29 2012
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)
by George R.R. Martin (2005)
My review: People were raving about the HBO TV series, so I decided to read the book. This first volume of the saga is incredible, it is heroic fantasy at its best. The plot is extremely complex, featuring intrigues between nobles and royal families, quite original and full of unexpected twists. (★★★★)
Started: May 01 2012 Finished: May 01 2012
Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth, #1)
by Terry Goodkind (2003)
My review: I decided to read the book, after I started watching "the legend of the seeker" TV series. The TV series is somewhat entertaining, but very episodic. It turns out that the TV show is a quite poor adaptation of a nice fun book. On the web there are plenty of reviews blasting this book for a wide variety of reasons (flat 1 dimensional character, not original plot, etc), but I enjoyed reading it. (★★★)
Finished: May 08 2012
Amber and Ashes (Dragonlance: The Dark Disciple, #1)
by Margaret Weis (2005)
My review: None of the beloved "classic" dragonlance characters (i.e. the one of the first two trilogies) are featured in this book. The only returning character is Mina, a mysterious woman that was first introduced in the War of Souls trilogy. The mysteries surrounding her nature and origin will be finally revealed in these books.
Amber and Ashes focuses on the latest attempt of Chemosh, the god of Death, to gain the control of the Dark pantheon with the help of Mina, and on a human monk and a kender mystic that get caught in the middle of it. The first volume is quite a lot of fun to read, but it is not as epic, powerful, or captivating as the original novels. There is really no comparison. (★★★)
Finished: May 26 2012
Amber and Iron (Dark Disciple #2)
by Margaret Weis (2011)
My review: The characters introduced in the first volume of the Dark Disciple trilogy return in Amber and Iron. Rhys and Nightshade continue to follow Lleu, to find a way to destroy Chemosh's curse. Mina continues to help the God of Death in his attempt to rule the dark pantheon, but the mysteries from her past starts to surface, shaking her to the core. As more gods get involved, the mysteries surrounding Mina nature and origin slowly unravel.
This is the best volume of the trilogy, the one I enjoyed reading the most. Despite that, it is not as epic, powerful, or captivating as the original dragonlance novels. There is really no comparison. (★★★★)
Started: May 30 2012 Finished: Jun 05 2012
A Scanner Darkly
by Philip K. Dick
My review: The book disguise itself as a science fiction story set in the near future, but in reality it is a fictionalized auto-biography of the author real-life experience in the 70s American drug subculture. The story is narrated by the main character, a cop in disguise investigating a new drug, called substance D. While investigating he became addicted and he starts suffering more and more severe brain damages. His perception of reality and his narrative became distorted, confusing. The result is extremely powerful and deeply disturbing, and, thanks to the autobiographical nature of the text, authentic. I will not lie, it is not the easiest read, but the book really succeeds in capturing the ordeal of a troubled community, its fall, its beliefs and paranoias. As such, it is a great literary achievements that all sci-fi fans should not miss. (★★★★)
Started: May 26 2012 Finished: Jun 12 2012
Amber and Blood (Dragonlance: The Dark Disciple, #3)
by Margaret Weis (2008)
My review: The characters introduced in the first two volume of the Dark Disciple trilogy return in Amber and Blood. Now that the divine nature of Mina is revealed, the gods of light and darkness try to get her to their side. This is the worst volume of the trilogy, it is quite dull, and it does not even seem written by the same author of the previous two volumes. (★★)
Started: Jun 01 2012 Finished: Jun 20 2012
Sea of Swords (Forgotten Realms: Paths of Darkness, #4; Legend of Drizzt, #13)
by R.A. Salvatore (2009)
My review: While Wulfgar slowly came to terms with his past and with his new life, Drizzt has to face a new enemy from his past. It is a simple story, but the characters are starting to get more rounded and interesting. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 01 2012 Finished: Jul 05 2012
Naked
by David Sedaris (1997)
My review: This book is a mixed bag of short typical Sedaris' stories. While some of them are hilarious, some are quite dull and boring (I was quite surprised by that, I previously enjoyed his other books). One of the stories is quite different from anything I ever read from the author. It narrates the last days of the author mother, soon to die of cancer. It is one of his best, touching and powerful. It may be not as funny as many of his others one, but it will bring tears to your eyes. That single little story alone, makes the book worth reading. (★★★)
Started: Jul 06 2012 Finished: Jul 19 2012
The Diary of Darcy J. Rhone (Darcy & Rachel, # 0.5)
by Emily Giffin
My review: This short story was available for free on the Google play store, and I decided to give it a try even if I did not know what type of books Emily Griffin writes. It turns out she writes romantic comedies, that it is definitely not what I usually enjoy reading. The main character is Darcy, a gorgeous and shallow girl. The author tries (and sometimes succeed) to make the reader smile focusing on Darcy's shortcomings, on her inappropriate words and actions. Unfortunately I can see many of these as tragically real and typical in teenagers (of any generation), and that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The smile dies on my lips when I heard jokes on real issues like teen bulimia or STDs. (★★)
Started: Jul 28 2012 Finished: Jul 28 2012
The Night Eternal (The Strain Trilogy, #3)
by Guillermo del Toro (2011)
My review: I found the previous two volumes of the strain trilogy a little disappointing: despite being entertaining, those two books felt like a collection of almost unconnected scenes from which a relatively thin plot emerged. Things change in this third volume: many of the mysteries are revealed, the action is more and more fast paced. This volume is impossible to put down, and a continuous adrenaline rush. I would have never recommended the series based upon the first two volumes, but the third one makes up for the shortcoming of the others. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 25 2012 Finished: Jul 28 2012
Life of Pi
by Yann Martel (2007)
My review: It's quite hard to review this book without giving away any spoiler, and this is a great book that does not deserve to be spoiled. I still remember seeing it in the "reccomended" section of my local bookstore, picking it up with interest and putting it down thinking "what? a story about somebody being stuck on a boat? It has to be boring". Oh I was wrong! The book is actually quite captivating, so fascinating that you find yourself still reading it in the middle of the night thinking "it's late, but let's read another one of these short chapters". As the story progresses, I found myself captivated, and at its conclusion deeply shaken and shocked. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 29 2012 Finished: Aug 04 2012
Total Recall
by Philip K. Dick (2012)
My review: A fun short story, easy to read in a single sitting to kill the time. The story is interesting, but it is quite surprising they managed to geta full movie out of it. (★★★)
Started: Aug 05 2012 Finished: Aug 05 2012
The Best American Short Stories 2011
by Geraldine Brooks (2011)
My review: I love Geraldine Brooks books and I was googling her to see if she had published any new book. I was disappointed to discover she hadn't, but I was intrigued to discover that she was the 2011 editor for "The Best American Short Stories" series. I decided to give it a try. The stories have very little in common. They span multiple literary genres and narrative styles. Some of them are powerful, poetic, and touching: a good example is "Housewifely Arts" by Megan Mayhew Bergman, focusing on the relationship of a mother and her aging mother, and the longing of the first after the death of the second. Some others are able to shake you to the core: see for example "Free fruit for young widows" by Nathan Englander, describing the life of a Jewish Death Camp survivor, or "ID" by Joyce Carol Oates's, the story of a young teenage girl, growing up with a violent father that almost disfigured her, and her prostitute mother. Some features quite interesting experimental narrative styles, while others failed to capture my attention. (★★★)
Started: Aug 05 2012 Finished: Aug 27 2012
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)
by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)
My review: An interesting and hard to put down book, The name of the Wind is the story of Kvothe, a gifted kid that grew to be one of the most powerful wizards. The story is told by an older Kvothe himself, to a Chronicle that traveled far and wide to find him. Even if some of the plot elements (e.g. a gifted young kid finding his way to a school of magic) may seem similar to the Harry Potter saga, this book could not be more different. The life of Kvothe is harsh, and here the focus is given to the struggle to survive under adversities, as a homeless youth or a penniless student. There are only two small issues with the book. First the main story is weak and as a result the plot feels episodic. Second, I feel like the stage is not set properly for some of the events. Despite these little issues I quite enjoyed the book and I am looking forward the next volume of the trilogy. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 21 2012 Finished: Sep 15 2012
Michael Tolliver Lives
by Armistead Maupin (2008)
My review: Armistead Maupin wrote this book 20 years after completing the last book of the classic "Tales of the city" series, and, as the different color of the cover suggests, it stands apart on its own. While the settings and the characters are the same ones we felt in love with, a quarter of a century is passed, and things changed a lot in all those years. Anna Madrigal is now in her 80s, Michael Mouse Tolliver in his 60s. Some of the characters are deceased, and Shanna is now an adult. The different (time) settings, and the aged characters completely change the feel of the novel. The plot is relatively simple, it does not feature mysterious sects leaders or cultists (as some of the previous books of the series did), but it focuses instead on the relationship between the characters, on their evolution, on their feelings. As any Maupin's reader already knows, the author has an uncanny ability in creating characters we can't help but falling in love with. They feel so real and alive that they slowly became members of our family, friends, people we can relate with. This is even more true for this last novel: despite a relatively simpler plot line, the book is by date, Maupin's most powerful and touching book. This is achieved leveraging on the adroitly built intimacy with the characters, and not via a convoluted and epic plot line.
Many of the themes of the book (including inter-generation marriage, AIDS, the pain caused by the separation from your grown up kid moving out of home) are quite interesting and worth discussing, but nothing make this book worth reading more than the shiver I felt listening to Anna talking to Mouse on the top of the De Young tower, or the tears in my eyes at the end of the book. Yes, the themes touched in the book are interesting and worth discussing, but at the end, the characters are the ones we all fall in love with, and we laugh, and cry, and grow up with. The message is important, but the characters are family. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 15 2012 Finished: Sep 19 2012
Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, #3)
by Charlaine Harris (2006)
My review: Another goodreads member completelly captured my opinion of this book: Throughout, the text is offensive to women, people with some understanding of American history, and pretty much anyone else [...].
The plot may be fun and entertaining, but I was disturbed over and over by the content of the book. I was disturbed by the fact that Sookie still consider Bill as a viable partner after he left her without a word for an ex, and after he physically assaulted and raped her. I was disturbed by the fact that she could kiss and lust for three men in the space of a day, but still be critical of a gay kiss (Sookie claims she is just against public displays of affection, but I am left wondering, would she have said anything if the couple was not gay?), or disparaging of a gay character because "he wears a way too much cologne". Last but not least, I found quite disturbing to read racist statements like the following: "Somehow, it had never crossed my mind—I guess since I'm an American—that the vampires who had snatched Bill might be resorting to evil means to get him to talk". (★)
Started: Sep 20 2012 Finished: Sep 30 2012
Cloud Atlas
by David Mitchell (2004)
My review: I do not know why this book touched me so deeply, but it really did.
In Cloud Atlas Humans are Devils, always prone to enslave, kill, and slaughter. Humans are always ready to take away the dignity of others in the name of a Natural Order that determines that people of color, homosexuals, old, cloned people, or members of other tribes are not even worthy of the title of "men". This is demonstrated over and over 6 times in the 6 different stories (the number 6 recurrence in the book is significant).
But the Humans of Cloud Atlas are also Divine, because over and over, experiencing and witnessing small acts of kindness and incredible acts of self-sacrifice they come to realize that all these Natural Order boundaries are just human made conventions. Our lives are the result of all our choices, all our encounters. We are all bound together, each little act of kindness, each mistake goes beyond our lifetime and affects all humanity and the future. And so it is that a little act of kindness on a San Francisco bound ship will ultimately bring salvation to the Human race in a very far future.
Selected quotes:
Our lives and our choices, each encounter, suggest a new potential direction. Yesterday my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another. Fear, belief, love, phenomena that determined the course of our lives. These forces begin long before we are born and continue long after we perish. Yesterday, I believe I would have never have done what I did today. I feel like something important has happened to me. Is this possible?
Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 30 2012 Finished: Oct 20 2012
The Penultimate Truth
by Philip K. Dick
My review: I have read only few books by Philip Dick, and all of them were incredibly modern both in the themes they discuss, and in their form. The Penultimate Truth has a very classic structure, it could almost pass for an Isaac Asimov book in that respect. The themes are very modern though: the story is set in a far dystopian post world war III world, where people are fed fabricated Truth via news and television to keep the entire world in the hands of lucky few. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 20 2012 Finished: Oct 25 2012
Necromancer (Necromancer, #0.5)
by Lish McBride (2011)
My review: With the advent of eBooks, some authors started releasing free short eBook prequels to their books to try to lure readers into buying their product. This is a good example of this recently established trend. I enjoyed reading this story, where the various character are described with great sensitivity. I am considering to read the rest of the series. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 03 2012 Finished: Nov 03 2012
The Color Purple
by Alice Walker
My review: A deeply moving book, describing the lives of African American in the South of the United States in the 30s. The book touches many dramatic themes, such as domestic violence, incest, racism, sexism, gender roles, faith. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 25 2012 Finished: Nov 12 2012
Rosemary's Baby
by Ira Levin (2011)
My review: Few years ago I watched Roman Polański's movie adaptation of this book, and I remember enjoying it despite the fact that the movie is quite old. I was a little hesitant to read the book, because I knew already the plot, and I was afraid I was not going to enjoy it as much. Well I was wrong: I loved the book. I had actually an hard time put it down. Ira Levin was an adroit writer, and Rosemary's Baby is one of the most enjoyable "supernatural" fiction books I have ever read. I strongly recommend it even if you are not into horror and supernatural fiction. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 13 2012 Finished: Nov 16 2012
Mary Ann in Autumn (Tales of the City, #8)
by Armistead Maupin
My review: Twenty years have passed since Mary Ann Singleton left her husband and child in San Francisco to pursue her dream of a television career in New York. Now, a pair of personal calamities has driven her back to the city of her youth and into the arms of her oldest friend, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, a gay gardener happily ensconced with his much-younger husband.
Mary Ann finds temporary refuge in the couple's backyard cottage, where, at the unnerving age of 57, she licks her wounds and takes stock of her mistakes. Soon, with the help of Facebook and a few old friends, she begins to reengage with life, only to confront fresh terrors when her speckled past comes back to haunt her in a way she could never have imagined. Over three decades in the making, Armistead Maupin's legendary Tales of the City series rolls into a new age, still sassy, irreverent and curious, and still exploring the boundaries of the human experience with insight, compassion and mordant wit. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 16 2012 Finished: Nov 25 2012
How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You
by Matthew Inman (2012)
My review: I have always been a big fan of Matthew Inman (a.k.a. the oatmeal). This book collects old and new stories surrounding one of Matthew arc-enemies: the cats. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 24 2012 Finished: Nov 25 2012
Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley
by Robert Sheckley (2012)
My review: Store of the worlds is a collection of short sci-fi stories by Robert Shekley. Some of the first stories are entertaining and memorable, full of interesting plot twists. After reading a bunch, the stories starts feeling less original, and the twists a little predictable. To sum it up: I did not regret reading this book, I got enough entertainment out of it to justify the time investment, but I won't recommend it to anyone. (★★★)
Started: Nov 25 2012 Finished: Dec 09 2012
The Black Gryphon (Valdemar: Mage Wars #1)
by Mercedes Lackey (1995)
My review: I read the previous books set in the Valdemar universe, and I enjoyed them, but "the black gryphon" is definitelly better than everything I have read previously. The previous books suffered from having a very episodic structure, they often felt like a collection of short stories set in the same universe. This is definitelly not the case for the first volume of the Mage Wars trilogy. The plot is well constructed and developed, and the book is quite hard to put down. The book can be read alone without any need to read the previous ones, and I recommend it to all fantasy lovers. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 10 2012 Finished: Dec 23 2012
Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse, #4)
by Charlaine Harris
My review: I really like the TV series inspired by this book series, and I keep coming back to read "just one more" of them. Every time I find myself regretting it. The books are indeed entertaining, there is no denying it, but their content often disturbs me. Another goodreads member completely captured my opinion of this book: Throughout, the text is offensive to women, people with some understanding of American history, and pretty much anyone else [...].
I found quite disturbing the attitude of the main character (Sookie). She is quick to judge others (e.g. her coworker for having gone through multiple husband or gays that are "too gay" or wear "too much cologne"), while hypocritically behaving in a way that does not meet these standards (e.g. she is in love with three men at once, and she dances sensually with a female friend). (★)
Started: Dec 25 2012 Finished: Dec 27 2012
The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
My review: I read The Hobbit translated in Italian multiple times when I was a young teenager. I recently decided to read the original English version. The book is something between a fairy tale and a fantasy novel, and it is quite enjoyable. It is quite fascinating to get a glimpse of how Tolkien and the Monarchic British society of the time thought, in the mist of deep social changes between the two world wars. Greed is perceived as the root of all evils, and all characters from all different races and social castes struggles with it. At the same time it appears that the book unselfish heroes, the only one able to overcame greed are all noblemen (e.g. the Bard), while local leaders belonging to the merchants and traders group, always end up putting their self-interest ahead of the one of the people that elected them. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 27 2012 Finished: Jan 11 2013
The Legend of Huma (Dragonlance: Heroes, #1)
by Richard A. Knaak (2004)
My review: I read this book translated in Italian when I was a young teenager, and I remember liking it. More recently I read other books from Knaak, and I liked them all. Because of it, I decided to read the book again, this time in English. I did not remember the plot at all, and I really enjoyed the book as if I had never read it before.
This is the story of Huma, the legendary hero often mentioned in the Dragonlance Chronicle trilogy. The story is relatively simple, but it is never boring, and the characters are quite interesting. The only disappointment is the love story between the hero and the silver dragon: what should have been a moving and heart breaking love story is instead quite sterile and un-moving. Despite the shortcoming, it is quite an enjoyable book that I strongly recommend it to all Dragonlance fans.
This is also the first volume of Knaak's Dragonlance Minotaurs series (see: http://goo.gl/jZreZ6 for details). (★★★★)
Started: Jan 12 2013 Finished: Jan 20 2013
Why We Can't Wait
by Martin Luther King Jr. (2000)
My review: I decided to celebrate Martin Luther King Day reading one of his most famous books. The book has an incredible historical significance, it details the progress made by the civil rights movement during the 60s. It's incredible to see how things finally suddenly started changing, never fast enough, for the better. It is so insightful to read about the struggles, the dreams and the vision of one of the fathers of the movement. Some of the topics touched in the book are still incredibly relevant today: for example the role of affirmative action and social incentives as a way to level the field, to enable every American to have the same opportunities to achieve his/her dreams.
It was heart warming to read this book while listening to President Obama inaugural speech: even if we still have a long way ahead of us, even if we are dragging our feet and progress is slow, the speech gave me hope that a more just world is possible and a little bit closer each day. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 21 2013 Finished: Jan 25 2013
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner #1)
by Philip K. Dick (2007)
My review: This is the story of Rick Deckard, an escaped android bounty hunter, living in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. Rick is facing one of the hardest assignments in his life: tracking and terminating six nexus-6, the most advanced and sophisticated android model built so far. One of the main and more interesting themes of the book is the reflection of what means to be human: as androids become indistinguishable from us, to the point where people start to suspect they may be androids with implanted memories, what set humans apart? The book raises many of the same questions that were raised back in the 19th century by Mary Shelley, but it comes up with quite different conclusions. A strongly recommended read, even for people that are not big fan of Science Fiction. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 26 2013 Finished: Jan 29 2013
The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)
by Patrick Rothfuss (2013)
My review: I liked the first book of the "The Kingkiller Chronicle" trilogy, but I felt in love with this second one: it is an order of magnitude better. The story is entertaining, but it's the characters development and description that really set this book apart. This is really a great book, and I strongly recommend it to everybody, even for whose of you that are not into fantasy. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 29 2013 Finished: Mar 01 2013
Kaz the Minotaur (Dragonlance: Heroes, #4; Heroes II, #1)
by Richard A. Knaak (2004)
My review: Kaz the minotaur is the sequel of the Legend of Huma. This second book follows the adventure of Kaz after the last dragonwar. Kaz is trying to settle down, but he is forced back into action to confront a familiar evil from the past. More about the Dragonlance Minotaurs series here: http://goo.gl/jZreZ6 (★★★★)
Started: Mar 03 2013 Finished: Mar 19 2013
Land of the Minotaurs (Dragonlance: Lost Histories, #4)
by Richard A. Knaak (1996)
My review: Land of the Minotaurs is the third book of the adventure of Kaz (see: http://goo.gl/jZreZ6). In this book follows Kaz is trying to settle down with his family, but he is forced back into action, and back to his homeland, Nethosak, to confront an ancient evil. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 20 2013 Finished: Apr 04 2013
The Testament of Mary
by Colm Tóibín (2012)
My review: Mary in this book is not the meek, docile and obedient woman that traditional misogynistic iconography portrays. In "The testament of Mary" she is a tragically human heroin, torn by the sense of guilt for abandoning her son on the cross to save herself, blaming herself for not keeping her son to the bad influence of a "group of misfits he gathered around him". Whatever your religious beliefs are, this alternative version of the new testament succeeds in creating an incredibly memorable, novel, and deeply human portrait of one of the cultural icons of the Western world. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 06 2013 Finished: Apr 07 2013
A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)
by George R.R. Martin (2003)
My review: George Martin is an incredible writer, able to create extremely complex worlds, characters, and plots. This second chapter of the "A song of Ice and Fire" saga is even harder to put down than the first, and the plot is nothing short of epic. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 09 2013 Finished: Jun 23 2013
Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)
by John Scalzi (2007)
Publisher review: John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-- and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding. Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets. John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine--and what he will become is far stranger.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jun 23 2013 Finished: Jun 29 2013
Fox 8: A Story
by George Saunders (2013)
My review: Fox 8 has always been known as the daydreamer in his pack, the one his fellow foxes regarded with a knowing snort and a roll of the eyes. That is, until Fox 8 develops a unique skill: he teaches himself to speak Yuman by hiding in the bushes outside a house and listening to children’s bedtime stories. The power of language fuels his abundant curiosity about people—even after danjer arrives in the form of a new shopping mall that cuts off his food supply, sending Fox 8 on a harrowing quest to help save his pack. Told with his distinctive blend of humor and pathos, Fox 8 showcases the extraordinary imaginative talents of George Saunders, whom the New York Times called the writer for our time. (Goodreads review) (★★★★)
Started: Jul 06 2013 Finished: Jul 06 2013
Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle #1)
by Diana Wynne Jones (2001)
My review: The first book of the Howl's castle series (see http://goo.gl/fCB9FO for more details on the series) was published back in 1986. Despite being a runner up for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in Fiction and being named one of that year's ALA Notable Books for Children, the book was not very successful at first. Over the years its popularity grew and in 2006 it won the annual Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association, recognizing the best children's book published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award. Allusion to the mythical bird phoenix, which is reborn from its ashes, suggests the winning book's rise from obscurity. This first book features Sophie, a young girl living in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often does - especially when the Witch of the Waste is involved. Which is often. Sophie works at an hat shop, which proves most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste comes in to buy a bonnet one morning, but is not pleased, and turns Sophie into an old lady. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 29 2013 Finished: Jul 06 2013
The Ghost Brigades (Old Man's War, #2)
by John Scalzi
Publisher review: The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF's toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms. The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it's about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did. Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers -- a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin's DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin's electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades. At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his "father," he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jul 09 2013 Finished: Jul 10 2013
Reavers of the Blood Sea: The Chaos War, Book 4
by Richard A. Knaak (2012)
My review: In this fifth instalment of Knaak's minotaurs saga (see http://goo.gl/jZreZ6 for more info on it) we follow the adventures of Aryx, a descendent of the famous Kaz (that was the main character of the previous books). Aryx and the whole minotaur nation find themselves playing a major role in the war against Chaos, fighting alongside Gods for the future of Krynn. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 22 2013 Finished: Jul 27 2013
The Dragons of Krynn (Dragonlance Dragons, #1)
by Margaret Weis (1994)
My review: The dragons of Krynn is a collection of short stories written by many of of the writers of the first Dragonlance Tales book series, including Douglas Niles, Richard A. Knaak, Nancy Varian Berberick, and many others. Particularly remarkable is the short story “Kaz and the dragon”, featuring one of the most beloved characters of Krynn (learn more about him on my blog post: http://goo.gl/jZreZ6). (★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2013 Finished: Aug 12 2013
The Citadel
by Richard A. Knaak (2012)
My review: The citadel is one of the many book set in the Dragonlance world, but it is, by far, one of the best. It has been year since I have enjoyed a book so much, or stayed up so late to read "just one more chapter... or two". The story is so compelling, the plot so fast-paced and thrilling, that is impossible to stop reading.
The story starts after the end of the big war, when an evil wizard lears the secret of creating "citadels", i.e. castles floating in the air. He uses them to gain power over the world of Krynn. A red-robed magic-user, a cleric, a warrior, and a little kender are the only hope against him. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 12 2013 Finished: Aug 17 2013
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)
by Cassandra Clare (2009)
My review: The mortal instrument is a popular fantasy book series by American author Judith Rumelt (better known by her pen name Cassandra Clare). This is the book that started it all. The main character, Clary Fray, a 15 years old New York City girl, witness a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Things gets strange when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary. The murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons.
The story is entertaining, and it mixes some of the themes of Harry Potter with the teen supernatural romance that made books like Twilight, and the "True Blood" Sookie Stackhouse series popular. For an in-depth guide to this book series please refer to: http://goo.gl/036Wwg (★★★★)
Started: Aug 18 2013 Finished: Aug 31 2013
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
by David Sedaris (2013)
My review: This is by far the best book by David Sedaris. I have read many of Sedaris' books before, and while I enjoyed reading them, I often found them jarring. Even if they always made me laugh, I was always left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Let's explore diabetes with owls was quite different in that respect: I laughed and laughed, and there was no bitter aftertaste when I was done. The book touches many of Sedaris' signatures themes like family and life abroad, and some new ones, including politics. Not all the stories in the book are great, but some (including "Obama!!!!", "#2 to go", and "The happy place") are incredibly funny, definitely not PC, masterpieces. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 01 2013 Finished: Sep 08 2013
A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)
by George R.R. Martin (2003)
Publisher review: A STORM OF SWORDS Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. . . . But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others--a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords. . . .
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Sep 08 2013 Finished: Oct 29 2013
This Perfect Day
by Ira Levin (2010)
My review: Ira Levin's dystopian novels is set in a seemingly perfect global society. Uniformity is the defining feature, there is only one language and all ethnic groups have been eugenically merged into one race called The Family. The world is ruled by a central computer called UniComp that has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of regular injections so that they can never realize their potential as human beings, but will remain satisfied and cooperative. They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce. Even the basic facts of nature are subject to the UniComp's will. Men do not grow facial hair, women do not develop breasts, and it only rains at night. But not everybody is willing to accept this. With a vision as frightening as any in the history of the science fiction genre, This Perfect Day is one of Ira Levin`s most haunting novels. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 29 2013 Finished: Nov 03 2013
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury (2013)
Publisher review: A beautiful clothbound edition of the internationally acclaimed Fahrenheit 451 – a masterwork of twentieth-century literature. The terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future. Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books. The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity. Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which, decades on from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock. --harpercollins.co.uk
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Nov 03 2013 Finished: Nov 15 2013
In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose
by Alice Walker (2004)
Publisher review: In this, her first collection of nonfiction, Alice Walker speaks out as a black woman, writer, mother, and feminist in thirty-six pieces ranging from the personal to the political. Among the contents are essays about other writers, accounts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the antinuclear movement of the 1980s, and a vivid memoir of a scarring childhood injury and her daughter's healing words.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Nov 15 2013 Finished: Nov 30 2013
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
by Max Brooks (2006)
My review: The novel is a collection of individual accounts, where the narrator is an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission ten years after a fictional Zombie War. The accounts record a decade-long desperate war against the zombie plague, as experienced by people of various nationalities. The personal accounts also describe the social, political, religious and environmental changes that resulted from the war.
The book is quite remarkable not only for the originality of the storytelling, but for the deep understanding of different cultures and human psychology. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2013 Finished: Dec 19 2013
On Wings of Eagles
by Ken Follett (1984)
My review: Apparently even the greatest authors have a price. On Wings of Eagles is based on real events: 2 American businessmen are put in jail with non formalized bribery accusations in the middle of the Iran Khomeini's Iran revolution, and they managed to escape back home. The story is told as told to the author by the main characters, one of which, Perot, pretty much commissioned the book. As a result the book reads like a puff job, where Perot and his executives are hailed as heroes for actions that are quite troubling. Faced with the incarceration of two of his executives, Perot decides to bypass the US government, and instead forms his own militia rescue party (using retired US army soldiers) and send them in Iran, to risk their life, ready to kill innocent civilians, endangering the US-Iranian relations (and the lives of the thousands of American in Iran at the time) in the middle of an extremely delicate situation (i.e. a full blown revolution), to save his two executives. The executives, at the end, are saved by the action of "Rashid", a smart Iranian employee, and by a lot of luck. I love Ken Follett work because it helps me to better understand history. This book does not shed any light on the Iranian revolution (but for a quick paragraph or two in the whole book). It focuses entirely on the event as seen from Perot, and it is clear that the only thing that matter to him was to save his two executives, at any coast, completely disregarding the well-being of the Iranian civilians and the other American in Iran. The story is adroitly written, but I found it very disturbing. I strongly recommend the following review, that I believe really touch all the important strengths and weaknesses of the book: http://www.danielpipes.org/7958/on-wi... . (★)
Started: Dec 20 2013 Finished: Jan 03 2014
The Last Colony (Old Man's War, #3)
by John Scalzi (2008)
My review: In this third installment of the Old Man's War series, John Perry, his wife Jane, and their adopted daughter Zoe, are at last living quietly in one of humanity's many colonies. John and Jane are asked to lead a new colony world, and they decide to give it a try... But they soon find out that nothing is what it seems, for his new colony are merely pawns in an interstellar game of war and diplomacy between humanity's Colonial Union and a new, seemingly unstoppable alien alliance that is dedicated to ending all human colonization. As for the previous books of the series, the book is witty, extremely clever, enjoyable, a real pleasure to read. I strongly recommend it. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 03 2014 Finished: Jan 06 2014
The Shining (The Shining #1)
by Stephen King (1980)
My review: The most remarkable aspect of this book, in my opinion, revolves around Jack Torrance's alcoholism. Its horror, its impact on Jack and his family life, is described in such a human and credible way, that you can relate and empathize with the character, even as he falls into madness and ruin. It did not come as a surprise to discover that the book was written when the author was fighting against alcoholism himself. As a result Jack retains his humanity even when the "bad stuff" slowly turns him into a monster.
The plot is interesting and intriguing at first, but I was a little disappointed when the mysteries are revealed, and it turns out this is just another haunted house story.
This book confirms Stephen King as an incredible and versatile writer and storyteller. This said, the abundant use of racist and homophobic remarks ruined the book for me. While I understand how curses and profanities are quite effective in conveying raw emotions and fears, they seem to be used when there is no need for them in this book, and a way too liberally. (★★)
Started: Jan 06 2014 Finished: Jan 18 2014
1984
by George Orwell (2013)
Publisher review: Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell's nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff's attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell's prescience of modern life--the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language--and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jan 19 2014 Finished: Jan 25 2014
Divergent (Divergent, #1)
by Veronica Roth (2012)
My review: Despite the very strange and hard to believe premises, the book is quite entertaining and very hard to put down. Dystopian novel, from Fahrenheit 451 to 1984, often make us reflect about some aspects of modern society. Divergent does not convey such a strong warning yet, but there are hints and suggestions that are probably going to be developed in the following books of this trilogy. There is only one aspect of the book I did not like: in a world divided in "factions", the one devoted to Science and Rationality is described as the Evil one. This troubles me, because it reflects a growing anti-scientific attitude that I am observing in society. I hope I am mistaken.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2014 Finished: Jan 27 2014
City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, #2)
by Cassandra Clare (2008)
My review: The mortal instrument is a popular fantasy book series by American author Judith Rumelt (better known by her pen name Cassandra Clare). In this second book Clary wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? The story is entertaining, and it mixes some of the themes of Harry Potter with the teen supernatural romance that made books like Twilight, and the "True Blood" Sookie Stackhouse series popular. For an in-depth guide to this book series please refer to: http://goo.gl/036Wwg (★★★★)
Started: Jan 27 2014 Finished: Feb 03 2014
Twelve Years a Slave
by Solomon Northup (2013)
My review: Slavery is a horrible stain in our history, but there is something worst: forgetting about it. This book made me realize that even if we are still facing the consequences of that immoral practice, even if "race" is one of the most discussed topics on TV, blogs, and newspapers, despite all that I still know so little about it. Solomon Northup was a quite talented free man in New York that happened to not be "white". He was kidnapped and sold as a slave in the South. Solomon was not the only one to have this fate. He was separated from his wife and from his sons, beaten and exploited, broken down physically and emotionally. He was deprived of the title and the dignity of being a man. After 12 years, thanks to extreme luck and exceptional circumstances, he was freed and returned to his family. While there are many reports of kidnapped free men believed to be sold as slaves in the South, Mr. Northup is the only one that made it back alive. Once back, any attempt to legally prosecute the kidnappers failed, as the historical legal records demonstrate, thanks to the fact that, as a "non-white", he could not be accepted as a witness against a "white" man. He actually barely escaped prison for having dared to accuse his kidnapper. He spent the rest of his life to end the horror of slavery and to help slaves escape to Canada. He also wrote down his story, published here along the legal court documents concerning his case. The result is one of the most incredible books I have ever read. Mr. Northup was a remarkable man, and was an incredibly good writer. Despite being written almost a century and an half ago, despite some of the horrors being described, it is a pleasure to read. On top of it, the book is of such historical significance that should be read by everybody.
I will never be able to understand and relate to the enormity of the horrors he had to endure, but I strongly believe I must try. The only way to atone for the horrors of the past, is to never forget them. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 03 2014 Finished: Feb 08 2014
Insurgent (Divergent, #2)
by Veronica Roth (2012)
My review: Veronica Roth is clearly an adroit writer: she knows how to write addictive, impossible to put down, very enjoyable books. This said, there are a some aspects in the book that make me a little uneasy. In a world divided in "factions", the one devoted to Science and Rationality is often described as the Evil one, ready to take away people's freedom and lives in the name of comfort and wealth. Science and rationality seems to have been the cause of the end of morality and of an apocalyptic disaster. This troubles me deeply, because it reflects a growing anti-scientific attitude that I am observing in society. I hope I am mistaken and that the third book will bring some clarity on the topic.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★★)
Started: Feb 08 2014 Finished: Feb 15 2014
City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)
by Cassandra Clare (2009)
My review: The mortal instrument is a popular fantasy book series by American author Judith Rumelt (better known by her pen name Cassandra Clare). In this third instalment Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters, to save her mother's life. Unfortunately entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and her best friend, Simon, has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight. This book series is the conclusion of the first story arc, and by far the best of the trilogy. For an in-depth guide to this book series please refer to: http://goo.gl/036Wwg (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2014 Finished: Feb 20 2014
Allegiant (Divergent, #3)
by Veronica Roth (2013)
My review: While reading the book, I felt it did not belong to the same series of the previous two. While the story is the natural development of the plot of Divergent and Insurgent, the narrator suddenly changes in the third book: Allegiant is written from the perspective of both Beatrice/Tris and Tobias/Four. The change deeply modified the storytelling, the style, and the feel of the book: the whole divergent world is not quite the same when seen through a different set of eyes. The whole trilogy would have worked better if the same multi-prospective narrative style was adopted from the very beginning.
Another big change are in the themes, but in this case the change does not feel abrupt, but as a natural evolution and growth of the characters. Divergent explores the adolescent anxiety caused by the painful realization that coming into one's own sometimes means leaving family behind, both ideologically and physically. Divergent shows the pressure of having to choose between following in your parents' footsteps or doing something new. Allegiant shows that those different paths and new different ways can led to the same destination our parents were aiming to.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★★)
Started: Feb 21 2014 Finished: Feb 28 2014
The Transfer (Divergent, #0.1)
by Veronica Roth (2013)
My review: Tobias / Four is by far the most interesting and faceted characters of the divergent series. Even the author realized it: in Allegiant she switched the narrative to Four POV, and she started writing short novelettes focusing on the character. This one is set to Four early years, to his life with an abusive parent, and his choice of leaving his faction behind. This turned out to be an interesting, enjoyable story, that I recommend you to read along with the main books of the series.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★★)
Started: Mar 02 2014 Finished: Mar 02 2014
The Sagan Diary (Old Man's War, #2.5)
by John Scalzi (2011)
My review: The Old Man's War book series is one of my favorite book series. It does not come as a surprise that some of the book of the series were nominated for the prestigious Hugo Best Novel of the year award.
The Sagan Diary is a short story written for a charity fundraising event. It does not stand on its own, it does not have its plot: it narrates some events of the book series from the point of view of Jane Sagan. As such it should be read only after the first two books, and only by the most ardent fans of John Scalzi's work. (★★★)
Started: Feb 28 2014 Finished: Mar 02 2014
Free Four: Tobias Tells the Divergent Knife-Throwing Scene (Divergent, #1.5)
by Veronica Roth (2012)
My review: Tobias / Four is by far the most interesting and faceted characters of the divergent series. Even the author realized it: in Allegiant she switched the narrative to Four POV, and she started writing short novelettes focusing on the character. This one tell the famous knife throwing story from the point of view of Four, adding more depth to it. Reading it really made me think that the author should have alternated between Four and Tris POV from the very beginning: it would really have improved the storytelling and the quality of the book. While enjoyable, the book is extremely short. Did you really just charged me almost one dollar for a 10 pages long short story? I wish I was told that this 50 pages long eBook was 40% excerpts and only 10% unpublished work.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★)
Started: Mar 07 2014 Finished: Mar 07 2014
Zoe's Tale (Old Man's War, #4)
by John Scalzi (2010)
My review: At the end of The last colony, the author said that that book was going to be the last one of the Old Man's War series. Under the pressure of readers he changed his mind and he later added this new book to it. Zoe's Tale does not read as a sequel, but more like a tribute to the series. It feels like seeing the places of your childhood through the eyes of a grown up... or the exact opposite: the story is the one of the previous book, but it is now told by young Zoe from her point of view. At first I was afraid that writing a second book with the same plot was going to be boring, but few chapters in it became clear it was not going to be the case. The book explores many previously untold events, that adroitly fit in and give more depth to the main story. Moreover, even the already told events reads and feel so differently when lived, seen, and told by Zoe. The Old Man's War universe assume some of the emotional tones of young reader / teen novels, while retaining all its wit and its cleverness. My favorite part of the book is chapter 4, where Zoe summarize her life story in an emotional, extremely moving way. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 02 2014 Finished: Mar 07 2014
The B-Team (The Human Division, #1)
by John Scalzi (2013)
My review: Under the pressure of readers' request, John Scalzi adds a new book set in the Old Man's War universe. The story take place after the events described in the previous two books, but it features a completely new set of characters. The format is also different: the author is serializing the story in 13 novellas. This first book is quite intriguing, and it is a very promising beginning. Let's see how the plot develops in the next installments. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2014 Finished: Mar 09 2014
Walk the Plank (The Human Division, #2)
by John Scalzi (2013)
My review: This is the second installment of the new John Scalzi's book set in the Old Man's war universe. It reads as a stand alone story, it does not share any character with the previous chapter, but it will be soon tied in with the main plot in the next installment. Walk the plank is the story of a pirate attack survivor landing on a Wildcat colony. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2014 Finished: Mar 10 2014
Rosso Istanbul
by Ferzan Özpetek (2013)
Publisher review: Tutto comincia una sera, quando un regista turco che vive a Roma decide di prendere un aereo per Istanbul, dov'è nato e cresciuto. L'improvviso ritorno a casa accende a uno a uno i ricordi: della madre, donna bellissima e malinconica; del padre, misteriosamente scomparso e altrettanto misteriosamente ricomparso dieci anni dopo; della nonna, raffinata «principessa ottomana »; delle «zie», amiche della madre, assetate di vita e di passioni; della fedele domestica Diamante. Del primo aquilone, del primo film, dei primi baci rubati. Del profumo di tigli e delle estati languide, che non finiscono mai, sul Mar di Marmara. E, ovviamente, del primo amore, proibito, struggente e perduto. Ma Istanbul sa cogliere ancora una volta il protagonista di sorpresa. E lo trattiene, anche se lui vorrebbe ripartire. Perché se il passato, talvolta, ritorna, il presente ha spesso il dono di afferrarci: basta un incontro, una telefonata, un graffito su un muro. I passi del regista si incrociano con quelli di una donna. Sono partiti insieme da Roma, sullo stesso aereo, seduti vicini. Non si conoscono. Non ancora. Lei è in viaggio di lavoro e di piacere, in compagnia del marito e di una coppia di giovani colleghi. Ma a Istanbul accadrà qualcosa che cambierà per sempre la sua vita. Tra caffè e hamam, amori irrisolti e tradimenti svelati, nostalgia e voluttà, i destini del regista e della donna inesorabilmente si sfiorano e, alla fine, convergono. Questo libro è una dichiarazione d'amore a una città, Istanbul. Rossa come i melograni, come i vecchi tram, come i carrettini dei venditori di simit, come certi tramonti sul Bosforo che mischiano lo scarlatto al blu, come lo smalto sulle unghie di una madre molto amata. Ed è, insieme, un libro sull'amore, nelle sue mille sfumature. L'amore che non conosce età, paese, tempo, ragione, differenze di sesso. Che sceglie e basta. Una storia romantica, imprevista e nostalgica che racconta di un regista, di una città e di un ritorno. E poi, come una scatola magica, di una storia nella storia. Proprio come in un film di Ferzan Ozpetek, se decidesse di raccontare la sua.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Mar 09 2014 Finished: Mar 10 2014
The Snow Queen
by Hans Christian Andersen (2002)
My review: After reading this fairy tale, I understand why Disney had such an hard time to adapt it into a movie (the project was started under Walt Disney and it was placed on hold for decades before finally turning into Frozen in 2013). They pretty much had to throw away 99% of the story and keep only few salvageable bits. I really can't believe this is considered one of Andersen's most famous tales. The plot is all over the places, it contains some objectionable racist content, and quite inappropriate for young children. Save your time, and read something else instead. (★)
Started: Mar 11 2014 Finished: Mar 12 2014
We Only Need the Heads (The Human Division, #3)
by John Scalzi (2013)
My review: This is the third installment of the new John Scalzi's book set in the Old Man's war universe. The separate plots of the previous two installments comes together on this one, focused on intergalactic diplomacy and colony massacre investigation. We only need the heads is adroitly written, entertaining to read, and I can't wait to read the next chapters of this story. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 12 2014 Finished: Mar 13 2014
Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park, #1)
by Michael Crichton (2006)
My review: There is no doubt that Michael Crichton is an adroit writer, able to produce impossible to put down, thrilling and entertaining books. Jurassic Park is clearly no exception. I also like the fact that the author spend time to collect information to give some scientific credible foundation to his work. I found the anti-GMO intro quite fascinating, especially because it was written long before the general public was even aware of the existence of GMO products.
What I did not like is the strong hostility of the author towards science. Scientist are described as people that gets a lot of power for free, without doing anything to earn it, inheriting it from our ancestors, and unable to not abuse it (just one quote from the book: You know what's wrong with scientific power? It's a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are.). I believe that everything, from Science to Art to Religion, can be abused and misused. I also recognize the incredible contribution of Science to humanity, how it helped feeding the masses, cure diseases, and improving life condition. Science should be encouraged and celebrated, and not disparaged because of the moral shortcomings of those that abuse its gifts. (★★)
Started: Mar 13 2014 Finished: Mar 22 2014
A Voice in the Wilderness (The Human Division, #4)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: Albert Birnbaum was once one of the biggest political talk show hosts around, but these days hes watching his career enter a death spiral. A stranger offers a solution to his woes, promising to put him back on top. Its everything Birnbaum wants, but is there a catch? And does Birnbaum actually care if there is?
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Mar 22 2014 Finished: Mar 22 2014
Tales From the Clarke (The Human Division, #5)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: Captain Sophia Coloma of the Clarke has a simple task: Ferry around representatives from Earth in an aging spaceship that the Colonial Union hopes to sell to them. But nothing is as simple as it seems, and Coloma discovers the ship she's showing off holds suprises of its own...and it's not the only one with secrets.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Mar 25 2014 Finished: Mar 25 2014
The Back Channel (The Human Division, #6)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: The Conclave is a confederation of four hundred alien racesmany of whom would like to see the Colonial Union, and the humans inside of it, blasted to extinction. To avoid a conflict that neither side can afford, Conclave leader General Tarsem Gau appoints Hafte Sorvalh to resolve an emerging diplomatic crisis with the humans, before the only acceptable solution is war.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Mar 25 2014 Finished: Mar 25 2014
The Lost World (Jurassic Park, #2)
by Michael Crichton (1995)
My review: The liked the sequel of Jurassic park more than the original book. As always, the author spend time to collect information to give some scientific credible foundation to his work, and this make the book much more enjoyable. I found the focus on social behaviour and evolution particularly interesting. What I did not like is the strong hostility of the author towards science. Scientist are described as people that gets a lot of power for free, without doing anything to earn it, inheriting it from our ancestors, and unable to not abuse it. I believe that everything, from Science to Art to Religion, can be abused and misused. I also recognize the incredible contribution of Science to humanity, how it helped feeding the masses, cure diseases, and improving life condition. Science should be encouraged and celebrated, and not disparaged because of the moral shortcomings of those that abuse its gifts. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 22 2014 Finished: Mar 30 2014
The Dog King (The Human Division, #7)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson has one simple task: Watch an ambassador’s dog while the diplomat is conducting sensitive negotiations with an alien race. But you know dogs - always getting into something. And when this dog gets into something that could launch an alien civil war, Wilson has to find a way to solve the conflict, fast, or be the one in the Colonial Union’s doghouse.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Mar 30 2014 Finished: Mar 30 2014
The Sound of Rebellion (The Human Division, #8)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: The Colonial Defense Forces usually protect humanity from alien attack, but now the stability of the Colonial Union has been threatened, and Lieutenant Heather Lee and her squad are called to squash a rebellion on a colony world. It seems simple enoughbut theres a second act to the rebellion that finds Lee captive, alone, and armed with only her brains to survive.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Mar 31 2014
The Observers (The Human Division, #9)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: In an effort to improve relations with the Earth, the Colonial Union has invited a contingent of diplomats from that planet to observe Ambassador Abumwe negotiate a trade deal with an alien species. Then something very bad happens to one of the Earthings, and with that, the relationship between humanitys two factions is on the cusp of disruption once more. Its a race to find out what really happened, and who is to blame.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Apr 01 2014
This Must Be the Place (The Human Division, #10)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: Colonial Union diplomat Hart Schmidt is back home for Harvest Day celebrations to a family whose members wonder whether its youngest son isn't wasting his life clinging to the lowest rung of the CUs diplomatic ladder. When his father, a legendarily powerful politician, presents him with a compelling offer, Schmidt has to take stock of his life and career.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Apr 02 2014
Earth Below, Sky Above (The Human Division, #13)
by John Scalzi (2013)
My review: Really? That is the conclusion to the book series?
I loved the human division series, and this last instalment is no exception: it is thrilling, fun, and impossible to put down. This said, while Earth Below, Sky Above does explain where the missing ships went and what the apparent endgame was, we still don't know who's behind the nefarious plot. We are left with a lot of open questions, that hopefully will be answered in the upcoming sequel series. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 03 2014 Finished: Apr 03 2014
A Problem of Proportion (The Human Division, #11)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: A secret backdoor meeting between Ambassador Ode Abumwe and the Conclaves Hafte Sorvalh turns out to be less than secret as both of their ships are attacked. Its a surprise to both teams but its the identity of the attacker that is the real surprise, and suggests a threat to both humanity and The Conclave.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Apr 03 2014 Finished: Apr 03 2014
The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads (The Human Division, #12)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: United States Diplomat Danielle Lowen was there when one of her fellow diplomats committed an unthinkable act, which had consequences for the entire planet. Now shes trying to figure out how it happened before it can happen again. Putting the puzzle pieces together could solve the mystery or it could threaten her own life.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Apr 03 2014 Finished: Apr 03 2014
Hafte Sorvalh Eats a Churro and Speaks to the Youth of Today (The Human Division, #14)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review:
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Apr 04 2014
After the Coup (Old Man's War, #4.5)
by John Scalzi (2008)
Publisher review:

In a universe of harsh interstellar conflict, the practice of interspecies diplomacy—when possible—is important. So being a Colonial Union officer attached to an interplanetary diplomatic mission sometimes means taking a fall. Literally.


My rating: ★★★★
Started: Apr 03 2014 Finished: Apr 04 2014
The White Gryphon (Valdemar: Mage Wars, #2)
by Mercedes Lackey (1996)
Publisher review: It has been ten years since the magical Cataclysm, which destroyed the twin strongholds of the two world's most powerful Mages, killing Urtho, creator of the gryphons, and sending his forces into exile. Now Urthro's peoples--human and non-human alike live in a terraced city carved into the face of a gleaming white cliff on the edge of the Western Ocean. Secure at least, ...until the fleet of the mysterious Black Kings appears in their harbor, bringing envoys who inform the residents of White Gryphon that their newfound home lies on the northern perimeter of lands claimed by this powerful kingdom. Desperate not to lose their hard won home, Skandranon, along with his longtime friend Amberdrake--agree to accompany the envoys back to the Court of the Black Kings, hoping to negotiate an alliance. ...When a high ranking noble who opposes this alliance is found murdered--Skandranon and Amberdrake realize that they are up against unknown enemies who will stop at nothing, even the use of diabolical Blood Magic, to destroy White Gryphon.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Apr 07 2014 Finished: Apr 10 2014
A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)
by George R.R. Martin (2011)
Publisher review: Alternate covers can be found here. With A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth volume of the landmark series that has redefined imaginative fiction and stands as a modern masterpiece in the making. After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it's not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes...and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Apr 10 2014 Finished: May 24 2014
The Last Theorem
by Arthur C. Clarke (2009)
Publisher review: When Ranjit Subramanian, a Sri Lankan with a special gift for numbers, writes a three-page proof of the coveted “Last Theorem,” which French mathematician Pierre de Fermat claimed to have discovered (but never recorded) in 1637, Ranjit’s achievement is hailed as a work of genius, bringing him fame and fortune. But it also brings him to the attention of the National Security Agency and a shadowy United Nations outfit called Pax per Fidem–or Peace Through Transparency–whose secretive workings belie its name. Suddenly Ranjit–along with his family–finds himself swept up in world-shaking events, his genius for abstract mathematical thought put to uses that are both concrete and potentially deadly.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: May 24 2014 Finished: May 27 2014
Among Others
by Jo Walton (2011)
Publisher review: Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment. Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead. Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off… Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: May 27 2014 Finished: Jun 01 2014
The Silver Gryphon (Valdemar: Mage Wars, #3)
by Mercedes Lackey (1997)
Publisher review: A dozen years of peace have passed in the city of White Gryphon - providing well deserved and much needed security for the people who had lost their homes in the magical Cataclysm which killed the Mage Urtho, creator of the gryphons. But the inhabitants of White Gryphon have not forgotten their long struggles, and have trained an elite guard force, the Silver Gryphons, to protect their city, and if necessary, to join with the army of the Black Kings for mutual defense.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Jun 02 2014 Finished: Jun 11 2014
The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere
by John Chu (2013)
My review: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere is a clever and touching coming out story of Matt, a talented Chinese American biotech engineer, with an interesting fantastic twist: one day, everywhere on Earth, it starts raining every time somebody lies. The intensity of the rain is correlated with the intensity of the lie. This causes some troubles to Matt. First a torrential rain reveals his love for Guss, the guy that he is dating, when he is trying to deny it. Things gets even more complicated when he decide to take Guss to his family dinner. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2014 Finished: Jun 14 2014
Burning Girls
by Veronica Schanoes (2013)
My review: This is a rare example of sublime literature, an adroitly crafted, magnificently written novella spanning between the historical fiction and dark fantasy genres. The mix of the two genres works incredibly well: fantastic demons are metaphors of the real historical horrors, and supernatural elements reflects a system of beliefs and the superstitions of a community.
This is the story of Deborah, a Jewish girl growing in Poland at a time when anti-Semitic discrimination was the law, and the whole community lived in fear of pogroms. Her family is also faced with the prospect of poverty, since their main trade and source of income (sewing) suddenly has to compete with the products coming out from textile factories. Deborah inherited the holy powers from her grandmother, the zegorin of the village, that starts to train her to become one. Unfortunately her family is soon to be faced by a new wave of pogroms and supernatural events.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2014 Finished: Jun 15 2014
Trial of the Century
by Lawrence M. Schoen (2013)
My review: I probably did not enjoy the short novella as much as a person that read the previous installments of it would. I liked the focus of psychology, but I really could not get into the dog sized buffalo with an internal fusion reactor pet idea.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★)
Started: Jun 15 2014 Finished: Jun 15 2014
The Weight of the Sunrise
by Vylar Kaftan (2012)
My review: This alternative history Nebula award winner novella is set in a world where Pizarro did not completely wipe out the Mayan empire and their culture to the point of obliteration. In this world the empire is still standing, under the rule of a Emperor worshiped by his subjects as a living God. The empire is fighting against Scarlet Fever, a disease originated in Europe that disproportionately affects American. It wipes out entire villages, the few survivors are believed to be blessed by the Gods. The hope of a cure comes with an envoy from 13 British colonies in North America that are trying to free themselves from the rule of the monarchy.
What makes the story remarkable is not the portrait of a long lost culture, the entertaining plot, or the quite believable reconstruction of alternative historical events. What set this novella apart is the honest portrait of our own real history. I won't say more to avoid spoilers.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★★)
Started: Jun 15 2014 Finished: Jun 16 2014
Wakulla Springs
by Andy Duncan (2013)
My review: Despite being a finalist for both the Hugo and the Nebula 2013 awards, I would classify this novella as historical fiction, and not as science fiction or fantasy.
The story starts in the 1930s, in the deep South, at a time when segregation was the law of the land. Each chapter focuses on one pivotal moment in the life of a different member of the same family, each one belonging to a different generation. We are told the history of Wakulla Spring, a "white-only" retreat in the more pristine and wild corner of Florida, through their eyes.
The first two chapters are remarkable, because of the incredibly successful portrait of the past, as seen by the people living back then, and because of the well rounded character development. I just wish that the rest of the book was as good!
The last three chapters are quite short, almost as if they were written in a rush, and they feature characters that feel flat, quite uninteresting. The author introduces a couple of very small supernatural events, that do not fit well with the rest of the story, and that do not really add anything to it.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★)
Started: Jun 17 2014 Finished: Jun 19 2014
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Publisher review: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . . Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jun 12 2014 Finished: Jun 28 2014
Lassen Volcano: The Story Behind the Scenery
by Ellis Richard (1998)
Publisher review: The very best in brilliant full-color photography in a large format book, with accurate, readable, interpretive text on the natural scene and the human history of national parks and monuments throughout the country. Each
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Jul 04 2014 Finished: Jul 05 2014
Four: The Initiate (Divergent, #0.2)
by Veronica Roth (2014)
My review: Tobias / Four is by far the most interesting and faceted characters of the divergent series. Even the author realized it: in Allegiant she switched the narrative to Four POV, and she started writing short novelettes focusing on the character. This one is set during Four's initiation, how he managed to complete it without losing a single match.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★)
Started: Jul 19 2014 Finished: Jul 19 2014
The Windup Girl
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)
Publisher review: Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko... Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Jun 28 2014 Finished: Jul 19 2014
The Son (Divergent, #0.3)
by Veronica Roth (2014)
My review: Another prequel to the divergent series, that should be read after divergent to avoid spoilers. "The son" is set shortly after the end of "the initiate" and follows Tobias as he struggles to find a place in the hierarchy of the Dauntless.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★)
Started: Jul 20 2014 Finished: Jul 20 2014
The President's Brain is Missing
by John Scalzi (2011)
My review: I am a fan of John Scalzi. His books are witty, entertaining, and fun to read. This said this is not one of his best stories. Do not get me wrong, the book is fun and it has an interesting conclusion, but it is not emotionally steering or epic as many of his other stories.
The novella is the story of a Presidential brain that vanishes on thin air, without any visible change in the commander in chief.
Despite the title seems to suggest a political commentary intent, the author is quite careful to avoid any political nuance. It's a pity, it would have frankly being interesting. (★★)
Started: Jul 19 2014 Finished: Jul 20 2014
Rama II (Rama, #2)
by Arthur C. Clarke (1996)
My review: What a disappointment! I loved Rendezvous with Rama and I was excited to discover that there was a sequel. I should have noticed that the so called "sequel" was co-written by a second author, Gentry Lee, and I should have lowered my expectations accordingly.
Clarke was a skillful writer and a scientist, and this did shows in the first book of the Rama series: the focus was on the science part of science fiction, and the plot was plausible and scientifically accurate, and incredibly fascinating. The first book read like an entertaining science article, were strange phenomena were explained using physics.
This second book is nothing like the first one. While the first book read like a explorer journal, able to fill the reader with wonder and awe, the second book reads like the screenplay of a cheap and trashy reality TV series. The focus is not on science, but on the petty murderous schemes of some of the characters to achieve fame and to get rich.
There are many aspects of the plot that make me think that Clarke had absolutely no role in the writing of this book. The departure from scientific realism and the unsuccessful switch towards a character driven story, the presence of some mild misogynist, racist, and homophobic passages, the focus on Catholic inspired spirituality are very typical of Gentry Lee writings, but find no place in Clarke books (he was quite vocal in his distaste for organized religion, he prided himself for the focus on science in his writings, he was gay, and his "only perfect friend of a lifetime" was SriLankan). I am quite surprised that he agreed to put his name in such a distasteful, poorly written book that stains his legacy.
My recommendation: avoid this book at all costs. (★)
Started: Jul 20 2014 Finished: Jul 27 2014
Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome
by John Scalzi
Publisher review: In the near future--and sooner than you think--a new virus will sweep the globe. At first it will look like the flu, but then we will discover there is something else about it...something we weren't expecting. It will change society forever. No, this isn't another zombie virus. And no, this isn't the apocalypse. It's Haden's syndrome. We'll survive it. But the world will be remade in its image. ''Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome'' is a novella that will take you through the heart of this terrifying disease, from its unusual and ironic origin to the frantic response of doctors, scientists and governments. You will see the ''moon shot'' response to free the people locked in thrall to the disease. And you experience the emerging society that those with the disease build for themselves--and for the rest of us. A companion piece to John Scalzi's novel ''Lock In,'' ''Unlocked'' is an unexpected take on a frighteningly possible future.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Jul 27 2014 Finished: Jul 27 2014
Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline (2011)
My review: The book is set in a future where the masses are poor, living on stacked trailers, escaping reality inside OASIS, a virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. The main character, Wade, dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world: somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune, and remarkable power, to whoever can unlock them.
The book is a perfect mix: a great plot, a compelling fast paced story-telling, a lot of (geeky) references to the 70s/80s that bring out memories from my childhood (similarly to Jo Walton's Among Others). It is impossible to put down, it never slows down, entrapping the reader in its spell. You find yourself reading late at night, missing the bus stop on your way to work, counting down the pages till the end saddened that the book is going to finish too soon. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2014 Finished: Aug 06 2014
The Dala Horse
by Michael Swanwick (2011)
My review: While some of the plot elements were interesting, the story was not so great. The story is set long after wars that almost destroyed the planet. The wars are over, but many things are left behind from it...things more than human. And they have scores to settle with one another. (★★)
Started: Aug 07 2014 Finished: Aug 07 2014
Six Months, Three Days
by Charlie Jane Anders (2011)
Publisher review: Doug and Judy have both had a secret power all their life. Judy can see every possible future, branching out from each moment like infinite trees. Doug can also see the future, but for him, it's a single, locked-in, inexorable sequence of foreordained events. They can't both be right, but over and over again, they are. Obviously these are the last two people in the world who should date. So, naturally, they do.
My rating: ★★
Started: Aug 06 2014 Finished: Aug 07 2014
in pictures Hawaii Volcanoes: The Continuing Story
by Richard A. Rasp (1992)
Publisher review: The very best in brilliant full-color photography in a large format book, with accurate, readable, interpretive text on the natural scene and the human history of national parks and monuments throughout the country. Each
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Aug 07 2014 Finished: Aug 07 2014
Shtetl Days
by Harry Turtledove (2011)
My review: An intriguing "alternative history" short novel, set in a world where Hitler won the second world war. It is a moving story of survival of "Jews" in a world where every single one of them has been killed.
It is the story of two professional actors, Veit Harlan and his wife Kristi, two happy citizens of the prosperous, triumphant Reich. It's been over a century since the War of Retribution cleaned up Europe, long enough that now curious tourists flock to the painstakingly recreated "village" of Wawolnice, whee, along with dozens of colleagues, Veit and Kristi re-enact the daily life of the long-exterminated but still frightening "Jews". Veit and Kristi are true professionals, proud of their craft. They've learned all there is to know about this vanished way of life. They know the dead languages, the turns of phrase, the prayers, the manners, the food. But now they're beginning to learn what happens when you immerse yourself long enough in something real... (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
Hello, Moto
by Nnedi Okorafor (2011)
My review: An interesting fictional portrait of Nigeria, where science, magic, and African history and culture are mixed together effectively. I just wish the ending was less open. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel
by Yoon Ha Lee (2011)
My review: Interesting short novel, a collection of very brief portraits of different alien civilizations. The author describes what drives them, what are their dream, in a very poetic and allegoric way. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
A Clean Sweep With All the Trimmings
by James Alan Gardner (2011)
My review: This is a Damon Runyon-esque tale of courteous guys, bulletproof dolls, and the fedora-clad spacemen that bring them together. The story was written by the author as a tribute to Damon Runyon, for the seventy-fifth anniversary of its death. It tries to use Runyon's delightful, distinctive prose style and the post-Prohibition New York atmosphere in a sci-fi setting. (★★★)
Started: Aug 07 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
Beauty Belongs to the Flowers
by Matthew Sanborn Smith
My review: This short novel is set in Japan in the future, in a world where nanotechnology is extensively used for everything, from food processing, to plastic surgery. The main character, Miho, is faced with the sudden illness of her father, the prospect of poverty, and her boyfriend leaving her for robot. While the story has many interesting elements and poetic moments, the ending (do not worry, no spoilers here) really left me puzzled and a little disturbed. It is not just unexpected, but it really does not seem to have any functional value in the story. (★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
Eye of the Needle
by Ken Follett
My review: Another good historical-fiction / thriller from Ken Follett, set during world war II. One enemy spy, a brilliant aristocrat and ruthless assassin, learn the secret to the Allies' greatest deception. This information is the key to ultimate Nazi victory. Only one person stands in his way: a lonely Englishwoman on an isolated island, who is beginning to love the killer who has mysteriously entered her life. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 15 2014
The Lady Astronaut of Mars
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2014)
My review: I read this novelette shortly after it was announced that it won the 2014 Hugo award. I had really high expectations, and, because of it, I was expecting to be disappointed. This turned out to be one of the best novelette I have ever read in my life. In just 32 pages it creates such well rounded, real characters, that you can't avoid to relate with. The main character, Elma, is a senior astronaut dreaming to fly again between the stars. One day an opportunity opens up, and she can fulfill her dream. The only problem is, she'll be gone for three years, and her husband has less than a year to live.
This is an adroitly crafted, powerfully moving short story, that manages to touch complex themes like aging, disabilities, and the difficult balance between the pursuit of our own dreams and family, with extreme honesty, respect, and sensibility.
I strongly recommend it to everybody, not only to sci-fi fans. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2014 Finished: Aug 17 2014
Il Sentiero dei Nidi di Ragno
by Italo Calvino (2013)
My review: In questo caso, l'autore stesso ha scritto una review perfetta per questo straordinario libro: Questo romanzo è il primo che ho scritto; quasi posso dire la prima cosa che ho scritto, se si eccettuano pochi racconti.
Che impressione mi fa, a riprenderlo in mano adesso? Più che come un'opera mia lo leggo come un libro nato anonimamente dal clima generale d'un'epoca, da una tensione morale, da un gusto letterario che era quello in cui la nostra generazione si riconosceva, dopo la fine della Seconda Guerra Mondiale.
Al tempo in cui l'ho scritto, creare una "letteratura della Resistenza" era ancora un problema aperto, scrivere "il romanzo della Resistenza" si poneva come un imperativo; ... ogni volta che si è stati testimoni o attori d'un'epoca storica ci si sente presi da una responsabilità speciale ... A me, questa responsabilità finiva per farmi sentire il tema come troppo impegnativo e solenne per le mie forze. E allora, proprio per non lasciarmi mettere in soggezione dal tema, decisi che l'avrei affrontato non di petto ma di scorcio. Tutto doveva essere visto dagli occhi d'un bambino, in un ambiente di monelli e vagabondi. Inventai una storia che restasse in margine alla guerra partigiana, ai suoi eroismi e sacrifici, ma nello stesso tempo ne rendesse il colore, l'aspro sapore, il ritmo...
(★★★★★)
Started: Aug 15 2014 Finished: Aug 17 2014
Equoid (Laundry Files, #2.9)
by Charles Stross (2013)
My review: Another charming novel set in the geeky insane "laundry" world. It's the longest non-novel-length Laundry story so far. And it explains (among other things) precisely what H. P. Lovecraft saw behind the wood-shed when he was 14 that traumatized him for life, the reproductive life-cycle of unicorns, and what really happened on Cold Comfort Farm. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2014 Finished: Aug 20 2014
The Traitor (Divergent, #0.4)
by Veronica Roth (2014)
My review: This book describes the events taking place shortly after the famous knife throwing scene as seen from Tobias point of view. In this short story Four uncovers the details of an Erudite plan that could threaten the faction system, while getting to know and falling in love with Tris. I would recommend this only to divergent fans that are eager to re-live moment of the story they loved, even if this book does not add much to the saga. My in depth reviews of the divergent saga books here: http://goo.gl/kaszXT . (★★★)
Started: Aug 21 2014 Finished: Aug 21 2014
The Giver (The Giver Quartet, #1)
by Lois Lowry (1993)
My review: This book is impossible to put down once you start it. It is also relatively short, so you will probably end up reading it in a single sitting. While entertaining, I do not understand why it is ailed as one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. It is fun, the story is interesting, but it does not really offer anything that was not written before by other authors.
It is the story of twelve-year-old Jonas, a boy living in a seemingly ideal world. In this world everybody is given his life assignment (i.e. a job for life). He is picked to be the next Receiver, the receiver of all the memories so that he alone can carry their burden. Jonas suddenly realizes that his world is far from perfect, and he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 22 2014 Finished: Aug 23 2014
Portrait of Lisane de Patagnia
by Rachel Swirsky (2012)
My review: Renn is the former student of Lisane, a world famous artist genius, that is dying full of regrets for not being able to educate any of her pupil to take over her legacy. After many years, Renn is still heart-broken over the end of her relationship with her mentor, Lisane, that tough her how to capture the essence of her subject into a painting with magic.
This is a story about love, obsession, passion, talent, favoritism, and emotions, beautifully and effectively written. It does not come as a surprise that this novel was shortlisted for the Nebula award. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 23 2014 Finished: Aug 23 2014
Dormanna
by Gene Wolfe (2012)
My review: Dormanna is the story of a little kid that woke up one night with a new "imaginary friend" that turns out to not be imaginary, but not of this world either. (★★)
Started: Aug 23 2014 Finished: Aug 23 2014
Il visconte dimezzato
by Italo Calvino (2011)
My review: Una fiaba piena di allegorie sulla societa' dell'Italia del secondo dopoguerra. Questa e' la storia del visconte Medardo di Terralba che, colpito al petto da una cannonata turca, torna a casa diviso in due meta' (una cattiva, malvagia, prepotente, ma dotata di inaspettate doti di umorismo e realismo, l'altra gentile, altruista, buona, o meglio "buonista"). Come disse Calvino Tutti ci sentiamo in qualche modo incompleti, tutti realizziamo una parte di noi stessi e non l'altra.
Ho letto questo libro due volte. La prima lo finii il 24 Giugno 1999. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 23 2014 Finished: Aug 24 2014
Gathering Blue (The Giver Quartet, #2)
by Lois Lowry (2012)
Publisher review: Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever. As she did in THE GIVER, Lowry challenges readers to imagine what our world could become, how people could evolve, and what could be considered valuable. Every reader will be taken by Kira’s plight and will long ponder her haunting world and the hope for the future.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Aug 24 2014 Finished: Aug 27 2014
The Mongolian Wizard
by Michael Swanwick (2012)
My review: This is the first installment of a new book series that is being serialized on-line by Tor. The Mongolian Wizard is set into an alternative universe where Europe is ruled by aristocratic magic users, griffons fly the skies, and phoenix eggs are considered weapons of mass destruction. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 27 2014 Finished: Aug 28 2014
Ultimo viene il corvo
by Italo Calvino
Publisher review: Questa edizione riproduce i trenta racconti del 1949, compresi quelli rifiutati dall'autore nelle raccolte successive. Tra essi, come testimonianza d'epoca, sono i primi racconti che Italo Calvino scrisse nel 1945, nei mesi seguenti alla liberazione.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Aug 28 2014 Finished: Aug 31 2014
A Tall Tail
by Charles Stross (2012)
My review: Charles Stross (the author) attends a conference along with many other science fiction writers and cold war engineers: the idea was to put all these minds together in the hope that some interesting conversations may lead to novel ideas. Allegedly this little tale is one of the resulting conversations. The result is an enjoyable short story of international politics and rocket science. (★★★)
Started: Aug 31 2014 Finished: Sep 01 2014
The Ghosts of Christmas
by Paul Cornell (2012)
My review: A remarkable sci-fi novella, loosely inspired by Dicken's christmas carol. The title of the novel gave me pause at first, I was not in the mood for a fairy tale, but this short story turned out to be one of the best tor.com short stories I have read so far. The main character is a scientist that just discovered how to see her own future and past, but soon realize the truth of Heisenberg's principle and how her observation has already affected her past life, and how it will shape her future. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 07 2014 Finished: Sep 07 2014
Messenger (The Giver Quartet, #3)
by Lois Lowry (2012)
Publisher review: Trouble is brewing in Village. Once a utopian community that welcomed strangers, Village will soon be cut off to all outsiders. As one of the few able to traverse the forbidding Forest, Matty must deliver the message of Village’s closing and try to convince Seer’s daughter Kira to return with him before it’s too late. But Forest is now hostile to Matty, too, and he must risk everything to fight his way through it. Messenger is the masterful third novel in Lois Lowry’s Giver Quartet, which includes The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Son—all newly designed!   
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Sep 01 2014 Finished: Sep 07 2014
The Finite Canvas
by Brit Mandelo (2012)
Publisher review: We are marked by what we have been. And erasing either of those can have unpredictable consequences...
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Sep 08 2014 Finished: Sep 09 2014
La nuvola di smog - La formica argentina
by Italo Calvino (1996)
Publisher review: A Nuvem de smog é um conto continuamente tentado a tornar-se outra coisa qualquer: ensaio sociológico ou diário íntimo. Imagem e ideograma do mundo que temos de enfrentar é o smog, a névoa fumegante e carregada dos detritos químicos das cidades industriais. Este volume inclui, também, um conto alguns anos anterior e muito diferente. I>A Formiga Argentina, que o autor quis juntar a A Nuvem de Smog por uma afinidade estrutural e moral. Aqui, o "mal de vivre" vem da natureza: as formigas que infestam a Riviera.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Sep 09 2014 Finished: Sep 12 2014
About Fairies
by Pat Murphy (2012)
My review: What if one day you woke up with a new imaginary friend, following around. What if, that imaginary friends turns out to not be that imaginary after all, but a visitor from far away? (★★★)
Started: Sep 14 2014 Finished: Sep 14 2014
Am I Free To Go?
by Kathryn Cramer (2012)
Publisher review: The line between utopia and dystopia ... is, often, who you are. Or who your neighbors think you are.
My rating: ★★
Started: Sep 12 2014 Finished: Sep 14 2014
Son (The Giver, #4)
by Lois Lowry (2012)
Publisher review: They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive?  She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice. Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Sep 14 2014 Finished: Sep 18 2014
The Fire Gown
by Michael Swanwick (2012)
Publisher review: A second “Mongolian Wizard” tale from Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Michael Swanwick – continuing an epic of magic and deception in an alternate Europe of railroads and sorcery..
My rating: ★★★
Started: Sep 19 2014 Finished: Sep 19 2014
Day of the Kraken
by Michael Swanwick (2012)
My review: The third in Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Michael Swanwick's "Mongolian Wizard" series of tales set in an alternate fin de siècle Europe shot through with sorcery and intrigue. As the Mongolian Wizard advances through Europe, Ritter is investigating some crimes that seems to be related to the Roman Catholic church. (★★★)
Started: Sep 19 2014 Finished: Sep 20 2014
Our Human
by Adam-Troy Castro (2012)
My review: On a savage backwater world, the last ragged survivors of an expedition to hunt down the infamous war criminal known as The Beast Magrison set off into an inhospitable wilderness in search of the alien village that may be sheltering this beast. The hunters are aliens from two different species, the village is inhabited by strange aliens of yet another species, and Magrison himself is no sterling advertisement for humanity. Who’s human in this situation? The answer may surprise and upset you. (★★)
Started: Sep 21 2014 Finished: Sep 21 2014
House of Dreams
by Michael Swanwick (2013)
Publisher review: The fourth in Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Michael Swanwick's "Mongolian Wizard" series of tales set in an alternate fin de siècle Europe shot through with magic, mystery, and intrigue. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Sep 21 2014 Finished: Sep 21 2014
Castle in the Air (Howl's Moving Castle, #2)
by Diana Wynne Jones
My review: This is the story of Abdullah, a young and not very prosperous carper dealer in the Sultanates of Rashpuht. One day a stranger walks in and sell him a magical carpet changing his life forever. The book follows Abdullah as he fall for princess Flower-in-the-Night just before she is snatched away by a dijnn, and he travel looking for her. This is not a sequel of Howl's moving Castle in the traditional sense, but many characters from the previous book have a central role in the story, even if they do not really appear until the last third of the book. More about this series in my blog post here: http://goo.gl/fCB9FO
(★★★)
Started: Sep 21 2014 Finished: Sep 26 2014
Doctor Who: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller
by Joanne Harris (2014)
My review: What's not to like? A talented author, one of my favorite ones, writing about one of my (and her) favorite fictional character. The result is a treat: an entertaining novella with a touching plot and full of nostalgic love for the character has loved for so many years. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 27 2014 Finished: Sep 28 2014
Midworld
by Alan Dean Foster (2012)
My review: I enjoyed the story, that is fast paced and entertaining. I enjoyed the fantasy world that the author created, the original symbiotic relationship of the various species, and the everything but subtle social commentary of the role of humans in the destruction of our planet. This is definitely not a character driven story, because its characters are as dull and flat as they can get. Despite this, it is quite an enjoyable book. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 28 2014 Finished: Oct 01 2014
Faster Gun
by Elizabeth Bear (2012)
My review: A sci-fi western time travel novellette, centered around a spacecraft crashed on Earth, just outside Tombstone, with something alive inside. I am not a fan of the Western genre, and probably because of it the story did not work for me. (★★)
Started: Oct 01 2014 Finished: Oct 02 2014
A Rumor of Angels
by Dale Bailey (2013)
My review: "A Rumor of Angels", by Dale Bailey, is a historical fiction novelette with a light touch of fantasy that takes place during the period of the dust bowl in the American Midwest. A teenage boy walks away from his father's wasted farm to follow the other travelers heading west where there is a rumor of angels. The storytelling and the style are remarkable, but I was extremely disappointed by the strange ending. (★★)
Started: Oct 05 2014 Finished: Oct 05 2014
House of Many Ways (Howl's Moving Castle, #3)
by Diana Wynne Jones (2008)
My review: Charmain Baker has led a respectable, sheltered life. She has spent her days with her nose in a book, never learning how to do even the smallest household chores. The easy task of house-sitting the tiny cottage of her ill Great Uncle William is complicated by the fact that he is also the Royal Wizard Norland and his magical house bends space and time.
I wrote a longer review of Howl's series on my personal blog here: http://goo.gl/fCB9FO (★★★★)
Started: Oct 02 2014 Finished: Oct 05 2014
Robots and Empire (Robot #4)
by Isaac Asimov (1996)
Publisher review: Long after his humiliating defeat at the hands of Earthman Elijah Baley, Keldon Amadiro embarked on a plan to destroy planet Earth. But even after his death, Baley's vision continued to guide his robot partner, R. Daneel Olivaw, who had the wisdom of a great man behind him and an indestructable will to win....
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Oct 05 2014 Finished: Oct 13 2014
Daughter of Necessity
by Marie Brennan (2014)
My review: An interesting new spin of a thousands years old tale. This is the story of Penelope, crafting during the day, unmaking every night. But all this weaving it is not just an expedient to postpone what seems to be inevitable: surely somewhere, in all the myriad crossings of the threads, there is a future in which all will be well. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 19 2014 Finished: Oct 19 2014
Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)
by Ann Leckie (2013)
My review: On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren, a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
What I found particularly interesting in this book was its interesting treatment of gender. We are told that the Radch language (and society) does not distinguish between genders, as a result the gender of every character is undetermined. This prevent readers from applying gender biases and stereotypes to the characters, leaving them often confused, and making them realize how strongly gender influences the way we judge and perceive other people.
Learn more in my blog post. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 13 2014 Finished: Oct 27 2014
The Girl in the High Tower
by Gennifer Albin (2014)
My review: I am sure that the readers of the "Crewel World" series are going to enjoy this book, but I would not recommend the book to those that are unfamiliar with Albin's dystopian series. The girl in the high tower reads like a movie trailer to me: it give you a taste of what the Crewel world is, and it does make you want to read it, but when you are done you realize you have just read a long advertisement for a book series that has little value in itself. (★)
Started: Oct 28 2014 Finished: Oct 28 2014
Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch
by Kelly Barnhill (2014)
Publisher review: When Mr. Sorensen - a drab, cipher of a man - passes away, his lovely widow falls in love with a most unsuitable mate. Enraged and scandalized (and armed with hot-dish and gossip and seven-layer bars), the Parish Council turns to the old priest to fix the situation - to convince Mrs. Sorensen to reject the green world and live as a widow ought. But the pretty widow has plans of her own, in Kelly Barnhill's Mrs. Sorenson and the Sasquatch.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Oct 27 2014 Finished: Oct 28 2014
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman (2013)
My review: Neil Gaiman 's is considered by many one of the most gifted artist of the century. His work is highly recommended by many. I decided to pick up this book when I read its review by one of my favorite authors, Patrick Rothfuss, that its raving about it. I had really high expectations, I was expecting a masterpiece. I was disappointed. The book is good, do not get me wrong, and there are paragraphs in it that are remarkably written. It just did not live up to the hype (for my point of view). (★★★)
Started: Oct 28 2014 Finished: Nov 01 2014
The Too-Clever Fox (The Grisha, #2.5)
by Leigh Bardugo (2013)
My review: I did not realize this book was a spin-off of a book series, and it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novelette. This is the story of a too-clever fox, that learns that just because you avoid one trap, it doesn't mean you'll escape the next. (★★★)
Started: Nov 02 2014 Finished: Nov 02 2014
Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza
by Carrie Vaughn (2014)
My review: While this story has many interesting elements, it is hard to enjoy as a stand alone novelette. I am not familiar with the "wild card" universe, and, because of it, I was unable to really enjoy it. (★★)
Started: Nov 01 2014 Finished: Nov 02 2014
Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2)
by Ann Leckie (2014)
My review: The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go -- to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn's sister works in Horticulture. Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized, or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears.
The second installment of the Imperial Radch series touches and develops many of the themes of the first. Particular focus is given to the ills of imperialism and how its promise of equality is hollow because some citizens are more equals than others.
I wrote more about this and the other Hugo awards nominees for best novel on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★★)
Started: Nov 02 2014 Finished: Nov 19 2014
The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5)
by Patrick Rothfuss (2014)
Publisher review: Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows... In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world. AUTHOR’S FOREWORD You might not want to buy this book. I know, that’s not the sort of thing an author is supposed to say. The marketing people aren’t going to like this. My editor is going to have a fit. But I’d rather be honest with you right out of the gate. First, if you haven’t read my other books, you don’t want to start here. My first two books are The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. If you’re curious to try my writing, start there. They’re the best introduction to my world. This book deals with Auri, one of the characters from that series. Without the context of those books, you’re probably going to feel pretty lost. Second, even if you have read my other books, I think it’s only fair to warn you that this is a bit of a strange story. I don’t go in for spoilers, but suffice to say that this one is ... different. It doesn’t do a lot of the things a classic story is supposed to do. And if you’re looking for a continuation of Kvothe’s storyline, you’re not going to find it here. On the other hand, if you’d like to learn more about Auri, this story has a lot to offer. If you love words and mysteries and secrets. If you’re curious about the Underthing and alchemy. If you want to know more about the hidden turnings of my world... Well, then this book might be for you.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Nov 20 2014 Finished: Nov 23 2014
The Walk
by Dennis Etchison (2014)
Publisher review: "The Walk," by Dennis Etchison, is a neat little horror story about the dog eat dog world of Hollywood in which a director and writer have very different ideas of how their collaboration should proceed.
My rating: ★
Started: Nov 24 2014 Finished: Nov 24 2014
Where the Lost Things Are
by Rudy Rucker (2014)
Publisher review: Thanks to "bluegene", life is long. But out Route 42 near Goshen, it's also kind of dull. Just the thing to encourage an expedition into the only actual other universe, the place where…but that would be telling.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Nov 24 2014 Finished: Nov 25 2014
This Chance Planet
by Elizabeth Bear (2014)
My review: This is a story of a dog and a waitress dating an handsome but selfish artist. I know, it sounds horrible and uninteresting, but it is surprisingly a remarkably good story. I do not want to spoil it, so I won't say more, but give it a try, it's good. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2014 Finished: Dec 03 2014
A Kiss With Teeth
by Max Gladstone (2014)
Publisher review: Vlad has grown distant from his wife. His son has trouble at school. And he has to keep his sharp teeth hidden. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
My rating: ★★
Started: Dec 03 2014 Finished: Dec 03 2014
Woman on the Edge of Time
by Marge Piercy
Publisher review: Connie Ramos, a woman in her mid-thirties, has been declared insane. But Connie is overwhelmingly sane, merely tuned to the future, and able to communicate with the year 2137. As her doctors persuade her to agree to an operation, Connie struggles to force herself to listen to the future and its lessons for today....
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Nov 25 2014 Finished: Dec 03 2014
The Golden Apple of Shangri-La
by David Barnett (2014)
My review: I realized too late that this was a prequel to Gideon Smith's steampunk "Rowena Fanshawe" novels. As it is often the case, those books are hard to enjoy as stand-alone stories.
This is the story of Rowena and her attempt to save Shandri-La, the land of eternal youth, and its inhabitant. She will discover that heroes do not necessarily always behave with honor. (★★)
Started: Dec 05 2014 Finished: Dec 05 2014
When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami
by Kendare Blake (2014)
My review: Even if this short story is part of a series (the Goddess Wars series by Kendare Blake), it can be read and enjoyed on its own.
This is the story of immortal teen goddess Athena and of a young boy that mistakes her for a vampire and who refuses to leave her side until she turns him. Enjoyable accessible read. (★★★)
Started: Dec 05 2014 Finished: Dec 05 2014
Midway Relics and Dying Breeds
by Seanan McGuire (2014)
My review: This is a surprisingly entertaining short story set in a post fossil fuel future, following one of the last remaining circuses. The main character build a strong bond with a un-extinct bio-enginered mastodontic mammal, Billie. They both do not fit in easily in the world they live in. (★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2014 Finished: Dec 05 2014
Tuckitor's Last Swim
by Edith Cohn (2014)
My review: Despite being a companion short story to Spirit’s Key, Edith Cohn’s debut novel,
this book can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story.
This is the story of Tuckitor Hatterask and his fierce desire to go for a swim, even though a storm was brewing and he knew it wasn’t a good idea to go into the water. But the forces pulling him toward the ocean are much stronger than he ever could had imagined.
An enjoyable short story with eco-friendly themes. (★★★)
Started: Dec 06 2014 Finished: Dec 07 2014
A Cup of Salt Tears
by Isabel Yap
My review: This is the story of Makino, raised by her mother to avoid kappas (supernatural monsters of the Japanese folklore) and to follow the proper rites to keep them away. But when she grows up and her husband Tetsuya falls deathly ill, a kappa that claims to know her comes calling. (★★★)
Started: Dec 07 2014 Finished: Dec 09 2014
Strongest Conjuration
by Skyler White (2014)
My review: I did not realize this was intended to be a tie-in short story / sequel until I was in the middle of it. It may be a good story to read if you have read the previous books of the Incrementalists series, but it is very difficult to follow and to appreciate as a stand-alone story. (★)
Started: Dec 09 2014 Finished: Dec 13 2014
A Read of Ice and Fire: Game of Thrones
by Leigh Butler (2011)
My review: A cliff-note version of game of thrones, with awesome commentaries. It's the best way to refresh your memory before digging into the following book of the series. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 12 2014 Finished: Dec 14 2014
Selfies
by Lavie Tidhar (2014)
My review: interesting idea, but underdevelopped. (★★)
Started: Dec 14 2014 Finished: Dec 14 2014
Night's Slow Poison (Imperial Radch #0.5)
by Ann Leckie (2014)
Publisher review: “Night’s Slow Poison” is from the same setting as Ancillary Justice, and tells a rich, claustrophobic story of a galactic voyage that forces one guardsmen to confront his uneasy family history through the lens of a passenger with his lost lover’s eyes.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Nov 17 2014 Finished: Dec 14 2014
Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction
by Jo Walton (2010)
Publisher review: It's 1960, and the Axis powers dominate the world. Life goes on, because, as we see in "Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction," history is driven both by big events and by small temptations… Following the appearance of her first two novels, The King's Peace and The King's Name, Jo Walton won the 2002 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Two years later she won the World Fantasy Award for Tooth and Claw. Her Small Change trilogy, comprising Farthing, Ha'penny, and Half A Crown, is set in a world in which Britain struck an early truce with Hitler in 1941; "Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction" is set in the America of that world.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Dec 15 2014 Finished: Dec 15 2014
Pump Six and Other Stories
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2008)
My review: Paolo Bacigalupi's debut collection demonstrates the power and reach of his science fiction short stories: social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of his work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning, and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.
The eleven stories in Pump Six represent the best Paolo's work, including the Hugo nominee Yellow Card Man, the nebula and Hugo nominated story The People of Sand and Slag, and the Sturgeon Award-winning story The Calorie Man. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2014 Finished: Dec 18 2014
The Garden of Rama (Rama, #3)
by Arthur C. Clarke (1993)
My review: I cannot say I was disappointed: I was expecting a book as bad as Rama 2, and I got it. I loved Rendezvous with Rama and I was excited to discover that there were sequels. Unfortunately the so called "sequels" were co-written by a second author, Gentry Lee, and there is nothing of the original story on those sequels.
Clarke was a skillful writer and a scientist, and this did shows in the first book of the Rama series: the focus was on the science part of science fiction, and the plot was plausible and scientifically accurate, and incredibly fascinating. The first book read like an entertaining science article, were strange phenomena were explained using physics.
The sequels are nothing like the original Rama book. While the first book read like a explorer journal, able to fill the reader with wonder and awe, the second and third books read like the screenplay of a cheap and trashy reality TV series.
There are many aspects of the plot that make me think that Clarke had absolutely no role in the writing of this book. (★)
Started: Dec 18 2014 Finished: Dec 25 2014
I, Cthulhu, or, What’s a Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing in a Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9′ S, Longitude 126° 43′ W)?
by Neil Gaiman (2009)
My review: Interesting short story, set in Lovecraft's universe, but full of humor. This is the story of Cthulhu, written from his point of view, with never heard before details regarding his birth and childhood. (★★)
Started: Dec 25 2014 Finished: Dec 25 2014
Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land
by Ruthanna Emrys (2014)
My review: I really like this author (and of The Deepest Rift in particular), but this short story really did not work for me. It reminds me a little of Lovecraft's dreamland stories (that I did not enjoy either). (★)
Started: Dec 25 2014 Finished: Dec 25 2014
The Hound
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Two late 19th century Englishmen fashion themselves "Decadent". Their adventures grow in scope and outrage, until they eventually turn to grave robbery. One night the two go to a graveyard in Holland where somebody has lain buried for five centuries. Legend says their spiritual comrade stole a potent artifact from a "mighty sepulcher". Under ideal artistic conditions of a pale autumn moon, crumbling slabs, ivied church, phosphorescent insects and strangely large bats, they dig. The nightwind carries the distant baying of a gigantic hound. The sound thrills them, since the ghoul they seek was torn to shreds by a preternaturally powerful beast. They discover a surprising intact skeleton, still holding an amulet of green jade carved in an "Oriental fashion", representing a winged hound or sphinx. Isn't it the symbol of corpse-eating cult from the Central Asian plateau of Leng? They stole it and move back to England... but they soon discovered that the amulet was not the only thing they brought back with them. (★★)
Started: Dec 26 2014 Finished: Dec 26 2014
Raising Steam (Discworld, #40, Moist von Lipwig #3 )
by Terry Pratchett (2013)
My review: My word of advice: if you have not read any diskworld novel before, do not start with this one. I made that mistake, and I regretted it. While this can theoretically be read as a stand-alone novel, there are continuous hints of stories from previous books. Even if I could smile at some of the jokes, I was left with the impression that they would be a way more funny if I knew more about the characters. The plot is quite thin, and I have the impression that the most appealing part of the book is to get to read again your beloved characters. Unfortunately, these beloved characters were total strangers for me.
It was not an unpleasant book to read, but I am left with the strong impression that I would have enjoyed it much more if I had read some of the previous books. (★★)
Started: Dec 25 2014 Finished: Dec 31 2014
Hero of the Five Points
by Alan Gratz (2014)
My review:
"The Hero of the Five Points" is a short adventure set in 1853 in the world of the League of Seven fantasy series. I usually stay away from "short story set in the world of" novels, they tend to be quite bad. I am happy to have read this one though, it was entertaining and fun. It is the story of Dalton Dent as he tracks down the foul creature known as Mose. (★★★)
Started: Dec 31 2014 Finished: Jan 01 2015
Where the Trains Turn
by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (2014)
My review: “Where the Trains Turn” is the well deserving winner of the Finnish science-fiction magazine Portti’s annual short story competition and of the Atorox Award for best Finnish science fiction or fantasy short story.
The main character of the story, Emma Nightingale, prefers to remain grounded in reality as much as possible. Yet she’s willing to indulge her nine year-old son Rupert’s fascination with trains, as it brings him closer to his father, Gunnar, from whom she is separated. Once a month, Gunnar and Rupert venture out to follow the rails and watch the trains pass. Their trips have been pleasant, if uneventful, until one afternoon Rupert returns in tears. "The train tried to kill us" he tells her. Rupert’s terror strikes Emma as merely the product of an overactive imagination. After all, his fears could not be based in reality, could they? (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2015 Finished: Jan 01 2015
Dora Bruder
by Patrick Modiano (2014)
My review: This is the (real) story of an author (Patrick Modiano himself) fighting against the amnesia of time, and of a society that does not want to remember. In 1988 the author stumbles across an ad in the personal columns of the New Year's Eve 1941 edition of Paris Soir: "Missing, a young girl, Dora Bruder, age 15, height 1 m 55, oval-shaped face, gray-brown eyes, gray sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes". Placed by the parents of Dora, who had run away from her Catholic boarding school, the ad sets Modiano off on a quest to find out everything he can about her and why, at the height of German reprisals, she ran away from the people hiding her. There is only one other official mention of her name: on a list of Jews deported from Paris to Auschwitz in September 1942. What little Modiano discovers about Dora in official records and through remaining family members becomes a meditation on the immense losses of the period: lost people, lost stories, and lost history. Modiano delivers a moving account of the ten-year investigation that took him back to the sights and sounds of Paris under the Nazi Occupation and the paranoia of the Petain regime. In his efforts to exhume her from the past, Modiano realizes that he must come to terms with the specters of his own troubled adolescence. The result, a montage of creative and historical material, is Modiano's personal rumination on loss, both memoir and memorial. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 02 2015 Finished: Jan 03 2015
Skin in the Game
by Sabrina Vourvoulias (2014)
My review: An interesting urban fantasy with a Latin flavor. Three kinds of people live in Zombie City-La Boca Del Diablo: the zombies, los vivos, and the ghosts. Officer Jimena Villagrán, not truly at home with any of these groups, patrols the barrio for stalking monsters. Magic con men and discarded needles make this beat hazardous enough, but the latest rash of murders threatens to up the ante by outing the horrors of Jimena's personal history. (★★★)
Started: Jan 03 2015 Finished: Jan 04 2015
Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North
by Charles Vess (2014)
My review: This is the fairy tale of Father Christmas. He was an orphan child that fell in love to a beautiful maiden that turned out to be the troll princess (no this does not turn ugly like Princess Fiona in Shrek). Some parts of the story are promising, but others seems quite random. (★★)
Started: Jan 04 2015 Finished: Jan 04 2015
Burnt Sugar (Firebug, #0.5)
by Lish McBride (2014)
My review: As it is often the case with short stories that are prequel to an entire book saga, I am left with the strong impression that I would enjoyed this more if I had read the Firebug book series first.
This is the story of three magical mafia workers: Ava, Lock, and Ezra. They are out on an assignment. Faced with a gingerbread house, they're pretty sure that what's inside isn't nearly as sweet as the outside. It never is. (★★★)
Started: Jan 04 2015 Finished: Jan 04 2015
The Doom That Came to Sarnath
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Ten thousand years ago, in the remote Dreamlands region of Mnar, there was a vast lake, and on its shore stood the imperial city of men called Sarnath. Immemorial years before the building of Sarnath, however, the gray stone city of Ib overlooked the lake, peopled by beings who were green-skinned and flabby-lipped and bulging of eye and voiceless. It’s believed that lake and Ib and beings all came down from the moon one night. The beings worshipped the great water-lizard, Bokrug, and danced horribly before his sea-green idol when the moon was gibbous.
Men eventually colonized Mnar, and the most adventurous founded Sarnath on the shores of the vast lake, where they had discovered tempting deposits of precious metal. Their wonder at the Ibites soon gave way to hatred, because ugly and weird and way too ancient for comfort. Also the beings were weak, easy prey. One night the warriors of Sarnath slew all the beings and shoved the bodies into the lake, along with their gray stone monoliths, because also weird, and who needs reminders of a whole slaughtered species?
The statue of Bokrug, however, the men kept as an emblem of victory—or tried to. The day after they installed it in their temple, it vanished. The high priest Taran-Ish lay dead as if from terror... (★★)
Started: Jan 04 2015 Finished: Jan 04 2015
Rama Revealed (Rama, #4)
by Arthur C. Clarke
My review: I'm at a loss on how to review this book. I loved the original Clark's Rama book. I was deeply disappointed (and disgusted) by the two sequels books that followed it. I strongly suspect Clarke had very little to do with the first two sequel books beside putting his name on the cover. I found those two books sexist, and I disliked the attempts to distort Science findings to give them a spiritual interpretation. I continued to read the series because I do not like to not finish something I have started.
This last book was an uttermost surprise to me. While it has all the bad elements of book 2 and 3, while its structure is a little episodic, I had a very hard time to put it down. The weird characters of the previous books have grown on me, I became quite fond of them, and emotionally attached to this crazy bizarre set of characters. I was deeply moved by their lives, their sacrifices, and (for some of them) by their death.
I do not think I ever had such an emotional response to a book ending in my entire life, so even if the book is real rubbish for so many reasons, I must give the book 5 full stars. It was worth reading through the previous horrible books and endure that sexist manure just to experience it. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 04 2015 Finished: Jan 11 2015
Headache [Cuento]
by Julio Cortázar (2014)
My review: What a bizarre story! I am told that Julio Cortázar was a sickly child and spent many hours in bed. Perhaps those memories inspired this story that focuses so much on headaches. (★)
Started: Jan 11 2015 Finished: Jan 11 2015
As Good as New
by Charlie Jane Anders (2014)
My review: From the author of the Hugo-winning Six Months, Three Days, a new wrinkle on the old story of three wishes, set after the end of the world.
The main character struggles to think of three wishes to save the world, without accidentally causing another apocalypse by not wording everything properly: wishes are tricky things, and rarely work out the way people think. (★★)
Started: Jan 11 2015 Finished: Jan 11 2015
Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon
by Ken Liu (2014)
My review: This is the story of Jing and Yuan, a pair of young women in love for the first time in their lives, who are about to be parted by circumstances beyond their control: one of them is to leave China to go study in the States.
But it is Qixi, the ancient Festival of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl, and on that day the legendary lovers give the young women some help and advice. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 12 2015 Finished: Jan 12 2015
She Commands Me and I Obey (Imperial Radch #0.6)
by Ann Leckie (2014)
Publisher review: A short story set in the world of Ancillary Justice, published by Strange Horizons as part of their annual funding drive.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Jan 11 2015 Finished: Jan 12 2015
The Whisperer in the Darkness
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The 1928 floods bring rumors of strange bodies in the swollen rivers of rural Vermont. These rumors build on older stories about winged, crab-like beings from the stars with an outpost in the hills. Albert Wilmarth, folklore professor at Miskatonic University, writes editorials arguing that these are merely the local instantiation of a standard myth. Henry Akeley, an educated Vermont farmer, writes to insist that he has evidence of the rumors' truth. He's seen the creatures, taken photographs of their prints, even made a recording and found a strange black stone covered with their hieroglyphs, evidence that he offers to share. But the creatures and their human spies now hound him, trying to reclaim these objects... (★★)
Started: Jan 12 2015 Finished: Jan 13 2015
Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2)
by Stephen King (2013)
My review: This is the story of a now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and Abra, a psychic twelve-year-old girl, fighting for their life against a tribe of murderous paranormals.
As in "the shining", one of the main (and most interesting) themes is alcoholism, but while in the first book Jack Torrance slowly yet inevitably succumb to it, in Doctor Sleep, Danny Doc Torrance fights and recovers from it. The two books are clearly written in two quite distinct moments of King's life: in 1977 King was a young author that was struggling against alcoholism and that was horrified by it, in 2013 King is an established author, now sober, that can look at his past struggles with empathy and hope.
The main problem of the book is its predictable plot: you can see every "twist" coming. There was only one point in the book where the author slightly surprised me, and the "twist" (that I will not mention here to avoid spoilers) felt as if it was added later as an afterthought. (★★)
Started: Jan 13 2015 Finished: Jan 23 2015
The Thing on the Doorstep
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The Thing on the Doorstep is a short story written by H.P. Lovecraft, part of the Cthulhu Mythos universe of horror fiction. Daniel Upton, the story's narrator, begins by telling that he has killed his best friend, Edward Derby, and that he hopes his account will prove that he is not a murderer.
While the story is interesting, I confess that I start to get bored of Lovecraft's stories because they seem to often follow the same narrative structure to the point that, at times, it seems to be reading the same story over and over.
What makes this story interesting is that it offers an incredible opportunity to explore the mysogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia of the author. While disturbing, it is fascinating how his issues with ethnicity and gender coalesced into his anxious, agoraphobic horror stories. I strongly recommend reading Gender and Identity Anxiety in The Thing on the Doorstep ( link: http://goo.gl/noLKon ) after reading the story, it is quite eye opening. (★★★)
Started: Jan 24 2015 Finished: Jan 25 2015
The Shadow Out of Time
by H.P. Lovecraft (2003)
My review: The Shadow out of Time is Lovecraft's last major story, written in a four-month period from November 1934 to February 1935. It was first published in the 1936 issue of Astounding Stories. It is one of the author best written stories, almost free of misogynistic and xenophobic paranoia.
This is the story of Professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee, trying to come to term with his experience as a victim of the Great Race's quest for all the secrets of the universe through time and space. (★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2015 Finished: Jan 28 2015
The Female Man
by Joanna Russ (1997)
My review: The novel follows the lives of four women living in parallel worlds that differ in time and place. When they cross over to each other's worlds, their different views on gender roles startle each other's preexisting notions of womanhood. In the end, their encounters influence them to evaluate their lives and shape their ideas of what it means to be a woman.
This book is novel in both the themes that it explores, and in the writing style and structure. It is of historical significance as one of the most successful example of feminist science fiction, challenging the sexist views of the 70s. It is also a remarkable literary achievement, that not only breaks many of the preexisting notions of gender roles, but also common narrative tropes. The chronological order is broken, each chapter is set in a different time and place. The narrative switches from third to first person during the book, to even feature (quite effectively) stream-of-consciousness at some point. While this departure from the stylistic tropes makes the book harder to read at times, it also effectively and powerfully help deliver some of the messages of the book. For example the change of narrative prospective from third to first person highlights the awakening of Jannine Dadier, from the woman living in a repressive and sexist great depression world, desperate to show that her life has a meaning finding a man to marry, to the woman ready to take action to break the gender roles of her world.
I strongly encourage everybody to read this book, for its historical and literary significance, despite some transphobic themes that appear in one of the latest chapter and that really mar and stain what would have been otherwise a perfect masterpiece. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 29 2015 Finished: Feb 15 2015
A Long Spoon (Johannes Cabal, #4.5)
by Jonathan L. Howard (2014)
My review: I have not read any of the Johannes Cabal books before, but this can be read as a stand-alone story, and I really enjoyed reading it. I really loved the sarcastic, witty storytelling. I can't wait to read all the books of the series now.
This is the story of Johannes Cabal, an infamous necromancer, that is suddenly experiencing various attempts to his life. he decides to investigate the matter, but the trail leads to one of the less traveled parts of Hell itself, and there Cabal will need a guide. he summons as a guide the devil Zarenyia and he delve deep into Hell, even into Satan's greatest mistake, to confront challenges quite outside the ken of any mortal. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2015 Finished: Feb 16 2015
The Martian
by Andy Weir (2014)
My review: This is the story of astronaut Mark Watney, one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars, and the first one to get stranded there. It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he is stuck millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive. And even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills, and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit, he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
One of the most entertaining, fun, impossible to put down, scientifically accurate, book I read in a long while. I strongly recommend it to everybody. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2015 Finished: Feb 19 2015
The Mound
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: An ethnologist visits the town of Binger, Oklahoma in 1928 to investigate a mound, which is said to be haunted by a man by day and a headless woman by night. He discovers a scroll left by a member of the explorer Coranado's party and learns that the mound is in fact a portal to a vast underground civilization. (★★)
Started: Feb 20 2015 Finished: Feb 23 2015
The Terrible Old Man
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: Lovecraft's xenophobia is a powerful force in his work. His pathological race-induced fears are transfigured into the horrors so adroitly described in his stories. While his racist views emerge in his stories, marring and staining them, we can sometimes still appreciate the rest of the work because of that powerful, agoraphobic sense of horror and fear that he managed to convey. While we despise his views, we still admire his tremendously powerful depictions of ancient horrors, powered by the deep anxieties and fears rooted on his views.
In the case of The terrible Old Man, the author fails to deliver, and all that is left are the xenophobic rants and a thin plot. Let's just say this is not one of his best short stories. (★★)
Started: Mar 19 2015 Finished: Mar 19 2015
Birthright (Diablo: The Sin War, #1)
by Richard A. Knaak (2006)
My review: I usually avoid fiction derived from videogames or movies, but I was playing Diablo III, and I got tempted. What made me decide to read the book was noticing that this trilogy was written by Knaak, that is an author I read and appreciated in the past. He had written a video-game inspired trilogy (i.e. WoW War of the Ancients trilogy) that was actually worth reading and entertaining so I decided to give it a try. This may not be the best of his books (do not get me started on the main female characters of this book, and how disturbingly uninteresting she is), but it is entertaining and there are some interesting Miltonian themes that redeem the book.
Plot: Uldyssian, a simple farmer from the village of Seram, is mistakenly blamed for the grisly murders of two traveling missionaries. He is forced to flee his homeland with his brother and two of his dearest friends. Soon both Uldyssian and his brother starts exhibiting strange new powers and finding themselves in the middle of the eternal conflict between the angelic forces of the High Heavens and the demonic hordes of the Burning Hells. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 23 2015 Finished: Mar 19 2015
The Temple
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The Temple is a short story narrated as a "found manuscript" penned by Karl Heinrich, Graf von Altberg-Ehrenstein, a Lieutenant Commander in the Imperial German Navy during the days of World War I. It documents the events that led to his descent to the bottom of the ocean, in the middle of the ruins of a long lost civilization.
What surprised me is the criticism towards the nationalist and racist protagonist. It surprises me because the author is well known for his reprehensible xenophobic views. It almost make me think that what I interpreted as sarcasm maybe was actually not a criticism. (★★★)
Started: Mar 20 2015 Finished: Mar 21 2015
The Music of Erich Zann
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Music of Erich Zann is the story of a university student forced, by his lack of funds, to take the only lodging he can afford in a strange part of the city he had never seen before, on a street named Rue d'Auseil, in an almost empty building. One of the few other tenants is an old German man named Erich Zann. The old man is mute and plays the viol with a local orchestra. He lives on the top floor and when alone at night, plays strange melodies never heard before. (★★★)
Started: Mar 22 2015 Finished: Mar 22 2015
The Colour Out of Space
by H.P. Lovecraft (2013)
My review: A surveyor for a new reservoir tours the area to be inundated. He's heard the shunned countryside west of Arkham is not good for the imagination. Even he is spooked by the blasted heath: five acres of gray dust like a great spot eaten by acid into the woods and fields where a well releases vapors that stain the sunlight with strange hues. It all began with the meteorite that fell on Nahum Gardner's prosperous farm. Miskatonic professors troop out to see the space rock that is soon proven to have very unusual characteristics... (★★★)
Started: Mar 28 2015 Finished: Mar 28 2015
The Days of Anna Madrigal (Tales of the City, #9)
by Armistead Maupin (2014)
My review: Amazing. Just simply utterly amazing.
I woke up early as always this morning, when it was dark. I could not tell the time because I had misplaced my phone somewhere. I retired to the guestroom because I did not want to wake my partner up. From there, I started outside at San Francisco, at the neon light of the Castro theater, and the downtown skyscrapers flickering against the backdrop of the bay, a tranquil ocean of darkness broken only broken by the pale East Bay lights. There is something very peaceful and rewarding in waking up before the day starts, to get a chance to see the city sleeping peacefully, when there is no hint of all the commotions to come.
I picked up the book I just started, Maupin's The Days of Anna Madrigal, and started reading it in the silence and darkness of the night. It kept me company hours after hour. As the sky started lighting up, as a small kindle of light emerged on the horizon, I kept devouring and savoring page after page, completely captivated, trapped by the story. This is not only tremendously well written, it is also the most powerful, touching, and moving book of a series, its perfect conclusion. And now the sun is high in the sky, and I find myself still in my PJs, staring out of the window with the book still in my hands, deeply and gratefully moved to tears. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 22 2015 Finished: Mar 28 2015
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett (2006)
My review: Remarkably funny, adroitly written, very entertaining. Two (at the time) almost unknown authors destined to became two of the well-known UK (and world) writers came together to write one of the most read book of the century. I do not want to spoil the fun, but this is the story of the end of the world, long ago foretold by Agnes Nutter, a witch. It's the story of Angels and Demons, of Agnes' descendants and witch-hunters, of the Antichrist and scam occultist... (★★★★)
Started: Mar 28 2015 Finished: Apr 12 2015
In the Vault
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This short story is quite an atypical Lovecraft's tale. There are no ancient alien horrors or cyclopean ruins. This is just a Gothic story, where an undertaker finds himself trapped in the vault where coffins are stored during winter for burial in the spring, and is mysteriously injured when he escapes. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 13 2015 Finished: Apr 13 2015
Dagon
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: "Dagon" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, written in July 1917, one of the first stories he wrote as an adult. It is the testament of a tortured, morphine-addicted man who plans to commit suicide over an incident that occurred early on in World War I when he was a merchant marine officer.
In the unnamed narrator's account, his cargo ship is captured by a German sea-raider in "one of the most open and least frequented parts of the broad Pacific". He escapes on a lifeboat and drifts aimlessly across the sea "somewhat south of the equator" until he eventually finds himself inexplicably stranded on a slimy expanse of hellish black mire. (★★)
Started: Apr 13 2015 Finished: Apr 13 2015
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
by H.P. Lovecraft (1936)
My review: This is probably one of the best novels by Lovecraft, and the only novel to be published in book form during the author lifetime. As it is often the case with Lovecraft, the powerful horror is powered by the author xenophobia and extreme "horror of miscegenation". While the author views are deeply reprehensible and disturbing, his fears and phobias helped him craft some of his most powerful stories.
This is the story of a student on an antiquarian tour of New England, that find himself in the seaport city of Innsmouth. While there he starts to untangle ancient horrors lurking in this once prosperous city. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 12 2015 Finished: Apr 13 2015
The Day the World Turned Upside Down
by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2014)
My review: An interesting fantastic novel set in current times. One day the world turned upside down that is to say the gravity makes people fall towards the sky. Nobody knows why it happened. Some wondered whether it was their fault. Whether they had been praying to the wrong gods, or whether they had said the wrong things. But it wasn’t like that, the world simply turned upside down. (★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2015 Finished: Apr 18 2015
The Lurking Fear
by H.P. Lovecraft (2006)
My review: A local village has been reduced overnight to human debris. Locals connect the slaughter to the ruined Martense mansion which crowns Tempest Mountain. State troopers disregard this theory: not so our narrator. He'll root out the culprit of the inexplicable attack (one of many over the years), be it supernatural or material. Establishing himself among reporters covering the story from Lefferts Corners, he waits for excitement to ebb so he can launch an unobserved investigation...
One of the most boring and slow starting Lovecraft's novels. (★)
Started: Apr 18 2015 Finished: Apr 18 2015
Foundation (Foundation #1)
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
The story starts with Hari Seldon, a scientist that spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology. Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30 thousand years before a second great empire arises. Seldon also foresees an alternative where the interregnum will last only one thousand years. To ensure the more favorable outcome, Seldon creates a foundation of talented artisans and engineers at the extreme end of the galaxy, to preserve and expand on humanity's collective knowledge, and thus become the foundation for a new galactic empire.
The book is a collection of multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 13 2015 Finished: Apr 18 2015
Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2)
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
As for the previous book, the second installment of the series is a collection of multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries.
Led by its founding father, the great psychohistorian Hari Seldon, and taking advantage of its superior science and technology, the Foundation has survived the greed and barbarism of its neighboring warrior-planets. Yet now it must face the Empire, still the mightiest force in the Galaxy even in its death throes. When an ambitious general determined to restore the Empire's glory turns the vast Imperial fleet toward the Foundation, the only hope for the small planet of scholars and scientists lies in the prophecies of Hari Seldon. But not even Hari Seldon could have predicted the birth of the extraordinary creature called The Mule, [spoilers removed] (★★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2015 Finished: Apr 23 2015
The Call of Cthulhu
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Call of Cthulhu is a short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. Written in the summer of 1926, it was first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, in February 1928.
In the text, narrator Francis Wayland Thurston, of Boston, recounts his discovery of notes left behind by his granduncle, George Gammell Angell, a prominent Professor of Semitic languages at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who died suddenly in "the winter of 1926–27" after being "jostled by a nautical-looking" African-American.
The story initially revolves around a small bas-relief sculpture found among these papers, which the narrator describes as follows: "My somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature.... A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings". The sculpture is the work of Henry Anthony Wilcox, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design who based the work on his delirious dreams of "great Cyclopean cities of titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with green ooze and sinister with latent horror". Frequent references to Cthulhu and R'lyeh are found in papers authored by Wilcox. Angell also discovers reports of "outre mental illnesses and outbreaks of group folly or mania" around the world (in New York City, "hysterical Levantines" mob police; in California, a Theosophist colony dons white robes to await a "glorious fulfillment")... (★★★)
Started: Apr 23 2015 Finished: Apr 24 2015
Kia and Gio
by Daniel José Older (2015)
My review: Kia is a week shy of her seventeenth birthday, which is about how old her cousin Gio was six years ago when he just up and went away. Kia is a little bit in love with Giovanni but she has not thought about him this much since the day he disappeared. It is not until a run-of-the-mill work shift at Baba Eddie's botanica goes awry that she begins to understand why he’s on her mind. (★★★)
Started: Apr 24 2015 Finished: Apr 24 2015
Dog
by Bruce McAllister (2015)
My review: Dog is the chilling horror story of a young progressive American couple that visit Mexico to better understand its culture, but end up having a close encounters with nightmarish creature from the country ancient history: a breed of dogs very unlike any domesticated variety north of the border. (★★★)
Started: May 01 2015 Finished: May 01 2015
Scarecrow
by Alyssa Wong (2015)
My review: This is a remarkable horror short story by Alyssa Wong, dealing with complex issues like bullism and its tragic toll, self-hate, death, homophobia, and coming-out at a young age. It is tale of tragic love and loss. (★★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings
by Leigh Butler (2012)
My review: A cliff-note version of A Clash of Kings, with awesome commentaries. It's the best way to refresh your memory before digging into the following book of the series. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 19 2014 Finished: May 03 2015
The Language of Knives
by Haralambi Markov (2015)
My review: The Language of Knives is centered around the complex death rituals to prepare the body of the husband of the main protagonist. The unnamed main protagonist and his strong-willed daughter follows the customs of how to respect the remains of their loved one, while thinking about their life together. (★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
Damage
by David D. Levine (2015)
My review: As in Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch series, the protagonist is the artificial intelligence controlling a warspacecraft. In this case the AI finds itself struggling between its programming imperatives and its morals. The struggle is very successfully portrayed. Levine is a promising author I will keep an eye on. (★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
Scales of the Serpent (Diablo: The Sin War, #2)
by Richard A. Knaak (2007)
My review: This book is surprisingly entertaining and fun for being based on a video-game, but Richard A. Knaak has previously demonstrated to deliver this type of books.
In this second installment of the Sin War series, Uldyssian is focusing on destroying the evil cult of the Triune, and he does not yet suspect that Inarius, the head of the Cathedral of Light and creator of Sanctuary, has been subtly aiding his quest. But another player has slipped back into the equation. The demon Lilith, once Inarius's lover, seeks to use Uldyssian as her own pawn in a scheme to turn humans into an army of naphalem, godlike beings, as powerful as angels and demons, who could overturn all creation and elevate Lilith to supreme being. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 28 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
Schrödinger's Gun
by Ray Wood (2015)
My review: Of all the crime scenes in all the timelines in all the multiverse, Detective O'Harren walks into the basement on West 21st. In every possible universe, Johnny Rivers is dead. But the questions that need answering, who killed him and why, are still a matter of uncertainty. (★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt
by Alex Bledsoe
My review: This short story is not poorly written, and it is probably good for lovers of the romantic / young adult /supernatural genre. Unfortunately, I am not fond of the genre, and I did not enjoy it as much as somebody else could. The fact that the story is a sequel of a book series that I have not read did not help either.
This is the story Bronwyn Hyatt, one of the last remaining Tufa pure bloods. She is preparing for her wedding day, when she finds the perfect dress from a most unexpected source. But she should remember this: never accept a gift without knowing the consequences. (★★)
Started: May 14 2015 Finished: May 14 2015
And the Burned Moths Remain
by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (2015)
My review: I liked the story (even if it borrows many of Lekie's Ancillary Justice themes, and explore them in a less remarkable way). I was saddened to read it was written by "require hate", famous for her highly reprehensible conduct, and extreme cyber-bullying. You can learn more about it in Laura Mixon's expose here: http://goo.gl/FtyGLx (★★★)
Started: May 15 2015 Finished: May 15 2015
Elephants and Corpses
by Kameron Hurley
My review: A fun and entertaining short stories, set in a world were a set of mercenaries learn the ability to jump from a corpse to another. This is the story of Nev, one of the corpse jumping mercenaries and his assistant Tera. Tera recognizes the most recent waterlogged cadaver they bought off the street... (★★★★)
Started: May 15 2015 Finished: May 15 2015
The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)
by Liu Cixin (2014)
My review: I was quite excited to read a book of China's most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin. I was even more excited to read it translated by a Hugo/Nebula winner author, Ken Liu.
The book starts during China's Cultural Revolution, and today's China. The sci-fi component of the plot emerges quite slowly, the first part of the book focuses on the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and the terrifying experience of Ye Wenjie through it. That was, to me, the most interesting and powerful part of the entire book. After reading it my expectations were so high, that the rest of the book (while still good) was a little bit disappointing.
As the book progresses, it switches to full sci-fi mode and moves away from historical towards purely fictional. It is an interesting story, that deals with the effects on human and alien societies after their first contact.
I wrote more about this and the other Hugo awards nominees for best novel on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 16 2015
Useless Wings (Tin Star, #0.5)
by Cecil Castellucci (2015)
My review: I am usually wary of prequels and short stories set in the world of a bigger book series, because they often fail to deliver. This is a surprising exception. I have not red the Tin Star series, but after reading this novelette I might.
This is the story of Heckleck, a Hort alien, raised to understand that breeding and propagating his own kind is the sole reason for living. When he is called upon to settle on a new planet, he meets the daughter of a politician, Goglu, with whom he falls helplessly in love, and is determined to win over. But nothing is easy in love and space exploration. (★★★)
Started: May 16 2015 Finished: May 16 2015
Ambiguity Machines: An Examination
by Vandana Singh (2015)
My review: Three very strange, bizarre, yet somehow powerfully magical short stories packed together in a fictional engineering exam that explores new concepts in machine design and function. (★★★)
Started: May 17 2015 Finished: May 17 2015
A Beautiful Accident
by Peter Orullian (2015)
My review: In a culture where ritualized torture is used to teach its people strength through long-suffering, a foreign sufferer unintentionally teaches them something stronger. (★★★)
Started: May 22 2015 Finished: May 22 2015
Redwood: A Guide to Redwood National and State Parks, California: A Guide to Redwood National and State Parks, California
by National Park Service (U.S.), Division of Publications (1998)
My review: When I visit a National Park, I always like to purchase a book that provides an introduction to its history and natural wonders. Unfortunately many of these books are not the greatest, providing very scant information. I would strongly recommend this one. It provides an introduction to the parks and the movement to preserve redwoods, the world's tallest trees. It explores redwood natural history, the work of restoring the previously heavily logged lands, and North Coast Indian culture. It also includes a travel guide and reference materials for touring the parks. (★★★★)
Started: May 24 2015 Finished: May 25 2015
Ginga
by Daniel José Older
My review: This is a short story set in the world of Daniel Jose' Older's immensely popular Bone Street Rumba series. This is the second story set in this world I read, and while the first was just OK, this is quite good. It is entertaining and it touches interesting themes like xenophobia.
This is the story of Kia, developing a crush for obscenely muscular new capoeira teacher, while her previous crush starts going off with a new girl in their favorite park. Kia figures she has enough going on without some creepy ghost causing car crashes and hit-and-runs in her neighborhood. Carlos Delacruz, the half-dead half-resurrected soulcatcher for the New York Council of the Dead, would love to keep her out of it, but things don't usually go the way he intends. (★★★★)
Started: May 26 2015 Finished: May 26 2015
St. Dymphna’s School For Poison Girls
by Angela Slatter (2015)
My review: This is the story of a young girl being schooled in the art of assassination in a private institution.
I did not particularly enjoy this book. Maybe this is due to the fact that this is a sequel to a book that I have not read and I am not familiar with, i.e. Slatter’s Sourdough and Other Stories. (★★)
Started: May 27 2015 Finished: May 29 2015
On Impact
by Stephen King (2000)
My review: The true story of a close encounter with Death during a simple daily walk, by one of the most read contemporary authors of the 21st century. Remarkably human and interesting. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 07 2015 Finished: Jun 07 2015
The Goblin Emperor
by Katherine Addison (2014)
My review: Maia is the latest and least of the child of the elf emperor, born from a marriage with a repudiated goblin princess. Raised in something close to exile by a cruel guardian, he suddenly find himself the new Emperor after the assassination of his father and older brothers.
While the book is a little bit hard to follow at first because of the number of characters (game of thrones has a forth of the characters in 50x more pages), their very complex and hard to remember name, and the complexity of their relationships and of the world politics, it grew on me thanks to the extreme likability of the main character.
The book contains relatively little action, almost everything happens in few rooms of the imperial palace, and the plot has very little surprises to offer (the guys that appear to be the bad guys turn out to be the bad guy, the guys that look like the good guys are the good guys). Despite that, the book is quite a pleasure to read thanks to the adroit characterization of the main character, that while insecure and humble, he is the embodiment of virtue and impossible to dislike.
I wrote more about this and the other Hugo awards nominees for best novel on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★★)
Started: May 18 2015 Finished: Jun 14 2015
The Life of the Mind: The End of All Things
by John Scalzi (2015)
My review: I was very eager to get back to the world of Old man war, and I was not disappointed. This 6th book of the saga is being serialized like the previous one, but this time each installment is more self contained and chunkier, resulting in a vastly superior reading experience.
The life of the mind is the story of a down-on-his-luck Colonial Union starship pilot that finds himself pressed into serving a harsh master-in a mission against the Colonial Union. But his kidnappers may have underestimated his knowledge of the ship that they have, quite literally, bound him to piloting. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2015 Finished: Jun 14 2015
This Hollow Union: The End of All Things
by John Scalzi (2015)
My review: This is the second installment of the serialization of The End of all Things, the latest book set in the Old Man War universe.
The point of view now move to the Conclave and to its leadership, facing desperate times that call for desperate measures. Faced with the prospect of major planets and species leaving the alliance, the Conclave's leadership has just a few cards left to play, to unpredictable effect. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 19 2015 Finished: Jun 19 2015
Can Long Endure (The End of All Things, #3)
by John Scalzi (2015)
My review: This is the third installment of the serialization of The End of all Things, the latest book set in the Old Man War universe.
The story progresses, and it is now being told from a third distinct point of view: the one of the Colonial Union soldiers: they signed up to defend humans from hostile aliens, but this group finds themselves, instead, repeatedly sent to squelch rebellious human colonies that want to leave the CU. It's not a sustainable situation. Something has to give. Things seems to be building up for a big explosive finale. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 28 2015 Finished: Jun 28 2015
To Stand or Fall (The End of All Things, #4)
by John Scalzi
My review: In this perfectly crafted chapter, we are back on Earth, to witness the beginning and end of all things. The nations of humanity's home planet have parted ways with the starfaring Colonial Union, the human interstellar empire originally established to keep the home planet free. The Union needs to regain Earth's trust. The alien races of the Conclave have their own hard choices to face. All of these threads culminate in this fourth part of the full-length novel, The End of All Things, John Scalzi's conclusion to the latest story set in the Old Man's War universe. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 30 2015 Finished: Jul 01 2015
The End of the End of Everything
by Dale Bailey (2014)
My review: An interesting apocalyptic novella, describing a humanity falling to decadence as it waits for the end to arrive. This is the story of a long-married couple invited by an old friend to an exclusive artist's colony. The inhabitants of the colony indulge in suicide parties as the world teeters on the brink of extinction, worn away by some weird entropy. (★★★)
Started: Jul 13 2015 Finished: Jul 13 2015
The Dark Between the Stars
by Kevin J. Anderson (2014)
My review: While the book is entertaining I was a little disappointed by it. Probably my expectations were set too high (The Dark Between the Stars is one of the finalist for the 2015 Hugo awards), but there is nothing to set this book apart from millions of other sci-fi books. This book is the sequel of the The Saga of Seven Suns. I have not read that trilogy, and I was left with the impression I would have enjoyed this book more if I had.
More reviews of more 2015 Hugo awards nominees here on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2015 Finished: Jul 13 2015
In the Cave of the Delicate Singers
by Lucy Taylor (2015)
My review: This is a horror story about a woman with magic powers who can feel sound waves and the dangerous rescue mission she undertakes in a cave with a nasty past.
The story is very interesting and thrilling, and I am looking forward reading more from this author. The only part that disturbed me was the description of the main character magic power as "a rare form of synesthesia", making me think that the writer really understands how synesthesia works.
(★★★)
Started: Jul 16 2015 Finished: Jul 16 2015
Case of Charles Dexter Ward
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is an epistolary novel, written in early 1927, but not published during the author's lifetime.
The novel, set in 1918 in Lovecraft's hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, describes how Charles Dexter Ward becomes obsessed with his distant ancestor, Joseph Curwen, an alleged wizard with unsavory habits. Ward physically resembles Curwen, and attempts to duplicate his ancestor's Qabalistic and alchemical feats. He eventually uses this knowledge to physically resurrect Curwen. Ward's doctor, Marinus Bicknell Willett, investigates Ward's activities and is horrified by what he finds. (★★)
Started: May 30 2015 Finished: Jul 18 2015
Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)
by Jim Butcher (2000)
My review: The Dresden File is a quite successful young adult urban fantasy series. The first half of it has a relatively thin plot with a lot of sexual references to keep young readers interested. It gets better towards the end, but while enjoyable, it does not have something to set it apart from the millions of ya pulp novels. (★★★)
Started: Jul 19 2015 Finished: Jul 23 2015
Lightspeed Magazine, June 2015
by Seanan McGuire (2015)
My review: Lightspeed is a very well-known science fiction and fantasy magazine. Even in science fiction, supposedly the genre of limitless possibility, where everyone is invited to the adventure, minorities are often underrepresented. Last year Lightspeed started the "destroy science fiction" series, a yearly program focusing on underrepresented minorities to give them a voice, and to see what they have to offer and to contribute to the genre. In 2014 they focused on sci-fi and women. This year (2015) they focused on queer authors and themes. Next year they will focus on people of color. While sci-fi is considered by many the more open of the literary genres, heterosexual, heteroromantic, and cisgendered are considered the default, to the extent that everything else is "deviation," and must be eyed with suspicion. But all science fiction is real science fiction. Science fiction is vast, and incredible fascinating in all its facets. It is inclusive. Science fiction is about people, and queer people, no matter how they identify [Gay, lesbian, bisexual, demisexual, asexual, pansexual, intersex, transgender, genderfluid, genderqueer.. anyone who fits within the QUILTBAG], are a big part of that. They always have been. They are just sometimes harder to see. So, in the interests of visibility and breaking stuff, Queers Destroy Science Fiction! will show you just how wide the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity can really be. This special all-queer issue features original science fiction short stories from many award winning authors includin John Chu, Kate M. Galey, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Chaz Brenchley, Felicia Davin, Rose Lemberg, Jessica Yang, K.M. Szpara, Amal El-Mohtar, Tim Susman, and Susan Jane Bigelow. The issue also include an interesting assortment of author and artist spotlights, interviews, nonfiction features, plus more than twenty personal essays from writers about their experiences being queer reading and writing science fiction.
A very interesting read, looking forward reading the next "destroy" issue. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 23 2015 Finished: Aug 02 2015
Agent to the Stars
by John Scalzi (2005)
My review: This is the first book ever written by one of my favorite (and my most read) author, John Scalzi. I was curious to see if it was as good as later books, and if the writing style changed. Answers: yes to both.
This is a very hilarious sci-fi book. It is quite different from the military sci-fi of Old Man War: this reads more like the script of a comedy than of a usual sci-fi novel.
This is the story of the space-faring Yherajk coming to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity's first interstellar friendship. There's just one problem: They are hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity's trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal. Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He's one of Hollywood's hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it's quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he's going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 02 2015 Finished: Aug 07 2015
Nyarlathotep
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This short story introduces one of Lovecraft's recurring "characters": Nyarlathotep. He is here described as a tall, swarthy man who resembles an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. In this story he wanders the earth, seemingly gathering legions of followers, the narrator of the story among them, through his demonstrations of strange and seemingly magical instruments. These followers lose awareness of the world around them, and through the narrator's increasingly unreliable accounts the reader gets an impression of the world's collapse.
The story is extremely short, to the point to being hard to enjoy. It feels like having half of a small bite of a cake: you expect something delicious, but you did not get enough even for a taste. (★)
Started: Aug 08 2015 Finished: Aug 08 2015
Azathoth
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The modern world has been stripped of imagination and belief in magic when a man gazing from his window upon the stars comes to observe secret vistas unsuspected by normal humanity. One night the gulf between his world and the stars is bridged, and his mind ascends from his body out into the boundless cosmos. (★)
Started: Aug 08 2015 Finished: Aug 08 2015
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks: A Place Where Giants Dwell
by George B. Robinson
My review: Beautiful photos, but there is very little information in this book. The most interesting information comes at the end, in the form of a two pager guide to the wildlife in the park.
This said, reading this book and looking at the incredible photos made me want to go back to those two parks. (★★★)
Started: Jul 05 2015 Finished: Aug 09 2015
Rocky Mountain National Park - A Year in Pictures
by David Dahms
My review: This short book collects many breathtaking photos captured at the Rocky Mountains National park through the various seasons by David Dahms. A brief intro provides some insight into the park wildlife. (★★★)
Started: Aug 12 2015 Finished: Aug 18 2015
The Veiled Prophet (Diablo: The Sin War, #3)
by Richard A. Knaak (2007)
My review: This book is surprisingly enjoyable for being based on a video-game, but Richard A. Knaak has previously demonstrated to be able to handle succesfully this type of books.
In this third and final installment of the Sin War series, Uldyssian faces the host of heaven and the horde of hell. Since the beginning of time, the angelic forces of the high heavens and the demonic hordes of the burning hells have been locked in eternal conflict for the fate of all creation. But the struggle has now spilled over into Sanctuary - the world of men. (★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2015 Finished: Aug 20 2015
Championship B'tok
by Edward M. Lerner
My review: This short story was nominated to the 2015 Hugo awards thanks to the controversial puppy slate. Because of its inclusion in the slate, that features a lot of mediocre books, I had very low expectations. I was surprisingly pleased by the book to the point that I would read the other short stories set in the same world. The only disappointing part is that it reads like a chapter of a biggest saga, and it is hard to enjoy it as a stand alone novella. This said, I am glad to see that there is not only rubbish in the puppy slate!
Silly tail comment: I know that we should not judge a book by its cover, but... this is possibly the least enticing book cover I have ever seen. (★★★)
Started: Aug 20 2015 Finished: Aug 21 2015
The Outsider
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Outsider is a short story by American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, and published in Weird Tales, April 1926. In this work, a mysterious man who has been living alone in a castle for as long as he can remember decides to break free in search of human contact. The Outsider is one of Lovecraft's most commonly reprinted works and is also one of the most popular stories ever to be published in Weird Tales.
The power of this short story lies in how much the author sees himself in the character he creates, somebody that does not fit in, somebody people may even recoil from in horror, somebody that ends up embracing his "ousiderness" and ravel in the mysteries beyond the reach of common men. (★★★)
Started: Aug 22 2015 Finished: Aug 22 2015
The Unnamable
by H.P. Lovecraft (1925)
My review: Carter, a genre fiction writer, meets with his close friend, Joel Manton, in a cemetery near an old, dilapidated house on Meadow Hill in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. As the two sit upon a weathered tomb, Carter tells Manton the tale of an indescribable entity that allegedly haunts the house and surrounding area. He contends that because such an entity cannot be perceived by the five senses, it becomes impossible to quantify and accurately describe, thus earning itself the term 'unnamable'. Manton scoffs that Carters's use of such a word is a puerile device, just what you'd expect from a hack writer. No doubt he says this with love, but Carter's inspired by their eerie setting to defend his dark romanticism from Manton's rationalistic world view.
What sets this short story apart from the other, is this defense of Lovecraft's romantic literary style and credo, against the supposedly rational naturalist position of his critics. I said supposedly because, according to Lovecraft at least, his critics are the same that are religious and credulous of certain bits of folklore. The author (and Carter) has seen enough to believe nothing is beyond nature, though it may be beyond present understanding. Carter appears to be a religious skeptic, and it's he who tries to buttress his ideas with research and investigation instead of listening to well-established superstitions.
Another interesting theme of this short story is the author take of the American Puritan age, described as "dark", populated by "crushed brains" that spawn such horrors as the 1692 witch panic. "There was no beauty, no freedom", only "the poisonous sermons of the cramped divines". The period was, overall, "a rusted iron straitjacket". (★★★★)
Started: Aug 22 2015 Finished: Aug 22 2015
The Statement of Randolph Carter
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This is the first story featuring Randolph Carter, a student of the occult loosely representing Lovecraft himself. The story opens with Carter giving a formal statement to the police about the disappearance of his friend Harley Warren. He has told law enforcement officials everything he can remember about the night Warren went missing. Warren was a student of the weird, with a vast collection of rare books on forbidden subjects, many in Arabic. Carter took a subordinate's part in Warren's studies, the exact nature of which he's now mercifully forgotten. In the night of the disappearance, the two visited an ancient cemetery in a deep, damp, overgrown hollow. Warren finds a half-obliterated sepulchre, which he and Carter clear of drifted earth and invasive vegetation. Then Warren enters the underground tunnel, leaving Carter behind... (★★)
Started: Aug 23 2015 Finished: Aug 23 2015
The Other Gods
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: A high priest and prophet greatly learned in the lore of the gods of earth attempts to scale the mountain of Hatheg-Kla in order to look upon their faces, accompanied by his young disciple. But the gods of the earth are not there alone. (★★)
Started: Aug 23 2015 Finished: Aug 23 2015
The Cats Of Ulthar: Short Story
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: In the town of Ulthar, everyone knows that you cannot kill a cat. But why such a strange edict in such a seemingly normal town? The truth behind the superstition is a horrifying tale almost too strange to be believed. (★★)
Started: Aug 23 2015 Finished: Aug 23 2015
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium
by Gray Rinehart (2014)
My review: This is the story of a human colony on a planet called Alluvium which was forced into second-class citizenship upon the arrival of another intelligent species. After a series of failed rebellions, one man, dying of cancer, attempts a kind of passive aggressive rebellion by having himself buried upon his death, a deep ritual affront to the dominant alien culture. Entertaining, but the plot is a little thin and hard to buy. (★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Departure Gate 34B
by Kary English (2015)
My review: An interesting short story dealing with love, loss, and death, and the struggle to let it go. While the plot is not completely original, the writing is quite good, and the author has great potential. I am saddened that the author end up crashed between the war between the puppies and the rest of the fandom. I really hope to see more of her. (★★★)
Finished: Aug 26 2015
Amicae Aeternum
by Ellen Klages (2015)
My review: This short novella is the story of Corry, a young girl that is soon to leave her life, her friends, and her home planet (Earth) behind as a part of a generation starship expedition to colonize new planets.
(★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Totaled
by Kary English
My review: Totaled is a short tale about the experiences of a scientist waking up in a her lab after an horrific car accident. She is reduced to a full-brain tissue sample for use in experiments on neural maps, and find herself helping her former colleagues achieving what was her ambitious goal.
This is one of the few stories in the puppy slate that would have possibly deserved a Hugo. The plot mixes seen before tropes, in a novel and original way. The biggest limitation of the story is the lack of desperation of the main character. I cannot believe she could so calmly work without constantly worrying about her kids that she left behind, or despair about her upcoming death.
This said, Kary English is a great story teller, and I am interested in reading more of her future work. (★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Flight of the Kikayon: A Sci-fi Novelette
by Kary English
My review: This is the story of Lydia, a woman that sacrifice her career to her marriage. Her affluent and successful husband physically abuses her, but it is very hard to escape her tragic predicament. Eventually, after accumulating five million credits in her pocket and after hiding her nanny-clone to take her place, she is ready to finally tries to run away. Unfortunately Lydia's plans did not account for the unplanned illegal sport-fishing expedition that her husband force on her.
Another interesting story by Kary English, a promising new author in the sci-fi field. While the story in entertaining, and the story telling is remarkably good, it is short in the character building. The story has so much potential and could be extremely remarkable if more attention was given to the psychological turmoils of the Lydia, that does not seem to be deeply affected by her husband abuse. Similarly the relationship with her nanny / clone / surrogate / daughter that has such a central role in the plot, does not really feel real. I am left with the bitter realization that this story could have been a little masterpiece if more attention was paid to the feelings and emotions of the main characters. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Sei la mia vita
by Ferzan Özpetek
My review: Ti alzi alle 4 di mattina perché ti sei dimenticato di spegnere il cellulare prima di corricarti. Afferri il libro sul comodino, quello che ti ha tenuto su fino a tardi ieri sera, e che anche dopo aver spento le luci non ti lasciava scivolare nel sonno. Cammini pian pianino fuori dalla stanza per non svegliare il tuo compagno, attraverso i corridoi ancora bui della casa addormentata. Ti immergi in quelle pagine mentre la città davanti a te lentamente si illumina e si risveglia. E mentre fuori tutto tace, e mentre pian piano tutto comincia a bisbigliare i suoni del nuovo giorno, dentro di te c'è una tempesta destata da quelle incredibili parole così piene di amore. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 22 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
That Seriously Obnoxious Time I Was Stuck at Witch Rimelda's One Hundredth Birthday Party
by Tina Connolly (2015)
My review: I usually do not like to read short stories set in the universe of a longer book series without having read the book series before. This was an interesting exception. Silly, yet extremely entertaining urban fantasy novelette, set in a world with real witches. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 27 2015 Finished: Aug 27 2015
Second Foundation (Foundation #3)
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
As for the previous books, the third (and originally the last) installment of the series is a collection multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries.
After years of struggle, the Foundation lies in ruins—destroyed by the mutant mind power of the Mule. But it is rumored that there is a Second Foundation hidden somewhere at the end of the Galaxy, established to preserve the knowledge of mankind through the long centuries of barbarism. The Mule failed to find it the first time—but now he is certain he knows where it lies. In the second story, the fate of the Foundation rests on young Arcadia Darell, only fourteen years old and burdened with a terrible secret.
Asimov was well known for his lack of interesting, well rounded, female character. That was quite common (unfortunately) at the time, and the author recognized his limitation and attributed it to his lack of success with women at the time. After many quite unremarkable female side characters, Second Foundation's Arcadia is a groundbreaking and welcomed change: she is captivating, smart, and well-rounded. She is definitely in control of her life, and in the center stage. She is probably one of the most interesting of Asimov's characters. It does not come as a surprise that, of all the Foundation's stories, this is often the favorite one. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 30 2015
The Haunter Of The Dark: Short Story
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: Robert Blake, a writer and painter interested in the paranormal and mystical, noticed a strange and aerie building from his apartment windows and he decides to investigate the matter and visit it. He discover that the building is the abandoned church of Starry Wisdom and he decides to break in. As Blake conducts his investigation into the building and its relics, he discovers their horrible abilities and history, putting himself in mortal danger in the process.
The Haunter of the Dark and the character of Robert Blake were created as a professional nod to Lovecraft's contemporary, Robert Bloch. The story is part of a trilogy written by both authors, but it can be read and appreciated as a stand alone novel. The trilogy also includes the stories The Shambler from the Stars and The Shadow from the Steeple by Bloch. (★★★)
Started: Sep 07 2015 Finished: Sep 07 2015
The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan
My review: Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's "saying" the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. "To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable." Forty years later the stories and history continue. With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 30 2015 Finished: Sep 07 2015
The Nameless City
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The Nameless City is often considered the first Cthulhu Mythos story. The Nameless City of the story's title is an ancient ruin located somewhere in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula and is older than any human civilization.
An unnamed explorer, that I like to believe to be the famous Lovecraft alter-ego Carter, ignores the warnings of the wise old locals, and ventures in the desert, looking for the ruins, to find much more than he expected. (★★)
Started: Sep 07 2015 Finished: Sep 07 2015
The Human Engineer
by Jessica Brody (2015)
My review: Ever since Diotech Corporation released the first artificial womb, a safe and convenient new way to birth human babies, controversy for the cutting-edge product has risen as swiftly as the demand. For Rickar Hallix, however, the biomedical engineer who invented the womb, life has become steadily worse. When Rickar stumbles upon a possible defect in the latest batch of product, he suddenly finds himself thrust into the center of the endless, cut-throat battle between corporate greed and the security of human life.
I will not spoil the story, but I found the ending interesting and clever (and I seem to be the only one to think so, based on the other goodreads review). It suggests that love give us meaning and strength, even after it is lost and only pain is left behind. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 07 2015 Finished: Sep 07 2015
The Dogs of Athens
by Kendare Blake (2015)
My review: This is the second short story set in the world of the Goddess War series I read without having read the main stories. I would recommend against it: I have the clear impression that I would enjoyed this novella more if I had read the trilogy first. This said the story is quite entertaining, even if the ending seems to require familiarity with the saga to be properly understood. (★★)
Started: Sep 09 2015 Finished: Sep 09 2015
Adult Children of Alien Beings
by Dennis Danvers
My review: Adult Children of Alien Beings by Dennis Danvers is a science fiction novelette, even if sci-fi element seems to be more a narrative expedient, or a delusion of the main character. The story is very original, adroitly written, and it is often funny, and touching.
This is the story of the emotional journey of a man seeking the truth about his parents, who were always rather odd, and his own heritage.
(★★★)
Started: Sep 10 2015 Finished: Sep 11 2015
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine, #1)
by Ransom Riggs (2011)
My review: As I started reading this book I was getting concerned this was an American low-quality knock-off of Harry Potter. Soon though I changed my mind. This is quite an original story, an quite entertaining at the same time.
This novel mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow, impossible though it seems, they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is the beginning of what seems to be a new remarkable book series. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 07 2015 Finished: Sep 13 2015
The Strange High House in the Mist
by H.P. Lovecraft (2004)
My review: Thomas Olney, a philosopher visiting the town of Kingsport, Massachusetts with his family, is intrigued by a strange house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It is unaccountably high and old and the locals have a generations-long dread of the place which no one is known to have visited. With great difficulty, Olney climbs the crag, approaches the house, and meets the mysterious man who lives there. The only door opens directly onto a sheer cliff, giving access only to mist and "the abyss". The transmittal of archaic lore and a life-altering encounter with the supernatural ensue, as Olney is not the only visitor that day. He returns to Kingsport the next day, but seems to have left his spirit behind in the strange, remote dwelling. (★)
Started: Sep 13 2015 Finished: Sep 13 2015
Hill 142
by Jason Cordova (2015)
My review: Seriously?
This is a single, small battle during a War that sees German and American facing each other (is it a World War?). But here is the twist: the Germans rides giant, venomous spiders as cavalry mounts, and the Americans rides giant lions instead. It may sound awesome, but... it is not. There is no explanation of why or how, other than a reference to a breeding program for the lions in Texas. Also, there is no explanation of what triggered the war, and why people are fighting to death. There seem to be no point whatsoever in this disappointing story. (★)
Started: Sep 14 2015 Finished: Sep 14 2015
The Tallest Doll in New York City
by Maria Dahvana Headley (2014)
My review: It's Valentine's Day, 1938, and the Chrysler Building's tired of waiting on the corner of Forty-second and Lex for a certain edifice to notice her. Here's the story of what might happen if two of New York's greatest creations met on a day built for romance. (★)
Started: Sep 14 2015 Finished: Sep 14 2015
Acrobatic Duality
by Tamara Vardomskaya (2015)
My review: At the pinnacle of this demanding sport, artistry and balance is found in two moving as one. Is this way the main character was split into two, to be the world's best pair of acrobats? They do not know how this happened, who was behind it, and they do not dare to reveal to the world that their athletic brilliance has come at the price of their very identities. (★★)
Started: Sep 13 2015 Finished: Sep 14 2015
Cool Air: Short Story
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This story does not fit in the classic Lovecraft's Mythos, but it is one of the most enjoyable I have read so far (despite the usual amount of xenophobic statements sprinkled in the text as it is often the case with this author).
The protagonist is an unsuccessful author, newly arrived in New Work, living in one on the poorest corners of the city. He learns that a reclusive doctor lives in the apartment above his own. While suffering a heart attack, he is taken to the doctor's door, and soon becomes friends with the bizarre and isolated man who claims he must live in a refrigerated environment for his health. But as the man spends more time with the doctor, he begins to understand the horrifying truth about his friend’s strange medical condition. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 26 2015 Finished: Sep 26 2015
Kingmaker
by Lindsay Smith (2015)
My review: A very interesting story, I just hope that there is going to be a sequel. A lot of plot threads are not resolved, and I really would like to see them unravel.
This is the story of Vera, a spy for the Barstadt Empire, a powerful country with a rigid class structure and a seedy underbelly. Her mission is to weed out the corruption that holds this society together, but for Vera it is not political, it is personal. And her next mission is anything but routine, as long as she is not blinded by revenge and can see that in the shadows of Barstadt City, things are seldom what they seem. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 26 2015 Finished: Sep 26 2015
The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2)
by Liu Cixin (2015)
My review: I loved the first book of the trilogy (The Three Body problem), but this second book surpasses it by far. It is one of the most breathtaking sci-fi books I've read in a while. It is deep, and it is action packed. You are often left reflecting on the nature of man and of human society, or churning thrilling pages that leave you breathless. This book is surely in line for next year Hugo awards!
In The Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion four centuries in the future. The aliens' human collaborators have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth's defense plans are exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret.
This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he's the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 14 2015 Finished: Sep 27 2015
Jackalope Wives
by Ursula Vernon (2014)
My review: A short yet touching story, with memorable well drawn characters.
Jackalope wives are very shy creatures, though there is nothing shy about the way they dance. You could go your whole life and see no more of them than the flash of a tail vanishing around the backside of a boulder. If you were lucky, you might catch a whole line of them outlined against the sky, on the top of a bluff, the shadow of horns rising off their brows.
But one day, a young man with a little touch of magic in the attempt of catching one severely injures one. It will be up to his grandmother to remedy his errors.
(★★★★)
Started: Sep 27 2015 Finished: Sep 27 2015
And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson (2010)
My review: And Tango Makes Three is based on the true and heartwarming story of tango, the chick penguin that was raised by a same-sex penguin couple in the New York City zoo. I really do NOT see why this was the 3rd most banned book in USA in 2015, and why it was banned from public schools by the mayor of the city of Venice (Italy). It is a really sweet story, that I strongly recommend.
From the afterwords: "For a flightless bird, Tango has traveled remarkably far over the past ten years. On her way around the globe she has delighted countless kids, changed some minds about what makes a family, and ruffled more than a few feathers. [...] There were sobering developments, like Singapore’s decision to remove every copy of our book from its libraries and pulp them. And joyful ones, like the outpouring of support that followed, culminating in a read in at the Singapore National Library where hundreds of parents simply sat and read their children our book. The government backed down." (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 30 2015 Finished: Sep 30 2015
The Mothers of Voorhisville
by M. Rickert (2014)
My review: A man driving a hearse is getting many women in Voorhisville pregnant and then vanishes to never been seen again. Upon delivery, the baby turns out to be.. special. Despite the unusual nature of their children, the Mothers of Voorhisville, love their babies just as intensely as any mother anywhere. Unfortunately things are not simple and soon spiral out of control. A very interesting story, adroitly narrated. The only part that I found disappointing was the conclusion, but I will not say more to avoid spoiling it. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 27 2015 Finished: Oct 01 2015
Sleep Walking Now and Then
by Richard Bowes
My review: Sleep Walking Now and Then, is a weird, futuristic novelette set in a New York City of huge income inequality. It is turned into a big entertainment center, full of shows and plays, to the point of being now called "the big arena". The story is centered around an interactive theater production about the mysterious history of an old posh hotel that was theater of death in "the past".
(★★★)
Started: Oct 03 2015 Finished: Oct 03 2015
The Devil in America
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2014)
My review: I did not realize this short novel was nominated for the Nebula award, but I am far from being surprised: it is an incredibly powerful and memorable story.
Set shortly after the Civil War, this is the story of a mysterious family confronts the legacy that has pursued them across centuries, out of slavery, and finally to the idyllic peace of the town of Rosetree. The shattering consequences of this confrontation echo backwards and forwards in time, even to the present day. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 01 2015 Finished: Oct 03 2015
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie (2007)
My review: I read this book during Banned Book Week, an initiative aimed at fighting censorship, and raising awareness of the constant challenges to the freedom to read in the United States of America, and abroad. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won many awards (including the prestigious 2007 National Book award), but was the most challenged book in the States in 2014 and in 2015. It was removed from schools across the country being accused to be "anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, etc". I confess I am quite surprised. While book censorship is always troubling, in this particular case the accusations seem to be baseless. This book is everything but anti-family: the love for and by his family is the only wealth of the main character, as it is made clear over and over again. The book contains characters addicted to drug and alcohol, but those are portrayed as something to stay away from. Last but not least, the language did not strike me as vulgar. I wonder if the people that challenged the book actually read it before making their claims.
This is tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
(★★★★★)
Started: Oct 03 2015 Finished: Oct 04 2015
Under the Pyramids
by H.P. Lovecraft (2012)
My review: This novelette was ghost written by Lovecraft for the famous Houdini, that is also the main character of the story. The famous magician is traveling through Egypt when he get lured to assist in a fight on top of the pyramid. It turns out it was a trap, and he soon find himself bound by tight ropes in a well deep under the pyramids. He will have to use his skills to escape unearthly horrors. (★★★)
Started: Oct 05 2015 Finished: Oct 06 2015
The Hell of It
by Peter Orullian (2015)
My review: This is the story of a widowed father, trying hard to stay afloat. He tried to avoid unsavory and illegal jobs, even when he is desperate, to give a good example to his son, and to keep the dying wish of his late wife. Some heroes don't carry blades or go to war. Some heroes are fathers desperately trying not to fail their sons.
The story is interesting, and it is well written. Unfortunately it come across a little preachy and fake. It something that would fit perfectly well in a local little church magazine. (★★★)
Started: Oct 06 2015 Finished: Oct 06 2015
The Horror at Red Hook
by H.P. Lovecraft (2004)
My review: Of all Lovecraft's stories, this is the one where the strong link between the author xenopohia and the horror for alien gods and monsters is clearest. While in other stories the xenophobia was successfully channeled to create powerful depictions of alien horrors, in here it is just overpowering and disturbing. The plot is relatively thin and unremarkable as well: the main character is a police investigator, set to look into the (insert racist remark of your choice here) Red Hook neighborhood, home of many immigrant and many cultures. In particular he is asked to focus on Robert Suydam, a white man that is dealing with the cults and superstitions of (according to the author "inferior") non-white inhabitant of the neighborhood. Malone will soon discover that not all superstitions are groundless. (★)
Started: Oct 07 2015 Finished: Oct 08 2015
The Shape of My Name
by Nino Cipri (2015)
My review: An adroitly crafted and powerful story about family, time travel, and transitioning. The various themes are perfectly woven together and every scene fit into the story like a perfect tile of a beautiful mosaic.
It is impossible to say more without spoiling the story, I will just say that is, by far, one of the best short stories I have read this year. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 08 2015 Finished: Oct 08 2015
Pickman's Model
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The short story revolves around a Bostonian painter named Richard Upton Pickman who creates horrifying images. His works are brilliantly executed, but so graphic that they result in his membership in the Boston Art Club being revoked and himself shunned by his fellow artists. The main character keeps in touch with Pickman because he believes in his artistic genius, and soon get exposed to bigger horrors he expects to. (★★)
Started: Oct 08 2015 Finished: Oct 09 2015
The Shunned House
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This novelette is a Lovecraftian version of Poltergeist. For many years the protagonist and his uncle, Dr. Elihu Whipple, have nurtured a fascination with an old, abandoned house on Benefit Street. Dr. Whipple has made extensive records tracking the mysterious, yet apparently coincidental sickness and death of many who have lived in the house for over one hundred years. They are also puzzled by the strange weeds growing in the yard, as well as the unexplained foul smell and whitish, phosphorescent fungi growing in the cellar. After the protagonist discovers a strange, yellowish vapor in the basement, which seems to be coupled with a moldy outline of a huddled human form on the floor, he and his uncle decide to spend the night in the house, investigating the possibility of some supernatural force. They are going to get more than they bargained for. (★★)
Started: Oct 10 2015 Finished: Oct 10 2015
The Thyme Fiend
by Jeffrey Ford (2015)
My review: A great mystery novella with a supernatural twist, set in a past where America was young. The main character is a young man scared by his supernatural powers. These powers help him find the skeleton of a simpleminded man that vanished some time ago. Unfortunately the dead man spirit starts appearing, and the only way for the protagonist to keep him away and to not be labeled the weirdo of town is through the ingestion of thyme. I particularly liked the depiction of the community, and the almost nostalgic portrait of a society and of a culture that does not exist anymore. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 10 2015 Finished: Oct 10 2015
The Horror in the Museum
by H.P. Lovecraft (2010)
My review: Stephen Jones starts exploring with fascination at the horrific content of George Rogers's wax museum. The was models look so outerworldy and realistic!
The relationship between the two is initially cordial, but it soon degenerates as Jones first mocks Rogers, and then comes to suspect that he is crazy with his "wild tales and suggestions of rites and sacrifices to nameless elder gods". Jones takes up Rogers's standing offer to spend a night in the museum... and I won't say more to avoid spoilers. (★★★)
Started: Oct 11 2015 Finished: Oct 11 2015
The Museum and the Music Box
by Noah Keller (2015)
My review: I am not particularly fond of this short story. As one other goodread user ( Karen) said, what actual "story" there is is pretty ambiguous. You are presented with a series of images and given the opportunity to infer enough to be reasonably satisfied, but it's an elusive little slippy number, and the reader is kind of abandoned in the flow of the prose. The prose is heavy and overwritten, while the story has little substance: fragmented texts that tell the history of a lost love, the destruction of a civilization, and the origin of a museum. (★★)
Started: Oct 10 2015 Finished: Oct 11 2015
The Silver Key
by H.P. Lovecraft (2012)
My review: An interesting dreamworldshort story that ties in many Randolph Carter's stories together. The plot would be interesting, but its philosophical message takes to much space and it is of relatively little interest.
In this story Carter discovers, at the age of 30, that he has gradually lost the key to the gate of dreams. As he ages, he finds that his daily waking exposure to the more "practical", scientific ideas of man, has eventually eroded his ability to dream as he once did, and has made him regretfully subscribe more and more to the mundane beliefs of everyday, waking "real life". But still not certain which is truer, he sets out to determine whether the waking ideas of man are superior to his dreams. (★★★)
Started: Oct 11 2015 Finished: Oct 12 2015
The Rats in the Walls
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This is the story of the scion of the Delapore family, who has moved from Massachusetts to his ancestral estate in England, known as Exham Priory, after the death of his son in war. He restores the old family castle despite the ill repute and aversion of the locals to the place. He moves in with a lot of cats, including his favorite cat which name is too racist to write down. As soon as he moves in, on several occasions, Mr Delapore and his cats hear the sounds of rats scurrying behind the walls. Investigating the matter will unearth long forgotten secrets that would be better left undisturbed. (★★★)
Started: Oct 12 2015 Finished: Oct 13 2015
There’s A Devil Watching Over You
by Marc Turner (2015)
My review: I am always wary of reading short "tie-in" stories set in the world of previously published book sagas. They are often not as good, or they require reading the saga to really appreciate them. In this case, I was proven wrong. I did enjoy the story without not knowing anything about Turner's "Haven's Fall" universe.
This is the story of Safiya and her fellow bandits. They thought they had found an easy mark, but they quickly learned that they picked the worst possible victim. Now Luker Essendar, one of the warrior Guardians of Erin Elal, is after them, and his relentless pursuit is driving the bandits toward an abandoned fort, one that appears strewn with evidence of a terrible battle. But nothing is exactly as it seems... (★★★)
Started: Oct 13 2015 Finished: Oct 13 2015
A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i
by Alaya Dawn Johnson (2014)
My review: This book is set in a near future where vampires have taken over Earth and they keep humans in concentration camps / blood farms. Do not expect a Young Adult Twilight like story. This novella won the Nebula award and it well deserve it for its originality. The narrator is a human worker in one of such facilities. We discover slowly her past, as a vampire's ally and pet and the tiny part she played in the undead ascension. We see her dream of being turned slowly evolve over time as she understand what vampires have done to human culture and history. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 14 2015 Finished: Oct 14 2015
The Tomb
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The Tomb is a short story written in June 1917 and first published in the March 1922 issue of The Vagrant. It is one of the first work of fiction that Lovecraft wrote as an adult. It is the story of Jervas Dudley, a self-confessed day-dreamer. While still a child, he discovers the entrance to a mausoleum, belonging to the family Hyde, whose nearby family mansion had burnt down many years previously. The entrance to the mausoleum is padlocked and slightly ajar. Jervas attempts to break the padlock, but is unable. Dispirited, he takes to sleeping beside the tomb. Eventually, inspired by reading Plutarch's Lives, Dudley decides to patiently wait until it is his time to gain entrance to the tomb... (★★)
Started: Oct 15 2015 Finished: Oct 15 2015
The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn
by Usman T. Malik
My review: This short story is so far my first pick for the 2016 Hugo awards. It is an incredibly well written, and extremely fascinating look into the culture, traditions and fairy tale tropes of another country. It is also the story of an American immigrant looking back to its family and cultural roots.
It is a novella about a disenchanted young Pakistani professor who grew up and lives in the United States, but is haunted by the magical, mystical tales his grandfather told him of a princess and a Jinn who lived in Lahore when the grandfather was a boy. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 13 2015 Finished: Oct 15 2015
Out of the Aeons
by H.P. Lovecraft (2012)
My review: The story is told as a letter of the now deceased (in mysterious circumstances) curator of the Cabot Museum in Boston. He wrote a letter and included it with his will, to make sure that horrible facts of historical significance are not forgotten. The story revolves around a strange mummy, discovered back in 1879 by a freighter captain on an uncharted island, presumably risen from its sunken state due to volcanic activity. A year later, the mummy is put on display in the museum, and the island vanishes without a trace. Over the years, the mummy garners a reputation as a possible link to an ancient tale from the Black Book by Friedrich von Juntz of a man named T'yog, who one of the gods of the land of Yuggoth, now lost under the ocean. (★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2015 Finished: Oct 16 2015
Ballroom Blitz
by Veronica Schanoes
My review: A short urban fantasy story, taking place in a rock club. They main character bad behavior get him and his 11 brothers stuck inside the club, cursed to never escape from it. One day twelve sisters enter the club. Are they the last chance to break the curse? (★★)
Started: Oct 16 2015 Finished: Oct 16 2015
The Picture in the House
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: A lone and unnamed traveler (is he the famous Carter?) seeks shelter from an approaching storm in an apparently abandoned house. While inside he discover is his old and poor interiors a very old book written centuries ago by an Italian writer describing the mysterious (at the time) Congo. The book always open to the same page, featuring a picture featuring cannibalism, as if somebody has looked at that page over and over. Suddenly the traveler realize he is not alone in the house, that was occupied by a loathsome old, white-bearded, and ragged man.
I did not particularly enjoyed this short story: beside the racist undertone of the story (that is typical in the story by this author), the ending was quite disappointing. Everything is wrapped up in few lines with a deus ex machina finale. It feels like the writing was rushed, as if the author had to meet a tight deadline and had no time left. (★★)
Started: Oct 18 2015 Finished: Oct 18 2015
The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale
by Rajnar Vajra (2014)
My review: This Hugo Award nominee is entertaining, but disappointing. This short military sci-fi novelette is the story of a team of three candidate space explorer: one from Earth, one from Venus, and one from Mars. They are a rowdy bunch and they got into troubles. As a result, in order to graduate, they are now required to unravel the mystery that have kept the army busy on a remote new planet for the past 3 years. An intelligent new form of life has been discovered, able to build microcircuits, but any attempt of communication have failed so far.
I enjoyed the hard science fiction elements (attempts?), but what made the story quite disappointing are the plot twists and revelations. The smart trick used by the main characters in one of the most important scenes it is never fully explained and it does not really make much sense. (★★)
Started: Oct 18 2015 Finished: Oct 19 2015
Flow
by Arlan Andrews (2014)
My review: This 2015 Hugo Award nominee is an interesting and fascinating short story. Despite being featured in the infamous puppy slate, I actually liked it. I believe it has a lot of potential, even if it reads like a chapter of a long story, where the author is adroitly crafting an entire world populated by many interesting cultures, to set up the scene for what is coming next... but nothing come next. The story is interrupted almost at a cliff hanger, leaving the reader curious to know what is happening next. This is what make the novel unworthy of a Hugo. I hope that the author will continue the story and make it grow to its full potentials. I strongly believe that while this story is an incomplete piece of a puzzle, once other pieces fall into place a Hugo worthy final story may be revealed. I am looking forward reading more of this word and of this story.
Update: I recently learned there is already a second short story of the series. It is called Thaw. I will be reading it soon. (★★★)
Started: Oct 19 2015 Finished: Oct 20 2015
Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #2)
by Ransom Riggs (2015)
My review: Hollow City is the second book of the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, a YA fantasy series waved around peculiar vintage photography that is used to illustrate what is happening. The author collected many of these photos over the years and he imagined a story around them. The result is an entertaining and unusual reading experience.
This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine's island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.
(★★★)
Started: Oct 20 2015 Finished: Oct 27 2015
Through the Gates of the Silver Key
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This sequel to the famous The Silver Key was written as a collaboration between H. P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price. Price initially wrote it, and Lovecraft ended up rewriting it, keeping many of Price ideas and concepts. While this may not be one of the most entertaining of Lovecraft's novella, its dreamland raving are slow paced and often pointless, this is one of the most interesting. Some of the elements are alien to Lovecraft's mythos (pun intended), and this novel philosophical Platonian elements are intriguing.
The story begins at a gathering to decide the fate of Randolph Carter's estate which has been held in trust since his disappearance the mysterious Swami Chandraputra, who wears curious mittens and enveloping robes, tells Carter's acquaintances of his ultimate fate. He explains that the key took Carter to a type of higher dimension. There, Carter, on an ill-defined mission (or out of sheer curiosity), traveled strange sections of the cosmos by first meeting with 'Umr at-Tawil, a dangerous being warned of in the Necronomicon, saying those who deal with it never return. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 27 2015 Finished: Oct 27 2015
Zapped
by Sherwood Smith (2015)
My review: While this is a story of young high-school kids with super-powers, this is first and foremost a coming of age story, that focuses on acceptance of differences, and on anger. It touches important (and disturbing) themes like transphobia, bullyism, domestic violence, and hate crimes. The story does not read as message-fiction, as a novel where the author preaches her positions and ideals. It reads as a spontaneous and refreshing coming of age story, of a young teenager growing in a non-heteronormative family, dealing and understanding the otherness of her and her peers.
This is probably one of the best novellas I have read this year, that I strongly recommend as a possible nomination for the 2016 Hugo Awards.
(★★★★★)
Started: Nov 01 2015 Finished: Nov 01 2015
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
by H.P. Lovecraft (2015)
My review: I have never been to found of Lovecraft's dreamland novels (with only few notable exceptions, like the Through the Gates of the Silver Key), but this one is the worst by far. The language is so heavy and sumptuous, the story, if there is any, is all over the place. It reads like the raving of a inebriated drug user.
The story starts with Randolph Carter dreaming three times of a majestic sunset city, but each time he is abruptly snatched away before he can see it up close. When he prays to the Gods to reveal the whereabouts of the phantasmal city, they do not answer, and his dreams of the city stop altogether. Undaunted, Carter resolves to go to Kadath, where the gods live, to beseech them in person. However, no one has ever been to Kadath and none even knows how to get there. In dream, Randolph Carter descends "the seventy steps to the cavern of flame" and speaks of his plan to the priests Nasht and Kaman-Thah, whose temple borders the Dreamlands. The priests warn Carter of the great danger of his quest and suggest that the gods withdrew his vision of the city on purpose... (★)
Started: Oct 28 2015 Finished: Nov 01 2015
Trigger (Shutter 0.5)
by Courtney Alameda (2015)
My review: I did like the main character, a strong young girl in line to be the next ruler of the Helsing's army, that also inherited a genetic anomaly from her mother that enable her to better see their enemy. I did like the settings, the foggy city I call home, i.e. San Francisco.
This said the story read as another pulpy YA story, with nothing to set it apart from a million others. (★★)
Started: Nov 01 2015 Finished: Nov 01 2015
Waters of Versailles
by Kelly Robson (2015)
My review: I cannot believe I am giving 4 stars to a story about toilets!
Waters of Versailles by Kelly Robson is a great novella of court intrigue in 1738 Versailles. It is the story of a clever former soldier that makes his fortune by introducing a modern water system (and toilets) to the ladies of the palace. He does this with magical help that he may not be able to control.
Whats sets the story apart (well, beside toilets), is the main character, that left his home in the Alps behind to move up in the social ladder working hard in Versailles. Interestingly enough, it is a spirit he brought from his homeland, a magical nixie, that helps him ascend. It is a story of an emigrant finding success and wealth abroad, to then realize how much he has left behind. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 01 2015 Finished: Nov 02 2015
Join, or Die
by Alan Gratz (2015)
My review: A short story set in Gratz's alternative steampunk history, featuring Benjamin Franklin, his young assistant Willow Dent, and their indefatigable machine man Mr. Rivets as they battle sea serpents and fish-men in the alternate story of the Boston Tea Party. (★★)
Started: Nov 03 2015 Finished: Nov 03 2015
The Deepest Rift
by Ruthanna Emrys (2015)
My review: An adroitly written novel, with some remarkable characters (the AI steals the show, and it is, by far, the most intriguing and interesting part of the story), great world building, an interesting plot, and a just OK ending.
In the deepest canyon in the inhabited worlds, giant mantas soar through the air and leave patterned structures behind. A team of sapiologists seek to prove that these delicate filaments are true language, not just bee's dance. But time has run out, and their reckoning is upon them. Will they prove that their research is valid, or will they be scattered to the corners of the galaxy?
(★★★★)
Started: Nov 03 2015 Finished: Nov 04 2015
At the End of Babel
by Michael Livingston (2015)
My review: A dystopian (yet many would say historically accurate) short story centered on the suppression of minorities cultural heritages through (forced) assimilation. The main character is an Acoma Pueblo American, probably the last one able to speak the ancestral language, taking a last desperate stand to reclaim her heritage through soon to be lost forever words.
I enjoyed the novel, and I recommend it. I also recommend the "story behind the story" blog post by this story author (here: http://www.michaellivingston.com/at-t... ) and a visit to the pueblo that inspired it (I saw it few years ago, and it is breathtaking. See: http://www.puebloofacoma.org/).
This is one of my nominations for the Hugo Awards for best novelette: http://goo.gl/2BJp6G (★★★★)
Started: Nov 04 2015 Finished: Nov 06 2015
We Are The Cloud
by Sam J. Miller (2014)
My review: This is a remarkable dystopian cyberpunk short story, set in a word where the poor have extremely limited work opportunities, and end up selling more and more of their brain, eventually turning into vegetables. The main character, a speech impaired black gay man, is left with no hope of a future, until a chance encounter with Case give him the strength to take action and shape his future. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 07 2015 Finished: Nov 08 2015
Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3)
by Ann Leckie (2015)
My review: This is the latest and final installment of one of my favorite sci-fi space operas. At the end of the previous book things seemed to be under control for Breq, formerly the AI of the battleship Justice of Torren. Then, a search of Atheok Station's slums turns up someone who shouldn't exist, someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that's been hiding beyond the empire's reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq's enemy, the divided Anaander Mianaai, ruler of an empire at war with itself. Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren't good, but that's never stopped her before.
Learn more in my blog post. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 08 2015 Finished: Nov 18 2015
Arthur Jermyn
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Jermyns were a reputable and comely family until the 18th century, when Sir Wade started exploring the Congo and telling wild tales about a lost jungle city, once the seat of a prehistoric white civilization but now overrun by apes (or worse, their hybrid offspring with the last white humans.) Wade took a Portuguese wife who lived unseen in Jermyn House. She accompanied Wade on his last African expedition and never returned. Many generation later, his descendant Arthur Jermyn will discover the truth behind it. (★★)
Started: Nov 20 2015 Finished: Nov 20 2015
He
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This is one of the least interesting short stories by Lovecraft, marred by his strong xenophobia. It is almost a political manifesto, with a layer of fiction on top, explaining what the author believes are the dangers of mixing with other cultures (at the time mainly Southwestern European and East Asians).
The narrator, an aspiring poet, wanders the night streets of New York. His first sunset glimpse of the city thrilled him, for it appeared majestic above its waters, its incredible peaks and pyramids rising flower-like and delicate from pools of violet mist. But daylight reveals squalor, architectural excess, and swarms of squat and swarthy foreigners (horrifying to Lovecraft). Wondering at night he encounters a like minded individual, that show him the beauty of the city that was, and the horrors of the city that will be. (★)
Started: Nov 20 2015 Finished: Nov 20 2015
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Beyond the Wall of Sleep is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft written in 1919 and first published in the amateur publication Pine Cones in October 1919. Lovecraft said the story was inspired by an article in the New York Tribune that cited a family named Slater as representative of the provincial Catskills population. A second inspiration was a real astronomic event, a nova near GK Persei.
While in later stories the author xenophobia is channeled and translated into the horror for alien Gods, and ancient monsters, in here the continuous attacks against what the author calls "white trash" works against him. The continuous rants are distracting (not to mention disturbing), and they de-humanize one of the main characters, making the reader care less about him. (★)
Started: Nov 19 2015 Finished: Nov 20 2015
The Curse of Yig
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This is one of the most interesting short stories by H. P. Lovecraft, written in collaboration with Zealia Bishop. According to Wikipedia, Lovecraft pretty much ghostwrote the story based on scant few notes from Zelia, but the story style, the main character, and the absence of mythos elements, and the tone down xenophobia, strongly suggest Ms Bishop had a bigger role in the development of this story.
The story explores fears and phobias are the acts we do under their spell. It takes place in Oklahoma around 1889, and it centers around a newly arrived couple. They soon learn about the local legends surrounding Yig, a snake god, who takes vengeance on anyone who kills a serpent by killing them or turning them into a half-snake monster. The husband has a snake phobia which isn't helped by the wife disturbing a nest of rattlesnakes. (★★★)
Started: Nov 21 2015 Finished: Nov 21 2015
The Dreams in the Witch House
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Walter Gilman, Miskatonic University student, has begun to trace a connection between ancient folklore and modern mathematics and physics. He studies the Necronomicon and Book of Eibon until professors cut off his access. But they cannot stop him from renting a room in the house that once belonged to Keziah Mason. Keziah appeared before the Salem witchcraft court of 1692, admitting allegiance with the Black Man. She claimed to know lines and curves that led beyond our world, then escaped from her cell leaving such patterns on its walls. This legend fascinates Gilman, that starts investigating it. Unfortunately he is quite successful.
While the fictional links between folklore and science are laughable, this story pushed me to learn about Salem's witch trials, of which I knew very little beforehand. I always thought that those happened in a remote region, with pretty much no contact with the rest of young and scarcely populated Unites States. I always assumed that the rest of the population of this country was shocked and horrified when they learned about those trials. It turn out I was wrong on both counts.
It turns out that the few people that recoiled in horror were actually persecuted: in 1695 when Thomas Maule, a noted Quaker, publicly criticized the handling of the trials by the Puritan leaders in Chapter 29 of his book Truth Held Forth and Maintained, expanding on Increase Mather by stating, it were better that one hundred Witches should live, than that one person be put to death for a witch, which is not a Witch. For publishing this book, Maule was imprisoned twelve months before he was tried and found not guilty.
The last witchcraft trial in the United States dates to 1918.
And this, and not Lovecraft's short story, is the real horror. (★★)
Started: Nov 21 2015 Finished: Nov 22 2015
Childhood's End
by Arthur C. Clarke
My review: An incredibly original account of a first encounter between humans and a far more advanced alien civilization. Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. Manned by the Overlords, in fifty years, they eliminate ignorance, disease, and poverty. Then this golden age ends...
By far one of the best sci-fi novels ever written. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 22 2015 Finished: Nov 26 2015
Zion National Park: Sanctuary in the Desert
by Nicky Leach (2001)
My review: There are many guides and books for each national park, and many can be quite dull. This is a welcome exception. The book is packed with stunning photos, and contains useful information regarding the geology, the history, the wildlife, and the trails in the park. It provided me with many ideas of which park sites to hike to, when I will manage to go to the park again.
The book is a little dated (the author mention some of the upcoming bug services to be started in winter 2002), but I would still recommend it (sites and trails have not changed since when it was written). (★★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2015 Finished: Dec 10 2015
Piccolo blu e piccolo giallo: Una storia per Pippo e Ann e altri bambini
by Leo Lionni (1999)
My review: Questa e' la storia di piccolo blu e piccolo giallo che giocando insieme finiscon con il diventare verdi. Una storia simpatica per i piu' piccoli, che ha destato le ire del sindaco di Venezia che ne ha richiesto la rimozione da tutte le scuole della sua provincia per il fatto che i due protagonisti sian amici nonostante sian di colore diverso. Sconvolgente che un episodio di razzismo cosi' eclatante possa accadere al giorno d'oggi con completa impunita'. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 13 2015 Finished: Dec 13 2015
Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)
by James S.A. Corey (2011)
My review: Fast paced and highly entertaining space opera. Humanity has colonized the solar system: Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond. The stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for, and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli, and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations, and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 29 2015 Finished: Dec 16 2015
The White Ship
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This is one of the first stories written by Lovecraft, with many of the themes and ideas that will be developed later on in the Dreamland stories.
This is the story of a lighthouse keeper named Basil Elton. He engages upon a peculiar fantasy in which a bearded man piloting a mystical white ship is found sailing upon a bridge of moonlight. Elton joins the bearded man on this ship, and together they explore a mystical chain of islands unlike anything that can be found on Earth. (★★)
Started: Dec 17 2015 Finished: Dec 17 2015
Piccolo Uovo
by Francesca Pardi (2012)
My review: Piccolo uovo non vuole nascere perché non sa dove andrà a finire. Parte allora per un viaggio che lo porterà a conoscere i più diversi tipi di famiglia: Altan presta la semplicità del suo mondo felice per raccontare come ognuna di queste possa essere un luogo meraviglioso in cui crescere.
Un'altro libro tra quelli censurati e rimossi dalle biblioteche scolastiche dal sindaco di Venezia, per aver osato accennare l'esistenza di famiglie con un solo genitore, o non etero. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 17 2015 Finished: Dec 17 2015
The Hounds of Tindalos
by Frank Belknap Long (1929)
My review: The story begins when Frank, the narrator, visits his friend Halpin Chalmers, author and occultist. Chalmers has the soul of a medieval ascetic, but reveres Einstein as a priest of transcendental mathematics. His wild theories about time and space strike Frank as theosophical rubbish. Chalmers has acquired a drug which he claims Lao Tze used to envision Tao. He means to combine those occult perceptions with his own mathematical knowledge, to travel back in time. Frank is against his friend taking the liao, but agrees to guard him and to note what he says under its influence... (★★)
Started: Dec 17 2015 Finished: Dec 18 2015
Fabulous Beasts
by Priya Sharma (2015)
My review: This intriguing short supernatural / horror novelette is the story of a strange woman living in luxury with her lover, but irrevocably tied to her childhood of deprivation and dark secrets in northwest England. The woman recalls the unraveling of the family upon her uncle's release from prison. The author explores the difficulties of growing up in a poor family, with an abusive uncle and a psychologically dependent mother. One of the best stories of the year.
This is one of my nominations for the Hugo Awards for best novelette: http://goo.gl/2BJp6G (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 18 2015 Finished: Dec 18 2015
The Man in the High Castle
by Philip K. Dick
My review: Remarkable alternative history book set in an alternative 1962, in a world where the axis (Nazi Germany / Fascist Italy / Imperial Japan) won the second world war. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to awake. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 20 2015 Finished: Dec 26 2015
Islands Off the Coast of Capitola, 1978
by David Herter (2015)
My review: This short story contains many interesting elements, and the narrative style is quite interesting, but a lot is left unsaid, and this often make the story hard to understand. I am still trying to understand what happened at the very end. (★★)
Started: Dec 27 2015 Finished: Dec 27 2015
From Beyond
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: A scientist creates a device that emits a resonance wave, which allows them to perceive planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality. But the effect works both ways, and allows the denizens of the alternate dimension to perceive humans. (★★)
Started: Dec 26 2015 Finished: Dec 27 2015
The Fermi Paradox is Our Business Model
by Charlie Jane Anders (2011)
My review: What a treat! An hilarious explanation of the Fermi's Paradox that could have been written by (Hitchhiker guide to the galaxy) Douglas Adams or (Diskworld) Terry Pratchett, featuring an alien couple that would fit perfectly in a Saturday Night Live skit. I recommend it to everyone. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2015 Finished: Dec 28 2015
In the Greenwood
by Mari Ness (2013)
My review: I do not want to spoil the story, so I will not say much. This is an interesting new fresh take of an old story, similarly to what is done in the work of (Wicked) Gregory Maguire. I am looking forward reading more by this author. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2015 Finished: Dec 28 2015
Milagroso
by Isabel Yap (2015)
My review: This short story would fit perfectly in a (Windup Girl) Paolo Bacigalupi's anthology because of its themes and its plot. It is set in a future where all the food is lab grown and lab produced. Then, one day, something unexpected starts occurring: during a religious procession, the lab grown food is turned into the real one. The "miracle" deeply shakes the faith in science of Marty, and brings up back long forgotten memories from his childhood.
An interesting read, I am looking forward reading more of this author. (★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2015 Finished: Dec 28 2015
The Moon Bog
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: In this early Lovecraft story the narrator visits an old friend in Ireland. Denys Barry made a fortune in America, which he is using to restore his ancestral home in Kilderry. Locals approve at first, but by the time of narrator's visit, they've all deserted the village. The reason of the rapid departure, is that Barry plans to drain the great bog by his castle, and has no patience for cautionary legends about its grim guardian spirit and the ancient stone city that sleeps beneath the red heathed morass.
Many of the plot points will be re-used, expended and developed in later work. (★★)
Started: Dec 28 2015 Finished: Dec 29 2015
The Fifth Dragon
by Ian McDonald (2015)
My review: This novelette is a prequel to the recently published Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald. Short prequels are often disappointing and dull, but this is not, and it succeeded in getting me to read the full length Luna book.
The Fifth Dragon is about a pair of new moon workers, Achi and Adriana, who find comfort in this alien place in one another's company, only to learn that their time together is limited... (★★★★)
Started: Dec 29 2015 Finished: Dec 29 2015
Herbert West: Reanimator
by H.P. Lovecraft (2008)
My review: Even if this is considered one of the worst of Lovecraft's short stories, it is one of my favorites. It was serialized in an amateur publication, and as a result each chapter is quite self contained, and the story reads more like a series than a single story. The story is the first to mention Lovecraft's fictional Miskatonic University. It is also notable as one of the first depictions of zombies, as corpses arising, through scientific means, as animalistic, and uncontrollably violent creatures. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2016 Finished: Jan 17 2016
The Butcher of Anderson Station (Expanse, #0.5)
by James S.A. Corey (2011)
My review: This novella is a prequel of Leviathan Wakes, telling the story of Colonel Fred Johnson, one of the side character of The Expanse series.
One day, Colonel Fred Johnson will be hailed as a hero to the system. One day, he will meet a desperate man in possession of a stolen spaceship and a deadly secret and extend a hand of friendship. But long before he became the leader of the Outer Planets Alliance, Fred Johnson had a very different name. The Butcher of Anderson Station. This is his story. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2016 Finished: Jan 17 2016
Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
by Terry Brooks (2011)
My review: Terry Brooks tell the story of The phantom menace, the first installment of the Star Wars saga, providing more insights on the story.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, an evil legacy long believed dead is stirring. Even the Jedi are caught by surprise, their attentions focused on the political unrest between the Trade Federation and the Republic. Now the dark side of the Force threatens to overwhelm the light, and only an ancient Jedi prophecy stands between hope and doom for the entire galaxy. On the desert world of Tatooine, far from the concerns of the Republic, a slave boy works by day and dreams by night, of being a Jedi Knight and one day traveling the stars to worlds he's only heard of in stories... of finding a way to win freedom from enslavement for himself and his beloved mother. His only hope lies in his extraordinary instincts and his strange gift for understanding the things, talents that allow him to be one of the best Podracers on the planet.
I found particularly remarkable the way Darth Sidius gathers more and more power, setting the Republic on a path that will lead to the end of Democracy, leveraging people fears to convince them that the only way to protect them is to give up some of their freedom, and giving a benevolent leader more power.
The book (and the movie as well) fails in its portrait of the chosen one: we are supposed to get goose-bumps seeing in him the future balancer of the force, but he comes across as a regular young kids. I was expecting a legend, instead I was given a cute youngling that walks to a 10 year older queen and tell her he is going to marry her. Ani cuteness and storyline does not fit well with the legendary epic surrounding him. The following episodes work much better losing young Ani, for his older self. (★★★)
Started: Jan 10 2016 Finished: Jan 17 2016
The Return Of The Sorcerer
by Clark Ashton Smith (1931)
My review: A desperate man, running out of money, finally find a job as a translator, but the job turns out to be more than he asked for.
This is one of the most famous of the Clark Ashton Smith's stories set in the fictional world of H. P. Lovecraft. (★★★)
Started: Jan 18 2016 Finished: Jan 18 2016
Binti (Binti, #1)
by Nnedi Okorafor (2015)
My review: A little masterpiece, with an unusual, distinctive voice, that sets it apart. I strongly recommend this blogpost by Emily Asher-Perrin (it contains spoilers, so wait until you are done reading it), that very eloquently explains why this book is so special.
This is the story of Binti, the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2016 Finished: Jan 18 2016
The Book
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This reads more like a sketch or a failed attempt, than a full story. I am quite surprised it was published in this state, and I am even more surprised that it has a relatively high score on goodreads.com.
The story is relatively simple: the narrator found a book without a cover, that contains forbidden secrets that allow him to enter hidden dimensions. He soon learn that some gateways should never be crossed. (★)
Started: Jan 19 2016 Finished: Jan 19 2016
History of the Necronomicon
by H.P. Lovecraft (1984)
My review: I read this as part of tor.com Lovecraft re-read. This is not a (very) short story, it reads more like a set of world-building notes written by the author. Lovecraft's fans will probably love to read it, but everybody else should skip it without fear of missing out anything interesting. On the other hand, if you heard about the famous "necronomicon" and you want to figure out what it is... this is the best place to start. (★★)
Started: Jan 19 2016 Finished: Jan 19 2016
The Dunwich Horror and Other Stories
by H.P. Lovecraft (2008)
My review: In the degenerate backwater of Dunwich, Wilbur Whately, a most unusual child, is born. There are rumors about his birth, and they seem confirmed by the uncanny pace of his growth, and his unsettling height, but the boy's arrival simply precedes that of a true horror that is going to tear the town apart. (★★★)
Started: Jan 19 2016 Finished: Jan 21 2016
Please Undo This Hurt
by Seth Dickinson (2015)
My review: Dominga is an EMT who cares too much, and her friend Nico, that just lost his cat and broke up (again) with his girlfrind. Life hurts. Nico's tired of hurting people. He wants out. Not suicide, not that, he'd just hurt everyone who loves him. But what if he could erase his whole life? Undo the fact of his birth? Wouldn't Dominga be having a better night, right now, if she didn't have to take care of him? (★★★★)
Started: Jan 22 2016 Finished: Jan 22 2016
The Tree
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: One of my least favorite of Lovecraft's short stories, set in ancient Greek, featuring two very talented and mythical sculptors, that loved each other as if they were brothers or more. They are set to compete against each other, but one of the two gets sick. Things take an unexpected twist from there. (★)
Started: Jan 22 2016 Finished: Jan 23 2016
The Colour of Magic (Discworld, #1)
by Terry Pratchett (2005)
My review: This is the book that started it all: it is the first book of the Discworld series, that now includes 40+ books, and it is considered one of the most famous and important work in the genre.
On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (of unknown gender), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There's an inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course the edge of the planet.
The structure of the story is episodic: it is split into 4 segments, that could be enjoyed as stand alone stories, featuring the same characters. It is impossible to not fall in love with the main characters, not to smile reading about their misadventures, often respectfully and lovingly making fun to some other important fantasy masterpieces.
The book finishes with a big cliff-hunger ([spoilers removed]), and the adventure continues (and it is concluded) in The Light Fantastic. The two books should be considered a duology, or two halves of the same book. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 23 2016 Finished: Feb 06 2016
Doppel
by Lindsay Smith (2014)
My review: Spy thriller with a supernatural twist set during world war II. The story is told through a series of espionage transmissions between British agents in occupied France, and the UK intelligence.
In his efforts of rescuing some British prisoners of war from Nazi camps, one of the agents meets a charismatic SS officer who seems to be guarding a great and powerful secret, that might be darker and more dangerous than anything the British, or the Germans, can imagine. (★★★)
Started: Feb 06 2016 Finished: Feb 06 2016
Negotium Perambulans
by E.F. Benson (1922)
My review: This short story was written when Lovecraft was not yet an established author, and it contains many themes that will later be appropriated by Lovecraft: the story is set in a rural and out of the way town, where ancient horrors lingers. The story is told by one of the protagonist, that befriend a local artist, that is one of the first in understanding more about the ancient horrors.
What made the short story particularly interesting, is that it helped me understand the context from with Lovecraft emerged, what was original in his writing, and what was his unique contribution. (★★)
Started: Feb 14 2016 Finished: Feb 14 2016
The Danish Girl
by David Ebershoff (2015)
My review: A novel loosely inspired by the lives of Einar and Gerda Wegener, and Lili Elbe. In the book, Gerda is Greta, a rich and independent Californian, that follows her father to Denmark, when he leaves the States in a diplomatic mission. While there, she studies arts, and she meets (and falls for) her future husband, a shy yet famous painter. The book follows their extraordinary lives, before, during, and after the first world war, as they come to realize that, inside of Einar, lives Lili, a young woman, that will became Greta's muse. The book portrays their touching and moving relationship through Lili awakening, all the way through her gender confirmation surgery (she was one of the first recipients, and her case one of the most publicized).
This is a remarkable book, and I am looking forward reading more from this author. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 06 2016 Finished: Feb 14 2016
Bridge of Snow (The Winner's Trilogy, #0.5)
by Marie Rutkoski (2014)
My review: This is a story within a story, a fairy tale told by a mother to her sick child. The story is relatively simple and unremarkable, but the storytelling and the writing is sublime, and I am looking forward reading more by this author. (★★★)
Started: Feb 14 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
The Transition of Juan Romero
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The story starts when miners uncover a very deep chasm, too deep for any sounding lines to hit bottom. The night after the discovery of the abyss the narrator and one of the mine's workers, Juan Romero, venture inside the mine, drawn against their will by a mysterious rhythmical throbbing in the ground. (★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
In the Walls of Eryx
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The story was initially written by Kenneth J. Sterling, a Providence high school student who befriended Lovecraft in 1934. In 1935 he sent Lovecraft the draft of this story, which Lovecraft revised heavily, roughly doubling the word count. The result is a fascinating story, that is very different from any other Lovecraft's story, yet it has clearly some of his touch. The novelette, written in first-person narrative, depicts the story of a prospector on the planet Venus who works for a mining company looking for a powerful new form of fuel, against the wishes of the Venusians, or man-lizards. The treatment of the locals, is quite different from the one I would have expected from a younger Lovecraft, an interesting example of the author evolution. (★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
Tear Tracks
by Malka Ann Older (2015)
My review: A novel and original take on a first-contact story. The encounter is cleverly used to explore human nature and psychology.
This is the main story of Flur, an astronaut that traveled across the stars to make first contact with the Cyclopes, hoping to forge a peace treaty between humanity and the first sentient aliens they have discovered. She has undergone careful training and study to prepare for this moment. But what if her approach is too human?
A remarkable short story that I strongly recommend. I am looking forward reading more from this author. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
Hold-Time Violations
by John Chu (2015)
My review: Interesting world building concepts, and plot. In the book, each universe has skunkworks that generate the universe within it, making this multiverse an infinite set of matryoshka dolls. The skunkworks that generate this universe have become faulty, and the physical constants suddenly aren't. In order to fix the skunkworks, to make physics self-consistent again, and to make the world work as it’s supposed to, Ellie will have to remember everything her mother has taught her.
While I liked the ending, it is a little abrupt, and the story would have worked out more if more space was given to Ellie's mother, to better understand her values. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
Variations on an Apple
by Yoon Ha Lee (2015)
My review: A strange re-interpretation of the ancient Greek myth of the Discord's Apple. The prince of Troy is is asked by three goddesses, Hera, Aphrodite and Athena, to give an apple to the fairest. Instead of giving it to Aphrodite, like in the original story, it gives it to its city, often personified in a gender fluid avatar.
I read some of this author work in the past, and I always found it very original and interesting. Variations of an Apple is undoubtedly interesting, but while I did like some of its concepts and ideas, it is a little too short on plot, and it is too often hard to follow because of its ornate language and imagery. (★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
The Litany of Earth
by Ruthanna Emrys (2014)
My review: The story is a novel take on the Lovecraft mythos, dealing with the aftermath of the government's crackdown at Innsmouth, as described in Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth (that I recommend to read beforehand to enjoy to enjoy this story at its fullest).
This time the narrator is not a scared human horrified to discover the human race mixing up with another race, but it is one of the hybrid, a survivor from the government concentration camps. As in a Gregory Maguire's books, every element from the original story takes a completely different light. The camps, seen as necessary by (the quite xenophobic) Lovecraft to protect us from the horrors of inter-species interbreeding, turn into an allegory of the USA WWII internment camps in this sequel.
I enjoyed the novel, despite the ending, that could have been better. Ruthanna Emrys is a very talented author, and I am looking forward reading more of her. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 16 2016
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
by Washington Irving (1991)
My review: A humorous take on Gothic fiction. Sleepy Hollow is a strange little place, some say bewitched. Some talk of its haunted valleys and streams, the ghostly woman in white, eerie midnight shrieks and howls, but most of all they talk of the Headless Horseman, a huge, shadowy soldier who rides headless through the night, terrifying unlucky travelers. Schoolteacher Ichabod Crane is fascinated by these stories, and by the richness of a local heiress he decides to conquer. Unfortunately for Ichabod, Brom Bones, a broad-shouldered, double-jointed good-looking fellow, and master of mischief, has set his eye on the same heiress. (★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2016 Finished: Feb 18 2016
Some Gods of El Paso
by Maria Dahvana Headley (2015)
My review: While the style is exquisite, and some of the concepts quite interesting, the plot is a little too thin. After reading it I was left with the impression I just read a still rough but full of potential draft.
This is the story of a couple of magical sex workers on the run from the law for stealing and illegally trading in strong emotions in 1920s US. (★★)
Started: Feb 26 2016 Finished: Feb 26 2016
At the Mountains of Madness
by H.P. Lovecraft (2005)
My review: This is one of the longest story by H.P. Lovecraft, written in 1931, and serialized in 1936. The story would have benefited from some editing and shortening, even if I have to admit that the long descriptions do read like the explorer journals of the time, giving the story a patina of realism. The longest format allow for an unprecedented level of world-building. What is usually just hinted in other shorter stories is here explained and expanded. We finally learn the history of the Old Ones and the Shoggoths!
Plot summary (without spoilers): chilling recollection of an Antarctic expedition's uncanny discoveries, and their encounter with an untold menace in the ruins of a lost civilization. (★★★)
Started: Feb 20 2016 Finished: Feb 26 2016
Ghosts of Home
by Sam J. Miller (2015)
My review: A courageous literary marvel, set in the United States of America during the mortgage crisis, where thousands of empty houses, were left alone after their occupants were evicted by the banks. In this stories houses have spirits, and offering must be given to them to ensure they continue to behave well and do not bring destruction to the property. Agnes is one of the many desperate homeless, fighting with her alcoholism, sleeping in her car, and washing at a Walmart. She is grateful for her no benefits minimum wages job, for one of the big mortgage banks, the same one that evicted her mother. She is required to bring offerings to the spirits of the empty houses, but to avoid any contact with them. One day, while on her round, she meets Micah, a handsome man that she mistake for an illegal squatter. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 29 2016 Finished: Feb 29 2016
The Light Fantastic (Discworld, #2)
by Terry Pratchett (2004)
My review: This is the second book of the Discworld series, that now includes 40+ books, and it is considered one of the most famous and important work in the genre.
The books takes of where The Colour of Magic left off, and completes the storyline bringing it to a satisfying end. The two books are often considered a duology, or two halves of the same book.
IN The light fantastic the very fabric of time and space are about to be put through the wringer, in this instance by the imminent arrival of a very large and determinedly oncoming celestial body. The circumstances require a very particular type of hero. Sadly what the situation does not need is a singularly inept wizard, still recovering from the trauma of falling off the edge of the world. Equally it does not need one well-meaning tourist and his luggage which has a mind of its own. Which is a shame because that's all there is. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 26 2016 Finished: Mar 03 2016
A Kippled Meal
by Daniel Polansky (2015)
My review: A Kippled Meal, is a very short story, a meditation on the nature of various idealized animals. A mole, a cat, a sloth, a dog, and various other animals discuss their perfect meal, suppers that reveal their innermost instincts, with some more uncouth than others. (★★)
Started: Mar 04 2016 Finished: Mar 04 2016
Points of Origin
by Marissa K. Lingen
My review: A moving story, dealing with family dynamics, and family separation.
Most people who have reached their eighties without raising children have every right to believe that they will go on not raising them, and Judith and I were no different until the day they turned up with the social worker, neatly scrubbed and pressed inside their vac-suits and carrying cases with all their remaining worldly possessions. There were three of them like stairsteps, their black hair cut in fringes across their foreheads and their dark eyes shining out disconcertingly familiar at me. But it wasn’t until the social worker said, “Mr. Chao and Ms. Goldstein, these are your grandchildren, Enid, Richard, and Harry,” that I remembered, sheepishly, about the genes we had given all those years ago, to that nice couple from New New Prague, before they left for the Oort Cloud. (★★★)
Started: Mar 03 2016 Finished: Mar 04 2016
Count Magnus
by M.R. James (2013)
My review: M.R. James was labeled by H.P. Lovecraft as one of the 4 great masters of horror literature, and Count Magnus his masterpiece. While the story is entertaining, I confess I did not see anything special about it.
An anonymous narrator finds papers telling the tale of Mr. Wraxall, Oxonian, bachelor, travel writer. Around 1860, Wraxall decides to write a guide to Scandinavia, and journeys to Sweden. Over there he decided to investigate the history of one of the local families, the De la Gardies. The family allows the researcher access to their family records, even offer him a place in their manor house, but he prefers to stay at a nearby inn. The inn is close to a church with a peculiar mausoleum where lies, among other De la Gardies, the family founder, Count Magnus... (★★)
Started: Mar 05 2016 Finished: Mar 05 2016
The Freedom of Navid Leahy
by Jenna Helland
My review: The Freedom of Navid Leahy is a short story set in the world of upcoming Jenna Helland's debut novel, written to lure you into reading the full book. I usually dislike reading these type of short prequels: they often do not stand on their own. This one may have some of the weaknesses of the format, but it is entertaining, and fun to read.
Sevenna City simmers with tension between the ruling elite known as the Zunft and the working-class cottagers. Hoping to regain control, the Zunft cracks down on the cottagers, but their brutality just fuels the flames of rebellion. A cottager boy tries to navigate the dangerous currents of the city but finds himself on a collision course with both the Zunft and the people who want to bring them down. (★★★)
Started: Mar 04 2016 Finished: Mar 05 2016
The Man of Stone
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: A very enjoyable story written by H.P. Lovecraft with Hazel Heald, and published back in 1932. Heald's influence is strong (and positive). Among other things, this is probably the only Lovecraft's story where a woman is one of the central characters and she is given some agency.
Jack, our narrator, and his friend Ben Hayden, heard from a mutual acquaintance about two strangely lifelike statues near Lake Placid, New York, at the same location where their friend and realist sculptor Arthur Wheeler disappeared recently. Hayden and Jack decide to investigate. They arrive in the rustic village of Mountain Top and quiz loafers at the general store. None are eager to talk about Wheeler, though one garrulous old fellow tells them the sculptor lodged with "Mad Dan" up in the hills. Maybe Dan's young wife and Wheeler got too cozy, and Dan sent the city feller packing. Dan's no one to interfere with, and now he's so moody he and his wife haven't appeared in the village for a while. (★★★)
Started: Mar 05 2016 Finished: Mar 06 2016
Your Orisons May Be Recorded
by Laurie Penny (2016)
My review: Laurie Penny has a unique style, close to Charles Stross in some regards. The story features an angel working on a call center (corporate Heaven and Hell went through a merger and they switched to call center model to be able to handle the vast number of mortals), and his relationship with mortals. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 15 2016 Finished: Mar 15 2016
Fantasy Magazine, December 2015: Queers Destroy Fantasy! Special Issue
by John Joseph Adams
My review: Fantasy and Lightspeed magazine were unified some time ago. They are very well-known science fiction and fantasy magazine. Even in fantasy, supposedly the genre of limitless possibility, where everyone is invited to the adventure, minorities are often underrepresented. Last year Lightspeed started the "destroy science fiction" series, a yearly program focusing on underrepresented minorities to give them a voice, and to see what they have to offer and to contribute to the genre. In 2014 they focused on sci-fi and women. In 2015 they focused on queer authors and themes, with three specials, one for sci-fi, one for horror, and this one, that focuses on fantasy. Next year they will focus on people of color. While fantasy is considered by many the more open of the literary genres, heterosexual, heteroromantic, and cisgendered are considered the default, to the extent that everything else is "deviation," and must be eyed with suspicion. But all fantasy is real fantasy. Fantasy is vast, and incredible fascinating in all its facets. It is inclusive. Fantasy is about people, and queer people, no matter how they identify [Gay, lesbian, bisexual, demisexual, asexual, pansexual, intersex, transgender, genderfluid, genderqueer.. anyone who fits within the QUILTBAG], are a big part of that. They always have been. They are just sometimes harder to see. So, in the interests of visibility and breaking stuff, Queers Destroy Fantasy! will show you just how wide the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity can really be. This special all-queer issue features original fantasy short stories from many award winning authors including Christopher Barzak, Kai Ashante Wilson, Catherynne M. Valente, Richard Bowes, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nicola Griffith, Shweta Narayan , Ellen Kushner, and Charlie Jane Anders. The issue also include an interesting assortment of author and artist spotlights, interviews, nonfiction features, plus personal essays from writers about their experiences being queer reading and writing fantasy.
Two of the stories deserved a special mention, because of their power and quality: The Duchess & the Ghost, by Richard Bowes, is the story of a young man growing up queer in a time where it was very difficult to do even in the "liberal" New York City, facing his internal fears and ghosts. The Padishah Begum’s Reflections by Shweta Narayan, is the story of a clockwork monarch, adroitly weaved across multiple timelines to form a breathtaking tapestry.
A very interesting read, almost as good as the previous installment of the series that focused on science fiction. I am looking forward reading the next "destroy" issue. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 07 2016 Finished: Mar 15 2016
That Game We Played During the War
by Carrie Vaughn (2016)
My review: A powerful and moving story, that adroitly portray the relationship between two Calla and Valk, members of two countries that have been at war until recently. Valk is a citizen of the Gaant, a country of telepaths, while Calla is an Enithian, where people have no mental power. They meet during the war, one prisoner of the other, switching roles at different times. Despite the decade long war, despite the situation, the two build a relation that outlast the way.
This is, by far, one of my favorite stories of the year. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 17 2016 Finished: Mar 17 2016
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers
by Alyssa Wong
My review: Hannah and Melanie are two sisters, with the ability to bend time and reality. Unfortunately there are limits of what they can achieve, and when one succumbs to self hate, suicide, family transphobia, and hate crime, the other traps herself in a never ending loop of alternative realities, fueled by her sense of guilt, desperately trying to change an unchangeable past. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 18 2016 Finished: Mar 19 2016
The Great Detective
by Delia Sherman (2016)
My review: An entertaining steampunk short story, in a clockwork version of Sherlock Holmes' UK. While it can be enjoyed on its own, this is the sequel of The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor, and I recommend reading the stories in order to enjoy them at the fullest (I did not, and I regretted it).
In this second installment, Sir Arthur Cwmlech's home is robbed and the Illogic Engine, his prize invention, stolen, it is only natural that he and his clever assistant Miss Tacy Gof consult with another inventor, the great Mycroft Holmes, about who has taken it. But it is really Mr. Holmes' Reasoning Machine who they are there to see, for it is only fitting for one automaton to opine on a matter concerning the fate of another of its kind. (★★)
Started: Mar 22 2016 Finished: Mar 22 2016
The Tree on the Hill
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This short 1934 story is the result of the collaboration of Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel. It is the story of the narrator, Single, living in Oregon with a friend working on Egyptian mythology. Single wonders in an isolate region that is shun by the local that consider it "infested". It come upon an area were nothing grows, but for a single tree on top of a hill. The narrator hike up there, and fall asleep. In his sleep he has strange visions from a distant world with three suns.... (★★)
Started: Mar 29 2016 Finished: Mar 29 2016
Caliban's War (Expanse, #2)
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: The second novel of the expanse saga picks up where Leviathan Wakes left of: James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance, and they are sent to investigate a strange situation on Ganymede, the bread basket of the outer planets. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting with the unlikely help of a Martian marine, that has just seen her entire squadron slaughtered by what it appears to be a monster.
This second installment fast surpasses the first: it is even more fast paced and impossible to put done, and it introduce some new characters that are unforgettable and incredible. It is uplifting to read a military action sci-fi story where female character are not just inserted for tokenism, but they have agency (they are the characters with more agency in the story), and their gender give them even more depth and significance. If you liked Leviathan Wakes, youa re going to love Caliban's War. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2016 Finished: Mar 29 2016
Ex Oblivione
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Ex Oblivione is a prose poem, written in first person. It tells of the dreams of a presumably dying man. In his dreams, the man is walking through a valley and encounters a vine-covered wall with a locked bronze gate therein. He longs to know what lies beyond the gate, described inconsistently by the few wise-men that made it though either as something incredible, or as a ig disappointment. (★)
Started: Mar 30 2016 Finished: Mar 30 2016
Fiber
by Seanan McGuire (2015)
My review: Remarkably funny! I was left with the strong impression to have read a chapter of a longer story though: much happened before, and I am left with the impression we haven't heard the last from Heather and her friends. They are a group of five cheerleaders driving with total disregard of the speed limit. But when they head to a rest stop, they drive straight into the middle of a bad horror movie, well, to be fair, as a former zombie, Heather is always in the middle of a horror movie... (★★★)
Started: Mar 29 2016 Finished: Mar 30 2016
What the Moon Brings
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This is one of the least interesting of Lovecraft's stories. It is told in the first person, by a never named narrator. He wanders through surreal dreamscape, when, one night, while walking through a garden in the moonlight, he sees strange and bizarre things. (★)
Started: Mar 30 2016 Finished: Mar 30 2016
Oral Argument
by Kim Stanley Robinson (2015)
My review: A short sci-fi story and a political commentary, set in a not too far future. It is a fictional transcript of a supreme court case, and I will not say more to avoid spoilers. Humorous and well-written, this is probably one of the best stories I have read so far this year. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2016 Finished: Mar 31 2016
Hypnos
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The narrator, a sculptor, meets a mysterious man in a railway station. The moment the man opens his "immense, sunken and widely luminous eyes", the narrator knows that the stranger would become his friend, "the only friend of one who had never possessed a friend before". In the eyes of the stranger he sees the knowledge of the mysteries he always sought to learn. He will soon learn that those secrets are better to be left unknown.
This early story is quite dull, and the only interesting element is the strong chemistry between the narrator and his mysterious friend. It makes me wonder if there is more than just friendship at play here. Lovecraft was married (and his wife remarked in her diary that he was a good lover). While he did had gay friends, he was unaware of their sexual orientation, and he is infamous for his xenophobia and homophobia. Still, reading this story, I wonder if he was also attracted to men, and was unable to come to terms with the fact. (★★)
Started: Apr 01 2016 Finished: Apr 01 2016
The Log Goblin
by Brian Staveley (2015)
My review: It's winter, but the narrator, a land owner, is prepared: he has a huge pile of wood in his backyard. It came from a very old tree on his land, that he had to cut because it was sick and dying. The pile of wood seems to became smaller and smaller each day. Puzzled, the narrator decides to keep an eye on the pile to figure out what is going on.
This is a very touching story, that I enjoyed reading quite a bit. I found the ending a little disappointing though (I will not say more to avoid spoilers). (★★★)
Started: Mar 31 2016 Finished: Apr 01 2016
Cold Fires
by Mary Rickert (2015)
My review: Two very different stories, sewn together by a thing story. The result is worse than the sum of its parts: while the two sub stories would have been quite remarkable as stand-alone stories, they are very different stylistically and in the settings, and they do not fit well together. (★★★)
Started: Apr 01 2016 Finished: Apr 02 2016
The New Mother
by Eugene Fischer (2015)
My review: This novella was the winner of the prestigious 2015 Tiptree Award, and a finalist for the (2016) Nebula Awards. The attention and the honors are well deserved: not only this is an enjoyable story, but it is also one of those stories you keep thinking about long after you finish reading it, because of the hard to answer questions it raises.
The premise of the story is quite interesting: what if a new pathogen changes the affected humans making their gametes diploid, de-facto making male sterile, and female able to give birth to their clones without any need for fertilization? The novella focuses on people reaction, on the social and political implications. In doing so, it also explores gender issues in our society.
I strongly recommended it to everybody, even to people that are not sci-fi fans. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 02 2016 Finished: Apr 02 2016
The Repairer of Reputations: Magical Antiquarian, a Weiser Books Collection
by Robert W. Chambers (2014)
My review: A pre-world war I story set in what was, at the time, the future. The United States are prosperous, and the Federal government has evolved into a mild military dictatorship. Suicide is institutionalized, and publicly funded Lethal Chambers are constructed in all large cities to humanely terminate the existence of those sad and unproductive citizens for whom life has become intolerable. A future that, according to the narrator, put an end to prejudices and bigotry, after getting rid of African-American and Jews (note of the reviewer: I hope this is supposed to be ironic). On this historical background two very conspirators will risk everything to place the rightful King of America on his throne.
The only redeeming part of this story is the narrator: the story is told from the point of view of a mentally ill character, and the reader is left wondering all the time, what is folly, and what is real. (★★)
Started: Apr 03 2016 Finished: Apr 03 2016
The Quest of Iranon
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: Lovecraft's stories can be divided in two categories: the ones that deals with cosmic horrors, and the one set in the fantastic Dreamlands. This short story falls into the second category. While, as all the dreamland stories, it is very slow paced, and overly Dunsanian, its conclusion is quite intriguing. I would no say more to avoid spoilers.
It is the story of Iranon, an artist that cannot age, looking for his lost home, Aira, the fabulous city where his father was king. For long years he has been looking for it with no success, but he never gave up, always singing about the marble and beryl city, its fragrant groves, its verdant valley, its many colored hills and the river Nithra that flows at night like a ribbon of stars. One day, along the way, he stops in Teloth. The gods of this city demand that all men toil ceaselessly, and so an archon of the city tells Iranon he must apprentice to a cobbler or leave. He decide to leaves, but he bring with him a small boy, Romnod, who seems sympathetic to Iranon cause, and who suggests that they head for Oonai... (★★)
Started: Apr 02 2016 Finished: Apr 03 2016
Two’s Company
by Joe Abercrombie (2016)
My review: I usually avoid reading short stories set in the world of a book saga without reading the saga before, but I did not realize that Two's Company was not a stand-alone story, but part of the First law series. Well, I am l glad I read it, because I immensely enjoyed it.
The plot is relatively simple and unremarkable: lost in the wide and barren North, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp, runs into Cracknut Whirrun on a bridge far too narrow for the expansive egos of either. With the King of the Northmen and the High Priestess of Thond in pursuit, can Shevedieh, the greatest thief in Styria, persuade either one of these proud heroes to step aside?
What makes this story shine, is the remarkable humor. I found myself laughing out loud while reading this. Reading this story made me want to read more from this author. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 04 2016 Finished: Apr 04 2016
Sarah's Child
by Susan Jane Bigelow (2014)
My review: Sarah tells herself she should be happy: she has a job, a loving mother, and a wonderful girlfriend. Still, something is missing in her life: a child. She does have a child in her dreams though, he is Brandon, a 6 years old, with blond hairs, that loves dinosaurs. In this dream word she did not had to transition, she was born with a female body, and her name was June. But is this parallel reality really just a dream?
This short story was a finalist for the 2015 James Tiptree Jr. Award. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 10 2016 Finished: Apr 10 2016
Memory
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This is a surprisingly good story, despite its very short length. A reflection on the position of the man in the universe, a short limited presence on a remote speck of dust, at the edge of one of almost infinite number of galaxies. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 15 2016 Finished: Apr 15 2016
Polaris
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This is one of the earliest novels by the author, and it contains some of the elements and themes that will be further developed in his later work. The story begins with the narrator describing the night sky as observed over long sleepless nights from his window, in particular that of the Pole Star, Polaris, which he describes as winking hideously like an insane watching eye which strives to convey some strange message, yet recalls nothing save that it once had a message to convey. Then he starts speaking about his dreams, and his life in the dream world. And slowly the narrator and the reader starts wondering which one of the two is reality?
Trigger warning: xenophobia (quite frequent in Lovecraft's stories). (★★★)
Started: Apr 15 2016 Finished: Apr 15 2016
Medusa's Coil
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: H.P. Lovecraft collaborations with Zealia Bishop often lead to good results: female characters are interesting (and have agency), and the xenophobic rants of Lovecraft are mitigated. This is the exception to the rule. In particular the racist element is fundamental and deeply ingrained in the story, and it assume a bigger and bigger role as the story progresses. Lovecraft stories often ends with revelations that are intended to be very surprising, but end up being very predictable. In this case, the authors' xenophobia is so extreme, then the ending end up very surprising in its outrageousness. (★★★)
Started: Apr 17 2016 Finished: Apr 17 2016
Il Maestro e Margherita
by Mikhail Bulgakov (2014)
My review: Uso le parole di Montale per descrivere il libro: "Il Diavolo è il più appariscente personaggio del grande romanzo postumo di Bulgakov. Appare un mattino dinanzi a due cittadini, uno dei quali sta enumerando le prove dell'inesistenza di Dio. Il neovenuto non è di questo parere. Ma c'è ben altro: era anche presente al secondo interrogatorio di Gesù da parte di Ponzio Pilato e ne dà ampia relazione in un capitolo che è forse il più stupefacente del libro. Poco dopo, il demonio, in veste del professore di magia nera Woland, si esibisce al Teatro di varietà di fronte a un pubblico enorme. I fatti che accadono sono così fenomenali che alcuni spettatori devono essere ricoverati in una clinica psichiatrica. Un romanzo-poema o, se volete, uno show in cui intervengono numerosissimi personaggi, un libro in cui un realismo quasi crudele si fonde o si mescola col più alto dei possibili temi: quello della Passione, non poteva essere concepito e svolto che da un cervello poeticamente allucinato. È qui che Bulgakov si congiunge con la più profonda tradizione letteraria della sua terra: la vena messianica, quella che troviamo in certe figure di Gogol e di Dostoevskij e in quel pazzo di Dio che è il quasi immancabile comprimario di ogni grande melodramma russo." (★★★★)
Started: Mar 06 2016 Finished: Apr 17 2016
Terminal
by Lavie Tidhar (2016)
My review: In a not too far future, Mars colonization is starting. It became possible to travel to Mars via cheap, one-person, one-way vehicles, the "jalopies". But there is no coming back. The voyage in the cramped space is hard, it has a high fatality rate, and it is one way. As a result, people signing up for it are legally dead.
The story focuses on the people taking the leap, all with different motivations, all desperately clinging on each other to maintain sanity, via asynchronous communications relayed from Earth.
This is a very poetic story, with a very original and extremely fascinating world-building, and an unsatisfying ending. I really hope that the author will develop the story further in the future. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 17 2016 Finished: Apr 18 2016
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #1)
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2015)
My review: The Devil in America is one of my favorite books, and I was thrilled to get a chance to read more by the same author. While not as good as his previous novella, this is a remarkable book. It is not a easy read: the plot is far from linear, and the style is an odd yet interesting mix of sophisticated and refined writing, main street talking, and scientific jargon. The grammar and the word choices are often unusual to force the read to go back and read the text multiple times to understand its meaning. Despite this difficulty, the style works, it helps in world and characters building.
This is the story of Demane, an earthbound demigod, also knows as the sorcerer, since he left his homeland. With his ancestors' artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight. The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive. The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2016 Finished: Apr 23 2016
The Glass Galago (Hidden Sea Tales, #0.5)
by A.M. Dellamonica
My review: I tend to avoid prequels if I haven't read the series before, but I am glad I did read this one. The characters are interesting, and the plot is entertaining.
This is the story of Gale Feliachild and Captain Parrish. They are called back to the fleet to handle an issue involving a law regulating new patents and a missing magical inscription. They soon find themselves embroiled in a plot that is could potentially pit island against island. Now, they must discover the mystery of the glass galago before time runs out for both it and the fleet. (★★★)
Started: Apr 23 2016 Finished: Apr 23 2016
Finnegan's Field
by Angela Slatter (2016)
My review: In Irish lore, when children go under the hill, they don’t come out again. Ever. When children go under the hill, they stay where they’re put. Forever. When children go under the hill, parents, though they pray and search, don’t truly think to see them anymore. Never.
But things do not always follow the Irish tradition in the predominately Irish Finnegan's Field, a small Australian town. Anne's daughter, the now 9 year old Madrigal, came back after going under the hill for 3 years. But is it really Madrigal that came back? (★★★★)
Started: Apr 23 2016 Finished: Apr 24 2016
The Caretakers
by David Nickle (2016)
My review: A group of people has been called in by the person that helped them over the years. Her behavior is very unreasonable, intimidating, and peculiar, but there are consequences to sever tie with her. (★★)
Started: Apr 24 2016 Finished: Apr 24 2016
Small Wars
by Matt Wallace (2016)
My review: Beware, this is a short story set in the world of Matt Wallace's Sin Du Jour series. While I enjoyed reading it as a stand-alone, I have the distinct feeling that I would have loved it more if I had read Envy of Angels first. I liked the writing style, and the humor, and I am likely to read the rest of the series soon.
In this installment of the series, the Sin du Jour procurement team has been tasked with acquiring a substantial cache of rare Welsh gold for a rather important event, but when they stumble upon rivals factions of the smallest warriors they have ever encountered, they will need to bring out the big guns if they are to survive. (★★★)
Started: Apr 24 2016 Finished: Apr 24 2016
First Kill
by Jennifer Fallon (2016)
My review: This is a short teaser story set in The Lyre Thief universe. It can be appreciated on its own as a stand-alone story.
In First Kill, assassin Kiam Miar will find out when his first assignment goes awry and he is faced with an ethical choice…as if assassins could have ethics. And if he makes the wrong choice, he could not only lose his life but throw a good chunk of his world into chaos.
Kudos to Tommy Arnold for the incredible cover! (★★★)
Started: Apr 24 2016 Finished: Apr 24 2016
Six-Gun Snow White
by Catherynne M. Valente (2015)
My review: Six-Gun Snow White is a retelling of an old fairy tale, that makes unmistakably explicit the sexual, gender, and ethnic violence that is often implicit in fairy tales, so as to bring the reader face to face with what dominant culture pretties up and romanticizes. Gone are the fairy tales tones and colors, replaced by gritty details, and a hard, verist style where the fairy tales elements are used as metaphors and allegories, or to give more depth to the story.
This is the story of Six Gun Snow White, born of a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother's death in childbirth, so begins a heroine's tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have.
Trigger warning: the story contains visual depictions of sexual violence, xenophobia, and first nation destruction (intended as a way to showcase their horror).
This was one of the finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2013. See my reviews of the other finalist. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 24 2016 Finished: Apr 29 2016
Seveneves
by Neal Stephenson (2015)
My review: In a very near future an unknown agent hits the moon breaking it to pieces, turning Earth into a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space. But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, and the future of human race.
The book is an excellent example of hard science-fiction, where the author went the extra mile to ensure to get his fact straights (even if he admits to have taken a couple of small liberties in a couple of places where it was necessary). It is not interesting for character exploration and development, but for the breath-taking, quite scientifically accurate, and entertaining exploration of a possible future. The book is divided into three parts. The first two are very fast paced, and draw inspiration from the author work for Bezos's space mining company. The third part is very different in tones and themes, and was heavily based on the author screenplay for a video-game he is working on. It also explore some eugenic themes that are quite problematic. The abrupt change in style and themes of the last part, makes the book less cohesive. I really wish the third part was not included. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 29 2016 Finished: May 12 2016
Drive (Expanse, #0.1)
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: This short story was release on SyFy website for the release of The Expanse TV series. It is a prequel to the main story, set in a not too far future, when man has colonized the outer asteroid belt, but space travel was still extremely slow. Drive explores a very important historical moment in the expense universe, whose ramifications are the bases of the entire book series.
Despite its short length, the story is quite entertaining, and a must-read for the expanse fans. (★★★★)
Started: May 14 2016 Finished: May 14 2016
And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead
by Brooke Bolander (2015)
My review: This cyberpunk action story is extremely fast paced, impossible to put down, and fun to read. The main character, Rhye, is an artificial woman, created, used, and discarded by "regular" humans. Her hard upbringing made her somebody you would not want to mess with. She is a rough, violent, foul mouthed machine, but her meeting with Rack, a hacker, is going to profoundly affect her life. (★★★★)
Started: May 16 2016 Finished: May 17 2016
Cat Pictures Please
by Naomi Kritzer (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. I am very partial to this story because it main fictional character, an AI, was born in the datacenters of the company I work for. It is a fun, light read, where the artificial self-conscious being end up behaving like a corky human. (★★★★)
Started: May 18 2016 Finished: May 18 2016
The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)
by Jim Butcher (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. As it is often the case with Jim Butcher's novel, this book is a light and enjoyable read, the characters are colorful, yet flat, and there is nothing to blow you away. It is probably telling that the most memorable characters are the talking cats. The fictional world is interesting, but a lot is left unsaid, to be covered in one of the planned 20+ books of the series.
The plot is relatively simple: since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace. Captain Grimm commands a merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion, to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory. And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. (★★)
Started: May 18 2016 Finished: Jun 02 2016
Space Raptor Butt Invasion
by Chuck Tingle (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters as an attempt to vilify the Hugo award reputation. Chuck Tingle, the author of a series of "geeky" gay erotica short stories, responded to his nomination getting Zoe Quinn (the gammergaters arch-nemesis) to receive his award in case of a victory... I decided to set the controversy aside, and read the story and decide in its own merit.
SRBI turns out to be a very unique, often humorous, gay erotic short story with a sci-fi spin. It's the story of Lance, left alone on a mission on a distant planet, having a (very) close encounter with a (possibly) alien species. (★★★)
Started: Jun 04 2016 Finished: Jun 04 2016
Seven Kill Tiger
by Charles Shao (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This short story focuses on two main character: Zhang Zedong, a Chinese business manager responsible for the Chinese "settlements" (colonies) in Africa, and Scott Berens, a US CDC employee tracking diseases and virus outbreaks. Zhang is concerned that production in his African mining operation has fallen again this quarter, and that he is going to be held responsible for it. He blames the local population, that he describes in quite demeaning terms. Scott identifies it as an anomaly in the spread of diseases, and his superior Thompson thinks the Chinese may have weaponized a polio vaccine.
Despite the unimpressive characters, the central concept of the story is interesting and disturbing. The most disturbing part is the realization that the utterly xenophobic way of thinking of the fictional Chinese Colonist, exists in every country of today's world, always ready to flare up at time of crisis and economical recession. The author point of view is never revealed or hinted, to the point to make me believe he may actualy share at least some of the troubling ideas presented in the story.
Trigger warnings: colonialism, xenophobia. (★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
Asymmetrical Warfare
by S.R. Algernon (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This extremely short story is the diary written by the commander of an alien species invading Earth. Each entry describes, day by day, the progress of the invasion. The story details the increasing confusion and puzzlement of the alien forces when faced with the biologic differences of homo sapiens.
I found particularly interesting the stellate race attempts to make sense of humans in terms of their alien stellate biology, and failing. As it is often the case, the most common obstacle to understanding, is trying to understand others in terms of our way of thinking and being.
While very interesting, this is also the weakest point of the story: do we really have to believe that a species that expended across the universe, entering in contacts with many different lifeforms, never met non regenerating life forms before? It is also made clear that the two species can communicate, and that the stellate are closely observing human behavior, making this complete lack of understanding of human biology very hard to believe. (★★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
If You Were an Award, My Love
by Juan Tabo
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters, and it is, so far, the worst Hugo finalist I read. It is a short blog post written as a reaction to / a parody of If You Were a Dinosaur My Love, that is well-known to be hated by the gammergate crowd. It is intended to be funny (but it is not), and I believe it was slate-voted into the finalist as a form of protest, not for its worth. (★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)
by N.K. Jemisin (2015)
My review: Probably the best story I have read in years. It is very rare to find a book that have it all: exquisite writing, moving, intriguing, and enticing story, memorable characters, astounding and original world building. The Fifth Season is at the same time impossible to put down, and deep. It is the kind of book it will stay with you and make you think.
The book has three subplots adroitly waved together. The first is the story of Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. The second is the story of Damaya, a young girl that is discovered to be a powerful orogene, and as such kept in a barn as a beast by her parents, to soon be given away. The third is the story of Damaya, growing locked up and used as a de-humanized weapon by the fulcrum.
This is an ambitious trilogy, that while set in a world so different from ours, it succeed like no other in exploring issues like slavery, oppression, discrimination, and taboos. A strongly recommended read.
This is one of the Hugo Award Finalist in the Best Novel category. I wrote more about this and the other finalist in this blog post.
(★★★★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 18 2016
Memories of My Mother
by Ken Liu (2012)
My review: When faced with an incurable terminal disease, a mother decides to exploit relativity to get a chance to see her daughter grow up. Despite its short length, the story really works and it is quite moving. If you enjoy it as much as I did, you may also want to check out the short movie that is based on it: http://www.beautifuldreamerfilm.com (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 19 2016 Finished: Jun 19 2016
The Builders
by Daniel Polansky (2015)
My review: I read this book as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalist marathon.
This is the story of the Captain and his company, that fought for the losing monarch in the battle of the two twin brothers. After that, for the Captain's company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain's whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.
I am not a big fan of stories featuring anthropomorphic furry characters, and dark and gritty war stories, but despite that I still find it enjoyable. You may like it more than me if you are more into that genre than me. (★★★)
Started: Jun 18 2016 Finished: Jun 25 2016
Penric's Demon (Penric and Desdemona, #1)
by Lois McMaster Bujold (2015)
My review: I read Penric's Demon as part of my Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
Lois McMaster Bujold is an established well-known award winning author, and this latest work does not disappoint. While it is set on the world of the five gods, it can be fully enjoyed as a stand alone novella.
The book is the story of Lord Penric that, on the way to his bethrodal, comes upon a riding accident with an elderly lady. As he approaches to help, he discovers that the lady is a Temple divine. Her avowed god is The Bastard, "master of all disasters out of season", and with her dying breath she bequeaths her mysterious powers to Penric. From that moment on, Penric's life is irreversibly changed, and his life is in danger from those who envy or fear him.
The novella is quite entertaining, and a fun read, perfect to fill a long commute or a short airplane ride.
(★★★)
Started: Jun 25 2016 Finished: Jul 02 2016
Uprooted
by Naomi Novik (2015)
My review: Naomi Novik has already established herself as a talented author with her Temeraire series, and her latest fairy tale / coming-of-age novel does not disappoint. The story is told from the point of view of Agnieszka, a young 17 year old that, growing up in the land of the Dragon, a powerful wizard constantly fighting the evil wood. Every 10 year a young girl is selected by the Dragon, and kept in his tower. Everybody expects Kasia, Agnieszka's best friend, to be the choose one, but hings do not always go as expected...
While the plot is, from many point of view, the one of a typical classical fairy tale, there are many modern elements, including the gender dynamics. What makes this book special though, is how entertaining and impossible to put down it is.
(★★★★★)
Started: Jul 02 2016 Finished: Jul 08 2016
What Price Humanity?
by David VanDyke (2015)
My review: I read this novelette as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalists reading marathon.
The story is enjoyable to read, but it is not very original: many plot elements have been seen before, and they are not presented in a novel way. The characters are not that memorable either. I doubt the story would have make it to the finalists list if it was not part of a slate.
The story begins with a (space) soldier coming back to consciousness in a virtual reality simulation. He believes to be kept there while his body is being regrown or repair, but his contacts from outside are mysteriously not telling him anything. Soon he gets to meet, always in VR, many of his former colleagues, including a dead girlfriend. I'm not going to say more, to avoid spoiling the story (even if I can bet you can already seeing where this is going).
P.S. As other reviewer have noted, when Southpark called the only African American character "token" was a funny critic to our society. In here the joke does not work as well. (★★)
Started: Jul 08 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Folding Beijing
by Hao Jingfang (2015)
My review: I read this story as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
Despite being a finalist because of its inclusion in a slate, the work is not only enjoyable, but also novel and interesting. I found quite interesting to read a book written by a Chinese author, to see the (current and future) world through the eyes of a different culture. The population and economic growth of modern China, its economic inequalities, and its technological and engineering marvels are central to Folding Beijing.
In a claustrophobic overpopulated future, Beijing is rebuild to be three cities at once, each folding into each other, so that only one at a time is up and awake on the surface, while the other two are folded and sleeping. Time is divided across each section according to the "rank" of its inhabitants, so that the best gets to enjoy 12 hours of sun, while the poorest gets just a glimps of dawn.
A dystopian vision of our future, with a very thin and feeble ray of hope mixed in.
(★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Obits
by Stephen King (2015)
My review: I read this as part of the 2016 Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
I have liked many stories written by Stephen King, and while I was young, I devoured his books. Obits is not one of his best work. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, but there is nothing deeply original or peculiar to set it apart from many other stories. The plot is relatively straightforward: a journalist specialized in writing funny and offensive obituaries, discovers that he can cause the death of living people writing their obits. He will have to learn on how to use his power while learning how to navigate the politics at work and to deal with women. (★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Slow Bullets
by Alastair Reynolds (2015)
My review: I read Slow Bullets as part of my Hugo Awards Finalist reading marathon.
This latest story by well-known author Alastair Reynolds is another fine example of a fast-paced, action oriented space-opera, the genre this author is mostly known for.
At the end of an inter galactic conflict, Scur, a conscripted soldier is captured, tortured, and left for dead by a renegade war criminal. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship. The passengers, the combatants from both sides of the war, are waking up from hibernation far too soon... or is it? Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.
A very enjoyable and entertaining book, a perfect read for the beach. (★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Perfect State
by Brandon Sanderson (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Award Finalist Reading Marathon.
Sanderson is a well-known writer, but I never read anything he wrote before. Maybe I had set my expectations too high, but I was not too impressed by Perfect State. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, the story while not completely original is entertaining and fun to read. Still, it does not stand apart as a Hugo finalist should.
In this cyberpunk matrix-inspired story, God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys, at least in the virtual personality tailored world every human is immersed in since birth. He has defeated all virtual foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai's world. Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date. Forces have conspired to require him to meet with his equal, a woman from another world who has achieved just as much as he has. What happens when the most important man of one world is forced to have dinner with the most important woman of another world? (★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Lock In (Lock In, #1)
by John Scalzi (2014)
My review: I am a big fan of John Scalzi books, and I was quite excited to read this one, but I ended up liking it less than his previous ones. Do not get me wrong, it is entertaining and fun, but I like space operas much more than detective stories. This is why I liked Asimov's Foundation series more that his Robot series, and this is why I liked his Old Man's War series much better that Lock In.
The book is a cyberpunk / detective story, set in a near future when a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent the disease causes "Lock In": victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge, and creates robotic avatars for the "Hadens" to interact in the physical world with the un-affected, and a virtual agora, a virtual world. In this world, Chris Shane an Haden FBI agent, is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann to investigate what appears to be a Haden-related murder, but would turn out to be much much more than that. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 23 2016
Flashpoint: Titan
by Cheah Kai Wai (2015)
My review: I read this story as part of the 2016 Hugo Awards Reading Marathon.
In this story, the United States of America have control of Titan, and who controls it, controls the energy supplies for the entire human race. The People Republic of China tries to gain control of it through strategy and military action, but on its way is a Japanese star-warship, equipped with some new weapons.
I did not like the story. While fast-paced and at times entertaining, it is mainly a war story with a very thin plot, few plot holes, and some racist slurs. For example, why would the Japanese army risk all their strategic asset to protect an American possession without getting anything out of it? Is it just because of ethnic hatred?
Trigger warning: racial slurs. (★)
Started: Jul 24 2016 Finished: Jul 24 2016
Gods of Risk (Expanse, #2.5)
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: This novella takes place shortly after the events in Caliban's War, and follows Bobbie Draper, an ex-marine who has been set adrift in her own life after those events, and her nephew, David Draper, a gifted chemist with a secret life as a manufacturer for a ruthless drug dealer. When his friend Leelee goes missing, leaving signs of the dealer's involvement, David takes it upon himself to save her, while the tension between Mars and Earth mounts, and terrorism plagues the Martian city of Londres Nova.
This is, by far, the weakest Expanse story I have read so far, and it can probably be skipped without missing anything of importance (I'll confirm after I read the following books). (★★)
Started: Jul 24 2016 Finished: Jul 27 2016
Foundation's Edge (Foundation, #4)
by Isaac Asimov (2012)
My review: 30 years after the publication of the original Foundation trilogy, Asimov decided to revisit one of his most famous series, and extend it further.
The plot is adroitly waved, and everything fall into place magically like a clockwork. What I did not like were the characters, that are almost stereotypical caricatures... and don't get me started with the female ones (the books miserably fails the Bechdel–Wallace test). While this was often true for the majority of the foundation stories, with Second Foundation, Asimov managed to create a great, well-rounded character in Arkady Darell, so I was quite disappointed that Asimov would regress to the previous norm.
This said, the book is fun to read thanks to his fast paced and clever plot: some politicians at the first foundation starts to suspect that the second foundation may have not been destroyed as they thought. Some mentalist of the second foundation noticed that the Seldon plan is going too well according to plan. Is somebody else playing the galactic game of thrones? (★★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2016 Finished: Aug 05 2016
The Weight of Memories
by Liu Cixin (2016)
My review: What if an unborn baby was given all the memories of her/his ancestors? Would those memories, and all the knowledge of centuries give her/him a kick-start, an incredible advantage?
Liu CiXin try to answer these questions in this short story.
While I am a big fan of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (most commonly known as The Three-Body Problem trilogy), I did not like this short story as much: many of the scientific concepts are too much out there to be credible. What I did like a lot was the social commentary embedded in the story, despite its grim tones. (★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2016 Finished: Aug 17 2016
Mountain
by Liu Cixin (2012)
My review: Liu Cixin excels in hard science-fiction stories, and this is a good example of this fact. In this story, a marine geologist with a troubled past is destined to have the first encounter with an alien civilization. The plot is interesting, but it is not the plot that makes Mountain remarkable: its simple, non fictional, hard science, adroitly leverages to create awe and wonders. Physics is really differently when you are no longer on your normal every day Earth surface setting.
In this respect, this story reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, where the wonders of space physics, and not the aliens, are taking your breath away. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 21 2016 Finished: Aug 21 2016
Ratspeak
by Sarah Porter (2016)
My review: A very bizarre yet entertaining short story, with a really disappointing ending. The main character, young Ivan, realizes that the rats living in New York City can speak, and he is obsessed about learning their language. One day he saves a young rat in the subway station from being stomped on by some other boys, getting beaten by the boys for his trouble. As a reward, the rat mother offers riches and fortunes, but Ivan decide to learn the rat language instead. The choice comes at a price though. (★★)
Started: Aug 29 2016 Finished: Aug 29 2016
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers
by Alyssa Wong (2015)
My review: A dark and very original reinterpretation of the vampire trope, set in modern day New York. The main character, Jen, an Asian-American woman inherited a curse from the mother: in order to survive she needs to pray on other humans, draining their emotions, feelings, and soul. Completely resigned to live a long life with the curse, she tries to prey only on petty criminals, until she meets a serial killer on a tindr date.
What stands out the most of this story are the characters. In particular Jen, that seems to drown in an ocean of hopelessness, condemning herself to the tragic fate of her mother, living in hiding, and destined to destroy the only single ray of sunshine in her life. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 29 2016 Finished: Aug 29 2016
Up From Hell
by David Drake
My review: An entertaining short story, set at the dawn of the Roman empire. Taranis and his men forage for the collected tribes of the Crow as they march against the Romans, but he brings back more than he bargained for when he frees a beautiful and mysterious prisoner, Alpnu. Together they face a power sealed in a cave for millennia and newly risen from Hell. (★★)
Started: Aug 29 2016 Finished: Aug 30 2016
The Cheater's Guide to Love
by Junot Díaz (2012)
My review: What an incredible, moving, at times gut wrenching story, and what a great flawed character. This is the story of a Dominican-American, a professor, that lose his great love when found cheating. This is the story of the ordeal he has to go through, to try to come to term with the loss, year after year.
And for those of you that do not speak Spanish, you may want to use this cheat sheet to understand the Dominican Spanish words used in the story: Cheater's Dominican Cheat Sheet for Junot Diaz's the cheater's guide to love (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 30 2016 Finished: Aug 31 2016
The Key to the Coward's Spell
by Alex Bledsoe
My review: I did not read any of Alex Bledsoe medieval noir stories, but I was able to enjoy this short story as stand-alone without any problem.
Eddie LaCrosse is a sword jockey, that has been implored by some friends to retrieve their missing kid. While nursing an injured arm, he discovers a smuggling ring rumored to be protected by powerful magic...
Trigger warning: sex trade, pedophilia, sex slavery. (★★)
Started: Aug 31 2016 Finished: Aug 31 2016
Totem Poles
by Bruce Sterling (2016)
My review: This is a very strange satirical story, where aliens arrive on Earth and promptly clean up all of the pollution caused by humans. Despite some funny and interesting part, the story is all over the places, and I found myself at a loss to understand what the point of this story was. (★)
Started: Aug 31 2016 Finished: Sep 01 2016
Her Scales Shine Like Music
by Rajnar Vajra
My review: A beautiful science fiction novelette about an encounter and budding relationship between two aliens, one human, who are the only living creatures occupying a planet in deep space. The human is assigned to guard a valuable find, while his colleagues leave, to file a report with the company that hired them.
I was a little disappointed by the ending, that is left quite open, and I really hope that the talented Rajnar Vajra has a sequel in the works. (★★★)
Started: Sep 02 2016 Finished: Sep 02 2016
Dragonlance Reread
by Mahvesh Murad (2016)
My review: I grew up reading the (many) Dragonlance novels. It was fascinating to revisit the trilogy that started it all, through the eyes of Mahvesh and Jared, few chapter at a times over one year and an half. I confess I had forgotten much of the story, but not the beloved characters, that are unforgettable.
I would recommend this only to Dragonlance fans, and as an interesting book club support material for those of you that never had visited Krynn before, and they are getting ready to. (★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2015 Finished: Sep 02 2016
The Art of Space Travel
by Nina Allan (2016)
My review: After a disastrous first attempt to have men on Mars in 2047, Earth is ready to try again thirty years later. A second expedition is now preparing to launch. This novelette does not focus on the crew or on the preparation, but on Emily, a hotel housekeeper at the hotel where two of the astronauts will give their final press statements, and on her life. Emily is taking care of her mother, Moolie, that worked on the crash site of the previous mission, and that shortly after developed a unusual form of Alzheimer. Moolie has an important message to give Emily, but Moolie’s memories are fading. As the astronauts' visit draws closer, the unearthing of a more personal history is about to alter Emily's world forever.
An interesting story, where the science fiction is mainly on the background, and the relationships between the various characters are on the forefront. I enjoyed despite discovering that in this fictional future, Germany still does not have full marriage equality. It is just a brief mention, but it depressed me to think of a future where we are still struggling to treat all our brother and sisters with dignity. (★★★)
Started: Sep 03 2016 Finished: Sep 04 2016
Something Happened Here, But We’re Not Quite Sure What It Was
by Paul McAuley (2016)
My review: Something Happened Here, But We’re Not Quite Sure What It Was is a sci-fi western, set in the fictional world of Paul McAuley, but it can be read as a stand-alone novellette. I did not particularly liked the story, but I am not very fond of the western genre in any form, and I suspect that this is probably what spoiled the story for me.
This is a complex story about politics, corporate greed, superstition, and luddism, set in a frontier Earth-like world, faced with the possibility of reaching out to alien cultures. (★★)
Started: Sep 10 2016 Finished: Sep 10 2016
The High Lonesome Frontier
by Rebecca Campbell (2016)
My review: This books has an interesting story concept: it is the story of the evolution and influence of a song written in 1902 over the next 150 plus years. The narrative style is interesting as well, even if directly borrowed from Mitchell's Cloud Atlas: stories are nested into each other in a mirror structure, first moving forward in time, and then backward.
Despite this interesting bits, the story is just OK, and I struggled to finish it despite its very short length. (★★)
Started: Sep 10 2016 Finished: Sep 10 2016
Sic Semper, Sic Semper, Sic Semper
by Douglas F. Warrick (2016)
My review: I was very surprised to realize I enjoyed this story, despite its extremely bizarre plot: a scientist with suicide tendencies makes a break-trough in the field of space travel, and decided to use his new discovery to travel back in time, and miniaturize himself to live inside the skull of the sixteenth President of the United States, in the dilated instant of time before his death. The story just get stranger and stranger, but it is nevertheless enjoyable. (★★★)
Started: Sep 10 2016 Finished: Sep 10 2016
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)
by Hilary Mantel (2010)
My review: This is the beginning of one of the most intriguing historical series of the century, the only series to ever win twice the Man Booker Prize for best novel. This is the story of Thomas Cromwell, from his humble beginning as an abused and violent kid, to the most powerful man in Henry VIII England. England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph? (★★★★)
Started: Aug 05 2016 Finished: Sep 11 2016
The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)
by N.K. Jemisin (2016)
My review: The second installment of the broken Earth trilogy is incredibly good (even if not as good as the first one). In The Obelisk Gate the focus changes on the relationship between Essun and her daughter Nassun: the book explores how oppression changes and destroys regular family dynamics, when the only instrument of a mother to protect her daughter is to harden her to be able to survive an harsh reality, and its kyriarchy. This is also the story of Castrima, a city free of oppression in times of plenty, but on the bring of sacrificing the most unpopular of its citizens in time of crises. And this is the story of Alabaster, that broken by loss it may have started the end of the world. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 11 2016 Finished: Sep 22 2016
Looking for Alaska
by John Green (2006)
My review: I read this book as part of the 2016 Banned Books Week, an initiative celebrating the freedom to read, and fighting book censorship. I picked Looking for Alaska because it was the most challenged book in the previous year. After reading it, I am a little confused: I cannot believe this book was the target of so many challenges. There is nothing outrageous in the language, or on the topic. While it may feature mentions of sex, smoking, and drinking, every book that wants to truly describe what is to be a teenager should include those. Moreover, the book does not even celebrate them, but even warns about the dangers of drunk driving. I did some research to figure out why it was so challenged. It was labeled "pornographic" and "disgusting" by a group of "concerned parents". Also some of them refused to read the book they were challenging, reportedly saying that "One does not need to have cancer to diagnose cancer".
The story in itself is not bad, but nothing too special. It is a coming of age novel, where the characters struggle with the concepts of death, suffering, and depression. The main character ends up coming to term with it with a simple, quite uninteresting non denominational theistic approach.
To summarize: I can't see why this book should be challenged, it is just another teenager drama book as many other, not bad, but not too great either. (★★★)
Started: Sep 22 2016 Finished: Sep 29 2016
The City Born Great
by N.K. Jemisin (2016)
My review: All the great metropolis on Earth, when they get big enough, and old enough, they must be born. Now it's the turn of New York, and a homeless queer black man find himself tasked with the role of facilitate this birth. But nothing it easy: there are mysterious enemies that want to prevent this from happening. Thus New York will live or die by the efforts his reluctant midwife.
I found the short story interesting, in particular the way it touches some very actual themes like xenophobia, and homelessness. The story is not as good as Jemisin's previous work. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 28 2016 Finished: Sep 29 2016
Two Boys Kissing
by David Levithan (2014)
My review: I read this book as part of the 2016 Banned Books Week, an initiative celebrating the freedom to read, and fighting book censorship. I picked Two Boys Kissing because it has been one of the most challenged book in the previous year. What a pleasant surprise this book was!
The story is told through the eyes of a previous generation of gay men, killed by an epidemic, and by the lack of interest of a nation for what happens to the less desirable ones. From the afterlife they follow the lives of many young man, growing up and confronting big challenges (including bullysm and being thrown out of home into a street by homophobic parents), but fighting for the right to live freely and love. It is a poetic, stunning, moving short novel, full of hope and love, that I recommend to everybody, gay or straight, of any age. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 30 2016 Finished: Oct 05 2016
The Three Lives of Sonata James
by Lettie Prell (2016)
My review: In a near future, human consciousness can be transferred, after the body death, into an artificial body.
Sonata is a young woman, living in Chicago, wealthy enough to afford this semi-eternal life. But Sonata wants to prove that living forever is not the same as living a beautiful life. When least expected, her life takes an unplanned sudden turn that make her reconsider her position.
An interesting story, a good mix of old sci-fi tropes and some new interesting elements. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 06 2016 Finished: Oct 06 2016
The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor
by Delia Sherman (2011)
My review: The Ghost of Cwmlech Manoris a steam-punk tale set on the border of Wales. It is the story of Tacy Gof, a young and extremely clever woman of relatively humble origin, that always wished to be an engineer, and to see the famous ghost of Cwmlech Manor. One day a new master moves into the manor, an expert of clockwork automatons and an inventor, and Tacy gets hired to work there, giving her an opportunity to follow both her dreams at once.
Despite not being a fan of the steampunk sub-genre, I really enjoyed this story, and I loved the characters. I read already the sequel, that was as good, and I am looking forward reading more! (★★★★)
Started: Oct 07 2016 Finished: Oct 07 2016
The Night Cyclist
by Stephen Graham Jones (2016)
My review: This horror novelette is the story of a middle-aged chef that recently self-sabotaged himself out of a meaningful relationship. He has always been a bicycle enthusiast, and he keeps biking back from work, late at night. Unfortunately there has been some tensions between the hiking and cyclist community around one of his favorite trails. One night, on his ride back home, he makes an unexpected encounter.
The writing is good, the plot is on the thin side, and the ending is disappointing. The tension between the cyclists and the pedestrian community, the escalation of violence, are novel and original (but they do not really work as the engine of this story). (★)
Started: Oct 06 2016 Finished: Oct 07 2016
Dune Time
by Jack Nicholls (2016)
My review: A very interesting short story, that mixes very modern elements (technology, and unrest in the Middle East and Northern Africa), with traditional ones (Islamic lore, legends and folk-tales) with quite interesting results. This is the story of Hasan, that is sent to help his brother in a remote area by the desert, to stay low and avoid the police. The brother is working on a filming project for BBC, that requires patience and time. During this time the two brothers discuss politics, religion, and old legends that may turn out to not be just old folks tales. (★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2016 Finished: Oct 16 2016
Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #3)
by Ransom Riggs (2015)
My review: The end of an original and peculiar series, that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I enjoyed the previous two books in the series, but I was a little bit disappointed by this one. While it is entertaining and enjoyable, there are few elements of it that grates me: first of all the revelation that Caul's objectives were not the ones previously described feels like an abrupt and unplanned turn in the story. Also, the previous books are set during the horrors of world war II, and help creating a particular feel, that is not found in this third installment. Last but not least, the peculiar vintage photos that are so central to this series, are often very loosely connected to the plot, and it feels like the author run out of photos, and had to start fishing from the discard pile. As a result Library of Souls does not fit well with the rest of the trilogy.
In this book, Jacob, Emma, and Addison are desperately looking for the kidnapped Miss Peregrines and the rest of her peculiar children. They end up in the labyrinthine alleys of Devil's Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. (★★★)
Started: Oct 08 2016 Finished: Oct 16 2016
The Cold Flame
by Joan Aiken (2016)
My review: This is a very intriguing and original story, set in a world where the dead can get back in touch for us to ask us to wrap up their unfinished business. In the case of Patrick, recently dead falling inside the caldera of a volcano, the unfinished business is getting his poems published. He asks his friend Ellis to take care of it, but it warns her that it is going to be hard because his estranged mother is going to be on the way. The mother is a remarkable villain, adroitly crafted and described. I was left unhappy by the conclusion, that I have to admit, it is quite clever and really fit the rest of the story (and I will not say more, to avoid any spoiler). (★★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2016 Finished: Oct 16 2016
The Destroyer
by Tara Isabella Burton (2016)
My review: An interesting story, set into a technological ancient Roman society. It is the story of a brilliant, unstable scientist proves that she can transcend the human body's limitations. Her test subject is her own daughter. The premises of the story, and many of its element are interesting. The conclusion is disappointing, as well as the use of some old genre tropes. (★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2016 Finished: Oct 16 2016
The Pigeon Summer
by Brit Mandelo
My review: This beautiful short story follows J., that recently loss the most important person in hir life. Si tries to escape hir pain and the world, looking hirself up in an apartment with a huge pile of food to avoid having to get out and face the reality. In hir sorrow, si starts communicating with a ghost in writing, and looking after some pigeons just hatching outside hir window. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2016 Finished: Oct 17 2016
Through The Eyes of a Bluebird
by Laura Lam (2016)
My review: This story is set in a near feature San Francisco bay Area. Biotech has made perfection the norm, but there are exceptions. The Hearth is a little commune just outside the city, resisting the evils of modern technology, that is isolated from the rest of the world, but for one day a year, where an outsider is allowed to spy on its mists.
The writing is exquisite, and the world-building quite effective. Unfortunately Through The Eyes of a Bluebird does not really work as a stand-alone story, and I was not surprised to learn it is intended to be a tie-in for a longer story (False Hearts). (★★★)
Started: Oct 17 2016 Finished: Oct 18 2016
Typecasting
by Harry Turtledove (2016)
My review: An alternative history short story, set in the (fictional) state of Jefferson, in a world where Bigfoots and Yetis are real, and mix with people. The Governor of Jefferson is one of the tall people, tring to help his daughter, an aspiring actress, to get the role she worked so hard for. (★★★)
Started: Oct 18 2016 Finished: Oct 19 2016
Tom, Thom
by K.M. Ferebee (2016)
My review: Young Tom is being raised by his mother, a widow because of the big war, working hard washing clothes to support her family. He is afraid of wolves, which everyone knows do not exist anymore in England. One day he goes out for a log from the woodpile, and when he returns, there is another Tom, like him, but other. Was this other Thom left behind by the faerie folk? But if so, why didn't they take the real one? An interesting story, with a little disappointing conclusion. (★★★)
Started: Oct 20 2016 Finished: Oct 21 2016
La beauté sans vertu
by Genevieve Valentine (2016)
My review: La beauté sans vertu is a harsh swipe at the fashion industry as certain disturbing trends are amplified in this fictional near future and a famous fashion House prepares for an important show. This is an interesting satirical piece, denouncing some of the ills of modern society and its obsession for unnatural and unattainable bodies. (★★★)
Started: Oct 21 2016 Finished: Oct 21 2016
The Dispatcher
by John Scalzi (2016)
My review: I never listen to an audio book before, but this was free, it was from an author I like (John Scalzi), and it is not available in print, so I decided to give it a try. I REALLY liked it. I usually hate detective stories, even in sci-fi settings. This is why I was not crazy about Scalzi's locked in or Asimov's robots series. Despite that, I really enjoyed this audio book. The first chapter is intriguing, and some moments toward the end very moving and touching.
The audiobook premise is the following: one day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone - 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don't know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 24 2016 Finished: Oct 26 2016
Death's End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3)
by Liu Cixin (2016)
My review: Death's End is the conclusion of the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy by world acclaimed author Liu Cixin. The first installment of the series won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel.
I finished reading the story a couple of days ago, but it is still stuck in my head. More I think about it, more I come to realize how adroitly woven it is. All the elements, themes, concepts from the three books fit together perfectly at the end, giving birth to a logically self-consistent, scientifically sound (and deeply terrifying) cosmology.
I also like how this third book manages to color what would have been an otherwise plot-driven hard sci-fi book, with very human, emotional, moments. Cheng Xin ethical struggles, and Yun Tianming love are some of the best elements of the story.
The story begins during the fall of Constantinople, and then moves backs to the event of the previous novels: after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to coexist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent... (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 22 2016 Finished: Oct 31 2016
The Fall of the House of Usher
by Edgar Allan Poe
My review: Roderick Usher is the head of the ancient house of Usher. He reach out to an old friend, the narrator. Once the unnamed narrator arrives at the ancient manor on the countryside owned by the family for many generations, he realizes that his friend is afflicted by hyperesthesia, hypochondria, and acute anxiety. He also learn that Roderick's twin sister, Madeline, is also ill and falls into cataleptic, deathlike trances.
While the story may have been original at the time, it is not as intriguing for a modern reader. Some of the plot points (that I will not reveal to avoid spoilers) are now common tropes, and fail to inspire horror or surprise. (★★)
Started: Nov 06 2016 Finished: Nov 06 2016
The Crawling Chaos
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This story is a collaboration between Winifred Jackson, and H. P. Lovecraft. The idea behind the story is quite simple: drugs are gateway to the world of (possibly prescient) visions. After "establishing" the fact quoting previous work by renown artists like Baudelaire, the narrator starts telling his story. He never used drugs, but once, during the year of the plague, an overworked doctor administer him an (unintendedly large) dose of opium that triggers prescient vision of the end of the world.
I was not impressed: the pace is slow, there is not really much plot to give the story any substance, and the "visions" turns boring soon. (★)
Started: Nov 06 2016 Finished: Nov 06 2016
Stories of Your Life and Others
by Ted Chiang (2010)
My review: Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of the first 8 fictional publications by Ted Chiang. I would classify the book as hard sci-fi: the stories are all build around a theorem, or a scientific or philosophical theory, and the plot is then used to explore their impact and consequences. This said, the best stories in the book also focus on human relationships, and their feelings. The best example is probably "Stories of your life", the story of a linguist tasked to learn an alien language, while also raising a daughter. The science and the human elements are woven together adroitly, each thread strengthening and giving depth to the other.
Overall it is a great book, and I am looking forward reading more by this author (even if he unfortunately does not publish much). (★★★★)
Started: Nov 01 2016 Finished: Nov 06 2016
The Challenge from Beyond: The Classic Horror-Fantasy Round-Robin
by C.L. Moore (2009)
My review: Five authors (Frank Belknap Long, C.L. Moore, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt) work together in one of the oldest literary games: round robin writing. The story comes with all the ills of this style of writing (there is often little consistency in style and plot development), but it somehow sort-of works.
The plot can be summarized as follow: a strange fragment of quartz carved with eldritch symbols sends its finder on a cosmic quest across space and time to face horrors unknown.
(★★)
Started: Nov 06 2016 Finished: Nov 07 2016
The Horror in the Burying-Ground
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Sophie Sprague lives in the shuttered house, a recluse since her brother Tom and her admirer Henry Thorndike died. Crazy Johnny Dow, the graveyard loiterer, often shouts at her that something’s coming to get her. Tom Sprague was a big brutish fellow and a heavy drinker, who cowed his sister with threats. He hated Thorndike, a city man who'd studied medicine but settled for becoming an undertaker (an occupation that enabled him to read strange old tomes, and conduct strange experiments on animals). Things escalate when a drunk Tom comes back home to find his sister in the company of Thorndike...
While I am not a big fan of Lovecraft's stories, this one is quite decent. Working on this story with Hazel Heald helped a lot, making Sophie an interesting female character with agency, instead of just a chess piece and a victim, as it is often the case in Lovecraft's solo writings. (★★★)
Started: Nov 09 2016 Finished: Nov 09 2016
Shoggoths in Bloom
by Elizabeth Bear (2008)
My review: A beautiful modern re-interpretation of the classic Lovecraft's mythos, that ends up being far better than the original. While Lovecraft projected his horror for the immigrants into cosmic invading aliens, in Shoggoths in Bloom, Elizabeth Bear investigates race relations in the United States of America between the two world wars without any trace of xenophobia.
The story is set in 1938, when Professor Paul Harding has come to Passamaquoddy, Maine, to study Oracupoda horibilis, common surf shoggoths, known to locals as "jellies". He finally finds a fisherman willing to take him out on the bay, where dormant shoggoths bask atop exposed rocks, blooming, that is, exuding indigo and violet tendrils topped with "fruiting bodies" from their blobbish sea-green masses. Though shoggoths can engulf and digest grown humans, in this torpid state they're safe to approach. The trip out is uncomfortable. The fisherman doesn’t fancy conversation with a highly educated black man, first he's ever met. Ironic, Harding thinks, that they probably both served in WWI, though of course not in the same units. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 09 2016 Finished: Nov 09 2016
The Night Ocean
by H.P. Lovecraft (2012)
My review: Lovecraft and Robert Barlow were close, and co-wrote many stories together until Howard's death (he committed suicide when a [deplorable] student threatened to out him as gay). This is considered one of their best.
The tones are definitely different from a standard Lovecraft's story: a lot is hinted, very little is seen here. The story did not age well though, the pace is too slow for modern readers (well, at least for me). (★★)
Started: Nov 10 2016 Finished: Nov 10 2016
Rappacini's Daughter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne (2003)
My review: A very interesting Gothic novelette, with very modern and actual themes (e.g. creation and manipulation of life forms). The main character is Giovanni Guasconti, a student at the University of Padua, that discovers a garden of the most exquisite beauty next to his rented appartment. In it abides a young woman, perhaps the most beautiful Giovanni has ever seen; yet as he looks out from an upstairs window, he soon learns that the garden, and the matchless Beatrice, are not the work of Mother Nature but rather the result of monstrous scientific creativity. (★★★)
Started: Nov 10 2016 Finished: Nov 11 2016
The Horror at Martin's Beach
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This novelette is well-known because it is one of the best collaboration of H.P. Lovecraft and his soon-to-be wife Sonia Greene. It was written during their courtship. It is not a bad story, even if some of the tropes it employs are a little stale for a modern reader.
A huge monstrous sea creature is captured in the sea, and placed on display inside a boat at Martin's beach. Few days later the boat vanishes mysteriously... and that's just the beginning of the troubles that will hit the Ocean town. (★★★)
Started: Nov 12 2016 Finished: Nov 12 2016
A Colder War
by Charles Stross (2002)
My review: A Colder War is an alternate history novelette by Charles Stross, a modern sequel to one of the most famous Lovecraft's stories (At the Mountains of Madness): a follow-up expedition to the pole has occurred, and the Cold War is fought with monsters from the Cthulhu Mythos.
This story pre-date the atrocity archives, the first of the laundry series books, by 4 years, but it contains many of the ideas and themes that will be expanded in the series that catapulted Stross to fame.
(★★★)
Started: Nov 12 2016 Finished: Nov 13 2016
The Girl with All the Gifts
by M.R. Carey (2014)
My review: It is hard to review this book without giving away major plot points and spoil the story, hence I will not say much. This is a thrilling, extremely fast paced, impossible to put down book. While reading it may not change your life, it will surely help you spend few nights enthralled in its pages. It's a great book, with a well-crafted satisfying conclusion. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 13 2016 Finished: Nov 17 2016
The Weight of the Dead
by Brian Hodge (2016)
My review: I have never read anything by this author before, but I was pleasantly surprised by this novelette, an interesting mix between post apocalyptic sci-fi and fantasy. The story takes place in a dystopian future, years after a huge solar storm has fried all electronics and civilization broke down. It is the story of two siblings living in a surviving enclave with their father, who's about to be punished for a crime in a brutal and cruel way, prompting the rebellion of his daughter. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 17 2016 Finished: Nov 18 2016
Red as Blood and White as Bone
by Theodora Goss (2016)
My review: A delightful and dark fairy tale, that mixes history with ancient folk stories and traditions. This is the story of Klara, a poor girl, raised by severe nuns after her father decided he could not raise a daughter without his just deceased wife. Her only escape from the dark reality is a book of fairy tales, forbidden by the nuns, and treasured by the young Klara. She is sent to work as a kitchen girl for a local noble, when one day she discovers a ragged and beautiful woman outside the castle during a storm. She is certain that the woman is a princess in disguise, and decide to take her in... but nothing is as it seems, not even in a fairy tale. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 18 2016 Finished: Nov 18 2016
Afrofuturist 419
by Nnedi Okorafor (2016)
My review: A very twisted short story, that mixes audio and text in an experimental and interesting way. It is a satirical of the famous Nigerian scam, with a science-fiction spin. What sets the story apart is the underlying satirical commentary of modern society, and its deep xenophobia. (★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2016 Finished: Nov 19 2016
Seven Birthdays
by Ken Liu (2016)
My review: Beautiful short story, that despite being part of an hard sci-fi, it also has interesting character development, and very touching moments.
It is the story of the life of Mia, from her toddler years forward, told as 7 time snapshots taken during 7 of her birthdays. It reminded me of another short story by the same author, Memories of My Mother. (★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2016 Finished: Nov 19 2016
The Mighty Phin
by Nisi Shawl (2016)
My review: A remarkable short story, set in Nisi Shawl’s Amends universe, but enjoyable as a stand alone (I never read any of her work before, and I had no problem enjoying The Mighty Phin). The story is set in a cyber prison, where the prisoner bodies has been destroyed, and they have been upload in cyber space. Over there they are forced to attend mandatory virtual therapy sessions with the artificial intelligence Dr. Ops.
This story shares some of the themes (identity and what makes somebody human) with Ann Leckie's Ancillary Series. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 18 2016 Finished: Nov 19 2016
There Will Always Be a Max
by Michael R. Underwood (2016)
My review: I was not aware that this short story was part of a series, set in the "Genrenauts universe". This have in all likelihood impacted my ability of fully appreciate it: there are many references to some characters and backstories I did not know.
This said, I still enjoyed this short mad-max story, where the main character makes himself a Max, a bringer of hope at a time of despair. (★★)
Started: Nov 20 2016 Finished: Nov 20 2016
Freedom is Space for the Spirit
by Glen Hirshberg (2016)
My review: A very interesting novelette, that mixes fairy-talish, fantastic, and folk / traditional elements, with historic events, and political commentary.
This is the story of a middle-aged German, drawn back to Russia by a mysterious invitation from a friend he knew during the wild, exuberant period in the midst of the break-up of the Soviet Union. Upon his arrival in St. Petersburg, he begins to see bears, wandering and seemingly lost...
Freedom is Space for the Spirit made me wish I had a better understanding of recent and contemporary Russia history to better appreciate it. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2016 Finished: Nov 20 2016
Lullaby for a Lost World
by Aliette de Bodard (2016)
My review: In this (very) dark fairy tale, Charlotte died to shore up her master's house. Her bones grew into the foundation and pushed up through the walls, feeding his power and continuing the cycle. As time passes and the ones she loved fade away, the house and the master remain, and she yearns ever more deeply for vengeance. (★★★)
Started: Nov 20 2016 Finished: Nov 21 2016
Foundation and Earth (Foundation, #5)
by Isaac Asimov (2012)
My review: 30 years after the publication of the original Foundation trilogy, Asimov decided to revisit one of his most famous series, and extend it further with a two part sequel. Foundation and Earth is the second book of this new duology, following Foundation's Edge.
After reading the entire robot-empire-foundations series, I had very high expectations about this book, that is the end of such an epic saga. I was disappointed. The series highlight has never been its characters, but the ones in this book are particularly flat and uninteresting. The plot, and the ultimate conclusion, are also not as good as some of the ones of the previous books. This said, Foundation and Earth is fun to read, and quite enjoyable.
Councilman Golan Trevize is wondering if he was right to choose a collective mind as the best possible future for humanity over the anarchy of contentious individuals, nations and planets. To test his conclusion, he decides he must know the past and goes in search of legendary Earth, all references to which have been erased from galactic libraries. The societies encountered along the way become arguing points in a book-long colloquy about man's fate, conducted by Trevize and traveling companion Bliss, who is part of the first world/mind, Gaia. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 21 2016 Finished: Nov 27 2016
Orphan Pirates of the Spanish Main (Stan, #2)
by Dennis Danvers (2016)
My review: Orphan Pirates of the Spanish Main is the second installment of the "Stan" series, started with Adult Children of Alien Beings. As for the previous book, while this is a science fiction novelette, the sci-fi element seems to be more a narrative expedient, or a delusion of the main character. But while the first story is very original, adroitly written, and often funny, and touching, this second installment is much less so: a lot of the unique magic and incredible nuances of the characters are gone. Despite that, it is still a quite enjoyable story.
In this book Stan and his brother Ollie, the children of alien (or just crazy human) parents, receive a mysterious postcard from their father, who with their mother, disappeared decades earlier into the "Abyss" in New Mexico. Along with Stan's new wife, they decide to travel again to the abyss, looking for them. (★★★)
Started: Nov 27 2016 Finished: Nov 28 2016
Once More into the Abyss (Stan, #3)
by Dennis Danvers (2016)
My review: Once More into the Abyss is the third and last installment of the "Stan" series, started with Adult Children of Alien Beings, and continued with Orphan Pirates of the Spanish Main.
The entire series is made by short sci-fi novelette, where the sci-fi element seems is more a narrative expedient, or a delusion of the main character. This third book regains some of the magic of the first part, that was lost in the second, and close Stan's saga with a touching (yet a little disturbing) ending.
Stan's wife get a new job, that brings the entire extended family to the mysterious abyss where their parents either perished or went back to their alien home among the stars. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 28 2016 Finished: Nov 29 2016
Burned Away
by Kristen Simmons (2016)
My review: Burned away is a standalone story that introduce us to the world of Metaltown, that will be further described in the homonyms book released in September 2016 by Tor. It is the story of Caris, a sixteen year old young woman, dreaming of following her mother path becaming a good reporter. When rumors of an uprising in Metaltown’s factories hits Bakerstown, Caris knows she's found the story that will finally prove her worth to the Journal.
It is not a bad story, but I have never been a big fan of young adult romantic fiction, and as a result the story did not really work for me.
A shout out to Goñi Montes for the stunningly beautiful cover. (★★)
Started: Nov 29 2016 Finished: Nov 29 2016
Recalled to Service
by Alter S. Reiss (2016)
My review: A remarkable standalone short story set in Alter Reiss' Shoesi fictional world. It is the story of Ao Laiei, that has the necromancer power to bring back the dead. She resurrected the great revolutionary war hero Uroie Aei, but to her surprise he vanished and she does not know what happened to him. She intends to find out, and she is working hard to track him. Finally, a clue from an unlikely information source, the confusing art of dream-diving, enables her to be present for a surprising strike against an academic aligned with the revolutionary government. Laiei quickly discovers that it is not the physical target she is concerned with, but his field of study, which may unlock the secret of what mysterious deeds the elusive Uroie Aei has been up to since his disappearance... (★★★)
Started: Nov 29 2016 Finished: Nov 29 2016
Discards
by David D. Levine (2016)
My review: WildCards is the name of a book series edited by George R.R. Martin, written over the years by many different writers. In the wildcard world a new virus appeared, leaving the majority of the survivors, disparagingly called jokers, very deformed. Few lucky ones, the aces, are left with super human powers.
While I am not fond of super hero stories, I liked this novella, that is the origin story of one of this lucky survivors, the Brazilian ace "Recycler". It is the story of a young kid, living in poverty until he is abandoned by his mother. He end up living in a shack in the middle of a favela, earning few dimes each day foraging for recyclables in a landfill. And when he starts to think he has reached the bottom, he gets sick, and he lose even the little he previously had... (★★★)
Started: Nov 29 2016 Finished: Nov 30 2016
Till A’ the Seas
by H.P. Lovecraft (11)
My review: An interesting story describing the end of the human race in a slowly warming world. It would be even better if not for few xenophobic missteps (as often the case in Lovecraft's stories).
The book is broken in two parts. The first describes the events that took place on Earth from a few thousand years to a few million years after the present day. The climate on Earth is getting warmer and warmer, oceans are slowly disappearing. [spoilers removed] (★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2016 Finished: Nov 30 2016
The Weather
by Caighlan Smith (2016)
My review: This incredibly short story, has many interesting, yet just sketched out ideas. It also has a nice narrative voice and interesting characters. Unfortunately it reads as an incomplete draft, as a set of notes for something that could turn into a good story. I can tell that the author is definitely very talented, and I am eager to read more of her, but this story needs some more work. (★★)
Started: Nov 30 2016 Finished: Dec 01 2016
Blue is a Darkness Weakened by Light
by Sarah McCarry (2016)
My review: I liked this story, a sarcastic take on young adult supernatural romantic novels, with some moment of depth mixed in. The main character is a talented woman, moving to the city hoping to make it as an author, and finding herself working as an assistant to a literary agent. She did not find love as many of the heroines of the books she has to read, but she became friend of a real vampire who comments on the book she is reviewing. Its weakest part is the ending, that is a little underwhelming, after what it was a solid story. (★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2016 Finished: Dec 01 2016
meat+drink
by Daniel Polansky (2016)
My review: A very dark vampire short story, written through the eyes of a young vampires girl. No, this is not the usual romantic young adult supernatural story featuring trendy hot supernatural beings. It is the story of young human forcibly turned into a life of constant hunger, constant fear of being discovered. A life spent hiding, trying to get enough food to stay alive while avoiding unnecessary exposure. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2016 Finished: Dec 01 2016
Black Swan Green
by David Mitchell (2007)
My review: I loved David Mitchell's previous book, Cloud Atlas, and when I saw this book I just picked it up without even looking at the book synopsis. While the book is beautifully written, it is a partially fictionalized memoir, and I am not fond of the genre, hence I did not enjoy it as much. This said, it is the best memoir I have ever read.
Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen year old Jason Taylor (a fictionalized version of the author), the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. The story mixes boys' games, tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll, bullism, young love, and divorce.
I particularly enjoyed the cameo of one of Cloud Atlas' characters, Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, that re-appear here as an elderly bohemian emigre'. (★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2016 Finished: Dec 14 2016
The evaluators: to trade with aliens, you must adapt
by N.K. Jemisin (2016)
My review: In a future where space exploration has put humans in contact with alien civilizations, Aiuha is tasked to deal with one of the just encountered xenospecies, the Manka, to set up trade and commerce.
Jemisin uses a very fascinating storytelling technique, that reminds me of Afrofuturist 419 by Nnedi Okorafor: the story emerges from different snippets of recording of different conversations, each providing a different stroke to what end up being a fascinating, and creepy, short story. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 16 2016 Finished: Dec 16 2016
Clover
by Charlie Jane Anders (2016)
My review: This short story is set in the world of All the Birds in the Sky, and answers what I am told is the question that readers continue to ask the author: what happened to Patricia's cat? I have not read the book yet, but I enjoyed this short story quite a lot, and I now want to read it.
This is the story of a cat that brings luck to its owners, a young couple that receive it as a gift from a mysterious visitor. But the lucky cat, may not be a cat after all, and the young couple must learn to thrive, even without the magic feline luck. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 17 2016 Finished: Dec 17 2016
Those Who Watch
by Ruthanna Emrys (2016)
My review: I am particularly fond of Ruthanna Emrys Lovercarftian stories, and I was not disappointed by this one.
This is the story of a young librarian that finds a job in a beautiful and mysterious library, with many ancient and forbidden tomes, hidden in the middle of Louisiana. She soon find herself literally marked by a strange and ancient book in the collection... (★★★)
Started: Dec 18 2016 Finished: Dec 19 2016
The Forest Girl
by L.E. Modesitt Jr. (2016)
My review: I am not familiar with the acclaimed novels of L.E. Modesitt Jr, but this story can be read and appreciated as stand-alone (even if I suspect that fan of her work would love it even more). It is an entertaining novelette, the origin story of Alyiakal, that is to became a historical figure in this fictional world, before he became a legend to be feared, and respected. (★★★)
Started: Dec 20 2016 Finished: Dec 20 2016
The Story of Kao Yu
by Peter S. Beagle (2016)
My review: The Story of Kao Yu is a beautiful short story set in ancient China. It is the story of an aging judge traveling through rural China, and of a criminal he encounters.
While the story was written by a Western author, Peter Beagle, it mimics the style of old West Asian fables and legends. Of the story, Beagle says it "comes out of a lifelong fascination with Asian legendry, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Indonesian, all drawn from cultures where storytelling, in one form of another, remains a living art. As a young writer I loved everything from Robert van Gulik’s Judge Dee mysteries to Lafcadio Hearn’s translations of Japanese fairytales and many lesser-known fantasies. [It is intended as] a respectful imitation of an ancient style, and never pretends to be anything else. But I wrote it with great care and love, and I'm still proud of it". (★★★)
Started: Dec 19 2016 Finished: Dec 20 2016
Breaking Water
by Indrapramit Das (2016)
My review: This story really shook me. The premise of the story is simple: suddenly dead people come back, not as zombies, but as brainless shells. The protagonist of this story is Krishna, a young man that is quite unsettled when he bumps into a woman's corpse during his morning bath in Kolkata's Hooghly River. Initially he declines to do anything about it, after all, why should he take responsibility for a stranger? But when the dead start coming back to life en mass, he rethinks his position and the debate around how to treat these newly risen corpses gets a lot more complicated. The book presents an unsettling portrait on how society deals with our dead. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 21 2016 Finished: Dec 22 2016
Dragons of Tomorrow
by Kathleen Baldwin (2016)
My review: After the collapse of civilization Nora and her family live a quiet life in the Midwestern Plains until a great fiery god of the sky descends and makes her an irresistible offer, an offer that will take her away from those she loves forever. (★★)
Started: Dec 23 2016 Finished: Dec 23 2016
Caligo Lane
by Ellen Klages (2016)
My review: A short story set in Franny Travers' fictional universe. It can be enjoyed (and I did enjoyed it) as a stand alone story, but I am left wanting to learn and read more about this memorable character. Franny is a cartographer of exceptional ability. From her house high above the cascading hills of San Francisco, she creates maps that, when folded properly, can transform space. This is her gift. These temporary new alignments of the world open improbable passages, a last resort when politics or geography make escape impossible. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 22 2016 Finished: Dec 23 2016
The Thing About Growing Up in Jokertown
by Carrie Vaughn (2016)
My review: An entertaining short story set in the George R.R. Martin's Wildcard universe. It is intended as a prequel of another, longer novel, but it can be enjoyed as stand-alone. The story focuses on 3 young jokers, living and growing up facing discrimination in New York City... An enjoyable short story full of hope. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 23 2016 Finished: Dec 23 2016
The Loud Table
by Jonathan Carroll (2016)
My review: This is the story of four elderly men who regularly hang out. One of the men is worried that he’s getting Alzheimer’s, but the truth might be even more discomforting. A nice piece of fiction, with a small touch of science fiction in it. (★★★)
Started: Dec 23 2016 Finished: Dec 23 2016
Reverse Documentary
by Marisela Navarro (2016)
My review: Dino is a documentary filmmaker, haunted by the ghost of his ex-girlfriend who was killed in a car crash while with another man. As Dino shoots his latest documentary on the vandalism occurring in the woods of his hometown, he tries to move on from her unexpected death. But when his life starts to look up, the ghost encroaches on his property. The focus of the film begins to blur as the lens of the camera shifts onto Dino, the director succumbing to his ghostly obsession. (★★)
Started: Dec 24 2016 Finished: Dec 24 2016
Traumphysik
by Monica Byrne (2016)
My review: A very interesting story set during world war II. It is the story of a brilliant young physicist, one of the first women in STEM, that after excelling in her study in the face of gender based discrimination by her peers, enlists to defend her country during the war. She ends up alone on a Pacific atoll, with tons of time to spare. She there decides to chronicle the laws of motion that govern her dreams.
(★★★)
Started: Dec 24 2016 Finished: Dec 24 2016
Everything That Isn't Winter
by Margaret Killjoy (2016)
My review: An impossible to put down short story, set in a post-apocalyptic near future, getting ready to bloom into civilization, after many years of violence. Will this upcoming renewed world still have a place for those who only know how to destroy? While defending a tea-growing commune in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, one person seeks an answer. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 24 2016 Finished: Dec 24 2016
A Taste of Honey (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #2)
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2016)
My review: An interesting version of a classic coming out story, set in the beautiful and fascinating world that Kai Ashante Wilson introduced us to in The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. I will not say much to avoid any spoiler, but I loved reading this story (even if I was a little disappointed by the ending).
Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods. Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. in defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 25 2016 Finished: Dec 28 2016
Lightspeed Magazine, June 2016: People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue (Lightspeed Magazine, Issue #73)
by Nalo Hopkinson
My review: Lightspeed destroy is an annual initiative focusing on the writings of traditionally underrepresented minorities. The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction special issue exists to relieve a brokenness in the genre that's been enabled time and time again by favoring certain voices and portrayals of particular characters. It brings forth a very diverse set of talented authors, some very well-established, and other very newm from around the globe to present science fiction that explores the nuances of culture, race, and history. People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! is 100% written and edited by people of color. It features twenty original, never-before-published short and flash fiction stories, plus five classic reprints, by the likes of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler (believe it or not, I never had read anything from them before... I was blown away!). It also includes an array of nonfiction articles, interviews, and book reviews; and more than two dozen personal essays from people of colo(u)r discussing their experiences as readers and writers of science fiction. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2016 Finished: Jan 06 2017
Grandchild of the Gods
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2016)
My review: A very short story, set in the world of A Taste of Honey, providing more information about the intriguing fictional world of Kai Ashante Wilson. While interesting, the short length of the story limits its appeal. (★★★)
Started: Jan 07 2017 Finished: Jan 08 2017
Super Bass
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2013)
My review: I am a big fan of Kai Ashante Wilson. I particularly enjoyed his award winning The Devil in America, and his story set in the Wildeep fictional universe. I was eager to read some more by the author, and I discovered this novelette published by Tor. It is a good story, and I can see in it some hints of the themes, greatness, and craft of his later work.
It is the story of Gian, that returns to Sea-john from the Kingdom's wars certain that he has skills beyond killing, death and destruction. He needs to prove to himself that love is just as strong, if not stronger, than his hate. The Summer King gives him this opportunity. (★★★)
Started: Jan 08 2017 Finished: Jan 08 2017
Sing
by Karin Tidbeck (2013)
My review: An interesting sci-fi short story, set in a future where space exploration has brought humans to the far reaches of our galaxy. One of the so many colonized world is the colony of Kiruna, a satellite orbiting around a big gas giant. The biologist Petr moves to this minor, half-abandoned colony, to follow his passion for lichens. While there, he meets the village outcast Aino, and he soon fall for her. But that's just the beginning, as he soon discovers, Kiruna has some very unique characteristics...
Great story, memorable characters, entertaining writing. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Listen
by Karin Tidbeck (2016)
My review: In 2013, Karin Tidbeck wrote Sing, a short story with memorable characters, and an entertaining plot. 3 years later the author bring us back to Kiruna, and tell us more of what happened after the events in Sing. While Listen is a good story, it lacks some of the magic of the first novel. This said, I would love to read more about the Kiruna colony, and Aino. (★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Infomocracy (The Centenal Cycle, #1)
by Malka Ann Older (2017)
My review: An incredible, eye opening literary achievement. In this book, Malka Ann Older, reflects on modern democracy, and the role of information, in a fictional, yet so realistic and so close to ours in too many ways fictional world. It's been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything's on the line. With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain? (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 08 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Seven Salt Tears
by Kat Howard (2017)
My review: A beautiful short story that reads like a fairy tale set in today world. The main character, Mara, is a young girl, raised by the ocean, by a single mother fond of fairy tales of mermaids, and fantastic sea creatures. The mother teaches Mara about the powers bestowed to women to calm or stir hurricanes, until one day, [spoilers removed] (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Stochastic fancy: play the game and find true love
by Charlie Jane Anders (2016)
My review: An entertaining and satirical short story, illustrating some of the ills of direct democracy. Stochastic fancy: play the game and find true love is set in a dystopian future, where virtual and augmented reality are always on. The main character, a robot psychologist, is very depressed, and hide herself in KloudsKape, to try to distract herself from her loneliness. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Chains
by A.J. Hartley (2016)
My review: This is a novelette set before the events of Steeplejack, but it can be read, and appreciated as stand-alone (I did).
The story is very well written, and hard to put down. It deals with some of the worst of our historic inheritance (i.e. colonialism, and xenophobia), and it presents those in a fictional context. It is the story of Anglet Sutonga, that while down to earth and realistic, she still dreams of rising above the impoverished streets of Bar-Selehm. When an opportunity comes along, will she take it? And what does she risk in order not to throw away her shot? (★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
A Human Stain
by Kelly Robson (2017)
My review: I usually am not too fond of Gothic horror novelette, but this one was adroitly written, and it features quite remarkable characters. Helen in particular is memorable, and I wish we could see more of her in the future (even if the ending precludes it). She is a colorful British expatriate at loose ends who is hired by her friend to temporarily care for his young, orphaned nephew in a remote castle-like structure in Germany. As you can imagine, the offer turns out to not be the good deal it initially appeared to be. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
A Pest Most Fiendish
by Caighlan Smith (2016)
My review: A steampunk short story, featuring Miss Pippa Kipling and her automaton companion, the Porter, in their (paid) quest to exterminate pests of the supernatural variety. What should be a typical job in your average haunted cavern soon derails in an inconveniently undead fashion. Even with the aid of her gadget collection and the Porter s prowess, this task may prove fatal for Miss Kipling or worse, rip her petticoat.
I really hope to see more of Miss Pippa and Ms The Porter in the future, they make up an entertaining duo.
(★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Microbiota and the Masses: A Love Story
by S.B. Divya (2017)
My review: I really like this story, I wish it had a more satisfying endings. Moena is a scientist, that lives in a world of her own making, sealed off from the deadly pathogens of Bangalore in her own personal biome. But when she meets Rahul, a beautiful man working to clean up his city, her need for him draws her into the danger of outside. Will she risk her life work, her health, and her life, to follow her heart? (★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 17 2017
The Forever War
by Joe Haldeman
My review: A horrifying cautionary tale about the machinery of war and its human cost. The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand, despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy that they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. A reluctant conscript drafted into an elite Military unit, Private William Mandella has been propelled through space and time to fight in the distant never ending conflict; to perform his duties and do whatever it takes to survive the ordeal and return home. But "home" may be even more terrifying than battle, because, thanks to the time dilation caused by space travel, Mandella is aging months while the Earth he left behind is aging centuries. Despite the inaccuracies of his 1996 and 2007 projections, the book does not feel dated, and it is as relevant today, as when it was written. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2017 Finished: Jan 23 2017
The Atonement Tango
by Stephen Leigh (2017)
My review: This novels is set in the Wild Cards world, a fictional universe that have been shared by many different authors for more than a quarter of a century. This and other stories can be fully appreciated as stand-alone.
In the "wild card" Earth, a virus has spread across the globe. The few survivors are often left disfigured, and with strange powers. There are called the jokers, rejected by society. Few lucky ones, the Aces, keeps the normal human appearance, but have extraordinary super powers.
This stories focuses on few Jokers, that have leveraged their unique physical traits, to create music. A single act of terrorism kills the majority of the band members, and changes the life of the surviving Michael “Drummer Boy” Vogali forever. Now without his band, Joker Plague, Michael must figure out a way to rebuild his life... and seek revenge. (★★★)
Started: Jan 23 2017 Finished: Jan 24 2017
A Dead Djinn in Cairo
by P. Djeli Clark (2016)
My review: What a beautifully intriguing and entertaining alternative history novelette!
The story is set in a 1912 Cairo (Egypt) where somebody has perforated the wall between our world, and the supernatural one, opening the gates for djinns and angels to enter in our reality. The Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine. What starts off as an odd suicide case for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha'arawi leads her through the city's underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and plot that could unravel time itself. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 24 2017 Finished: Jan 25 2017
The Virtual Swallows of Hog Island
by Julianna Baggott (2017)
My review: In The Virtual Swallows of Hog Island, a programmer finds himself working for the self-proclaimed Bad-Boy of Virtual-Reality Therapy. While his boss is breaking new ground and breaking the rules and his coworkers are engaging in questionable uses of the latest technology, the lonely programmer is in a state of mourning over his deep personal losses and must figure out his own form of therapy.
I loved the premises of this story: a psychologist creating a virtual world to expose his clients to experiences to help them cope and conquer their problems. I was very disappointed by the story ending though (I will not say anything to avoid spoilers). (★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2017 Finished: Jan 25 2017
Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage
by Alix E. Harrow (2016)
My review: An interesting alternative history novelette, set during the Westward expansion of the European Colonist, around the Mississippi area. Oona is born by the encounter of the Europeans with the First nation american, and she is despised by both as not belonging to either cultures. She has the power of the western people: by tracing rivers in ink on paper, Oona pins the land down to one reality, allowing the Europeans to settle the American land. This means betraying her people. Can she escape the bonds of gold and blood and bone that tie her to the Imperial American River Company? (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2017 Finished: Jan 26 2017
The Eye of the Swan A Tremontaine Story
by Kelly Robson (2016)
My review: The Eye of the Swan, is a stand-alone tie-in short story by Kelly Robson, set in Tremontaine, a fictional world multiple writers are contributing to. In Tremontaine social advantage is best achieved through duels of wit and steel. Mind your manners and enjoy the chocolate in a dance of sparkling intrigue, (★★★★)
Started: Jan 27 2017 Finished: Jan 27 2017
0wnz0red
by Cory Doctorow (2002)
My review: A fantastic short sci-fi fiction centered around the concept of body hacking, written by somebody that must be a software engineer, entertaining and fascinating for everybody, but strongly recommended to all the software engineers in the Silicon Valley. This is the story of Murray Swain, one of the many computer scientist in the valley, devastated by the death of his best friend Liam. [spoilers removed] (★★★★)
Started: Jan 26 2017 Finished: Jan 27 2017
The Maiden Thief
by Melissa Marr (2016)
My review: An exquisite dark fairy tale novelette about a teenager whose town is plagued by the annual disappearances of girls and young women. The young protagonist fears for her sister to be taken, and urge the town to take action. But her sister is taken next, and her father blames her for it. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 27 2017 Finished: Jan 27 2017
Passing Strange
by Ellen Klages (2017)
My review: Passing Strange is a moving love story, set in an historically accurate 1940 San Francisco, with a sprinkle of magic in it. While the story touches complex issues like xenophobia, homophobia, and the horror of wars, the main characters are women that stick together, and find happiness and love.
The city of San Francisco was, for the times, a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer "authentic" experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and places like Mona's, in the twilight world of forbidden love, where the discriminated, and persecuted outcasts from conventional society can meet. Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where mystery, science, and art intersect.
Last, but not least, kudos to Gregory Manchess, and Christine Foltzer, for the incredible cover, that is featured in the story itself. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 27 2017 Finished: Feb 03 2017
Life in Stone, Glass, and Plastic
by José Pablo Iriarte (2016)
My review: A beautifully written, moving short story, dealing with love, memory, and Alzheimer.
An elderly man of South American descent, Sergio, is working two jobs to be able to support himself, and his dearly loved wife, that has been cognitively impaired (Alzheimer?) for years now. One day, he is asked to clean up a beautiful and very unusual graffiti on the side of the building. Sergio will try, but that graffiti will prove quite a challenge to remove... (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 04 2017 Finished: Feb 04 2017
The Greenest Gecko
by Ploy Pirapokin (2017)
My review: While the story is set in a near future country of Pailand, it is very relevant in today world. The greenest gecko is a chilling reminder of how we all can be easily manipulated by the powerful.
After an unusual public incident in which the frail, elderly President is revitalized, geckos are now considered to bring good luck. At the Ministry of Merit, Fon is secretly in charge of building the next Gecko Mortar for the president for life family, to be deployed during the president's son's eightieth birthday. She is honored to be assigned this duty and works diligently to create and deliver this extraordinary machine. (★★★)
Started: Feb 04 2017 Finished: Feb 04 2017
The Green Knight's Wife
by Kat Howard (2016)
My review: For centuries the green knight challenge has been the same. The contenders arrive with the changing of the weather, ushered in by winter’s cold. Once a year, at the beginning of December, those silly boys who think challenging the green knight means that they are brave. All of them so eager to test their worth on the edge of the narrator husband's axe. Contender kings, and knights have been replaced by CEOs and venture capitalist, but nothing has changed... until this year. (★★)
Started: Feb 05 2017 Finished: Feb 05 2017
The Sound of Salt and Sea
by Kat Howard (2016)
My review: In a world where the dead are given to the sea, and once a year the sea gives them back for three days, the death horses rider have an important role: they need to guide the dead back to the sea before they transform from benevolent spirits, into ravenous blood thirsty creatures. The horse rider are carefully picked, and they need to follow tradition. All the signs points to Rowan to be the next one... (★★★)
Started: Feb 05 2017 Finished: Feb 05 2017
The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight
by E. Lily Yu (2016)
My review: An interesting story, that follows the structure and some of the plot elements of the classic fairy tales, but none of their sexist undertones, and morals. This is the story of a woman, escaped from a violent and angry family, that found power in witchcraft, and fell and sacrifice herself for an unworthy knight. (★★★)
Started: Feb 07 2017 Finished: Feb 07 2017
The Night of the Salamander
by Michael Swanwick (2015)
My review: In this installment of the Mongolian Wizard series, Ritter is investigating the murder of Martel, a power field marshal, with the power to bent the will of everyone around him to the utmost devotion.
Angélique de La Fontaine, a powerful surgeon, joins Ritter in the investigation...
While I really like this series, and the role of Angélique in this story, this is my least favorite episode. The description of the homophobic society Ritter lives in, left me a little disturbed. (★★)
Started: Feb 07 2017 Finished: Feb 09 2017
The Pyramid of Krakow
by Michael Swanwick (2015)
My review: In this installment of the Mongolian Wizard series, Ritter is sent as a spy to Poland, recently conquered by the enemies. In there he will come in close contact with the horrors taking place behind enemy lines, and he will discover the source of power behind the Mongolian Wizard.
I really enjoyed this story, and it feels like the author is setting up the stage for an epic finale. (★★★)
Started: Feb 09 2017 Finished: Feb 09 2017
The Phantom in the Maze
by Michael Swanwick (2015)
My review: Another entertaining story set in the world of the Mongolian Wizard. I was expecting this to be the last and final, but it is definitely not: while entertaining and well written, The Phantom in the Maze does really little to advance the plot. In this installment of the series Ritter is sent to Scotland to investigate a murder taking place in a military research facility investigating time, and how to bent it... (★★★)
Started: Feb 09 2017 Finished: Feb 09 2017
The Old Dispensation
by Lavie Tidhar (2017)
My review: This is probably the best short fiction work I read this year, with incredible and fascinating world building. I really hope the author will write more stories set in this fictional world.
The old dispensation is a space opera adventure set in a universe controlled and run by Jewish religious authorities. An enforcer is sent to a distant planet where he discovers an android who changes his mind about what is right and wrong.
(★★★★★)
Started: Feb 10 2017 Finished: Feb 11 2017
Dragonkin
by Lavie Tidhar (2013)
My review: I am a big fan of some of Lavie Tidhar work, and after reading his The Old Dispensation, I wanted to read more from the same author. I discovered this short story on the tor website, and I decided to give it a try. It is a decent story, but there is nothing of the magic of some of his later work. If you are trying to decide which book of this author to pick up, I would recommend something more recent.
This story is set in a near future when different being trapped inside human bodies, are finally set free to be what they are. (★★)
Started: Feb 11 2017 Finished: Feb 11 2017
Forest of Memory
by Mary Robinette Kowal
My review: In a near future, where an augmented humanity is always connected to the net, nobody is ever alone.
Katya deals in Authenticities and Captures, trading on nostalgia for a past long gone. Her clients are rich and they demand items and experiences with only the finest verifiable provenance. Other people's lives have value, after all. But when her A.I. suddenly stops whispering in her ear she finds herself cut off from the grid and loses communication with the rest of the world. The man who stepped out of the trees while hunting deer cut her off from the cloud, took her A.I. and made her his unwilling guest. There are no Authenticities or Captures to prove Katya’s story of what happened in the forest. You’ll just have to believe her… (★★★)
Started: Feb 12 2017 Finished: Feb 14 2017
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies
by Brooke Bolander (2016)
My review: A very interesting, and very fine example of message fiction, focusing on women rights, and rape. Given the brevity of the story, it is hard to say anything about it, without spoiling it. I would just say that it is a great piece from a Hugo / Nebula / Sturgeon / Locus finalist writer. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2017 Finished: Feb 16 2017
Fuzzy Nation
by John Scalzi
My review: This book is a reboot of a classic sci-fi story, Little Fuzzy. John Scalzi wrote this book as a way to honor one of his favorite books, and to tell the story in his unique way.
The protagonist of this story is Jack Holloway, an egocentric prick, living as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying with the only company of his dog, Carl. Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth. But there's another wrinkle to ZaraCorp's relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species. Then a small furry biped, trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute, shows up at Jack's outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp's claim to a planet's worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed... and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the "fuzzys" before their existence becomes more widely known. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 14 2017 Finished: Feb 23 2017
You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay
by Alyssa Wong (2016)
My review: I am usually not fond of stories with a western flavor, but Alyssa Wong managed to write one I did like, and quite a lot. This is the story of Ellis, a young boy with a very deep connection with his land, the desert, and with mysterious powers. Ellis is being raised by Madame Lettie, the owner of the local brothel, and the second wife of his dead father. In the brothel, Ellis make himself useful with odd jobs, and sometimes as a ware for the not always straight customers.
The story starts three months after a mysterious incidents at the mines, that were the economical fulcrum of town, and three months after the violent death of Ellis' father... (★★★★)
Started: Feb 25 2017 Finished: Feb 26 2017
The Electric Executioner
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: I did not like this story, the characters, and their reactions, were not credible to the point that it was impossible for me to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the story. And I am not going to mention the usual xenophobic elements Lovecraft is infamous for.
The unnamed narrator of this story recounts his work as auditor and investigator for the Tlaxcala Mining Company. The assistant superintendent of its mine in Mexico's San Mateo Mountains has disappeared with the financial records, and the narrator is tasked with the job to recover the documents. He doesn't know the thief, Arthur Feldon, and has only "indifferent" photos to go by. Tracking Feldon won't be easy, for he may be hiding in the wilderness. The trip proceeds very slowly because of a series of train problems that cause huge delays. While stuck on the train, the narrator meets somebody clearly dangerous and crazy... Because apparently it is enough to look at somebody strange face expressions to decide that he is dangerous, and that's a good idea to shoot him. (★)
Started: Feb 26 2017 Finished: Feb 26 2017
Losing Heart Among the Tall
by A.M. Dellamonica (2017)
My review: This is the second short story set in the fiction world of Stormwrack, and I am starting to fall in love a little with its characters. The story is entertaining, and can be easily read as stand-alone without having read the book series (as it did for me).
The crew of the Nightjar find a merman of the fleet wounded and stranded in the ocean, and Gale and Parrish work to find out who would assault a member of the nation of Tallon's intelligence service. They soon discover a plot that could shake the foundations of the fleet. (★★★)
Started: Mar 01 2017 Finished: Mar 02 2017
The Orangery
by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (2016)
My review: The story is told by two narrators, both connected to the same place, the Orangery, a special natural preserve that shelters women that escaped from the abuse of men, turning into trees. One of the narrator is the guardian, living a life of solitude and isolation at the center of the orangery. The other narrator is the guide, bringing new people every day among the verdant residents. I liked the story, I liked how it borrows elements from the Greek mythology, and how they are used as allegories for the gender dynamics through history. If the plot has just been a little thicker, this could have been a little masterpiece. (★★★)
Started: Mar 02 2017 Finished: Mar 04 2017
Extracurricular Activities
by Yoon Ha Lee (2017)
My review: While this novelette is part of a longer saga (The Machineries of Empire series), it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story (as I did). I really enjoyed the world building, and I am left wanting to read more stories set in this fictional world.
If you are looking for a space opera, with entertaining character, and worlds with different cultures coming in contact, this may be a good pick for your next book. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 04 2017 Finished: Mar 07 2017
Nevertheless She Persisted
by Kameron Hurley (2017)
My review: This book is the work of many famous sci-fi and fantasy female authors celebrating international woman day, with short work of fiction. The story are all inspired by the following 3 short phrases: She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted. Three short lines, fired over social media in response to questions of why Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the floor of the United States Senate on February 7th, 2017, for daring to read aloud the words of Coretta Scott King. As this message was transmitted across the globe, it has become a galvanizing cry for people of all genders in recognition of the struggles that women have faced throughout history.
Each author offers her unique interpretation. While the results are uneven, some are noteworthy. I particularly enjoyed Seanan McGuire's Persephone (that also touches themes of the ills of high income inequalities), Alyssa Wong's God product (thematically less fitting than the others), and Maria Dahvana Headley's Astronaut (based on a real history). (★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2017 Finished: Mar 08 2017
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories
by Jason Sanford (2016)
My review: Our future Earth have been saved from Human greed, and ecological destruction by a miracle that may be technological, or may be magic: the grains. The grains choose few humans, the anchor, to be their vessels to protect the land. The other humans are forced to wonder, forced to spend a life without a home, where each stop cannot last more than few days.
A magical and touching short story, with a solid and original world building, and memorable full rounded characters. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
Come See the Living Dryad
by Theodora Goss (2017)
My review: A sublime short story, something that reads like a memoir, and that sits between historical fiction and mystery. Come See the Living Dryad by Theodora Goss is the story of contemporary woman investigating the murder of an ancestor suffering from a rare disease who was a famous sideshow attraction in the nineteenth century. The disease, Lewandowsky-Lutz dysplasia, is unfortunately real, as was the exploitation of the sick and deformed in freak shows. The reader is left wondering how much of this story is fictional, and how much is real. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 09 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
This is Not a Wardrobe Door
by A. Merc Rustad (2016)
My review: A beautiful short story, written by somebody that grow up reading Narnia, and rebelling against the rule that prevents grown-ups to go through the gate. As other reviewers said, this is a nostalgic revisitation of an old trope, and a rebellion against it. Last, but not least, despite the short length of this work, the characters are well drawn and well rounded. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
The Unknown God
by Ann Leckie (2017)
My review: I loved Leckie's Imperial Radch space opera, and I was eager to read more from who I consider one of my favorite authors. This story was very different from what I read before: it is not a science fiction piece, debating identity and colonialism. The Unknown God is a fantasy piece, set in a world of many Gods, where they can decide to walk among man. Aworo, Lord of Horses, god of the Western plains, decides to take human form, to try to understand why humans often do the unexpected... An almost theological reflection of life, that I really enjoyed, but for the ending, that was a little too unclear to me. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station
by Caroline M. Yoachim (2016)
My review: An hilarious "chose your own adventure" story, making fun of a future health care system that unfortunately is very similar, from many points of view, to our existing one. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea
by Sarah Pinsker (2016)
My review: This is the story of Bay, a scavenger living in solitude on scraps washed ashore by the current, and a rock star, that washed ashore among the scraps. We slowly learn about this post-apocalyptic world, and about the characters, and their past. It is a memorable story, with sublime writing, and well-rounded fascinating characters. I just wish the ending was more satisfying... and I really hope the author will come back to this fictional world and tell us what happens next. (★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
Things With Beards
by Sam J. Miller (2016)
My review: A very interesting piece, touching very interesting topics like race relations, queerness, and otherness in America. The writing is quite good, the plot entertaining and interesting to read. I particularly enjoy how the two types of otherness, the one created by centuries of social discrimination, and the fictional blend and reinforce each other in the story. What I found troubling was MacReady's participation to a terrorist attack, and the fact that the author does not seem to see that act in a bad light. This stained what would have been otherwise an amazing short story. (★★★)
Started: Mar 11 2017 Finished: Mar 11 2017
Seasons of Glass and Iron
by Amal El-Mohtar (2016)
My review: This is the story of Tabitha, and Amira. Their stories, and their roles are the archetypal stories and roles of women in fairy tales. The same fairy tales that we still read to our children, often without realizing how misogynistic they are. One day, as Tabitha walks around the world to repent for having revealed to her mother she was a victim of abuse, she meets Amira. Their encounter will deeply change their lives, their way of thinking, and of living. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 11 2017
Sabbath Wine
by Barbara Krasnoff (2016)
My review: A beautiful short story, and Nebula award nominee, set in the America during prohibitionist, adroitly speaking about xenophobia, and the violence it triggers.
This is the story of Malka, the young daughter of a Jewish man, deeply involved in the labor movement, and of David, the son of a store owner, illegally selling alcohol during prohibitionist. David says he is dead, but Malka dismiss the claim as baseless: everybody knows that you cannot touch ghosts, and she has no trouble pinching David.
The encounter of the two young children, and the desire of Malka to introduce David to the customs of her ancestors, will bring the two men together.
(★★★★)
Started: Mar 12 2017 Finished: Mar 14 2017
A.
by Diana L.
My review: The book is currently going through the last round of reviews. I promised the author to not leak anything about it... so I will replace this placeholder review with the real one, once it gets released. It is a great book! Stay tuned for more info. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 14 2017 Finished: Mar 15 2017
Red in Tooth and Cog
by Cat Rambo (2016)
My review: What a beautiful short story! It is not a surprise that it was nominated for the Nebula award (unfortunately the author decided to decline the nomination, to leave space for less established new authors in the field).
The story is set in a near future, where all appliances comes with advanced AI, and are able to recharge themselves, and self-repair. One day Renee, taking a lunch break from work, decided to talk a walk in a nearby park, and eat her food outside. She sits on a bench, and she puts down her smart phone to open her food, when something grab her phone and run. Was it one a rogue appliance, one of those appliances that were discarded, but refused to be recycled, and ran away to live in the park?
This story explores the eternal question: what is life, in an original, and moving way. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 16 2017 Finished: Mar 17 2017
Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
My review: It was definitely not what I expected, and definitely not the typical post-apocalyptic novel. Instead, I discovered an audacious, dark, literary novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse. This is the only example of a book featuring a non linear timeline, a book where the narrative switch back and forth between the years before, during, and after the collapse, that actually works, and works very well. Station Eleven is the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them...
Mandel wavs a story with many threads, that adroitly cross each other when least expected, forming a breath taking tapestry. This is a really incredible book, that I strongly recommend to everybody. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 17 2017 Finished: Mar 25 2017
A Brief History of Time
by Stephen Hawking (1998)
My review: I had been wanting to read this book for a long time, and when I saw that a new and updated version was released, I decided it was finally the time to read it. The book is extremely enjoyable, I devoured half of it in a day, and I end up staying up late reading few nights in a row.
The book is very accessible to anyone, you do not need any scientific background to enjoy this book. A good half of the book covers high school physics, at a very high level. The other half, the most interesting one, goes beyond the standard curricula, and covers more recent developments in terms of quantum physics, time, and black holes. I found remarkably enlightening Dr. Hawking's proof that the thermodynamic time arrow, and the psychological time arrow must have the same direction.
While I loved the book (I really did!), I wish that the various topics were covered in more detail, even if that would require some math to be thrown in. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 26 2017 Finished: Mar 29 2017
The Last Novelist
by Matthew Kressel (2017)
My review: This is the (short, but quite enjoyable) story of an old science fiction writer living in a future where interstellar travel is possible, and internet has evolved to the point that humans are directly connected at the brain level. It is now possible to record experiences and feeling, and this new recordings are now the common form of entertainment, replacing writing. Our old writer is likely the last one in his profession, and knowing that he has a short time to live, he decided to move to a far away star, and to wrap up his latest book. Once there, he will encounter a young native, Fish, that will have a deep impact on his remaining days. (★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2017 Finished: Mar 30 2017
Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3)
by James S.A. Corey (2013)
Publisher review: For generations, the solar system -- Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt -- was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark. Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Mar 30 2017 Finished: Apr 16 2017
Currently Reading
The Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead (2016)
Publisher review: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven - but the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
Started: Apr 16 2017
Currently Reading
ぐり と ぐら の あいうえお

by なかがわ りえこ (2002)
Publisher review: 「あいうえお」から「ん」まで、50音を文頭においたリズミカルな文と、ぐりとぐらが登場する楽しい絵でお届けする言葉遊びの絵本。お出かけに便利なかわいい小型絵本です。
Started: Mar 15 2017