Marco's readings

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I rated 4 stars on goodreads.
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Here's How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream
by Joseph Bernstein (2017)
My review: In August, after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville ended in murder, Steve Bannon insisted that "there's no room in American society" for neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and the KKK. But an explosive cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News proves the strong link between the two, as mediated by Milo. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 04 2017 Finished: Nov 04 2017
How America Lost Its Mind
by Kurt Andersen (2017)
My review: An interesting essay adapted from Kurt Andersen’s book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, describing the development of a post-truth, post-fact cultural movement through the history of the United States. The author claims that its roots go all the way back to its foundation, and to attitudes and frame of minds that have made in the past America exceptional throughout its history. While I do not like the inflammatory (and a little click baity) title, the article advances some interesting and novel points, and it is a worthwhile read. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 31 2017 Finished: Oct 31 2017
They will take you from you
by Brandon O'Brien (2017)
My review: In a near future an alien race, the Eihkaq, also known as the Benefactors, reaches Earth. They "plant" geniuses, and those seeds blossomed and gave Earth life, beauty, hope. More than he human race could stomach at once. They give it to the masses, and the masses eat their inspirations. But those seeds do not belong to Earth. The Eihkaq come back when a genius passes to collect what is theirs, the mortal spoils of the seed they planted.
A very interesting science fiction story dealing with identity, race, and art. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 28 2017 Finished: Oct 29 2017
The Future of Hunger in the Age of Programmable Matter
by Sam J. Miller (2017)
My review: The story is set in a future where you can control and morph an amorphous blob of nanobots in whatever shape you want or need with your cellphone. Who need this special purpose tools, chairs, brooms, hammers, when you can just reprogram your matter to take any shape?
But this is mainly the story of Otto, a former addict, grateful and indebted to his lover Trevor that helped him to overcome addiction. Otto though is faced with temptation and the threat of disaster, but he’s fighting his very nature to stand to it.
I liked this story a lot, mainly because of the interesting, complex, and nuanced characters. It also made me feel very uneasy, as it explores Otto's and Trevor's relation, with honesty and without holding back.
I am looking forward reading more by this author. Also a shout out to Goñi Montes for the beautiful cover. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 20 2017 Finished: Oct 20 2017
Angel of the Blockade
by Alex Wells (2017)
My review: I am happy to see a story written by a differently abled author featuring differently abled characters that are not object of pity, but that are fully comfortable in their skin and with agency. This is the story of Nata, the best smuggler the Imperial regime has never caught, that spends her time zipping through space in her ugly yet incredibly efficient spaceship. In this story she takes on an expensive mystery cargo, that turns out to be way more risky than anything she has dealt with before. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 21 2017 Finished: Sep 22 2017
Party Discipline
by Cory Doctorow (2017)
My review: This is the first time I read a story by this author, despite having heard a lot of positive things about him. He has definitely an interesting and original voice, and I can see why he defines himself as a writer and activist: as the title suggests, this story has definitely a political bent.
The story is set in a world where most of us are just surplus population, disposable, a resource to exploit and use to get richer. It's a scary word, where a capitalist society has morphed into something monstrous where profit comes first, and a huge part of the population has no hope for a better future. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 16 2017 Finished: Sep 21 2017
Winged Death
by H.P. Lovecraft (1934)
My review: Hazel Heald and Lovecraft collaborated on 5 novels: she wrote the novel, and Lovecraft reviewed them. Interestingly enough, they often are far superior than the average Lovecraft's story. Winged Death is no exception, it is a compelling, entertaining story, dealing with professional envy, competition, revenge, and murder. Unfortunately, as it is pretty much always the case with Lovecraft, the story is marred with xenophobia, to the point of making it, at point, hard to read.
The most horrifying thing about this story, is that the horrifying idea of using people of African descent as guinea pigs, was, at the time, and for a long time afterwards, not fictional (Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment). That is to say that reality can be more horrifying that fiction. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 10 2017 Finished: Sep 10 2017
The Drowning Eyes
by Emily Foster (2016)
My review: The story is set in a word where some people have a special power to control the weather. Unfortunately the raw power is hard to master, and only through training and sacrifice the Windspeakers can control it. Unfortunately the Dragon Ships, a group of ferocious pirates ravaging the coast, has stolen the only tool that enable the Windspeakers to work their magic. Apprentice Windspeaker Shina must return her people's power to them before the Dragon Ships destroy everything . . . unless Shina destroys it by accident first.
I have been wanting to read this book for more than a year, and I am glad I finally got to read it. The story is memorable both for the characters and for the world-building. I really hope the author will write a sequel, or some other stories set in this fictional universe. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 04 2017 Finished: Sep 06 2017
The Martian Obelisk
by Linda Nagata (2017)
My review: This is the story of an architect on Earth commissioned to create (via long distance) a masterwork with materials from the last abandoned Martian colony, a monument that will last thousands of years longer than the slowly dying human race. In the near future climate change, wars, and biological warfare has slowly chipped away the hope and will to survive from the human population. The decline is slow but steady, and the architect has dedicated all her life to leave something behind.
This is a very poetic and interesting story, and I am looking forward reading more by this author.
Started: Sep 03 2017 Finished: Sep 03 2017
The White-Throated Transmigrant
by E. Lily Yu (2017)
My review: Winona Li is the daughter of a family of hard working immigrants. She has always worked hard, and expected little in return. When her job as an engineer for an oil company is terminated, she drive to anew place, looking for a new job. While she is driving a bird fatally collides with her car. The will change her life irrevocably.
The element of the story I found very compelling is the description of the various sources of discrimination Winona faces: first as an oil field engineer, and then as an American of non European descent. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 31 2017 Finished: Sep 01 2017
by Lucy Taylor (2017)
My review: In a post-apocalyptic word, where climate change has caused the water to rise and the land to shrink, a small enclave of people barely survives along the new coast, helped by rare food drops coming from inland. Things are changing fast, including life on Earth, very quickly adjusting to the new conditions.
This is a hard to put down short story, and it works well despite the strange mixing of hard science with pseudo-scientific / fantasy elements. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 29 2017 Finished: Aug 29 2017
The Awakening of Insects
by Bobby Sun (2017)
My review: In the future humanity has conquered faster than light travel, and has stretched itself across multiple solar systems. Jingru is stationed in one of them, a scientist studying the local wildlife. Something really strange has started to happen all over the planet, and one day she gets to experience on of these strange events herself. She soon realize that those may not be just random events, as everybody initially though...
I loved the great world building, the very enjoyable writing, and the plot. I really hope that Bobby Sun, the author, will come back to this fascinating fictional world, because I really want to read about what happens next. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 03 2017 Finished: Aug 04 2017
When Stars Are Scattered
by Spencer Ellsworth (2017)
My review: A beautiful story, focusing on two communities all to ready to bring war to each other instead of working together to survive in an harsh new alien world. I would have given this story 5 stars if not for the ending, that was not as great at the rest of the story. Characters are very interesting, and the dynamics between the two communities are quite of interest. When Stars are Scattered is a moving story about alien contact and religious intolerance.
This is the story of Ahmed, a doctor working in a far flung outpost of humanity. His way was paid for by the leaders of his faith and his atheism is a guarded secret. His encounters with the "kite people" will cause him to doubt his whole worldview however when the aliens start dying and escalating tensions between religious extremists threatens to destroy the colony's peace. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 31 2017 Finished: Aug 01 2017
A Burden Shared
by Jo Walton
My review: In a near future there has been a medical break-through in the field of pain management. While the pain still cannot be removed, it can now been shared. This is the story of a loving mother, that decided to share an heavy burden for the love of her daughter. A very interesting analysis of the impact of such a technology on families and society. I am left with the feeling that this could have been an even stronger story, if more space was given to it to develop. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 19 2017 Finished: Jul 19 2017
Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota, #1)
by Ada Palmer (2016)
My review: I read this as part of the Hugo Award finalist reading marathon, and it has been, so far, the most unusual and original entry. When I started it, I thought it was a very confusing, hand to follow, and pretentious book. As I continued reading it, my opinion drastically changed: the world building is breath taking in its complexity and scope, the complex plot is as full of intrigue as Martin's Game of Thrones, and the characters are multi faceted and definitely unusual.
Many other readers hated the old style English used by the author, but it was quite cosmetic, it does not impact the readability of the book, and it did not bother me. The part that I believe did not work out well is the attempt of the author of breaking gender stereotypes (in my opinion the stereotype end up being reinforced instead): this series story is set in a future where society and language is gender neutral, but the narrator assigns female pronouns to nurturing characters, and male pronouns to more aggressive ones.
The plot is very complex, and it is hard to say much without spoiling some of the plot twists. I will just say that the story is set in a future society where countries are no longer defined by geographical boundaries thanks to the availability of fast and affordable travel options. People can now elect which country they belong to, based on their political believes. But the intrigues between these new countries are as complex as the one in the European kingdoms few centuries ago. After long religious wars, the public practice of religion has been outlawed, its discussion kept private with sensayers, spiritual counselors.
Nested in political and family intrigues the book also offers tons of 18th century philosophy... that while it is not my favorite topic, it does add some interesting color to the story. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 07 2017 Finished: Jun 28 2017
Penric and the Shaman (Penric and Desdemona, #2)
by Lois McMaster Bujold (2016)
My review: I read Penric and the Shaman 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. It is set on the world of the five gods, and it is best enjoyed if read after the previous book in the series, Penric's Demon.
In this book Penric is now a divine of the Bastard’s Order as well as a sorcerer and scholar, living in the palace where the Princess-Archdivine holds court. His scholarly work is interrupted when the Archdivine agrees to send Penric, in his role as sorcerer, to accompany a Locator of the Father’s Order, assigned to capture Inglis, a runaway shaman charged with the murder of his best friend. However, the situation they discover in the mountains is far more complex than expected. Penric's roles as sorcerer, strategist, and counselor are all called upon before the end.
The novella is quite entertaining and fun. While it is not ground-breaking in the genre, I am growing fond of this character, and I am looking forward reading more books set in this world. (★★★★)
Started: May 21 2017 Finished: May 26 2017
The Jewel and Her Lapidary
by Fran Wilde (2016)
My review: The story is told from two perspectives: the one of a travel guide, narrating events from an almost mythical, and vastly forgotten past, and from the point of view of the people that actually lived those events. This is the story of the end of a kingdom where jewels have tremendous powers that can drive people insane, and some humans, the lapidarys, have the power to bind them and their powers. The jewels, the nobility, bind the lapidarys. This is also the story of Lin and Sima, a princess destined to be married to a far away country, and her lowal lapidary. They get caught in a web of intrigue and deceit, and must find a way to escape the traps set by the past and save their kingdom.
It is a solid story, made remarkable by the world building. I do wish the author will come back to this world, and develop the character further.
Started: May 05 2017 Finished: May 06 2017
Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)
by Seanan McGuire (2016)
My review: The premise of this clever dark fantasy novella is the following: children have always disappeared under the right conditions. slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. And those sent back have trouble adjusting back to the word they were born into. Miss West's home for wayward children is a safe haven for them. Nancy is one of those children. The things she’s experienced changed her. Each of Miss West's children is seeking a way back to her/his own fantasy world. But Nancy's arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it's up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
I really enjoy the story, it has a strong beginning, memorable characters, and an original plot. It just slow down a little bit before the end, and I am left wondering if it would have worked better as a shorter story. This said, I am looking forward reading the sequel! (★★★★)
Started: May 02 2017 Finished: May 05 2017
Abaddon's Gate (The Expanse, #3)
by James S.A. Corey (2013)
My review: The pace picks up even more in this third installment of the expanse saga: I could not put the book down, and I found myself reading deep in the middle of the night. The characters and the plot are not as great as the one in the previous chapters of this epic saga: I am still unable to believe in some of the plot twists, and characters actions. Still, it is hard to be bothered by it while devouring the pages so enraptured by the story.
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. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2017 Finished: Apr 16 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Girl with All the Gifts (The Hungry Plague, #1)
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
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
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 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
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 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 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 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
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
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
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
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
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
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 100 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #100)
by Neil Clarke (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
Lightspeed Magazine, February 2015
by John Joseph Adams (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
Drive (The 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 Butcher of Anderson Station (The 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
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 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
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
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
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
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: ) and a visit to the pueblo that inspired it (I saw it few years ago, and it is breathtaking. See:
This is one of my nominations for the Hugo Awards for best novelette: (★★★★)
Started: Nov 04 2015 Finished: Nov 06 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
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
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
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 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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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: (★★★★)
Started: May 18 2015 Finished: Jun 14 2015
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
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
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: (★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 16 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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: (★★★★)
Started: Nov 02 2014 Finished: Nov 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
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
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: (★★★★)
Started: Oct 02 2014 Finished: Oct 05 2014
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
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
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
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
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
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 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 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
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
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
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
The Giver (The Giver, #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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Weight of the Sunrise
by Vylar Kaftan (2013)
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: (★★★★)
Started: Jun 15 2014 Finished: Jun 16 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
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 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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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 Lost World
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
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
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
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
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
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 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: (★★★★)
Started: Mar 02 2014 Finished: Mar 02 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: (★★★★)
Started: Feb 21 2014 Finished: Feb 28 2014
City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)
by Cassandra Clare
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: (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2014 Finished: Feb 20 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: (★★★★)
Started: Feb 08 2014 Finished: Feb 15 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: (★★★★)
Started: Jan 27 2014 Finished: Feb 03 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: (★★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2014 Finished: Jan 27 2014
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.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Nov 03 2013 Finished: Nov 15 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: (★★★★)
Started: Aug 18 2013 Finished: Aug 31 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 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
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 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
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
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: 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
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: (★★★★)
Started: Mar 03 2013 Finished: Mar 19 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
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
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: for details). (★★★★)
Started: Jan 12 2013 Finished: Jan 20 2013
The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien (2002)
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 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
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
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 Penultimate Truth
by Philip K. Dick (2012)
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
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
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
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
A Scanner Darkly
by Philip K. Dick (2011)
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 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 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
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
Sure of You (Tales of the City #6)
by Armistead Maupin (2007)
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
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
Me Talk Pretty One Day
by David Sedaris (2001)
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Gentlemen and Players
by Joanne Harris (2006)
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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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 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
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 Namesake
by Jhumpa Lahiri (2004)
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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Mistress of Dragons (The Dragonvarld Trilogy, #1)
by Margaret Weis
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (2000)
My review: A touching little masterpiece. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2000 Finished: Aug 01 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge, #1)
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: (★★★★)
Started: May 16 2003 Finished: Jun 26 2003
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Waterdeep (Forgotten Realms: Avatar #3)
by Richard Awlinson (1989)
My review: An entertaining conclusion for the trilogy. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 24 2001 Finished: Aug 01 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
by Banana Yoshimoto (2010)
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. (★★★★)
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: ★★★★
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: ★★★★
The Tamarisk Hunter
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2006)
Publisher review: Originally appeared in "High Country News"
My rating: ★★★★