Reading is one of my favorite hobbies.
This page lists all the books
that I rated 5 stars on goodreads.
This page is built leveraging the goodreads.com API.
|The Ballad of Black Tom|
by Victor LaValle (2016)
My review: A modern re-interpretation of a typical Lovecraft's story. While in Lovecraft's novels the horror was based on the deep xenophobia of the author, by his fears of immigrants, and African-American, in LaValle's story, the horror is the xenophobia itself, the endemic racism of the government, the police, and of the justice system.
This is the story of Charles Thomas Tester, that works hard to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping. A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break? (★★★★★)
Started: May 14 2017 Finished: May 19 2017
by Diana L.
My review: The book is currently going through the last round of reviews. I promised the author to not leak anything about it... so I will replace this placeholder review with the real one, once it gets released. It is a great book! Stay tuned for more info. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 14 2017 Finished: Mar 15 2017
|Come See the Living Dryad|
by Theodora Goss (2017)
My review: A sublime short story, something that reads like a memoir, and that sits between historical fiction and mystery. Come See the Living Dryad by Theodora Goss is the story of contemporary woman investigating the murder of an ancestor suffering from a rare disease who was a famous sideshow attraction in the nineteenth century. The disease, Lewandowsky-Lutz dysplasia, is unfortunately real, as was the exploitation of the sick and deformed in freak shows. The reader is left wondering how much of this story is fictional, and how much is real. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 09 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
|Blood Grains Speak Through Memories|
by Jason Sanford (2016)
My review: Our future Earth have been saved from Human greed, and ecological destruction by a miracle that may be technological, or may be magic: the grains. The grains choose few humans, the anchor, to be their vessels to protect the land. The other humans are forced to wonder, forced to spend a life without a home, where each stop cannot last more than few days.
A magical and touching short story, with a solid and original world building, and memorable full rounded characters. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
|The Old Dispensation|
by Lavie Tidhar (2017)
My review: This is probably the best short fiction work I read this year, with incredible and fascinating world building. I really hope the author will write more stories set in this fictional world.
The old dispensation is a space opera adventure set in a universe controlled and run by Jewish religious authorities. An enforcer is sent to a distant planet where he discovers an android who changes his mind about what is right and wrong.
Started: Feb 10 2017 Finished: Feb 11 2017
|Life in Stone, Glass, and Plastic|
by José Pablo Iriarte (2016)
My review: A beautifully written, moving short story, dealing with love, memory, and Alzheimer.
An elderly man of South American descent, Sergio, is working two jobs to be able to support himself, and his dearly loved wife, that has been cognitively impaired (Alzheimer?) for years now. One day, he is asked to clean up a beautiful and very unusual graffiti on the side of the building. Sergio will try, but that graffiti will prove quite a challenge to remove... (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 04 2017 Finished: Feb 04 2017
by Ellen Klages (2017)
My review: Passing Strange is a moving love story, set in an historically accurate 1940 San Francisco, with a sprinkle of magic in it. While the story touches complex issues like xenophobia, homophobia, and the horror of wars, the main characters are women that stick together, and find happiness and love.
The city of San Francisco was, for the times, a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer "authentic" experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and places like Mona's, in the twilight world of forbidden love, where the discriminated, and persecuted outcasts from conventional society can meet. Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where mystery, science, and art intersect.
Last, but not least, kudos to Gregory Manchess, and Christine Foltzer, for the incredible cover, that is featured in the story itself. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 27 2017 Finished: Feb 03 2017
|Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage|
by Alix E. Harrow (2016)
My review: An interesting alternative history novelette, set during the Westward expansion of the European Colonist, around the Mississippi area. Oona is born by the encounter of the Europeans with the First nation american, and she is despised by both as not belonging to either cultures. She has the power of the western people: by tracing rivers in ink on paper, Oona pins the land down to one reality, allowing the Europeans to settle the American land. This means betraying her people. Can she escape the bonds of gold and blood and bone that tie her to the Imperial American River Company? (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2017 Finished: Jan 26 2017
|Seven Salt Tears|
by Kat Howard (2017)
My review: A beautiful short story that reads like a fairy tale set in today world. The main character, Mara, is a young girl, raised by the ocean, by a single mother fond of fairy tales of mermaids, and fantastic sea creatures. The mother teaches Mara about the powers bestowed to women to calm or stir hurricanes, until one day, [spoilers removed] (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
|Infomocracy (The Centenal Cycle, #1)|
by Malka Ann Older (2017)
My review: An incredible, eye opening literary achievement. In this book, Malka Ann Older, reflects on modern democracy, and the role of information, in a fictional, yet so realistic and so close to ours in too many ways fictional world. It's been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything's on the line. With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain? (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 08 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
|Lightspeed Magazine, June 2016: People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue (Lightspeed Magazine, Issue #73)|
by Nalo Hopkinson
My review: Lightspeed destroy is an annual initiative focusing on the writings of traditionally underrepresented minorities. The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction special issue exists to relieve a brokenness in the genre that's been enabled time and time again by favoring certain voices and portrayals of particular characters. It brings forth a very diverse set of talented authors, some very well-established, and other very newm from around the globe to present science fiction that explores the nuances of culture, race, and history. People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! is 100% written and edited by people of color. It features twenty original, never-before-published short and flash fiction stories, plus five classic reprints, by the likes of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler (believe it or not, I never had read anything from them before... I was blown away!). It also includes an array of nonfiction articles, interviews, and book reviews; and more than two dozen personal essays from people of colo(u)r discussing their experiences as readers and writers of science fiction. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2016 Finished: Jan 06 2017
|A Taste of Honey|
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2016)
My review: An interesting version of a classic coming out story, set in the beautiful and fascinating world that Kai Ashante Wilson introduced us to in The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. I will not say much to avoid any spoiler, but I loved reading this story (even if I was a little disappointed by the ending).
Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods. Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. in defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 25 2016 Finished: Dec 28 2016
|Everything That Isn't Winter|
by Margaret Killjoy (2016)
My review: An impossible to put down short story, set in a post-apocalyptic near future, getting ready to bloom into civilization, after many years of violence. Will this upcoming renewed world still have a place for those who only know how to destroy? While defending a tea-growing commune in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, one person seeks an answer. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 24 2016 Finished: Dec 24 2016
by Indrapramit Das (2016)
My review: This story really shook me. The premise of the story is simple: suddenly dead people come back, not as zombies, but as brainless shells. The protagonist of this story is Krishna, a young man that is quite unsettled when he bumps into a woman's corpse during his morning bath in Kolkata's Hooghly River. Initially he declines to do anything about it, after all, why should he take responsibility for a stranger? But when the dead start coming back to life en mass, he rethinks his position and the debate around how to treat these newly risen corpses gets a lot more complicated. The book presents an unsettling portrait on how society deals with our dead. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 21 2016 Finished: Dec 22 2016
|Death's End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3)|
by Liu Cixin (2016)
My review: Death's End is the conclusion of the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy by world acclaimed author Liu Cixin. The first installment of the series won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel.
I finished reading the story a couple of days ago, but it is still stuck in my head. More I think about it, more I come to realize how adroitly woven it is. All the elements, themes, concepts from the three books fit together perfectly at the end, giving birth to a logically self-consistent, scientifically sound (and deeply terrifying) cosmology.
I also like how this third book manages to color what would have been an otherwise plot-driven hard sci-fi book, with very human, emotional, moments. Cheng Xin ethical struggles, and Yun Tianming love are some of the best elements of the story.
The story begins during the fall of Constantinople, and then moves backs to the event of the previous novels: after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to coexist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent... (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 22 2016 Finished: Oct 31 2016
by John Scalzi (2016)
My review: I never listen to an audio book before, but this was free, it was from an author I like (John Scalzi), and it is not available in print, so I decided to give it a try. I REALLY liked it. I usually hate detective stories, even in sci-fi settings. This is why I was not crazy about Scalzi's locked in or Asimov's robots series. Despite that, I really enjoyed this audio book. The first chapter is intriguing, and some moments toward the end very moving and touching.
The audiobook premise is the following: one day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone - 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don't know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 24 2016 Finished: Oct 26 2016
|Two Boys Kissing|
by David Levithan (2014)
My review: I read this book as part of the 2016 Banned Books Week, an initiative celebrating the freedom to read, and fighting book censorship. I picked Two Boys Kissing because it has been one of the most challenged book in the previous year. What a pleasant surprise this book was!
The story is told through the eyes of a previous generation of gay men, killed by an epidemic, and by the lack of interest of a nation for what happens to the less desirable ones. From the afterlife they follow the lives of many young man, growing up and confronting big challenges (including bullysm and being thrown out of home into a street by homophobic parents), but fighting for the right to live freely and love. It is a poetic, stunning, moving short novel, full of hope and love, that I recommend to everybody, gay or straight, of any age. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 30 2016 Finished: Oct 05 2016
|The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)|
by N.K. Jemisin (2016)
My review: The second installment of the broken Earth trilogy is incredibly good (even if not as good as the first one). In The Obelisk Gate the focus changes on the relationship between Essun and her daughter Nassun: the book explores how oppression changes and destroys regular family dynamics, when the only instrument of a mother to protect her daughter is to harden her to be able to survive an harsh reality, and its kyriarchy. This is also the story of Castrima, a city free of oppression in times of plenty, but on the bring of sacrificing the most unpopular of its citizens in time of crises. And this is the story of Alabaster, that broken by loss it may have started the end of the world. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 11 2016 Finished: Sep 22 2016
|The Cheater's Guide to Love|
by Junot Díaz (2012)
My review: What an incredible, moving, at times gut wrenching story, and what a great flawed character. This is the story of a Dominican-American, a professor, that lose his great love when found cheating. This is the story of the ordeal he has to go through, to try to come to term with the loss, year after year.
And for those of you that do not speak Spanish, you may want to use this cheat sheet to understand the Dominican Spanish words used in the story: Cheater's Dominican Cheat Sheet for Junot Diaz's the cheater's guide to love (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 30 2016 Finished: Aug 31 2016
by Naomi Novik (2015)
My review: Naomi Novik has already established herself as a talented author with her Temeraire series, and her latest fairy tale / coming-of-age novel does not disappoint. The story is told from the point of view of Agnieszka, a young 17 year old that, growing up in the land of the Dragon, a powerful wizard constantly fighting the evil wood. Every 10 year a young girl is selected by the Dragon, and kept in his tower. Everybody expects Kasia, Agnieszka's best friend, to be the choose one, but hings do not always go as expected...
While the plot is, from many point of view, the one of a typical classical fairy tale, there are many modern elements, including the gender dynamics. What makes this book special though, is how entertaining and impossible to put down it is.
Started: Jul 02 2016 Finished: Jul 08 2016
|Memories of My Mother|
by Ken Liu (2012)
My review: When faced with an incurable terminal disease, a mother decides to exploit relativity to get a chance to see her daughter grow up. Despite its short length, the story really works and it is quite moving. If you enjoy it as much as I did, you may also want to check out the short movie that is based on it: http://www.beautifuldreamerfilm.com (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 19 2016 Finished: Jun 19 2016
|The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)|
by N.K. Jemisin (2015)
My review: Probably the best story I have read in years. It is very rare to find a book that have it all: exquisite writing, moving, intriguing, and enticing story, memorable characters, astounding and original world building. The Fifth Season is at the same time impossible to put down, and deep. It is the kind of book it will stay with you and make you think.
The book has three subplots adroitly waved together. The first is the story of Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. The second is the story of Damaya, a young girl that is discovered to be a powerful orogene, and as such kept in a barn as a beast by her parents, to soon be given away. The third is the story of Damaya, growing locked up and used as a de-humanized weapon by the fulcrum.
This is an ambitious trilogy, that while set in a world so different from ours, it succeed like no other in exploring issues like slavery, oppression, discrimination, and taboos. A strongly recommended read.
This is one of the Hugo Award Finalist in the Best Novel category. I wrote more about this and the other finalist in this blog post.
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 18 2016
|Six-Gun Snow White|
by Catherynne M. Valente (2015)
My review: Six-Gun Snow White is a retelling of an old fairy tale, that makes unmistakably explicit the sexual, gender, and ethnic violence that is often implicit in fairy tales, so as to bring the reader face to face with what dominant culture pretties up and romanticizes. Gone are the fairy tales tones and colors, replaced by gritty details, and a hard, verist style where the fairy tales elements are used as metaphors and allegories, or to give more depth to the story.
This is the story of Six Gun Snow White, born of a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother's death in childbirth, so begins a heroine's tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have.
Trigger warning: the story contains visual depictions of sexual violence, xenophobia, and first nation destruction (intended as a way to showcase their horror).
This was one of the finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2013. See my reviews of the other finalist. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 24 2016 Finished: Apr 29 2016
|The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #1)|
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2015)
My review: The Devil in America is one of my favorite books, and I was thrilled to get a chance to read more by the same author. While not as good as his previous novella, this is a remarkable book. It is not a easy read: the plot is far from linear, and the style is an odd yet interesting mix of sophisticated and refined writing, main street talking, and scientific jargon. The grammar and the word choices are often unusual to force the read to go back and read the text multiple times to understand its meaning. Despite this difficulty, the style works, it helps in world and characters building.
This is the story of Demane, an earthbound demigod, also knows as the sorcerer, since he left his homeland. With his ancestors' artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight. The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive. The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2016 Finished: Apr 23 2016
by Susan Jane Bigelow (2014)
My review: Sarah tells herself she should be happy: she has a job, a loving mother, and a wonderful girlfriend. Still, something is missing in her life: a child. She does have a child in her dreams though, he is Brandon, a 6 years old, with blond hairs, that loves dinosaurs. In this dream word she did not had to transition, she was born with a female body, and her name was June. But is this parallel reality really just a dream?
This short story was a finalist for the 2015 James Tiptree Jr. Award. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 10 2016 Finished: Apr 10 2016
by Joe Abercrombie (2016)
My review: I usually avoid reading short stories set in the world of a book saga without reading the saga before, but I did not realize that Two's Company was not a stand-alone story, but part of the First law series. Well, I am l glad I read it, because I immensely enjoyed it.
The plot is relatively simple and unremarkable: lost in the wide and barren North, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp, runs into Cracknut Whirrun on a bridge far too narrow for the expansive egos of either. With the King of the Northmen and the High Priestess of Thond in pursuit, can Shevedieh, the greatest thief in Styria, persuade either one of these proud heroes to step aside?
What makes this story shine, is the remarkable humor. I found myself laughing out loud while reading this. Reading this story made me want to read more from this author. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 04 2016 Finished: Apr 04 2016
|The New Mother|
by Eugene Fischer (2015)
My review: This novella was the winner of the prestigious 2015 Tiptree Award, and a finalist for the (2016) Nebula Awards. The attention and the honors are well deserved: not only this is an enjoyable story, but it is also one of those stories you keep thinking about long after you finish reading it, because of the hard to answer questions it raises.
The premise of the story is quite interesting: what if a new pathogen changes the affected humans making their gametes diploid, de-facto making male sterile, and female able to give birth to their clones without any need for fertilization? The novella focuses on people reaction, on the social and political implications. In doing so, it also explores gender issues in our society.
I strongly recommended it to everybody, even to people that are not sci-fi fans. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 02 2016 Finished: Apr 02 2016
by Kim Stanley Robinson (2015)
My review: A short sci-fi story and a political commentary, set in a not too far future. It is a fictional transcript of a supreme court case, and I will not say more to avoid spoilers. Humorous and well-written, this is probably one of the best stories I have read so far this year. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2016 Finished: Mar 31 2016
|Caliban's War (Expanse, #2)|
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: The second novel of the expanse saga picks up where Leviathan Wakes left of: James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance, and they are sent to investigate a strange situation on Ganymede, the bread basket of the outer planets. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting with the unlikely help of a Martian marine, that has just seen her entire squadron slaughtered by what it appears to be a monster.
This second installment fast surpasses the first: it is even more fast paced and impossible to put done, and it introduce some new characters that are unforgettable and incredible. It is uplifting to read a military action sci-fi story where female character are not just inserted for tokenism, but they have agency (they are the characters with more agency in the story), and their gender give them even more depth and significance. If you liked Leviathan Wakes, youa re going to love Caliban's War. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2016 Finished: Mar 29 2016
|That Game We Played During the War|
by Carrie Vaughn (2016)
My review: A powerful and moving story, that adroitly portray the relationship between two Calla and Valk, members of two countries that have been at war until recently. Valk is a citizen of the Gaant, a country of telepaths, while Calla is an Enithian, where people have no mental power. They meet during the war, one prisoner of the other, switching roles at different times. Despite the decade long war, despite the situation, the two build a relation that outlast the way.
This is, by far, one of my favorite stories of the year. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 17 2016 Finished: Mar 17 2016
|The Light Fantastic (Discworld, #2)|
by Terry Pratchett (2004)
My review: This is the second book of the Discworld series, that now includes 40+ books, and it is considered one of the most famous and important work in the genre.
The books takes of where The Colour of Magic left off, and completes the storyline bringing it to a satisfying end. The two books are often considered a duology, or two halves of the same book.
IN The light fantastic the very fabric of time and space are about to be put through the wringer, in this instance by the imminent arrival of a very large and determinedly oncoming celestial body. The circumstances require a very particular type of hero. Sadly what the situation does not need is a singularly inept wizard, still recovering from the trauma of falling off the edge of the world. Equally it does not need one well-meaning tourist and his luggage which has a mind of its own. Which is a shame because that's all there is. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 26 2016 Finished: Mar 03 2016
|Ghosts of Home|
by Sam J. Miller (2015)
My review: A courageous literary marvel, set in the United States of America during the mortgage crisis, where thousands of empty houses, were left alone after their occupants were evicted by the banks. In this stories houses have spirits, and offering must be given to them to ensure they continue to behave well and do not bring destruction to the property. Agnes is one of the many desperate homeless, fighting with her alcoholism, sleeping in her car, and washing at a Walmart. She is grateful for her no benefits minimum wages job, for one of the big mortgage banks, the same one that evicted her mother. She is required to bring offerings to the spirits of the empty houses, but to avoid any contact with them. One day, while on her round, she meets Micah, a handsome man that she mistake for an illegal squatter. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 29 2016 Finished: Feb 29 2016
|Binti (Binti, #1)|
by Nnedi Okorafor (2015)
My review: A little masterpiece, with an unusual, distinctive voice, that sets it apart. I strongly recommend this blogpost by Emily Asher-Perrin (it contains spoilers, so wait until you are done reading it), that very eloquently explains why this book is so special.
This is the story of Binti, the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2016 Finished: Jan 18 2016
|The Man in the High Castle|
by Philip K. Dick
My review: Remarkable alternative history book set in an alternative 1962, in a world where the axis (Nazi Germany / Fascist Italy / Imperial Japan) won the second world war. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to awake. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 20 2015 Finished: Dec 26 2015
by Priya Sharma (2015)
My review: This intriguing short supernatural / horror novelette is the story of a strange woman living in luxury with her lover, but irrevocably tied to her childhood of deprivation and dark secrets in northwest England. The woman recalls the unraveling of the family upon her uncle's release from prison. The author explores the difficulties of growing up in a poor family, with an abusive uncle and a psychologically dependent mother. One of the best stories of the year.
This is one of my nominations for the Hugo Awards for best novelette: http://goo.gl/2BJp6G (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 18 2015 Finished: Dec 18 2015
by Francesca Pardi (2012)
My review: Piccolo uovo non vuole nascere perché non sa dove andrà a finire. Parte allora per un viaggio che lo porterà a conoscere i più diversi tipi di famiglia: Altan presta la semplicità del suo mondo felice per raccontare come ognuna di queste possa essere un luogo meraviglioso in cui crescere.
Un'altro libro tra quelli censurati e rimossi dalle biblioteche scolastiche dal sindaco di Venezia, per aver osato accennare l'esistenza di famiglie con un solo genitore, o non etero. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 17 2015 Finished: Dec 17 2015
|Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)|
by James S.A. Corey (2011)
My review: Fast paced and highly entertaining space opera. Humanity has colonized the solar system: Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond. The stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for, and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli, and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations, and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 29 2015 Finished: Dec 16 2015
by Arthur C. Clarke
My review: An incredibly original account of a first encounter between humans and a far more advanced alien civilization. Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. Manned by the Overlords, in fifty years, they eliminate ignorance, disease, and poverty. Then this golden age ends...
By far one of the best sci-fi novels ever written. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 22 2015 Finished: Nov 26 2015
|Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3)|
by Ann Leckie (2015)
My review: This is the latest and final installment of one of my favorite sci-fi space operas. At the end of the previous book things seemed to be under control for Breq, formerly the AI of the battleship Justice of Torren. Then, a search of Atheok Station's slums turns up someone who shouldn't exist, someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that's been hiding beyond the empire's reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq's enemy, the divided Anaander Mianaai, ruler of an empire at war with itself. Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren't good, but that's never stopped her before.
Learn more in my blog post. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 08 2015 Finished: Nov 18 2015
|We Are The Cloud|
by Sam J. Miller (2014)
My review: This is a remarkable dystopian cyberpunk short story, set in a word where the poor have extremely limited work opportunities, and end up selling more and more of their brain, eventually turning into vegetables. The main character, a speech impaired black gay man, is left with no hope of a future, until a chance encounter with Case give him the strength to take action and shape his future. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 07 2015 Finished: Nov 08 2015
by Sherwood Smith (2015)
My review: While this is a story of young high-school kids with super-powers, this is first and foremost a coming of age story, that focuses on acceptance of differences, and on anger. It touches important (and disturbing) themes like transphobia, bullyism, domestic violence, and hate crimes. The story does not read as message-fiction, as a novel where the author preaches her positions and ideals. It reads as a spontaneous and refreshing coming of age story, of a young teenager growing in a non-heteronormative family, dealing and understanding the otherness of her and her peers.
This is probably one of the best novellas I have read this year, that I strongly recommend as a possible nomination for the 2016 Hugo Awards.
Started: Nov 01 2015 Finished: Nov 01 2015
|The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn|
by Usman T. Malik
My review: This short story is so far my first pick for the 2016 Hugo awards. It is an incredibly well written, and extremely fascinating look into the culture, traditions and fairy tale tropes of another country. It is also the story of an American immigrant looking back to its family and cultural roots.
It is a novella about a disenchanted young Pakistani professor who grew up and lives in the United States, but is haunted by the magical, mystical tales his grandfather told him of a princess and a Jinn who lived in Lahore when the grandfather was a boy. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 13 2015 Finished: Oct 15 2015
|The Shape of My Name|
by Nino Cipri (2015)
My review: An adroitly crafted and powerful story about family, time travel, and transitioning. The various themes are perfectly woven together and every scene fit into the story like a perfect tile of a beautiful mosaic.
It is impossible to say more without spoiling the story, I will just say that is, by far, one of the best short stories I have read this year. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 08 2015 Finished: Oct 08 2015
|The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian|
by Sherman Alexie (2007)
My review: I read this book during Banned Book Week, an initiative aimed at fighting censorship, and raising awareness of the constant challenges to the freedom to read in the United States of America, and abroad. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won many awards (including the prestigious 2007 National Book award), but was the most challenged book in the States in 2014 and in 2015. It was removed from schools across the country being accused to be "anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, etc". I confess I am quite surprised. While book censorship is always troubling, in this particular case the accusations seem to be baseless. This book is everything but anti-family: the love for and by his family is the only wealth of the main character, as it is made clear over and over again. The book contains characters addicted to drug and alcohol, but those are portrayed as something to stay away from. Last but not least, the language did not strike me as vulgar. I wonder if the people that challenged the book actually read it before making their claims.
This is tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
Started: Oct 03 2015 Finished: Oct 04 2015
|The Devil in America|
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2014)
My review: I did not realize this short novel was nominated for the Nebula award, but I am far from being surprised: it is an incredibly powerful and memorable story.
Set shortly after the Civil War, this is the story of a mysterious family confronts the legacy that has pursued them across centuries, out of slavery, and finally to the idyllic peace of the town of Rosetree. The shattering consequences of this confrontation echo backwards and forwards in time, even to the present day. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 01 2015 Finished: Oct 03 2015
|And Tango Makes Three|
by Justin Richardson (2010)
My review: And Tango Makes Three is based on the true and heartwarming story of tango, the chick penguin that was raised by a same-sex penguin couple in the New York City zoo. I really do NOT see why this was the 3rd most banned book in USA in 2015, and why it was banned from public schools by the mayor of the city of Venice (Italy). It is a really sweet story, that I strongly recommend.
From the afterwords: "For a flightless bird, Tango has traveled remarkably far over the past ten years. On her way around the globe she has delighted countless kids, changed some minds about what makes a family, and ruffled more than a few feathers. [...] There were sobering developments, like Singapore’s decision to remove every copy of our book from its libraries and pulp them. And joyful ones, like the outpouring of support that followed, culminating in a read in at the Singapore National Library where hundreds of parents simply sat and read their children our book. The government backed down." (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 30 2015 Finished: Sep 30 2015
|The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2)|
by Liu Cixin (2015)
My review: I loved the first book of the trilogy (The Three Body problem), but this second book surpasses it by far. It is one of the most breathtaking sci-fi books I've read in a while. It is deep, and it is action packed. You are often left reflecting on the nature of man and of human society, or churning thrilling pages that leave you breathless. This book is surely in line for next year Hugo awards!
In The Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion four centuries in the future. The aliens' human collaborators have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth's defense plans are exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret.
This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he's the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 14 2015 Finished: Sep 27 2015
|The Joy Luck Club|
by Amy Tan
My review: Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's "saying" the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. "To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable." Forty years later the stories and history continue. With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 30 2015 Finished: Sep 07 2015
|Second Foundation (Foundation #3)|
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
As for the previous books, the third (and originally the last) installment of the series is a collection multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries.
After years of struggle, the Foundation lies in ruins—destroyed by the mutant mind power of the Mule. But it is rumored that there is a Second Foundation hidden somewhere at the end of the Galaxy, established to preserve the knowledge of mankind through the long centuries of barbarism. The Mule failed to find it the first time—but now he is certain he knows where it lies. In the second story, the fate of the Foundation rests on young Arcadia Darell, only fourteen years old and burdened with a terrible secret.
Asimov was well known for his lack of interesting, well rounded, female character. That was quite common (unfortunately) at the time, and the author recognized his limitation and attributed it to his lack of success with women at the time. After many quite unremarkable female side characters, Second Foundation's Arcadia is a groundbreaking and welcomed change: she is captivating, smart, and well-rounded. She is definitely in control of her life, and in the center stage. She is probably one of the most interesting of Asimov's characters. It does not come as a surprise that, of all the Foundation's stories, this is often the favorite one. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 30 2015
|Sei la mia vita|
by Ferzan Özpetek
My review: Ti alzi alle 4 di mattina perché ti sei dimenticato di spegnere il cellulare prima di corricarti. Afferri il libro sul comodino, quello che ti ha tenuto su fino a tardi ieri sera, e che anche dopo aver spento le luci non ti lasciava scivolare nel sonno. Cammini pian pianino fuori dalla stanza per non svegliare il tuo compagno, attraverso i corridoi ancora bui della casa addormentata. Ti immergi in quelle pagine mentre la città davanti a te lentamente si illumina e si risveglia. E mentre fuori tutto tace, e mentre pian piano tutto comincia a bisbigliare i suoni del nuovo giorno, dentro di te c'è una tempesta destata da quelle incredibili parole così piene di amore. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 22 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
|Lightspeed Magazine, June 2015|
by Seanan McGuire (2015)
My review: Lightspeed is a very well-known science fiction and fantasy magazine. Even in science fiction, supposedly the genre of limitless possibility, where everyone is invited to the adventure, minorities are often underrepresented. Last year Lightspeed started the "destroy science fiction" series, a yearly program focusing on underrepresented minorities to give them a voice, and to see what they have to offer and to contribute to the genre. In 2014 they focused on sci-fi and women. This year (2015) they focused on queer authors and themes. Next year they will focus on people of color. While sci-fi is considered by many the more open of the literary genres, heterosexual, heteroromantic, and cisgendered are considered the default, to the extent that everything else is "deviation," and must be eyed with suspicion. But all science fiction is real science fiction. Science fiction is vast, and incredible fascinating in all its facets. It is inclusive. Science fiction is about people, and queer people, no matter how they identify [Gay, lesbian, bisexual, demisexual, asexual, pansexual, intersex, transgender, genderfluid, genderqueer.. anyone who fits within the QUILTBAG], are a big part of that. They always have been. They are just sometimes harder to see. So, in the interests of visibility and breaking stuff, Queers Destroy Science Fiction! will show you just how wide the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity can really be. This special all-queer issue features original science fiction short stories from many award winning authors includin John Chu, Kate M. Galey, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Chaz Brenchley, Felicia Davin, Rose Lemberg, Jessica Yang, K.M. Szpara, Amal El-Mohtar, Tim Susman, and Susan Jane Bigelow. The issue also include an interesting assortment of author and artist spotlights, interviews, nonfiction features, plus more than twenty personal essays from writers about their experiences being queer reading and writing science fiction.
A very interesting read, looking forward reading the next "destroy" issue. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 23 2015 Finished: Aug 02 2015
|To Stand or Fall (The End of All Things, #4)|
by John Scalzi
My review: In this perfectly crafted chapter, we are back on Earth, to witness the beginning and end of all things. The nations of humanity's home planet have parted ways with the starfaring Colonial Union, the human interstellar empire originally established to keep the home planet free. The Union needs to regain Earth's trust. The alien races of the Conclave have their own hard choices to face. All of these threads culminate in this fourth part of the full-length novel, The End of All Things, John Scalzi's conclusion to the latest story set in the Old Man's War universe. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 30 2015 Finished: Jul 01 2015
|Can Long Endure (The End of All Things, #3)|
by John Scalzi (2015)
My review: This is the third installment of the serialization of The End of all Things, the latest book set in the Old Man War universe.
The story progresses, and it is now being told from a third distinct point of view: the one of the Colonial Union soldiers: they signed up to defend humans from hostile aliens, but this group finds themselves, instead, repeatedly sent to squelch rebellious human colonies that want to leave the CU. It's not a sustainable situation. Something has to give. Things seems to be building up for a big explosive finale. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 28 2015 Finished: Jun 28 2015
|This Hollow Union: The End of All Things|
by John Scalzi (2015)
My review: This is the second installment of the serialization of The End of all Things, the latest book set in the Old Man War universe.
The point of view now move to the Conclave and to its leadership, facing desperate times that call for desperate measures. Faced with the prospect of major planets and species leaving the alliance, the Conclave's leadership has just a few cards left to play, to unpredictable effect. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 19 2015 Finished: Jun 19 2015
|The Life of the Mind: The End of All Things|
by John Scalzi (2015)
My review: I was very eager to get back to the world of Old man war, and I was not disappointed. This 6th book of the saga is being serialized like the previous one, but this time each installment is more self contained and chunkier, resulting in a vastly superior reading experience.
The life of the mind is the story of a down-on-his-luck Colonial Union starship pilot that finds himself pressed into serving a harsh master-in a mission against the Colonial Union. But his kidnappers may have underestimated his knowledge of the ship that they have, quite literally, bound him to piloting. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2015 Finished: Jun 14 2015
by Stephen King (2000)
My review: The true story of a close encounter with Death during a simple daily walk, by one of the most read contemporary authors of the 21st century. Remarkably human and interesting. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 07 2015 Finished: Jun 07 2015
by Alyssa Wong (2015)
My review: This is a remarkable horror short story by Alyssa Wong, dealing with complex issues like bullism and its tragic toll, self-hate, death, homophobia, and coming-out at a young age. It is tale of tragic love and loss. (★★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
|Foundation (Foundation #1)|
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
The story starts with Hari Seldon, a scientist that spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology. Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30 thousand years before a second great empire arises. Seldon also foresees an alternative where the interregnum will last only one thousand years. To ensure the more favorable outcome, Seldon creates a foundation of talented artisans and engineers at the extreme end of the galaxy, to preserve and expand on humanity's collective knowledge, and thus become the foundation for a new galactic empire.
The book is a collection of multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 13 2015 Finished: Apr 18 2015
|The Days of Anna Madrigal (Tales of the City, #9)|
by Armistead Maupin (2014)
My review: Amazing. Just simply utterly amazing.
I woke up early as always this morning, when it was dark. I could not tell the time because I had misplaced my phone somewhere. I retired to the guestroom because I did not want to wake my partner up. From there, I started outside at San Francisco, at the neon light of the Castro theater, and the downtown skyscrapers flickering against the backdrop of the bay, a tranquil ocean of darkness broken only broken by the pale East Bay lights. There is something very peaceful and rewarding in waking up before the day starts, to get a chance to see the city sleeping peacefully, when there is no hint of all the commotions to come.
I picked up the book I just started, Maupin's The Days of Anna Madrigal, and started reading it in the silence and darkness of the night. It kept me company hours after hour. As the sky started lighting up, as a small kindle of light emerged on the horizon, I kept devouring and savoring page after page, completely captivated, trapped by the story. This is not only tremendously well written, it is also the most powerful, touching, and moving book of a series, its perfect conclusion. And now the sun is high in the sky, and I find myself still in my PJs, staring out of the window with the book still in my hands, deeply and gratefully moved to tears. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 22 2015 Finished: Mar 28 2015
by Andy Weir (2014)
My review: This is the story of astronaut Mark Watney, one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars, and the first one to get stranded there. It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he is stuck millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive. And even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills, and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit, he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
One of the most entertaining, fun, impossible to put down, scientifically accurate, book I read in a long while. I strongly recommend it to everybody. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2015 Finished: Feb 19 2015
|Rama Revealed (Rama, #4)|
by Arthur C. Clarke
My review: I'm at a loss on how to review this book. I loved the original Clark's Rama book. I was deeply disappointed (and disgusted) by the two sequels books that followed it. I strongly suspect Clarke had very little to do with the first two sequel books beside putting his name on the cover. I found those two books sexist, and I disliked the attempts to distort Science findings to give them a spiritual interpretation. I continued to read the series because I do not like to not finish something I have started.
This last book was an uttermost surprise to me. While it has all the bad elements of book 2 and 3, while its structure is a little episodic, I had a very hard time to put it down. The weird characters of the previous books have grown on me, I became quite fond of them, and emotionally attached to this crazy bizarre set of characters. I was deeply moved by their lives, their sacrifices, and (for some of them) by their death.
I do not think I ever had such an emotional response to a book ending in my entire life, so even if the book is real rubbish for so many reasons, I must give the book 5 full stars. It was worth reading through the previous horrible books and endure that sexist manure just to experience it. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 04 2015 Finished: Jan 11 2015
|Robots and Empire (Robot #4)|
by Isaac Asimov (1996)
Publisher review: Long after his humiliating defeat at the hands of Earthman Elijah Baley, Keldon Amadiro embarked on a plan to destroy planet Earth. But even after his death, Baley's vision continued to guide his robot partner, R. Daneel Olivaw, who had the wisdom of a great man behind him and an indestructable will to win....
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Oct 05 2014 Finished: Oct 13 2014
|Portrait of Lisane de Patagnia|
by Rachel Swirsky (2012)
My review: Renn is the former student of Lisane, a world famous artist genius, that is dying full of regrets for not being able to educate any of her pupil to take over her legacy. After many years, Renn is still heart-broken over the end of her relationship with her mentor, Lisane, that tough her how to capture the essence of her subject into a painting with magic.
This is a story about love, obsession, passion, talent, favoritism, and emotions, beautifully and effectively written. It does not come as a surprise that this novel was shortlisted for the Nebula award. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 23 2014 Finished: Aug 23 2014
|Il Sentiero dei Nidi di Ragno|
by Italo Calvino (2013)
My review: In questo caso, l'autore stesso ha scritto una review perfetta per questo straordinario libro: Questo romanzo è il primo che ho scritto; quasi posso dire la prima cosa che ho scritto, se si eccettuano pochi racconti.
Che impressione mi fa, a riprenderlo in mano adesso? Più che come un'opera mia lo leggo come un libro nato anonimamente dal clima generale d'un'epoca, da una tensione morale, da un gusto letterario che era quello in cui la nostra generazione si riconosceva, dopo la fine della Seconda Guerra Mondiale.
Al tempo in cui l'ho scritto, creare una "letteratura della Resistenza" era ancora un problema aperto, scrivere "il romanzo della Resistenza" si poneva come un imperativo; ... ogni volta che si è stati testimoni o attori d'un'epoca storica ci si sente presi da una responsabilità speciale ... A me, questa responsabilità finiva per farmi sentire il tema come troppo impegnativo e solenne per le mie forze. E allora, proprio per non lasciarmi mettere in soggezione dal tema, decisi che l'avrei affrontato non di petto ma di scorcio. Tutto doveva essere visto dagli occhi d'un bambino, in un ambiente di monelli e vagabondi. Inventai una storia che restasse in margine alla guerra partigiana, ai suoi eroismi e sacrifici, ma nello stesso tempo ne rendesse il colore, l'aspro sapore, il ritmo... (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 15 2014 Finished: Aug 17 2014
|The Lady Astronaut of Mars|
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2014)
My review: I read this novelette shortly after it was announced that it won the 2014 Hugo award. I had really high expectations, and, because of it, I was expecting to be disappointed. This turned out to be one of the best novelette I have ever read in my life. In just 32 pages it creates such well rounded, real characters, that you can't avoid to relate with. The main character, Elma, is a senior astronaut dreaming to fly again between the stars. One day an opportunity opens up, and she can fulfill her dream. The only problem is, she'll be gone for three years, and her husband has less than a year to live.
This is an adroitly crafted, powerfully moving short story, that manages to touch complex themes like aging, disabilities, and the difficult balance between the pursuit of our own dreams and family, with extreme honesty, respect, and sensibility.
I strongly recommend it to everybody, not only to sci-fi fans. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2014 Finished: Aug 17 2014
by Harry Turtledove (2011)
My review: An intriguing "alternative history" short novel, set in a world where Hitler won the second world war. It is a moving story of survival of "Jews" in a world where every single one of them has been killed.
It is the story of two professional actors, Veit Harlan and his wife Kristi, two happy citizens of the prosperous, triumphant Reich. It's been over a century since the War of Retribution cleaned up Europe, long enough that now curious tourists flock to the painstakingly recreated "village" of Wawolnice, whee, along with dozens of colleagues, Veit and Kristi re-enact the daily life of the long-exterminated but still frightening "Jews". Veit and Kristi are true professionals, proud of their craft. They've learned all there is to know about this vanished way of life. They know the dead languages, the turns of phrase, the prayers, the manners, the food. But now they're beginning to learn what happens when you immerse yourself long enough in something real... (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
|Ready Player One|
by Ernest Cline (2011)
My review: The book is set in a future where the masses are poor, living on stacked trailers, escaping reality inside OASIS, a virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. The main character, Wade, dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world: somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune, and remarkable power, to whoever can unlock them.
The book is a perfect mix: a great plot, a compelling fast paced story-telling, a lot of (geeky) references to the 70s/80s that bring out memories from my childhood (similarly to Jo Walton's Among Others). It is impossible to put down, it never slows down, entrapping the reader in its spell. You find yourself reading late at night, missing the bus stop on your way to work, counting down the pages till the end saddened that the book is going to finish too soon. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2014 Finished: Aug 06 2014
|The Book Thief|
by Markus Zusak
Publisher review: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . . Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jun 12 2014 Finished: Jun 28 2014
by Veronica Schanoes (2013)
My review: This is a rare example of sublime literature, an adroitly crafted, magnificently written novella spanning between the historical fiction and dark fantasy genres. The mix of the two genres works incredibly well: fantastic demons are metaphors of the real historical horrors, and supernatural elements reflects a system of beliefs and the superstitions of a community.
This is the story of Deborah, a Jewish girl growing in Poland at a time when anti-Semitic discrimination was the law, and the whole community lived in fear of pogroms. Her family is also faced with the prospect of poverty, since their main trade and source of income (sewing) suddenly has to compete with the products coming out from textile factories. Deborah inherited the holy powers from her grandmother, the zegorin of the village, that starts to train her to become one. Unfortunately her family is soon to be faced by a new wave of pogroms and supernatural events.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2014 Finished: Jun 15 2014
by Jo Walton (2011)
Publisher review: Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment. Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead. Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off… Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: May 27 2014 Finished: Jun 01 2014
|The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads (The Human Division, #12)|
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: United States Diplomat Danielle Lowen was there when one of her fellow diplomats committed an unthinkable act, which had consequences for the entire planet. Now shes trying to figure out how it happened before it can happen again. Putting the puzzle pieces together could solve the mystery or it could threaten her own life.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Apr 03 2014 Finished: Apr 03 2014
|A Problem of Proportion (The Human Division, #11)|
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: A secret backdoor meeting between Ambassador Ode Abumwe and the Conclaves Hafte Sorvalh turns out to be less than secret as both of their ships are attacked. Its a surprise to both teams but its the identity of the attacker that is the real surprise, and suggests a threat to both humanity and The Conclave.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Apr 03 2014 Finished: Apr 03 2014
|We Only Need the Heads (The Human Division, #3)|
by John Scalzi (2013)
My review: This is the third installment of the new John Scalzi's book set in the Old Man's war universe. The separate plots of the previous two installments comes together on this one, focused on intergalactic diplomacy and colony massacre investigation. We only need the heads is adroitly written, entertaining to read, and I can't wait to read the next chapters of this story. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 12 2014 Finished: Mar 13 2014
by Ferzan Özpetek (2013)
Publisher review: Tutto comincia una sera, quando un regista turco che vive a Roma decide di prendere un aereo per Istanbul, dov'è nato e cresciuto. L'improvviso ritorno a casa accende a uno a uno i ricordi: della madre, donna bellissima e malinconica; del padre, misteriosamente scomparso e altrettanto misteriosamente ricomparso dieci anni dopo; della nonna, raffinata «principessa ottomana »; delle «zie», amiche della madre, assetate di vita e di passioni; della fedele domestica Diamante. Del primo aquilone, del primo film, dei primi baci rubati. Del profumo di tigli e delle estati languide, che non finiscono mai, sul Mar di Marmara. E, ovviamente, del primo amore, proibito, struggente e perduto. Ma Istanbul sa cogliere ancora una volta il protagonista di sorpresa. E lo trattiene, anche se lui vorrebbe ripartire. Perché se il passato, talvolta, ritorna, il presente ha spesso il dono di afferrarci: basta un incontro, una telefonata, un graffito su un muro. I passi del regista si incrociano con quelli di una donna. Sono partiti insieme da Roma, sullo stesso aereo, seduti vicini. Non si conoscono. Non ancora. Lei è in viaggio di lavoro e di piacere, in compagnia del marito e di una coppia di giovani colleghi. Ma a Istanbul accadrà qualcosa che cambierà per sempre la sua vita. Tra caffè e hamam, amori irrisolti e tradimenti svelati, nostalgia e voluttà, i destini del regista e della donna inesorabilmente si sfiorano e, alla fine, convergono. Questo libro è una dichiarazione d'amore a una città, Istanbul. Rossa come i melograni, come i vecchi tram, come i carrettini dei venditori di simit, come certi tramonti sul Bosforo che mischiano lo scarlatto al blu, come lo smalto sulle unghie di una madre molto amata. Ed è, insieme, un libro sull'amore, nelle sue mille sfumature. L'amore che non conosce età, paese, tempo, ragione, differenze di sesso. Che sceglie e basta. Una storia romantica, imprevista e nostalgica che racconta di un regista, di una città e di un ritorno. E poi, come una scatola magica, di una storia nella storia. Proprio come in un film di Ferzan Ozpetek, se decidesse di raccontare la sua.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Mar 09 2014 Finished: Mar 10 2014
|Twelve Years a Slave|
by Solomon Northup (2013)
My review: Slavery is a horrible stain in our history, but there is something worst: forgetting about it. This book made me realize that even if we are still facing the consequences of that immoral practice, even if "race" is one of the most discussed topics on TV, blogs, and newspapers, despite all that I still know so little about it. Solomon Northup was a quite talented free man in New York that happened to not be "white". He was kidnapped and sold as a slave in the South. Solomon was not the only one to have this fate. He was separated from his wife and from his sons, beaten and exploited, broken down physically and emotionally. He was deprived of the title and the dignity of being a man. After 12 years, thanks to extreme luck and exceptional circumstances, he was freed and returned to his family. While there are many reports of kidnapped free men believed to be sold as slaves in the South, Mr. Northup is the only one that made it back alive. Once back, any attempt to legally prosecute the kidnappers failed, as the historical legal records demonstrate, thanks to the fact that, as a "non-white", he could not be accepted as a witness against a "white" man. He actually barely escaped prison for having dared to accuse his kidnapper. He spent the rest of his life to end the horror of slavery and to help slaves escape to Canada. He also wrote down his story, published here along the legal court documents concerning his case. The result is one of the most incredible books I have ever read. Mr. Northup was a remarkable man, and was an incredibly good writer. Despite being written almost a century and an half ago, despite some of the horrors being described, it is a pleasure to read. On top of it, the book is of such historical significance that should be read by everybody.
I will never be able to understand and relate to the enormity of the horrors he had to endure, but I strongly believe I must try. The only way to atone for the horrors of the past, is to never forget them. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 03 2014 Finished: Feb 08 2014
by George Orwell (2013)
Publisher review: Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell's nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff's attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell's prescience of modern life--the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language--and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jan 19 2014 Finished: Jan 25 2014
|The Last Colony (Old Man's War, #3)|
by John Scalzi (2008)
My review: In this third installment of the Old Man's War series, John Perry, his wife Jane, and their adopted daughter Zoe, are at last living quietly in one of humanity's many colonies. John and Jane are asked to lead a new colony world, and they decide to give it a try... But they soon find out that nothing is what it seems, for his new colony are merely pawns in an interstellar game of war and diplomacy between humanity's Colonial Union and a new, seemingly unstoppable alien alliance that is dedicated to ending all human colonization. As for the previous books of the series, the book is witty, extremely clever, enjoyable, a real pleasure to read. I strongly recommend it. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 03 2014 Finished: Jan 06 2014
|World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War|
by Max Brooks (2006)
My review: The novel is a collection of individual accounts, where the narrator is an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission ten years after a fictional Zombie War. The accounts record a decade-long desperate war against the zombie plague, as experienced by people of various nationalities. The personal accounts also describe the social, political, religious and environmental changes that resulted from the war.
The book is quite remarkable not only for the originality of the storytelling, but for the deep understanding of different cultures and human psychology. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2013 Finished: Dec 19 2013
|This Perfect Day|
by Ira Levin (2010)
My review: Ira Levin's dystopian novels is set in a seemingly perfect global society. Uniformity is the defining feature, there is only one language and all ethnic groups have been eugenically merged into one race called The Family. The world is ruled by a central computer called UniComp that has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of regular injections so that they can never realize their potential as human beings, but will remain satisfied and cooperative. They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce. Even the basic facts of nature are subject to the UniComp's will. Men do not grow facial hair, women do not develop breasts, and it only rains at night. But not everybody is willing to accept this. With a vision as frightening as any in the history of the science fiction genre, This Perfect Day is one of Ira Levin`s most haunting novels. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 29 2013 Finished: Nov 03 2013
|A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)|
by George R.R. Martin (2003)
Publisher review: A STORM OF SWORDS Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. . . . But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others--a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords. . . .
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Sep 08 2013 Finished: Oct 29 2013
|Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls|
by David Sedaris (2013)
My review: This is by far the best book by David Sedaris. I have read many of Sedaris' books before, and while I enjoyed reading them, I often found them jarring. Even if they always made me laugh, I was always left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Let's explore diabetes with owls was quite different in that respect: I laughed and laughed, and there was no bitter aftertaste when I was done. The book touches many of Sedaris' signatures themes like family and life abroad, and some new ones, including politics. Not all the stories in the book are great, but some (including "Obama!!!!", "#2 to go", and "The happy place") are incredibly funny, definitely not PC, masterpieces. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 01 2013 Finished: Sep 08 2013
by Richard A. Knaak (2012)
My review: The citadel is one of the many book set in the Dragonlance world, but it is, by far, one of the best. It has been year since I have enjoyed a book so much, or stayed up so late to read "just one more chapter... or two". The story is so compelling, the plot so fast-paced and thrilling, that is impossible to stop reading.
The story starts after the end of the big war, when an evil wizard lears the secret of creating "citadels", i.e. castles floating in the air. He uses them to gain power over the world of Krynn. A red-robed magic-user, a cleric, a warrior, and a little kender are the only hope against him. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 12 2013 Finished: Aug 17 2013
|The Ghost Brigades (Old Man's War, #2)|
by John Scalzi
Publisher review: The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF's toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms. The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it's about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did. Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers -- a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin's DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin's electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades. At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his "father," he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jul 09 2013 Finished: Jul 10 2013
|Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)|
by John Scalzi (2007)
Publisher review: John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-- and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding. Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets. John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine--and what he will become is far stranger.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jun 23 2013 Finished: Jun 29 2013
|The Testament of Mary|
by Colm Tóibín (2012)
My review: Mary in this book is not the meek, docile and obedient woman that traditional misogynistic iconography portrays. In "The testament of Mary" she is a tragically human heroin, torn by the sense of guilt for abandoning her son on the cross to save herself, blaming herself for not keeping her son to the bad influence of a "group of misfits he gathered around him". Whatever your religious beliefs are, this alternative version of the new testament succeeds in creating an incredibly memorable, novel, and deeply human portrait of one of the cultural icons of the Western world. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 06 2013 Finished: Apr 07 2013
|The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)|
by Patrick Rothfuss (2013)
My review: I liked the first book of the "The Kingkiller Chronicle" trilogy, but I felt in love with this second one: it is an order of magnitude better. The story is entertaining, but it's the characters development and description that really set this book apart. This is really a great book, and I strongly recommend it to everybody, even for whose of you that are not into fantasy. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 29 2013 Finished: Mar 01 2013
|How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You|
by Matthew Inman (2012)
My review: I have always been a big fan of Matthew Inman (a.k.a. the oatmeal). This book collects old and new stories surrounding one of Matthew arc-enemies: the cats. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 24 2012 Finished: Nov 25 2012
|Mary Ann in Autumn (Tales of the City, #8)|
by Armistead Maupin
My review: Twenty years have passed since Mary Ann Singleton left her husband and child in San Francisco to pursue her dream of a television career in New York. Now, a pair of personal calamities has driven her back to the city of her youth and into the arms of her oldest friend, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, a gay gardener happily ensconced with his much-younger husband.
Mary Ann finds temporary refuge in the couple's backyard cottage, where, at the unnerving age of 57, she licks her wounds and takes stock of her mistakes. Soon, with the help of Facebook and a few old friends, she begins to reengage with life, only to confront fresh terrors when her speckled past comes back to haunt her in a way she could never have imagined. Over three decades in the making, Armistead Maupin's legendary Tales of the City series rolls into a new age, still sassy, irreverent and curious, and still exploring the boundaries of the human experience with insight, compassion and mordant wit. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 16 2012 Finished: Nov 25 2012
|The Color Purple|
by Alice Walker
My review: A deeply moving book, describing the lives of African American in the South of the United States in the 30s. The book touches many dramatic themes, such as domestic violence, incest, racism, sexism, gender roles, faith. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 25 2012 Finished: Nov 12 2012
by David Mitchell (2004)
My review: I do not know why this book touched me so deeply, but it really did.
In Cloud Atlas Humans are Devils, always prone to enslave, kill, and slaughter. Humans are always ready to take away the dignity of others in the name of a Natural Order that determines that people of color, homosexuals, old, cloned people, or members of other tribes are not even worthy of the title of "men". This is demonstrated over and over 6 times in the 6 different stories (the number 6 recurrence in the book is significant).
But the Humans of Cloud Atlas are also Divine, because over and over, experiencing and witnessing small acts of kindness and incredible acts of self-sacrifice they come to realize that all these Natural Order boundaries are just human made conventions. Our lives are the result of all our choices, all our encounters. We are all bound together, each little act of kindness, each mistake goes beyond our lifetime and affects all humanity and the future. And so it is that a little act of kindness on a San Francisco bound ship will ultimately bring salvation to the Human race in a very far future.
Our lives and our choices, each encounter, suggest a new potential direction. Yesterday my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another. Fear, belief, love, phenomena that determined the course of our lives. These forces begin long before we are born and continue long after we perish. Yesterday, I believe I would have never have done what I did today. I feel like something important has happened to me. Is this possible?
Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 30 2012 Finished: Oct 20 2012
|Michael Tolliver Lives|
by Armistead Maupin (2008)
My review: Armistead Maupin wrote this book 20 years after completing the last book of the classic "Tales of the city" series, and, as the different color of the cover suggests, it stands apart on its own. While the settings and the characters are the same ones we felt in love with, a quarter of a century is passed, and things changed a lot in all those years. Anna Madrigal is now in her 80s, Michael Mouse Tolliver in his 60s. Some of the characters are deceased, and Shanna is now an adult. The different (time) settings, and the aged characters completely change the feel of the novel. The plot is relatively simple, it does not feature mysterious sects leaders or cultists (as some of the previous books of the series did), but it focuses instead on the relationship between the characters, on their evolution, on their feelings. As any Maupin's reader already knows, the author has an uncanny ability in creating characters we can't help but falling in love with. They feel so real and alive that they slowly became members of our family, friends, people we can relate with. This is even more true for this last novel: despite a relatively simpler plot line, the book is by date, Maupin's most powerful and touching book. This is achieved leveraging on the adroitly built intimacy with the characters, and not via a convoluted and epic plot line.
Many of the themes of the book (including inter-generation marriage, AIDS, the pain caused by the separation from your grown up kid moving out of home) are quite interesting and worth discussing, but nothing make this book worth reading more than the shiver I felt listening to Anna talking to Mouse on the top of the De Young tower, or the tears in my eyes at the end of the book. Yes, the themes touched in the book are interesting and worth discussing, but at the end, the characters are the ones we all fall in love with, and we laugh, and cry, and grow up with. The message is important, but the characters are family. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 15 2012 Finished: Sep 19 2012
|Life of Pi|
by Yann Martel (2007)
My review: It's quite hard to review this book without giving away any spoiler, and this is a great book that does not deserve to be spoiled. I still remember seeing it in the "reccomended" section of my local bookstore, picking it up with interest and putting it down thinking "what? a story about somebody being stuck on a boat? It has to be boring". Oh I was wrong! The book is actually quite captivating, so fascinating that you find yourself still reading it in the middle of the night thinking "it's late, but let's read another one of these short chapters". As the story progresses, I found myself captivated, and at its conclusion deeply shaken and shocked. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 29 2012 Finished: Aug 04 2012
|The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)|
by Suzanne Collins (2008)
My review: Suzanne Collins really knows how to write an impossible to put down book. I literally spent every free second reading the book for few days in a row, losing precious hours of sleep reading it. I was afraid I was going to get in trouble with my sweet half, but he started the book at the same time, and got even more addicted than me, so I guess things worked out at the end. This is not the type of book that shake you to the core, it has not a great message or lesson to deliver. It is just an action packed thrilling ride, where each single chapter finishes with a cliffhanger, and each page make you want to read more and more. It's not the kind of book that make you a better person or help you in the path towards understanding, but it is pure enjoyment. For the curious, the Hunger Games is set in a post apocalyptic North America, where a central government keeps 12 districts in a state of semi-slavery. As a punishment for an ancient rebellion two kids from each district are selected each year and sent into a televised death match, where the only survivor is going to be declared the winner. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 30 2012 Finished: Feb 01 2012
|Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy, #1)|
by Ken Follett (2010)
My review: It has been a while since I enjoyed so much reading a book. This impossible to put down book follows the interrelated stories of 5 families at the time of the first world war. History is lived through the fictional but historically accurate lives of the characters, German, British and Russian proletarians and nobility. It's mesmerizing to observe empires, political and social systems that have been existing for centuries crumble into dust, and to see a new world order emerging from the ashes of what it was, from all the destruction and the millios of deaths. The book made me realize how much social progress toke place in such a short time span, it made me grateful and appreciative of everything I have, and gave me hope for an even better future. Thanks for all those who fought for justice and democracy, and gave their life to give all of us a better world to live in.
Learn more in this blog post: http://goo.gl/uA4Hh3 (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2011 Finished: Dec 11 2011
by Geraldine Brooks (2006)
My review: In this Pulitzer prize winner book, Geraldine Brooks follows the steps that led Mr. March (the father of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women) to leave his family behind to join the anti-slavery Union cause during the America Civil War. The story told by Mr. March is drastically different from the optimistic child tale we are accustomed to. The moral certainties and optimistic views of Little Women are shattered in this extremely honest and sincere portrait of a country at war with itself. The horrors of slavery, war, and the weaknesses and hypocrisies of the human nature are exposed and laid bare for the reader to see. But the book is not only an incredible historical portrait of the Civil War, it is also a psychological novel focusing on the complex marriage of a man that struggle to live up to the person that he would like to be, and a courageous woman that has to bear the cost of her husband choices. (★★★★★)
Started: May 27 2011 Finished: Jun 12 2011
|The Night Watch|
by Sarah Waters
My review: The Night Watch is the story of four commoners in World War II London, coping with personal and historical tragedies during air raids, black-outs and rationing. It is a story of loss, illicit affairs, desperation, hope, and love. Historical novels and movies have the tendency to be epic, to turn the characters into heroes, events into epics. As a result it is hard to identify with the characters, to understand what was like to live those events. The Night Watch does not fall in that trap. Its WWII London and its characters are just commoners, with common weaknesses, hopes, fears and tragedies. As a result it is impossible to not identify with them. It is impossible to not experience all the horrors, the destruction, the fears they experience, or not to share their hopes or their joy for historically insignificant but extremely real events. The result is an extremely powerful novel, able to shake the reader to the core. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 10 2010 Finished: Dec 04 2010
|Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire, #3)|
by Isaac Asimov (2010)
My review: This book made me understand why Isaac Asimov is considered one of the fathers of science fiction. The book is impossible to put down: I found myself staying up all night to see how it ends. On top of being so entertaining, the book also explores interesting themes like xenophobia, and how Religion ("customs" and "traditions" in the book) can potentially be used to enslave people. I recently read Asimov's Robot's series (that was fun, but not that special), and this is by far superior. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 30 2010 Finished: Jul 02 2010
|Babycakes (Tales of the City, #4)|
by Armistead Maupin
My review: We are back to 28 Barbary Lane, San Francisco, following the adventure of Mary Ann, Brian, Mouse and Mona. It's the forth book, and all the character are now so familiar, that they do feel like family. This is, so far, the best written book of the series, Maupin really improved his writing skills over the year (and he was great to start with). The story flows very smoothly now and it's adroitly crafted so that everything falls in place without forcing events. As a result the story feel credible and real. The story takes place during the AIDS years. Mouse is mourning the loss of Jon, Mona is looking for a new life in Seattle, Brian wants a baby to give a meaning to his life, and Mary Ann tries hard to balance married life with her career. A quite amazing snapshot of a San Francisco of the end of the last millennium, witty and touching at the same time. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2010 Finished: Jan 16 2010
|The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays|
by Oscar Wilde (1985)
My review: I cannot stop thinking how many masterpieces Wilde would have produced if he was not being thrown in a jail because of homophobic laws. He was a genius, able to show to the people of his time how hypocritical they were, with wit and sensibility. Just amazing. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 06 2008 Finished: Aug 10 2008
|The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)|
by Philip Pullman (2003)
My review: A great ending for this masterpiece, able to bridge fantasy and philosophy. Undoubtedly one of the best book of the century. As The Hours find its root in Mrs Dalloway and builds on it, similarly this trilogy find its root in Milton's Paradise Lost, as the starting point of a deep and enlightening reflection on human existence. (★★★★★)
Started: May 07 2008 Finished: Jul 04 2008
|Il delirio di onnipotenza|
by Cristiano Capuzzo (2008)
My review: Una piacevole sorpresa, un sorprendente thriller, capace di descrivere i desideri piu' turpi e violenti di un serial killer, e la gioia di vivere e la capacita' di sorridere di fronte alle avversita'. Una lettura consigliatissima. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 10 2008 Finished: May 06 2008
|The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)|
by Philip Pullman (2003)
My review: WOW, this was quite a surprise! I liked the first book, but this second installment is even better. Some of the themes that were just barely hinted in the previous book are now developed and extended. While the first volume was just an interesting fantasy tale, the second volume is a fantasy modern re-edition of the Romantic rebellion against the authority and traditions in the name of freedom and free will. A modern Paradise Lost. The pace is fast, it is really hard to put this book down (I finished it in 3 days even if I was working on my dissertation... as a result I practically haven't slept!), entertainingly and... it goes quite deeper than expected! I strongly recommended! (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 06 2008 Finished: Apr 09 2008
|Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)|
by Armistead Maupin (1994)
My review: A very accurate portrait of San Francisco in the 70s, when the heat of the summer of love was cooling down and before the AIDS days. At first each chapter reads like a funny stand alone story. In reality is a well thought paint stroke. And stroke after stroke, an incredibly powerful and accurate portrait emerge. The books was written before I was born, but I can still see and feel the Tales of the City's San Francisco in the city I live in today. The book made me understand it a little bit more, even if it is just a work of fiction. I am looking forward reading More tales of the city... (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 31 2008 Finished: Apr 05 2008
|The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)|
by Philip Pullman (2007)
My review: I was expecting a fun to read fantasy book, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this book is actually quite a literary masterpiece, with interesting reflections on the role of religion and philosophy. I am looking forward reading the next volumes of the series. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2008 Finished: Mar 30 2008
|Interpreter of Maladies|
by Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
My review: I enjoyed The Namesake, but this book is just astounding. A very deserved Pulitzer Prize, the book is a collection of short stories. What makes them special is the incredible ability of the author of portraying the characters with few adroitly placed strokes. The characters are realistic, credible and, as a result, the short stories are powerful and touching. They have a way to work their way into the reader hearts, moving him or her to tears. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 13 2007 Finished: Nov 21 2007
by Joanne Harris
My review: It was quite a surprise to discover that this book is in part a sequel of Chocolat: the story takes place in the same small town and some of the characters are the same, as a result you get to see what happened to them. It is quite a magical book, where millenniums old folklore and traditions, superstitions and myths are intertwined with the life of the characters. Remarkable. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 26 2007 Finished: Nov 12 2007
|The White Castle|
by Orhan Pamuk (1998)
My review: The book reads, at first, as a classic novel. The first person narrator is the main characters, and everything is seen and described from his point of view. At first, the story is a reckoning of his misadventures (he was a 17th century Venetian, that was captured and enslaved by the Turks). Soon enough the book gets more intriguing. The unnamed Venetian is given in custody to the scholar Hoja, which physically resemble him to an almost sinister degree. The East and the West meet in Hoja's house. They start discussing science and philosophy. They discuss the mysteries of the mind, why we are what we are. Hoja's strongly believes that at the end the Christians European will prevail against the Turks thanks to technological superiority. He strongly recognizes the importance of science, and he laments that its importance is not understood by many others, that he labels "the fools". Discussion after discussion, the characters start to blur one into the other, they take the role of the other and at the end it is not even clear which one is the Turk and which one the Venetian. An incredible literary achievement. I am not surprised that the 2006 Nobel Prize for the literature was awarded to Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures". (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 22 2007 Finished: May 01 2007
|La misteriosa fiamma della regina Loana. Romanzo illustrato|
by Umberto Eco (2004)
My review: In tutti I romanzi di Eco il protagonista principale e' sempre la storia, ricostruita nei minimi particolari, con precisione certosina. Questo libro non fa eccezione, e l'italia del fascismo e' la protagonista. A differenza dei precedenti romanzi pero', l'autore ha vissuto quel periodo storico. Di colpo il tutto si tinge di autobiografismo e la ricostruzione si colora di emozioni, desideri. Non e' piu' la storia degli storici, ma quella vissuta sulla propria pelle da ragazzini, ove le guerre si mescolano ai fumetti e i film alle cotte. Oltre al tema storico/autobiografico si innesta il tema portante del libro, quello della memoria, dei ricordi e dell'esperienze come elementi di definizione della persona. Questo e' uno dei romanzi piu' riusciti dell'autore, che consiglio vivamente. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 06 2007 Finished: Feb 03 2007
|Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years, #1)|
by Gregory Maguire (2000)
My review: I was expecting a fairy tale, a simple, unsophisticated book. I was quite surprised to discover that Wicked is something quite different. While the novel is quite entertaining and fun to read, it is a deep investigation of the nature of Evil and a metaphor of Nazi's Germany. Reality is perceived differently by people and History is written by the winners. This is a surprising literary accomplishment. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2006 Finished: Jan 06 2007
by Banana Yoshimoto (2003)
My review: Ho sempre amato Banana Yoshimoto per la sua capacita' di comunicare emozioni, stati d'animo e sentimenti con poche minimaliste pennellate. Questa e' la storia di Yayoi e del suo viaggio alla ricerca della sua memoria e vita perduta, ben conscia che cio' che trovera' nell'altra sponda di Lete distruggera' la sua vita com'era, ma che e' ormai impossibile evitare tale passo. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 29 2006 Finished: Dec 30 2006
|The Tao of Pooh|
by Benjamin Hoff (2003)
My review: Well, he said at last, it is a very nice house, and if your own house is blown down, you must go somewhere else, mustn't you, Piglet? What would you do, if your house was blown down? Before Piglet could think, Pooh answered for him. He'd come and live with me, said Pooh, wouldn't you Piglet? (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2006 Finished: Dec 01 2006
|As Meat Loves Salt|
by Maria McCann (2003)
My review: If you never felt in love, get scared of it, and lost the person you loved, do not read this book, it won't make sense to you. If you have been driven mad by the loss, and you have tried to not let it go using your fingernails, losing it because of it for good... if the searing pain is not abated yet, do not read this book, because the demon of loss and despair will tear your soul apart. It is rare to find a book able to shake you deeply all the way to your core. This is one of them. This is the author first book. It is sometimes slow toward the middle, but the author is always adroit in communicating what is not said or admitted through the cunning use of powerful little gestures, word choices and signs. It is the final though that turn the book into a masterpiece and shows how such a talented writer Maria is. I am looking forward her next book. (★★★★★)
Started: May 29 2006 Finished: Jul 20 2006
by Michael Cunningham (2002)
My review: This book is an extraordinary literary achievement. It is the story of three women, each of them living in a different place and time. Their stories are though intertwined and the choices of one impact the one of the others. It is a story of depression, suicide and every day miracles that helps people to hold on and go on. Intended as a tribute to Virginia Woolf, this book manages to even surpass the original. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 12 2006 Finished: Mar 25 2006
|A Room with a View|
by E.M. Forster (2005)
My review: This is one of the best books I ever read in my life. It is moving to see Leonora waking up inside Lucy. The book is about the struggle between stiff social conventions, symbolized in the book by Victorian English society, and the ability to live life as its fullest following your heart, symbolized by the Italian society. Definitely a must read. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 01 2004 Finished: Dec 07 2004
|Uncle Tom's Cabin|
by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1999)
My review: This is a great masterpiece: it is powerful and moving, intense and breathtaking. It reminded me how important freedom is and how much we take it for granted every day. It also made me understand this country better. (★★★★★)
Started: May 01 2004 Finished: Nov 11 2004
|The Picture of Dorian Gray|
by Oscar Wilde (1998)
My review: I read this book translated in Italian many years ago and I did not like it at all. I guess I was too young or the translation was poor. I read it again, this time in English and I have been surprised: the book is full of wit! Many authors has hitherto wrote about the relationship between moral and moralism. Dorian is the man that free himself from the moralistic preconceptions of society, but he cannot handle such a freedom and he loses himself. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 22 2004 Finished: Feb 28 2004
|The Blackwater Lightship|
by Colm Tóibín (2005)
My review: This is an amazing book. It is the story of three women, grandmother, mother and daughter. It is the story of two sick men that are going to die, father and son. Death and sickness are the main catalyst of the plot, which is centered in the complex emotions of the three women at war with themselves. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 09 2004 Finished: Feb 15 2004
|Angels in America|
by Tony Kushner (2007)
My review: Quite a literary achievement! The characters are painfully human, with all their weaknesses, fears, and dreams. The storytelling is innovative, modern, captivating. The plot is adroitly sewed, so that all the different threads come together to create an awe inspiring, powerful, touching, and intense masterpiece.. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 06 2004 Finished: Jan 07 2004
|Five Quarters of the Orange|
by Joanne Harris
My review: Incredible and amazing. This is one of the best book I have ever read. The story is captivating, evocative, powerful and realistic. The characters feels real and alive. The author is an expert, powerful, and incredible storyteller. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 19 2003 Finished: Sep 25 2003
|Year of Wonders|
by Geraldine Brooks (2002)
My review: The book is based on a real story: in 1666 a small town in England is hit by the Plague. The town decided to close itself out from the outside world to avoid spreading the disease. As more and more people die in the village, the tension start rising, bringing forth the best and the worst of the human nature. The plot is gripping and fascinating, but what sets the book apart is the stunning emotional characterizations of the various protagonist. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 22 2002 Finished: Feb 06 2003
by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (2003)
My review: I think this is one of the best books I read in my all life. The book is modern and interesting, the story is touching, the characters well-rounded and far from the typical gothic novel ones. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 27 2001 Finished: Dec 03 2001
by Banana Yoshimoto (1993)
Publisher review: "Non c'è posto al mondo che non ami di più della cucina..." Così comincia il romanzo di Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen. È un romanzo sulla solitudine giovanile. Le cucine, nuovissime e luccicanti o vecchie e vissute, che riempiono i sogni della protagonista Mikage, rimasta sola al mondo dopo la morte della nonna, rappresentano il calore di una famiglia sempre desiderata. Ma la grande trovata di Banana è che la famiglia si possa, non solo scegliere, ma inventare. Così il padre del giovane amico della protagonista Yūichi può diventare o rivelarsi madre e Mikage può eleggerli come propria famiglia, in un crescendo tragicomico di ambiguità. Con questo romanzo, e il breve racconto che lo chiude, Banana Yoshimoto si è imposta all'attenzione del pubblico italiano mostrando un'immagine del Giappone completamente sconosciuta agli occidentali, con un linguaggio assai fresco e originale che vuole essere una rielaborazione letteraria dello stile dei manga.
My rating: ★★★★★
Finished: Nov 11 1997
|I dolori del giovane Werther|
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1993)
My review: La trama è semplice eppure di un agghiacciante realismo: Werther è innamorato di Lotte, di cui sa fin dall'inizio che non è libera, perché legata ad Albert. "Stia attento a non innamorarsene", sarà il consiglio di una cugina a Werther. Ma la tragedia è già innescata. Considerato il primo grande testo del Romanticismo, il Werther supera le barriere storiografiche per divenire il libro di una generazione, di tutte le generazioni, intramontabile. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 01 1994 Finished: Aug 01 1994
|Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis|
by Ugo Foscolo (1993)
Publisher review: Librarian's Note: this is an alternate cover edition - ISBN 10: 8817172839
My rating: ★★★★★
Finished: Jul 01 1994
by Catullus (1992)
My review: Catullus carminas are so lyrically powerful, that even if you are not into poetry you are going to love them. I had to translate tons of Latin writings in high school, and Catullus' ones were by far my favorites. How can you read something like C-85 and don't appreciate it? It's adroitly crafted, metrically perfect, and at the same time viscerally moving and steering.
Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris?
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 1994 Finished: Jan 01 1994
|The Calorie Man|
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2005)
Publisher review: Short story from the world of the Windup Girl.
My rating: ★★★★★
|Gli uomini con il triangolo rosa|
by Heinz Heger (1991)
Publisher review: Ricordo di aver letto questo romanzo per la prima volta quando apparve la traduzione inglese, nel 1981, e di esserne stato scosso: nonostante avessi letto molti libri sull'olocausto nazista, quella era la prima volta che veniva detto che esso aveva coinvolto direttamente gli omosessuali. Si tratta si di un romanzo, ma racconta in effetti vicende documentate da testimonianze autentiche. Questo lo rende diverso da tante ricostruzioni di fantasie intese piu'a tintillare la morbosita' del lettore che a ricostruire una vicenda umana e storica. Inglobando i vari documenti in una narrazione che ha la forma della testimonianza in prima persona , ne e' risultato un libro che ha colpito l'immaginazione degli oomosessuali di tutto il mondo, e ha permesso loro di identificarsi in quella tragedia apparentemente cosi' remota nel tempo e nello spazio. Giovanni dell'Orto, storico
My rating: ★★★★★
|The Underground Railroad|
by Colson Whitehead (2016)
Publisher review: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven - but the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Apr 16 2017
|Dune (Dune #1)|
by Frank Herbert (2006)
Publisher review: This book was mistakenly published under ISBN13: 9780965017763. Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the 'spice' melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis. Published in 1965, it won the Hugo Award in 1966 and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune is frequently cited as the world's best-selling sf novel.
My rating: ★★★★★