Marco's readings

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I have finished reading in 2011.
This page is built leveraging the goodreads.com API.

Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles, #1)
by Anne Rice (1991)
My review: I have heard so much about this book that I finally decided to read it. Some of the themes of the book have been re-used and re-invented by other authors and they do not feel anymore as original as they probably were, and because of it I was a little disappointed. The book is the story of Louis and his long (pretty unsuccessful) struggle to come to term with his Vampire nature. It's also the disturbingly fascinating story of Claudia, a young kid turned into a vampire, slowly growing into a woman forever trapped inside a body cursed to never age. (★★★)
Started: Dec 12 2011 Finished: Dec 24 2011
Jumping Frog
by Mark Twain (1998)
My review: Mark Twain's "The Jumping Frog" was quite popular after publication and it was translated in many languages. Upon discovering a French translation of this story, Twain back-translated the story into English, word for word, retaining the French grammatical structure and syntax. He then published all three versions again, with humorous results. (★★★)
Started: Dec 24 2011 Finished: Dec 24 2011
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
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
by Mark Twain (1965)
My review: I started readying this short story to celebrate Mark Twain's 176th birthday. Despite the almost nonexistent / extremely thin plot, the story is funny and is able to get even modern readers to smile. The ending really surprised me: I was expecting something to happen, the main plot to begin, while it just ends abruptly, leaving me to wonder if I downloaded only a sample of the story by mistake. (★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2011 Finished: Dec 01 2011
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)
by Charlaine Harris (2001)
My review: I really like the HBO True Blood TV series, and I decided to read the book that inspired it. The book was as entertaining as the show, and there are enough differences here and there to surprise you even if you have seen it already on TV. The only troubling part of the book is the killing of three "evil" vampire, burned alive by a mob angry humans. The author seems to find it acceptable, she seems to suggest that is OK for common citizens to bypass the police and justice system and kill whose that are "evil" and their behavior "unacceptable" in their eyes. She even said that those three vampires "asked for it" because of the way they behaved. (★★)
Started: Oct 29 2011 Finished: Nov 06 2011
The Silent Blade (Forgotten Realms: Paths of Darkness, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #11)
by R.A. Salvatore (2009)
My review: In the 11th volume of the Dark Elf series, Drizzt, Catti-Brie, Bruenor and Wulfgar travel South to try to destroy the evil Crystal Shard. Along the way Wulfgar has to confront the internal daemons born during his ordeal as a prisoner, Artemis has to come to terms with his new old life, and Jarlaxle is extending his reach further toward the surface. I liked this book, the plot is fast paced and entertaining, but some parts of it really troubled me: I did not like the unjustified use of violence, and the use of hateful language. (★★★)
Started: Oct 15 2011 Finished: Oct 28 2011
The Fall (The Strain Trilogy, #2)
by Guillermo del Toro (2011)
My review: The second volume of the strain trilogy is a page turner as the first one: it is impossible to put down once you start it. One of the problem I had with The Strain was that it felt more like a screenplay than a book. The plot was thin and too little focus was given to the main characters: a lot of space was given to side scenes to build the atmosphere, really little to character development. The Fall is a little better on this respect, there is more space for the plot to thicken and develop. There is no real character development, but this is a fast paced action book, and it delivers on that regard. (★★★)
Started: Sep 22 2011 Finished: Oct 14 2011
Winds of Fury (Valdemar: Mage Winds #3)
by Mercedes Lackey (1994)
My review: The final volume of the Mage Winds trilogy is more epic and hard to put down than the previous two. It reference quite often the Mage Wars trilogy, that I recommend to read beforehand. In this book Elspeth, Darkwind, and Firesong are back to a Valdemar that has lost its magic shield protection and it is being attacked by Ancar of Hardon and Falconsbane. The only hope Valdemar survival is a stealth attack to the heart of the enemy kingdom. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 14 2011 Finished: Sep 22 2011
The Strain (The Strain Trilogy, #1)
by Guillermo del Toro (2010)
My review: I had very little expectations when I started this book. Even if Del Toro is a great movie director, I had no idea how good a writer he could be: books are a completely different medium. Moreover books with two authors tend to be worse (on average). Well, it may not have a groundbreaking plot, but it's really a page turner, it is impossible to put down once you start it. I burn through the first 200 pages in 2 working days. Unfortunately, the book at the end feel like a screenplay more than a book. Many little scene are stitched together creating a relatively thin plot. Too little focus is given to the main characters: a lot of space is given to side scenes to build the atmosphere, really little to character development. (★★★)
Started: Aug 02 2011 Finished: Aug 10 2011
Winds of Change (Valdemar: Mage Winds, #2)
by Mercedes Lackey (1993)
My review: The story is entertaining and never boring, but it feels episodic, almost as if it was serialized on a newspaper. I like the settings and the characters created by the author, but this series is not as epic and powerful as the previous two set in the same world of Valdemar. Princess Elspeth has reached K'Sheyna vale to find the long lost gift of magic and to fight Ancar of Hardon. Unfortunately things in the vale are not easy, even after the defeat of the legendary Falconsbane. The magic node at the center of the vale is unstable, and Skif and Nyara, Elspeth and Darkwind must come to term with their feelings. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 24 2011 Finished: Aug 01 2011
Maybe the Moon
by Armistead Maupin (1993)
My review: Armistead Maupin take a break from his beloved "Tales of the city" characters and San Francisco to the sunnier South California. This book is a fictional diary of Cady, a little person, that even if talented, has an hard time to find a job in Hollywood because of her height. The book is a joy to read, fun and witty, and I strongly recommend it. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 13 2011 Finished: Jun 23 2011
March
by Geraldine Brooks (2006)
My review: In this Pulitzer prize winner book, Geraldine Brooks follows the steps that led Mr. March (the father of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women) to leave his family behind to join the anti-slavery Union cause during the America Civil War. The story told by Mr. March is drastically different from the optimistic child tale we are accustomed to. The moral certainties and optimistic views of Little Women are shattered in this extremely honest and sincere portrait of a country at war with itself. The horrors of slavery, war, and the weaknesses and hypocrisies of the human nature are exposed and laid bare for the reader to see. But the book is not only an incredible historical portrait of the Civil War, it is also a psychological novel focusing on the complex marriage of a man that struggle to live up to the person that he would like to be, and a courageous woman that has to bear the cost of her husband choices. (★★★★★)
Started: May 27 2011 Finished: Jun 12 2011
Passage to Dawn (Forgotten Realms: Legacy of the Drow, #4; Legend of Drizzt, #10)
by R.A. Salvatore (2008)
My review: In this volume Drizzt follows Catti-brie south on the sword coast. They join the anti-pirate Captain Deudermont's boat, the Sea Sprite. An enemy from the past, Errtu, helped by the Goddess Loth, is plotting revenge against the dark elf, and disrupts the heroes life again. Assisted by one of the lunatic mages of the Harpel family, Drizzt, Catti-brie and Capitan Deudermont find themselves looking for a mysterious island in the middle of the ocean. The book is entertaining, but there's nothing really original or noticeable to be said about it. (★★)
Started: May 22 2011 Finished: May 26 2011
Cycle of Hatred (World of WarCraft, #1)
by Keith R.A. DeCandido
My review: The frail alliance between the orcs and the human in Durotar is shaky and some forces are working to destabilize them even more. Lady Proudmore and Thrall appears to be the only one believing in it. Even if the scale of the events of the story is not as epic as the one the previous volumes got us used to, the plot is quite intriguing and this short book is quite hard to put down once started. (★★★)
Started: May 18 2011 Finished: May 21 2011
Siege of Darkness (Forgotten Realms: Legacy of the Drow, #3; Legend of Drizzt, #9)
by R.A. Salvatore (2008)
My review: In this installment of the legend of the drow series, Drizzt, Cattie-brie, Bruenor and their many allies found themselves involved in a mayor war against an invading drow army led by Matron Baenre. Old enemies and allies from the past resurface changing the battle outcome when least expected. Book 9 is more engaging and more epic than the previous ones. (★★★)
Started: Apr 17 2011 Finished: May 17 2011
The Currents of Space (Galactic Empire, #2)
by Isaac Asimov
My review: The story take place on the word of Florinia, the only source in the universe of precious kyrt. The inhabitant are subjugated and kept in ignorance by the Sarkite. Things start to change when a scientist is found on Sark with his memories wiped because dangerous for the universe balance. Asimov wrote some extraordinary books, as well as some so-and-so ones. This book sits in the middle. It is well-written and quite entertaining, but it is not as memorable or powerful as others like pebble in the sky. (★★★)
Started: Apr 05 2011 Finished: Apr 16 2011
Dragons of the Hourglass Mage (Dragonlance: The Lost Chronicles, #3)
by Margaret Weis (2009)
My review: The Dragonlance books will always have a special place in my heart. I used to read them when I was a kid. I still remember many summer days spent outdoors, protected by the hot sun rays by an old silk tree, with my nose in one of the book of the series. I would spend hour after hour lost in those pages, until it was too dark to read or it was time for dinner. Reading this book was like falling back in time. I was no longer in my San Francisco apartment, but I was back again in that field in Italy, under that Silk tree, caressed by the hot Italian sun, surrounded by green walls of flowers. It did not really matter that the story is actually not that great, or that some of the plot twists are forced and do not really make sense. What it matters is to find again those characters that I loved so much and I grew up with, to witness again their adventures. This book is certainly one of the least original of the whole saga, but it is at the same time one of the most touching and powerful. Even if the plot is simple and does not flow smoothly, it manages to bring back the kid that so avidly read all those books in his youth many years ago. It brought me the joy and the happiness of that time, and the bitter realization that those times are over. Reading the last pages was saying goodbye to the characters that saw me grew up, and to that kid that spent so many days with his nose in those books. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 19 2011 Finished: Apr 04 2011
The Sundering (WarCraft: War of the Ancients, #3)
by Richard A. Knaak (2005)
My review: I am quite surprised that a book series based on a popular videogame turned out to be so entertaining and enjoyable. In this action packed, fast paced final chapter the beloved characters from the previous war of the ancients trilogy find themselves facing the burning legion, Deathwing, and the ancient Gods at once. On their side the dragons, including the Aspects, and all the semi-gods. The world of Azeroth will dramatically change, sundered into pieces. A good read for the lovers of fantasy even if they never played the videogame. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 06 2011 Finished: Mar 18 2011
The Annotated Alice: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, And, Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll (1970)
My review: This volume contains both Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking-glass, along with annotations by well-known mathematician Martin Gardner. I read few months ago the first story with no annotations, and, even if I liked it, I felt like I was missing something. There are a lot of historical and cultural references that are impossible to get if you are not a Victorian England expert. One of my colleagues came to the rescue and borrowed me this version of the book, and, what a difference those annotation made! It was like reading a different book. Even more interesting was the critical introduction, that really changed my perception of it. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson had a strong fascination for young girls, that was apparently common during the Victorian times. The author cultivated his friendships with his young friends, created stories full of wonders and references to nursery rhymes to fascinate them. The book has plenty of this, mixed with a sense of sorrow at the realization that the child-friends are growing fast and with fear that they are going to forget the author. It is definitely quite an interesting book. I strongly recommend an annotated version to truly understand it and appreciate it. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 10 2011 Finished: Mar 05 2011
Starless Night (Forgotten Realms: Legacy of the Drow, #2; Legend of Drizzt, #8)
by R.A. Salvatore (2008)
My review: In this volume Drizzt goes back to his homeland, to meet many of the enemies that he thought he had left behind. I was not crazy for the previous volumes of this fantasy series, but this volume is definitely more entertaining than the previous ones. Even if some of the premises and the morals of the story are weak, it is quite enjoyable and fun to read. (★★★)
Started: Jan 30 2011 Finished: Feb 09 2011
Of Blood and Honor (WarCraft, #0)
by Chris Metzen (2000)
My review: Warcraft: Of Blood and Honor is the forth novel set in Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft universe. It is the story of Tirion, a human paladin, that struggle with his belief system. He comes to realize that he was prejudiced and biased. Even if it is a short story, it is quite entertaining and heart lifting. The Warcraft book series has been full of unexpected surprises. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 20 2011 Finished: Jan 29 2011
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, #1)
by Lewis Carroll (2008)
My review: I started reading this book when I just started learning English. I found it too difficult at the time and I put it down. Almost 18 years later I started reading it again and it was quite an interesting surprise. I am still trying to find a sense out of it though. I should read the annotated version. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2010 Finished: Jan 22 2011
The Stars, Like Dust (Galactic Empire, #1)
by Isaac Asimov (2009)
My review: This book was quite a disappointment. I really enjoyed the previous volume of the Empire series and I had high expectations. While very entertaining "The Star, Like Dust" has a quite uninteresting storyline. Some of the "twists" are so banal and stereotypical to make you yawn. I guess the book was less un-original in the 50s, but this book has very little to offer to a modern reader. My advice: if pick Asimov's Pebble in the Sky instead. (★★)
Started: Jan 08 2011 Finished: Jan 11 2011
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
by David Sedaris (2004)
My review: A collection of witty, sarcastic, and funny short stories about the author and his family. Sedaris cynicism will not fail to bring a smile on the reader face. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 30 2010 Finished: Jan 07 2011