Marco's readings

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I have finished reading in 2012.
This page is built leveraging the goodreads.com API.

Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse, #4)
by Charlaine Harris
My review: I really like the TV series inspired by this book series, and I keep coming back to read "just one more" of them. Every time I find myself regretting it. The books are indeed entertaining, there is no denying it, but their content often disturbs me. Another goodreads member completely captured my opinion of this book: Throughout, the text is offensive to women, people with some understanding of American history, and pretty much anyone else [...].
I found quite disturbing the attitude of the main character (Sookie). She is quick to judge others (e.g. her coworker for having gone through multiple husband or gays that are "too gay" or wear "too much cologne"), while hypocritically behaving in a way that does not meet these standards (e.g. she is in love with three men at once, and she dances sensually with a female friend). (★)
Started: Dec 25 2012 Finished: Dec 27 2012
The Black Gryphon (Valdemar: Mage Wars #1)
by Mercedes Lackey (1995)
My review: I read the previous books set in the Valdemar universe, and I enjoyed them, but "the black gryphon" is definitelly better than everything I have read previously. The previous books suffered from having a very episodic structure, they often felt like a collection of short stories set in the same universe. This is definitelly not the case for the first volume of the Mage Wars trilogy. The plot is well constructed and developed, and the book is quite hard to put down. The book can be read alone without any need to read the previous ones, and I recommend it to all fantasy lovers. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 10 2012 Finished: Dec 23 2012
Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley
by Robert Sheckley (2012)
My review: Store of the worlds is a collection of short sci-fi stories by Robert Shekley. Some of the first stories are entertaining and memorable, full of interesting plot twists. After reading a bunch, the stories starts feeling less original, and the twists a little predictable. To sum it up: I did not regret reading this book, I got enough entertainment out of it to justify the time investment, but I won't recommend it to anyone. (★★★)
Started: Nov 25 2012 Finished: Dec 09 2012
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
Rosemary's Baby
by Ira Levin (2011)
My review: Few years ago I watched Roman Polański's movie adaptation of this book, and I remember enjoying it despite the fact that the movie is quite old. I was a little hesitant to read the book, because I knew already the plot, and I was afraid I was not going to enjoy it as much. Well I was wrong: I loved the book. I had actually an hard time put it down. Ira Levin was an adroit writer, and Rosemary's Baby is one of the most enjoyable "supernatural" fiction books I have ever read. I strongly recommend it even if you are not into horror and supernatural fiction. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 13 2012 Finished: Nov 16 2012
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
Necromancer (Necromancer, #0.5)
by Lish McBride (2011)
My review: With the advent of eBooks, some authors started releasing free short eBook prequels to their books to try to lure readers into buying their product. This is a good example of this recently established trend. I enjoyed reading this story, where the various character are described with great sensitivity. I am considering to read the rest of the series. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 03 2012 Finished: Nov 03 2012
The Penultimate Truth
by Philip K. Dick (2012)
My review: I have read only few books by Philip Dick, and all of them were incredibly modern both in the themes they discuss, and in their form. The Penultimate Truth has a very classic structure, it could almost pass for an Isaac Asimov book in that respect. The themes are very modern though: the story is set in a far dystopian post world war III world, where people are fed fabricated Truth via news and television to keep the entire world in the hands of lucky few. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 20 2012 Finished: Oct 25 2012
Cloud Atlas
by David Mitchell (2004)
My review: I do not know why this book touched me so deeply, but it really did.
In Cloud Atlas Humans are Devils, always prone to enslave, kill, and slaughter. Humans are always ready to take away the dignity of others in the name of a Natural Order that determines that people of color, homosexuals, old, cloned people, or members of other tribes are not even worthy of the title of "men". This is demonstrated over and over 6 times in the 6 different stories (the number 6 recurrence in the book is significant).
But the Humans of Cloud Atlas are also Divine, because over and over, experiencing and witnessing small acts of kindness and incredible acts of self-sacrifice they come to realize that all these Natural Order boundaries are just human made conventions. Our lives are the result of all our choices, all our encounters. We are all bound together, each little act of kindness, each mistake goes beyond our lifetime and affects all humanity and the future. And so it is that a little act of kindness on a San Francisco bound ship will ultimately bring salvation to the Human race in a very far future.
Selected quotes:
Our lives and our choices, each encounter, suggest a new potential direction. Yesterday my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another. Fear, belief, love, phenomena that determined the course of our lives. These forces begin long before we are born and continue long after we perish. Yesterday, I believe I would have never have done what I did today. I feel like something important has happened to me. Is this possible?
Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 30 2012 Finished: Oct 20 2012
Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, #3)
by Charlaine Harris (2006)
My review: Another goodreads member completelly captured my opinion of this book: Throughout, the text is offensive to women, people with some understanding of American history, and pretty much anyone else [...].
The plot may be fun and entertaining, but I was disturbed over and over by the content of the book. I was disturbed by the fact that Sookie still consider Bill as a viable partner after he left her without a word for an ex, and after he physically assaulted and raped her. I was disturbed by the fact that she could kiss and lust for three men in the space of a day, but still be critical of a gay kiss (Sookie claims she is just against public displays of affection, but I am left wondering, would she have said anything if the couple was not gay?), or disparaging of a gay character because "he wears a way too much cologne". Last but not least, I found quite disturbing to read racist statements like the following: "Somehow, it had never crossed my mind—I guess since I'm an American—that the vampires who had snatched Bill might be resorting to evil means to get him to talk". (★)
Started: Sep 20 2012 Finished: Sep 30 2012
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
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)
by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)
My review: An interesting and hard to put down book, The name of the Wind is the story of Kvothe, a gifted kid that grew to be one of the most powerful wizards. The story is told by an older Kvothe himself, to a Chronicle that traveled far and wide to find him. Even if some of the plot elements (e.g. a gifted young kid finding his way to a school of magic) may seem similar to the Harry Potter saga, this book could not be more different. The life of Kvothe is harsh, and here the focus is given to the struggle to survive under adversities, as a homeless youth or a penniless student. There are only two small issues with the book. First the main story is weak and as a result the plot feels episodic. Second, I feel like the stage is not set properly for some of the events. Despite these little issues I quite enjoyed the book and I am looking forward the next volume of the trilogy. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 21 2012 Finished: Sep 15 2012
The Best American Short Stories 2011
by Geraldine Brooks (2011)
My review: I love Geraldine Brooks books and I was googling her to see if she had published any new book. I was disappointed to discover she hadn't, but I was intrigued to discover that she was the 2011 editor for "The Best American Short Stories" series. I decided to give it a try. The stories have very little in common. They span multiple literary genres and narrative styles. Some of them are powerful, poetic, and touching: a good example is "Housewifely Arts" by Megan Mayhew Bergman, focusing on the relationship of a mother and her aging mother, and the longing of the first after the death of the second. Some others are able to shake you to the core: see for example "Free fruit for young widows" by Nathan Englander, describing the life of a Jewish Death Camp survivor, or "ID" by Joyce Carol Oates's, the story of a young teenage girl, growing up with a violent father that almost disfigured her, and her prostitute mother. Some features quite interesting experimental narrative styles, while others failed to capture my attention. (★★★)
Started: Aug 05 2012 Finished: Aug 27 2012
Total Recall
by Philip K. Dick (2012)
My review: A fun short story, easy to read in a single sitting to kill the time. The story is interesting, but it is quite surprising they managed to geta full movie out of it. (★★★)
Started: Aug 05 2012 Finished: Aug 05 2012
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 Diary of Darcy J. Rhone (Darcy & Rachel, #0.5)
by Emily Giffin
My review: This short story was available for free on the Google play store, and I decided to give it a try even if I did not know what type of books Emily Griffin writes. It turns out she writes romantic comedies, that it is definitely not what I usually enjoy reading. The main character is Darcy, a gorgeous and shallow girl. The author tries (and sometimes succeed) to make the reader smile focusing on Darcy's shortcomings, on her inappropriate words and actions. Unfortunately I can see many of these as tragically real and typical in teenagers (of any generation), and that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The smile dies on my lips when I heard jokes on real issues like teen bulimia or STDs. (★★)
Started: Jul 28 2012 Finished: Jul 28 2012
The Night Eternal (The Strain Trilogy, #3)
by Guillermo del Toro (2011)
My review: I found the previous two volumes of the strain trilogy a little disappointing: despite being entertaining, those two books felt like a collection of almost unconnected scenes from which a relatively thin plot emerged. Things change in this third volume: many of the mysteries are revealed, the action is more and more fast paced. This volume is impossible to put down, and a continuous adrenaline rush. I would have never recommended the series based upon the first two volumes, but the third one makes up for the shortcoming of the others. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 25 2012 Finished: Jul 28 2012
Naked
by David Sedaris (1997)
My review: This book is a mixed bag of short typical Sedaris' stories. While some of them are hilarious, some are quite dull and boring (I was quite surprised by that, I previously enjoyed his other books). One of the stories is quite different from anything I ever read from the author. It narrates the last days of the author mother, soon to die of cancer. It is one of his best, touching and powerful. It may be not as funny as many of his others one, but it will bring tears to your eyes. That single little story alone, makes the book worth reading. (★★★)
Started: Jul 06 2012 Finished: Jul 19 2012
Sea of Swords (Forgotten Realms: Paths of Darkness, #4; Legend of Drizzt, #13)
by R.A. Salvatore (2009)
My review: While Wulfgar slowly came to terms with his past and with his new life, Drizzt has to face a new enemy from his past. It is a simple story, but the characters are starting to get more rounded and interesting. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 01 2012 Finished: Jul 05 2012
Amber and Blood (Dragonlance: The Dark Disciple, #3)
by Margaret Weis
My review: The characters introduced in the first two volume of the Dark Disciple trilogy return in Amber and Blood. Now that the divine nature of Mina is revealed, the gods of light and darkness try to get her to their side. This is the worst volume of the trilogy, it is quite dull, and it does not even seem written by the same author of the previous two volumes. (★★)
Started: Jun 01 2012 Finished: Jun 20 2012
A Scanner Darkly
by Philip K. Dick (2011)
My review: The book disguise itself as a science fiction story set in the near future, but in reality it is a fictionalized auto-biography of the author real-life experience in the 70s American drug subculture. The story is narrated by the main character, a cop in disguise investigating a new drug, called substance D. While investigating he became addicted and he starts suffering more and more severe brain damages. His perception of reality and his narrative became distorted, confusing. The result is extremely powerful and deeply disturbing, and, thanks to the autobiographical nature of the text, authentic. I will not lie, it is not the easiest read, but the book really succeeds in capturing the ordeal of a troubled community, its fall, its beliefs and paranoias. As such, it is a great literary achievements that all sci-fi fans should not miss. (★★★★)
Started: May 26 2012 Finished: Jun 12 2012
Amber and Iron (Dark Disciple #2)
by Margaret Weis (2011)
My review: The characters introduced in the first volume of the Dark Disciple trilogy return in Amber and Iron. Rhys and Nightshade continue to follow Lleu, to find a way to destroy Chemosh's curse. Mina continues to help the God of Death in his attempt to rule the dark pantheon, but the mysteries from her past starts to surface, shaking her to the core. As more gods get involved, the mysteries surrounding Mina nature and origin slowly unravel.
This is the best volume of the trilogy, the one I enjoyed reading the most. Despite that, it is not as epic, powerful, or captivating as the original dragonlance novels. There is really no comparison. (★★★★)
Started: May 30 2012 Finished: Jun 05 2012
Amber and Ashes (Dragonlance: The Dark Disciple, #1)
by Margaret Weis
My review: None of the beloved "classic" dragonlance characters (i.e. the one of the first two trilogies) are featured in this book. The only returning character is Mina, a mysterious woman that was first introduced in the War of Souls trilogy. The mysteries surrounding her nature and origin will be finally revealed in these books.
Amber and Ashes focuses on the latest attempt of Chemosh, the god of Death, to gain the control of the Dark pantheon with the help of Mina, and on a human monk and a kender mystic that get caught in the middle of it. The first volume is quite a lot of fun to read, but it is not as epic, powerful, or captivating as the original novels. There is really no comparison. (★★★)
Finished: May 26 2012
Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth, #1)
by Terry Goodkind (2003)
My review: I decided to read the book, after I started watching "the legend of the seeker" TV series. The TV series is somewhat entertaining, but very episodic. It turns out that the TV show is a quite poor adaptation of a nice fun book. On the web there are plenty of reviews blasting this book for a wide variety of reasons (flat 1 dimensional character, not original plot, etc), but I enjoyed reading it. (★★★)
Finished: May 08 2012
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)
by George R.R. Martin (2005)
My review: People were raving about the HBO TV series, so I decided to read the book. This first volume of the saga is incredible, it is heroic fantasy at its best. The plot is extremely complex, featuring intrigues between nobles and royal families, quite original and full of unexpected twists. (★★★★)
Started: May 01 2012 Finished: May 01 2012
Rendezvous with Rama (Rama, #1)
by Arthur C. Clarke (2006)
My review: Clarke was a skillful writer and a scientist, and this shows in his writing: the focus is on the science part of science fiction. This is why his plots are plausible and scientifically accurate, and incredibly fascinating. Rama is an extra-terrestrial artificial planet, coming from the depth of space toward Earth. The world is built inside a rotating cylinder, creating artificial gravity using inertia. The book reads like a (readable and entertaining) science article, were strange phenomena are explained using physics. It is also reads like a explorer journal, filling the reader with wonder and awe. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 29 2012
Sure of You (Tales of the City #6)
by Armistead Maupin (2007)
My review: The familiar Barbary Lane's characters are back, a little older. Reading this book feels like a high school re-union, where familiar faces trigger powerful memories, and we are faced with the realization that those time are gone, and time flew by. Michael moved to the Castro with his partner, living what would be a great life if not for the HIV virus in his blood. Mrs Madrigal and her daughter Mona travel to the Greek islands, and Mary Ann is given a great work opportunity that may strain her relationship with Brian. As always, Maupin excels in the deep psychological portrait of his characters, and his amazing ability to portray the spirit of San Francisco, its contradictions and inner turmoil at a particular moment in time. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 17 2012
Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)
by Suzanne Collins (2009)
My review: While still enjoyable and hard to put down, this is not as original as the first volume of the series. The plot is quite similar to the previous one and it really reads like an encore. This second installment does not focus entirelly on Katniss and Peeta survival at the games like the previous one, but more space is given to the oppression of the districts and to the growing tension and rebellion. (★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 16 2012
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)
by Suzanne Collins (2010)
My review: This is a great conclusion for one of the most enjoyable book series of the decades. This third installment does not follow the format of the previous two books (that was getting already a little repetitive), but instead focus on Katniss rescued from the Quarter Quell, her willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay, no matter what the personal cost. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 16 2012
Me Talk Pretty One Day
by David Sedaris (2001)
My review: Another painfully and shamelessly hilarious book by Sedaris, this time focusing on his life as an American in France, and on his linguistic problems. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 11 2012
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
The Spine of the World (Forgotten Realms: Paths of Darkness, #2; Legend of Drizzt, #12)
by R.A. Salvatore (2009)
My review: The 12th chapter of the legend of Drizzt series focuses on Wulfgar's fight against his inner demons and Melinda, a farm girl whose beauty stole the heart of the Lord of her fiefdom. The two stories proceed in parallel until the two characters cross their path almost at the end of the book. I did not like how easily the main characters were ready to kill in some of the previous chapters of the series. Monster were killed because they were monsters, not as a result of some evil action, or for self defense. I was very pleased to see this change in this book. Both the main characters stray from the right path and find themselves on the other side of the justice. People made mistakes, but they can redeem themselves if given a chance. And justice can be as evil as the crime that it tries to correct, if this lesson is forgotten. (★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2012 Finished: Jan 29 2012
Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, #2)
by Charlaine Harris (2004)
My review: Reading Sookie Stackhouse novels is always a pleasure. Charlaine Harris definitely knows how to entertain and capture the attention of the reader. There is no real substance in the book, and some parts feels quite hypocritical. For example I have the distinct impression that the author enjoy having crazy orgies and sexual promiscuity in her plot, because this fact make her feel "modern, and cool", but at the same time she feel the need to be very judgmental about it. This said, despite all the shortcoming, I really really enjoyed the book and I can't wait to read the next one. It's like eating chocolate: you know it may be not so good for you, but you can't stop eating it. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2012 Finished: Jan 16 2012
Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks
by Ken Jennings (2011)
My review: I was given this book as a present, and I started reading it on a plane, with very little expectations. I was quite pleased to discover that the book was quite entertaining and full of interesting trivia, a perfect book to read while on a plane. Maphead is about geography, maps, and map wonks. It starts describing the history and role of maps in the ancient world, but soon it focuses on the lust for discovery and exploration of the unknown. It finishes speaking about today's explorers, stuck in an already charted world, trying to re-create the joy of discovery hiding artificial geo-caches or looking for arbitrary points in the map. (★★★)
Finished: Jan 03 2012