Marco's readings

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I have finished reading in 2013.
This page is built leveraging the goodreads.com API.

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
In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose
by Alice Walker (2004)
Publisher review: In this, her first collection of nonfiction, Alice Walker speaks out as a black woman, writer, mother, and feminist in thirty-six pieces ranging from the personal to the political. Among the contents are essays about other writers, accounts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the antinuclear movement of the 1980s, and a vivid memoir of a scarring childhood injury and her daughter's healing words.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Nov 15 2013 Finished: Nov 30 2013
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury (2013)
Publisher review: A beautiful clothbound edition of the internationally acclaimed Fahrenheit 451 – a masterwork of twentieth-century literature. The terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future. Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books. The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity. Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which, decades on from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock. --harpercollins.co.uk
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Nov 03 2013 Finished: Nov 15 2013
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
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)
by Cassandra Clare (2009)
My review: The mortal instrument is a popular fantasy book series by American author Judith Rumelt (better known by her pen name Cassandra Clare). This is the book that started it all. The main character, Clary Fray, a 15 years old New York City girl, witness a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Things gets strange when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary. The murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons.
The story is entertaining, and it mixes some of the themes of Harry Potter with the teen supernatural romance that made books like Twilight, and the "True Blood" Sookie Stackhouse series popular. For an in-depth guide to this book series please refer to: http://goo.gl/036Wwg (★★★★)
Started: Aug 18 2013 Finished: Aug 31 2013
The Citadel
by Richard A. Knaak (2012)
My review: The citadel is one of the many book set in the Dragonlance world, but it is, by far, one of the best. It has been year since I have enjoyed a book so much, or stayed up so late to read "just one more chapter... or two". The story is so compelling, the plot so fast-paced and thrilling, that is impossible to stop reading.
The story starts after the end of the big war, when an evil wizard lears the secret of creating "citadels", i.e. castles floating in the air. He uses them to gain power over the world of Krynn. A red-robed magic-user, a cleric, a warrior, and a little kender are the only hope against him. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 12 2013 Finished: Aug 17 2013
The Dragons of Krynn (Dragonlance Dragons, #1)
by Margaret Weis (1994)
My review: The dragons of Krynn is a collection of short stories written by many of of the writers of the first Dragonlance Tales book series, including Douglas Niles, Richard A. Knaak, Nancy Varian Berberick, and many others. Particularly remarkable is the short story “Kaz and the dragon”, featuring one of the most beloved characters of Krynn (learn more about him on my blog post: http://goo.gl/jZreZ6). (★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2013 Finished: Aug 12 2013
Reavers of the Blood Sea: The Chaos War, Book 4
by Richard A. Knaak (2012)
My review: In this fifth instalment of Knaak's minotaurs saga (see http://goo.gl/jZreZ6 for more info on it) we follow the adventures of Aryx, a descendent of the famous Kaz (that was the main character of the previous books). Aryx and the whole minotaur nation find themselves playing a major role in the war against Chaos, fighting alongside Gods for the future of Krynn. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 22 2013 Finished: Jul 27 2013
The 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
Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle #1)
by Diana Wynne Jones (2001)
My review: The first book of the Howl's castle series (see http://goo.gl/fCB9FO for more details on the series) was published back in 1986. Despite being a runner up for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in Fiction and being named one of that year's ALA Notable Books for Children, the book was not very successful at first. Over the years its popularity grew and in 2006 it won the annual Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association, recognizing the best children's book published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award. Allusion to the mythical bird phoenix, which is reborn from its ashes, suggests the winning book's rise from obscurity. This first book features Sophie, a young girl living in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often does - especially when the Witch of the Waste is involved. Which is often. Sophie works at an hat shop, which proves most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste comes in to buy a bonnet one morning, but is not pleased, and turns Sophie into an old lady. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 29 2013 Finished: Jul 06 2013
Fox 8: A Story
by George Saunders (2013)
My review: Fox 8 has always been known as the daydreamer in his pack, the one his fellow foxes regarded with a knowing snort and a roll of the eyes. That is, until Fox 8 develops a unique skill: he teaches himself to speak Yuman by hiding in the bushes outside a house and listening to children’s bedtime stories. The power of language fuels his abundant curiosity about people—even after danjer arrives in the form of a new shopping mall that cuts off his food supply, sending Fox 8 on a harrowing quest to help save his pack. Told with his distinctive blend of humor and pathos, Fox 8 showcases the extraordinary imaginative talents of George Saunders, whom the New York Times called the writer for our time. (Goodreads review) (★★★★)
Started: Jul 06 2013 Finished: Jul 06 2013
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
A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)
by George R.R. Martin (2003)
My review: George Martin is an incredible writer, able to create extremely complex worlds, characters, and plots. This second chapter of the "A song of Ice and Fire" saga is even harder to put down than the first, and the plot is nothing short of epic. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 09 2013 Finished: Jun 23 2013
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
Land of the Minotaurs (Dragonlance: Lost Histories, #4)
by Richard A. Knaak (1996)
My review: Land of the Minotaurs is the third book of the adventure of Kaz (see: http://goo.gl/jZreZ6). In this book follows Kaz is trying to settle down with his family, but he is forced back into action, and back to his homeland, Nethosak, to confront an ancient evil. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 20 2013 Finished: Apr 04 2013
Kaz the Minotaur (Dragonlance: Heroes, #4; Heroes II, #1)
by Richard A. Knaak (2004)
My review: Kaz the minotaur is the sequel of the Legend of Huma. This second book follows the adventure of Kaz after the last dragonwar. Kaz is trying to settle down, but he is forced back into action to confront a familiar evil from the past. More about the Dragonlance Minotaurs series here: http://goo.gl/jZreZ6 (★★★★)
Started: Mar 03 2013 Finished: Mar 19 2013
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
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner #1)
by Philip K. Dick (2007)
My review: This is the story of Rick Deckard, an escaped android bounty hunter, living in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. Rick is facing one of the hardest assignments in his life: tracking and terminating six nexus-6, the most advanced and sophisticated android model built so far. One of the main and more interesting themes of the book is the reflection of what means to be human: as androids become indistinguishable from us, to the point where people start to suspect they may be androids with implanted memories, what set humans apart? The book raises many of the same questions that were raised back in the 19th century by Mary Shelley, but it comes up with quite different conclusions. A strongly recommended read, even for people that are not big fan of Science Fiction. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 26 2013 Finished: Jan 29 2013
Why We Can't Wait
by Martin Luther King Jr. (2000)
My review: I decided to celebrate Martin Luther King Day reading one of his most famous books. The book has an incredible historical significance, it details the progress made by the civil rights movement during the 60s. It's incredible to see how things finally suddenly started changing, never fast enough, for the better. It is so insightful to read about the struggles, the dreams and the vision of one of the fathers of the movement. Some of the topics touched in the book are still incredibly relevant today: for example the role of affirmative action and social incentives as a way to level the field, to enable every American to have the same opportunities to achieve his/her dreams.
It was heart warming to read this book while listening to President Obama inaugural speech: even if we still have a long way ahead of us, even if we are dragging our feet and progress is slow, the speech gave me hope that a more just world is possible and a little bit closer each day. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 21 2013 Finished: Jan 25 2013
The Legend of Huma (Dragonlance: Heroes, #1)
by Richard A. Knaak (2004)
My review: I read this book translated in Italian when I was a young teenager, and I remember liking it. More recently I read other books from Knaak, and I liked them all. Because of it, I decided to read the book again, this time in English. I did not remember the plot at all, and I really enjoyed the book as if I had never read it before.
This is the story of Huma, the legendary hero often mentioned in the Dragonlance Chronicle trilogy. The story is relatively simple, but it is never boring, and the characters are quite interesting. The only disappointment is the love story between the hero and the silver dragon: what should have been a moving and heart breaking love story is instead quite sterile and un-moving. Despite the shortcoming, it is quite an enjoyable book that I strongly recommend it to all Dragonlance fans.
This is also the first volume of Knaak's Dragonlance Minotaurs series (see: http://goo.gl/jZreZ6 for details). (★★★★)
Started: Jan 12 2013 Finished: Jan 20 2013
The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
My review: I read The Hobbit translated in Italian multiple times when I was a young teenager. I recently decided to read the original English version. The book is something between a fairy tale and a fantasy novel, and it is quite enjoyable. It is quite fascinating to get a glimpse of how Tolkien and the Monarchic British society of the time thought, in the mist of deep social changes between the two world wars. Greed is perceived as the root of all evils, and all characters from all different races and social castes struggles with it. At the same time it appears that the book unselfish heroes, the only one able to overcame greed are all noblemen (e.g. the Bard), while local leaders belonging to the merchants and traders group, always end up putting their self-interest ahead of the one of the people that elected them. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 27 2012 Finished: Jan 11 2013