Marco's readings

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I have finished reading in 2015.
This page is built leveraging the goodreads.com API.

The Moon Bog
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: In this early Lovecraft story the narrator visits an old friend in Ireland. Denys Barry made a fortune in America, which he is using to restore his ancestral home in Kilderry. Locals approve at first, but by the time of narrator's visit, they've all deserted the village. The reason of the rapid departure, is that Barry plans to drain the great bog by his castle, and has no patience for cautionary legends about its grim guardian spirit and the ancient stone city that sleeps beneath the red heathed morass.
Many of the plot points will be re-used, expended and developed in later work. (★★)
Started: Dec 28 2015 Finished: Dec 29 2015
The Fifth Dragon
by Ian McDonald (2015)
My review: This novelette is a prequel to the recently published Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald. Short prequels are often disappointing and dull, but this is not, and it succeeded in getting me to read the full length Luna book.
The Fifth Dragon is about a pair of new moon workers, Achi and Adriana, who find comfort in this alien place in one another's company, only to learn that their time together is limited... (★★★★)
Started: Dec 29 2015 Finished: Dec 29 2015
Milagroso
by Isabel Yap (2015)
My review: This short story would fit perfectly in a (Windup Girl) Paolo Bacigalupi's anthology because of its themes and its plot. It is set in a future where all the food is lab grown and lab produced. Then, one day, something unexpected starts occurring: during a religious procession, the lab grown food is turned into the real one. The "miracle" deeply shakes the faith in science of Marty, and brings up back long forgotten memories from his childhood.
An interesting read, I am looking forward reading more of this author. (★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2015 Finished: Dec 28 2015
The Fermi Paradox is Our Business Model
by Charlie Jane Anders (2011)
My review: What a treat! An hilarious explanation of the Fermi's Paradox that could have been written by (Hitchhiker guide to the galaxy) Douglas Adams or (Diskworld) Terry Pratchett, featuring an alien couple that would fit perfectly in a Saturday Night Live skit. I recommend it to everyone. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2015 Finished: Dec 28 2015
In the Greenwood
by Mari Ness (2013)
My review: I do not want to spoil the story, so I will not say much. This is an interesting new fresh take of an old story, similarly to what is done in the work of (Wicked) Gregory Maguire. I am looking forward reading more by this author. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2015 Finished: Dec 28 2015
From Beyond
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: A scientist creates a device that emits a resonance wave, which allows them to perceive planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality. But the effect works both ways, and allows the denizens of the alternate dimension to perceive humans. (★★)
Started: Dec 26 2015 Finished: Dec 27 2015
Islands Off the Coast of Capitola, 1978
by David Herter (2015)
My review: This short story contains many interesting elements, and the narrative style is quite interesting, but a lot is left unsaid, and this often make the story hard to understand. I am still trying to understand what happened at the very end. (★★)
Started: Dec 27 2015 Finished: Dec 27 2015
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
The Hounds of Tindalos
by Frank Belknap Long (1929)
My review: The story begins when Frank, the narrator, visits his friend Halpin Chalmers, author and occultist. Chalmers has the soul of a medieval ascetic, but reveres Einstein as a priest of transcendental mathematics. His wild theories about time and space strike Frank as theosophical rubbish. Chalmers has acquired a drug which he claims Lao Tze used to envision Tao. He means to combine those occult perceptions with his own mathematical knowledge, to travel back in time. Frank is against his friend taking the liao, but agrees to guard him and to note what he says under its influence... (★★)
Started: Dec 17 2015 Finished: Dec 18 2015
Fabulous Beasts
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
The White Ship
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This is one of the first stories written by Lovecraft, with many of the themes and ideas that will be developed later on in the Dreamland stories.
This is the story of a lighthouse keeper named Basil Elton. He engages upon a peculiar fantasy in which a bearded man piloting a mystical white ship is found sailing upon a bridge of moonlight. Elton joins the bearded man on this ship, and together they explore a mystical chain of islands unlike anything that can be found on Earth. (★★)
Started: Dec 17 2015 Finished: Dec 17 2015
Piccolo Uovo
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
Piccolo blu e piccolo giallo: Una storia per Pippo e Ann e altri bambini
by Leo Lionni (1999)
My review: Questa e' la storia di piccolo blu e piccolo giallo che giocando insieme finiscon con il diventare verdi. Una storia simpatica per i piu' piccoli, che ha destato le ire del sindaco di Venezia che ne ha richiesto la rimozione da tutte le scuole della sua provincia per il fatto che i due protagonisti sian amici nonostante sian di colore diverso. Sconvolgente che un episodio di razzismo cosi' eclatante possa accadere al giorno d'oggi con completa impunita'. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 13 2015 Finished: Dec 13 2015
Zion National Park: Sanctuary in the Desert
by Nicky Leach (2001)
My review: There are many guides and books for each national park, and many can be quite dull. This is a welcome exception. The book is packed with stunning photos, and contains useful information regarding the geology, the history, the wildlife, and the trails in the park. It provided me with many ideas of which park sites to hike to, when I will manage to go to the park again.
The book is a little dated (the author mention some of the upcoming bug services to be started in winter 2002), but I would still recommend it (sites and trails have not changed since when it was written). (★★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2015 Finished: Dec 10 2015
Childhood's End
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
The Dreams in the Witch House
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Walter Gilman, Miskatonic University student, has begun to trace a connection between ancient folklore and modern mathematics and physics. He studies the Necronomicon and Book of Eibon until professors cut off his access. But they cannot stop him from renting a room in the house that once belonged to Keziah Mason. Keziah appeared before the Salem witchcraft court of 1692, admitting allegiance with the Black Man. She claimed to know lines and curves that led beyond our world, then escaped from her cell leaving such patterns on its walls. This legend fascinates Gilman, that starts investigating it. Unfortunately he is quite successful.
While the fictional links between folklore and science are laughable, this story pushed me to learn about Salem's witch trials, of which I knew very little beforehand. I always thought that those happened in a remote region, with pretty much no contact with the rest of young and scarcely populated Unites States. I always assumed that the rest of the population of this country was shocked and horrified when they learned about those trials. It turn out I was wrong on both counts.
It turns out that the few people that recoiled in horror were actually persecuted: in 1695 when Thomas Maule, a noted Quaker, publicly criticized the handling of the trials by the Puritan leaders in Chapter 29 of his book Truth Held Forth and Maintained, expanding on Increase Mather by stating, it were better that one hundred Witches should live, than that one person be put to death for a witch, which is not a Witch. For publishing this book, Maule was imprisoned twelve months before he was tried and found not guilty.
The last witchcraft trial in the United States dates to 1918.
And this, and not Lovecraft's short story, is the real horror. (★★)
Started: Nov 21 2015 Finished: Nov 22 2015
The Curse of Yig
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This is one of the most interesting short stories by H. P. Lovecraft, written in collaboration with Zealia Bishop. According to Wikipedia, Lovecraft pretty much ghostwrote the story based on scant few notes from Zelia, but the story style, the main character, and the absence of mythos elements, and the tone down xenophobia, strongly suggest Ms Bishop had a bigger role in the development of this story.
The story explores fears and phobias are the acts we do under their spell. It takes place in Oklahoma around 1889, and it centers around a newly arrived couple. They soon learn about the local legends surrounding Yig, a snake god, who takes vengeance on anyone who kills a serpent by killing them or turning them into a half-snake monster. The husband has a snake phobia which isn't helped by the wife disturbing a nest of rattlesnakes. (★★★)
Started: Nov 21 2015 Finished: Nov 21 2015
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Beyond the Wall of Sleep is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft written in 1919 and first published in the amateur publication Pine Cones in October 1919. Lovecraft said the story was inspired by an article in the New York Tribune that cited a family named Slater as representative of the provincial Catskills population. A second inspiration was a real astronomic event, a nova near GK Persei.
While in later stories the author xenophobia is channeled and translated into the horror for alien Gods, and ancient monsters, in here the continuous attacks against what the author calls "white trash" works against him. The continuous rants are distracting (not to mention disturbing), and they de-humanize one of the main characters, making the reader care less about him. (★)
Started: Nov 19 2015 Finished: Nov 20 2015
Arthur Jermyn
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Jermyns were a reputable and comely family until the 18th century, when Sir Wade started exploring the Congo and telling wild tales about a lost jungle city, once the seat of a prehistoric white civilization but now overrun by apes (or worse, their hybrid offspring with the last white humans.) Wade took a Portuguese wife who lived unseen in Jermyn House. She accompanied Wade on his last African expedition and never returned. Many generation later, his descendant Arthur Jermyn will discover the truth behind it. (★★)
Started: Nov 20 2015 Finished: Nov 20 2015
He
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This is one of the least interesting short stories by Lovecraft, marred by his strong xenophobia. It is almost a political manifesto, with a layer of fiction on top, explaining what the author believes are the dangers of mixing with other cultures (at the time mainly Southwestern European and East Asians).
The narrator, an aspiring poet, wanders the night streets of New York. His first sunset glimpse of the city thrilled him, for it appeared majestic above its waters, its incredible peaks and pyramids rising flower-like and delicate from pools of violet mist. But daylight reveals squalor, architectural excess, and swarms of squat and swarthy foreigners (horrifying to Lovecraft). Wondering at night he encounters a like minded individual, that show him the beauty of the city that was, and the horrors of the city that will be. (★)
Started: Nov 20 2015 Finished: Nov 20 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
At the End of Babel
by Michael Livingston (2015)
My review: A dystopian (yet many would say historically accurate) short story centered on the suppression of minorities cultural heritages through (forced) assimilation. The main character is an Acoma Pueblo American, probably the last one able to speak the ancestral language, taking a last desperate stand to reclaim her heritage through soon to be lost forever words.
I enjoyed the novel, and I recommend it. I also recommend the "story behind the story" blog post by this story author (here: http://www.michaellivingston.com/at-t... ) and a visit to the pueblo that inspired it (I saw it few years ago, and it is breathtaking. See: http://www.puebloofacoma.org/).
This is one of my nominations for the Hugo Awards for best novelette: http://goo.gl/2BJp6G (★★★★)
Started: Nov 04 2015 Finished: Nov 06 2015
The Deepest Rift
by Ruthanna Emrys (2015)
My review: An adroitly written novel, with some remarkable characters (the AI steals the show, and it is, by far, the most intriguing and interesting part of the story), great world building, an interesting plot, and a just OK ending.
In the deepest canyon in the inhabited worlds, giant mantas soar through the air and leave patterned structures behind. A team of sapiologists seek to prove that these delicate filaments are true language, not just bee's dance. But time has run out, and their reckoning is upon them. Will they prove that their research is valid, or will they be scattered to the corners of the galaxy?
(★★★★)
Started: Nov 03 2015 Finished: Nov 04 2015
Join, or Die
by Alan Gratz (2015)
My review: A short story set in Gratz's alternative steampunk history, featuring Benjamin Franklin, his young assistant Willow Dent, and their indefatigable machine man Mr. Rivets as they battle sea serpents and fish-men in the alternate story of the Boston Tea Party. (★★)
Started: Nov 03 2015 Finished: Nov 03 2015
Waters of Versailles
by Kelly Robson (2015)
My review: I cannot believe I am giving 4 stars to a story about toilets!
Waters of Versailles by Kelly Robson is a great novella of court intrigue in 1738 Versailles. It is the story of a clever former soldier that makes his fortune by introducing a modern water system (and toilets) to the ladies of the palace. He does this with magical help that he may not be able to control.
Whats sets the story apart (well, beside toilets), is the main character, that left his home in the Alps behind to move up in the social ladder working hard in Versailles. Interestingly enough, it is a spirit he brought from his homeland, a magical nixie, that helps him ascend. It is a story of an emigrant finding success and wealth abroad, to then realize how much he has left behind. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 01 2015 Finished: Nov 02 2015
Trigger (Shutter 0.5)
by Courtney Alameda (2015)
My review: I did like the main character, a strong young girl in line to be the next ruler of the Helsing's army, that also inherited a genetic anomaly from her mother that enable her to better see their enemy. I did like the settings, the foggy city I call home, i.e. San Francisco.
This said the story read as another pulpy YA story, with nothing to set it apart from a million others. (★★)
Started: Nov 01 2015 Finished: Nov 01 2015
Zapped
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 Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
by H.P. Lovecraft (2015)
My review: I have never been to found of Lovecraft's dreamland novels (with only few notable exceptions, like the Through the Gates of the Silver Key), but this one is the worst by far. The language is so heavy and sumptuous, the story, if there is any, is all over the place. It reads like the raving of a inebriated drug user.
The story starts with Randolph Carter dreaming three times of a majestic sunset city, but each time he is abruptly snatched away before he can see it up close. When he prays to the Gods to reveal the whereabouts of the phantasmal city, they do not answer, and his dreams of the city stop altogether. Undaunted, Carter resolves to go to Kadath, where the gods live, to beseech them in person. However, no one has ever been to Kadath and none even knows how to get there. In dream, Randolph Carter descends "the seventy steps to the cavern of flame" and speaks of his plan to the priests Nasht and Kaman-Thah, whose temple borders the Dreamlands. The priests warn Carter of the great danger of his quest and suggest that the gods withdrew his vision of the city on purpose... (★)
Started: Oct 28 2015 Finished: Nov 01 2015
Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #2)
by Ransom Riggs
My review: Hollow City is the second book of the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, a YA fantasy series waved around peculiar vintage photography that is used to illustrate what is happening. The author collected many of these photos over the years and he imagined a story around them. The result is an entertaining and unusual reading experience.
This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine's island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.
(★★★)
Started: Oct 20 2015 Finished: Oct 27 2015
Through the Gates of the Silver Key
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This sequel to the famous The Silver Key was written as a collaboration between H. P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price. Price initially wrote it, and Lovecraft ended up rewriting it, keeping many of Price ideas and concepts. While this may not be one of the most entertaining of Lovecraft's novella, its dreamland raving are slow paced and often pointless, this is one of the most interesting. Some of the elements are alien to Lovecraft's mythos (pun intended), and this novel philosophical Platonian elements are intriguing.
The story begins at a gathering to decide the fate of Randolph Carter's estate which has been held in trust since his disappearance the mysterious Swami Chandraputra, who wears curious mittens and enveloping robes, tells Carter's acquaintances of his ultimate fate. He explains that the key took Carter to a type of higher dimension. There, Carter, on an ill-defined mission (or out of sheer curiosity), traveled strange sections of the cosmos by first meeting with 'Umr at-Tawil, a dangerous being warned of in the Necronomicon, saying those who deal with it never return. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 27 2015 Finished: Oct 27 2015
Flow
by Arlan Andrews (2014)
My review: This 2015 Hugo Award nominee is an interesting and fascinating short story. Despite being featured in the infamous puppy slate, I actually liked it. I believe it has a lot of potential, even if it reads like a chapter of a long story, where the author is adroitly crafting an entire world populated by many interesting cultures, to set up the scene for what is coming next... but nothing come next. The story is interrupted almost at a cliff hanger, leaving the reader curious to know what is happening next. This is what make the novel unworthy of a Hugo. I hope that the author will continue the story and make it grow to its full potentials. I strongly believe that while this story is an incomplete piece of a puzzle, once other pieces fall into place a Hugo worthy final story may be revealed. I am looking forward reading more of this word and of this story.
Update: I recently learned there is already a second short story of the series. It is called Thaw. I will be reading it soon. (★★★)
Started: Oct 19 2015 Finished: Oct 20 2015
The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale
by Rajnar Vajra (2014)
My review: This Hugo Award nominee is entertaining, but disappointing. This short military sci-fi novelette is the story of a team of three candidate space explorer: one from Earth, one from Venus, and one from Mars. They are a rowdy bunch and they got into troubles. As a result, in order to graduate, they are now required to unravel the mystery that have kept the army busy on a remote new planet for the past 3 years. An intelligent new form of life has been discovered, able to build microcircuits, but any attempt of communication have failed so far.
I enjoyed the hard science fiction elements (attempts?), but what made the story quite disappointing are the plot twists and revelations. The smart trick used by the main characters in one of the most important scenes it is never fully explained and it does not really make much sense. (★★)
Started: Oct 18 2015 Finished: Oct 19 2015
The Picture in the House
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: A lone and unnamed traveler (is he the famous Carter?) seeks shelter from an approaching storm in an apparently abandoned house. While inside he discover is his old and poor interiors a very old book written centuries ago by an Italian writer describing the mysterious (at the time) Congo. The book always open to the same page, featuring a picture featuring cannibalism, as if somebody has looked at that page over and over. Suddenly the traveler realize he is not alone in the house, that was occupied by a loathsome old, white-bearded, and ragged man.
I did not particularly enjoyed this short story: beside the racist undertone of the story (that is typical in the story by this author), the ending was quite disappointing. Everything is wrapped up in few lines with a deus ex machina finale. It feels like the writing was rushed, as if the author had to meet a tight deadline and had no time left. (★★)
Started: Oct 18 2015 Finished: Oct 18 2015
Out of the Aeons
by H.P. Lovecraft (2012)
My review: The story is told as a letter of the now deceased (in mysterious circumstances) curator of the Cabot Museum in Boston. He wrote a letter and included it with his will, to make sure that horrible facts of historical significance are not forgotten. The story revolves around a strange mummy, discovered back in 1879 by a freighter captain on an uncharted island, presumably risen from its sunken state due to volcanic activity. A year later, the mummy is put on display in the museum, and the island vanishes without a trace. Over the years, the mummy garners a reputation as a possible link to an ancient tale from the Black Book by Friedrich von Juntz of a man named T'yog, who one of the gods of the land of Yuggoth, now lost under the ocean. (★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2015 Finished: Oct 16 2015
Ballroom Blitz
by Veronica Schanoes
My review: A short urban fantasy story, taking place in a rock club. They main character bad behavior get him and his 11 brothers stuck inside the club, cursed to never escape from it. One day twelve sisters enter the club. Are they the last chance to break the curse? (★★)
Started: Oct 16 2015 Finished: Oct 16 2015
The Tomb
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The Tomb is a short story written in June 1917 and first published in the March 1922 issue of The Vagrant. It is one of the first work of fiction that Lovecraft wrote as an adult. It is the story of Jervas Dudley, a self-confessed day-dreamer. While still a child, he discovers the entrance to a mausoleum, belonging to the family Hyde, whose nearby family mansion had burnt down many years previously. The entrance to the mausoleum is padlocked and slightly ajar. Jervas attempts to break the padlock, but is unable. Dispirited, he takes to sleeping beside the tomb. Eventually, inspired by reading Plutarch's Lives, Dudley decides to patiently wait until it is his time to gain entrance to the tomb... (★★)
Started: Oct 15 2015 Finished: Oct 15 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
A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i
by Alaya Dawn Johnson (2014)
My review: This book is set in a near future where vampires have taken over Earth and they keep humans in concentration camps / blood farms. Do not expect a Young Adult Twilight like story. This novella won the Nebula award and it well deserve it for its originality. The narrator is a human worker in one of such facilities. We discover slowly her past, as a vampire's ally and pet and the tiny part she played in the undead ascension. We see her dream of being turned slowly evolve over time as she understand what vampires have done to human culture and history. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 14 2015 Finished: Oct 14 2015
There’s A Devil Watching Over You
by Marc Turner (2015)
My review: I am always wary of reading short "tie-in" stories set in the world of previously published book sagas. They are often not as good, or they require reading the saga to really appreciate them. In this case, I was proven wrong. I did enjoy the story without not knowing anything about Turner's "Haven's Fall" universe.
This is the story of Safiya and her fellow bandits. They thought they had found an easy mark, but they quickly learned that they picked the worst possible victim. Now Luker Essendar, one of the warrior Guardians of Erin Elal, is after them, and his relentless pursuit is driving the bandits toward an abandoned fort, one that appears strewn with evidence of a terrible battle. But nothing is exactly as it seems... (★★★)
Started: Oct 13 2015 Finished: Oct 13 2015
The Rats in the Walls
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This is the story of the scion of the Delapore family, who has moved from Massachusetts to his ancestral estate in England, known as Exham Priory, after the death of his son in war. He restores the old family castle despite the ill repute and aversion of the locals to the place. He moves in with a lot of cats, including his favorite cat which name is too racist to write down. As soon as he moves in, on several occasions, Mr Delapore and his cats hear the sounds of rats scurrying behind the walls. Investigating the matter will unearth long forgotten secrets that would be better left undisturbed. (★★★)
Started: Oct 12 2015 Finished: Oct 13 2015
The Silver Key
by H.P. Lovecraft (2012)
My review: An interesting dreamworldshort story that ties in many Randolph Carter's stories together. The plot would be interesting, but its philosophical message takes to much space and it is of relatively little interest.
In this story Carter discovers, at the age of 30, that he has gradually lost the key to the gate of dreams. As he ages, he finds that his daily waking exposure to the more "practical", scientific ideas of man, has eventually eroded his ability to dream as he once did, and has made him regretfully subscribe more and more to the mundane beliefs of everyday, waking "real life". But still not certain which is truer, he sets out to determine whether the waking ideas of man are superior to his dreams. (★★★)
Started: Oct 11 2015 Finished: Oct 12 2015
The Museum and the Music Box
by Noah Keller (2015)
My review: I am not particularly fond of this short story. As one other goodread user ( Karen) said, what actual "story" there is is pretty ambiguous. You are presented with a series of images and given the opportunity to infer enough to be reasonably satisfied, but it's an elusive little slippy number, and the reader is kind of abandoned in the flow of the prose. The prose is heavy and overwritten, while the story has little substance: fragmented texts that tell the history of a lost love, the destruction of a civilization, and the origin of a museum. (★★)
Started: Oct 10 2015 Finished: Oct 11 2015
The Horror in the Museum
by H.P. Lovecraft (2010)
My review: Stephen Jones starts exploring with fascination at the horrific content of George Rogers's wax museum. The was models look so outerworldy and realistic!
The relationship between the two is initially cordial, but it soon degenerates as Jones first mocks Rogers, and then comes to suspect that he is crazy with his "wild tales and suggestions of rites and sacrifices to nameless elder gods". Jones takes up Rogers's standing offer to spend a night in the museum... and I won't say more to avoid spoilers. (★★★)
Started: Oct 11 2015 Finished: Oct 11 2015
The Shunned House
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This novelette is a Lovecraftian version of Poltergeist. For many years the protagonist and his uncle, Dr. Elihu Whipple, have nurtured a fascination with an old, abandoned house on Benefit Street. Dr. Whipple has made extensive records tracking the mysterious, yet apparently coincidental sickness and death of many who have lived in the house for over one hundred years. They are also puzzled by the strange weeds growing in the yard, as well as the unexplained foul smell and whitish, phosphorescent fungi growing in the cellar. After the protagonist discovers a strange, yellowish vapor in the basement, which seems to be coupled with a moldy outline of a huddled human form on the floor, he and his uncle decide to spend the night in the house, investigating the possibility of some supernatural force. They are going to get more than they bargained for. (★★)
Started: Oct 10 2015 Finished: Oct 10 2015
The Thyme Fiend
by Jeffrey Ford (2015)
My review: A great mystery novella with a supernatural twist, set in a past where America was young. The main character is a young man scared by his supernatural powers. These powers help him find the skeleton of a simpleminded man that vanished some time ago. Unfortunately the dead man spirit starts appearing, and the only way for the protagonist to keep him away and to not be labeled the weirdo of town is through the ingestion of thyme. I particularly liked the depiction of the community, and the almost nostalgic portrait of a society and of a culture that does not exist anymore. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 10 2015 Finished: Oct 10 2015
Pickman's Model
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The short story revolves around a Bostonian painter named Richard Upton Pickman who creates horrifying images. His works are brilliantly executed, but so graphic that they result in his membership in the Boston Art Club being revoked and himself shunned by his fellow artists. The main character keeps in touch with Pickman because he believes in his artistic genius, and soon get exposed to bigger horrors he expects to. (★★)
Started: Oct 08 2015 Finished: Oct 09 2015
The Horror at Red Hook
by H.P. Lovecraft (2004)
My review: Of all Lovecraft's stories, this is the one where the strong link between the author xenopohia and the horror for alien gods and monsters is clearest. While in other stories the xenophobia was successfully channeled to create powerful depictions of alien horrors, in here it is just overpowering and disturbing. The plot is relatively thin and unremarkable as well: the main character is a police investigator, set to look into the (insert racist remark of your choice here) Red Hook neighborhood, home of many immigrant and many cultures. In particular he is asked to focus on Robert Suydam, a white man that is dealing with the cults and superstitions of (according to the author "inferior") non-white inhabitant of the neighborhood. Malone will soon discover that not all superstitions are groundless. (★)
Started: Oct 07 2015 Finished: Oct 08 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
Under the Pyramids
by H.P. Lovecraft (2012)
My review: This novelette was ghost written by Lovecraft for the famous Houdini, that is also the main character of the story. The famous magician is traveling through Egypt when he get lured to assist in a fight on top of the pyramid. It turns out it was a trap, and he soon find himself bound by tight ropes in a well deep under the pyramids. He will have to use his skills to escape unearthly horrors. (★★★)
Started: Oct 05 2015 Finished: Oct 06 2015
The Hell of It
by Peter Orullian (2015)
My review: This is the story of a widowed father, trying hard to stay afloat. He tried to avoid unsavory and illegal jobs, even when he is desperate, to give a good example to his son, and to keep the dying wish of his late wife. Some heroes don't carry blades or go to war. Some heroes are fathers desperately trying not to fail their sons.
The story is interesting, and it is well written. Unfortunately it come across a little preachy and fake. It something that would fit perfectly well in a local little church magazine. (★★★)
Started: Oct 06 2015 Finished: Oct 06 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
Sleep Walking Now and Then
by Richard Bowes
My review: Sleep Walking Now and Then, is a weird, futuristic novelette set in a New York City of huge income inequality. It is turned into a big entertainment center, full of shows and plays, to the point of being now called "the big arena". The story is centered around an interactive theater production about the mysterious history of an old posh hotel that was theater of death in "the past".
(★★★)
Started: Oct 03 2015 Finished: Oct 03 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
The Mothers of Voorhisville
by M. Rickert (2014)
My review: A man driving a hearse is getting many women in Voorhisville pregnant and then vanishes to never been seen again. Upon delivery, the baby turns out to be.. special. Despite the unusual nature of their children, the Mothers of Voorhisville, love their babies just as intensely as any mother anywhere. Unfortunately things are not simple and soon spiral out of control. A very interesting story, adroitly narrated. The only part that I found disappointing was the conclusion, but I will not say more to avoid spoiling it. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 27 2015 Finished: Oct 01 2015
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
Jackalope Wives
by Ursula Vernon (2014)
My review: A short yet touching story, with memorable well drawn characters.
Jackalope wives are very shy creatures, though there is nothing shy about the way they dance. You could go your whole life and see no more of them than the flash of a tail vanishing around the backside of a boulder. If you were lucky, you might catch a whole line of them outlined against the sky, on the top of a bluff, the shadow of horns rising off their brows.
But one day, a young man with a little touch of magic in the attempt of catching one severely injures one. It will be up to his grandmother to remedy his errors.
(★★★★)
Started: Sep 27 2015 Finished: Sep 27 2015
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
Cool Air: Short Story
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This story does not fit in the classic Lovecraft's Mythos, but it is one of the most enjoyable I have read so far (despite the usual amount of xenophobic statements sprinkled in the text as it is often the case with this author).
The protagonist is an unsuccessful author, newly arrived in New Work, living in one on the poorest corners of the city. He learns that a reclusive doctor lives in the apartment above his own. While suffering a heart attack, he is taken to the doctor's door, and soon becomes friends with the bizarre and isolated man who claims he must live in a refrigerated environment for his health. But as the man spends more time with the doctor, he begins to understand the horrifying truth about his friend’s strange medical condition. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 26 2015 Finished: Sep 26 2015
Kingmaker
by Lindsay Smith (2015)
My review: A very interesting story, I just hope that there is going to be a sequel. A lot of plot threads are not resolved, and I really would like to see them unravel.
This is the story of Vera, a spy for the Barstadt Empire, a powerful country with a rigid class structure and a seedy underbelly. Her mission is to weed out the corruption that holds this society together, but for Vera it is not political, it is personal. And her next mission is anything but routine, as long as she is not blinded by revenge and can see that in the shadows of Barstadt City, things are seldom what they seem. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 26 2015 Finished: Sep 26 2015
The Tallest Doll in New York City
by Maria Dahvana Headley (2014)
My review: It's Valentine's Day, 1938, and the Chrysler Building's tired of waiting on the corner of Forty-second and Lex for a certain edifice to notice her. Here's the story of what might happen if two of New York's greatest creations met on a day built for romance. (★)
Started: Sep 14 2015 Finished: Sep 14 2015
Hill 142
by Jason Cordova (2015)
My review: Seriously?
This is a single, small battle during a War that sees German and American facing each other (is it a World War?). But here is the twist: the Germans rides giant, venomous spiders as cavalry mounts, and the Americans rides giant lions instead. It may sound awesome, but... it is not. There is no explanation of why or how, other than a reference to a breeding program for the lions in Texas. Also, there is no explanation of what triggered the war, and why people are fighting to death. There seem to be no point whatsoever in this disappointing story. (★)
Started: Sep 14 2015 Finished: Sep 14 2015
Acrobatic Duality
by Tamara Vardomskaya (2015)
My review: At the pinnacle of this demanding sport, artistry and balance is found in two moving as one. Is this way the main character was split into two, to be the world's best pair of acrobats? They do not know how this happened, who was behind it, and they do not dare to reveal to the world that their athletic brilliance has come at the price of their very identities. (★★)
Started: Sep 13 2015 Finished: Sep 14 2015
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine, #1)
by Ransom Riggs (2011)
My review: As I started reading this book I was getting concerned this was an American low-quality knock-off of Harry Potter. Soon though I changed my mind. This is quite an original story, an quite entertaining at the same time.
This novel mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow, impossible though it seems, they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is the beginning of what seems to be a new remarkable book series. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 07 2015 Finished: Sep 13 2015
The Strange High House in the Mist
by H.P. Lovecraft (2004)
My review: Thomas Olney, a philosopher visiting the town of Kingsport, Massachusetts with his family, is intrigued by a strange house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It is unaccountably high and old and the locals have a generations-long dread of the place which no one is known to have visited. With great difficulty, Olney climbs the crag, approaches the house, and meets the mysterious man who lives there. The only door opens directly onto a sheer cliff, giving access only to mist and "the abyss". The transmittal of archaic lore and a life-altering encounter with the supernatural ensue, as Olney is not the only visitor that day. He returns to Kingsport the next day, but seems to have left his spirit behind in the strange, remote dwelling. (★)
Started: Sep 13 2015 Finished: Sep 13 2015
Adult Children of Alien Beings
by Dennis Danvers
My review: Adult Children of Alien Beings by Dennis Danvers is a science fiction novelette, even if sci-fi element seems to be more a narrative expedient, or a delusion of the main character. The story is very original, adroitly written, and it is often funny, and touching.
This is the story of the emotional journey of a man seeking the truth about his parents, who were always rather odd, and his own heritage.
(★★★)
Started: Sep 10 2015 Finished: Sep 11 2015
The Dogs of Athens (Goddess War, #0.1)
by Kendare Blake (2015)
My review: This is the second short story set in the world of the Goddess War series I read without having read the main stories. I would recommend against it: I have the clear impression that I would enjoyed this novella more if I had read the trilogy first. This said the story is quite entertaining, even if the ending seems to require familiarity with the saga to be properly understood. (★★)
Started: Sep 09 2015 Finished: Sep 09 2015
The Human Engineer
by Jessica Brody (2015)
My review: Ever since Diotech Corporation released the first artificial womb, a safe and convenient new way to birth human babies, controversy for the cutting-edge product has risen as swiftly as the demand. For Rickar Hallix, however, the biomedical engineer who invented the womb, life has become steadily worse. When Rickar stumbles upon a possible defect in the latest batch of product, he suddenly finds himself thrust into the center of the endless, cut-throat battle between corporate greed and the security of human life.
I will not spoil the story, but I found the ending interesting and clever (and I seem to be the only one to think so, based on the other goodreads review). It suggests that love give us meaning and strength, even after it is lost and only pain is left behind. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 07 2015 Finished: Sep 07 2015
The Nameless City
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The Nameless City is often considered the first Cthulhu Mythos story. The Nameless City of the story's title is an ancient ruin located somewhere in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula and is older than any human civilization.
An unnamed explorer, that I like to believe to be the famous Lovecraft alter-ego Carter, ignores the warnings of the wise old locals, and ventures in the desert, looking for the ruins, to find much more than he expected. (★★)
Started: Sep 07 2015 Finished: Sep 07 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
The Haunter Of The Dark: Short Story
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: Robert Blake, a writer and painter interested in the paranormal and mystical, noticed a strange and aerie building from his apartment windows and he decides to investigate the matter and visit it. He discover that the building is the abandoned church of Starry Wisdom and he decides to break in. As Blake conducts his investigation into the building and its relics, he discovers their horrible abilities and history, putting himself in mortal danger in the process.
The Haunter of the Dark and the character of Robert Blake were created as a professional nod to Lovecraft's contemporary, Robert Bloch. The story is part of a trilogy written by both authors, but it can be read and appreciated as a stand alone novel. The trilogy also includes the stories The Shambler from the Stars and The Shadow from the Steeple by Bloch. (★★★)
Started: Sep 07 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
That Seriously Obnoxious Time I Was Stuck at Witch Rimelda's One Hundredth Birthday Party
by Tina Connolly (2015)
My review: I usually do not like to read short stories set in the universe of a longer book series without having read the book series before. This was an interesting exception. Silly, yet extremely entertaining urban fantasy novelette, set in a world with real witches. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 27 2015 Finished: Aug 27 2015
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
Departure Gate 34B
by Kary English (2015)
My review: An interesting short story dealing with love, loss, and death, and the struggle to let it go. While the plot is not completely original, the writing is quite good, and the author has great potential. I am saddened that the author end up crashed between the war between the puppies and the rest of the fandom. I really hope to see more of her. (★★★)
Finished: Aug 26 2015
Totaled
by Kary English
My review: Totaled is a short tale about the experiences of a scientist waking up in a her lab after an horrific car accident. She is reduced to a full-brain tissue sample for use in experiments on neural maps, and find herself helping her former colleagues achieving what was her ambitious goal.
This is one of the few stories in the puppy slate that would have possibly deserved a Hugo. The plot mixes seen before tropes, in a novel and original way. The biggest limitation of the story is the lack of desperation of the main character. I cannot believe she could so calmly work without constantly worrying about her kids that she left behind, or despair about her upcoming death.
This said, Kary English is a great story teller, and I am interested in reading more of her future work. (★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Amicae Aeternum
by Ellen Klages (2015)
My review: This short novella is the story of Corry, a young girl that is soon to leave her life, her friends, and her home planet (Earth) behind as a part of a generation starship expedition to colonize new planets.
(★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium
by Gray Rinehart (2014)
My review: This is the story of a human colony on a planet called Alluvium which was forced into second-class citizenship upon the arrival of another intelligent species. After a series of failed rebellions, one man, dying of cancer, attempts a kind of passive aggressive rebellion by having himself buried upon his death, a deep ritual affront to the dominant alien culture. Entertaining, but the plot is a little thin and hard to buy. (★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Flight of the Kikayon: A Sci-fi Novelette
by Kary English
My review: This is the story of Lydia, a woman that sacrifice her career to her marriage. Her affluent and successful husband physically abuses her, but it is very hard to escape her tragic predicament. Eventually, after accumulating five million credits in her pocket and after hiding her nanny-clone to take her place, she is ready to finally tries to run away. Unfortunately Lydia's plans did not account for the unplanned illegal sport-fishing expedition that her husband force on her.
Another interesting story by Kary English, a promising new author in the sci-fi field. While the story in entertaining, and the story telling is remarkably good, it is short in the character building. The story has so much potential and could be extremely remarkable if more attention was given to the psychological turmoils of the Lydia, that does not seem to be deeply affected by her husband abuse. Similarly the relationship with her nanny / clone / surrogate / daughter that has such a central role in the plot, does not really feel real. I am left with the bitter realization that this story could have been a little masterpiece if more attention was paid to the feelings and emotions of the main characters. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
The Other Gods
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: A high priest and prophet greatly learned in the lore of the gods of earth attempts to scale the mountain of Hatheg-Kla in order to look upon their faces, accompanied by his young disciple. But the gods of the earth are not there alone. (★★)
Started: Aug 23 2015 Finished: Aug 23 2015
The Cats Of Ulthar: Short Story
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: In the town of Ulthar, everyone knows that you cannot kill a cat. But why such a strange edict in such a seemingly normal town? The truth behind the superstition is a horrifying tale almost too strange to be believed. (★★)
Started: Aug 23 2015 Finished: Aug 23 2015
The Statement of Randolph Carter
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This is the first story featuring Randolph Carter, a student of the occult loosely representing Lovecraft himself. The story opens with Carter giving a formal statement to the police about the disappearance of his friend Harley Warren. He has told law enforcement officials everything he can remember about the night Warren went missing. Warren was a student of the weird, with a vast collection of rare books on forbidden subjects, many in Arabic. Carter took a subordinate's part in Warren's studies, the exact nature of which he's now mercifully forgotten. In the night of the disappearance, the two visited an ancient cemetery in a deep, damp, overgrown hollow. Warren finds a half-obliterated sepulchre, which he and Carter clear of drifted earth and invasive vegetation. Then Warren enters the underground tunnel, leaving Carter behind... (★★)
Started: Aug 23 2015 Finished: Aug 23 2015
The Outsider
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Outsider is a short story by American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, and published in Weird Tales, April 1926. In this work, a mysterious man who has been living alone in a castle for as long as he can remember decides to break free in search of human contact. The Outsider is one of Lovecraft's most commonly reprinted works and is also one of the most popular stories ever to be published in Weird Tales.
The power of this short story lies in how much the author sees himself in the character he creates, somebody that does not fit in, somebody people may even recoil from in horror, somebody that ends up embracing his "ousiderness" and ravel in the mysteries beyond the reach of common men. (★★★)
Started: Aug 22 2015 Finished: Aug 22 2015
The Unnamable
by H.P. Lovecraft (1925)
My review: Carter, a genre fiction writer, meets with his close friend, Joel Manton, in a cemetery near an old, dilapidated house on Meadow Hill in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. As the two sit upon a weathered tomb, Carter tells Manton the tale of an indescribable entity that allegedly haunts the house and surrounding area. He contends that because such an entity cannot be perceived by the five senses, it becomes impossible to quantify and accurately describe, thus earning itself the term 'unnamable'. Manton scoffs that Carters's use of such a word is a puerile device, just what you'd expect from a hack writer. No doubt he says this with love, but Carter's inspired by their eerie setting to defend his dark romanticism from Manton's rationalistic world view.
What sets this short story apart from the other, is this defense of Lovecraft's romantic literary style and credo, against the supposedly rational naturalist position of his critics. I said supposedly because, according to Lovecraft at least, his critics are the same that are religious and credulous of certain bits of folklore. The author (and Carter) has seen enough to believe nothing is beyond nature, though it may be beyond present understanding. Carter appears to be a religious skeptic, and it's he who tries to buttress his ideas with research and investigation instead of listening to well-established superstitions.
Another interesting theme of this short story is the author take of the American Puritan age, described as "dark", populated by "crushed brains" that spawn such horrors as the 1692 witch panic. "There was no beauty, no freedom", only "the poisonous sermons of the cramped divines". The period was, overall, "a rusted iron straitjacket". (★★★★)
Started: Aug 22 2015 Finished: Aug 22 2015
Championship B'tok
by Edward M. Lerner
My review: This short story was nominated to the 2015 Hugo awards thanks to the controversial puppy slate. Because of its inclusion in the slate, that features a lot of mediocre books, I had very low expectations. I was surprisingly pleased by the book to the point that I would read the other short stories set in the same world. The only disappointing part is that it reads like a chapter of a biggest saga, and it is hard to enjoy it as a stand alone novella. This said, I am glad to see that there is not only rubbish in the puppy slate!
Silly tail comment: I know that we should not judge a book by its cover, but... this is possibly the least enticing book cover I have ever seen. (★★★)
Started: Aug 20 2015 Finished: Aug 21 2015
The Veiled Prophet (Diablo: The Sin War, #3)
by Richard A. Knaak (2007)
My review: This book is surprisingly enjoyable for being based on a video-game, but Richard A. Knaak has previously demonstrated to be able to handle succesfully this type of books.
In this third and final installment of the Sin War series, Uldyssian faces the host of heaven and the horde of hell. Since the beginning of time, the angelic forces of the high heavens and the demonic hordes of the burning hells have been locked in eternal conflict for the fate of all creation. But the struggle has now spilled over into Sanctuary - the world of men. (★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2015 Finished: Aug 20 2015
Rocky Mountain National Park - A Year in Pictures
by David Dahms
My review: This short book collects many breathtaking photos captured at the Rocky Mountains National park through the various seasons by David Dahms. A brief intro provides some insight into the park wildlife. (★★★)
Started: Aug 12 2015 Finished: Aug 18 2015
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks: A Place Where Giants Dwell
by George B. Robinson
My review: Beautiful photos, but there is very little information in this book. The most interesting information comes at the end, in the form of a two pager guide to the wildlife in the park.
This said, reading this book and looking at the incredible photos made me want to go back to those two parks. (★★★)
Started: Jul 05 2015 Finished: Aug 09 2015
Azathoth
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The modern world has been stripped of imagination and belief in magic when a man gazing from his window upon the stars comes to observe secret vistas unsuspected by normal humanity. One night the gulf between his world and the stars is bridged, and his mind ascends from his body out into the boundless cosmos. (★)
Started: Aug 08 2015 Finished: Aug 08 2015
Nyarlathotep
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: This short story introduces one of Lovecraft's recurring "characters": Nyarlathotep. He is here described as a tall, swarthy man who resembles an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. In this story he wanders the earth, seemingly gathering legions of followers, the narrator of the story among them, through his demonstrations of strange and seemingly magical instruments. These followers lose awareness of the world around them, and through the narrator's increasingly unreliable accounts the reader gets an impression of the world's collapse.
The story is extremely short, to the point to being hard to enjoy. It feels like having half of a small bite of a cake: you expect something delicious, but you did not get enough even for a taste. (★)
Started: Aug 08 2015 Finished: Aug 08 2015
Agent to the Stars
by John Scalzi (2005)
My review: This is the first book ever written by one of my favorite (and my most read) author, John Scalzi. I was curious to see if it was as good as later books, and if the writing style changed. Answers: yes to both.
This is a very hilarious sci-fi book. It is quite different from the military sci-fi of Old Man War: this reads more like the script of a comedy than of a usual sci-fi novel.
This is the story of the space-faring Yherajk coming to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity's first interstellar friendship. There's just one problem: They are hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity's trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal. Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He's one of Hollywood's hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it's quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he's going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 02 2015 Finished: Aug 07 2015
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
Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)
by Jim Butcher (2000)
My review: The Dresden File is a quite successful young adult urban fantasy series. The first half of it has a relatively thin plot with a lot of sexual references to keep young readers interested. It gets better towards the end, but while enjoyable, it does not have something to set it apart from the millions of ya pulp novels. (★★★)
Started: Jul 19 2015 Finished: Jul 23 2015
Case of Charles Dexter Ward
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is an epistolary novel, written in early 1927, but not published during the author's lifetime.
The novel, set in 1918 in Lovecraft's hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, describes how Charles Dexter Ward becomes obsessed with his distant ancestor, Joseph Curwen, an alleged wizard with unsavory habits. Ward physically resembles Curwen, and attempts to duplicate his ancestor's Qabalistic and alchemical feats. He eventually uses this knowledge to physically resurrect Curwen. Ward's doctor, Marinus Bicknell Willett, investigates Ward's activities and is horrified by what he finds. (★★)
Started: May 30 2015 Finished: Jul 18 2015
In the Cave of the Delicate Singers
by Lucy Taylor (2015)
My review: This is a horror story about a woman with magic powers who can feel sound waves and the dangerous rescue mission she undertakes in a cave with a nasty past.
The story is very interesting and thrilling, and I am looking forward reading more from this author. The only part that disturbed me was the description of the main character magic power as "a rare form of synesthesia", making me think that the writer really understands how synesthesia works.
(★★★)
Started: Jul 16 2015 Finished: Jul 16 2015
The End of the End of Everything
by Dale Bailey (2014)
My review: An interesting apocalyptic novella, describing a humanity falling to decadence as it waits for the end to arrive. This is the story of a long-married couple invited by an old friend to an exclusive artist's colony. The inhabitants of the colony indulge in suicide parties as the world teeters on the brink of extinction, worn away by some weird entropy. (★★★)
Started: Jul 13 2015 Finished: Jul 13 2015
The Dark Between the Stars
by Kevin J. Anderson (2014)
My review: While the book is entertaining I was a little disappointed by it. Probably my expectations were set too high (The Dark Between the Stars is one of the finalist for the 2015 Hugo awards), but there is nothing to set this book apart from millions of other sci-fi books. This book is the sequel of the The Saga of Seven Suns. I have not read that trilogy, and I was left with the impression I would have enjoyed this book more if I had.
More reviews of more 2015 Hugo awards nominees here on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2015 Finished: Jul 13 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
The Goblin Emperor
by Katherine Addison (2014)
My review: Maia is the latest and least of the child of the elf emperor, born from a marriage with a repudiated goblin princess. Raised in something close to exile by a cruel guardian, he suddenly find himself the new Emperor after the assassination of his father and older brothers.
While the book is a little bit hard to follow at first because of the number of characters (game of thrones has a forth of the characters in 50x more pages), their very complex and hard to remember name, and the complexity of their relationships and of the world politics, it grew on me thanks to the extreme likability of the main character.
The book contains relatively little action, almost everything happens in few rooms of the imperial palace, and the plot has very little surprises to offer (the guys that appear to be the bad guys turn out to be the bad guy, the guys that look like the good guys are the good guys). Despite that, the book is quite a pleasure to read thanks to the adroit characterization of the main character, that while insecure and humble, he is the embodiment of virtue and impossible to dislike.
I wrote more about this and the other Hugo awards nominees for best novel on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★★)
Started: May 18 2015 Finished: Jun 14 2015
On Impact
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
St. Dymphna’s School For Poison Girls
by Angela Slatter (2015)
My review: This is the story of a young girl being schooled in the art of assassination in a private institution.
I did not particularly enjoy this book. Maybe this is due to the fact that this is a sequel to a book that I have not read and I am not familiar with, i.e. Slatter’s Sourdough and Other Stories. (★★)
Started: May 27 2015 Finished: May 29 2015
Ginga
by Daniel José Older
My review: This is a short story set in the world of Daniel Jose' Older's immensely popular Bone Street Rumba series. This is the second story set in this world I read, and while the first was just OK, this is quite good. It is entertaining and it touches interesting themes like xenophobia.
This is the story of Kia, developing a crush for obscenely muscular new capoeira teacher, while her previous crush starts going off with a new girl in their favorite park. Kia figures she has enough going on without some creepy ghost causing car crashes and hit-and-runs in her neighborhood. Carlos Delacruz, the half-dead half-resurrected soulcatcher for the New York Council of the Dead, would love to keep her out of it, but things don't usually go the way he intends. (★★★★)
Started: May 26 2015 Finished: May 26 2015
Redwood: A Guide to Redwood National and State Parks, California: A Guide to Redwood National and State Parks, California
by National Park Service (U.S.), Division of Publications (1998)
My review: When I visit a National Park, I always like to purchase a book that provides an introduction to its history and natural wonders. Unfortunately many of these books are not the greatest, providing very scant information. I would strongly recommend this one. It provides an introduction to the parks and the movement to preserve redwoods, the world's tallest trees. It explores redwood natural history, the work of restoring the previously heavily logged lands, and North Coast Indian culture. It also includes a travel guide and reference materials for touring the parks. (★★★★)
Started: May 24 2015 Finished: May 25 2015
A Beautiful Accident
by Peter Orullian (2015)
My review: In a culture where ritualized torture is used to teach its people strength through long-suffering, a foreign sufferer unintentionally teaches them something stronger. (★★★)
Started: May 22 2015 Finished: May 22 2015
Ambiguity Machines: An Examination
by Vandana Singh (2015)
My review: Three very strange, bizarre, yet somehow powerfully magical short stories packed together in a fictional engineering exam that explores new concepts in machine design and function. (★★★)
Started: May 17 2015 Finished: May 17 2015
Useless Wings (Tin Star, #0.5)
by Cecil Castellucci (2015)
My review: I am usually wary of prequels and short stories set in the world of a bigger book series, because they often fail to deliver. This is a surprising exception. I have not red the Tin Star series, but after reading this novelette I might.
This is the story of Heckleck, a Hort alien, raised to understand that breeding and propagating his own kind is the sole reason for living. When he is called upon to settle on a new planet, he meets the daughter of a politician, Goglu, with whom he falls helplessly in love, and is determined to win over. But nothing is easy in love and space exploration. (★★★)
Started: May 16 2015 Finished: May 16 2015
The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)
by Liu Cixin (2014)
My review: I was quite excited to read a book of China's most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin. I was even more excited to read it translated by a Hugo/Nebula winner author, Ken Liu.
The book starts during China's Cultural Revolution, and today's China. The sci-fi component of the plot emerges quite slowly, the first part of the book focuses on the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and the terrifying experience of Ye Wenjie through it. That was, to me, the most interesting and powerful part of the entire book. After reading it my expectations were so high, that the rest of the book (while still good) was a little bit disappointing.
As the book progresses, it switches to full sci-fi mode and moves away from historical towards purely fictional. It is an interesting story, that deals with the effects on human and alien societies after their first contact.
I wrote more about this and the other Hugo awards nominees for best novel on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 16 2015
And the Burned Moths Remain
by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (2015)
My review: I liked the story (even if it borrows many of Lekie's Ancillary Justice themes, and explore them in a less remarkable way). I was saddened to read it was written by "require hate", famous for her highly reprehensible conduct, and extreme cyber-bullying. You can learn more about it in Laura Mixon's expose here: http://goo.gl/FtyGLx (★★★)
Started: May 15 2015 Finished: May 15 2015
Elephants and Corpses
by Kameron Hurley
My review: A fun and entertaining short stories, set in a world were a set of mercenaries learn the ability to jump from a corpse to another. This is the story of Nev, one of the corpse jumping mercenaries and his assistant Tera. Tera recognizes the most recent waterlogged cadaver they bought off the street... (★★★★)
Started: May 15 2015 Finished: May 15 2015
The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt
by Alex Bledsoe
My review: This short story is not poorly written, and it is probably good for lovers of the romantic / young adult /supernatural genre. Unfortunately, I am not fond of the genre, and I did not enjoy it as much as somebody else could. The fact that the story is a sequel of a book series that I have not read did not help either.
This is the story Bronwyn Hyatt, one of the last remaining Tufa pure bloods. She is preparing for her wedding day, when she finds the perfect dress from a most unexpected source. But she should remember this: never accept a gift without knowing the consequences. (★★)
Started: May 14 2015 Finished: May 14 2015
Scarecrow
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
The Language of Knives
by Haralambi Markov (2015)
My review: The Language of Knives is centered around the complex death rituals to prepare the body of the husband of the main protagonist. The unnamed main protagonist and his strong-willed daughter follows the customs of how to respect the remains of their loved one, while thinking about their life together. (★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
Scales of the Serpent (Diablo: The Sin War, #2)
by Richard A. Knaak (2007)
My review: This book is surprisingly entertaining and fun for being based on a video-game, but Richard A. Knaak has previously demonstrated to deliver this type of books.
In this second installment of the Sin War series, Uldyssian is focusing on destroying the evil cult of the Triune, and he does not yet suspect that Inarius, the head of the Cathedral of Light and creator of Sanctuary, has been subtly aiding his quest. But another player has slipped back into the equation. The demon Lilith, once Inarius's lover, seeks to use Uldyssian as her own pawn in a scheme to turn humans into an army of naphalem, godlike beings, as powerful as angels and demons, who could overturn all creation and elevate Lilith to supreme being. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 28 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings
by Leigh Butler (2012)
My review: A cliff-note version of A Clash of Kings, with awesome commentaries. It's the best way to refresh your memory before digging into the following book of the series. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 19 2014 Finished: May 03 2015
Schrödinger's Gun
by Ray Wood (2015)
My review: Of all the crime scenes in all the timelines in all the multiverse, Detective O'Harren walks into the basement on West 21st. In every possible universe, Johnny Rivers is dead. But the questions that need answering, who killed him and why, are still a matter of uncertainty. (★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
Damage
by David D. Levine (2015)
My review: As in Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch series, the protagonist is the artificial intelligence controlling a warspacecraft. In this case the AI finds itself struggling between its programming imperatives and its morals. The struggle is very successfully portrayed. Levine is a promising author I will keep an eye on. (★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
Dog
by Bruce McAllister (2015)
My review: Dog is the chilling horror story of a young progressive American couple that visit Mexico to better understand its culture, but end up having a close encounters with nightmarish creature from the country ancient history: a breed of dogs very unlike any domesticated variety north of the border. (★★★)
Started: May 01 2015 Finished: May 01 2015
Kia and Gio
by Daniel José Older (2015)
My review: Kia is a week shy of her seventeenth birthday, which is about how old her cousin Gio was six years ago when he just up and went away. Kia is a little bit in love with Giovanni but she has not thought about him this much since the day he disappeared. It is not until a run-of-the-mill work shift at Baba Eddie's botanica goes awry that she begins to understand why he’s on her mind. (★★★)
Started: Apr 24 2015 Finished: Apr 24 2015
The Call of Cthulhu
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Call of Cthulhu is a short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. Written in the summer of 1926, it was first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, in February 1928.
In the text, narrator Francis Wayland Thurston, of Boston, recounts his discovery of notes left behind by his granduncle, George Gammell Angell, a prominent Professor of Semitic languages at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who died suddenly in "the winter of 1926–27" after being "jostled by a nautical-looking" African-American.
The story initially revolves around a small bas-relief sculpture found among these papers, which the narrator describes as follows: "My somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature.... A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings". The sculpture is the work of Henry Anthony Wilcox, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design who based the work on his delirious dreams of "great Cyclopean cities of titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with green ooze and sinister with latent horror". Frequent references to Cthulhu and R'lyeh are found in papers authored by Wilcox. Angell also discovers reports of "outre mental illnesses and outbreaks of group folly or mania" around the world (in New York City, "hysterical Levantines" mob police; in California, a Theosophist colony dons white robes to await a "glorious fulfillment")... (★★★)
Started: Apr 23 2015 Finished: Apr 24 2015
Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2)
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
As for the previous book, the second installment of the series is a collection of multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries.
Led by its founding father, the great psychohistorian Hari Seldon, and taking advantage of its superior science and technology, the Foundation has survived the greed and barbarism of its neighboring warrior-planets. Yet now it must face the Empire, still the mightiest force in the Galaxy even in its death throes. When an ambitious general determined to restore the Empire's glory turns the vast Imperial fleet toward the Foundation, the only hope for the small planet of scholars and scientists lies in the prophecies of Hari Seldon. But not even Hari Seldon could have predicted the birth of the extraordinary creature called The Mule, [spoilers removed] (★★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2015 Finished: Apr 23 2015
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 Lurking Fear
by H.P. Lovecraft (2006)
My review: A local village has been reduced overnight to human debris. Locals connect the slaughter to the ruined Martense mansion which crowns Tempest Mountain. State troopers disregard this theory: not so our narrator. He'll root out the culprit of the inexplicable attack (one of many over the years), be it supernatural or material. Establishing himself among reporters covering the story from Lefferts Corners, he waits for excitement to ebb so he can launch an unobserved investigation...
One of the most boring and slow starting Lovecraft's novels. (★)
Started: Apr 18 2015 Finished: Apr 18 2015
The Day the World Turned Upside Down
by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2014)
My review: An interesting fantastic novel set in current times. One day the world turned upside down that is to say the gravity makes people fall towards the sky. Nobody knows why it happened. Some wondered whether it was their fault. Whether they had been praying to the wrong gods, or whether they had said the wrong things. But it wasn’t like that, the world simply turned upside down. (★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2015 Finished: Apr 18 2015
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
by H.P. Lovecraft (1936)
My review: This is probably one of the best novels by Lovecraft, and the only novel to be published in book form during the author lifetime. As it is often the case with Lovecraft, the powerful horror is powered by the author xenophobia and extreme "horror of miscegenation". While the author views are deeply reprehensible and disturbing, his fears and phobias helped him craft some of his most powerful stories.
This is the story of a student on an antiquarian tour of New England, that find himself in the seaport city of Innsmouth. While there he starts to untangle ancient horrors lurking in this once prosperous city. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 12 2015 Finished: Apr 13 2015
Dagon
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: "Dagon" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, written in July 1917, one of the first stories he wrote as an adult. It is the testament of a tortured, morphine-addicted man who plans to commit suicide over an incident that occurred early on in World War I when he was a merchant marine officer.
In the unnamed narrator's account, his cargo ship is captured by a German sea-raider in "one of the most open and least frequented parts of the broad Pacific". He escapes on a lifeboat and drifts aimlessly across the sea "somewhat south of the equator" until he eventually finds himself inexplicably stranded on a slimy expanse of hellish black mire. (★★)
Started: Apr 13 2015 Finished: Apr 13 2015
In the Vault
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This short story is quite an atypical Lovecraft's tale. There are no ancient alien horrors or cyclopean ruins. This is just a Gothic story, where an undertaker finds himself trapped in the vault where coffins are stored during winter for burial in the spring, and is mysteriously injured when he escapes. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 13 2015 Finished: Apr 13 2015
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett (2006)
My review: Remarkably funny, adroitly written, very entertaining. Two (at the time) almost unknown authors destined to became two of the well-known UK (and world) writers came together to write one of the most read book of the century. I do not want to spoil the fun, but this is the story of the end of the world, long ago foretold by Agnes Nutter, a witch. It's the story of Angels and Demons, of Agnes' descendants and witch-hunters, of the Antichrist and scam occultist... (★★★★)
Started: Mar 28 2015 Finished: Apr 12 2015
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
The Colour Out of Space
by H.P. Lovecraft (2013)
My review: A surveyor for a new reservoir tours the area to be inundated. He's heard the shunned countryside west of Arkham is not good for the imagination. Even he is spooked by the blasted heath: five acres of gray dust like a great spot eaten by acid into the woods and fields where a well releases vapors that stain the sunlight with strange hues. It all began with the meteorite that fell on Nahum Gardner's prosperous farm. Miskatonic professors troop out to see the space rock that is soon proven to have very unusual characteristics... (★★★)
Started: Mar 28 2015 Finished: Mar 28 2015
The Music of Erich Zann
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Music of Erich Zann is the story of a university student forced, by his lack of funds, to take the only lodging he can afford in a strange part of the city he had never seen before, on a street named Rue d'Auseil, in an almost empty building. One of the few other tenants is an old German man named Erich Zann. The old man is mute and plays the viol with a local orchestra. He lives on the top floor and when alone at night, plays strange melodies never heard before. (★★★)
Started: Mar 22 2015 Finished: Mar 22 2015
The Temple
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The Temple is a short story narrated as a "found manuscript" penned by Karl Heinrich, Graf von Altberg-Ehrenstein, a Lieutenant Commander in the Imperial German Navy during the days of World War I. It documents the events that led to his descent to the bottom of the ocean, in the middle of the ruins of a long lost civilization.
What surprised me is the criticism towards the nationalist and racist protagonist. It surprises me because the author is well known for his reprehensible xenophobic views. It almost make me think that what I interpreted as sarcasm maybe was actually not a criticism. (★★★)
Started: Mar 20 2015 Finished: Mar 21 2015
Birthright (Diablo: The Sin War, #1)
by Richard A. Knaak (2006)
My review: I usually avoid fiction derived from videogames or movies, but I was playing Diablo III, and I got tempted. What made me decide to read the book was noticing that this trilogy was written by Knaak, that is an author I read and appreciated in the past. He had written a video-game inspired trilogy (i.e. WoW War of the Ancients trilogy) that was actually worth reading and entertaining so I decided to give it a try. This may not be the best of his books (do not get me started on the main female characters of this book, and how disturbingly uninteresting she is), but it is entertaining and there are some interesting Miltonian themes that redeem the book.
Plot: Uldyssian, a simple farmer from the village of Seram, is mistakenly blamed for the grisly murders of two traveling missionaries. He is forced to flee his homeland with his brother and two of his dearest friends. Soon both Uldyssian and his brother starts exhibiting strange new powers and finding themselves in the middle of the eternal conflict between the angelic forces of the High Heavens and the demonic hordes of the Burning Hells. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 23 2015 Finished: Mar 19 2015
The Terrible Old Man
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: Lovecraft's xenophobia is a powerful force in his work. His pathological race-induced fears are transfigured into the horrors so adroitly described in his stories. While his racist views emerge in his stories, marring and staining them, we can sometimes still appreciate the rest of the work because of that powerful, agoraphobic sense of horror and fear that he managed to convey. While we despise his views, we still admire his tremendously powerful depictions of ancient horrors, powered by the deep anxieties and fears rooted on his views.
In the case of The terrible Old Man, the author fails to deliver, and all that is left are the xenophobic rants and a thin plot. Let's just say this is not one of his best short stories. (★★)
Started: Mar 19 2015 Finished: Mar 19 2015
The Mound
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: An ethnologist visits the town of Binger, Oklahoma in 1928 to investigate a mound, which is said to be haunted by a man by day and a headless woman by night. He discovers a scroll left by a member of the explorer Coranado's party and learns that the mound is in fact a portal to a vast underground civilization. (★★)
Started: Feb 20 2015 Finished: Feb 23 2015
The Martian
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
A Long Spoon (Johannes Cabal, #4.5)
by Jonathan L. Howard (2014)
My review: I have not read any of the Johannes Cabal books before, but this can be read as a stand-alone story, and I really enjoyed reading it. I really loved the sarcastic, witty storytelling. I can't wait to read all the books of the series now.
This is the story of Johannes Cabal, an infamous necromancer, that is suddenly experiencing various attempts to his life. he decides to investigate the matter, but the trail leads to one of the less traveled parts of Hell itself, and there Cabal will need a guide. he summons as a guide the devil Zarenyia and he delve deep into Hell, even into Satan's greatest mistake, to confront challenges quite outside the ken of any mortal. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2015 Finished: Feb 16 2015
The Female Man
by Joanna Russ (1997)
My review: The novel follows the lives of four women living in parallel worlds that differ in time and place. When they cross over to each other's worlds, their different views on gender roles startle each other's preexisting notions of womanhood. In the end, their encounters influence them to evaluate their lives and shape their ideas of what it means to be a woman.
This book is novel in both the themes that it explores, and in the writing style and structure. It is of historical significance as one of the most successful example of feminist science fiction, challenging the sexist views of the 70s. It is also a remarkable literary achievement, that not only breaks many of the preexisting notions of gender roles, but also common narrative tropes. The chronological order is broken, each chapter is set in a different time and place. The narrative switches from third to first person during the book, to even feature (quite effectively) stream-of-consciousness at some point. While this departure from the stylistic tropes makes the book harder to read at times, it also effectively and powerfully help deliver some of the messages of the book. For example the change of narrative prospective from third to first person highlights the awakening of Jannine Dadier, from the woman living in a repressive and sexist great depression world, desperate to show that her life has a meaning finding a man to marry, to the woman ready to take action to break the gender roles of her world.
I strongly encourage everybody to read this book, for its historical and literary significance, despite some transphobic themes that appear in one of the latest chapter and that really mar and stain what would have been otherwise a perfect masterpiece. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 29 2015 Finished: Feb 15 2015
The Shadow Out of Time
by H.P. Lovecraft (2003)
My review: The Shadow out of Time is Lovecraft's last major story, written in a four-month period from November 1934 to February 1935. It was first published in the 1936 issue of Astounding Stories. It is one of the author best written stories, almost free of misogynistic and xenophobic paranoia.
This is the story of Professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee, trying to come to term with his experience as a victim of the Great Race's quest for all the secrets of the universe through time and space. (★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2015 Finished: Jan 28 2015
The Thing on the Doorstep
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: The Thing on the Doorstep is a short story written by H.P. Lovecraft, part of the Cthulhu Mythos universe of horror fiction. Daniel Upton, the story's narrator, begins by telling that he has killed his best friend, Edward Derby, and that he hopes his account will prove that he is not a murderer.
While the story is interesting, I confess that I start to get bored of Lovecraft's stories because they seem to often follow the same narrative structure to the point that, at times, it seems to be reading the same story over and over.
What makes this story interesting is that it offers an incredible opportunity to explore the mysogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia of the author. While disturbing, it is fascinating how his issues with ethnicity and gender coalesced into his anxious, agoraphobic horror stories. I strongly recommend reading Gender and Identity Anxiety in The Thing on the Doorstep ( link: http://goo.gl/noLKon ) after reading the story, it is quite eye opening. (★★★)
Started: Jan 24 2015 Finished: Jan 25 2015
Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2)
by Stephen King (2013)
My review: This is the story of a now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and Abra, a psychic twelve-year-old girl, fighting for their life against a tribe of murderous paranormals.
As in "the shining", one of the main (and most interesting) themes is alcoholism, but while in the first book Jack Torrance slowly yet inevitably succumb to it, in Doctor Sleep, Danny Doc Torrance fights and recovers from it. The two books are clearly written in two quite distinct moments of King's life: in 1977 King was a young author that was struggling against alcoholism and that was horrified by it, in 2013 King is an established author, now sober, that can look at his past struggles with empathy and hope.
The main problem of the book is its predictable plot: you can see every "twist" coming. There was only one point in the book where the author slightly surprised me, and the "twist" (that I will not mention here to avoid spoilers) felt as if it was added later as an afterthought. (★★)
Started: Jan 13 2015 Finished: Jan 23 2015
The Whisperer in the Darkness
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The 1928 floods bring rumors of strange bodies in the swollen rivers of rural Vermont. These rumors build on older stories about winged, crab-like beings from the stars with an outpost in the hills. Albert Wilmarth, folklore professor at Miskatonic University, writes editorials arguing that these are merely the local instantiation of a standard myth. Henry Akeley, an educated Vermont farmer, writes to insist that he has evidence of the rumors' truth. He's seen the creatures, taken photographs of their prints, even made a recording and found a strange black stone covered with their hieroglyphs, evidence that he offers to share. But the creatures and their human spies now hound him, trying to reclaim these objects... (★★)
Started: Jan 12 2015 Finished: Jan 13 2015
She Commands Me and I Obey (Imperial Radch #0.6)
by Ann Leckie (2014)
Publisher review: A short story set in the world of Ancillary Justice, published by Strange Horizons as part of their annual funding drive.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Jan 11 2015 Finished: Jan 12 2015
Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon
by Ken Liu (2014)
My review: This is the story of Jing and Yuan, a pair of young women in love for the first time in their lives, who are about to be parted by circumstances beyond their control: one of them is to leave China to go study in the States.
But it is Qixi, the ancient Festival of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl, and on that day the legendary lovers give the young women some help and advice. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 12 2015 Finished: Jan 12 2015
Headache [Cuento]
by Julio Cortázar (2014)
My review: What a bizarre story! I am told that Julio Cortázar was a sickly child and spent many hours in bed. Perhaps those memories inspired this story that focuses so much on headaches. (★)
Started: Jan 11 2015 Finished: Jan 11 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
As Good as New
by Charlie Jane Anders (2014)
My review: From the author of the Hugo-winning Six Months, Three Days, a new wrinkle on the old story of three wishes, set after the end of the world.
The main character struggles to think of three wishes to save the world, without accidentally causing another apocalypse by not wording everything properly: wishes are tricky things, and rarely work out the way people think. (★★)
Started: Jan 11 2015 Finished: Jan 11 2015
Skin in the Game
by Sabrina Vourvoulias (2014)
My review: An interesting urban fantasy with a Latin flavor. Three kinds of people live in Zombie City-La Boca Del Diablo: the zombies, los vivos, and the ghosts. Officer Jimena Villagrán, not truly at home with any of these groups, patrols the barrio for stalking monsters. Magic con men and discarded needles make this beat hazardous enough, but the latest rash of murders threatens to up the ante by outing the horrors of Jimena's personal history. (★★★)
Started: Jan 03 2015 Finished: Jan 04 2015
The Doom That Came to Sarnath
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Ten thousand years ago, in the remote Dreamlands region of Mnar, there was a vast lake, and on its shore stood the imperial city of men called Sarnath. Immemorial years before the building of Sarnath, however, the gray stone city of Ib overlooked the lake, peopled by beings who were green-skinned and flabby-lipped and bulging of eye and voiceless. It’s believed that lake and Ib and beings all came down from the moon one night. The beings worshipped the great water-lizard, Bokrug, and danced horribly before his sea-green idol when the moon was gibbous.
Men eventually colonized Mnar, and the most adventurous founded Sarnath on the shores of the vast lake, where they had discovered tempting deposits of precious metal. Their wonder at the Ibites soon gave way to hatred, because ugly and weird and way too ancient for comfort. Also the beings were weak, easy prey. One night the warriors of Sarnath slew all the beings and shoved the bodies into the lake, along with their gray stone monoliths, because also weird, and who needs reminders of a whole slaughtered species?
The statue of Bokrug, however, the men kept as an emblem of victory—or tried to. The day after they installed it in their temple, it vanished. The high priest Taran-Ish lay dead as if from terror... (★★)
Started: Jan 04 2015 Finished: Jan 04 2015
Burnt Sugar (Firebug, #0.5)
by Lish McBride (2014)
My review: As it is often the case with short stories that are prequel to an entire book saga, I am left with the strong impression that I would enjoyed this more if I had read the Firebug book series first.
This is the story of three magical mafia workers: Ava, Lock, and Ezra. They are out on an assignment. Faced with a gingerbread house, they're pretty sure that what's inside isn't nearly as sweet as the outside. It never is. (★★★)
Started: Jan 04 2015 Finished: Jan 04 2015
Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North
by Charles Vess (2014)
My review: This is the fairy tale of Father Christmas. He was an orphan child that fell in love to a beautiful maiden that turned out to be the troll princess (no this does not turn ugly like Princess Fiona in Shrek). Some parts of the story are promising, but others seems quite random. (★★)
Started: Jan 04 2015 Finished: Jan 04 2015
Dora Bruder
by Patrick Modiano (2014)
My review: This is the (real) story of an author (Patrick Modiano himself) fighting against the amnesia of time, and of a society that does not want to remember. In 1988 the author stumbles across an ad in the personal columns of the New Year's Eve 1941 edition of Paris Soir: "Missing, a young girl, Dora Bruder, age 15, height 1 m 55, oval-shaped face, gray-brown eyes, gray sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes". Placed by the parents of Dora, who had run away from her Catholic boarding school, the ad sets Modiano off on a quest to find out everything he can about her and why, at the height of German reprisals, she ran away from the people hiding her. There is only one other official mention of her name: on a list of Jews deported from Paris to Auschwitz in September 1942. What little Modiano discovers about Dora in official records and through remaining family members becomes a meditation on the immense losses of the period: lost people, lost stories, and lost history. Modiano delivers a moving account of the ten-year investigation that took him back to the sights and sounds of Paris under the Nazi Occupation and the paranoia of the Petain regime. In his efforts to exhume her from the past, Modiano realizes that he must come to terms with the specters of his own troubled adolescence. The result, a montage of creative and historical material, is Modiano's personal rumination on loss, both memoir and memorial. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 02 2015 Finished: Jan 03 2015
Hero of the Five Points
by Alan Gratz (2014)
My review:
"The Hero of the Five Points" is a short adventure set in 1853 in the world of the League of Seven fantasy series. I usually stay away from "short story set in the world of" novels, they tend to be quite bad. I am happy to have read this one though, it was entertaining and fun. It is the story of Dalton Dent as he tracks down the foul creature known as Mose. (★★★)
Started: Dec 31 2014 Finished: Jan 01 2015
Where the Trains Turn
by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (2014)
My review: “Where the Trains Turn” is the well deserving winner of the Finnish science-fiction magazine Portti’s annual short story competition and of the Atorox Award for best Finnish science fiction or fantasy short story.
The main character of the story, Emma Nightingale, prefers to remain grounded in reality as much as possible. Yet she’s willing to indulge her nine year-old son Rupert’s fascination with trains, as it brings him closer to his father, Gunnar, from whom she is separated. Once a month, Gunnar and Rupert venture out to follow the rails and watch the trains pass. Their trips have been pleasant, if uneventful, until one afternoon Rupert returns in tears. "The train tried to kill us" he tells her. Rupert’s terror strikes Emma as merely the product of an overactive imagination. After all, his fears could not be based in reality, could they? (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2015 Finished: Jan 01 2015