The Hatching felt like a cross between The Troop and Infected, but not as cool. The premise, the style and the characters felt artificial, like someone writing by numbers. Common phobias as main subject: check. Characters acting all human and relationshippy: check. Women in positions of power and important characters: check. OK, spiders don't work that way, biology doesn't work that way. If large arthropodes would be capable of coordinating in swarms, eating people, invading a human body and hatching in a matter of hours, they would do it already. There are numerous reasons why they don't, so in fact it was a simple choice: write a less alarming story that is even remotely possible or write something quick, algorithmically and that hopefully sells. Ezekiel Boone chose the latter.

It's not that it's a bad book. Far from it: the familiar writing style and pace made it really easy to read and get into the mood of it. Unfortunately the details were all wrong: the biology, the way everything happens at the same time without any reason to, the politically correct setup that was still sexist because from three lead women characters all of them were sleeping with an underling or thinking about it, plus the extra characters including some gay ones that had no role in the story at all. Now, I understand this is a trilogy or something and those characters will probably play a role later on, but as it stands, The Hatching is simply a bland average book that doesn't even provide closure. If you were caught by the story, you will need to wait until the next book in the series comes out. And for what? To hear about even more people who can't kill spiders or study them in any scientific way until providence saves them because they love their children. Oh, loving ones children as a reason to survive: check.

Bottom line: utterly average and strangely not scary for such a horrific subject.

  What is burning so white? Love, of course. Brent Weeks ends his Lightbringer saga with a huge book that completes all started threads, brings closure to the grieving, love to the survivors, second and third chances to just about everyone. I liked it, as I did the entire series, but for me Burning White was the weakest book in the series.

  And it wasn't that there was anything wrong with the writing, there was just too much of everything. A lot of new information came along, as it did in many of the other books, but in this, everything was being upended every other chapter. People have lost their memories, then they remembered, then the memories were actually wrong, but they were right, and everybody was being connected, but they didn't actually exist, but they did and everything has a glorious design, but you never find out what the actual design was and what the hell white and black luxin actually do and why people don't use them on a daily basis, etc. There was so much to do in the book that the last ten chapters (three of them called Epilogue) were ALL epilogues and then a post credits scene and even a post book scene. And we still don't know who Kip's other grandfather is.

  I am the first to complain about straight lines in books, but in Burning White, lines go all over the place, loop back on themselves, different colors, shape of kittens, the whole shebang. So in the end, when everything has to come to a close, it all feels really really unnatural and even random. Why did that guy die? Why did this guy live? Why is anyone doing anything?

  I know I am filling this space for nothing. If you are going to read the book you probably read the others in the series and no one is going to stop you now. I am not even suggesting it; this is a great book. However, with great epic stories comes great responsibility to end them right. I don't know exactly why I feel so unsatisfied with the ending, but maybe because the author build up all of these grand heroes, only to kind of make them fail until someone changed their view of the world and helped them out. It invalidates a lot of the previous books. Also, less cool magical mechanisms in this one and a lot more talking and feeling.

Full title "Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund", this is a book that everyone should read. It's not a masterpiece, in fact it feels banal, but it's this banality that makes it so powerful. Hans Rosling is capable of showing with actual proof that your world view is really really wrong. And not only you, but also the politicians that are supposed to fix the world, the specialists that are supposed to find solutions to all of our problems, the reporters who are supposed to report on the news and the large majority of people are just as confused as you are.

And it is proof of the power of the book that someone like me, who knew who Rosling was and watched his very inspiring TED Talks, was still surprised by its content and teachings.

The book claims that the instincts that helped our ancestors survive are clouding our judgement of the much less dangerous, but more abstract modern world we live in. Rosling enumerates ten, with anecdotes that feel like scenes from TV dramas only to make you doubt who is the villain and who are the heroes. It is the main idea of book that only by working with fact based information we can make the best decisions and take the best possible action to move us forward.

This is not a book that will amaze you with its writing style, it will not make you laugh out loud, nor is it intended to make you feel good, although it probably will. It is facts about things that you felt you knew, but in fact were ignorant of. It is for example heartbreaking to read the part about immigrants in Europe dying and being taken advantage of because of really dumb European laws, not because of their destination countries regimes or from poverty. It is uplifting to know how much the world has changed for the better in just a few decades and all over the place. As a Romanian, I've always assumed that the rest of the world was rich and plentiful outside the Iron Curtain and that the recent improvements in life style were caused mostly by the fall of Communism in the area. I had no idea how similar life was for so many around the time I was born and that life has improved dramatically all over, not just here. It is empowering to know that women make more or less children in consistent correlation to their income and not their culture, religion or regime. When people don't need to have children, they don't make them, regardless of what Mao, the Pope or anyone else says.

Bottom line: you have to read this just as much as you have to get a general education. It simply should be taught in schools.

Permanent Record is a very well written book. Ed Snowden has the rare capacity of deep introspection and when he explains what happened and why, he makes connections to his upbringing, events in his life and the world and has a very clear view of his internal processes when making any decision or taking action. He also has a way with words. He's a guy easy to either hate or love, obviously, depending on how prone to envy one is.

There are several important takes from this book.

One is how extraordinary Snowden's position was to make him able to do what he did. Not only is he this brilliant guy who lives in his head and plans everything in advance, not only did he have specialized training on how to do what he did and get away with it, but he was given free access to the underlying technology of the CIA and the NSA. As he himself admits, he was on a list that probably contained under a dozen people, and that only from incompetence and lack of oversight.

Another is that every large organization is the same. Be it the NSA, the state run companies or private corporations in any country, they all impose hiring limits that they break by using contractors that don't affect the count (or their declared principles). It's amazing how similar my own experiences were, but in (supposedly) very different contexts. The contractor system is a global disease that too few benefit from and too many are affected by.

A more salient point is that technology is what happens when there is something we can do. We will ultimately do it, just because we can. As much sympathy I have for Snowden, his actions will probably have short lived consequences. The machine to get all the data from everybody is already there. No one will put that genie back into the bottle. If anything this book helps the very people who the author hopes to thwart by giving them valuable intelligence in the mindset of the whistleblower and on the limitations and vulnerabilities of their technical, administrative and indoctrination systems. As I was saying before, the chances that Snowden happened were astronomically small. Now they are orders of magnitude smaller.

It was devastatingly depressing to read how few places in the world are even marginally free of the American hegemony. Ironically, he had to go to Hong Kong to maximize his chances of remaining free. That says something terrible about the state of the world. I felt like the most hard hitting bits were those that explained what the government would do to discredit him (or anybody in their way), using deeply personal histories, fabricating evidence if none found or amplifying the one that does exist. This makes Snowden even more outstanding, for being a guy with very little dirt in his life to be turned into a weapon.

On a more personal note, it's amazing that reading Permanent Record, I was reminded most of Gary Sinise's autobiography than anything else. Thinking of what Snowden did, a family tradition of serving the country military and strong patriotic spirit is not what would first come to mind, yet that applies to him and he did what he did because he strongly believed in his country and in service to it. Even now, hunted by the US government in the most blunt, unimaginative, bureaucratic and cruel way possible, like big bullies do, Ed Snowden still loves his country and believes in it.

At a glance, Permanent Record is a book on hacking. As a child, Ed starts understanding how the world works and manipulates it to his advantage, only to grow up working in an organization that has hacked the Constitution and society as a whole in order to manipulate it to their advantage. People of our generation grew up with at least the illusion of a fair society, people who would take you at your value and judge you on it, whatever the outcome. The new hacked society cannot see you as you are, to the point that makes you doubt yourself of who you are. There cannot be a fair process of evaluation anymore because everyone comes out distorted.

This is a must read book and I recommend it highly to all adult readers of any level or education. It's easy to read, captivating and relatively small. Fair warning: it's not a happy story.

I haven't been as frustrated with a book as with Lightless for a long time. Everyone in it is incompetent to the level of cretinism. The only people remotely good at what they do are psychos, all of them.

I understand why books like these need to be written: when you write a character based play-like story you become a better writer, but it doesn't mean what you write is any good. In this case, a character based story has cardboard shapes moving around randomly instead of characters. It failed. The main character is a computer programmer. As one, I felt insulted that C.A. Higgins believes we are that moronic.

As for the plot, that's the most redeeming factor, but it's not great either. In a future where mobile devices don't exist and locks are still based on physical keys and the Solar System is under the iron boot control of ... err... The System, an organization straight out of Blake's 7, with the same cartoonish efficiency, a mysterious ship is boarded by two people who turn out to be criminals the System wants. 90% of the book is people being dumb and talking to each other, all while assuming they are the bread of the universe. The rest is people doing really dumb things.

Conclusion: all the "smart" bits of the book were obvious from the start, making the journey of the buffoons in the story to figure them out really boring. The idea of the Ananke was added only to make this, of course, a trilogy. It reads like a theater play with people being stuck in a room.

If you want a book about women feeling stuff and constantly interrupting each other whenever they are about to communicate anything relevant while acting like space pirates in a desolate corporate universe, but doing nothing particularly consequential, Ascension is the book for you.

It is the distant future: space is called The Big Quiet, the universe has turned into a cosmic version of bankrupt Detroit because of the infusion of magic tech coming from a different universe (well, it's baryonic matter infused with human will, but yeah... magic) and all major characters are women and most of them are lesbian. About what you would expect from Jacqueline "(J)" Koyanagi, who describes herself via marketing as "writes science fiction and fantasy featuring women of color who love other women, disabled characters, neuroatypical characters, and diverse relationship styles.".

The main character is a female engineer (ugh, space surgeon) that falls in love with a peg leg female captain of a starship (that she also falls in love with) while being pursued by the authorities for something they didn't do. The physical attraction between the two girls is so strong that events like death of her family or genocide are just pushed in the background.

I guess we need books like these to realize how someone might act annoyed with books that only contain straight male characters, but other than that this is just low quality space pulp. And this trend is taken to a point so extreme that in the whole book there are only three males: a man who is part wolf, full of muscle, brooding silence and the occasional snarl, a security guard who is incapacitated before acting and the husband in a random family who's first act is to isolate and attack the protagonist before also being quickly disabled. I pity women who see males like this.

Bottom line: I read it all just to see if behind all the agenda bullshit there was anything interesting related to story or characterization or world building. But no.

The autobiography of an artistic daughter of a beer tycoon, Beer Money has almost nothing to do with beer, but everything to do with how we can't really choose your family and how toxic interacting with them can be. I liked the writing and sad as it is, the book was not meant to be dramatic, only truthful.

It was a difficult book to finish, even as it was very personal, as I like biographies to be. Mostly because it is just biographical, with nothing in the lives of the characters that has any meaning. The only lesson one can learn from the book is that once you realize your family is crap, you should stay away, no matter how difficult it would be. A very valuable lesson, I agree, but singular.

Frances Stroh is part of the old German family that introduced fire brewed beer to the US on a large scale. Their Detroit empire imploded from bad management by family members, the collapse of the car industry and so on. And while that was going on, she had to contend with a passive mother, a father with an inflated ego who couldn't care less about the people around him unless in rare moments that seemed like a heavenly gift to respect and love deprived children, siblings who went into drugs and alcohol to avoid the pain and last but not least the lukewarm reaction of the world to her own artistic ambitions.

The author seems to have accepted her fate and the strained love/disappointment relationship with the most important people in her life. I liked it and I thought Frances Stroh has a gift for melancholic writing, but I can't really recommend it to most people.

I started reading The Troop after reading some amazing reviews on how creepy and scary it is, how well it is written and so on. I agree this is a good book, but not without its faults. It felt like a rollercoaster, because at first I thought it's going to be a monster body horror, which I like, then it turned out it could be a contagion story, which I love, maybe even a world wide epidemic, which I always hope for, but yet it wasn't. I thought it resembled a cross between King's Dreamcatcher and Golding's Lord of the Flies.

The best part is Nick Cutter's writing. He is careful with his characters, goes deep into defining their motivations, their inner thoughts. I loved that he would have filtered their previous experiences through a horror lens, so even their histories are aligned to the mood of the book. I know it's a common writer tool and he's a bit obvious about it, but I personally enjoyed it. Then there is the story, which happens on an isolated island and involves children being horribly killed by a relentless organism. I'm a sucker for those. Overall, the book was great. It felt like a Stephen King novel and the author paid homage to the writer in the acknowledgements section.

However, there were some elements that annoyed the hell out of me. One of them was the use of interviews and official reports and news stories about what was going to happen. It spoiled so much of the plot! Then there was the character dynamic. Such wonderfully crafted people seemed to not do anything of what they were supposed to do and the idea is that in terrible circumstances, our mettle is truly tested and the real person surfaces, but in many cases what the characters did made no sense. Even if well written, the basic archetypes were kind of obvious, too. And finally the technical aspects of the plot looked good on paper, but do not stand up to scrutiny.

Some notes: the horror of Lord of the Flies comes from showing how horrible ordinary people, children, can be. They are not psychos, they are people. Cutter overused psychopaths in The Troop. The tension in King's novels is growing and growing and is almost never released until the very end. Cutter spoiled what was going to happen and even if he described horrible things, he kind of did it in a constant way that got tiresome after a while. Worst of all, these flaws in the book made it predictable.

Bottom line: the book proves great writing talent and knowledge of people's character, however the author feels too nice to push the boundaries to do something truly brilliant. Well, he is Canadian...

We know Gary Sinise from Forrest Gump, CSI: New York, The Stand and so many other movies and TV shows. I've always liked him, not in a "Wow, he's great!" kind of way, but he always gave me this impression of a serious and decent guy. And there are two things I found most relevant in Grateful American. One, Sinise is a serious and decent guy. Second, Americans are weird.

The book is made out of chapters that do not necessarily follow each other chronologically and instead are each focused on a specific theme. Some of them I loved, the ones related to how acting changed him from a lost and wild kid to someone belonging to a family he made efforts to build and support, for example. Some I didn't really get, like those focusing on why American troops are defending America and the world from evil and how brave they are and the people trying to kill them are cowardly terrorists.

I feel Gary Sinise likes to belong. He got saved by acting, put all of his passion into his theater company. Then he found supporting the military and giving concerts and raising funds for the "fallen heroes" and "our wounded" and first responders. At some point he even found religion, after being an atheist for his entire life, just because it gave structure to his family. Yet for all the talk, he focused mainly on what he did and what other people did with and for him than on other people or on what he felt. He barely mentioned his family up until they got sick or died.

I like reading autobiographies, especially from actors, because they present things from a very personal perspective, making me feel I am living a part of that. I partially liked this book, but it didn't give me the feeling I wanted. What a difference between this book mentioning Sally Field because she was in Forrest Gump, the film that made Sinise famous and won awards, and Sally Field's autobiography, which barely mentioned the movie and instead focused on what was emotionally important to her. On the other hand, it was impossible for me to empathize with the courageous American troops who bomb a country in the middle ages, then arrive there to liberate cities and give toy animals to orphan girls. And that part was important to Gary Sinise.

Bottom line: it felt to me like the book looks upon Gary as an outside person would. It felt impersonal and a bit self centered at the same time. Actions, events, curated feelings. I was expecting something more raw and personal.

Rebecca Roanhorse is a Native American and she writes of a world after an undefined global catastrophe, with the reservations united as a true separate nation. Magic is back, too, monsters and gods and everything in between with it. Our hero is a girl who was trained to kill monsters by a demigod after her grandmother was brutally murdered in front of her. She must now unravel the mystery of monsters terrorizing the land, her own emotions about the now absent demigod and solve the riddle of her own story.

Trail of Lightning has an interesting story, reminded me a lot of Obsidian and Blood, by Aliette de Bodard, only that was with Aztecs and was more technical and this is more adventurous. The writing is competent, the logic holes in the story are small and forgivable. I liked that is had that Native American background, even though I felt it wasn't explored enough.

But what bothered me was the plot. It's all convoluted, but suddenly pieces fall together to further the plot or clues appear out of thin air, while things that should be immediately obvious or at least evoking curiosity are ignored and left for later when they are planned to be revealed. In the end, everything was connected. Surprise! I feel that the characters were butchered or at least boxed in by this overarching cliché of the mandatory connectivity in all things. Chekhov's Gun is important because we are talking about a violent tool for death. If a napkin is described in a scene it doesn't mean somebody is bound to blow their nose in the third act.

Bottom line: Post apocalyptic Obsidian and Blood, only not as good.

A few weeks ago I watched the mini series The Hot Zone, the TV adaptation of this book. And while more than 90% of the show is contained in the book, the rest of 10% is pure soap opera garbage and the characters and situations are jumbled about to make the show runners' point, not the book's. The pointless dramatization of inconsequential events makes no sense to me when the first part of the book, the one detailing the gruesome deaths of people from Marburg and Ebola and the last part of the book, examining how a "bullet dodge" did not make people more apprehensive and careful - quite the contrary - are more dramatic and were not really presented in the film. And frankly, the differences in characters between the show and the book should be a bit offensive, to the real people at least. That being said, you can opt for watching the show, but I recommend the book instead.

The book itself is much better structured and carefully crafted. It consists of four parts: the first is about the deaths of people (the discovery of the virus by people - or more accurately, the other way around), the second is the setup for the outbreak in Reston, Washington, the third is how they dealt with it and the fourth is more like an epilogue.

It is obvious that as I am reading this review, Ebola did not invade Washington, then spread over the continental U.S. so I will not spoil anything by saying that the (real life) heroes save the day, but the devil is in the details. So many things could have gone wrong - and did. So many procedures put in place to encourage safety ended up circumvented because they were badly designed. The book praises the general who decided to act swiftly, rather than go through endless "asking for permission" with all the different, segregated and non-cooperative agencies which have carved their own administrative turf. Was that the correct decision?

If there is something I did not like in the book it's the title. The Hot Zone describes the first outbreaks, but it doesn't have anything more to do with exposing the actual origins of Ebola other than "they came from Africa". And the book treats Ebola and Marburg as close cousins and examines them together. Probably "The Terrifying True Story of the Outbreaks of Filovirus and Our Inability to Handle Them or Learn Anything Useful" would have been a less commercial title, but still...

Bottom line: I liked the book, even if I was mostly interested in the clinical symptoms and the technical exploration of the virus than the Reston case, but I do agree they should be examined together. Richard Preston writes well and even if sometimes he got a bit carried away trying to set up the mood of a place and what people thought and felt, I didn't feel annoyed at any time. Also, if you like what you read, he wrote three more books in his "Dark Biology" series.

Read this, it's a fascinating story. If you are squeamish, though... maybe you should try something else.

I got this book because I heard it was good and the synopsis reminded me of the Xenogenesis series by Octavia Butler, which I liked, despite its global rape undertones. In fact, The Color of Distance is also about a woman changed by aliens to be more like them, but it is an overly positive story.

Amy Thomson tells the story of Juna, left behind for dead after a shuttle crash on an alien planet inhabited by non technological beings that have deep social connections and the ability to see and change things at a very fine level inside living creatures. Thus set up, the only possible direction for the plot is that the aliens save Juna, remaking her in order to be able to survive in their world.

From then on, things could have gotten really nasty. Think Shogun, or Xenogenesis, or The Sparrow for that matter, since I've mentioned rapey things. But no, the aliens are amazingly benign and there is a "noble savage" beauty in their calm and harmonious world that should teach us something. In fact, I was hearing Thomson's voice ever couple of chapters whispering "Hey! This should really teach us something!". It wasn't as heavy handed as that, but I felt it a bit.

The lack of real conflict and only a few almost technical problems to solve made it a bit boring, but as world building goes, it's pretty interesting. In fact, I thought the best part was then humans come back for Juna, where the book explores how people react after "going native" and coming back to their old environment. But this also was almost devoid of conflict or real issues.

Bottom line, it was a fine book. If you are looking for a nice alien world and society book, this is it. If you are looking for terrifying and exciting adventures navigating an unknown society and the clash of worlds, this is certainly not it. And no one gets raped! Yay!

Imagine something as pompous as Lord of the Rings, with the many names, and the fancy speech, and the heavy lore, but worse. Imagine characters so cardboard and childish as to be the basest of archetypes: the young prince, the evil vizier, the good mage, the wise intellectual, the down-to-earth soldier, the evil step-mother queen, the noble savage, the beautiful red-head that doesn't speak much or voice any opinion of consequence, but all men talk about her and plan what to do with her (when they are not saving her) and so on and so on.

Why would you read it? I don't know. I managed to get past halfway through The Doomfarers of Coramonde until I asked myself the same question and decided to switch books. However it is clear that Brian Daley put his heart and sweat into this. It is not a bad book, it's just not very good, and the work that went into the world building and the naming of each and every character, whether they matter or not, make me want to rate this book higher.

Bottom line: B- for effort, but a D for enjoyment.

Vaccinated is an ode to Maurice Hilleman, a rather modest man with a big heart who worked tirelessly towards making vaccines for serious diseases and taking almost no recognition for it. Clearly biased towards the man - Paul A. Offit positively worships him - but informative and well documented.

And it is not only about Hilleman, although he was a giant in the domain of vaccination and affected most important decisions in it. For example you learn about Andrew Wakeman, the man who, while financed by the Personal Injury Lawyer for several families that were suing pharmaceutical companies, imagined a connection between vaccines and autism, a move that has repercussions even today. You also learn about how hepatitis vaccines were tried on mentally challenged people in asylums. Doctors, including Hilleman, convinced themselves that they were attempting a cure for a disease that would eventually affect their guinea pigs and who, when ill, would have no resources to go to doctors or receive proper medical attention. And you learn about how vaccines are the only medical devices that can virtually eradicate disease, often with just one cheap dose for life, therefore there is little incentive for big pharma to invest in them. As opposed to something more lucrative like alimentary supplements, pills that just alleviate the symptoms, etc.

It is a book worthy of a read, that teaches a lot about what a vaccine is, how to make it and why and how it works. Also why some cause problems that then are misinterpreted by the general public.

Imagine Harry Potter were a Russian girl named Sasha Samokhina. Instead of an Oliver Twist childhood followed by the happy admission to a place of high learning, she starts off within a happy family and then is forcefully inducted into a village institution apparently bent on making people crazy upon punishment of hurting said family. Instead of a loyal gaggle of friends to help the hero through random quests, it's a bunch of normal kids that either hate her, ignore her or get infatuated with her for their own random reasons. Instead of a nasty revenant with superpowers, she has only her own weakness and her insane teachers to fight against. And most of all, everything she achieves she does through effort, not by being lucky, getting powerful items from mysterious friends or being helped by previously unknown actors.

This is Vita Nostra - and not a book about Italian mobsters as the title made me believe, a book written by two married writers, Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, who wrote 26 other books before this you probably have never heard of because they are in Russian and no one bothered to translate them to English. I wonder if I would have ever heard of them if there weren't currently living in California. There are, of course, similarities to Harry Potter: the same idea that teachers perceive pupils as incompetent infants that cannot be trusted with information and power, for example. The same underestimation of children leads to both the successes of Potter and Samokhina (if hers can be called successes, it's a Russian book after all). There is also the isolation of children, away from family, friends and the rest of the world, a typical indoctrination move. Will our hero keep her morals or succumb to the ideas forced upon her by cruel educators? Will the teachers be proven right and their methods validated, or are they just assholes? Is this really a Hogwarts thing or more the Stanford Experiments meet 120 Days of Sodom? Well, that is for the reader to find out, as they go through the three books (yes, Russians are affected by trilogiopathy as well).

Warning, though, the book starts very slowly and with a style reminiscent of a lot of stories I disliked profusely: the dream sequence, where you cannot be certain that what the character perceives is real or not. Also, the ending is abrupt and says almost nothing. Oh, yes, I can speculate, but would be the point of that? In order to understand what is going on, you just have to read at least the second book as well.

Bottom line is that I liked the book after I got through the slow beginning, I was captivated by the lead character and I found it hard to put the book down, but it's not always easy to empathize with Sasha and the rest of the characters are not deeply explored.