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Month: June 2019

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chris Evans highly recommended this book. When Captain America says so, you listen.

It’s been almost three years since I joined Goodreads and this is literally the second non-fiction book I finished reading. The last time I read a non-fiction book was in December 2016, it was an autobiography titled In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park. Anyone who knows my reading taste should know that I don’t read non-fiction, not only I found the majority of them to be boring, the main reason behind why I read is escapism and the best genre to offer me the best escapism experience lies in SFF. I don’t even know how to rate and review this book because it always made me feels awkward to give a rating to a non-fiction work, especially if it’s an autobiography, which luckily this book is not. Please remember that my rating—as always—speaks mostly for my reading enjoyment, not the technicality of the book.

“Nothing captures the biological argument better than the famous New Age slogan: ‘Happiness begins within.’ Money, social status, plastic surgery, beautiful houses, powerful positions – none of these will bring you happiness. Lasting happiness comes only from serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.”

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The Emperor’s Soul

The Emperor’s Soul

(I read this in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection)

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely incredible novella. Apparently, 105 pages are sufficient for Sanderson to craft a fantastic story with a strong beginning, wonderful characterizations, memorable climax scene, and a satisfying conclusion. The Emperor’s Soul has become my favorite novella of all time; it has qualities that surpassed a lot of other fantasy novels I’ve read.

I won’t go into any details on what the plot is, it’s only 100 pages long, try to jump into this story without knowing anything about it as I did. The plot dances upon several themes such as the nature of humanity and what truly defines art. There was a lot of beautiful philosophical contemplation to be found here and the novella was utterly well-paced. The Emperor’s Soul doesn’t waste any time getting into the plot; there’s no info dump, the magic system and world building were introduced gradually together with the plot and character development. Have I mentioned that the main character Wan ShaiLu (or Shai in short) is a lovable and intelligent heroine?

“There was rarely an obvious branching point in a person’s life. People changed slowly, over time. You didn’t take on step, then find yourself in a completely new location. You first took a little step off a path to avoid some rocks. For a while, you walked alongside the path, but then you wandered out a little way to step on softer soil. Then you stopped paying attention as you drifted farther and farther away. Finally, you found yourself in the wrong city, wondering why the signs on the roadway hadn’t led you better.”

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Ghosts of Gotham

Ghosts of Gotham

Ghosts of Gotham by Craig Schaefer
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.

Ghost of Gotham is my first book by Craig Schaefer, and it definitely will not be my last.

I’ve heard a lot about the Daniel Faust series by Craig Schaefer. When I saw that he has a stand-alone released recently, I thought that this book will be a good sampler of just what the author offers. And I proceeded to devour Ghosts of Gotham in two days. I really developed an almost compulsive addiction to crime thrillers – when I start, I find it very hard to stop binging. This book gave me that heady and thrilling concoction with an urban fantasy setting, in New York City!

New York City, the original inspiration for Gotham City, is such an appropriate backdrop for a crime noir story touched with the supernatural. A lot of supernatural in this case. The evocative and vivid portrayal of this old and sprawling city that never sleeps lends a hectic yet atmospheric and gothic backdrop that just simply enhances the narrative to another level of intensity.

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The Exiled

The Exiled

The Exiled by David Barbaree

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

 

According to Suetonius, Emperor Nero committed suicide on hearing the troop of cavalry who were coming to arrest him arrive at the villa in which he was hiding: ‘Hark to the sound I hear! It is the hooves of galloping horses‘.

Their orders: take him alive.

But it was too late.

A letter, which had arrived moments before the soldiers, informed Nero that he had been declared a public enemy by the Senate and was to be punished in the ‘ancient style’ (stripped naked, head thrust into a wooden fork, flogged to death with sticks). And so, to avoid that dire fate, Nero:

‘with the help of his secretary Epaphroditus, […] stabbed himself in the throat and was already half-dead when a cavalry officer entered […] he died, with eyes glazed and bulging from their sockets, a sight which horrified everybody present’ (Suetonius, Nero, 49).

Now that’s all well and good, perhaps true or perhaps not, but either way David Barbaree is having none of it. His Nero is taken that day, and tortured, but remains alive…

It’s an idea with a long tradition, with men proclaiming themselves ‘Nero’ almost from the moment of the emperor’s death in 68 CE. A rather problematic issue for the new dynasty, as you might imagine. And it’s precisely this that forms the basis of the book. Here, the rise of a False Nero complicates an already dangerous civil war in Parthia, the deadly threads of these plots weaving through the highest echelons of Roman politics.

This is a world of prophesy, conspiracy, and secrets. Danger abounds. But they don’t know what we know, that the real Nero lives… and still has moves to make. Let the games begin.

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Recursion by Blake Crouch

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Recursion by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m so amazed by Blake Crouch. With Dark Matter, he enthralled the reading world with a wild plot and breakneck action. With Recursion, he proves that Dark Matter wasn’t a fluke. Crouch delivered a level of intensity that I’ve rarely encountered in the written word via a fascinating, disturbing premise. More surprisingly, he crafted a romance unlike any I’ve ever read. After reading Recursion, Crouch has become an insta-buy sci-fi author for me.

“Nothing can be controlled. Only endured.”

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Jade City (The Green Bone Saga, #1)

Jade City (The Green Bone Saga, #1)

Jade City by Fonda Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantasy readers have been calling out for more diversity and Jade City is a resoundingly good response.

The urban fantasy setting that heavily evoked Chinese gangster/crime syndicate movies, which I’ve grown up on, is a paradoxical breath of fresh air that carried the scent of nostalgia. All that was needed to make it even cooler and awesome was magic and martial arts.

I will not rehash the plot since the blurb said it all without spoilers. I found the world-building both refreshing and familiar. The island of Kekon in my mind was a vibrant blend of Hong Kong and Shanghai where both the seedy and sophisticated sat side by side, controlled and protected by powerful clans in exchange for tribute money.

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Empress of Forever

Empress of Forever

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Praise-worthy imagination and world-building, but sadly, it’s time to admit that Max Gladstone’s books aren’t suitable for me.

Empress of Forever has been on my TBR ever since I first heard about it. Judging from the blurb alone, I was immediately intrigued. Just read the blurb, seriously, it sounds so cleverly insane and my god, Gladstone delivers completely on this; stunningly original and cool world-building to witness. That’s exactly what I found to be brilliant from Gladstone’s books, his world-building, action scenes, prose, and ideas always feel refreshing and unique. I’ve read only two books in his Craft Sequence series and the things that worked for me there is even more evident here. I won’t lie that there were a lot of moments from this book that made me truly flabbergasted because it’s extremely imaginative. Time travel, an ancient Empress that could destroy a planet with a single thought, character literally sitting on a freaking comet flying through space, sentient machines, dead planets, and many more insanity that’s crazier than the one I just mentioned; there’s no shortage to Gladstone’s ambitious imagination in creating this novel.

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UR by Stephen King

UR by Stephen King

UR by Stephen King
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I don’t know that I’ve ever yearned from something as terrifying as Wesley’s pink Kindle.

“A crazy certainty had arisen in his mind: a hand – or perhaps a claw – was going to swim up from the grayness of the Kindle’s screen, grab him by the throat, and yank him in.”

Imagine a world ten years in the past. Electronic books and e-readers are just beginning to take the world by storm. Wesley Smith is a college English literature professor who, after a nasty breakup partially over his distaste for the new trend of reading on a device, has decided to bite the bullet and purchase his first ever Kindle from Amazon. It arrives sooner than it should, sans instructions and sporting an odd pink color instead of the white of all other Kindles. Also unusual is the fact that, under the ‘Experimental’ section is a handful of subsections called Urs. Ur is evidently representative of alternate realities in which authors lived longer or died younger, attached themselves to different genres or penned more and greater works than are present in our reality. If this doesn’t sound like an incredible and awe-inspiring addition to the Kindle store, you and I view the world very differently.

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Fortune’s Fool (Eterean Empire, #1)

Fortune’s Fool (Eterean Empire, #1)

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The blurb surmised this first-person character-driven debut nicely; spies, smugglers, vengeance, war, and love, this hefty book has them all.

Fortune’s Fool is Angela Boord’s debut and it’s the first book in Eterean Empire series. The story revolves around Kyrra d’Aliente as she seeks vengeance for the harshness inflicted towards her in her past while masquerading herself as a man. Fortune’s Fool is undeniably a character-driven fantasy. The author did a fantastic job of telling Kyrra’s story, the plot juggles between two timelines: the present and the past. One of the things that made the narrative relatively refreshing to read was the changes in tenses between the two timeframes; the past is told in first-person past tense narration, the present is told in the first-person present tense narrative. Truthfully speaking, I’m not a big fan of tenses shift within the same book, but the author did a great job in making sure the flow of her story remains undisrupted throughout.

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How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

This was such a charming read; one that I have picked up because I was attracted by its title and cover design depicting one of those enchanting English bookshops. The allure of a story about a bookshop (and by natural extension, books) was just too irresistible, and as such, despite my typical apprehension with romantic novels, I knew that I would attempt reading this book.

And with that, I dipped my toes into the Prologue and came across this beautiful passage which charmed me immediately.

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