June was a tough month! I don't know, the ongoing pandemic, the immense amount of accumulated work that suddenly appeared on my plate, Black Lives Matter protests... I just needed some comfort reading, so that's when I turn to steampunk and sci-fi romances.
Heart of Steel (Iron Seas, #2) by Meljean Brook : Steampunk alternate Victorian era in a world with dirigibles, nanoagents, mechanical flesh, zombies. I think I still like the first book better. However, this one has a strong lead female character who is an experienced badass captain of an Airship. Yasmeen, captain of Lady Corsair, and Archimedes Fox, adventurer, go out on a journey to search for a treasured sketch from Leonardo da Vinci. There is also revenge but that wasn't too clear to me. Good fighting sequences with zombies, but in the end, I didn't get who/what they were fighting against really.
Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal : The premise here is: we are also responsible for being addicted to technology so the author discusses some tactics to make us less prone to use it mindlessly. But, I don't think it is for everyone. There are some drastic measures that I think might work for some. I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.
Polaris Rising (Consortium Rebellion, #1) by Jessie Mihalik: I enjoyed this space-opera! Lots of adventures: boarding ships, cracking security codes and locks, dealing with smugglers, discussing ship layouts, sending encrypted messages and blending in a crowded port to avoid being recognized. The two main characters, Lady Ada and Loch, were equally strong and I liked that they were both highly skilled at their areas of expertise. And rescues! It happens a lot and for the most part the rescuing is done by Lady Ada (as opposed to the male hero always rescuing the damsel in distress). It had that old Star Wars feel but without aliens. Fun!
This was a hard month for reading. Distraction was with me all the time! It was one of the few months that I didn't enjoy my readings that much. The highlight was “Broken Angels” by Richard Morgan, always a good sci-fi!
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell, 240p: Maybe too philosophical to my taste. Although the title book starts with “How to…” it's not really a manual. It's more like an exposition of the author's memories and her musings about art. Art like a critic of the status quo. There is a lot of talk about art. It was not my cup of tea.
Broken Angels (Takeshi Kovacs, #2) by Richard K. Morgan , 480p: I thought this book had a totally different tone than the first one. It totally feels like military sci-fi. The pace is kinda slow until half of the book and then it's action-packed till the end. There is a lot of worldbuilding when Takeshi remembers his childhood and the wars he has fought in. There is an interesting group of characters that are put together to fulfill a mission. Alien ruins, old artifacts, soldiers, war, archeology, mental illness.
The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian P. Moran, Michael Lennington, 208p: I get the concept: treat 12 weeks (3 months) like it's your year. That way it forces you to set up achievable goals and don't lose track of them. It makes sense. It brings a systematic way to define vision, goals, projects, plan each week and evaluate progress using a scoring system. I think it works for some people, but for me, at the moment, it felt like too much pressure on myself. The basic concepts of having a productivity system are all there: goals, time blocking, weekly reviews. So, it's not unlike other systems, like GTD, for example. But there is this added urgency because of the 12 weeks time frame. Not sure it would work for me.
I wish I had read more this month! I think the COVID-19 pandemic has changed my reading habits. I've been way too much news articles and updates about. Ugh!
Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, 288p – A fun book about productivity techniques. It has lots of nice ideas on how to focus and achieve goals. One of the main messages is to choose the highlight of the day. It is valuable advice because the highlight can be something as ambitious as “finish that final report” or as simple as “enjoy a cup of tea after work”. It has lots of ideas to experiment with our habits and routines, not all of them will work for everybody. It is a lighthearted book about productivity with no pressure on being highly productive all the time. It's more about doing what we enjoy :)
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz, 352p – Time travel, feminism, 90's riot grrl punk rock scene, murder, abortion rights, geology, wormholes. Yes, all this together to form an exciting story of people wanting to make the world a better place. Lots of imagination and interesting historic facts that creates various alternate histories realities. A great read with lots of historical references related to the 1800's social movements! I had to stop and do some Wikipedia research here and there. Fascinating!
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley, 369p: A different flavor of time travel in a military sci-fi setting. I liked the way the author doesn't emphasize gender differences, the characters are people and you can tell their gender when there is mention of a pronoun.
Swordheart by T. Kingfisher, 419p: A fantasy of a fantasy. A man that lives in a sword and protects the wielder of the sword. So it's kinda like the talking sword fantasy meeting the genie in the bottle. As I said, lots of fantasy! Oh, and romance.
This month was all about The Witcher books. I will definitely go through all the books in the series because: 1) I love the characters; 2) I like the writing style and 3) It's classic D&D with a twist.
Baptism of Fire (The Witcher, #3) by Andrzej Sapkowski, 378p: This book has that vibe of a good old Dungeons and Dragons adventure. It has the best group of characters travelling together: Milva (a hunter and bad-ass archer), Dandelion (the curious and talented bard), Regis (a weird druid), Zoltan Chivay and his group (a resourceful dwarf who is leading other dwarves and gnome) and Cahir from Nilfgaard (although he says he isn't). It was exciting, it had some gore, violence, but also friendship and happy moments.
Blood of Elves (The Witcher, #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski: This the first full length novel of the Witcher series (the previous 2 books are basically a collection of short stories). The story follows the aftermath of the attack on the Kingdom of Cintra by the Nilfgaardian empire. Ciri starts her training as a Witcher but she starts to demonstrate weird powers so Geralt asks for the help of Triss Merigold. They decide that Ciri needs a normal education as well as some magic training, so Yennefer starts training her too. The story and the world building are extremely well done. I couldn't put it down until the end and then I had to continue reading the next book...
Sword of Destiny (The Witcher, #2) by Andrzej Sapkowski: This one is a darker book where the characters are temporarily separated from each other, and some serious confrontation between the mages/sorceress take place. Everyone is looking for Ciri and she is on the run. And there are donuts in the Witcher's world! Another read I couldn't put down that lead me to Book 3 straight away.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: I finally read the book behind the System 1 / System 2 thinking idea. The research on this book was cited so many times in other books I read before this one so it was good to go to the source. Fascinating with lots of examples.
Hogfather (Discworld, #20; Death, #4) by Terry Pratchett: This was a fun read for the Holidays! Terry Pratchett is a genius about criticizing without being offensive or mean about anything. He just slaps the ridiculousness of things in our faces and laughs about it.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity by David Allen: I first read this book in 2012 and it changed my life. GTD is a method that helps me organize myself and reflect on my goals, values and purpose. This the 4th time I read this book. Every time I feel like I lost perspective and/or overwhelm dominates me, I go back to this book to make sense of it all. And it helps!
Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1): A nice urban fantasy. It's got magic and gory murder scenes with a sense of humour. I want to know more about the wizard Harry Dresden.
Trail of Lightning(The Sixth World, #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse: Native American mythology meets urban fantasy with climate sci-fi. It gives a new twist to urban fantasy, where usually the fantastical beings are fairies, vampires or werewolves. This book brings monsters slayers and Navajo people clan powers in a post-climate change world.
Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke: Classic sci-fi, so it's full of ideas that can be dated back to the 50's. What if an alien superpower reaches Earth? Will we fight them? Will they destroy us? I thought the humans were too complacent accepting the Overlords power. There were riots going on and opposing groups but they seemed irrevelant. This is basically a tale of how humans will disappear, eventually, lead by an alien super power.