Tag Archives: A Lee Martinez

Blog Roundup 2018: Books Reviewed

A regular feature of this blog is the Sunday Book Reviews, short reviews of books I read this year.  Most of the books were new or recently published.

This year I reviews 58 fiction and 18 non-fiction books. (This doesn’t count the many articles and reports I comment on throughout the year.)

This years reading included lots of favorites including Thomas Perry, Charles Stross, Joe Ide, Donna Leon, A. Lee Martinez.

There are also some new favorites I discovered this year, including Nnedi Okorafor, Edgar Cantero, Theodora Goss, Vivan Shaw.

Some highly recommended* books:

(*This is a highly unsystematic selection—these are all definitely worth your time, though there may be others in my list below that are even better.)

Non fiction

Stamped From The Beginning  (2016)  by Ibram X. Kendi
The Fighters by C. J. Chivers
Ada’s Algorithm (2014) by James Essinger
Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron

Fiction

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017) by Theodora Goss
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
Circe by Madeline Miller

The Whole List

A list of all the book reviews (in no particular order…)

Fiction

A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk
Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Celestial Mechanics by William Least Heat-Moon
Circe by Madeline Miller
Constance Verity Saves The World by A. Lee Martinez
Dark State by Charles Stross
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
Good Guys by Steven Brust
Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? By N. K Jemisin
I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing by A. D. Jameson
I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher
Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Kismet by Luke Tredget
Koko Uncaged by Kieran Shea
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
Make a Nerdy Living by Alex Langley
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Noir by Christopher Moore
Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne
Open Me by Lisa Locascio
Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams
Red Waters Rising by Laura Ann Gilman
Robots Vs Fairies edited by Dominick Parisien Navah Wolfe
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Street Freaks by Terry Brooks
Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
The Book of Phoenix (2015) by Nnedi Okorafor
The Cackle of Cthulhu edited by Alex Shvartsman
The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
The Final Frontier edited by Neil Clarke
The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley
The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross
The Man From The Diogenes Club by Kim Newman
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey
The Song of Achilles (2102) by Madeline Miller
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell
The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon
There, There by Tommy Orange
This Body’s Not Big Enough For Both Of Us by Edgar Cantero
Versailles by Yannick Hill
Who Fears Death (2011) by Nnedi Okorafor
Wrecked by Joe Ide

Non Fiction

Ada’s Algorithm (2014) by James Essinger
Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
City of Demons by Paul French
Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron
Darwin Comes To Town by Menno Schilthuizen
Failure is an Option by H. Jon Benjamin
How To Plan A Crusade by Christopher Tyerman
Nothing edited by Jeremy Webb
Ours To Hack And To Own edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider
Stamped From The Beginning (2016) by Ibram X. Kendi
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
The Earth is Weeping (2016) by Peter Cozzens
The Fighters by C. J. Chivers
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte
The Tangled Tree by David Quammen
The Wordy Shipmates (2018) by Sarah Vowell
Totally Random by Tanya Bub and Jeffrey Bub
When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney

Sunday Book Reviews

Housekeeping: Q3 Round Up

The third quarter saw continuing interest in freelancing, robots, dinosaurs, bees, and the cryosphere.

On the robot front, there is a burgeoning new topic of “robot social psychology”, (re-)discovering classic social psychological findings.  Amazingly enough, people interact with “humanoid” robots with similar heuristics, assumptions, and biases as they do with “humanoid” humans.

The exciting space news is asteroid missions, with JAXA’s Hyabasu-2 on station and dropping landers and NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex mission on approach. If all goes well, in the next few years we’ll get not one but two samples returned from these missions.  Cool!

Cryptocurrency and blockchains continue to provide fertile blogfodder.  As the year progresses, the competition for the ultra-coveted CryptoTulip of the Year award heats up.  Who will “win” this year?  Stay tuned for an exciting fourth quarter!


And, as always weekly book reviews.  (Actually, quite a few more than one book per week this quarter.)

Books Q3 2018

 

Non-Fiction

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
City of Demons by Paul French
Totally Random by Tanya Bub and Jeffrey Bub
The Tangled Tree by David Quammen
Nothing edited by Jeremy Webb
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
Ours To Hack And To Own edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider
Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Fiction

Open Me by Lisa Locascio
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This Body’s Not Big Enough For Both Of Us by Edgar Cantero
I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher
Constance Verity Saves The World by A. Lee Martinez
Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne
Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
Red Waters Rising by Laura Ann Gilman
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
There, There by Tommy Orange

Ideas for Band Names

Bison Calves of Banff
Flugroboter!
  (pron.: Floog-robotah)
Density Cusps

 

Book Review: “Constance Verity Saves The World” by A. Lee Martinez

Constance Verity Saves The World by A. Lee Martinez

I’m a huge fan of A. L ee Martinez.  I love his boingy love stories.*

This new story is a sequel to The Last Adventure of Constance Verity  (2016), which obviously wasn’t.  I really like Connie, and we’re all hoping she can get a better grip on her work/life balance.  So, I have been waiting for this installment.

In this installment, Connie has broken free from the most onerous grip of her special curse, supposedly gaining the option to say “no” to adventures.  This should give her a bit of space to make a more normal life with her boyfriend Byron.

But that does not seem to happen.  Stuff keeps happening, and Connie keeps adventuring.  Poor Connie.

Unfortunately, it’s all a bit much for the reader, too.

OK, this is certainly more of the same.  Tiny (but dangerous) adventure after adventure.  Lot’s of chitter chatter.  Crazy enemies, friends, and situations.  It’s like living in a video game (which is not a good thing, IMO).

Part of the joke, I guess, is how difficult it is for Connie to work out the tricky details of relationships and normal life.  For someone who is supposed to be a super-powered genius, she’s pretty oblivious in dealing with her friends.

And that’s pretty much the whole plot.

We all like Connie and her friend, and we want the best for them.  But there isn’t really much story here, just a lot of preposterous “saving the world”.  Frankly, this could have been a lot shorter, and left out a lot of the “adventures”.

Not one of ALM’s best, but still good.


* I have summarized his plots as:

  • Boy** meets girl**.
  • Boy loses girl
  • Boy gets girl and they live happily ever after

**where ”boy”/”girl” is defined to mean “young human*** male/female****”
***for certain values of “human”
****for certain values of “male” or “female”


  1. A. Lee Martinez, Constance Verity Saves The World, New York, Saga Press, 2018.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

2016 Roundup and Books Reviewed in 2016

In 2016, this blog passed the milestone of posting at least once per day for1,000 days in a row! January 5 will mark three years of daily posts to this blog.

My blog may not be great, but it is consistent!  Or at least persistent.


Regular readers know that this blog is somewhat random, touching on any topic I find interesting enough or have something to say about. But some topics were visited more than once.

This year saw many posts on coworking and similar “co” movements (cohousing, platform cooperatives, the future of work, the sharing economy, etc.)

These posts give you a preview of a new book that is in preparation, titled, “What is coworking?” It should be available in early 2017. I.e, Real Soon Now.

I posted nearly weekly about cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and the communities that have risen around these technologies.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology has so many perspectives, it is hard ot keep track, but some of the topics overlap with coworking, the sharing economy, and similar “bottom up” movements.

Reflecting earlier research, I have also posted frequently about HCI, particularly wearables, and haptics. I know quite a bit about these topics, though the most important thing is that no one really knows how to use them well.

I posted nearly weekly about robots and bio-inspired design. Robots are really cool, though in this area I am just an enthusiast, not an expert.

Other general science-y topics have included dinosaurs (naturally) and animal intelligence. I have also posted frequently about space exploration and remote sensing of the environment especially observing the retreat of the ice.


I should note that I had been posting comments on items picked up from Wired magazine on line. In fact, I was reading Wired so regularly, I was just about to subscribe. But then they decided to close off access to me unless I accept their advertising or pay $1 per article. I might have subscribed to this deal, were it not for the fact that even the “ad free” option still wanted to aggressively track me. So I stopped reading Wired.

You know what? I never even noticed it was gone.

I think you miscalculated, Wired


On a less contentious topic. Following Sensei Dave Barry, I suggested a number of names for rock bands based on current topics and reading.

I suggested some band names with cryptcurrency themed names, including “Fintech”, and “Hard Fork” (not to be mistaken for “Haardvark”, which I have actually heard of.)

Other nerdy names might be Feather Evolutionor the Saturn themed “First Ring Grazing Plunge


Books Reviewed

As always, I posted short book reviews every week. In case it isn’t clear, these are all books I read this year.

In total, I wrote about 100 books (a happy milestone, purely by luck). The majority of the books are relatively recent, and, with only a few exceptions are recommended.

But if I had to pick a few “best” books, I would say:

Best Fiction: Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley

 An eagerly awaited sequel to the The Rook (2012), this is easily one of the most enjoyable and imaginative fantasies of the year.

Best Non-fiction: The Euro by Joseph Stiglitz

A timely and riveting explanation of what went wrong in the Eurozone, and what might be done to salvage the situation. Considering the subject matter, I was expecting difficult and obtuse reading. Instead, I found it clear and easy to understand, if hard to swallow.

Walking the Walk:  How to Make Money (and a whole lot more) by Sharing by Claire Marshall

In a totally category, “walking the walk”, there are quite a few  important books about how to live right, but  the 2016 nod must got to Sensei Claire Marshall.  Actually living for a month in “the sharing economy”, and now teaching that “we are happiest when we share”.

Other notable reads

I read new  books by old favorites by A. Lee Martinez, Charles Stross, Carl HIasson, Connie Willis, and others.

I started reading Donna Leon, and wrote about a few of her books (there are many more great novels on the back list to be read).

I found some great new favorites, including Guy Adams.

In non-fiction, there have been several great books about animal intelligence, by Jennifer Ackerman and Frans De Waal. Many new articles and books about dinosaurs are coming out.

In addition to Stiglitz, Robert J. Gordon’s book on economics was good.

At a more personal note, there were a number of ebooks about “the new way of work”, by people who are  definitely walking the walk, including Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski, Sebastian Olma, and Anastasia Cole Plankias.


For reference here is a list of the books reviewed in the fourth quarter:

Fiction

1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflottz by Kerryn Offord and Rick Boatright
A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor
Crosstalk by Connie Willis
Curioddity by Paul Jenkins
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
For a Few Souls More by Guy Adams
Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood
Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling
Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
The Terranauts by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Nonfiction

Best State Ever by Dave Barry
Pax Romana by Adrian Goldsworthy
The Euro by Joseph Stiglitz

And here is a consolidated list from Q1, Q2, Q3:

Fiction

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
A Question of Belief by Donna Leon
A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
Beastly Things by Donna Leon
By Its Cover by Donna Leon
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Coconut Cowboy by Tim Dorsey
Empire State by Adam Christopher
Falling In Love by Donna Leon
Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley
Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Made To Kill by Adam Christopher
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
Monstrous Little Voices edited by David Thomas Moore
Once A Crooked Man by David McCallum
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen
Rewired edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel
Robot Uprisings ed. by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams
Save Room For Pie by Roy Blount, Jr.
Slade House by David Mitchell
Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley
Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
The Assistants by Camille Perri
The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black
The Clown Service by Guy Adams
The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan
The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
The Golden Egg by Donna Leon
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson
The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez
The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray
The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams
The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross
The Path by Drew Magary
The Rain Soaked Bride by Guy Adams
The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales
The Underground Railroad by Colin Whitehead
The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon
Vinegar Girl by Anny Tyler

Non fiction

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal
Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez
Coworking: Building Community as a Space Catalyst by Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski
Coworking: How freelancers escape the coffee shop office and tales of community from independents around the world by Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski
Digital Nomads: How to Live, Work and Play Around the World by Esther Jacobs and André Gussekloo
Dude, Where’s My Drone: The future of work and what you can do to prepare for it by Liquid Talent
Hedy’s Folly by Richard Rhodes
How to Make Money (and a whole lot more) by Sharing by Claire Marshall
Inventology by Pagan Kennedy
Labor of Love by Moira Weigel
Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan
Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle
Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery and Billion-Dollar Deals by John LeFevre
The Farm on The Roof by Anastasia Cole Plankias
The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
The Global Code by Clotaire Rapaille
The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humbolt’s New World by Andrea Wulf
The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon
The Serendipity Machine: A Disruptive Business Model for Society 3.0 by Sebastian Olma
The Tyrannosaur Chronicles  by David Hone
Tribe by Sebastian Junger

 

2016 Wrapup

 

Housekeeping: Books Reviewed Third Quarter 2016

In the past quarter,in addition to daily posts, comments on articles and products, I posted brief book reviews for 21 books and ebooks in the third quarter.

Here is a list, in no particular order.

Fiction

A Question of Belief by Donna Leon
A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
Beastly Things by Donna Leon
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen
Robot Uprisings ed. by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams
The Assistants by Camille Perri
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson
The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez
The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross
The Path by Drew Magary
The Underground Railroad by Colin Whitehead
Vinegar Girl by Anny Tyler

Nonfiction

Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan
Tribe by Sebastian Junger
The Tyrannosaur Chronicles  by David Hone
The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal

 

Book Review: “The Last Adventure of Constance Verity” by A. Lee Martinez

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez

A new novel by perennial favorite A. Lee Martinez, introducing Constance Verity, an interesting young woman who appears to have been selected by destiny to save the Universe—over, and over, and over again. Sometimes more than once per day. After so many years of constant “adventuring”, she’s about had enough, and would like to just be normal. Maybe have a boyfriend, and spend time messing up a relationship, just like everybody else does.

Pursuing this dream will be her “last adventure”. Probably. Maybe. We’ll see.

Connie is a perfectly normal superwoman who lives in an extraordinary world of everyday weirdness that you and I just seem to overlook. This, as his fans are aware, is what we expect from ALM.

Connie’s effort to wind up her career turns into a complex adventure, filled with wacky stuff and daring do. She takes along her best friend/plucky sidekick, Tia, meets a new guy, and runs into a slew of dangerous conspiracies, supervillains monsters, and aliens, as well as her ex, the worlds greatest ninja-slash-thief.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, but we are confident that Constance will prevail, as usual, in the nick of time, as usual. (Poor Connie can’t help it.)

As I commented about his novels,the thing I like best  is that so many of his characters are not technically homo sapiens, but they are more human than most people.

I sometimes summarize his plots something like this:

  • Boy* meets girl*.
  • Boy loses girl
  • Boy gets girl and they live happily ever after

*where ”boy”/”girl” is defined to mean “young human** male/female***”
**for certain values of “human”
***for certain values of “male” or “female”

Connie and her friends, allies, and enemies are a bit “different”, and strictly speaking, most are not technically normal “humans”.  But they are all people, and we grow to love and respect them for their deep humanity, and for their struggle to live, love, and help others.

Get and then read anything you can find by Martinez. You’ll like it.


  1. A. Lee Martinez, The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, New York, Saga Press, 2016.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Book Review: “Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain”

By A. Lee Martinez, published by Orbit Books, 2012.

Yet another strange and wonderful book from ALM.  Nothing particularly deep or serious, just a nice, wacky story.  About some likable “people”.

I’ve become a fan of Martinez’s work recently.  I think the main thing I like is that so many of his characters are not technically human, but are more human than most people.

I sometimes summarize his plots something like this:

  • Boy* meets girl*.
  • Boy loses girl
  • Boy gets girl and they live happily ever after

*”boy”/”girl” – young human** male/female***
**for certain values of “human”
***for certain values of “male” or “female”

In earlier works we have met vampires, ogres, gods, demons, angels, and more.  “Mollusk” features a number of extra-terrestrials, as well as a variety of non-human Earthlings.  But, as usual, most of them are interesting and sympathetic characters, even the villains and berserk killing machines.

I’m not going to summarize the plot or analyze the book any more than this.  Analysis of popular fiction is not my way.  The point is:  I found it fun to read, and I enjoyed his other books.  Take that for what it may be worth.

‘Nuff said.