January Reading Update

Since I set my reading goals pretty high for 2023, I thought it might be interesting to check in at the end of each month to see how I did. For January, I had hoped to read these 9 books (which was also a completely unrealistic goal for me):

So – how did I do? I finished reading and reviewed 4 of these:

As for the others, I have literally 49 minutes left in the audiobook for The Lady of the Lake, the final book in The Witcher Saga, so I should finish that one today. I’m really curious but also anxious and a little scared to see how the series ends because of lines like this:

Because a story where the decent ones die and the scoundrels live and carry on doing what they want is full of shit.

– Geralt of Rivia

I have also started volume 2 of The Sandman graphic novel by Neil Gaiman. I had expected this to be a faster read, but the second installment is significantly longer than the first one.

I also started The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan, but I don’t expect to have time to finish that one until at least next week. I have to say that it was nice to jump back into The Wheel of Time and refresh my mind about where the story left off with all the characters.

I did not have time to start Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales or the audiobook of Season of Storms (a Witcher series prequel), but those will be my next reads as I start off February.

What else is on my list for Februrary? Nine more books!

I’m planning to get back to reading all of the Dune series written by Frank Herbert with God Emperor of Dune. I have two books on my list for book clubs: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (an author new to me).

Perilous Times by Thomas D. Lee is a new release that I obtained courtesy of NetGalley, while The Middling Affliction by Alex Shvartsman is a novel that I helped support via Kickstarter, written by a local author friend of mine. I have previously reviewed his earlier novel, Eridani’s Crown (review here).

I enjoyed the first book in Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series (A Deadly Education) so much that I need to finish that series with The Last Graduate and The Golden Enclaves. And lastly, I’m planning to read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo in audiobook format because I need to expand my knowledge of the Grishaverse.

Otherwise, my computer is limping along but takes about 10 minutes to start up. I should probably start shopping for a new system. And… I have just started a fitness challenge (week 1) and I have a fencing competition in Manhattan this weekend so I’m staying busy!

How are your reading goals going for 2023 so far? Have you read anything really good yet? Let me know in the comments (above).

Story Available in Podcast

I wanted to take a short break from book reviews to mention that my latest published story has been produced as a podcast from Utopia Science Fiction Magazine. You can find the episode on You Tube here.

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This story is called Selection Error and was inspired by an article on human error that I read in an aviation magazine. I took the different types of errors mentioned in the article, put them into an autonomous rover, and set the story on the Jovian moon Io.

My initial version of the story had some experimental sections written in second person, but that point-of-view didn’t fit well in the final version. The story is short (about 6:30) and is followed by an episode about exploring art in science fiction.

The entire podcast is worth a listen and covers topics from Salvador Dali, to AI art creation, to making art in a VR space. If you enjoy it, check out the Utopia Science Fiction Magazine patreon here. All of the podcast episodes are on their You Tube channel here.

Did you take a listen? Let me know what you think in the comments (above).

Book Review – Noor

This is my first book review of 2023! I’m going to prioritize reviewing the books I have most recently read and then backfill with reviews of books read in 2022 when I don’t have anything else ready to go.

This review is for Noor by Nnedi Okorafor and is the second book that I’ve read by this author. I previously reviewed Binti here. Unlike Binti, which is a collection of shorter linked stories, Noor is a full novel.

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Here is the blurb:

Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt…natural, and that’s putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was wrong. But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.

Once on the run, she meets a Fulani herdsman named DNA and the race against time across the deserts of Northern Nigeria begins. In a world where all things are streamed, everyone is watching the reckoning of the murderess and the terrorist and the saga of the wicked woman and mad man unfold. This fast-paced, relentless journey of tribe, destiny, body, and the wonderland of technology revels in the fact that the future sometimes isn’t so predictable. Expect the unaccepted.


I liked this novel, but I think I was more engaged overall by the story in Binti. Our protagonist in this tale, AO, has her world changed after a sudden violent event sends her on the run. Yet she is far from helpless since she has been equipped with three cybernetic limbs and other internal modifications as a result of birth defects and additional trauma earlier in her life. She meets DNA, a nomadic shepherd, in the northern desert and recognizes him as a a fellow outsider. Their efforts to escape additional persecution are thwarted and they must keep fleeing the authorities in a world overseen by nearly omniscient corporations.

One reason why I wanted to read this book was because I knew that it was set in Africa and that the author was also of Nigerian descent and I try to read books with a variety of cultural influences. I just read more about the author before writing this and discovered that she was also paralyzed due to medical complications when she was a teenager, but eventually regained the ability to walk, which makes her choice to have AO disabled in a similar fashion in her backstory more personal.

The opening of this book grabbed my attention right away and the protagonists are easily made sympathetic as the victims of terrible situations. The near future technology was well-imagined and integral to the plot. The themes of corporate greed, privacy, and climate change are also laced into the story.

One small aspect of this story that I really enjoyed was how much DNA valued his remaining cattle, taking his steer along with them on the entire journey. They are so much a part of his way of life that he would never consider leaving them behind.

I did think that the ending of the book was a little rushed, but I also don’t want to give spoilers here so I’m not going to go into detail on that. But it was an overall enjoyable and pretty quick read and I’ll probably pick up something else by the author in the future.

Have you read Noor or any other book by Nnedi Okorafor? Did the setting entrance you or put you off? Let me know in the comments (above).

Find more of my reviews here.

Books to Read in 2023

I like to start my reading year by updating my Goodreads lists with all the books I want to read for the year ahead. Usually this means taking the list from the previous year and pushing it over into the next one since I never get everything read that I had wanted to.

This is how I started my plan for 2023, but there were just too many books! I solved this problem by creating lists for 2024 and 2025, and then rolling some books onto those. For the rest of my 2023 choices, I am continuing a past theme of trying to finish some series. Of course, I tend to start a lot of new series, so this keeps the list continuously growing.

In the end, here is a graphic of all the books I’m hoping to read in 2023:

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Looking at overall numbers, last year I read 39 books from my Goodreads goal of 89. That was 44% of my goal. For this year, I’m not backing down! I set my goal for 100 books for 2023. My current 2023 list stands at around 90, so I can even add a few more.

To break that goal down, I’ll need to read 8.3 books per month, or roughly 2 per week to meet that goal. I’ve already picked out the first month of books I’m planning to read and these are my January choices:

I’m already a third of the way in to The Lady of the Lake, the final book in The Witcher series, and I’ve been listening to these as audiobooks. I also have Season of Storms queued up next for audio – this is a prequel in The Witcher universe.

I’d like to read more graphic novels this year, so I’ve put Demon in the Wood on here as a stand alone from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, and then the next volume of The Sandman (vol. 2) since I just finished volume 1. Noor is for a book club discussion in about 2.5 weeks so I started to read that yesterday. I need to get back to my read-through of The Wheel of Time, so I stuck the next book (#4 – The Shadow Rising) on here for January.

For the rest of these, I’ve been staring at Stephen King’s recent release – Fairy tale – since I picked it up at NY Comic-Con a few months ago. It is a longer book, but likely a fast read. Since I also just finished a re-read of The Silmarillion last year, I’d like to continue working my way through the less well-known Tolkien stories, so Unfinished Tales is up next.

The last one on here (Never Say You Can’t Survive) is a series of essays by Charlie Jane Anders about how to write when the world is seemingly falling apart. I grabbed a copy at an earlier NY Comic-Con (2021?). I started this book yesterday and I think it may provide a helpful perspective to get my fiction writing back on track for 2023.

Forging further ahead from January, I’m excited to get back to the Dune series, NK Jemisin’s The World We Make, the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal, and the second two books in the Scholomance by Naomi Novik.

Lastly, I just received my first backer reward from Brandon Sanderson’s secret projects where he confessed to writing a ridiculous number of extra books during his pandemic confinement. The first one is Tress of the Emerald Sea and seems to have an interesting premise.

What are your reading plans for 2023? Have you read any of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments (above).

New Fiction Out This Week

I have a new science fiction short story out this week in Utopia Science Fiction! Selection Error is a short piece that was an experiment in using a different writing style. The idea for the story came to me after reading a short article about human error in an aviation magazine. I applied it to a remote rover exploring the moon of Io, and Selection Error took shape.

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You can read Selection Error by subscribing to the magazine’s Patreon here or just the current issue directly on this page.

I’m currently working on a couple of new short stories while writing random scenes for a new novel idea. I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo officially, but I’m trying to up my word count in general for November.

Find more of my fiction here.

Book Review – Children of Dune

I’m slowly continuing my goal to read all six Dune books written by the original author, Frank Herbert. Children of Dune is the third in the series and takes up the story of Paul Atreides’ twin children. I had previously watched SyFy’s television miniseries based around this book, but didn’t remember most of that as I read the events in this book.

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Here is the blurb:

The Children of Dune are twin siblings Leto and Ghanima Atreides, whose father, the Emperor Paul Muad’Dib, disappeared in the desert wastelands of Arrakis nine years ago. Like their father, the twins possess supernormal abilities–making them valuable to their manipulative aunt Alia, who rules the Empire in the name of House Atreides.

Facing treason and rebellion on two fronts, Alia’s rule is not absolute. The displaced House Corrino is plotting to regain the throne while the fanatical Fremen are being provoked into open revolt by the enigmatic figure known only as The Preacher. Alia believes that by obtaining the secrets of the twins’ prophetic visions, she can maintain control over her dynasty.

But Leto and Ghanima have their own plans for their visions–and their destinies….


This book was… a lot. I did have some trouble getting through the middle, but in the end I did enjoy it. Leto and Ghanima each have their own stories, as well as Jessica, Duncan, Gurney, and Irulan. Minor spoilers below:

I feel like I only understood half of the philosophical aspects of this book and that I would need to re-read it again after finishing the series. Leto and Ghanima have a strange mysticism propelling their actions, and it was challenging to understand the depth of this while following the political intrigue of the story. I wanted more clarity about their visions and their internal struggles against Abomination. Another interesting facet was whether having foresight took away all the characters’ meaningful choices about their actions. Was their role in all of it predetermined by Paul’s earlier actions?

The Preacher is clearly Paul, but his character changed, and I wish I had seen more of that. I want to read about what he went through between walking into the desert at the end of Dune Messiah and the events of this book.

The ending of Children of Dune brings much of the story to a concrete ending. With three books to go, I’m not sure where Dune is going next. Book 4 is God Emperor of Dune!

Have you read Dune or the sequels? Please help me understand the metaphysical stuff. Let’s chat in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Friday

I had this book sitting in a box for a long time and had meant to read it, but having it as the pick for one of my book clubs finally forced me to get to it. Friday by Robert A. Heinlein is one of the author’s later works and seems to produce strong responses from readers.

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Here is the blurb:

Friday is a secret courier. She is employed by a man known to her only as “Boss.” Operating from and over a near-future Earth, in which North America has become Balkanized into dozens of independent states, where culture has become bizarrely vulgarized and chaos is the happy norm, she finds herself on shuttlecock assignment at Boss’ seemingly whimsical behest. From New Zealand to Canada, from one to another of the new states of America’s disunion, she keeps her balance nimbly with quick, expeditious solutions to one calamity and scrape after another.

I had thought this book would have more of a spy-thriller type of plot from that blurb. And while there are moments of that, it is more of a series of smaller capers and misadventures. The main story is about Friday’s struggle to belong, both to a family and to humankind. She is an artificial person – created from a test tube and a conglomeration of genetic material from which she cannot trace any particular parentage.

In the society of this world, artificial persons do not have the same rights as normal people, but also cannot be identified through any testing or experiences. Friday chooses to reveal her real nature to others at particular points in this book and faces the repercussions of that decision.

The opening of this book is also hard to read, featuring a gang rape. While it isn’t particularly graphic, Friday’s reaction to her rape is unusual and may be off-putting to many readers. I think that Heinlein was probably using this device to show how Friday truly isn’t human and can rationalize her way through the situation.

Heinlein’s portrayal of women is both innovative and problematic in this book. At the time of its publication, there weren’t many strong female protagonists in science fiction. So while I appreciate Heinlein trying to put a woman at the forefront of his story, in other ways he doesn’t quite get past the stereotypes of the time.

There is a lot to think about in this book and while I didn’t love it, I’m glad I read it. Have you read Friday or other novels by Heinlein? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Sea of Tranquility

I had not read any of Emily St. John Mandel’s books until just a couple of months ago. I picked up her newest release–Sea of Tranquility–as an audiobook and made my way through it quickly. While her books are linked thematically and through some of the characters, you can read them in any order. You can find my review of her earlier book, Station Eleven, here.

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Here is the blurb:

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal–an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.


While I didn’t like Sea of Tranquility as much as I did Station Eleven, it was still an intriguing story. Both books are told through different points in time, but Sea of Tranquility is actually about time travel. Like in Station Eleven, pandemics are also part of this story, and eventually the different viewpoint characters become interrelated through the actions of the time travelers.

I had a harder time getting into this book because I didn’t find the opening chapters as engaging as I did for Station Eleven. However, once the overall theme and story started to take a concrete shape, I found myself enjoying it more. I don’t want to spoil anything by giving too many details, but the book delves into concepts of what is real in our world and how people act when faced with knowledge of mortality.

The audiobook is narrated by an ensemble cast, featuring John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, and Kirsten Potter. This is always a little odd to me, as I seem to grow attached to one narrator for a book. One of the voice actors (Kirsten Potter) narrated Station Eleven, and I also enjoy John Lee’s narrations, having listened to several of his performances in the past.

Have you read Sea of Tranquility or any of Emily St. John Mandel’s other work? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Parable of the Sower

I read Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler at the same time I was reading Station Eleven (review here), a pairing that made for some strange parallels. Both books contain a near-future dystopia where the characters live under a constant threat of violence in a world plagued by scarcity and competition for resources.

This is the second book that I have read by Octavia Butler (the first was Kindred, which I have not reviewed yet but was one of the best books I read in 2021) and is the first in a series of two books known as the Parable (or Earthseed) series. At the time of her death, the author had been at work on a third book in this world. Parable of the Sower was nominated for a Nebula Award in 1995.

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Here is the blurb:

Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.

When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.


This is not a happy book, but Lauren Olamina somehow manages to persevere and exists in this story as a reluctant hero. Her struggles are chillingly realistic and believable. Her vision for an Earthseed community and an ultimate destiny for mankind is remarkable from where she begins.

While reading this book, I was surprised at how many of the themes — social inequality, drug abuse, climate change, authoritarianism, labor issues — are still relevant (and perhaps more relevant) today, almost 30 years after its publication.

Despite the grim themes, Parable of the Sower did paint a hopeful outlook for society. I enjoyed reading this novel and plan to continue on with the sequel soon.

Have you read any of Octavia Butler’s work? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Station Eleven

Station Eleven is the first book that I have read by Emily St. John Mandel and is the one that has been her most successful novel so far. I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Kirsten Potter. The book was a National Book Award finalist and was also adapted for a recent series on HBO Max.

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Here is the blurb:

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.


This was an odd book and is more literary than what I usually read. But despite being a bit out of my comfort zone, I did enjoy it. The opening chapter that describes Arthur Leander’s on-stage heart attack, and the segue into the outbreak of the Georgia flu, hooked my interest enough that when the story meandered to other characters, I remained engaged with the tale.

Station Eleven was published in 2014. After experiencing 2020 and the outbreak of COVID-19, the actions of people who were confronted with this fictional plague in Station Eleven were eerily true to how people behaved as the world shut down.

Through the book, the title’s Station Eleven graphic novel is developed by a secondary character and influences the rest of these linked people in their separate lives. This creation is described in a few short passages that contain such engaging details that I wish it truly existed so that I could read it as an adjunct work.

I’m currently the latest release by the same author – The Sea of Tranquility – so expect a review on that one soon.

Have you read Station Eleven? Have you watched the series? Let me know in the comments above. I will have to subscribe to HBO Max soon so that I can see it.

Find more of my book reviews here.

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