The Startup Wife

Read The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam

Meet Asha Ray.

Brilliant coder and possessor of a Pi tattoo, Asha is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones.

Cyrus inspires Asha to write a new algorithm. Before she knows it, she’s abandoned her PhD program, they’ve exchanged vows, and gone to work at an exclusive tech incubator called Utopia.

The platform creates a sensation, with millions of users seeking personalized rituals every day. Will Cyrus and Asha’s marriage survive the pressures of sudden fame, or will she become overshadowed by the man everyone is calling the new messiah?

A fun novel with a surprisingly relatable protagonist (and a perfect « love to hate him » asshole of a boyfriend) for the enthusiastic yet very tired startupper that I am. This is a win for my The Storygraph account, as I got the recommendation from their algorithm (and it was pushy about it, too!).

Brotherless Night

Read Brotherless night : a novel by V.V. Ganeshananthan

Jaffna, 1981. Sixteen-year-old Sashi wants to become a doctor. But over the next decade, a vicious civil war tears through her home, and her dream spins off course as she sees her four beloved brothers and their friend K swept up in the mounting violence. Desperate to act, Sashi accepts K’s invitation to work as a medic at a field hospital for the militant Tamil Tigers, who, following years of state discrimination and violence, are fighting for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. But after the Tigers murder one of her teachers and Indian peacekeepers arrive only to commit further atrocities, Sashi begins to question where she stands. When one of her medical school professors, a Tamil feminist and dissident, invites her to join a secret project documenting human rights violations, she embarks on a dangerous path that will change her forever.

I’ve been on a big of a Sri Lankan binge (…3 novels, but that’s 3 more than usual) recently, and Sashi’s story of becoming a field medic in the middle of the civil war was my favourite of the three. Brotherless Night is an excellent book that got my attention and broke my heart a…

Filterworld: how algorithms flattened culture

Read Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture by Kyle Chayka

From trendy restaurants to city grids, to TikTok and Netflix feeds the world round, algorithmic recommendations dictate our experiences and choices. The algorithm is present in the familiar neon signs and exposed brick of Internet cafes, be it in Nairobi or Portland, and the skeletal, modern furniture of Airbnbs in cities big and small. Over the last decade, this network of mathematically determined decisions has taken over, almost unnoticed—informing the songs we listen to, the friends with whom we stay in touch—as we’ve grown increasingly accustomed to our insipid new normal.

This ever-tightening web woven by algorithms is called “Filterworld.” Kyle Chayka shows us how online and offline spaces alike have been engineered for seamless consumption, becoming a source of pervasive anxiety in the process. Users of technology have been forced to contend with data-driven equations that try to anticipate their desires—and often get them wrong. What results is a state of docility that allows tech companies to curtail human experiences—human lives—for profit. But to have our tastes, behaviors, and emotions governed by computers, while convenient, does nothing short of call the very notion of free will into question.

I found out about this book through an article by The Guardian that copied an extract from it, and I’m planning on eventually posting my full reading notes here eventually. The idea of « flat culture » really captivated me and I could recognize it easily, being used to international travel for work and seeing…

La Vérité sort de la bouche du cheval

Read La vérité sort de la bouche du cheval by Meryem Alaoui

Jmiaa, prostituée de Casablanca, vit seule avec sa fille. Femme au fort caractère et à l’esprit vif, elle n’a pas la langue dans sa poche pour décrire le monde qui l’entoure : son amoureux Chaïba, brute épaisse et sans parole, ou Halima, sa comparse dépressive qui lit le Coran entre deux clients, ou encore Mouy, sa mère à la moralité implacable qui semble tout ignorer de l’activité de sa fille. Mais voici qu’arrive une jeune femme, Chadlia, dite « Bouche de cheval », qui veut réaliser son premier film sur la vie de ce quartier de Casa. Elle cherche une actrice…

Dans La Vérité sort de la bouche du cheval, on suit une prostituée marocaine et ses aventures infernales. Elle nous parle, sans patience ni douceur, de ses amies, de sa fille, de ses clients et de son maquereau. Elle est drôle et franche et d’une violence sans fard, et ce qui nous plaît dans la rédaction…

a calculated risk

Read A Calculated Risk by Cari Hunter

Detective Jo Shaw has it all worked out. She’s good at her job, she has loads of mates, and she likes being single. She doesn’t need complications, but an emergency call to the stabbing of a young woman brings plenty of those. Jo has to risk her career to save the woman’s life, and a bad night gets worse when the trauma surgeon turns out to be Isla Munro, Jo’s only real love, who walked out on her fifteen years ago and never came back.

With the victim’s children missing and the husband the prime suspect, Jo’s investigation is stonewalled by a community living in fear. As one dead end leads to another, she and Isla are forced to put their differences aside and work together. But the case is far more dangerous than Jo realizes, and her determination to sort the truth from the lies may put her own life on the line.

Big twist and likeable characters (after a disastrous start from our cop protagonist) in this queer crime novel. It doesn’t reinvent the genre: it does everything we want it to do, but it does it well, with some romance on the side. well done.

western lane

Read Western Lane by Chetna Maroo

Eleven-year-old Gopi has been playing squash since she was old enough to hold a racket. When her mother dies, her father enlists her in a quietly brutal training regimen, and the game becomes her world. Slowly, she grows apart from her sisters. Her life is reduced to the sport, guided by its rhythms: the serve, the volley, the drive, the shot and its echo.

But on the court, she is not alone. She is with her pa. She is with Ged, a thirteen-year-old boy with his own formidable talent. She is with the players who have come before her. She is in awe.

Western Lane is a short novel that uses the pretext of competitive sports to touch upon matters of grief and identity. It was a beautiful and haunting read, following a child poised to become a squash champion after the death of her mother; her father, obsessed with squash, and herself go all-in on the sport…

le rêve du pêcheur

Read Le rêve du pêcheur by Hemley Boum

Zack a fui le Cameroun à dix-huit ans, abandonnant sa mère, Dorothée, à son sort et à ses secrets. Devenu psychologue clinicien à Paris, marié et père de famille, il est rattrapé par le passé alors que la vie qu’il s’est construite prend l’eau de toutes parts… À quelques décennies de là, son grand-père Zacharias, pêcheur dans un petit village côtier, voit son mode de vie traditionnel bouleversé par une importante compagnie forestière. Il rêve d’un autre avenir pour les siens…

Zachary a abandonné son Cameroun natal et toute sa famille pour venir étudier la psychologie à Nanterre, en région parisienne. Il s’intègre bien. Il a une copine métisse d’origine martiniquaise, mais ça se passe mal : il n’est pas assez conscient du racisme systémique aux yeux de sa copine, elle est trop énervée et radicale…

never let me go

Read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.

Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

Never Let Me Go is a classic of the dystopia genre. It’s quiet, soft, heart-wrenching. There’s not a lot going on in there, to the point that the novel, no matter how horrible its premise, feels quite cozy at times. Knowing the main twist may have made it less memorable for me, or maybe it’s…

The Rachel Incident

Read The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue

Rachel is a student working at a bookstore when she meets James, and it’s love at first sight. Effervescent and insistently heterosexual, James soon invites Rachel to be his roommate and the two begin a friendship that changes the course of both their lives forever. Together, they run riot through the streets of Cork city, trying to maintain a bohemian existence while the threat of the financial crash looms before them.

When Rachel falls in love with her married professor, Dr. Fred Byrne, James helps her devise a reading at their local bookstore, with the goal that she might seduce him afterwards. But Fred has other desires. So begins a series of secrets and compromises that intertwine the fates of James, Rachel, Fred, and Fred’s glamorous, well-connected, bourgeois wife. Aching with unrequited love, shot through with delicious, sparkling humor, The Rachel Incident is a triumph.

Everyone seems to agree that The Rachel Incident is a funny novel. I don’t get it. I couldn’t stop reading The Rachel Incident. It was gripping and relatable and I felt the confusion and despair and hope of our young trio – because, as much as the narrator wants to tell us otherwise, Carey is…

where the dead sleep

Read Where the Dead Sleep by Joshua Moehling

When an early morning call brings Deputy Ben Packard to the scene of a home invasion, he finds Bill Sandersen shot in his bed. Bill was a well-liked local who chased easy money his whole life, leaving bad debts and broken hearts in his wake. Everyone Packard talks to has a story about Bill, but no one has a clear motive for wanting him dead. The business partner. The ex-wife. The current wife. The high-stakes poker buddies. Any of them–or none of them–could be guilty.
As the investigation begins, tragedy strikes the Sheriff’s department, forcing Packard to make a difficult choice about his future: step down as acting Sheriff and pursue the quiet life he came to Sandy Lake in search of, or subject himself to the scrutiny of an election for the full-time role of Sheriff, a job he’s not sure he wants.

I got Where the dead sleep because it was part of the Lambda Literary shortlist, without realizing that it’s book 2 of a series of which I read the first book. I realized that when I saw my own review of Book 1 on The Storygraph from a while ago (when I still said ACAB):…