Design a site like this with
Get started

Book Review: This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth

Title: This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends

Author: Nicole Perlroth

Genre: Nonfiction

Subgenre: Science/Technology


Zero day: a software bug that allows a hacker to break into your devices and move around undetected. One of the most coveted tools in a spy’s arsenal, a zero day has the power to silently spy on your iPhone, dismantle the safety controls at a chemical plant, alter an election, and shut down the electric grid (just ask Ukraine).

For decades, under cover of classification levels and non-disclosure agreements, the United States government became the world’s dominant hoarder of zero days. U.S. government agents paid top dollar-first thousands, and later millions of dollars- to hackers willing to sell their lock-picking code and their silence.

Then the United States lost control of its hoard and the market.

Now those zero days are in the hands of hostile nations and mercenaries who do not care if your vote goes missing, your clean water is contaminated, or our nuclear plants melt down.

Filled with spies, hackers, arms dealers, and a few unsung heroes, written like a thriller anda reference, This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends is an astonishing feat of journalism. Based on years of reporting and hundreds of interviews, The New York Times reporter Nicole Perlroth lifts the curtain on a market in shadow, revealing the urgent threat faced by us all if we cannot bring the global cyber arms race to heel.

My Review

Most people are vaguely aware that cybersecurity threats have been a significant problem since the internet became ubiquitous for global commerce and communication. But I’d argue that few people are aware of just how significant those threats are, how much damage they’ve done in recent years, and how much they’ll likely do in years to come.

Largely because a lot of the literature available regarding cybersecurity topics is either steeped in scientific jargon that makes it difficult for lay people to understand, or because the truth of the matter is obscured by articles with doom-and-gloom clickbait titles whose bodies are lacking in substance.

Well, if you’ve been looking for a good resource to learn about the history of the global cybersecurity arms race—or even if you’ve just been mildly interested in learning a bit about how hackers and their lot might threaten you in the imminent future—look no further. In This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends, Nicole Perlroth describes, specifically in lay terms, the in-depth history of cybersecurity. And cyberwarfare.

Covering everything from the Snowden NSA leaks to the Russian cyberattack that brought Ukraine to its knees to Stuxnet and beyond, Perlroth provides a highly detailed look into the ways that private companies, solo hackers, and national governments alike have fueled the development of a competitive cyber arms race over the preceding two decades.

Weaved around a personal narrative about the roadblocks and successes Perlroth encountered while trying to gather the information critical to writing this book—much of it gleamed from government insiders—is a terrifying series of stories about state-sanctioned cyberattacks on enemy nations, cyber infiltration of critical infrastructure systems, and the arrogant refusal of both government entities and private enterprises to focus on cyber-defense instead of offense.

Overall, this book presents a very chilling picture of a globally connected online environment, one that controls everything from healthcare systems to banking, that sits on the verge of all-out cyberwarfare. And if, like many people, most major aspects of your life include some element that relies on the internet, then it would do you well to learn just what sorts of cyber-based dangers are ready and waiting to strike.

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends is a long haul, for sure—it’s a whopper of a book—but it tells a story, and gives fair warnings, that are vitally important to the average person’s everyday modern life.


Rating: 4 out of 5.


My Most Anticipated Books of June

1.) Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s magical bloodline horrifies her. She wants out, whatever the cost.

So when a shadowy faction approaches Elfreda with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Sisterhood, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.

A phantasmagorical indictment of hereditary power, Star Eater takes readers deep into a perilous and uncanny world where even the most powerful women are forced to choose what sacrifices they will make, so that they might have any choice at all.

2.) The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

Exiled by her despotic brother, princess Malini spends her days dreaming of vengeance while imprisoned in the Hirana: an ancient cliffside temple that was once the revered source of the magical deathless waters but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
The secrets of the Hirana call to Priya. But in order to keep the truth of her past safely hidden, she works as a servant in the loathed regent’s household, biting her tongue and cleaning Malini’s chambers.
But when Malini witnesses Priya’s true nature, their destines become irrevocably tangled. One is a ruthless princess seeking to steal a throne. The other a powerful priestess seeking to save her family. Together, they will set an empire ablaze.

3.) After the Fall by Ben Rhodes

In 2017, as Ben Rhodes was helping Barack Obama begin his next chapter, the legacy they had worked to build for eight years was being taken apart. To understand what was happening in America, Rhodes decided to look outward. Over the next three years, he traveled to dozens of countries, meeting with politicians, activists, and dissidents confronting the same nationalism and authoritarianism that was tearing America apart. Along the way, a Russian opposition leader he spoke with was poisoned, the Hong Kong protesters he came to know saw their movement snuffed out, and America itself reached the precipice of losing democracy before giving itself a second chance.

Part memoir and part reportage, After the Fall is a hugely ambitious and essential work of discovery. In his travels, Rhodes comes to realize how much America’s fingerprints are on a world we helped to shape, through our post–Cold War embrace of unbridled capitalism and our post-9/11 nationalism and militarism; our mania for technology and social media; and the racism that fueled the backlash to America’s first Black president. At the same time, Rhodes learns from the stories of a diverse set of characters—from Barack Obama himself to Cuban rebels to a rising generation of international leaders—that looking squarely at where America has gone wrong makes clear how essential it is to fight for what America is supposed to be, for our own country and the entire world.

4.) Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come rising to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.

5.) Girl One by Sara Flannery Murphy

Josephine Morrow is Girl One, the first of nine “Miracle Babies” conceived without male DNA, raised on an experimental commune known as the Homestead. When a suspicious fire destroys the commune and claims the lives of two of the Homesteaders, the remaining Girls and their Mothers scatter across the United States and lose touch.

Years later, Margaret Morrow goes missing, and Josie sets off on a desperate road trip, tracking down her estranged sisters who seem to hold the keys to her mother’s disappearance. Tracing the clues Margaret left behind, Josie joins forces with the other Girls, facing down those who seek to eradicate their very existence while uncovering secrets about their origins and unlocking devastating abilities they never knew they had.

A spellbinding supernatural thriller, Girl One combines the provocative imagination of Naomi Alderman’s The Power with the propulsive, cinematic storytelling of a Marvel movie. In her electrifying new novel, Sara Flannery Murphy digs deep into women’s extraordinary power and reveals an unassailable truth: so much strength lies in numbers.

6.) When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson

Here, in the last sanctuary for the dying embers of the human race in a world run by artificial intelligence, if you stray from the path…

…your life is forfeit.

But when a Party propagandist is killed – and is discovered as a “machine” – he’s given a new mission:

Chaperone the widow, Lily, who has arrived to claim her husband’s remains.

But when South sees that she, the first “machine” ever allowed into the country, bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife, he’s thrown into a maelstrom of betrayal, murder, and conspiracy that may bring down the Republic for good.

7.) The Perfect Police State by Geoffrey Cain

Blocked from facts and truth, under constant surveillance, surrounded by a hostile alien police force: Xinjiang’s Uyghur population has become a cursed, oppressed, outcast population. Most citizens cannot discern between enemy and friend. Social trust has been destroyed systematically. Friends betray each other, bosses snitch on employees, teachers expose their students, and children turn on their parents. Everyone is dependent on a government that nonetheless treats them with suspicion and contempt. Welcome to the Perfect Police State.
Using the haunting story of one young woman’s attempt to escape the vicious technological dystopia, his own reporting from Xinjiang, and extensive firsthand testimony from exiles, Geoffrey Cain reveals the extraordinary intrusiveness and power of the tech surveillance giants and the chilling implications for all our futures.  

Book Review: The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan

Title: The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

Author: Dan Egan

Genre: Nonfiction

Subgenre: Science/Environmental


The Great Lakes—Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior—hold 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water and provide sustenance, work, and recreation for tens of millions of Americans. But they are under threat as never before, and their problems are spreading across the continent. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is prize-winning reporter Dan Egan’s compulsively readable portrait of an ecological catastrophe happening right before our eyes, blending the epic story of the lakes with an examination of the perils they face and the ways we can restore and preserve them for generations to come.

My Review

I’ve read several books about pandemics and global warming and what not over the past couple of years, but when I spotted The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, I realized that I hadn’t read much of anything about America’s important bodies of water and how pollution, global warming, and other human-related activities have been affecting them in recent decades. So I decided to give this book a read.

The book follows the downright tragic mismanagement of the Great Lakes over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, which caused numerous, repeated collapses of native fish species and continue to have serious repercussions for the Lakes today. From building canals to reversing the flow of the Chicago River, from introducing salmon to the Lakes on purpose to introducing ocean mussels by accident, humans have inadvertently upset the delicate ecology of the Great Lakes over and over.

I honestly had no idea just how much damage people had done to the Great Lakes until I read this book, as I live on the East Coast and have never been anywhere near that region of the country. But the important lessons that this book teaches about the delicate nature of America’s waterways and the repercussions of destroying their natural food chains are applicable to far more than the Lakes themselves.

For example, I live near the Chesapeake Bay, which has suffered its own innumerable manmade issues over the years—and this book gave me a much better understanding of why those issues have such far-reaching consequences.

If you’re the sort of person who’s concerned about the environment, but you haven’t done much, or any, reading about America’s important bodies of water, I’d highly suggest you read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Network Effect by Martha Wells

Title: Network Effect

Author: Martha Wells

Genre: Science Fiction

Subgenre: Space Opera


You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

My Review

Reading a Murderbot book in one sitting wasn’t much of a challenge when they were just novellas, but Network Effect is the first Murderbot novel—so I ended up sitting in one spot for so long, eyes glued to the page, that my muscles were stiff by the time I finally moved.

Because, I mean, how could you possibly put down a Murderbot book before you finish it?

Like all the preceding Murderbot stories, Network Effect is one continuous barrage of action and adventure interrupted only by Muderbot’s hilarious and earnest moments of introspection.

Set after the conclusion of Exit Strategy, the fourth novella, this novels begins with Murderbot finally living a peaceful existence in the Preservation…

Just kidding.

While Murderbot is staying with Dr. Mensah and all the other friends it made during its earlier adventures, it’s still acting as security on dangerous missions. But this time, Murderbot is acting of its volition, and protecting people that it actually likes (though it’s loath to admit as much). So when someone—or rather, something—brazenly kidnaps one of Murderbot’s new friends, the war is on.

Pretty much the only difference between this novel and the novellas is that the extra pages allowed for a more complicated plot, with several more twists and turns than it was possible for Wells to fit in the novellas. And I personally found this to be an improvement from the novellas, because I always love a good mystery element—that is, I like to be kept guessing at where the plot is heading next—no matter the primary genre.

What might be a con for some readers is that there are very few lulls in the action of this book, particularly in the second half; I know that some people get worn out from nearly continuous action sequences with little breathing room between them. I am not one of those people, however, especially when a book’s narrator is as amusing as Murderbot.

So, for me, Network Effect gets another top-notch rating.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Book Review: Dreamland by Sam Quinones

Title: Dreamland

Author: Sam Quinones

Genre: Nonfiction

Subgenre: Medical/Crime


In 1929, in the blue-collar city of Portsmouth, Ohio, a company built a swimming pool the size of a football field; named Dreamland, it became the vital center of the community. Now, addiction has devastated Portsmouth, as it has hundreds of small rural towns and suburbs across America–addiction like no other the country has ever faced. How that happened is the riveting story of Dreamland.

With a great reporter’s narrative skill and the storytelling ability of a novelist, acclaimed journalist Sam Quinones weaves together two classic tales of capitalism run amok whose unintentional collision has been catastrophic. The unfettered prescribing of pain medications during the 1990s reached its peak in Purdue Pharma’s campaign to market OxyContin, its new, expensive–extremely addictive–miracle painkiller. Meanwhile, a massive influx of black tar heroin–cheap, potent, and originating from one small county on Mexico’s west coast, independent of any drug cartel–assaulted small town and mid-sized cities across the country, driven by a brilliant, almost unbeatable marketing and distribution system. Together these phenomena continue to lay waste to communities from Tennessee to Oregon, Indiana to New Mexico.

Introducing a memorable cast of characters–pharma pioneers, young Mexican entrepreneurs, narcotics investigators, survivors, and parents–Quinones shows how these tales fit together. Dreamland is a revelatory account of the corrosive threat facing America and its heartland.

My Review

There are a lot important sociopolitical issues in the United States that have made headlines over the past decade, but one of the most devastating has been the sharp rise in drug addiction related to opiates and heroin that has caused widespread tragedy all across America, particularly in midwestern and Appalachian areas that have never experienced widespread drug issues before.

In Dreamland, Sam Quinones chronicles the two-sided issue that led to this catastrophe: the surge in opiate painkiller prescriptions driven by paper-thin research and heavy marketing campaigns by pharmaceutical companies, and the creeping spread of easily accessibly black tar heroin across the country, driven by an ever-expanding network of dealers from one specific region of Mexico.

Throughout the book, Quinones alternates between explaining how the heroin dealers penetrated different areas of the country—and how law enforcement was painfully slow to catch on, because these particular dealers used new, innovative drug sales tactics—and how the use of opiates grew so widespread that addiction rates exploded in the 90s and early 2000s.

Amid the factual information are numerous stories of personal tragedies—parents who lost children to overdoses, people whose lives were ruined by heroin use, etc.—which add a great deal of intimate depth to what could otherwise be a rather dry story of medical research mishaps and somewhat repetitive tales of heroin dealer cells.

That said, I did have a persistent issue with the book: it continually jumps between the three different perspectives, inserting what, at times, feel like random anecdotes about personal loss in between more academic-sounding sections on the systemic issues within the American healthcare system and criminal cases pursued against the various heroin dealers.

Overall, I found Dreamland extremely informative—I only had vague knowledge of the underlying issues that led to the opiate epidemic—but it wasn’t the most enthralling or coherent read for me.


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Book Review: The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

Title: The Shock Doctrine

Author: Naomi Klein

Genre: Nonfiction

Subgenre: Politics/Economics


In her groundbreaking reporting, Naomi Klein introduced the term “disaster capitalism.” Whether covering Baghdad after the U.S. occupation, Sri Lanka in the wake of the tsunami, or New Orleans post-Katrina, she witnessed something remarkably similar. People still reeling from catastrophe were being hit again, this time with economic “shock treatment,” losing their land and homes to rapid-fire corporate makeovers.

The Shock Doctrine retells the story of the most dominant ideology of our time, Milton Friedman’s free market economic revolution. In contrast to the popular myth of this movement’s peaceful global victory, Klein shows how it has exploited moments of shock and extreme violence in order to implement its economic policies in so many parts of the world from Latin America and Eastern Europe to South Africa, Russia, and Iraq.

At the core of disaster capitalism is the use of cataclysmic events to advance radical privatization combined with the privatization of the disaster response itself. Klein argues that by capitalizing on crises, created by nature or war, the disaster capitalism complex now exists as a booming new economy, and is the violent culmination of a radical economic project that has been incubating for fifty years.

My Review

Some nonfiction books infuriate you because they’re terribly written or poorly researched. Some nonfiction books infuriate you because they’re well-written and well-researched—and because the topics they detail are so well drawn that you can’t help but feel genuine anger over the injustice of the situations described.

The Shock Doctrine falls into the latter category.

Starting with the rash of military coups in South America in the 70s and continuing all the way up to the Iraq war in the early 2000s, The Shock Doctrine describes in stark and horrifying detail the manner in which unbridled capitalist enterprise has repeatedly taken advantage of political unrest and disaster situations in order to expand multinational businesses and plunder the natural resources of numerous nations for profit—and almost entirely at the expense of average people just trying to live average lives.

The book describes in depth the ways in which big business interests have repeatedly obstructed or subverted democracy in order to push extreme capitalist agendas onto unwilling people, with terrifying and tragic results, including:

1) mass abductions, disappearances, torture, imprisonment, and straight-up murder,
2) mass increases in poverty and income inequality,
3) loss of public ownership over important national resources through privatization initiatives, and
4) the development of entire industries based around funneling public funds into private war machines and government contractors painted as “security and disaster relief” organizations.

Part history book, part economic criticism, and part political diatribe, The Shock Doctrine describes plainly the myriad injustices that have been visited upon the innocent populations of multiple countries in the preceding decades in the names of “freedom” and “free trade.” So if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like reading books that make you angry, this is perhaps not the book for you.

On the other hand, if you have a keen interest in learning why so many countries in South America (and elsewhere) are struggling today with such extreme income inequality and other sociopolitical and socioeconomic issues, then you’ll definitely want to give this one a read.

This book is absolutely infuriating—and extremely important.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

Title: The Black God’s Drums

Author: P. Djèlí Clark

Genre: Fantasy

Subgenre: Alternate History


In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air–in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.

Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight Robber are pulled into a perilous mission aimed to stop the Black God’s Drums from being unleashed and wiping out the entirety of New Orleans.

My Review

I’ve been a big fan of P. Djèlí Clark since reading his short, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, last year, and I’m absolutely elated about the upcoming release of his first full novel, A Master of Djinn, set in the same universe as the short story.

Since there’s still a few more days until A Master of Djinn comes out, I decided to pick up another one of his short works, The Black God’s Drums.

This short follows a young woman named Jacqueline—nicknamed Creeper—an orphan who lives on the streets of New Orleans in an alternate universe where the Union and the Confederacy are still at each other’s throats at the turn of the 20th century, New Orleans won its freedom from the South, people fly around in airships, and the African gods are entirely real beings who partially possess certain people.

Though this is a short work, Clark manages to weave in an impressive amount of world-building while laying down a fast-paced, action-packed plot that involves kidnapping, godly weapons, and airship rescues. Clark also draws an excellent picture of Jacqueline’s backstory in a way that plays directly into the main plot and gives her a fully developed personality despite the book’s length.

I can’t say I have any significant gripes with the plot, characterization, world-building, pacing, or any other major aspect of the book—unless you count “I wish it was longer” as an issue. The world presented in the story is so fascinating that I’d love to read a full-length novel with the same setting.

Alas, I’ll have to be satisfied with this for now, while Clark works on expanding his Dead Djinn universe.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.