As you know, LiChess Tools is my own Chromium browser extension for, adding a lot of stuff to it. Recently, from version 2.2.0 on, I've added a new feature called Show Pawn Structures. This post explains in detail what it is, what it does and how it does it.

Pawn Structures

What is a pawn structure? The configuration of pawns on the chessboard. Because pawns are the least mobile of the chess pieces, the pawn structure is relatively static and thus plays a large role in determining the strategic character of the position. It is a powerful chess concept that is mostly ignored on amateur level and I've met 2000+ rated players who didn't know what that was. Not that I know, either, which is why I got so excited to build this feature because it would further chess understanding and learning. With different structures come medium term plans, so instead of having the opaque engine recommendations of making one move or another, you will have a general idea on where to take the game to.

The above is the chess definition of the concept, though. In order to work with it in an algorithm it has to be clearly defined. The difficulty here lies in the fact that while the pawn structure is "relatively static" its meaning is not. While you will be shown a specific pawn configuration in the context of a named structure, it would be implied that other similar configurations also belong. That similarity being not precise, but something nebulous related to the general ideas and themes that are made possible by the structure.

Feature requirements

The purpose of the feature is to determine the pawn structure of a position in either game analysis, analysis board, studies, TV games and mini-games (the things that appear when you hover on a playing user link or in the Current Games section), then display it, similar to the Show Opening feature. The reasoning here is that one can learn to classify positions and thus know the general plans that apply in the situation.

Technical details

There is a list of pawn structures that LiChess Tools supports. The list is at the end of this post. In order to the structure I created a textual representation of them, that looks something like this: 312100TX 0X0210 2020 XXLXXX XXXXXX XXXX. A bit daunting, but the most important part is the first group of characters: 312100TX.

The idea is that the first characters are the most significant, so similar pawn structures would start with the same letters and digits, even if they diverge later on. Based on the structures detailed by various books on the matter, I've considered that the position of the d-pawn is the most significant, followed by the e and c pawns, then the pawn majority on the White and Black sides, followed by the other pawns: f,b,g,a,h. The final part is doubled or triple pawns, which most of the time is irrelevant.

So let's get back to the complicated string above: 312100TX 0X0210 2020 XXLXXX XXXXXX XXXX (we will assume White board orientation)

  • 312 - my pawn position on the d,e,c files: d5 (3 squares forward), e3 (1 square), c4 (2 squares) - the possible characters for this group are X (missing pawn), 0 (unmoved pawn), 1,2,3 (squares the pawn is forward from its starting position)
  • 100 - their pawn position on the d,e,c files: d6, e7, c7
  • TX - the majority on the queenside and kingside: T (they) have majority on the queenside, and equality on the kingside - the possible characters for this group are M (me), T (them) or X (neither)
  • 0X0 - my pawn position for the f,b,g files
  • 210 - there pawn position for the f,b,g files
  • 20 - my pawn position for the a,h files
  • 20 - my pawn position for the a,h files
  • XXLXXX XXXXXX XXXX - similar to above groups, doubled or tripled pawns - X for no, L for yes

Most pawn structures are exclusively about the position of the c,d and e file pawns, therefore the first group of characters will be the most determining one. This may change in the future, perhaps, as better chess players than me will point out issues with this system, but for the moment this is how it works.

Based on this string we can compare the current pawn position to the one of the named pawn structures. There are three options in the Preferences for this feature:

  • Enabled - if this feature is on or off
  • Only named structures - will only display the named structures if enabled. If not, then the name will be displayed as the most significant group of characters in the structure representation. On mouseover, the title will show the entire thing as well as the most similar named structure found.
  • Fuzzy - if this feature is on, then a structure will be considered named if 90% similar to the standard one.

The feature will invert the structure and look for a name there if not found for your own orientation. If a name is found there, "(R)" will be added to the name. 

Note that the most named structures are represented by the most significant group only, and only several of them by the first two or three groups of characters. The rest is ignored.


Now, how do we compute the similarity? It's a work in progress, but at the moment it works like this:

  • the number of common characters on the same position from the beginning of the text are counted as 1
  • the number of other common characters on the same position (so after any position where the characters were different) are counted as 0.8
  • the number of positions where the current structure has pawns on squares that may allow moving them on the named structure square for that position (so where the value is numerical and smaller than the numerical value of the named structure) are counted as 0.2
  • the percentage of the resulting sum from the characters counted is returned as the result

Example: Carlsbad vs Slav
11100280 (8 denotes 0.8 and 2 denotes 0.2 here) = 4/8 = 50%

It may be that this is not the best way and it might be changed in the future.

List of structures

A small note on naming: different sources name these differently or don't recognize them as structures at all. I did what I could to give a short identifiable name to each position, but I think sooner or later I will have to restrict the number of names, rather than increase it. We'll see.

So here is the list of pawn structures recognized by LiChess Tools (v2.2.3):

The links above are also used in LiChess Tools and are mostly from Wikipedia, but also some approximations or just other random sites because there are no links for many of the Flores structures. I would be very happy if someone would help me clean these up.

Hope this explains everything. Enjoy!

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  I was hoping for a glorious ending for the Final Architecture series and I kind of got it. Everything goes sideways a dozen times and there is always the crew of the Vulture God to save the day. In that regard Adrian Tchaikovsky did not disappoint in Lords of Uncreation, the third and final book in the series.

  However! You knew there was going to be a however, didn't you? Have you ever got into a story where the main characters are kind of underdogs, struggling to achieve anything, but then in just a few jumps they battle Gods and win easily? It's that kind of story. And funnily enough, when it is all over, they all have to return to their mundane lives, regardless of how venerated, because death and taxes. That's always the clinch, the part that either makes you feel something is missing or that turns the main character into a villain, because why should they return to a menial existence?

  So in the end the series was really entertaining, but also a bit childish, with things happening exactly the way they should have so the story doesn't end in tears and characters making "moral choices" that only drag the resolution of conflicts into the future or risk and lose a lot more than decisive action. Whenever I finish stories like these I kind of dream of game like multiple endings based on which road the characters would have taken. The lack of true darkness in the book - or rather its occasionally surprising appearance and quick disappearance - robbed it of a lot of possible agency.

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If you are like me, you enjoy chess as a viewer, people sharing their experiences, games and traps and gambits and drama and all of that at the same time. If you are like me, you are addicted to YouTube. Hi, I am Siderite and I am an addict. Yet even the most manic consumer can't keep up with everything out there, so here is My List @2023 of TOP FUN YouTube channels related to chess.

Now, because I list them, I will have to define what fun means. Of course, it's MY fun. You might enjoy something else.

Also, I am a chess noob, so a channel like GM Daniel Naroditsky's (which in my opinion is the best chess channel out there or close to it) flies right over my head. Plus he makes one hour plus videos. Who has time to watch those at twice the speed?

Also twitch, live streams and all that jazz get really old really fast for me. I don't have the time and availability, plus it's a lot of talk. The amount of useful and/or fun information per unit of time is really low. So no.

What is left are charismatic people who are passionate about chess and present it in a way that is both concise and entertaining. And before I list them, let's all take a moment of silence for vampirechiken - may it rise from the dead - Jonathan Schrantz's personal YouTube channel which until recently has been mainly about chess and then suddenly was not. Zolpi, we miss you!

The contestants

OK, let's name our contestants, in no particular order. Then rank them for fun!

Daniel Naroditsky - GM Daniel Naroditsky is an amazingly smart guy. He is also nice and very articulated. His content is well structured, concise and cleared of unnecessary pauses. And yet he is almost always posting one hour and a half videos! Really great guy.

Eric Rosen - Eric Rosen is a very fun person, while also being reasonable, kind and very talented. This International Master of chess singlehandedly made the Stafford Gambit famous (well, again, after Stafford's YouTube channel lost a lot of viewers). Unfortunately, his video editor was also Jonathan Schrantz and, hopefully coincidentally, but I wouldn't hold my breath, the rate and quality of the videos decreased when that guy quit chess.

GothamChess - Talking of stridency, Levy Rozman's channel is very popular, but I don't watch him often, regardless of how loudly he sacrifices rooks. One of the most famous chess YouTube channels, it features a lot of chess analysis, chess news and something called Guess the ELO where fun is made of low rated players. It has the most click bait titles ever and every video thumbnail is properly a face contorted by an acceptable online emotion like :-O, with glowing eyes and a fire background. Because science, bitch!

Remote Chess Academy - Who is GM Igor Smirnov? He is a very charismatic Ukranian chess Grandmaster who likes to make clickbaity videos about chess traps and openings. The content is often simplified for the low rated players and sometimes it is repeated over multiple videos. Think those horribly titled TOP BEST LIST of anything. Who does that? But the guy is fun. His content, though, is pure monetizable output, nothing personal.

John Bartholomew - You can't think of the Scandinavian opening and not think of International Master John Bartholomew. He had a stint in which he was popularizing the opening (team Scandi!🔥🔥🔥). He is also a very nice guy. His content nowadays, though, is a lot of him playing lower rated players in "rating ladder" videos. But I like the guy.

Hanging Pawns - Stjepan Tomic is a regular chess player. His dream is to become a GM, therefore he plays all of these classical games and does analysis on them. His content is very educative, not always entertaining, yet very personal. I think his own displeasure on losing keeps him from winning a lot of times.

Miodrag Perunovic - The Butcher of chess is a very talented International Master. His videos are mostly theoretical and he presents everything with great certainty. Well, he makes it work, because how am I going to disagree with anything he says? He is entertaining, but also pretty high level.

Adamisko šach - Adam Prikler has one of the most promising channels out there. He invents these crazy gambits and traps and his videos are really fun and funny. They are mostly niche, unknown stuff, so the content is also very educative as well as entertaining. Watch out for this guy, he's going to be big!

Anna Cramling - Anna is the young and beautiful daughter of two grandmasters: Pia Cramling from Sweden and Juan Manuel Bellón López from Spain. She's fun, creating popular content, but I feel she is more focused on the popularity than the chess. She is very natural, though, and I like watching her personal story videos.

BotezLive - Alexandra and Andreea Botez are two famous chess playing sisters of Romanian origin. Unfortunately, poor Alexandra somehow managed to have her name associated with hanging queens. It's called the Botez gambit, while not being a gambit at all, just a horrible blunder. Still, even bad publicity is publicity. I don't really watch them. They are cute, but the content is often live and with a lot of dialogue and loud stuff. Very watched channel, though.

Dina Belenkaya - Do not mess with Dina. She is part Russian, part Israeli. A WGM, she is partly fun, partly annoying with her focus on over the board banter. Her content is also focused on popularity, mostly over the board games all over the world.

IM Alex Banzea - Alex is a Romanian YouTuber. He has all kinds of stuff: theory, own games, rating climbs. He is good, but I don't watch him much.

kingscrusher - Tryfon Gavriel is a British CM and total chess enthusiast. If YouTube would be a kingdom, Kingscrusher would be old school royal family. He has been around for a long time and he loves chess. His videos are usually game analysis.

GM Huschenbeth - Niclas Huschenbeth is a German GM. His channel is in German. I don't watch him much now, but I used to when he first started. His content is about a lot of things, but pretty high level.

GMHikaru - Hikaru who? I like Nakamura as a person, but I don't really enjoy his channel style. It's mostly live, Twitch like stuff, only recorded for YouTube. Obviously one of the best players in the world, but still making accessible content.

FM William Graif - FIDE Master Will Graif is a young passionate gambiteer and his videos are usually short and entertaining. A proponent of gambits like the Von Popiel and Busch Gass gambits, he is a very smart player.

ChessNetwork - No one knows who Jerry actually is. He spends all day playing chess and creating videos on YouTube. Another true passionate of the game. His content is extremely informative and intelligent, but a bit high level.

PowerPlayChess - GM Daniel King is obviously strong, but also very articulate and seems very nice. His channel features a lot of detailed chess game analysis and puzzles, as well. I like him.

Volclus - Who is Volclus, or - how I like to call him - "the son of Jerry"? No one knows. He seems like another YouTuber mining for content, but oh boy the work he puts into some of these videos. Have you seen the 11 hours video of all gambits? He made it. And he's rather fun as well.

ChessGeek - This is another young guy on a YouTube channel, but his content is very high value, especially in terms of theory, pawn structures, openings and so on. I like the clear enunciation and obviously the theoretical stuff, but it's pretty over the top. It takes work to get all that.

GingerGM - Grandmaster Simon Williams is a strange beast. He is funny, he is charismatic, he is obviously good at chess, but he is still in the shadows of YouTube, even if most people have heard of him in the community. His content is mostly his own games and speedruns, but also some course material.

GMNeiksans Chess - Grandmaster Arturs Neiksans is a Latvian grandmaster with awesome skill. He is also very nice and his content is really high quality. Unfortunately, it is also often long form and high level. He stopped making videos on YouTube about six months ago, so I don't know if he'll ever restart.

I guess I could go on a bit, but I don't really watch all of these channels and googling for others that I don't know would just eat away all my off screen time. It's time for the ranking! Do I have an objective algorithm for ranking these? Hell, no! I said it was all about fun. If someone could quantify fun they would be rich. I... am not rich.

The results

So here is a list of the channels I watch most and enjoy the most:

Honorable mentionkingscrusher - he is an amazingly nice guy and his knowledge of chess just pours out of him. I just don't watch his channel that much.

Fifth placeAnna Cramling - I wish Anna luck on her chess career and I like her energy and root for her to become better.

Fourth placeRemote Chess Academy - OK, Igor's like the KFC of chess content creators, but those buckets of traps are delicious. Yumm!

Third placeAdamisko šach -  I can't admire enough the effort put in the videos as well as in the research, and then only presented with so much gusto. And that evil laughter, man!

Second placeEric Rosen - I used to watch all of his videos as soon as they came out, but as I said, the quality and frequency have gone down a bit. Otherwise he would have probably been the first.

And the winner is... FM William Graif - I am having so much fun watching him play the gambits and being so cavalier about it. He knows so much and yet he plays with so much joy.

Final words

Please leave a comment with what you like to watch. I am always curious to find new interesting and passionate people.

Have fun!

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  I was writing in my review on the previous book, Shards of Earth, that it was basically an adventure caper in an interesting universe and a fun book. I didn't find Eyes of the Void to be fun, though.

  Same characters, but acting completely inconsistently with their first volume personas. The tone of the book is darker and more mundane, with most of the action being people fighting with punches and knives on starships when the most obvious weapon would have been poison or sticky chemicals in almost every situation. And this while the Architects come back. Everybody is squabbling for no good reason and it's certainly not interesting for the reader. The main character, Idris, is now a pitifully small spacer that is being abducted by just about everyone, with Solace the Partheni being completely ineffective as protection and really poorly written as a friend/romantic interest also. And so on.

  It seems to be a pattern of Adrian Tchaikovsky's to start great universes with a lot of fun and interesting characters and then go nowhere with them. I hope the third book will provide more satisfaction, because if this turns out to be like Children in Time, starting great and then fizzling out, I will not be happy.

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  I have recently read Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time trilogy and, while it was good, it felt a little bit like a TV series: first season OK, the next one with more action and the last low budget before it gets cancelled. It also sharply contrasted with the hugely positive reviews for the series. But I liked the described universe and the writing, so I said let's give the guy a chance. Plus his name starts with A and I am lazy.

  And I was not disappointed. While Shards of Earth is a classic "team of misfits saves the universe" story, complete with space gangsters, larger than life henchmen and god like aliens, it's also very fun! I enjoyed it so much that I will continue reading the series.

  Was it better than Children of Time? Yes and no. I really hope the next books maintain this level of quality and enjoyment. If they do, then the series overall will be better.

  I feel like Tchaikovsky has found the formula for easily attracting the audience to his stories, but will he remain at this stage or evolve into something more? Only time (pun not intended) will tell.

  Not a perfect book, but a good and entertaining one. The addition of a bit of cosmic horror offsets the sometimes naive space and close quarter battles.

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  If Then is a really weird book. It is based on some real people's philosophy on war, carefully collected by Matthew De Abaitua and reimagined in a scifi story. It reminded me most of the Pandora (Destination: Void) series, by Frank Herbert, only not so grotesque. As a big fan of Herbert's, this is high praise, even if Pandora wasn't his best writing.

  The subject is really weird and I don't want to spoil it, so I will keep it brief. After the end of democracy (not with a bang, but with a whimper), the world is in chaos. I particularly liked the reason everything failed: the financial instruments were doing great, it was just the people that had no money. A very cynical view on the end of the world, yet oh so familiar. In this chaos, some places decide to try something, anything, to keep the dark away. And in this part of Sussex, some villages accepted to be fitted with some biological implants that lets them be surveyed and sometimes influenced by something nebulous called The Process, a data driven system that works to maximize fairness in a world that is both extremely poor and having access to technology and manufacturing capabilities that can build anything. The result is a quasi feudal world, like a human zoo.

  Now, I am usually for software systems running things rather than people, however they are made by people, so bummer. Yet here "the process" is so vague and ineffable that people don't know what to think, feel and do. about it. Random people are being "evicted" from the village, whether they want it or not, for reasons unknown but that are supposed to increase fairness and compliance. Even the eviction process is done by a "bailiff", a man with an implant that, when doing away with people, he is not even aware of what he is doing at the time. This bailiff is the main character of the book, BTW.

  By now you are thinking that this is a sort of YA novel in which people revolt against an evil overlord. You couldn't be further from the truth. The pettiness and powerlessness of people is mercilessly dissected by De Abaitua as we read through the book trying to discern what the hell it is going towards. And perhaps that's my biggest criticism for the book: it starts as one thing, morphs into another, then abruptly ends. It examines humanity and technology in a philosophical way, muses about the engines of war and the source of identity then, job done, fucks off. Quite an unsatisfying ending.

  Bottom line: as far as I know this is the second novel from the author and as such, I consider it a great achievement. I really liked the writing and the exactness with which it magnified the intentions and feeling of the characters. I liked that the story was innovative and complex and weird as hell. Yet I can't say in good conscience that I enjoyed it. This is not a feel good book, just a good book.

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  You know when you get a new Brandon Sanderson book and you start reading and at first you're all "Ah! He does comedy again. It's not even serious. I am not going to like this book!" and by the end you're in love with the characters and want to know more, regardless? That's what Justin Woolley pulled in Shakedowners.

  Starting as an obvious satire to Star Trek, with a lot of Lower Decks energy, it turns into a really fun and captivating "brave captain saves the galaxy" story. There were places where I felt the enormity of what was written did not fit at all with the laid back Aussie attitude, but most of the time it was just a lot of fun. I finished it in a day and I am curious enough to want to read the rest of the series.

  Bottom line: the perfect palate cleanser after a darkly satirical view of humankind that made me have misanthropic genocidal thoughts for days, a book that lifts spirits and reminds one that Trekkies are not gone.

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  You might have heard of Chuck Palahniuk after he became famous with the movie adaption of his book, Fight Club. I certainly didn't read anything from him before, but I thought I'd give it a go. How can I describe The Invention of Sound? It's wild, it's fucked up, it is deeply satirical while at the same time being casually descriptive.

  Imagine L.A., a city so formulaic that it lost its name to two letters, a place for obsessed people: a woman who tortures people in order to get the perfect movie scream, a man who lost his daughter and now hunts the dark web for signs of her and catalogues child molesters with dreams of making them suffer, a starlet who waited her entire career to get kidnapped because it always increases visibility, people who care so much about their image that they fail to perceive reality, Hollywood societies with nebulous purposes, dark secrets, that kind of thing.

  There is that unreliable narrator again, because you can't believe a thing these people say or think: even if the writing comes from an internal dialogue, there is no guarantee that it has any connection to reality. Characters often don't understand what is going on around them or have false memories. Consuming large quantities of wine, Ambien and child abuse image doesn't help either. Neither do people constantly trying to manipulate them for their own purposes.

  The writing is very well crafted, there are so many connections being made, you feel that you are being there - just as confused as the characters. I liked ... the sound of the book, pun not intended. However I couldn't really connect to the story. Yeah, Americans are nuts and L.A. people the most, but then there was nothing else to enjoy other than the writing. The story just coils around itself and teaches nothing.

  Bottom line: a good book, but maybe not for my taste. I recommend the experience of it, but not much else.

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  Microsoft Office is everybody's frenemy. You love to hate it, but you can't do without it. One of the things that annoys me most about the recent updates to Office is that it tries to save everything in the cloud (using Microsoft's OneDrive) rather than in My Documents or any other local storage location. This might make sense for a lot of people, but not for me. If this behavior annoys you, too, read on.

  Of course there is no nice UI setting to change this, instead you need to change the registry. You do this by running Registry Editor as an Administrator and adding a new "key". Here is how to do it, step by step.

Step 1 - open Registry Editor as an Administrator

Step 2 - go to the right place

Type or paste HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Common\Internet in the top bar

Press Enter to navigate to where you should be.

Step 3 - add a new DWORD key called OnlineStorage

Step 4 - edit the key and give it value 1

Step 5 - restart your Office application

Now you should not see OneDrive locations when trying to save a file.


If you know what you're doing, you can also copy the following into a .reg file and open it:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


More info

You can get more information from:

How to block OneDrive use from within Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise and Office 2016 applications - here you have a more user friendly way of doing the same, by loading a Group Policy template and using it

Keep OneDrive without integration into MS Office 

The OnlineStorage key is a sum of binary flags that are used to disable various locations from office storage. The list of possible values is:

  • 0: This is the default value Enables all services.
  • 1 Disables OneDrive Personal.
  • 2 Disables SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.
  • 3 Disables SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and OneDrive Personal.
  • 4 Disables This PC.
  • 8 Disables SharePoint On-Premises.
  • 16 Disables Recent Places.
  • 32 Disables SharePoint Online.
  • 64 Disables OneDrive for Business.
  • 128 Disables all third-party services.
  • 4294967295 Disables all optional services.

Hope it helps!

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  Because of the Netflix adaption of this book, chess has had a resurgence in the last few years and that is because the story is wonderful: Beth Harmon, an orphan with a very analytical brain, but a rather frigid attitude to life, learns to play chess and then becomes the best in the field. The TV series follows pretty much The Queen's Gambit book, with just minor details or changes of perspective differing.

  The structure of the plot is that of a sports story: poor disadvantaged kid gets a break, shows they are great at something, then struggle to prove it. Walter Tevis writes a very compelling character, using an almost serial killer vibe. If you think about it a bit, the tranquilizers that the orphanage gave to the children to "pacify" them are probably the main cause of Beth's choices in life ;)

  Even if I saw the series before reading the book, most characters were just that, some characters. I couldn't remember who played them in the show and I didn't care. But for the character of Beth I can't imagine a better casting choice than Anya Taylor-Joy. While reading I was seeing her in my mind's eye.

  I hear that the show will have a second season. That's both good and bad. Good because I want to see more of Beth. Bad because there is no more original material, the quality of the story might suffer significantly.

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  I loved The Expanse and I hoped for more like that. Age of Ash is not it. Extremely well developed world and characters, but a slow paced introduction into a story that is yet to be unveiled. If I had to compare it with something I would compare it with the animated show Arkane, which was amazingly good, but the book lacks the action and the sympathetic characters.

  I understand that this is Daniel Abraham's style: slow roasting the reader while he introduces enough of the world and people to initiate explosive events and epic action. However, this means this book is very difficult to rate or, indeed, to like by itself.

  The story revolves around two street urchins from the "bad side of town" who get involved into something grandiose that shows what they are truly made of. One of the girls is in full grieving mode after losing her brother, the other is doing everything because of love. Predictably, the positive and negative emotions are influencing the characters in their respective direction.

  What I loved about the book is the writing, the depth of the world and of the examination of the characters. It almost didn't need a story. Almost. But it did.

  I may read the next books in the series, just to see what happens, but I would not recommend this book as a standalone read. And if you like fast pace, read something else.

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  The Drowned Woods is a young adult fantasy story. There is a very overpowered main character, a "water diviner", someone with the ability to control water. Although most of the time she seems to control the temperature of water, which is something completely different, but whatever. She has the usual sad story of someone coming from humble origins and then having bad stuff happen to her, usually because of rich and powerful folk, but in the end all of these events strengthen her enough to handle the weight of the consequences of the plot.

  Emily Lloyd-Jones skillfully combines Celtic mythology with Avatar-like magic (Avatar with the bending, not the blue people) and a heist plot in a fun enough story. Which means it has the typical heist structure: assemble the team, do a lot of flashbacks so we get to know the characters, show how their skills come together, start the mission, the twist, the epic finale.

  It's not like I didn't like the book, I just couldn't possibly love it. The reveal at the end is pretty interesting, but not unexpected. Most of the time our heroine is either handling everything, has someone help her in the 11th hour to handle everything or she is (or the reader is) misreading the situation, which means even what could be considered defeat can be retconned later into a complete victory.

  Bottom line: easy to read, reasonably interesting, but not very captivating.

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  Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape is like a travelogue for places humans have abandoned, whether because of radiation, poison, extreme weather, natural disaster or depopulation. While I expected this book to be more about the nature reclaiming these places, with scientific emphasis on the species and the methods they use, instead it was a straight up documentary made by a reporter. You know, for the people, by the people, about the people.

  It's not a bad book, quite the contrary. Cal Flyn writes well and has no difficulties describing places and people from an accessible perspective. But that was the problem for me. I wasn't looking for an accessible human perspective from a book proclaiming to be about the "Post-Human Landscape".

  There are several chapters, each with its own theme. Some make you lose your faith in humanity, if you had any to begin with, while others make you actively want to destroy it. I found particularly poignant things like proposals to mildly poison or irradiate nature reserves in order to keep people and commercial interests out or the shooting of a particular breed of enwildened cattle on an island "by conservationists" or the chapters about factories making river water so polluted that it killed on contact and caught fire.

  However it felt a bit like a bait and switch. While a bit disappointed with their direction, I loved the first chapters of the book, relating to plants and animals reclaiming places like Chernobyl, but as the book was getting closer to its end, the chapters were more about people, their feelings, their reasons to leave, stay or return. The book still captures the magic of this wild places, but very little is about nature, the perspective is inherently humanistic and cultural, rather than scientific. Other than that, it was a decent book.

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  The Humans started from an idea that I don't really like so much: an alien telling the story of how humans are. I've seen so many of these during the years and they are almost always boring, conceited and full of logic holes. Unfortunately this book is no different. Add to this I did not enjoy Matt Haig's writing style at all and you get a DNF.

  Bottom line: I will not be reading this book.

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  The Anomaly is a very cinematic read in the sense that you can immediately tell someone was writing a movie they had in their head. And what a surprise to learn that Michael Rutger is a writing pseudonym for Michael Marshall Smith, who's a screenwriter. That being said, the book was OK. The pacing was good, the ideas interesting and the human aspect of the characters was intriguing. However I couldn't get out of that "pitch meeting" feeling that this is a "What if Indiana Jones was a YouTuber" idea, just filled in enough to be book sized.

  It starts with the members of an expedition trying to find an ancient site mentioned into an obscure and vague old text. These people have a YouTube channel focused on fringe science theories, urban myths and the like, only this time they caught a break when they found a foundation willing to sponsor their trip to the Grand Canyon to find this place. And of course they find it and of course there are some weird things in it and it keeps escalating to the point where "Oh, come ON!" is a very frequent thought.

  So the story was OK, the characters kind of cardboard, but fine, the plot a bit ridiculous - what can you expect, only I didn't really like the ending. The story had reached a place where the entire history of the world is in doubt and from that it dropped to the level of people going home and nothing else happening. What was even the point?!

  Bottom line: this is a perfect book to read in an airplane, where I actually did it myself. It reads fast, it means nothing, it requires very little from you.