MandaBerry's Books

One person's thoughts on a whole lot of books

Category Archives: Reviews

On Basilisk Station by David Weber (Honor Harrington #1)


Honor Harrington in trouble: Having made him look the fool, she’s been exiled to Basilisk Station in disgrace and set up for ruin by a superior who hates her. Her demoralized crew blames her for their ship’s humiliating posting to an out-of-the-way picket station. The aborigines of the system’s only habitable planet are smoking homicide-inducing hallucinogens. Parliament isn’t sure it wants to keep the place; the major local industry is smuggling, the merchant cartels want her head; the star-conquering, so-called “Republic” of Haven is Up to Something; and Honor Harrington has a single, over-age light cruiser with an armament that doesn’t work to police the entire star system. But the people out to get her have made one mistake. They’ve made her mad.

 My Rating: 3 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes, for now

How I got it:

Honestly? I was quite a bit disappointed with this. I didn’t click with the character at all. Maybe my expectations were a bit too high. I really wanted to love this book since if I did, I’d have to consume the rest of the series in rapid succession. The vast number of books in this series would have kept me occupied for months. I still have the book, and I think I may give it another go, but it’s at the bottom of the TBR mountain, so it may be a while. That may turn out to be a good thing, since it’ll allow me to get all fuzzy on why I didn’t like it. I did pick up the second one just in case, so I’m not counting it out entirely. Now, why didn’t I care for it the first time around? It was Honor herself. I didn’t connect with her at all, and I’m not sure why. I tend to gravitate toward strong female characters that kick butt, and at the time that’s what kind of bender I was on. I had read an installment in the Heris series, I had read one in the Confederation series by Tanya Huff, and I was all ready for feeding the Girl Power mood I was in when this brought me up short. I just don’t know what it was about Honor that just didn’t do it for me. Maybe when I reread it, I’ll either figure it out or change my mind. Here’s to changing my mind 😉


Armored edited by John Joseph Adams


Armor up for a metal-pounding feast of action, adventure and amazing speculation by topnotch writers (including Nebula-award winner Jack McDevitt, Sean Williams, Dan Abnet, Simon Green, and Jack Campbell) on a future warrior that might very well be just around the corner.  Science fiction readers and gamers have long been fascinated by the idea of going to battle in suits of powered combat armor or at the interior controls of giant mechs. First, when the armor starts to take over, even the generals may be at its mercy–and under its control. Then solve the problem of armored rescue when irradiated vacuum stands between the frail flesh of the living and safety.  And what happens when the marriage of soldier and armor becomes a bit too intimate—and that marriage goes sour!

It’s an armor-plated clip of hard-hitting tales featuring exoskeleton adventure with fascinating takes on possible future armors ranging from the style of personal power suits seen in Starship Troopers and Halo to the servo-controlled bipedal beast-mech style encountered inMechwarrior and Battletech. 

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I got it: Bought

Anthologies, for me, have always been a mixed bag. Most of the time they just don’t do it for me. Granted there’s usually one or two stories that I enjoy, but a majority just don’t cut it. Not so with this anthology. In Armored, there were only one or two stories that I didn’t quite care for, but the rest I enjoyed reading immensely. I think John Joseph Adams may be my new favorite anthology editor. Considering I have two or three more anthologies sitting on my shelves that he put together, that makes me really excited to read them. Eventually. I’m not going to do any kind of full review of each story, but just a bare bones line or two piece of my mind, if even that.

The Johnson Maneuver by Ian Douglas -> 4 out of 5

Hel’s Half-Acre by Jack Campbell -> 5 out of 5

Jungle Walkers by David Klecha and Tobias S. Buckell -> 3 out of 5

The Last Run of the Coppelia by Genevieve Valentine -> 5 out of 5

Death Reported of Last Surviving Veteran of Great War by Dan Abnett -> 3 out of 5

The Cat’s Pajamas by Jack McDevitt -> 5 out of 5

Find Heaven and Hell in the Smallest Things by Simon R. Green -> 3 out of 5

Power Armore: A Love Story by David Barr Kirtley -> 4 out of 5

The Last Days of the Kelly Gang by David D. Levine -> 3 out of 5

Field Test by Michael A. Stackpole -> 4 out of 5

Trauma Pod by Alastair Reynolds -> 4 out of 5

Contained Vacuum by David Sherman -> 3 out of 5

You Do What You Do by Tanya Huff -> 5 out of 5

Nomad by Karin Lowachee -> 5 out of 5

Human Error by John Jackson Miller -> 4 out of 5

Transfer of Ownership by Christie Yant -> 3 out of 5

Heuristic Algorithm and Reasoning Response Engine by Ethan Skarstedt and Brandon Sanderson -> 3 out of 5

Don Quixote by Carrie Vaughn -> 3 out of 5

The Poacher by Wendy N. Wagner and Jak Wagner -> 3 out of 5

The Green by Lauren Beukes -> 3 out of 5

Sticks and Stones by Robert Buettner -> 3 out of 5

Helmet by Daniel H. Wilson -> 3 out of 5

The N-Body Solution by Sean Williams -> 2 out of 5

I was happy to see two of my favorite authors in the mix – Tanya Huff and Karin Lowachee. There were a couple stories I was just “blah” about, and one that I just didn’t understand how it ended. Despite that, I would definitely recommend this to any fan of sci-fi and fans of Starship Troopers, Armor, and Halo. Not all of these stories feature armor being used in a military situation, and I thought it was great that there was a nice mix of situations where armor was involved.

Hunting Party by Elizabeth Moon (Familias #1)


Heris Serrano–formerly a commander in the Regular Space Service–must take whatever job she can get after her resignation under a cloud. What she can get is the captaincy of a rich old lady’s space yacht…a rich old horsewoman, who has little liking for the military, and whose spoiled nephew Ronnie (and his equally spoiled friends) have been foisted on her after his folly embarrassed the family. Lady Cecelia’s only apparent interest is horses–she intends to go fox hunting on the private pleasure planet of a friend of hers, Lord Thornbuckle. But events conspire to make it far more than a fox hunt.


My Rating: 4 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I got it:

I enjoyed this one. Strong female characters? Yep. Mystery and intrigue? Yep. It’s not an “in your face” military sci-fi book, but it definitely has some strong military undertones, since Heris is still reacting to her resignation and reflects quite a bit on events then versus events now. Lady Cecelia is a feisty old lady, and I enjoyed seeing the nature of the interactions between Heris and Cecelia evolve as the book went on. I wasn’t too keen on all the information about horses and fox hunting, but I let it slide as being pertinent to the story and didn’t focus too much on it. Other than that, I flew threw this one and wound up going through the entire series within a few months. It’s not heavy, thought provoking reading. It’s fun action/adventure in space, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve noticed that a lot of my favorite series and characters tend to be strong female characters, but hey, what can I say. I guess I have a type.

If you enjoy a strong female cast, action, adventure, and mystery, you should definitely check this out. This is the first in a set of 7. Hunting Party is the first in a trilogy that focuses mainly on Heris and Lady Cecelia. This is followed by a trilogy featuring Esmay Suiza, who is introduced in the last of the Heris books. The last book of the series is Against the Odds which is the final culmination of all the political unrest, and shenanigans, and the militaristic implications of the different plots. This one doesn’t solely focus on one set of characters, but alternates around to the different storylines that have been introduced throughout all the previous books.

God of Clocks by Alan Campbell (Deepgate Codex #3)


In the cataclysm of the battle of the gods, a portal to Hell has been opened, releasing legions of unnatural creatures that have pushed humanity to the edge of extinction. While warring deities clash with fallen angels, the only hope for mankind’s survival lies with the most unlikely heroes: Former assassin Rachel Hael has rejoined blood-magician Mina Greene and her little dog, Basilis, on one last desperate mission to save the world from the ravages of Hell. As Rachel travels to the final confrontation she has both sought and feared, she begins to realize that time itself is unraveling. And so she must prepare herself for a sacrifice that may claim her heart, her life, her soul—and even then it may not be enough.

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Bookshelf: No

How I got it: Bought

This one left me a bit disappointed. I’m not completely sure if it’s the story itself or the fact that there  was such a huge gap for me between reading Iron Angel and this one. It all just left me a little disappointed. I think only vaguely remembering what had happened in the previous book was quite a disadvantage because there were times while reading where I had no idea what was going on. Parallel universes and time travel didn’t exactly help with my confusion. I really enjoyed the first book, Scar Night, and I thought the second was a pretty nice follow up, if a little bit slower. This one, though, was my least favorite of the bunch. I didn’t get the feeling of satisfaction that I kind of expected to get with this being the final book of a series. Everyone doesn’t have to live happily ever after, but having spent time immersed in that world, and involved with the characters, I want to feel like everything’s wrapped up, or if not wrapped up explained enough to encourage speculation. I just felt lost. I have to take some of the blame for that, since as I said I may have waited too long between books to fully appreciate this last one, but I don’t think it’s totally on my head either.

Replay by Ken Grimwood


Jeff Winston, forty-three, didn’t know he was a replayer until he died and woke up twenty-five years younger in his college dorm room; he lived another life. And died again. And lived again and died again — in a continuous twenty-five-year cycle — each time starting from scratch at the age of eighteen to reclaim lost loves, remedy past mistakes, or make a fortune in the stock market. A novel of gripping adventure, romance, and fascinating speculation on the nature of time, Replay asks the question: “What if you could live your life over again?”

My Rating: 2 out of 5

Bookshelf: No

How I got it:

This wasn’t my favorite. The concept was interesting, and I do enjoy me some time travel stories, but this just didn’t click with me. It’s not that it was poorly written, or that there was anything wrong with it. I didn’t feel connected or concerned about the character, and that, to me, is an important factor. Why should I spend my time reading about a character that I don’t really care about? There are just too many other amazing books out there with characters I could feel something for. I don’t necessarily mean I want to love every character that crosses my path, but even dislike and distaste are welcome rather than not feeling anything. At least then you care if they get their comeuppance.

I also couldn’t help myself by constantly having the movie Groundhog Day pop in my head. It’s the same type of very basic story. Instead of just the one day, this man gets to relive his last 25 years over and over again. It’s interesting to see the different choices he makes each time, but I still couldn’t get that comparison out of my head.

Now, just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you either. If you’re interested in time travel, or a different take on the whole Groundhog Day scenario, give this a shot. It wasn’t a complete waste of time for me because it made me consider a few different “what if” scenarios about what I’d do in that situation, and that was entertaining enough for me.


Wess’har Wars Series by Karen Traviss

The Wess’har Wars series feature Shan Franklin as the main protagonist, but there are quite a number of secondary supporting characters that have significant roles in the series. There are 6 books in the series, and the first is The City of Pearl. Shan Frankling, an Environmental Hazard Enforcement officer is sent on a mission with Marines and scientists to a distant planet. They arrive in the midst of the beginnings of a conflict between 3 different alien cultures who all have claims for the planet they arrived on. For a further synopsis read the back flap blurb in the review of The City of Pearl.

As a whole, I really enjoyed this series. It became one of my favorite places to visit, and I was sad to see it come to an end. For my review on the first in the series (City of Pearl), just click on the picture and voila! If you like your sci-fi with a heavy dose of alien culture and world building, this is definitely something to check out. It may also be of interest to readers that enjoy sci-fi with strong female characters, a strong military presence/mindset,  or are interested in possible environmental policy driven plots and subplots. If you’d like to read more, just click on the link under the pictures, and I promise I won’t get too spoilery. If you’re concerned that I may let something slip, just know that this was something different from the sci-fi I had read before, and I really enjoyed it. Check it out.

My Rating (series as a whole): 5 out of 5

For my more specific thoughts on the individual books, click here

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #1)


Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

My Rating: 5 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I got it: Traded at a local used book store

Full review when you click me

Elfland by Freda Warrington (Aetherial Tales Book 1)

from the back of the book

Star-crossed lovers, caught between worlds…

The Aetherials live among us, indistinguishable from humans. Every seven years, on the Night of the Summer Stars, Lawrence Wilder, the Gatekeeper, throws open the Gates to the Other World. But this time, he has sealed the Gates, warning of a great danger lurking in the realm beyond. The Aetherials are outraged. What will become of them, deprived of the home realm from which their essential life force flows?

Rosie Fox and Sam Wilder are drawn to the lands beyond the Gates, even as their families feud over Lawrence’s refusal to open the Gates. Struggling with their own too-human urges, they are drawn together in a forbidden alliance. Only by breaching the dreaded Gates and daring the danger beyond can they confront that which they fear most – their otherness – and claim their birthright.

My Rating: 3 out of 5

Bookshelf: No

How I got it: Bought

I read this as part of Jawas Read, Too’s Women of Fantasy book club for the month of March. I’m not sure what I was expecting, which is a good thing, because I’m not set up for disappointment right away. I didn’t have anything against the book, or the story, but it just didn’t work for me. The story definitely moved much slower than what I’m used to reading. I like to think of this as a soap opera with Fey. There’s lots of family drama and romantic intrigue, but there’s also plenty of Atherial-related dilemmas. It’s not a bad combination, but the pace of the book was just way too slow for me. I can normally finish a book within a few days, but this bad boy took me over two weeks to finish. While this may not be an issue for some people, it is for me. The story itself was good, and I was quite interested in what happened to the characters. I enjoyed the world building of the Aetherial Realm, and the interweaving between that and the ‘real’ world (Earth). Rosie turned out to be my favorite character, even though I found her a little annoying at first. So, all in all, I don’t regret that I read it, just that it took so long.

I wish I had something to compare this to, but I haven’t read anything quite like this before. If you’re a fan of drama, intrigue, and Otherworldly elements, you may want to check this out.

Ring of Fire: Century Book #1 by Pierdomenico Baccalario

from the back of the book

Four kids. One hotel room. And a briefcase full of mysteries.

Rome, December 29.

A mix-up with their reservations forces Harvey from New York, Mistral from Paris, and Sheng from Shanghai to share a room with the holet owner’s daughter, Elettra. Soon the four kids discover an amazing coincidence – they all have birthdays on February 29, Leap Day. That night, a strange man gives them a briefcase and asks them to take care of it until he returns. Soon afterward, the man is murdered.

The kids open the briefcase. In it they find a series of clues that takes them all over Rome, through dusty libraries and dark catacombs, in search of the elusive Ring of Fire, an ancient object so powerful that legend says even a Roman emperor couldn’t control it.

In the first book the the Century quartet, Italian author Pierdomenico Baccalario begins a mystery that will take four cities and four extraordinary kids to solve.

My Rating: 3 out of 5

Bookshelf: No

How I got it: Bought

Overall, I liked this one. It didn’t necessarily wow me, but it kept me interested enough to finish reading. While there are fantastical elements throughout the book, they weren’t numerous enough for me to call this a fantasy à la Harry Potter. First and foremost, it’s a mystery, and a decent one at that. Only once or twice did I figure out how the twist would turn out before it happened, but it wasn’t catastrophic enough to hinder my enjoyment.  While I did indeed enjoy the book, it’s not going to have a place on my bookshelf. If space wasn’t an issue I would probably keep this on my shelf, but since it is I’ll most likely post this on

I would recommend this to readers who like mysteries such as, The Mysterious Benedict Society series, the Theodosia Throckmorton series, The Name of This Book is Secret, and Tunnels. If you’ve enjoyed any of these titles, you would probably like this as well.

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

from the back of the book

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Leisel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up and closed down.


My Rating: 3 out of 5

Bookshelf: No

How I Got It: Bought

I wish that I would have liked this more. It was a great story, very powerful, and made me tear up a little at certain parts. For some reason, though, it just wasn’t my favorite. I guess I’m too far into my genre of choice to get much enjoyment out of something that’s not sci-fi related. Oh, well. Not really a major loss. I wasn’t too thrilled with the narration by Death because I didn’t like knowing what was going to happen before I got to that part. Major spoiler. Other than that, it was, like I said, a good, very emotionally strong story. I’d definitely recommend it if you enjoyed The Diary of Anne Frank, Number the Stars, or The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas. You may also enjoy it if you’re a fan of books that are, for the most part, emotionally heavy.