MandaBerry's Books

One person's thoughts on a whole lot of books

Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

from the back of the book

Everything is different.

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox has just awoken from a year-long coma – so she’s been told – and she is still recovering from the terrible accident that caused it. But what happened before that? She’s been given home movies chronicling her entire life, which spark memories to surface. But are the memories really hers? And why won’t anyone in her family talk about the accident? Jenna is becoming more curious. But she is also afraid of what she might find out if she ever gets up the courage to ask her questions.

What happened to Jenna Fox? And who is she, really?

My Rating: 5 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I got it: Bought

I really enjoyed this. It’s so hard to find really excellent YA sci-fi, and this is definitely a good example. I’m so tired of the main story in YA sci-fi focusing on the relationship angle. I understand it’s geared towards teens, and for a lot of them, relationships are a big deal, but you have to give them some credit. Some of them want more from their books, surely? I see Twilight still flying off the shelves, so maybe not…..anyway. I loved this. Really. The plot kept me guessing, and I wasn’t able to figure things out in advance of the pacing, which is always a good thing. I haven’t really read much sci-fi that focuses on medical advancements and the human body, and this definitely was a good introduction to those types of books. I guess I could more accurately describe this book as dystopian sci-fi that focuses on medicine, technology, and the parent/child relationship. If you enjoyed Unwind by Neal Shusterman, or maybe even the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, you may enjoy this.

Review: Robots Have no Tails by Henry Kuttner

Robots Have No Tails by Henry Kuttner

from the back of the book

One of the most prominent pulp authors of all time, Henry Kuttner has been hailed as a “neglected master” by Ray Bradbury and “the best fantasy ever” by Marion Zimmer Bradley, an inspiration to generations of science fiction and fantasy authors.

Now, in this complete collection, Kuttner is back with his most beloved character in the stories that helped make him famous.  Galloway Gallegher is a binge-drinking scientist who’s a genius when drunk and totally clueless sober.  Hounded by creditors and government officials, he wakes from each bender to discover a new invention designed to solve all his problems – if only he knew how it worked.  Add in a vain and uncooperative robot assistant, a heckling grandfather, and a host of uninvited guests – from rabbit-like aliens to time-traveling mafia lawyers to his own future corpse – and Gallegher has more on his hands than even he can handle. Time for a drink!

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I Got It: Bought

I’ve never heard of Henry Kuttner, but I saw this on the shelf in the bookstore, and the cover and title got my attention. For once, I wasn’t disappointed with what was within the covers. I really liked these short stories. They’re funny, short, and left me satisfied. What more can you ask for? There was a disclaimer in the introduction warning readers of the use of alcoholism as a character trait, but personally I didn’t mind. Galloway wouldn’t be Galloway without the booze. There were a few scientific explanations of his inventions that went over my head, but it didn’t make me like the book less. If you’re interested in reading work from the “golden age of pulp sci-fi”, I would definitely recommend taking a look at this collection.

Review: The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card (Gatemage #1)

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card (Gatemage #1)

from the back of the book

Danny North knew from an early childhood that his family was different and that he was different from them. While his cousins were learning how to create the things that commoners called fairies, ghosts, golems, trolls, werewolves, and other such miracles that were the heritage of the North family, Danny worried that he would never show a talent, never form an outself.

He grew up in the rambling old house, filled with dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles, all ruled by his father. Their home was isolated in the mountains of western Virginia, far from town, far from schools, far from other people.

There are many secrets in the house and many rules that Danny must follow. There is a secret library with only a few dozen books, non of them in English – but Danny and his cousins are expected to become fluent in the language of the books. While Danny’s cousins are free to create magic whenever they like, they must never do it where outsiders might see.

Unfortunately, there are some secrets kept from Danny, as well. And that will lead to disaster for the North family.

Orson Scott Card creates an astounding urban fantasy about a clan of mages in exile in our world, living in uneasy truce with other clans until Dan’s birth brings the flames of open war back to life. For Dan North is a gatemage, the first in a thousand years and he can open the locks that keep the North clan, and their enemies, away from their homeland of Westil.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Bookshelf: One day

How I got it: ARC provided through work

I was surprised how much I ended up liking this book. I was quite a bit confused in the beginning with all the references to outselves and magic, especially when there wasn’t much context to go on in the first part of the story. I’m still not exactly clear on what an outself is, but the rest I figured out along the way. It’s not just Danny’s story either. Wad’s story unfolds in alternating chapters to Danny’s, and takes place in the medieval setting of Westil. It was interesting to see how both of these boys learn to wield their respective powers. I enjoyed the world building, but I found a few characters to be a little annoying. I don’t doubt I’ll be picking up the next in the series when it comes out.

-If you’re interested-

There’s a short story set in the same world of mages in the anthology Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy edited by Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann. It takes place before the events of The Lost Gate, and is called Stonefather.

Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin


The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Inheritance Trilogy #1)

from the back of the book

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I got it: Bought

I read this for Jawas Read, Toos Women of Fantasy book club. This has been sitting in my TBR pile for quite some time, and reading it for a book club was a great excuse to finally getting around to reading it. I really enjoyed this. I’m a sucker for books that feature mythology, and I really liked that Jemisin created her own pantheon and myths. Sieh was definitely my favorite. As soon as I finished this, I went out and bought the second installment, but I haven’t read it yet. There were some things I wasn’t exactly over the moon for, like the steamy sex scenes and some of the narrative devices, but as a whole I’m impressed. If you’re a fan of books that feature mythological gods being brought to life, you may like this. Perhaps if you’re a fan of American Gods or Mark Chabourn’s Age of Misrule series, this may interest you as well.

Review: Home Fires by Gene Wolfe

Home Fires by Gene Wolfe

from the dust jacket

Gene Wolfe takes us to a future North America at once familiar and utterly strange. A young man and woman, Skip and Chelle, fall in love in college and marry, but she is enlisted in the military, there is a war on, and she must serve her tour of duty before they can settle down. The military is fighting a war with aliens in distant solar systems, and her months in the service will be years in relative time on Earth. She returns to recuperate from severe injuries, after months of service, still a young woman, but not necessarily the same person – while he is is his fourties and a wealthy businessman, and eager for her return.

Still in love (somewhat to his surprise and delight) and wanting to resume their marriage, they go on a Caribbean cruise that rapidly becomes a complex of challenges, not the least of which are spies, aliens, and battles with pirates who capture the ship for ransom. There is no writer in SF like Gene Wolfe and no SF novel like Home Fires.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Bookshelf: No

How I got it: Borrowed

The idea of this book intrigued me greatly. You don’t often have stories about what happens to the people left behind when someone goes traveling in space. And you don’t often have stories about what happens when the traveller comes back, and time has taken its toll. That’s a really great idea to explore. This just didn’t work well for me, but not because it was a bad book. It was interesting to see how the characters dealt with the age and experience gap. It just didn’t hold my attention. I would have liked to have read more about the aliens that Earth is at war with, but then this is more about human relationships than anything else. Which is fine, but it’s also why I don’t read literary fiction. Examination of the human condition and of human relationships just doesn’t interest me. I’d rather read about aliens. Oh, well. If you’re a fan of literary fiction, or literary sci-fi, then this would be right up your alley.

Review: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

from the back of the book

A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril has returned to the noble household he once served as page, and is named, to his great surprise, secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions. But is is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion and all who stand in their circle. And only by employing the darkest, most forbidden of magics can Cazaril hope to protect his royal charge – an act that will mark the loyal, damaged servant as a tool of the miraculous…and trap him, flesh and soul, in a maze of demonic paradox, damnation, and death.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes, for now

How I Got It: Paperbackswap.com

I read this as part of Calico Reaction’s book club for January. I don’t have a very good track record with fantasy, and I won’t lie – I struggled with this book for the first 150 pages or so. Normally, that would have been enough for me to toss it in the “did not finish” pile, but I kept at it. I’m glad I did because once the action picked up, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the multiple plot twists, and I liked the fact that everything was wrapped up within the book itself (even though there’s a sequel).  Even though I couldn’t put the book down after halfway through, I don’t think I’ll be reading the next book in the series (Paladin of Souls). I just didn’t ultimately enjoy it enough for the amount of time I put into it. I won’t give up on fantasy yet, though. I just have to figure out what type of fantasy I like reading.

Review: The City of Pearl by Karen Traviss (Wess’har #1)

The City of Pearl by Karen Traviss (Wess’har #1)

from the back of the book

Environmental Hazard Enforcement officer Shan Frankland agreed to lead a mission to Cavanagh’s Star, knowing that 150 years would elapse before she could finally return home.  But her landing, with a small group of scientists and Marines, has not gone unnoticed by Aras, the planet’s designated guardian.  An eternally evolving world himself, this sad, powerful being has already obliterated millions of alien interlopers and their great cities to protect the fragile native population.  Now Shan and her party – plus the small colony of fundamentalist humans who preceded them – could face a similar annihilation…or a fate far worse.  Because Aras possesses a secret of the blood that would be disastrous if it fell into human hands – if the gethes survive the impending war their coming has inadvertently hastened.

My Rating: 5 out of 5

Bookshelf: Oh, definitely

How I Got It: Bought

I’ll admit, when I first saw this on Calico Reaction’s blog, I was kinda wary. Sci-fi with an evironmental twist? Hmm…I don’t know. But true to form, another incredible recommendation. It’s not exactly space opera, since most of the story takes place on another planet. It’s not exactly military sci-fi, because the military presence makes up a small part of the cast of characters. It’s a mixture of a little bit of everything. The book touches on everything from religion, environmental policy, the scary possible future of the corporation, family values, ethics in journalism, and human/alien relations. It sounds like a lot, but all of these subjects are integral to the story and Traviss covers them all without seeming disjointed or being preachy. The issue that stood out most to me was the conflict between interference and non-interference. How do you make scientists get along with a society that believes in not interfering with any form of life? It was really interesting. The main character, Shan, is also kick ass. She’s a tough, no B.S. cop with a mysterious past. I liked her. If you enjoy strong, female leads, and sci-fi with something more than just action, then you should check this out.

Review: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. Lefevers (Theodosia Throckmorton #1)

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. Lefevers (Theodosia Throckmorton #1)

from the back of the book

“Frankly, I’m not fond of surprises, as ones around here tend to be rather wicked.” For poor Theodosia, however, surprises abound. She spends most of her time at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. There, all the artifacts her parents dig up around the world are put on display and studied. But what her parents can’t see – and what Theodosia can – is the curses and black magic still attached to the ancient pieces. And it’s up to Theo to keep it all under control. Quite a task for an eleven-year-old.

Then Theo’s mother brings home the Heart of Egypt – a legendary amulet belonging to an ancient tomb. Theodosia’s skills will certainly be put to the test, for the curse attached to it is so vile and so black, it threatens to bring down the entire British Empire! Theodosia will have to call upon everything she’s ever learned in order to prevent the rising chaos from destroying her country – and herself!

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I Got It: Bought

First off, I disagree with the Booklist review stating that this is “for fans of Harry Potter.” I wouldn’t exactly say that this is for fans of Harry Potter. This is more for fans of the Mysterious Benedict Society series, Harriet the Spy, or even From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Yes, ok, magic is a major part of this series, but it’s more about solving the mystery. Think Victorian-era mystery with a dash of Egyptian magic. Theodosia is a strong 11-year-old girl. She may come off as stuff and as a know-it-all at some points, but we’re also reminded that she’s just a little girl, and that she gets scared sometimes. The mystery was well paced and I wasn’t able to guess too much of the ending, which always impresses me. I want to read the next in the series to see what other kind of mysteries Theo has to try and figure out.  I would definitely recommend this to those 10, maybe 9 and up, who enjoy mysteries. The voice of the character kind of reminded me of Gail Carriger’s Alexa Tarabotti (from the Parasol Protectorate Series), but much younger and more PG friendly. If you enjoy mysteries, and Egyptian magic, definitely check this out.

Review: Dauntless by Jack Campbell (The Lost Fleet #1)

Dauntless by Jack Campbell  (The Lost Fleet #1)

From the back of the book

The Alliance has been fighting the Syndics for a century – and losing badly.  Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory.  Their only hope is a man who’s emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief…Captain John “Black Jack” Geary’s legendary exploits are known to every schoolchild.  Revered for his heroic “last stand” in the early days fo the war, he was presumed dead.  But a century later, Geary miraculously returns from survivial hibernation and reluctantly take command of the Alliance fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.  Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geray is nevertheless a man who will do his duty.  And he knos that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance’s one chance to win the war.  But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic “Black Jack” legend…

My Rating:  3 out of 5

Bookshelf: No

How I Got It: BoughtI

I thought this was just ok. The storyline of how Geary went from soldier to legend is interesting, but it just didn’t hook me. The interactions between the military and the politicians reminded me of Battlestar Galactica. No matter what Adama needed to do, he had to (in theory) check with the representatives of the colonies and the President. If you’re not familiar with BSG (which is awesome), there’s major tension trying to convince the politicians what needs to be done to win, or just survive. I’m not too keen on politics in general, so this aspect of the book really didn’t endear me to the first in this series. Unfortunately, I don’t have the urge to read the rest of the series either. It’s not that it was bad, just wasn’t for me.

Review: The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

from the back of the book

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between the gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists.  With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets – secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona.  This doesn’t sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart – literally.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I Got It: Bought

I enjoyed this. Well, not that it made me happy, but I’m happy that I read it. It’s heartbreakingly sad, but that’s a good thing. It can’t all be sunshine and roses, can it? The author created characters that you care about and root for during all the trials they go through. The writing style is very different from what I’m used to reading. I tend to normally gravitate toward action and military sci-fi, but this is most definitely nothing like that. I’m not familiar with the lit terms, but I’ll try to do my best to describe it. It’s more lyrical. The descriptions produce vivid images in the mind’s eye, and evoke a sense of beauty, even when describing something unpleasant. It felt…dreamy. Ugh, I should have taken at least one lit class. The pace of the book was slower, but that’s understandable because the emphasis isn’t solely on action. I really enjoyed this, and I look forward to reading other books by this author.