MandaBerry's Books

One person's thoughts on a whole lot of books

Tag Archives: review

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.



Review: Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd (Book One of the Twilight Reign)

The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd (Book One of the Twilight Reign)

From the back of the book

In a land ruled by prophecy and the whims of Gods, a young man finds himself at the heart of a war he barely understands, wielding powers he may never be able to control.  Isak is a white-eye, born bigger, more charismatic, and more powerful than normal men…but with that power comes an unpredictable temper and an inner rage he cannot always hide.  Brought up as a wagon-brat, feared and despised by those around him, he dreams of a place in the army and a chance to live his own life.  But when the call comes, it isn’t to be a soldier, for the Gods have other plans for the intemperate teenager: Isak has been chosen as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the white-eye Lord of the Farlan.  The white-eyes were created by the Gods to bring order out of chaos, for their magnetic charm and formidable strength make them natural leaders of men.  Lord Bahl is typical of the breed: he inspires and oppresses those around him in equal measure.  He can be brusque and impatient, a difficult mentor for a boy every bit as volatile as he is.

But now is the time for revenge, and for the forging of empires.  With mounting envy and malice, the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak, chosen by Gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and molded to fulfill the prophecies that circle him like scavenger birds.  Divine fury and mortal strife are about to spill over and paint the world with blood.  The Stormcaller is the first book in a powerful new series that combines inspired world building, epoch-shattering battles, and high emotion to dazzling effect.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I got it: Bought

I admit that I’m behind on my fantasy reading.  I wish I could say “If you like so-and-so, then you’ll like this,” but, alas, I can’t.  I enjoyed reading about most of the characters, and the action scenes were exciting but very brief. I liked the world that the author was building, but I don’t feel I can completely see or understand it yet.  Maybe in the next book it’ll all make sense.  Quite a few characters were briefly introduced in short segments and left me wondering how they fit into the story. I’m a little miffed because this isn’t settled by the end of the book. Sorry. I’m aware this is a series, but this installment doesn’t compel me to rush out and buy the next one. I’m concerned I might just get completely lost.  I enjoyed the story, but all of the jumping around and the number of characters briefly mentioned makes me hesitant to continue reading this series.  You never know, I may just suck it up and see how it turns out.

Review: Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson

Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson

From the back of the book

Journey to the Final Frontier of Sci-fi zombie horror! Jim Pike was the world’s biggest Star Trek fan – until two tours of duty in Afghanistan destroyed his faith in the human race.  Now he sleepwalks through life as the assistant manager of a small hotel in downtown Houston.  But when hundred of Trekkies arrive in his lobby for a science-fiction convention, Jim finds himself surrounded by costumed Klingons, Vulcans, and Ferengi – plus a strange virus that transforms its carriers into savage, flesh-eating zombies!
As bloody corpses stumble to life and the planet teeters on the brink of total apocalypse, Jim must deliver a ragtag crew of fanboys and fangirls to safety.  Dressed in homemade uniforms and armed with prop phasers, their prime time directive is to survive.  But how long can they last in the ultimate no-win scenario?

My Rating: 3 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes, mainly for the cover and my love for sci-fi conventions

How I got it: Bought

I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed this more if I were a Star Trek fan. Despite my ignorance of the Star Trek Universe, I found this book to be pretty ok.  I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor, the nerdiness, and the con references. I didn’t find this that scary.  I was surprised quite a few times, but not in a fearful way, more in a “Huh. Didn’t see that coming” sort of way.  This is definitely more of a spoof zombie novel than a hardcore horror one.  The Trekkies, Trekkers, and congoers weren’t portrayed in a derogatory light at all.  In fact, I think this was written specifically for these communities.  They’re definitely in the best position to fully appreciate it.  If you know nothing about Star Trek or sci-fi conventions, this probably won’t work for you.  If, on the other hand, you’re into either or both of these, you may want to check it out.

Review: The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi

The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi

From the back of the book

Saving the planet, one sheep at a time.  A human diplomat kills his alien counterpart.  Earth is on the verge of war with a vastly superior alien race.  A lone man races against time and a host of enemies to find the one object that can save our planet and our people from alien enslavement…a sheep.  Yes, you read that right.  Welcome to The Android’s Dream.  For Harry Creek, it’s a nightmare.  All he wants is to do his uncomplicated mid-level diplomatic job with Earth’s State Department.  But his skills and past training get him tapped to save the planet – and to protect pet store owner Robin Baker, whose own past holds the key to the whereabouts of that lost sheep.  Doing both will take Harry from lava-strewn battlefields to alien halls of power.  All in a day’s work.  Maybe it’s time for a raise.

My rating: 4 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I got it: Bought

I enjoyed this. It was exciting, adventurous, sarcastic, and fun.  I enjoy Scalzi’s sense of humor, and the dialogue between his characters is great.  If you’ve read Old Man’s War, then I think you’ll enjoy this. I took me a bit to get over the fact that this isn’t set in the same world as OMW, especially since the main character’s name is Harry. If you haven’t read Old Man’s War, then this is a great introduction to Scalzi’s writing style. This is more of a sci-fi thriller, where Old Man’s War is definitely military sci-fi. There are some explanations of scientific topics, but not at the “hard sci-fi” level, which is great because that usually goes right over my head. There were some political explanations that went on a little too long for me, but there weren’t many so I was okay with that.

Review: Blade runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) by Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

From the back of the book

The year is 2021.  Somewhere out there, among the hordes of humans, lurk several rogue androids.  Rick Deckard’s assignment: find them and then…”retire” them.  Trouble is, the androids all look and act exactly like humans, and they don’t want to be found.  Originally published in 1968, this foreboding adventure is a masterpiee ahead of its time.  In our own near future, a world war has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending humankind off-planet.  Those who remain covet any living creatures, and this desire spawns the technology to build incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep…and humans.  Fearful of the havoc these artificial huans can wreak, the government band them from Earth.  But androids don’t want to be identified; they just blend in.  And it’s bounty hunter Rick Deckard’s job to track down any fugitives – and destroy them.

My Rating: 2 out of 5

Bookshelf: No

How I got it: Bought

Definitely not my favorite.  I can appreciate PKD’s vision of what the future could be, but I didn’t like the character of Rick Deckard at all. I couldn’t feel anything for him except dislike. There were also quite a few times in the book where I had to stop, scratch my head, and then re-read the passage, and it still didn’t quite make sense to me. (Or as I like to call them, my “Huh?” moments.)  I can see how this influenced cyberpunk and later sci-fi authors, and I appreciate this novel for that, but it just didn’t work for me.  I read this quite a while after I had seen the movie, and I liked them both about the same.  The book and the movie are significantly different from each other, and Deckard follows different paths to achieve the same goal of “retiring” (killing) the androids.  I thought that paths were interesting, just not interesting enough.

Review: The Thief of Broken Toys by Tim Lebbon

The Thief of Broken Toys by Tim Lebbon 

From the back of the book

When a father loses his son and his wife leaves him, he cannot tear himself away from the small fishing village where the boy’s memories reside.  They’re all he has left.  Thinking that his life is all but over, he takes to wandering the cliffs, carrying broken things that he always promised his son he would fix, but never did.  They’re a sign of his failure, and they keep little Toby close.  And then he meets the thief of broken toys, and everything begins to change.

My Rating:  2 out of 5

Bookshelf: No

How I got it: Bought

Sounds a little creepy, right?  I know I thought it did, but I was very disappointed.  If anything it’s a sad story about loss and grief, but not really creepy at all.  Perhaps my hopes were too high?  I did find this in the Sci-fi/Fantasy section of the bookstore, but now that I’ve read it I don’t understand why it was there.  It was a very quick read, so I don’t feel too let down.  I did pay for it though, so I am a little bummed.

The narration annoyed to no end. It reminded me of a tour guide, “And now we see…” Did not care for that.  I think a little more description or insight into the “thief of broken toys” would have made it more interesting. I did enjoy the scenes of reminiscence about his son, which were sad and bittersweet.  I think this would have been better if it were longer. I understand that this a novella and that it was supposed to be short, but I think so much more could have been done with this story.  If you are more of a fan of psychological character studies, then you may enjoy this.  If you’re a fan of straightforward supernatural stories, then this really may not be for you.  If you enjoyed the Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff you would probably like this book.

All in all, I didn’t really care for it.  Can’t win ’em all, right?

Review: Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines Series Prequel #1)

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines Series Prequel #1) 

From the front flap of the dust jacket

Fever Crumb is a girl who has been adopted and raised by Dr. Crumb, a member of the order of Engineers, where she serves as apprentice. At a time when women are not seen as reasonable creatures, Fever is an anomaly, the only girl to serve in the Order. Soon though, she must say goodbye to Dr. Crumb to assist archeologist Kit Solent with a top-secret project. The assignment involves a mysterious room that once belonged to Auric Godshawk, the last of the Scriven overlords, and Fever must help unlock it.  The Scrive, not human, ruled the city some years ago but were hunted down and killed in a victorious uprising by the people.

As Fever’s work begins, she is plagued by memories that are not her own, and Kit seems to have a particular interest in finding out what they are. All Fever knows is what she’s been told: She is an orphan. But whose memories does she hold? And why are there people chasing her, intent on eliminating her? Is Fever the key to unlocking the terrible secret of the past?

My Rating:4 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I got it: Bought

This prequel is set quite a few generations before the Hungry City Chronicles begins – before cities become Traction Cities. There are quite a few references that foreshadow events and characters from the rest of the series, and readers not familiar with the series may not understand these references.  Fans of the Hungry City Chronicles will find the familiar, fun and descriptive writing style of Reeve, along with the random references to Ancient History (our present time). There was one in the first twenty or so pages that made me laugh out loud. I mean it’s one thing to smile to yourself while reading something entertaining, but quite another to giggle out loud. 

The first part of the book was a little slow, but it picked up quickly.  I didn’t care too much for the character at first, but as the story went on, Fever grew on me and I was cheering for her towards the end of the book. The gadgets and inventions are as interesting as ever, though not as plentiful as others in the series.

This can be read without reading the Hungry City Chronicles, but keep in mind that you may not pick up certain details in Fever Crumb that you would have if you read the series beforehand. I personally wouldn’t recommend reading Fever Crumb before reading the Hungry City Chronicles, but since the series is so hard to find in the States, if you want to start with Fever Crumb you’ll still be ok. The Hungry City Chronicles should be available in libraries, but, as of right now, it’s out of print in the States. (Scholastic was supposed to put out a reprint this year, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

The Hungry City Chronicles is composed of Mortal Engines (#1), Predator’s Gold (#2), Infernal Devices (#3), and A Darkling Plain (#4). 

Review: Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve (Hungry City Chronicles #1)

Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles) Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve (Hungry City Chronicles #1)

from the back of the book

London is hunting!

The great Traction City lumbers after a small town, eager to strip its prey of all assets and move on.  In the not-so-distant future, mobile cities consume one another to survive, a practice known as Municipal Darwinism. Tom, an apprentice in the Guild of Historians, saves his hero from a murder attempt by the mysterious Hester Shaw – only to find himself thrown from the city and stranded with Hester in the Out Country.  As they struggle to follow the city, the sinister plans of London’s leaders begin to unfold…

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bookshelf: Yes, definitely

How I got it: Bought

Fantastic! I heard such great feedback from people who have given me the best recommendations, so I had to try this. When I asked what it was about, however, they started sputtering about Municipal Darwinism and at that point I started tuning them out. I hope I can explain it better. This takes place far in the future, but there’s an Industrial Revolution/Victorian feel about the time period. The cities have become mobile. They roll around in search of smaller towns they can “eat” for parts, supplies, labor, and trade. There’s an evil plot put in motion by certain Londoners and it’s a race to see if anyone can stop them.

There’s definitely a Steampunk feel to this book, but it’s not for the sake of being Steampunk. Did that make sense? There are certain books that have been written to appeal specifically to the Steampunk crowd, and you can tell. This, however, feels like Steampunk but without being blatantly targeted for it. I appreciate that.

I liked that action and excitement throughout the book.  While Tom and Hester are our main characters, there are quite a few subplots going on throughout the book and they definitely added to the emotional impact of the story.  The world building is also really well thought out and intriguing. The descriptions of the Traction Cities and the Stationary Cities were great, and there were some really neat descriptions of the mechanics of the Traction cities.  I also enjoyed the various throwbacks to the ancient past, which is actually now.  While there was much to enjoy about this book, there were also many sad and depressing parts. I only mention this because sometimes this is promoted as a kid’s book, but really I think this is more of a YA (mid to upper teen) novel.  Not necessarily for the subject matter itself, but for the way it’s discussed between the characters in the book.

This has become one of my favorite series, and not just for a YA series. This is one of those “Jeez, I wish they had this when I was growing up” books.