Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: "Redemption Ark" by Alastair Reynolds

(Redemption Ark is the second book in a series. I reviewed Revelation Space, the first book , here.) 


Humanity has attracted the attention of the Inhibitors: the alien machines designed to eradicate intelligent life throughout the galaxy. Tireless, relentless, unstoppable, the Inhibitors cannot be outwitted or outfought. Maybe, just maybe, they can be outrun.

Ana Khouri races against the clock to evacuate the planet Resurgam. One species has already been hunted to extinction there by the Inhibitors, and if she fails, humans will be next. Meanwhile, Triumvir Ilia Volyova negotiates with her former captain--a ghostly presence haunting his own ship--for the use of the cache weapons to protect Resurgam.

But the Conjoiners who created the cache weapons are coming to collect them. The artificially enlightened subspecies are turning their backs on baseline humanity, leaving them for the Inhibitors while the Conjoiners flee the galaxy. The Conjoiner hero Nevil Clavain, who was human himself many centuries ago, suffers a crisis of conscience and defects to warn humanity of the danger. Now he must beat his own people to the cache weapons--if Ilia and the Captain will agree to turn them over. When all of human civilization is awaiting execution, there are no right answers, and not enough time.
  2 out of 5 stars

Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: "Black Unicorn" by Tanith Lee

In her desert fortress, a hundred miles from civilization, the Sorceress Jaive toys with the laws of magic. The careless overflow of her powers warps the world around her--just as her neglect warps her daughter Tanaquil, raised in isolation.

Tanaquil's talent lies in repairing broken things, rather than in spells and enchantments. One night, by chance or fate, her mundane work collides with her mother's magic. The skeleton of the creature she has painstakingly reassembled comes to breathtaking, terrifying life. The black unicorn, dead for a thousand years, tears through Jaive's fortress and disappears.

Half enchanted, half desperate, Tanaquil follows the hoofprints of the black unicorn across the scorching desert. With no money, no friends, and no control over the beautiful, terrifying creature that alternately helps and haunts her, she must rely on her own wits and her own heart to guide her.

  3.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: "Locked Inside" by Nancy Werlin

The death of her mother, the famous singer-writer Skye, has left Marnie immensely wealthy--and intensely alone. She drifts through the ritzy private school selected for her, avoiding friendships and disappointing her guardians, waiting until the day she is 18 and can choose her own life. While she waits, she loses herself in the digital world of Paliopolis, the only place where she feels free.

Even if Marnie tries to ignore the world, though, the world has not ignored her. As the Halsett campus empties for spring break, Marnie is kidnapped. Her kidnapper has no interest in ransom--only in Marnie Skyedottir herself.

As isolated as she has kept herself, no hope of rescue is forthcoming. If Marnie will ever be set free, she will have to win her freedom herself.

  3 out of 5 stars

Friday, February 14, 2014

Review: "Code Name Verity" by Elizabeth Wein

"I am a coward," the wireless operator writes on the first page of her confession. In exchange for gentler treatment and a delay of her execution, she has agreed to tell her Nazi jailers everything she knows.

But the pages she fills with words have very little to do with the locations of British airfields, or the types of planes they are sending into the war. Instead, she writes about her dearest friend, Maddie Brodatt--clever Maddie who never gets lost; courageous Maddie who became a licensed pilot just before the war broke out; faithful Maddie who flew the the wireless operator to occupied France, where she was captured.

For page after page she draws out Maddie's story (punctuated with just enough details of airfields and planes to keep her captors interested.) She masks her treason inside memories of their friendship. As time runs short, the prisoner's scheme takes shape: to reach Maddie, if she is still alive, to fulfill their duty, and to take their revenge on the cruel regime that has darkened all of Europe.

  5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Page Flag Bonanza

Pictured: a lot of page flags.
Not pictured: creased corners.
I'm taking advantage of a day off to write up that giant backlog of books I have on my desk. Just for fun, here's a snapshot of what books look like while I'm preparing to review them!

After several people lectured me about creasing the corners, Sarah went ahead and gave me a stack of page flags to use when I need to remember something. Obviously I don't end up including every quote, but it's a good way for me to get a handle on what I want to talk about--especially if I wait several weeks before actually reviewing a book. In going back through my tabs, I am reminded of great lines, crucial details, and moments where the author dropped the ball--i.e. where my inner grump comes out to play. Then I have a good direction to start my review.

If y'all saw what my books looked like BEFORE I had page flags, you'd probably shun me. Though my stash of flags is running low...

Review: "Bridge of Birds" by Barry Hughart

When all the children in the village of Ku-fu fall mysteriously ill, Number Ten Ox goes to find a cure for them. In Peking's Street of Eyes, he hires the assistance of the ancient and unscrupulous sage Li Kao. But the only known cure for the mysterious ailment appears to be something out of a fairy tale--a magical ginseng root.

Ox and Li Kao set off in search of miracles, and money, and revenge. Every trail they follow leads them back to the Duke of Ch'in, with his terrifying tiger mask and his deadly labyrinth. Against his power, even Li Kao's clever schemes and Ox's pure faith may not be enough. Meanwhile, the sickly children of Ku-fu are running out time.

  2.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review: "Wither" by Lauren DeStefano

Sixteen-year-old Rhine lives under a death sentence. By the age of 20, she and every other woman in her generation will die, thanks to the effects of genetic experimentation. But Rhine's life expectancy may be even shorter than that. Like so many other girls, she is kidnapped, sold to wealthy men eager for children before their own lives come to an end.

Imprisoned in Governor Linden's mansion with his three other young "wives," Rhine plots to gain his favor, but also her own freedom. Neither will be easy to achieve. And the horrors of her abduction is nothing compared to the eerie power held by Linden's scientist father. 

1 out of 5 stars