March 26, 2013

Dirge by Alan Dean Foster

Title: Dirge
Author: Alan Dean Foster
Format: HC
Pages: 310
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Del Rey, 2000

ISBN-13:     978-0345418647
Series: Humanx Commonwealth, Book 3

Favorite Quote:  It screaming was.

Synopsis:  Alan Dean Foster has written more than twenty novels set in the Humanx Commonwealth, an unforgettable world where humans, thranx, AAnn, and numerous other aliens live and work side by side. But the amicable relationships between species have always hung in a tenuous balance between distrust and diplomacy. Dirge is the second thrilling novel in The Founding of the Commonwealth, an adventure that delves deeper into the fragile early years when humans made first contact.

In the second half of the twenty-fourth century, diplomatic relations proceed cautiously between thranx and humans, who are slow to overcome their aversion to the insectlike beings. But the lowly thranx are nearly forgotten with the sudden discovery of an ideal planet to colonize--Argus V--and the startling appearance of a new race of space-faring aliens. People are dazzled by the beautiful, glamorous pitar. Then tragedy strikes.

A cargo ship making a routine delivery to Argus V finds a scene of grisly carnage has replaced the bustling new world. The entire human population-- 600,000 men, women, and children--has been brutally slaughtered. Not one survivor or a single clue remains to identify the unseen executioners. Even the combined efforts of all alien species prove fruitless in the search for killers who have perpetrated planetary genocide on such a vast scale.

But from a tiny inner moon of Argus V comes a faint, wavering signal--and on that insignificant chunk of rubble lies the key to the crime. The cataclysm that follows is replete with shock and deadly consequences for thranx, pitar, and human alike. For their worlds will change forever by the colossal space battle that is both in their future and their destiny.

Review:  I really did like this story, although I had pretty much figured out who the bad guys were (and why) long before the ending.  I am so glad I found this series, but it is a really long one and I think I'll take a short break and come back to them in a bit.  It's not that I'm not enjoying them.  I am.  I just don't want to get burnt out.

Rating:  8 / 10  

March 24, 2013

Phylogenesis by Alan Dean Foster

Title: Phylogenesis
Author: Alan Dean Foster
Format: PB
Pages: 289
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Del Rey, 2000

ISBN-13:     978-0345418616
Series: Humanx Commonwealth, Book 2

Synopsis:  In the years after first contact, humans and the intelligent insect like Thranx agree to a tentative sharing of ideas and cultures despite the ingrained repulsion they have yet to overcome. Thus, a slow, lengthy process of limited contact begins. — Yet they never plan for a chance meeting between a misfit artist and a petty thief. Desvendapur is a talented Thranx poet who is bored with his life and needs new inspiration for his work. Venturing beyond the familiar, Desvendapur runs into Cheelo Montoya, a small-time criminal with big dreams of making a fast buck. Together they will embark upon a journey that will forever change their beliefs, their futures, and their worlds . . .

Review:  While not quite as good as the first book, this story was still a fine example of Science Fiction.  I couldn't warm up to the main characters as much and I think that detracted from the enjoyment for me.  Nonetheless, I'm on to the next story and hoping it will stand up to the high bar already set.

Rating:  7.5 / 10

March 20, 2013

Nor Crystal Tears by Alan Dean Foster

Title: Nor Crystal Tears
Author: Alan Dean Foster
Format: PB
Pages: 230
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine, 1982

ISBN-13:     978-0345291417
Series: Humanx Commonwealth, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  "Not water tears from you nor crystal tears from me, would that I were able to manufacture them."

Synopsis:  Before Man and insectlike Thranx had become allies, when the reptilian AAnn were just occasional raiders of Thranx colony worlds, one young Thranx agricultural expert lived a life of quiet desperation. — A dreamer in a world of sensible, stable beings, Ryo buried himself in his work--reclaiming marshland from a tenacious jungle--until he came across a letter describing a relative's encounter with horrid, two-legged, soft-skinned space-going beasts... 

Review:  I've been wanting so badly to read this series, but didn't have the second book until just a few days ago.  I'm glad I waited though.  This series is going to be fabulous, if the first book is any indication.  The first half of the book is told from the alien standpoint.  There aren't even any humans in it at all until very nearly halfway through.  

Everything I love about Science Fiction, this book has.  Believable aliens, interesting settings, and a startling look at humanity through the eyes of something that's completely unlike us.  Speaking as a person who really hates insects, I was afraid I would never be able to really get into a story about insect-like aliens.  I was wrong, since Mr. Foster made them so eloquent and beautiful inside that I couldn't help but be enchanted.  It's a great book, a well-written story, and a wonderful start to what I hope is going to be an excellent series.

Rating:  10 / 10

March 18, 2013

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

Title: The Tenth Circle
Author: Jodi Picoult
Format: PB
Pages: 385
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Atria, 2006

ISBN-13:     978-0743496711
Series: Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "It's how I run away."

Synopsis:  Fourteen year Trixie Stone is in love for the first time. She's also the light of her father, Daniels' life -- a straight A student; a pretty, popular freshman in high school; a girl who's always seen her father as a hero. That is, until her world is turned upside down with a single act of violence. Suddenly everything Trixie has believed about her family -- and herself -- seems to be a lie. Could the boyfriend who once made Trixie wild with happiness have been the one to end her childhood forever? She says that he is, and that is all it takes to make Daniel, a seemingly mild-mannered comic book artist with a secret tumultuous past he has hidden even from his family, venture to hell and back to protect his daughter.

Review:  As always, Ms. Picoult has written a novel that grabbed me and didn't let go.  The story is heart-wrenching and heart-warming, scary and completely believable all at one time.  It's a roller-coaster of a ride and not for the faint of heart.  The subject matter was difficult, to say the least, but I still just couldn't put it down until I was done.

Rating:  8 / 10

March 14, 2013

The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Title: The Dragon Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Format: PB
Pages: 498
Genre:Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Hyperion, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1423110712
Series: Heir Chronicles, Book 3

Favorite Quote:  "It'll be like the Mines of Moria," Fitch said.  "Hopefully without the orcs."

Synopsis:The covenant that was meant to keep the wizard wars at bay has been stolen, and Trinity must prepare for attack. Everyone is doing their part -- Seph is monitoring the Weirwalls; Jack and Ellen are training their ghostly army; even Anaweir Will and Fitch are setting booby traps around the town's perimeter. But to Jason Haley, it seems like everyone wants to keep him out of the action. He may not be the most powerful wizard in Trinity, but he's prepared to fight for his friends. When Jason finds a powerful talisman -- a huge opal called the Dragonheart -- buried in a cave, his role takes on new importance. The stone seems to sing to Jason's very soul -- showing him that he is meant for more than anyone guessed.

Trinity's guardians take the stone away after they realize that it may be a weapon powerful enough to save them all. Without any significant power of his own, and now without the stone, what can Jason possibly do to help the people he cares about -- and to prove his mettle?

Madison Moss can feel the beating heart of the opal, too. The desire for it surges through her, drawing her to it. But Maddie has other things besides the Dragonheart on her mind. She has a secret. Ever since absorbing the magical blow that was meant to kill Seph, she's been leaking dark powers. Although Maddie herself is immune to magic, what would her friends think if they knew what kind of evil lay within her?

Trinity's enemies are as enthusiastic about her powers as she is frightened. They think they can use her to get to the Dragonheart -- and they'll use anyone Maddie cares about to make her steal the stone for them. Moral compasses spin out of control as a final battle storms through what was once a sanctuary for the gifted. With so much to lose, what will Jason and Maddie be willing to fight for -- and what will they sacrifice? Every man is for himself in this thrilling conclusion to the Heir trilogy.

Review:  This was a great ending to a really good series.  Some of my favorite characters were lost along the way, but that is to be expected during wartime .  I didn't see the end coming, although I did suspect that Maddie had a role to play in it and it turns out she certainly did.

While I may not have loved this book quite as much as the others, it is still well-worth reading and it gives a nice little wrap-up at the end so I wasn't left wondering what happened to all the people I'd come to like.

Rating:  8 / 10

March 11, 2013

The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Title: The Wizard Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Format: HC
Pages: 458
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Hyperion, 2008
ISBN-13:     978-1423104889
Series: Heir Chronicles, Book 2

Favorite Quote:  And sometimes you need to make a claim on the world and the people you love to get what you most desire.

Synopsis:  Sixteen-year-old Seph McCauley has spent the past three years getting kicked out of one exclusive private school after another. And it's not his attitude that's the problem. It's the trail of magical accidents-lately, disasters-that follow in his wake. Seph is a wizard, orphaned and untrained--and his powers are escalating out of control.

After causing a tragic fire at an after-hours party, Seph is sent to the Havens, a secluded boys' school on the coast of Maine. At first, it seems like the answer to his prayers. Gregory Leicester, the headmaster, promises to train Seph in magic and initiate him into his mysterious order of wizards. But Seph's enthusiasm dampens when he learns that training comes at a steep cost, and that Leicester plans to use his students' powers to serve his own dangerous agenda.

In this companion novel to the exciting fantasy The Warrior Heir, everyone's got a secret to keep: Jason Haley, a fellow student who's been warned to keep away from Seph; the enchanter Linda Downey, who knew his parents; the rogue wizard Leander Hastings, and the warriors Jack Swift and Ellen Stephenson. This wizard war is one that Seph may not have the strength to survive.

Review:  This book brought back many of the characters I loved (and loved to hate) from the last book.  It also introduced a couple of really great new ones.  These are really good books.  I can't even begin to tell you how easy they are to read and how hard they are to put down.

I did figure out the mystery, long before the answer was revealed, but it didn't take away from the reading at all.  I want to move to Trinity and live next door to enchanters and sorcerers and all the rest of the great people who live there.  So many of the problems with humanity and society are touched upon in these stories.  I recommend this series without reservation for anyone from youth to adult.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

March 10, 2013

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Title: The Warrior Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Format: PB
Pages: 426
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: Hyperion, 2007
ISBN-13:  978-0786839179 
Series: Heir Chronicles, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  There was nothing truly new in the world, but only the slow, circular march of time that revealed the old things once again.

Synopsis:  Before he knew about the Roses, fourteen-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high-schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts.

Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: he is Weirlind, part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At the head of this magical society sit the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game, a magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death.

The winning house rules the Weir. As if his bizarre magical heritage isn't enough, Jack finds out that hes not just another member of Weirlind he's one of the last of the warriors at a time when both houses are scouting for a player. Jack's performance on the soccer field has alerted the entire magical community to the fact that he's in Trinity. And until one of the houses is declared Jack's official sponsor, there are no limits to what they'll do to get Jack to fight for them...

Review:  This book has some of the same feeling as the Harry Potter stories.  However, it is not a recreation of those books by any means.  It is original and well-written.  It may be written for young adults, but I never did feel that I was reading anything less than pure, great fantasy.  

With magic, battles, and just plain good story-telling, it's a fast read that I didn't want to put down.  I am already well into the next novel in this series and really glad they were recommended to me by a friend.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

Trying again....

It's been 7 months since I did any reviews.  Life has thrown me quite a few curve balls the last couple of years, but I'm going to try again.....starting now.  I've read so many great books that I didn't review, but they're water under the bridge now.
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