Book Reviews Part 2

The way I’ve been doing book reviews isn’t working. I’ve ended up just saying what I love about the books I read and not thinking about them critically enough. This means I need to change my method.
Here’s how and why I’ve been doing book reviews.

New method

I will still keep the same basic format but for every section I will talk about what I liked and what I disliked. So each of the 5 sections will have a Done Well and Done Badly section.

Hopefully this will help make my reviews more interesting and poignant.

Thanks for reading.

Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair –Book Review

A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novels both Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair are written by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.

Both Novels follow two British secret agents that deal with odd, weird, or peculiar occurrences. It’s a formula that works well for X-files, Warehouse 13, and countless cop shows. It works wonderfully with these two characters. The Explosive and flippant female lead and the bookish conservative male, play off each other wonderfully.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

Compared to Victorian novels or fantasy novels these books casts are relatively small. It would be easy to have each agent be a cookie cutter trope but every agent from the ministry is unique and interesting.

The two main characters have deep and interesting stories that are slowly parsed out at key moments. Always keeping you wanting more.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

The novels are “Steampunk” and are written with a great balance between Victorian and modern styles. The language is older and the storyline refers to a lot of historical facts but the style is still quick and action packed. That being said there are times that it felt like the authors were trying a little too hard to both mimic the Victorian style and subvert its misconceptions.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

The story is fast, action packed, and feels like a good action adventure movie. There are robots, sexy assassins, and awesome mysteries. It’s everything you want in a great pulp novel.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

These books are fun from cover to cover. If you enjoy action adventure you’ll love these books.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Final score is 80%

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Book Review

Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of being a Wallflower is best described as a coming of age story with a large heaping of 90’s nostalgia. It is of course much more than that description.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

Each of the characters is unique, beautiful, and human. Everything felt real and all the reactions were as puzzling as when I was in high school.

For characters, I give it 5 out of 5

Writing Style

I’ll be completely honest, I hate diary/letter novels. I find they lack a level of scope and depth that most first person narratives achieve. There are exceptions of course. I loved the Beka Cooper novels and I loved this one.

There is nothing better to put you into the mind of an angsty teen than to see and feel things from his perspective.

The letters also managed to create a proper structure to the narrative.

For what it was, it was good. I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

The story is much more dramatic than anything that happened to me as a kid. There is way to much substance abuse for my taste but it feels like the kind of novel that has something to teach. I would highly encourage teens to read the novel critically. Analyze as you read. “Don’t be a sponge.”

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

The first half of this novel is exciting and down right fun. The second half is still fun but sad, and painful. Overall I loved this book but some parts are hard emotionally.

I give it 4 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Final score is 85%

The Beka Cooper Trilogy – Book Review

Written by the amazing Tamora Peirce. this trilogy is an adrenaline ride from start to finish.

Over the past three years I have been systematically going through her entire library of books. I’ve now read everything she’s published with the exception of short stories and comics.

It was an amazing journey, I feel like I watched her and her world grow with every book. Her encouragement of new authors on her site and her own journey as an author has helped push me towards publishing my own novels.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

With a three book series, it’s easy to fall into the trap of developing too many characters. These books find a perfect number of characters. Enough characters to hide the twist villain, or villains, but not enough to force the reader to take notes.

As for the main character, Beka is strong, intelligent, and great at her job. She has her flaws, that make her human and several attributes that make her feel real.

The secondary characters have lives around the main plots and main character. It’s easy for an author to assume that nothing interesting happens to the secondary characters when the main character isn’t around. That never happens to Mrs. Pierce, it always feels like there’s a novel hiding with the secondary characters, a new and exciting story. It’s never enough to throw you out of the story but it’s enough to feel real.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

This trilogy is a departure in multiple ways for Mrs. Pierce and for the world of Tortall. It’s the first Procedural, the first series that doesn’t have a large story arc, and the first to be written as series of journal entries.

Each book flows from one to the other but the stories are separate. Characters and lives flow between each but not mysteries. The procedural aspects of the book are fantastic. After getting used to the slang journal, I found I really enjoyed it.

The only negative I can see was the lack of rest. After the first few establishing chapters it was non stop action. I would have liked a few chapters of rest to let my poor heart rate return to normal.

For what it was, it was good. I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

The story in each of the books was fantastic. Possibly her best work and definitely some of the best books I’ve read.

That said there were a few things that bugged me. Not to go too much into detail but there was one character that felt tacked on and not all that important. Pounce is her magical cat. I found he was a little too powerful and for that reason she needed to find reasons why he disappeared. It was a nice tie in with her first Tortall Series but I found it unnecessary.

The one part of Mrs. Pierce’s writing that I don’t particularly like is her romantic plots. It often feels like her characters just fall into the relationships. I’m not sure what’s missing exactly but I feel it happens too easily.

These are little nit picks that don’t greatly affect my enjoyment.

I give the story 5 out of 5

Fun

In my opinion, Tamora Pierce is one of the best Young Adult writers. Her stories are entertaining, intelligent, and well thought out. It’s nice to find an author who doesn’t continuously writes female characters as boy crazy, indecisive dolts.

This series is my favourite for the year so far. They are a lot of fun.

If you have never read a book by Tamora Pierce or if you’ve read everything she’s published, you should enjoy this series. It has enough links to the rest of the series but is completely understandable without having read anything else.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Final score is 90%

The Beka Cooper Trilogy – Book Review

Written by the amazing Tamora Peirce. this trilogy is an adrenaline ride from start to finish.

Over the past three years I have been systematically going through her entire library of books. I’ve now read everything she’s published with the exception of short stories and comics.

It was an amazing journey, I feel like I watched her and her world grow with every book. Her encouragement of new authors on her site and her own journey as an author has helped push me towards publishing my own novels.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

With a three book series, it’s easy to fall into the trap of developing too many characters. These books find a perfect number of characters. Enough characters to hide the twist villain, or villains, but not enough to force the reader to take notes.

As for the main character, Beka is strong, intelligent, and great at her job. She has her flaws, that make her human and several attributes that make her feel real.

The secondary characters have lives around the main plots and main character. It’s easy for an author to assume that nothing interesting happens to the secondary characters when the main character isn’t around. That never happens to Mrs. Pierce, it always feels like there’s a novel hiding with the secondary characters, a new and exciting story. It’s never enough to throw you out of the story but it’s enough to feel real.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

This trilogy is a departure in multiple ways for Mrs. Pierce and for the world of Tortall. It’s the first Procedural, the first series that doesn’t have a large story arc, and the first to be written as series of journal entries.

Each book flows from one to the other but the stories are separate. Characters and lives flow between each but not mysteries. The procedural aspects of the book are fantastic. After getting used to the slang journal, I found I really enjoyed it.

The only negative I can see was the lack of rest. After the first few establishing chapters it was non stop action. I would have liked a few chapters of rest to let my poor heart rate return to normal.

For what it was, it was good. I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

The story in each of the books was fantastic. Possibly her best work and definitely some of the best books I’ve read.

That said there were a few things that bugged me. Not to go too much into detail but there was one character that felt tacked on and not all that important. Pounce is her magical cat. I found he was a little too powerful and for that reason she needed to find reasons why he disappeared. It was a nice tie in with her first Tortall Series but I found it unnecessary.

The one part of Mrs. Pierce’s writing that I don’t particularly like is her romantic plots. It often feels like her characters just fall into the relationships. I’m not sure what’s missing exactly but I feel it happens too easily.

These are little nit picks that don’t greatly affect my enjoyment.

I give the story 5 out of 5

Fun

In my opinion, Tamora Pierce is one of the best Young Adult writers. Her stories are entertaining, intelligent, and well thought out. It’s nice to find an author who doesn’t continuously writes female characters as boy crazy, indecisive dolts.

This series is my favourite for the year so far. They are a lot of fun.

If you have never read a book by Tamora Pierce or if you’ve read everything she’s published, you should enjoy this series. It has enough links to the rest of the series but is completely understandable without having read anything else.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Final score is 90%

Night of the Living Trekkies – Book Review

Written by Kevin D. Anderson and Sam Stall, this entertaining book does exactly what the title promises. It follows a group people at a Star Trek convention, when a Zombie outbreak occurs.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

When it comes to characters the authors took the best of both genres and mixed them up. On average I find Zombie movies have weak stereotypical characters. It’s a good thing that the authors decided to flesh out the characters more like Star Trek. They have detailed and interesting back stories. Along with the flaws and quirks that make them more than just a cardboard cut-out.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

The writing style is a nice cross between silly and serious.

For what it was, it was good. I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

This book was exactly what I wanted and exactly what I expected. Unfortunately, when it comes to Zombies, or Star Trek, I like to be surprised a little. I saw every twist and every story line coming several chapters in advance.

Does this make it a bad story? No it’s still entertaining and fun.

I give the story 2 out of 5

Fun

This book felt like a well planed Star Trek and Zombie, role playing game, it was fun.

If you like Zombies and Star Trek get yourself a copy of this book and enjoy.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Final score is 75%

Elisabeth Investigates: Memories of Faust

Hello,

I have finally, after over a year, finished my third book Elizabeth Investgates: Memories of Faust. It is a sequel to my second book Elizabeth Investigates: The Mitten Wizard

I would ask/beg/plead that you read the new novel and send me your comments. Either in the file or separately if you proffer.

Here is the link to my cloud server. I have made available every type of file I can think of.

For those who would like to reread the extended and heavily edited first book here is the link.

The only major change you need to be aware of is a name change. I changed Sally Lavall to Cassy Lavall.

Feel free to share the books with others, I would love as many comments as possible.

Thank you in advance and enjoy,
Éric

Calculating God – Book Review

Calculating Gob by Robert Sawyer has an interesting premise. Aliens believe that Earth’s fossils could help find proof of God.

Robert Sawyer is a Canadian Science Fiction Writer and Futurist. You might have seen the name when you watched Flashforward on ABC a few years ago. He wrote the book, of the same name, that the show was based on.

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Sawyer after he gave a talk at the Museum of Science and Tech in Ottawa. He’s an engaging speaker, which that comes through in his writing. There are science facts and ideas that could have been dull but he managed to parse them out and make then interesting.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

Sawyer’s characters are always interesting. They always feel well rounded and real. This book isn’t an exception. Each character is believable and likeable, even the aliens. The only exception is the villains they felt like an afterthought. It felt a little shoehorned in and they were a bit boring.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

Sawyer has a unique writing style that is understandable and educational. He makes even controversial or heavy subjects interesting. Unlike some hard sci-fi authors, I don’t get the urge to look up every fact to see what he means. He explains it that someone with my limited science background would understand.

He has a wonderful way of combining dialogue and facts. I find it makes a reader feel like they are having a discussion with the characters.

I give it a 5 out of 5.

Story

Most of the time I feel that the discussion in his books, doesn’t overwhelm the story. In this case, despite the strong characters and the great premise, I find that the story felt like a vehicle for the philosophy and science rather than a counterpart.

I give the story a 3 out of 5

Fun

The story was bare bones but the character interactions were highly entertaining. Lines like, “Take me to a Palaeontologist.” Make the book enjoyable.

Another rare and wonderful thing about this book was its lack of judgement. Whenever a book discusses God, I expect to get a lot of defending for one point of view. Sawyer never pushes one point of view over the other. It was unbiased, interesting, and informative.

It’s not the first book by Sawyer I’d recommend friends to read but it’s certainly a lot of fun for those who are interested in the philosophy.

I give it a 3 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Final score is 75%

Heat Rises– Book Review

I love the television show, Castle. When I heard they were going to release a book that was “written” by the main character, I pre-ordered it months in advance.

The first book was good. It was an ok police procedural and it felt like it could have been written by Richard Castle. I pre-ordered the second and it was barely passable. The writing was clumsy, filled with angst, and felt like it was written by someone who didn’t know the series.

I was so disappointed by the second that I didn’t pick up Heat Rises, the third, until it was in stores. Even then it took me nine months to work up the courage to read it.

Was I ever surprised! This is by far the best written, most authentic, and most entertaining of the series.

If you don’t like the show, or haven’t seen it, this book isn’t for you.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

This is a strange concept. For this book to succeed it has to not only create interesting and well rounded characters. It also has to mimic the voice of Richard Castle. Who is also a character. It’s Meta in many ways.

In the other books, I could believe that maybe Castle wrote them. This book felt like it was written by Castle. Each of the characters that are based off of other characters in the show, acted the way they should. The voices were perfect.

The only problem I have with the characters, relates to how perfect they are. It makes it very difficult to separate them from their TV counterparts. A real author wouldn’t make the comparisons so blatant and I felt like the writer was pandering to the audience at times.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

The writing style was exactly what you’d expect from Richard Castle. It was witty, quick, and interesting. The writer even took time to add a few jokes that Richard Castle wouldn’t understand. For example, at one point someone tells Heat that she could be a Bond girl. Stana Katic was a bond girl in Quantum of Solace.

For what it was, it was good. I give it a 3 out of 5.

Story

Wow was this story stretched. It took way to long for it to build up and then twice as long to finally get somewhere. I’m not a big reader of police procedurals, I can’t judge if this was normal.

Don’t get me wrong, it was an interesting story and I’d say it was even better than some of Castle’s season endings. It was just a little slow at times.

I give the story a 2 out of 5

Fun

Despite all it’s faults, I love the television show and I had a lot of fun with this book. I felt like I was connected to the show. I didn’t find it hard to read and I enjoyed most of it.

I give it a 4 out of 5 for fun

Overall

This is a great book for fans of the TV series. Read the first one, skip the second, and definitely read this one.

If you don’t like the series, move along. This isn’t the book you are looking for.

Final score is 70%

And Then There Were None – Book Review

Agatha Christie is a legend in mystery writing. This is her best selling book and arguably her best. It’s changed names several times, in order to be politically correct. I thought that the changes would affect the story in some way but I can assure you it makes no difference.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

In two chapters, Christie manages to introduce all ten characters. They are very distinct and each has unique quirks or traits. Each character is well defined and I rarely became confused between them. That’s impressive. I have a terrible memory and usually have trouble remembering characters.

One thing that she did that helped immensely was separating each character into a tiny sub-chapter and starting the chapter with their name. It gave me the choice of going back, and double checking who she was talking about.

The characters were not very likeable, but considering the plot of the story that was fully understandable.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

Clear and clean, is the best way to describe the style she used. Even seventy years later this book reads flawlessly. A few words have changed meanings and a few colloquialisms that are unfamiliar but nothing that ever distracts from the story.

She manages to keep it clear and still add a little poetry. Every word is important, there is nothing wasteful or useless.  

I give it a 4 out of 5.

Story

The plot is simple, the execution is genius. It is a mystery and a thriller. Not a murder mystery, remember that a Murder Mystery has less than 60% mortality rate. This book has 110% mortality.

I can’t get into more detail without spoilers but know that the story twists you, makes you re-think everything and still kicks you in the gut with the conclusion.

It is nearly perfect in every way. I need to re-read it before I can fully grasp the intricacies of the plot. I give the story a 5 out of 5

Fun

The book holds joy in trying to decide who is next and how they will die. Trying to figure out the murderer is a large part of the fun in this book. I imagine next time, it’ll be seeing all the hints and details that lead to the murderer.

I give it a 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

If you like mystery, thrillers, reading, or a great story READ this book. It’s a masterpiece. I believe it is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Final score is 90%