Quickies: Book Reviews for December 2012 to March 2013

I read a lot of books while I was writing my last novel and I didn’t get a chance to write reviews. Here are the quickie reviews for each of the books I read.

The Colorado Kid – Stephen King

Characters: 5/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: Great book that proves you can have an interesting story without it resolving. Not recommended for those of you who really don’t like loose ends.

75%

WWW Series – Robert J. Sawyer (Wake, Watch, and Wonder)

Characters: 5/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: This isn’t just an amazing sci-fi series; it’s a beautiful story and an educational experience. I highly recommend it. Easily my favourite Sawyer book so far.

90%

 Doctor Who: The Angel’s Kiss – Justin Richards

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: Fun little book. If you like the new series of Doctor Who and like River Song, you’ll enjoy this book. The plot is predictable and River is a little overdone but it was fun.

65%

Doctor Who 50th anniversary Books

A Big Hand for the Doctor – Eoin Colfer

Doctor Who: The Nameless City – Michael Scott

Doctor Who: The Spear of Destiny – Marcus Sedgwick

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: These novelettes are written by people who truly understand the doctor’s they’re writing. I feel like I’m reading a Doctor Who, mini special. That being said, they’d be a little confusing for someone who doesn’t know the Doctor in question.

75%

Over my Dead Body – Teresa Wilde

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: I found this on Kobo on sale for 97 cents and I regret no having paid more. This was a great story filled with a great world and wonderful characters.

75%

Assimilation Squared – Scott Tipton, David Tipton, and Tony Lee

Characters: 2/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: As much as I wanted to love this series they were just ok. I found the portrayal of the Doctor to be spot on but the Star Trek TNG crew to be lack luster. It was a quick read but if it wasn’t my two favourite geek properties I wouldn’t have bought these.

60%

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: By far my least favourite of the Sherlock Holmes collections. It truly felt like Doyle was tired of Holmes and had to prove that his beloved character was flawed and not as great as we thought. And then he kills him off with no foreshadowing.

65%

Doctor Who: Summer Falls – Amelia Williams

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: This book was shown in an episode of Doctor Who and was “written” by one of the characters who are no longer on the show. It has some surprises for fans but the book is strong and stands on its own. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy or science fiction.

80%

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: This is a classic and the archetype for carnival horror, but I don’t think its Bradbury’s best book. I enjoyed parts of it but it felt like a short story dragged too long. It had some fantastic ideas but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a huge Bradbury fan.

70%

Devil in the Smoke – Justin Richards

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: Another Doctor Who novel but this one is unlike any of the others. It was brilliantly written, every character spot on, and the story was so much fun. I could only wish that this author would write a series with these characters.

85%

Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero – Book Review

Michell Plested wrote a book about a boy who wants to be a superhero. It’s easy to read and beautifully written.

This is one of the novels nominated for this year’s Aurora Awards.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.

Characters

I liked

Writing from a child’s perspective is difficult. It’s tempting to try and write the way a child would speak, or what we think a child speaks. Plested didn’t fall into this trap he used a vocabulary and writing style that was elevated but accessible. The greatest strength of this novel is how authentic it feels. Mik is believable as a character because of his thought process, logic, and reference points.

I didn’t like

If I have one complaint about the book, it is its lack of fleshing out all the characters. I feel I understood his parents, and a few of his teachers but it was hard for me to fully understand the other secondary characters. I would have liked to know more about them. Especially the librarian.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The book was structured around a series of events that form  Mik’s personality and show his quest to be a hero. With that structure, it felt like a series of short stories about the same character. Despite its modular feel I never lost interest. I was impressed how well the author wove the stories together.

I didn’t like

There was a certain frustration I had while reading. I kept trying to decide if this was speculative fiction or just a coming of age story. It was never clear until one particular point and when that point arrived I had already decided the opposite and I found this a little jarring.

I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The biggest pet peeve I have with YA writing is the stereotype that parents are not only the enemy but stupid. It happens more often in Horror, or urban-fantasy but it happens a lot in superhero stories too. Plested took this stereotype and stripped it down to its simplest form. That being that parents aren’t stupid but they are biased, and fallible. It also helps that Mik tries to protect his parents and often has to worry about them figuring him out. Never does he treat them as a villain but as an obstacle.

The story flows well and the general suspense of whether he really is going to get powers is written perfectly. There was a point of the book that I just stopped worrying about it and let things happen.

Several Story points weren’t finished, which is fine considering he’s writing a sequel.

I didn’t like

The problems with a modular style is separating the stories in the readers head. Everyone is looking for Chekhov’s gun and we’ve been trained by the stories we grew up with that things come back. So when characters that seem important don’t come back it’s disconcerting.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

This book was a fast and fun read. I felt drawn into the story and the character. I enjoyed it all the way through.

I didn’t like

The worst thing about this book was that it ended.

I greatly anticipate the sequel.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes superheroes, coming of age stories, or reading.

Final score is 85%

Pirate Cinema – Book Review

Cory Doctorow writes a near future dystopia where laws like SOPA were passed and actually enforced. Copyright violation, even for non-commercial use, is punishable by having you household cut off from the internet and even hard jail time.

This is one of the novels nominated for this year’s Aurora Awards.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.

Characters

The book is written in the first person. The main character, Trent McCauley is obsessed with re-cutting videos of an old actor. He’s a typical teenaged boy living day to day. The majority of other characters are runaways with more brains than luck. Few of the characters really grabbed me. They were interesting but nothing special.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

The writer’s style was simple, clean, accessible; easy to read with a good amount of humour. No purple prose, but also no clever turns. It was good solid writing.

The only gripe I have was the disjointedness of the edition I read. The author uses some British slang in the dialogue but the edition was in American language. It threw me out of the story each time I heard a British accent in my head with American spelling.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

The story is slow and at times a little preachy. The peachiness is forgivable considering the story revolves around copyright laws.

It was interesting enough for me to keep reading but not really interesting enough to make me pick up another of the author’s books.

I see it’s merit however, and I can see the details and craft behind the story.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

This book makes me think of something that should be read in highschool. It has a good message, is edgy enough for interest but not enough to insult and has lots of analyzing that can be done.

It was ok fun.

I give it 3 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Like A Princess of Mars this is an enjoyable read but I probably won’t re-read it anytime soon.

Good solid writing and ok story.

Final score is 65%

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%

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%

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%

The Hunger Games Trilogy – Book Review

The Hunger games Trilogy is composed of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. It’s written by Suzanne Collins.

In late December, I saw a few trailers for The Hunger Games movie. It looked interesting, I showed the trailer to my wife, and she bought the first book for her birthday shopping spree. Being a mean husband, I read it before she did. I immediately wanted the next two.

It’s an almost standard Post Apocalyptic Utopian Science Fiction. Set in a not so distant future where humanity has almost destroyed itself. You can easily see influences from multiple sources in her books. A little Greek myth, a little fantasy, and a strong dose of war fiction.

I decided to review the series as a whole since it felt more like one large book rather than three and I would be saying the same in all of the reviews anyways.

Characters

There is a multitude of characters throughout the three books. Each with varying importance but the author gives you the impression that they have fully fleshed out backstories. Not only do you feel each character has their whole life written out, the author makes you wish you could follow them and see their stories.

That’s not to say that the main character, Katniss Everdeen, ever gets boring. She’s a strong but young girl thrown from one duplicitous situation to another. If there’s any criticism about Katniss, it’s that she’s too real. She’s not a hero, she’s just a girl. When Harry Potter, or Frodo would complain and bitch but keep going, Katniss breaks down and cries.

As much as I wanted Katniss to get up, grab a bow, and shoot everything evil, it was a nice change to have a character that was genuinely traumatized by the crap she’s survived. Possibly the most intense part of the series was being right there with her and feeling every single moment. There were times I put down the book and wanted to cry but never did I want to stop reading.

The secondary characters are all as engrossing and as much as I enjoyed the epilogue. I could have used another hundred pages telling me what happened to each minor character.

I give the series a 5 out of 5 for characters. When I wish I could know what happened to a character mentioned only once or twice in a book, I have to acknowledge the authors skill.

Writing Style

I have to start out by giving Suzanne Collins credit for writing in the First Person Present Tense. First person is hard enough when written in the past tense but written in the present tense it’s extremely challenging.(Remember all this is my opinion based off of my experience writing.)

One of the great advantages of the first person present tense is tension. If someone is speaking in the past tense then you can assume they are still alive but with the present tense, there’s more urgency and fear.

In order to allow the reader to make their own conclusions Collins let’s Katniss describe an event and then later draw conclusions. This often leads to the reader knowing something way before the protagonist has even considered it.

As far as story structure goes the books, and the series, follow a three act formula. I think this forces Collins to force the story into the mould. There are parts that drag a little and some that seem rushed in order to fit into the three acts.

Another criticism would be how rushed some of her actions scenes feel. There is one extremely important action scene at the end of the last book, which takes up two or three lines. The scene is so shocking that I had to reread it several time before I understood it.

For writing style, I give the series a 3 out of 5. It’s very good but has some structure weaknesses.

Story

I’ve heard every comparison about this series with other arena-style books or movies. They’re full of it. This has a lot more in common with Utopian/dystopian fiction. I see a little Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, etc. It also has many similarities to a standard hero’s journey. Despite the protagonist not being a true hero.

I keep asking myself was this a good story? And my answer is both yes and no. If your definition of a good story is something that both touches you and scars you for life, than yes. If your definition of a good story is something that touches you and makes you happy, than no.

This is a poignant and heartwrenching series that will stick with you long after you’ve read it.

I give it a 4 out of 5 for story.

Fun

As much as I wanted to keep reading this series, I can’t call it fun. It’s painful, sad, shocking, and depressing.

I posted that I just wanted to crawl into bed and cry after finishing it and I think many people reading it would agree.

This category’s score reflects my joy while reading. I really like being happy when I finish a book for this reason I give it a 2 out of 5 for fun. I would give it a 1 but the pain is essential to the story and not just there for its own sake.

Overall

It’s a great series that I admire the style and story but will most likely never read again.

I’d only recommend reading it to someone who is emotionally stable and with the warning that it will twist your heart and rip it out of your chest.

Overall, like I’ve said, great but it’s score is low from my emphasis on fun. I give it a 70%