Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper – Book Review

210331I’d heard of Susan Cooper before but had never read any of her books. They were on my “To read, maybe someday, if I remember, who knows” list but hadn’t gotten to them yet.

Last month S.M. Carrière asked me to join Silver Stag Entertainment as a contributor. All I had to do was sit with other people and discuss movies and books. That’s how I joined The Nights of the Round Table.

The first book was Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. If you hadn’t guessed yet.

You can join the NotRT bookclub on Goodreads, and watch the review on Youtube.

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

I really enjoyed the ominous and creepy villain but wished we’d been properly introduced to him earlier on. I also enjoyed Barney who was the only fleshed out character in the book.

I also enjoyed that the main characters spoke to each other, as if they were siblings. It’s a fine line between friends and siblings but the banter is a little different and Cooper nailed it.

I didn’t like

I felt that for the size of the book, there were too many characters that didn’t get fleshed out. The parents were basicly set pieces.

Other than the scene where the Uncle lays out what’s going on, I found he was more or less useless. He was so useful that the author needed to pull a Gandalf and have him disappear.

For characters, I give it 2 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The language in this book was wonderful. It wasn’t dumbed down or over explained. I also liked the weaving of Arthurian myth into the story. It was a very simple book and didn’t pretend to be anything more.

I didn’t like

I felt she spent too much time describing how they solve the puzzle and not enough explaining the puzzle.

I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

I liked

I liked the second half of the books, action. It was quick and well-paced. Again I think a little trimming of characters might have helped the pace.

I didn’t like

The beginning was just so slow and I kept thinking certain people were more important than others. It was a little frustrating that the Author introduced characters and possible stories and then didn’t follow through.

I give the story 3 out of 5

Fun

I liked

It was light and easy to read. The language was nice and it was an Arthurian Quest. It was written to be fun and that’s what it was. I also really like the part at the end with the Uncles name.

I didn’t like

How slow it was to begin or that the majority of characters aren’t fleshed out as much as they should have been.

It shows that the author made the characters interesting if one of my major complaints is that she didn’t let me see more of them.

I give it 4 out of 5 for fun

Overall

It’s an interesting book that holds a lot of nostalgic value for people who read it as children. Since I read it as an adult I can see the flaws in the over-simplicity of the story.

Final score is 65%

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper – Book Review

210331I’d heard of Susan Cooper before but had never read any of her books. They were on my “To read, maybe someday, if I remember, who knows” list but hadn’t gotten to them yet.

Last month S.M. Carrière asked me to join Silver Stag Entertainment as a contributor. All I had to do was sit with other people and discuss movies and books. That’s how I joined The Nights of the Round Table.

The first book was Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. If you hadn’t guessed yet.

You can join the NotRT bookclub on Goodreads, and watch the review on Youtube.

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

I really enjoyed the ominous and creepy villain but wished we’d been properly introduced to him earlier on. I also enjoyed Barney who was the only fleshed out character in the book.

I also enjoyed that the main characters spoke to each other, as if they were siblings. It’s a fine line between friends and siblings but the banter is a little different and Cooper nailed it.

I didn’t like

I felt that for the size of the book, there were too many characters that didn’t get fleshed out. The parents were basicly set pieces.

Other than the scene where the Uncle lays out what’s going on, I found he was more or less useless. He was so useful that the author needed to pull a Gandalf and have him disappear.

For characters, I give it 2 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The language in this book was wonderful. It wasn’t dumbed down or over explained. I also liked the weaving of Arthurian myth into the story. It was a very simple book and didn’t pretend to be anything more.

I didn’t like

I felt she spent too much time describing how they solve the puzzle and not enough explaining the puzzle.

I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

I liked

I liked the second half of the books, action. It was quick and well-paced. Again I think a little trimming of characters might have helped the pace.

I didn’t like

The beginning was just so slow and I kept thinking certain people were more important than others. It was a little frustrating that the Author introduced characters and possible stories and then didn’t follow through.

I give the story 3 out of 5

Fun

I liked

It was light and easy to read. The language was nice and it was an Arthurian Quest. It was written to be fun and that’s what it was. I also really like the part at the end with the Uncles name.

I didn’t like

How slow it was to begin or that the majority of characters aren’t fleshed out as much as they should have been.

It shows that the author made the characters interesting if one of my major complaints is that she didn’t let me see more of them.

I give it 4 out of 5 for fun

Overall

It’s an interesting book that holds a lot of nostalgic value for people who read it as children. Since I read it as an adult I can see the flaws in the over-simplicity of the story.

Final score is 65%

Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince by S.M. Carrière

I’ve known S.M. Carrière for a little over a year now I should have read one of her books earlier.

Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince is an otherworld novel in line with Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Fairy series by O.R. Melling, or Jack of Kinrowan by Charles De Lint.

It borrows heavily from Welsh and Irish mythology to make a well-rounded and fascinating world.

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

There were a lot of characters in this novel but it didn’t distract from the main characters’ story arcs. I really enjoyed watching Ethan’s development from listless jock to Battle Prince. It was so well done that until I thought about it I didn’t see it happening.

I also liked the unabashedly strong and intelligent women in this book. It’s not easy to write a female warrior without falling into stereotypes. S.M. did it extremely well.

I didn’t like

There were a lot of characters and a few of the secondary ones felt like they had interesting stories to tell but never really got the chance to develop. O

There were two that bothered me the most. First was a character called Mitch, who was friends with Ethan. Their seemed to be more to the character and his odd submissiveness but his story ended with a handshake and a nod.

The other was a character called Joseph who was introduced around two thirds into the book. He was interesting and worked as an emotional foil for Ethan but felt like he didn’t need to be there.

The role that Joseph ended up playing in the end of the book was what I expected of Mitch after a step character arc.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The ease with which S.M. weaves mythology into her story is impressive and she manages to avoid info dumping by giving us tiny details throughout.

I particularly liked her use of vocabulary, in many otherworld novels or urban fantasies, the other keeps a very standard language akin to a hardboiled detective style. S.M. keeps the book’s voice in a tongue-in-cheek fantasy style that works perfectly with the story.

One of the strengths in this book is S.M.’s ability to write convincing dialogue. Each character has a unique voice that rings true and it makes it easier to follow which characters are which.

I was definitely taken back to a time I lived with three other guys during university.

I didn’t like

On TV, in movies, and in books I find great pride when I understand the language that the main characters don’t. However, when the opposite happens and I don’t understand, I feel kinda dumb. This book has a healthy dose of Welsh and Irish throughout. At times the conversations are long. Never do they last more than half a page but it still frustrated me.

One the other side of the coin, the author did put a translation for all these scenes at the back of the book. If I had noticed I wouldn’t have minded. I think the translations might have been better as footnotes.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The story was a standard otherworld story but inversed. Instead of a regular everyday person falling into another world, a Queen fell into ours. I liked the inversion and I liked how well the character handled herself, it’s easy to think she’d panic and go nuts but she dealt pretty well.

Typically this story end after the character returns, or chooses not to return, to their own world, quite often with plot points dangling, and irritating me. The story reached that point and then proceeded to give us some extra action and extra story.

I didn’t like

The story was well crafted and other than the Mitch thing, there were only a few things that frustrated me. I felt that it was a little too neat at the end. I felt like too many people got what they deserved and all was right with the world. It rang true but it also felt like the author didn’t want to wright a sequel and made sure she didn’t have to.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

The book was entertaining throughout. S.M. really knows how to keep your interest. Even through the parts that should have been slow, it was still fascinating.

I also liked the extremely subtle inclusion of herself. A character talks a lot about her roommate and I’m fairly certain that roommate is the author.

I didn’t like

This book was fun through and through. If I were to give it a fault it would be that it was a little too addictive.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince is the perfect otherworld novel, with enough twist and turns to keep an aficionado of the genre happy. I’d happily recommend this as a “gateway drug” to fantasy novels.

The author weaves convincing character arcs with mythology and wonderful storytelling.

I highly recommend getting this book and devouring it. It’ll leave a smile on your face.

Final score is 75%

The Shining by Stephen King – Book Review

Stephen King is a fantastic author, a man that truly understands his characters and how to scare his audience. He’s best known for his horror but has written some amazing science fiction, fantasy, and heartwarming works.

The Shining is probably one of his best known works due to the Kubric movie adaptation.

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

There are five main characters in the book and we see a glimpse into each one but we mostly see the development of the Torrence Family. All in excruciating detail. They each feel real and like friends going through a terrible time.

I didn’t like

If you haven’t seen the movie or tv adaptation, you still know how this will end. It’s a large shadow of inevitability. It was amazingly done but the slow decent into madness was almost painful as a reader. I understand that was the goal but it was difficult to read and made me want to stop.

For characters, I give it 5 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

King has an amazing way of swinging from exist descriptions to crude turns of phrase. Often he even mixes them. When we saw from Jack’s (the father) point of view, it was often filled with clichéd thoughts or crude turns of phrase. Almost as if King was trying to tell us that Jack as a writer wasn’t as good as he believed.

In contrast when we followed Danny (the son) his thoughts were poetic and beautiful. In the way that kids’ minds often are. Showing him to be the real hero.

I didn’t like

Often things were repeated from different viewpoints in what felt needless. The repetition served to remind us what was going to happen and why but it felt like it was overdone. That said it was written for an audience 35 years ago that might not have been as savvy with genre concepts.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The story was set in one location for most of the book. Despite the stagnation in place, there is always a feeling that something is happening and that we are going somewhere with the story.

All the events are foreshadowed. Everything is structured and the book doesn’t pull any punches in scariness or character pain.

I didn’t like

The moments of joy are all at the beginning and a little at the end. This isn’t a happy story. It doesn’t pretend to be.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

I loved the characters and the writing. It’s a true classic in horror literature. It was overall very well done.

I didn’t like

I knew what would happen and I didn’t like it. It made reading harder than it should have. Less the fault of the author and more the fault of the reader.

I give it 2 out of 5 for fun

Overall

The book is very different than the movies. Make sure to check your preconceptions at the door.

This isn’t the best Stephen King novel I’ve read but that’s not saying it’s bad. It’s an amazing book. If you like horror and don’t mind a sad book, it’s more than worth the read.

Final score is 70%

The Shining by Stephen King – Book Review

Stephen King is a fantastic author, a man that truly understands his characters and how to scare his audience. He’s best known for his horror but has written some amazing science fiction, fantasy, and heartwarming works.

The Shining is probably one of his best known works due to the Kubric movie adaptation.

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

There are five main characters in the book and we see a glimpse into each one but we mostly see the development of the Torrence Family. All in excruciating detail. They each feel real and like friends going through a terrible time.

I didn’t like

If you haven’t seen the movie or tv adaptation, you still know how this will end. It’s a large shadow of inevitability. It was amazingly done but the slow decent into madness was almost painful as a reader. I understand that was the goal but it was difficult to read and made me want to stop.

For characters, I give it 5 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

King has an amazing way of swinging from exist descriptions to crude turns of phrase. Often he even mixes them. When we saw from Jack’s (the father) point of view, it was often filled with clichéd thoughts or crude turns of phrase. Almost as if King was trying to tell us that Jack as a writer wasn’t as good as he believed.

In contrast when we followed Danny (the son) his thoughts were poetic and beautiful. In the way that kids’ minds often are. Showing him to be the real hero.

I didn’t like

Often things were repeated from different viewpoints in what felt needless. The repetition served to remind us what was going to happen and why but it felt like it was overdone. That said it was written for an audience 35 years ago that might not have been as savvy with genre concepts.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The story was set in one location for most of the book. Despite the stagnation in place, there is always a feeling that something is happening and that we are going somewhere with the story.

All the events are foreshadowed. Everything is structured and the book doesn’t pull any punches in scariness or character pain.

I didn’t like

The moments of joy are all at the beginning and a little at the end. This isn’t a happy story. It doesn’t pretend to be.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

I loved the characters and the writing. It’s a true classic in horror literature. It was overall very well done.

I didn’t like

I knew what would happen and I didn’t like it. It made reading harder than it should have. Less the fault of the author and more the fault of the reader.

I give it 2 out of 5 for fun

Overall

The book is very different than the movies. Make sure to check your preconceptions at the door.

This isn’t the best Stephen King novel I’ve read but that’s not saying it’s bad. It’s an amazing book. If you like horror and don’t mind a sad book, it’s more than worth the read.

Final score is 70%

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire – Book Review

If you’ve been following my book reviews. You know that I have a soft spot for Urban Fantasy. I also have a soft spot for interesting female characters. Discount Armageddon delivers both and does it well.

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

At the center of the story is Verity Price, a tough ballroom dancer who’s been trained from birth on how to kill things and study them. Unfortunately she isn’t the most interesting character.

The supporting cast from religious mice to a shapeshifer cousin truly makes the book. There is a wide and varied group of people. I loved both the interactions and dialogue between the characters.

I didn’t like

Again, unfortunately Verity Price isn’t the most interesting of characters, falling into the girly tough girl stereotype. She loves to dance and seems to have a love hate relationship with her life. She wants to dance but also wants to follow in the family business.

To ignore her own inner struggle she tries to continuously meet the world with sex appeal and one-liners. She played dumb, when she obviously wasn’t, too many times.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The author isn’t afraid to go on small tangents to explain the world. I really enjoyed the history and Price family life. It’s a great world with all kinds of interesting people and events.

Despite what people often think, writing first person is more difficult than third and if done wrong makes the story sound like “than guy” at a party that wants to tell you all about his d&d character or cat.

Ms. McGuire makes the story flow quickly, smoothly and keeps all the action tight.

I didn’t like

The language bugged me a little. I understand first person characters using slang and odd turns of phrase but sometimes it felt discordant. The writing had a strange juxtaposition of British and American slang.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The flow of the story was wonderful. Never leaving us in the same place long enough to get bored. The story shape is extremely simple but works wonderfully. Never leaving me annoyed with what was happening.

I didn’t like

This is the first in a series and with that there are a lot of details added that don’t directly impact the story. Relatives that weren’t essential, and plot points that won’t be important until later books.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading about her grandfather stuck in hell and her grandmothers quest to find him but I would have liked to learn more about the characters that were important to the story.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

Despite her clichés and often bad one-liners I like Verity Price. She perfectly personifies that struggle and lost feeling that I had in my twenties.

It also has a few steamy scenes that made me blush.

I didn’t like

I often would have like more in depth descriptions or interactions. It would have slown down the story pace but it would have given the book more substance. However I realize that this is an action book and not an epic.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

If you like fast paced action and fun characters thrown into ridiculous situations I recommend you pick this up.

Final score is 75%

About Time Movie Review

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Trailer

I was offered two free tickets to an advanced showing of About Time. It officially comes out on November first. It is a Romantic Comedy with a twist. The main character can travel back in time.

To truly enjoy the movie, you have to keep in mind that it is a Romantic Comedy and not a time travel movie. I kept expecting his jumps back to have disastrous and unfixable repercussions. They never happened. Yes there were a few “Oh Crap” moments but the main character seems to have the ability to reset the timeline without any problems.

At its core this movie isn’t about time, it’s about family and love. It beautifully sidesteps any moral questions by having the main character be completely sweet and upstanding. He doesn’t use his power to make the perfect date or to learn everything about the girl in order to seduce her. He meets her and they fall for each other without any use of time travel.

The strength of the movie is in its characters. They are all unique, memorable, lovable, and sweet. From the quirky father, the flower child sister, the grouchy playwright, all the way to the nutty uncle; each character is wonderfully played and written.

The movie is sappy and a little heavy handed in the end but that doesn’t take away from its constant laughs and good time.

Is this the greatest movie ever made? Probably not but it was a lot of fun and easily one of my favourite movies of the year. Possible of all time.

If you liked Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, or enjoy funny love stories… Go see it.

4.5/5

Quickies: Book Reviews for Aurora Prize Awards – Best Adult Novel

I have to admit I didn’t get a chance to finish all the books in this category. There are even 2 that I didn’t have a chance to read at all. I feel terribly guilty about it.

I’ll have to do better next year and look for the books before the voters pack comes out.

Destiny’s Fall by Marie Bilodeau

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 2/5

Overall: I found this book really easy to read. The characters were well rounded and interesting and the world was fascinating. Having not read the first on the series was a huge handicap however.

60%

Healer’s Sword: Part 7 of the Okal Rel Saga by Lynda Williams

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: Having not read the first 6 books in this series wasn’t much of a problem. The characters and the world are introduced clearly and quickly. I had the feeling that I was missing some history but not much. The characters were fascinating and I can’t wait to read the whole series.

70%

The Silvered by Tanya Huff

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: If you enjoy fantasy, steampunk, or reading you’ll love this book. Everything from the characters to the world are perfectly put together. It took me a chapter or two to fully grasp what was going on but from there on I couldn’t put it down.

85%

Triggers by Robert Sayer

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 5/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: This was a fantastic concept and flowed beautifully. Sawyer is a master, whose genius is overwhelming for an aspiring writer. He weaves lives and stories beautifully. This is a perfect meld between a political thriller and a science fiction.

80%

Quickies: Book Reviews for Aurora Prize Awards – Best YA Novel

I’ve been franticly trying to finish all the books before voting time. Darn you Skyrim for distracting me…

There are 2 books in this grouping that I’ve only read half but I plan on returning to them in September.

Above by Leah Bobet

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: I found this book really hard to get into but I really enjoyed the world it was set in. I’m hoping to enjoy it more when I finish the second half.

60%

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 5/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: Addictive story. If I didn’t have the adult category I’d jump right into the third in this series. The characters felt a little underdeveloped but overall it was a great story.

80%

Dissolve by Neil Godbout

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 2/5

Overall: This was an impressive idea and I look forward to re-reading both this one and the first in the series. I also reserve the right to change this when I’ve read more than half.

60%

Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero by Michell Plested

I already reviewed this book here.

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

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

85%

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

I already reviewed this book here.

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 3/5

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.

65%

Under My Skin: Wildlings Series (Book 1) by Charles de Lint

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: I loved both the pace and the style of this novel and I’m looking forward to reading it’s sequel.

75%

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%