Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper – Book Review

January 7, 2014

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%

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

August 9, 2013

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

June 26, 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%


Pirate Cinema – Book Review

June 13, 2013

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%


A Princess of Mars – Book Review

March 23, 2012

A princess of Mars is the first of eleven books in the Barsoom series. I’ve also heard it called the John Carter of Mars series.

This is a classic Science-Fantasy, published in 1912. Like other Mars novels from that time, almost all its scientific assumptions about Mars have been disproved.

This novel created and still personifies the Sword and Planet Genre.

The author, Edgar Rice Burroughs, is best known for his Tarzan series. However, his science fiction has had an influence that can still be seen in newer authors. He had an amazing way of mixing science fiction and fantasy without making it feel forced. His influence can be seen in many of the “New Wave” science fiction authors like Laguin, Zelazny, or Moorcock.

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

Characters

This book only has two main characters. John Carter is veteran of the American Civil war and possibly many others, he refers to himself as a Virginian Gentleman. He’s a fighter and an impressive one. He looks thirty and has lived at least a hundred years. Interestingly doesn’t remember his childhood.

Where John Carter is impressive, his character arc isn’t. The only thing that changes is his understanding of Mars and his relationship status. That being said, he is an interesting and entertaining narrator/character. There is no doubt that he is a hero and he’s an entertaining guide to Barsoom.

The second main character is Mars, or as the natives call it Barsoom. There is more ink dedicated to her than to anyone else in the novel. A dying world with interesting and detailed cultures, the real character arc is Mars’. She goes from a war torn, segregated, and dying world to a united(ish) kingdom, but still dying. It’s a beautifully described world. At some points I preferred the world building and Martian history more than the actual story.

There are plenty of secondary characters some of which are fun others are down right boring. Overall, they feel unimportant next to John Carter.

The weakest character, as in most adventure stories from this time, is Dejah Thoris. Or the love interest. She’s less of a person and more of a goal for the protagonist. He treats her well but she has all the personality of an inanimate object.

I give it a 3 out of 5 for characters. Even though most of the characters are uninteresting, they are also unimportant next to the awesome John Carter and the brilliant Barsoom.

Writing Style

The book is written in first person, John Carter is writing his memoirs in the form of a letter to a friend. With few exceptions we are always dealing with John Carter and the way he sees the world(s).

The style is dry and at times, a little disconnected. When I say dry, I mean it felt academic. It’s a feel and style that was used a lot in that time and he does make it interesting.

One of the things that kept the book from feeling like a long Barsoomian discourse on history was the fact that it was so disconnected. The story would get a little dry and suddenly we’d be learning the history behind the Green Martians firearms. I’d get bored with the history and suddenly John Carter is kicking someone’s ass. It was a nice way of keeping the reader interested and informed.

I give the style a 3 out of 5. I guess I’m just a sucker for a first person narrative.

Story

It’s difficult to tell which tropes the author is using and which he invented. At its base, this is an “Other World” novel, sometimes called “Portal Fantasy” or “Trapped in another world”. It’s a common story structure with immense customization. I’m not sure you can say it was influenced by The Time Machine or by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but they are definitely pulling from the same source material. Most likely, whether the authors did it on purpose or not, these stories are heavily influenced by old fairy myths.

Once John Carter arrives on earth (after an extremely bad portrayal of Native Americans) the story becomes a loose narrative of his journey around Barsoom. The only story motivation is survival. In the third act he is moved to action and almost single-handedly changes the face of Mars.

There are a lot of coincidences throughout the book that stretch believability along with John Carter’s inability to make a mistake. Other than the typical “White is right” and “Women are only good at being pretty” this book does have a few interesting messages. It’s definitely championing emotion, especially love, as what makes us human and what makes the difference between right and wrong.

An interesting essay could be comparing the cruel, barbarity of the Green Martians with that of the Humans in Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World and trying to associate it with their similar reproductive methods.

It could change with the rest of the series but the weakest part of this book is the story. I give it a 2 out of 5.

Fun

Was this book fun? Yes, Yes and yes. Maybe it’s the little boy in me (I’ve been meaning to get that removed) or the adventure lover but this book was a joy to read. It helped that it was tiny by comparison to other books of it’s genre. It made the bare-bones plot and history lesson seem quick and move along without getting dull.

A few modern Authors could learn something about Story/world-building from Burroughs I give it a 5out of 5 for fun

Overall

Overall, if you like swashbuckling and classic science fiction than I’d recommend you read A Princess of Mars. However it does suffer from it’s age and wouldn’t make it into my top ten best books.

I’ll probably pick up The Gods of Mars at some point and see what happens to John Carter. Most of the novels are available from the Gutenberg Project for free, can’t go wrong there.

Overall it was enjoyable but not amazing. I give it a 65% enjoyability score.