The Shining by Stephen King – Book Review

November 18, 2013

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%

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

October 1, 2013

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 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%


Heat Rises– Book Review

July 27, 2012

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%


How to be Death – Book Review

June 20, 2012

How to be Death is the fourth Calliope Reaper-Jones Novel by Amber Benson. The first three concluded the main story of Calliope. This novel is not a stand-alone book it’s a sequel rather than a continuation. I recommend reading the first three books before you pick up this one.

I’m only going to be reviewing this book on its own, not the whole series.

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

Characters

If you’ve read the first three books, you know the core cast of characters. They do evolve a little but this is more about expanding the world of Death and the secondary characters that inhabit it.

That being said the characters are well written and for a murder mystery that is extremely important.

I have a terrible memory. It took me re-watching all the Marvel super hero movies to remember whom agent Colson was in the Avengers. When I watch a reality TV show, I’m continually asking my wife who each person is. In a murder mystery, for me, it’s important that the characters stand out and are memorable. Benson manages to introduce nearly a dozen characters and I never once had to go back to the beginning to see who they were.

In her earlier books, I found that Calliope regressed at the beginning of every book. In this one she hadn’t and that was nice. There are also some really interesting character revelations in this book that I look forward to her exploring in future books.

For creating characters that were clear and easy to follow, along with interesting I give it a 4 out of 5 for characters.

Writing Style

A first person narrative’s writing style is dependant on the character’s voice. All of the Colliope Reaper-Jones books are written in first person, and follow Calliope. She is a mildly narcissistic, fashionista, with a huge victim complex.

When she stops whining and starts acting, she is a wonderful person. In between she complains and whines about everything. In this novel, she’s toned down the whininess and started taking responsibility.

All this to say that the writing style is extremely casual, even for first person, and at times a little shocking.

Benson does everything that a good author has to do to balance a self-involved character with a good narrative. She makes sure that the reader understands things that the main character doesn’t, she makes sure that the character doesn’t cross the line between frustrating and hated, and most importantly she keeps interest in parts that could easily lose a reader.

Speaking as a man, a lot of the shoe, and fashion stuff didn’t interest me. Benson manages to avoid overdoing it and I think I might have learnt a few things. Apparently Steve Madden isn’t just a line of NFL video games.

For writing style, I give this novel a 3 out of 5.

Story

The story structure of a good murder mystery is usually split into three acts. The first act introduces all the characters and defines them. The second act starts with a Murder, which is followed by multiple interviews, clues, and sometimes one or two more murders. In act three something shocking happens, either another murder, theft etc. Followed by either a blind plan (In which only a few characters know what’s happening) or some action (Usually a chase) and finally excessive amounts of exposition. Incidentally, a survival horror or slasher share the same first two acts. A great way to tell the difference is to see if there’s a detective which indicates a mystery, or if the body count is over 40% at the end of act 2 which indicates the horror story.

I found the story took a chapter or two too long before the first murder. It could be me but I was looking forward to a lengthy act 2 with all kinds of hi-jinks and it made act 1 feel a little slow. I also think the exposition was rushed. It could have been done longer and in two scenes instead of what felt to me to be too quick.

The story was good, the structure could have been better, I give it a 3 out of 5.

Fun

This book is a continuation of a series that I greatly enjoyed. They are fun. The book is a departure from the story structure of the other three but I think it works towards the books advantage. I like the banter and enjoy the characters.

This book is more fun than you’d expect. It’s a nice twist on a supernatural murder mystery. For fun I give it a 4 out of five.

Overall

There are book and series that I plan to never read again. No matter how amazing they are I just don’t want to relive them. This isn’t one if those series.

The Calliope Reaper-Jones Series is one series that I look forward to
re-reading. Amber Benson is one of a small group of authors whom I will buy their new books as soon as they come out.

If you like Urban Fantasy that’s a little light on the doom and gloom, read this series.

I give it a total score of 70%


The Hunger Games Trilogy – Book Review

April 5, 2012

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%