I’ll Meet You Yesterday by Tom Barlow – Book Review

December 3, 2013

barlow

I met Mr Barlow at Can-Con (The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature). I unintentionally bought the first copy of his book. He was very nice and signed it for us. I later saw him speak at a panel on mystery writing.

When I bought the book I didn’t read the back right away. I read the title and said, “I want it”. I stupidly thought it was a time travel story. It isn’t but that’s ok, it was a great read.

He is published by the awesome people at Bundoran Press

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

This wasn’t a large book, and I appreciated that there weren’t too many characters. I easily confuse characters with similar names or roles.

Not in this book. Each character was well fleshed out and had the weight of implied history behind them. Other than one tiny exception, none of the characters did anything stupid.

I genuinely felt for the characters.

I didn’t like

As much as I know in my mind that characters thrive through challenge. It’s hard to watch them get hurt. The characters made the best of a bad situation and came out stronger but it made me sad.

I guess none of that is a criticism. It works to build pathos and character development.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

Maybe it’s that I don’t read enough mystery but I’ve never come across a writing style like Barlow’s. Some books exhaust me with stress but suck me in. Others don’t suck me in but aren’t stressful. I’d always thought the stress and the interest were a necessary pair. Barlow proved that it wasn’t.

He has a relaxed beauty to his writing. I was still worried for the characters but I never felt stressed or pressed. Everything was smooth and calm. Like the perfect sip of coffee.

I didn’t like

I can’t think about anything I didn’t like about the style.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The story was a near future science fiction, mystery, love story, with strong elements of a road trip in the middle. It was a refreshing mix of styles.

The story wasn’t complicated. It didn’t feel cluttered and had me wondering what would happen next. It was beautifully crafted and made me feel certain that the author knew where he was going.

I didn’t like

The world wasn’t a nice place. It was also a little too plausible. Neither of them bad things but throughout, I wondered if it was necessary. They added a little background and a few of the plot devices but other than that I could have seen this work in the 1930’s or even modern day.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

Any time a character does something stupid, like buying drugs, I usually feel like throwing the book away but in this book it just had me mentally yelling at the character. That shows me that the book was too good to get angry at and I enjoyed it the way I enjoy a good cop show that doesn’t telegraph the ending.

I didn’t like

I found the ending a little quick. I would have liked to see a little more but I also see why it ended where it ended.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

I struggled to find things I didn’t like about this book. It was just so good that I couldn’t put it down.

I eagerly await more from Tom Barlow and recommend you get this book and read it, as soon as possible.

Final score is 90%

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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%


The Beka Cooper Trilogy – Book Review

October 25, 2012

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%


And Then There Were None – Book Review

July 3, 2012

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%