Sunday, August 2, 2009


How many nuns would recommend a book? Four out of five? One out of five? I’ve reviewed six books so far. Many of them I gave glowing reviews, but with some of those I’ve wanted to give a stern warning for language, sex, and violence. My rating system, however, didn’t really measure that.

This morning I was mulling things over when Anna, my wife, suggested I rate each story by nuns. Five nuns would be the mother-superior rating. One nun would be for the poor soul who was imprisoned in the abbey by her wicked father who didn’t want her marrying, and all day long she thinks of her lover and has very impure thoughts.

After a little more thought, I decided to make things less subjective by setting some criteria:
• Five nuns = G. No foul language. No sex, although there may be plenty of sexual tension.
• Four nuns = PG. No sex and only mild innuendo. No f-bombs and only mild profanity.
• Three nuns = PG-13. One or two f-bombs. One sex scene, and not too graphic.
• Two nuns = R. Constant swearing. Two or more sex scenes.
• One nun = NC-17. Anything with a rape scene, or anything with very graphic sex. Erotica.

I’m not going to pay much attention to violence unless it is excessive or pointless. Even G-rated movies have violence in them. My kids get stressed out watching Bambi. Go figure.

Steven Gould

It isn’t often that I can’t put down a book and read it straight through in less than a week. I saw the movie that this book is based on, and was thoroughly unimpressed. Don’t bother. After checking Wikipedia I learned that the movie was based on a book, and fans of the book were pretty upset. I checked the reviews on and learned that the book was very highly recommended.

Davey Rice discovers that he can teleport from place to place at will. After running away from home he spends his first few weeks just trying to keep out of danger. The plot is mostly character-driven as he works through the issues in his life trying to overcome a series of challenges of being a run-away child with no legal identification, and picking up the pieces of his life since his mother abandoned the family six years ago.

Did I finish reading? There were no dull spots in this book. Unlike a lot of books I’ve read, the plot keeps going right through to the end, and the action builds steadily. I didn’t want to put it down.

Would I be interested in reading a sequel? I wanted the story to go on. Davey confronts his demons by the end of the novel and the author wraps up things nicely, but I want two things to happen. First, I want to see him find out if there are other jumpers out there, or maybe there are people with other abilities like telekinesis or pyrokinesis or the ability to become invisible. Kind of like the TV series, Heroes. The other plot angle that needs to be explored is, what will he do with his ability the rest of his life? Sooner or later he’s going to run out of money at the rate he’s spending it. He doesn’t want to work for the NSA, but he has the potential to be a super-hero or something. With great power comes great responsibility.

Was the writing good? Yes. It was skillful and well-executed. Scenes were well-researched, and the way the characters acted felt truthful. You really felt for Davey as he worked through the issues that he faced. Gould chose to write this story from a first-person point of view, and that was probably best. We know what’s going on inside Davey’s head, otherwise he would be just another crazy, emo, punk kid. Very nicely done.

Was the story idea interesting? Definitely. I wished he spent more time trying to figure out the limits of his ability, or I wish he had tried to learn more about his ability earlier on in the book. I noticed that by the middle of the book there was no villain, and that started to bug me a little. How long could Davey go on trying to come to terms with his past, but then he saved a woman from an abusive husband who happened to be a cop. When the cop started investigating Davey, the story got really interesting. Then when the NSA got wind of his ability the tension mounted even higher. I like a plot to have this kind of structure, with an even balance of internal and external conflict to work through.

Was the ending satisfying? Yes. The plot went right up to the end, and in the wind-down Davey faced his personal demons and came to terms with them. I really like the story pattern that the author used. I think I would really like to emulate this form.

Final verdict:
• Overall rating: This book is a solid five stars. Very impressive, and not many stories hook me so thoroughly. I would love to see Davey in a sequel.
• How many nuns would recommend this story? Maybe one or two. Make no mistake, even though this book is YA, it is definitely not a story for young teens. The swearing is non-stop. There are several sex scenes, but they are not graphic, and the author does portray Davey as having some morals. There is a male rape scene by a gang of pedophiles near the beginning of the book, which I found rather disturbing.

I found that the story really turned on my creative side. Several times I had to put the book down and free-write for about thirty minutes, just to get all the ideas out of my head. I like a good story like that, something that really turns on the inner muse.

Two and a half years ago when I started writing in earnest, I felt embarrassed when I was forced to admit that as a wannabe writer, I was notoriously under-read. Until then my list of books consisted of Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Earthsea, and of course, Harry Potter. I’m glad to say that I’m finding more to read these days. I’ve read all kinds of stories from all kinds of authors. Some of them I think are wonderful, and some of them I ask myself how they ever got published. Most important, however, I am learning what kinds of things make a story great, and what authors I would most like to emulate.

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