When Catherine Ryan Howard decides to swap the grey cloud of Ireland for the clear skies of the Sunshine State, she thinks all of her dreams – working in Walt Disney World, living in the United States, seeing a Space Shuttle launch – are about to come true…
Ahead of her she sees weekends at the beach, mornings by the pool and an inexplicably skinnier version of herself skipping around the Magic Kingdom. But not long into her first day on Disney soil – and not long after a breakfast of Mickey-shaped pancakes – Catherine’s Disney bubble bursts and soon it seems that among Orlando’s baked highways, monotonous mall clusters and world famous theme parks, pixie dust is hard to find and hair is downright impossible to straighten.
The only memoir about working in Walt Disney World, Space Shuttle launches, the town that Disney built, religious theme parks, Bruce Willis, humidity-challenged hair and the Ebola virus, MOUSETRAPPED: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida is the hilarious story of what happened when one Irish girl went searching for happiness in the happiest place on Earth.
This is one of those reviews which is very difficult for me to write. There’s a lot to praise in Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida; but there’s also a lot to criticise and knowing Catherine Ryan Howard as I do, I am as certain as I can be that she’d rather hear all of my reservations than be fobbed off with a few kind words. So brace yourself, Catherine: this is going to be tough.
Catherine Ryan Howard has an engaging, friendly tone and the story trips along at a reasonable pace. Everything she writes is infused with a lively humour and she has a natural storytelling ability which I’m sure many writers would envy. This already earned her a recommendation for me (so you can stop worrying now, Catherine). She has the basics right: her spelling and grammar are fine, although the punctuation is flawed and inconsistent. But these problems are few, and are nowhere near bad enough to interrupt the flow of her narrative, or to put off a determined agent.
However, there is an indication of problems to come in the back cover copy, which feels a little repetitive and over-long; to then come across phrases from the back cover copy repeated in the first few pages of the book feels a little wrong: I would expect the back cover copy to be its own entity and not a close copy of some of the passages from the book. The opening of this book is not up to scratch: the pages before she reaches Disneyland are too long, too rambling and once more repetitive.
This doesn’t mean that I disliked the book: but I can see how easily (!) the opening could be tightened up and made significantly more absorbing, and how its lack of focus and clarity might well put browsing readers off.
To continue with my criticisms, the humour is at times rather forced; Catherine Ryan Howard’s bleak first few weeks in Orlando made me feel very uncomfortable and unhappy for her despite the jokes she kept right on cracking; and I found her stories rather episodic, as if this were a collection of short stories or articles rather than a continuing memoir. I would have preferred more variation in tone, and more integration of the book’s various strands: I don’t think either is beyond Ms Ryan Howard as she is clearly a confident, intelligent writer. If these points were addressed (a more concise opening, more variation in tone and a better narrative flow) then this book would be very much improved
Where I struggled was with Ms Ryan Howard’s actions. She seemed to crash off on each new venture with little thought or preparation, which at times made me wonder if she was purposely sabotaging herself. It could just be the natural foolhardiness of the young which caused her to believe behave in this way; but I found it infuriating and anxiety-provoking, and that directly affected my enjoyment of this book. I’ll admit that I am an obsessive researcher, and make thorough preparations before I even brush my teeth: so this could be my natural caution showing through.
On the whole, then, an enjoyable read from a humorous and talented writer, which could be much improved with a more stringent edit to improve the pace, tone and flow, but which nevertheless earns a recommendation from me. Well done, Catherine!
Note: I received this book aeons ago and its review should have appeared much sooner than this. My apologies to Ms Ryan Howard for the delay.
Five years ago when Lindsay Paulson, a naive college student and talented distance runner, was 18, she was convicted of drug smuggling. Now, halfway through a 10-year prison sentence, she begins having what seem to be dreams, in which she leaves her cell in the night and visits another reality called Trae. Dreaming of Deliverance tells of Lindsay’s experiences both in Trae, where she finds herself among people enslaved by terrifying creatures, and in prison where she tries to make sense of what’s happening in her sleep: Is she actually escaping from prison somehow or is she losing her mind?
When I review books for this blog I don’t often set my notes aside and read the book purely for enjoyment: but that’s what I did with Dreaming of Deliverance, and I’m very pleased that I did.
Ms Chambliss has a very fluid, readable style; I read all five hundred and fifty-four pages of this book in one day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The typos I found were so minor that they didn’t intrude upon my enjoyment of the story; and I was genuinely sad when I reached the end and had to say goodbye to all of the characters I had come to know.
However (you knew there’d be a “however”, right?), despite my general enthusiasm I do have criticisms: and they mostly focus on the book’s plot and structure.
First off, it’s much too long. It could easily be cut by 20 to 30% without losing any of the plot, and that would improve the already-good pace no end.
There are too many instances where an important issue is mentioned just before it becomes necessary to the plot: for example, the news that Parl had gold deposits, and that Joel could disable the Loche (the terrifying creatures mentioned in the book’s back cover copy above) if he needed to. These things (there were several others) should have been built more firmly into the plot so that the reader could better appreciate the costs involved when such skills had to be used. The reader wasn’t let into the world of the Loche enough, so it was difficult to empathise with them and so understand more fully why they did what they did; and no explanation was ever given for how Lindsay ended up in Trae in the first place, or why she returned to her own world each time she slept.
The storyline involving the prison was unsatisfying: the prison was little more than a box to keep Lindsay and when she wasn’t visiting Trae and a lot more could have been done with this part of the book: I wanted to see some real resolution here, some more tension; and for events on each side of the story to directly affect the other.
In all, then, the good, enjoyable read which could have been even better had the writer improved the plot, made full use of the situations she created, edited far more ruthlessly and thought more carefully about pace and tension. I believe this is a first novel (I might be wrong): if it is then Ms Chambliss has done remarkably well and I look forward to watching her work improve over the years.
“I love the story and the humour. I totally empathize with Molly, and find her a great role model.”
Sally Zigmond, Hope against Hope
Molly Makepeace Jamison never expects to dabble in Voodoo. But when she discovers that her husband Bob has been stealing away her advertising agency while cavorting with his mistress of many years, she has good reason to adorn his effigy with a few sharp pins. After all, venting a little righteous anger can’t hurt anyone.
But Molly inadvertently taps into something deep and mysterious, and it produces shocking results. When Detective Jonathan Wilson lands on her doorstep with a list of pointed questions, Molly envisions the inside of a prison cell and the bed-lined wards of mental institutions.
She knows she has to save herself. Yet as her new choices produce more highs and lows than Chicago’s weather, she worries that her Voodoo dalliance has taken on a life of its own….
I have to start this review with an apology: Ms Todd sent me this book to review a very long time ago but I misfiled it and it’s only just surfaced again. I do hope she’ll forgive me.
Pins is a cracking read. It trots along at a good pace, it’s funny and kind and warm and it has lovely happy endings for almost all of its good characters and satisfyingly nasty endings for the less likeable ones. The story is great, the characters are very well-rounded and believable, and Ms Todd’s writing is clear and simple and easy to read: I loved it.
I do have a few reservations. I found a small number of minor typos (a couple of extra commas, and some dialogue which was missing a final punctuation mark before its quotation-marks closed) but I was enjoying the book so much when I found them that I didn’t bother to record them; and the writer does have a tendency to use this construction:
- “Struggling to keep myself together, I follow…”
- “Stopping the car in front of a small shop window in the center of a row, I think…”
- “Standing in the central arched doorway of the Passages room, I survey…”
I never like this passive, impersonal construction: it’s clumsy, and it distances me from the character very slightly which is never a good thing. These seemed to appear more frequently towards the end of the text, which made me wonder if Ms Todd had become a little punch-drunk while revising her work. This isn’t such a big problem but it was enough to jar me out of the narrative each time I came across another example of it and this book would be so much better if the use of this phrasing could be reduced or even eliminated. It was the only writerly tic that I noticed, though, which is pretty good going; and despite my finding quite a few examples, it wasn’t enough to stop me reading this already-good book.
I felt that some of the characters weren’t strictly necessary; and that the endings could have been tighter for a few of them; I would have liked a bit more voodoo involved in the story, perhaps involving more than just the main character; and a little more uncertainty and tension about whether or not Molly’s use of voodoo really did have any effect on the people around her. But these are very small points: the book is good just as it is, but could be even better with a bit more of a polish. I can easily imagine a good publisher wanting to take this book on if that’s Ms Todd’s goal; and I will go out of my way to buy anything else this writer has published. I strongly recommend Pins, and am only sorry I took so long to get around to reading this delightful, absorbing book.
Fiction/LiteraryTHE PRINCIPLE OF ULTIMATE INDIVISIBILITY is a collection of thirteen linked stories, in which people as recognizable as your neighbors stumble through tiny everyday epiphanies, on their way from confusion and loss toward redemption.
Brent Robison’s fiction has appeared in various literary journals and has won awards that paid actual cash… long since spent. He lives among the same mountains where Rip Van Winkle awoke from his long sleep.
Subtlety ought to be on an endangered literary species list, but Brent Robison brilliantly makes the case for its essentiality in this exquisite collection of webbed stories. These stories argue that everything is a facet of the same jewel and we touch each other’s lives in unfathomable ways. To read them is to heighten one’s bond with strangers.
—Djelloul Marbrook, Far From Algiers (2007 Wick Poetry Prize)
Rich, layered images take us deep inside the lives of Robison’s characters, their stories weaving together a tapestry as textured as it is beautiful. Brent Robison’s stories are reminiscent of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio — stories of ordinary people caught in the crosshairs of circumstance, sometimes of their own making, sometimes not. All of them heroic in their honest struggle to find meaning and ultimately love…. A gorgeous timeless collection about longing.
—Susan Richards, Chosen by a Horse (NY Times bestseller)
The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility is a collection of linked short stories, and each one of them is a delight: a sparsely-written, surprising delight which illuminates unexpected corners of its characters’ lives and in so doing, reveals their obsessions, loves and longings with ruthless clarity.
Robison is a skilled writer with a remarkable gift for tone and nuance. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is its title, which seems far too pompous for this lovely collection. But that single wrong note is a minor one, and I will forgive Mr. Robison for it. Just so long as he continues to write and publish, so that I can read more of his work.
A house cleaner becomes the muse to a crazy trophy wife and then finds her status threatened by a newcomer.
A Personal Recommendation
A bright student will do whatever it takes to pay for her education.
You Never Know
The eccentric subjects of a documentary offer more strange behaviour than the filmmakers expected.
Next to Nothing
A bitter catering company employee reaches the breaking point during a party at a wealthy client’s house.
Some siblings live large and others are born to clean up the mess. (Idiot Boy was originally published by Identity Theory.)
First, the bad news. The back cover copy for this book tells me nothing about the book or its author and needs to be substantially reworked; the layout of the front matter needs addressing; and the image on the jacket is muddy and dull, and could be vastly improved (it would help, too, if the title were easier to read). All these things do affect sales, and with self-published books being so difficult to sell it seems foolish to me that so many writers shoot themselves so firmly in the foot by producing covers and layouts which are below par.
And now, on to the writing. The short story is a very difficult form to master. There’s no room for even a single mistake: every word has to earn its keep, and in an anthology every short story has to work alone and in conjunction with the others that it shares space with.
In Red Poppies there are a few glitches in punctuation which I mostly ignored, because I found the writer’s voice so clear and compelling; some of the plots felt a little trite; the writer has a tendency to exposition which on occasion chopped into the flow of text. However, if she continues to refine and improve her work, and reads widely in the genre, I suspect we’ll see more from Ms Miskowski in the future. This a good collection, which could do with a little more polishing and a few more stories: but which nevertheless carries with it echoes of Grace Paley and Aimee Bender. I read it all, and recommend it.
Does a blurb ever lie?
Can it tell what’s inside?
Go on, open me up
I have nothing to hide
Poetry was the first thing I ever had published: I’ve read a lot of it, I’ve written a lot of it (mostly bad), and, more importantly, I expect a lot from it. I expect poetry to have some sort of lyrical beauty even if it’s a harsh or bloody kind; I expect its language to be at once sparse and pure, and dense with meaning. I want to read poetry which makes me think more deeply, surprises me, and which stays with me for days after I’ve read it. It’s a very restricted form and so, more than any other, poetry cannot afford to have even a single word misplaced.
What poetry should not be is unfocused, meandering or trite. It shouldn’t remind me of that boring bloke I sat next to on a train once who insisted on telling me all of his poorly-informed opinions about things I’m just not interested in.
I’m afraid that Rachel Fox’s More About the Song fell into the category of my second paragraph, not my first. Her language is plodding, her imagery almost non-existent, her rhythms are unreliable and her ideas are trite. She hammers her points home in a way which is entirely unpoetic: and although I read this slim collection right to its end I cannot recommend it. It left me feeling dismayed and faintly embarrassed, which I don’t suppose was the author’s intended effect.
The day the Berlin Wall came down, Jennifer returned to England, leaving her week-old daughter, Szandi, to grow up on a Hungarian vineyard with 300 years of history. Now 18, Szandi is part of Budapest’s cosmopolitan art scene, sharing a flat and a bohemian lifestyle with her lover and fellow sculptress, Yang. She has finally found a place in the world. Then a letter arrives that threatens everything, and forces her to choose once and for all: between the past and the present; between East and West; between her family and her lover.
Quirky, contemporary, and ultra-cool; sensuous, seductive, and heartbreaking: Songs from the Other Side of the Wall is a coming of age story that inhabits anti-capitalists chatrooms and ancient wine cellars, seedy bars and dreaming spires; and takes us on a remarkable journey across Europe and cyberspace in the company of rock stars and dropouts, diaries that appear from nowhere, a telepathic fashion mogul, and the talking statue of a bull.
I found a few things to criticise in the production of this book: its cover image is far too low-resolution to work well; its front-matter and end-matter are jumbled and unfocused and so fail to do their jobs properly; but the typesetting of the main text is elegant and spacious and very readable, which immediately set it apart from most of the books I have looked at for this blog. Some of the characters used in the italic fonts were overly heavy and so distracting, and really should be corrected; but that’s a tiny thing which I hope will be resolved in subsequent editions of this book.
And now onto the really important stuff.
Dan Holloway writes with a wistful, writerly tone which he handles with great skill. However, he hasn’t edited this book rigorously enough and so at times his writing is overly complex or descriptive (or both), which drags down his pacing. He risks losing his readers’ attention because of this which would be a shame: but it could be easily fixed if he could force himself to be a more ruthless editor. I would also like to see more variation in tone: while wistful is good it can get rather wearying if it’s not lightened occasionally with joy or laughter of some kind, and I wonder if this is something that Dan might find more difficult to fix.
Please don’t think that I’m dismissing Songs From The Other Side Of The Wall: I’m not. Despite my criticisms I think that this is a lovely book written in that rare thing: beautiful, lyrical prose. Dan Holloway is a writer of talent and great potential who we should hear more from. I read it all and recommend it.
Trenda, a young Pomo woman, lives in 1791 in the Valley of the Moons, which will become known as Sonoma Valley, California. Everything is alive, and all is holy. It is a perfect world with harmony and beauty between man and nature. Trenda tells her own story about being a shaman, seeing the future in her dreams, and learning to help heal her people. Eventually, she must leave home to marry Yosomo, a Miwok from the tribe by the sea. She is both happy and sad. When the Spanish come and destroy her perfect world, Trenda is separated from Yosomo. Treated like animals, they are forced to work. Trenda longs to be reunited with her husband and wants only what any human wants: to be free in the world she loves.
Constance Kopriva lives with her husband of thirty-three years in Sonoma, California, a forty-five mile drive north of San Francisco. They now own a few acres that long ago were part of (General) Vallejo Rancho. Obsidian shards and arrowheads, stone pestles, and mortars found on their land are evidence that early native people once lived there. After taking a class about Sonoma history and hearing a different version from a Pomo descendent regarding the Spanish conquest of early California, she was inspired to tell this story, We Were Not Lost.
We Were Not Lost should not work as a book. At times it reads like a Hollywood cowboys-and-indians script with its talk of “many moons” and “pale faces”; despite the writer’s obvious preference for a stereotypical, stilted writing-style I found several instances where a more contemporary language intruded; and at just fifty printed pages long it is no more than an over-long short story printed in book form. The author clearly doesn’t know the correct use of “lay” vs. “lie”; and I found some of the final sequences rushed and unbelievable. But you’ll notice that I mention the book’s final sequences: and that’s because I read it all in just one sitting.
Despite its problems, this story is clean and sparse and engaging. Not only it is fast-paced and vivid, it’s also a remarkably clean text with very few minor errors. And although I have my misgivings about the stereotypical view it gives of the people and events it portrays, I did enjoy it.
If I were the author I would strongly consider rewriting it with the aim of making it far less stereotypical. I would strip out the Hollywood-movie phrasing and replace it with a language which was less likely to set people’s cliché-alarms clanging; and I’d extend the story to include sub-plots, and to introduce more shades of grey into the central story: at present it’s very much “white equals bad, Pomo equals good”, and this means that the story is predictable and lacking in depth.
So, the writing is flawed, the storytelling lacks subtlety and texture; and yet I read it right to the end. For that reason I recommend it, but with reservations (and no, that’s not a pun). I hope that this author continues to write because despite my reservations I think she could eventually become very good, if she gets the right guidance and advice.
“I know you don’t see it, but deep inside, I see a girl who is strong, who deeply cares about others and who will fight for what is right. And besides,” he said in a whisper, “You were right… I have been looking for you.”
“This is such an original and unique story…. Christina crafted a beautiful story with a wonderful purpose that involves a lot of the issues that our planet is having today.” -Fantastic Book Review
WHEN SOFT-SPOKEN TATIANA TURNS 18, SHE BEGINS TO EXPERIENCE UNUSUAL CHANGES. Suddenly, she can read minds, sense emotions and move at a speed that far surpasses anything she’s known before. When her physical features begin to change as well, Tatiana tries desperately to keep her new abilities are secret. Amidst tragedy, unimaginable transformations and an unexpected friendship, Tatiana has to learn to reveal the girl hidden behind her Illusions and what it means to face the world in order to preserve not only the forest but her very existence.
CHRISTINA HARNER spent years studying the complexities of culture for her B.A. A lover of all things fantasy, creating imaginary beings and stories in her head, she is thrilled to finally blend her passions for anthropology, nature and the unknown realm of fairies together in this debut book.
This book presented me with all sorts of problems. I found plenty of mistakes and editing issues inside it; and yet I just kept reading and on many occasions I didn’t mark those mistakes down because the writing held my attention far too well.
Don’t get me wrong: it is in need of a strong edit. There is far too much repetition. The writer often takes several scenes to make her point when only one is really needed and this means that the pacing is far too slow and the book is far too long for its young adult audience. There’s a lot of exposition; and there were several instances where although I think I understood what the writer meant she had actually written something completely different. These are all things which could easily be corrected by a good edit and buried beneath all these problems there is probably a very good book, albeit a much shorter one. Despite those problems I read all four hundred and ninety three pages of this book, and I enjoyed almost everyone. If Ms Harner pays sufficient attention to developing her editing skills alongside her writing, she could be a name for us to watch out for in the future.
Ghost Notes is a worthy contribution to the pantheon of rock novels. This is a savvy, sharp, insider’s view of the rise and fall of a band and what can be lost and found along the way.
-Mark Lindquist, author of Never Mind Nirvana and The King of Methlehem
Engrossing, real, and well-written… the characters are reliable and honest.
-Laurie Notaro, author of There’s a (slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble
Ghost Notes is the Almost Famous for the minor leaguers of rock ‘n’ roll. I read it straight through and loved it.
-Curtis Grippe, Arizona Republic/Dead Hot Workshop
A bass player ready to jump ship from his mega-band, a drifter who hasn’t seen his son for twenty years, a sixteen-year-old high school dropout who is going to rock the world come hell or high water, what melodies will pour forth from these rock ‘n’ roll hearts?
Art Edwards, co-founder and former bass player of the Refreshments, has published two novels, Ghost Notes and Stuck outside of Phoenix, and has released one solo album, Songs from Memory. To learn more about art, visit http://www.ArtEdwards.com.
When I was a junior editor one of my duties was to deal with the slush-pile. It was a miserable thing to do, with the bulk of the work it contained far too bad to be publishable; too bad to even be interesting. I’d sit there reading through each submission hoping, every time, that I’d find something good. Something sparky, well-written, original, exciting: but I never did. I had a few near-misses; there were a few submissions which made me hold my breath, just for a moment; which made me think, perhaps—but almost every time the writing would stumble, the direction would change, and into the rejection-pile it would go.
The few times I found a book with real potential—with writing which caught my attention and a premise that made me sit back and smile—I’d feel an odd moment of stillness and silence, a hesitation in time. I’d hear a voice saying, “there—you didn’t expect that, did you?” It didn’t happen often but when it did, it was magical.
I had one of those magical moments when I read Art Edwards’ book, Ghost Notes.
It’s the story of Hote, a troubled bass player with Fun Yung Moon, a touring rock band with a fading reputation. When Hote abandons Fun Yung Moon in the middle of a tour he encounters Pippy, who has dropped out of high school to be a musician.
There is a poignancy to Art’s writing which gives his book a rare authenticity. I believed everything he wrote, even the chapter from a drummer in rock and roll heaven who addressed us while reclining on a cloud. I found his sparse, gritty prose quietly lyrical: Art Edwards has a real writerly talent.
My only quibble lies with the multiple viewpoints we encounter through Art’s book. While all of his characters are beautifully drawn and fully motivated, their voices do not differ from each other sufficiently to make it clear who is speaking in new each chapter and, as the book is written from a first person point of view throughout, this is particularly troublesome. Had I been editing this book for Art this is the one area I would have advised him to work hard on: resolving this problem would have eliminated the confusion I sometimes felt as I read through the book and it would have enhanced and improved the texture of his multi-layered narrative, giving his already-good book much more depth and scope.
There were a few typos (including that run-on sentence in his back cover copy, quoted above—if you read this, Art, fix it, please!) but they were just about invisible to me because of the quality of Art’s writing. I loved every page of this book despite its flaws, and will be buying his other novel, Stuck Outside of Phoenix, and perhaps his music too. As writers go, he’s the real thing and this book is a lovely, memorable read.
HENRIETTA FOX is a paparazzo. A wild, flame-haired girl in biker’s boots and leathers with an Irish temper. She rides a Yamaha on the streets of London stalking celebrities for the tabloid gossip pages. When a Chinese military plane explodes in a fireball before her camera, life for Henrietta Fox gets dangerous!
Five reporters across Europe have been murdered, each with their exotic, lop-eared Sumxu cats. Animals considered extinct for 300 years. Only Henrietta Fox knows why – and that knowledge could kill her. To survive she must pursue a madman across China with partner CASS FARRADAY, a six foot three ex-Repton public schoolboy turned tabloid reporter.
Only they can prevent an Armageddon assault on Britain’s Air Traffic Control. Fail and half a million lives will be lost.
Some self-published books are dreadful; a few are fabulous; and a few come so very close to being really good that I want to grab their authors by the lapels and shout words like “typesetting!” at them, as loudly as I can.
If Ron Morgans lived near me, he’d be getting the shouty treatment right now.
With The Deadline Murders Mr Morgans has written an engaging, competent murder mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed: but he’s let his book down by allowing some very basic errors to scatter themselves all over its pages. He’s used hyphens where dashes should appear; I spotted a few extraneous commas; and his page numbering is all over the place: his front matter pages are numbered 1 to 8 and then begin all over again with page 1 when his story starts (it’s convention to use a different numbering style for front matter if you want it numbered separately from the main text otherwise you end up with more than one page 4, which is confusing and can cause problems when referencing the text); and on a personal note, I found the paragraph indents far too deep. These are problems which a good copy editor—or even a good typesetter—could have fixed for him, and it’s a shame to see them on the pages of this otherwise competent book.
Such problems are minor, though, and as ever, my main focus is on the writing. I have a few issues with some of the grammar (for example, in the back cover copy quoted above it is implied that Henrietta’s leathers have an Irish temper); and there were a few problems with the text which only Mr. Morgans can fix: I realise that this is a thriller, and not a literary novel: I expect it to rely on the standards of the thriller genre. But in this novel some of those standards have been over-used to the point where they’ve become stereotyped. The two main characters were stereotypical in both their characterisation and their differences to one another: Henrietta Fox is a biker-girl photographer with red hair and a temper; Cass Farraday is ex-public school and wears suits from Saville Row. While they’re lively as characters go, I wanted them both to have more depth and subtlety and I think that a writer of Mr Morgans’ talent could have achieved this without too much trouble, even allowing for the limitations posed by the genre’s conventions. As it is, the interplay between his two main characters at times strays into Gene Hunt’s territory: on several occasions I felt like I was visiting the provincial 1980s (which was my favourite decade, though, so no great hardship there). Despite these little niggles it’s obvious to me that Ron Morgans is a capable, confident writer who, with a little more guidance and revision, could have brought this book up to a significantly higher standard.
I’ll happily admit that my genre-of-choice is literary fiction, which isn’t what Ron has written here: but I’m not trying to drag him over to the literary dark side. I just get the feeling that while this book is good, he is capable of much more. He has sailed through some of the things that others find most difficult—finishing a whole novel, creating distinct and lively characters, and constructing a plausible world for them to live in—who hasn’t done quite so well with the easier stuff. I think that Ron Morgans is a writer to watch who, with persistence and dedication, might well go on to bigger things, and I’m thrilled to have been sent a self-published book which shows such potential. By the time I reached page twenty-seven I had abandoned my scorecard: I read The Deadline Murders right through to the end and I’m pleased to be able to recommend it to you, albeit with just a few very minor reservations.
Edited to add: my good friend Sally Zigmond has also reviewed this book, and you can read her opinion of it here.
A hilarious illustrated account of a love/hate relationship. Legs Talk is a whimsical tale starring a witty pair of female legs. Chatty legs are depicted with attitude and swagger. Straight-shooting and in your face, these legs sure can kick. Take this play-ful ride on the bumpy road of romance. You’ll be glad you did.
Remember how I don’t review picture-books here? Well, this is a picture-book.
Legs Talk: A Modern Girl’s Dating Tale should have delighted me: I love quirky, small-format books which take a new angle, as this one definitely does: but when a book has so little text there is no excuse for the clunkiness that is apparent here. The punctuation errors show up even more clearly; and there has to be a strong plot-line, which this book simply doesn’t have.
It is unforgivable for so many of the photos (on which the whole book depends) to be out of focus.
This book is attempting to achieve what the delightful Love, Loss and What I Wore did: only it doesn’t come close, and while it’s attractive at first viewing it fails quite spectacularly to live up to its first impression. Because of its short length I read it to the end, but still cannot recommend it.
In May 2003, Nicolette Bethel was approached by the then editor of the Nassau Guardian, Larry Smith, to write a series of articles for the newspaper. Bethel chose to write a series of observations about Bahamian life, drawing on her training as an anthropologist. Essays on Life is still published in the Nassau Guardian on a weekly basis, examining topics as diverse as orality, inequality, the arts, government, and culture.
When I first received this book for review, my heart sank. These essays on Bahamina life were first published in the Nassau Guardian and not only is this book not a genre I’d usually consider, but it’s a genre I felt little connection with. I know little about the Bahamas; I’ve never visited the country; and I prefer fiction to non-fiction, so I assumed that I’d find this book hard work. I was completely wrong.
The essays provide a fascinating insight into Bahamian life and culture. Their origin is sometimes a little obvious: they’re opinion-pieces, and so sometimes they are a little overstated for collection in book form. But that didn’t detract from their charm: it just changed the way that I read the book. Instead of reading it in a couple of long sittings I read them as they were originally intended to be read, just one essay at a time, and found myself looking forward to each new episode.
If I have any criticism at all, it’s for the way the limitations of column-writing have restricted Nicolette Bethel’s natural style. I’d really like to see her extend her scope a little by writing a few longer pieces which rely less on rhetorical sweep, and more on the subtle character observations that she does so well.
As for the errors: well. These essays were properly edited for publication, and it shows. I have a small issue with the formatting: there’s an extra line of white space between the paragraphs which isn’t usual, and which I don’t like—but it’s used consistently, and I won’t condemn this book on what boils down to a matter of taste. There’s an extra space before a hyphen on page 18, which is a little careless: but it’s the only mistake I found, and it didn’t lessen the appeal of this charming collection one bit. There might have been more errors but I can’t be sure: I enjoyed the book so much that my editor-mode switched off, and I repeatedly found myself absorbed by her apparently simple narrative style.