This review will also appear on my bigger blog, How Publishing Really Works; but you can only comment on it here.
How do you believe in a system that kills your best friend?
Thriller writer Robert Grant confronts challenges to his faith in his country, family and friends as he investigates the bombing of a hotel near Penn State University. Bobby’s old friend Dan Trevaine is scheduled to be executed for the crime, tried in the wake of September 11th and the war on terror. When Bobby dig deeper into the evidence, one witness dies and another disappears—is it the work of terrorists or the government agencies charged with combating them?
The truth shakes the foundation of Bobby’s beliefs about right and wrong—and lands his family in the hands of the terrorists. Will they let him live long enough to reveal what he knows, or will Bobby himself choose to suppress the surprising facts behind the crime?
When your faith is challenged in ways you never imagined, how do you know the right thing to do?
JoAnn Welsh is a writer and linguist living in Rochester, NY. She holds degrees from the University of Virginia and Penn State.
Joanne Welsh writes believable characters, and has a knack for poignant detail that many writers would envy.
Faith trembles with promise but, as is so often the case with the books I’ve reviewed here, it is badly in need of revision, and a thorough copy edit wouldn’t go amiss either. There are some overwritten scenes, quite a bit too much description, a tendency to repeat and confuse: and yet despite all that, I like this book.
I found my fifteenth problem on page thirty-four but read on to the end of the chapter; I’ll be adding this book to my “to read” pile and hope that it lives up to the promise I’ve seen in the portion I’ve already read.
I’m happy to give Faith an ever-so-slightly reserved recommendation, and hope that this isn’t the last I see of Miss Welsh’s writing—so long as she works hard at getting her text just a little more sparse and clear before she publishes her next book.
People are disappearing.
When Lleyton Quinn is arrested in connection with a missing woman, he insists he knows nothing about it. He’s wrong. Soon he comes to realise that he is intimately entwined in the whole mystery. And when the female detective who arrested him pleads for his help, he is dragged to the centre of a phenomenon that could change everything. This is more than just missing people. The very fabric of society is being slowly unstitched by an unknown seamstress, and Lleyton has been chosen to pick up the threads. Before it’s too late. Before he disappears too…
This book is an intriguing blend of crime-thriller and science-fiction. Comic, dark and surreal in places, the story is based in the near future, in a world not too dissimilar from our own. Rich in thought-provoking concepts, this novel touches on all aspects of humanity, culminating in an evocative new theory about the nature of our world. This is fiction… that promises to teach you something.
The Turning is the sort of book that would might well accrue a stack of personalised rejections and offers to consider the writer’s next book when sent out on submission to mainstream publishers and agents. It is so very nearly excellent: but because of the author’s inexperience in both writing and editing it doesn’t quite reach the mark.
I can sympathise with Mr. Newell, because he makes the same sorts of mistakes that I make in my first drafts: we both over-write, we both use cliché, and we both like to hammer our points home and then some. The difference is that I then try to edit all those mistakes out, whereas Mr Newell seems content to leave them standing.
Overall, then, an impressive attempt which is let down by a lack of skilled editing. It’s a shame, as beneath all the extraneous stuff Newell’s writing is bright and pacey and engaging, with a light humour which reminds me a little of Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar novels. Newell shows real talent and potential, and if he pays much more careful attention to his editing skills in future projects he might well go far. I read sixty-six pages out of two hundred forty-two to find my fifteen mistakes: however, I will almost certainly read this book right to the end and so I recommend it, despite its faults.
When Tommy Davidson is found with his throat cut, his brother Andrew’s shock turns to thoughts of vigilante retribution. Known villains, including the person indirectly responsible for the death, begin to disappear. Thanks to the efforts of one of Cairnburgh’s cleverest lawyers, each has managed to evade justice. But not any more. Meantime, rape victim Rhona Kirk starts a new life in Dundee but finds it difficult to shake off her past. As DCI Jack Carston tries to find what links the various missing persons, he’s aware of his own darker impulses and of an empathy between himself and the vigilantes. His investigation becomes a race against time and against the pressure of darkness.
The jumbled and dull back cover copy for The Darkness is no indication of the quality of the text of the book itself: I found a lot here to keep me interested, and would like to see what happens to Bill Kirton’s work when it is passed through the hands of a competent and demanding editor.
The problems I found—a tendency to exposition, a lack of clear characterisation, a couple of clichés and a few punctuation problems—are all fixable because the underlying writing is strong, clear and fast-moving. Kirton has a raw talent which gives an edge to this book that most writers will never achieve: if he focuses on revising his next text to a higher standard I can see him doing very well indeed.
I was particularly harsh with Mr. Kirton in my judgement of his book but despite that, I read twenty-four of his three hundred and thirteen pages. If I had found this on the slush pile, I would almost certainly have asked to see more: as it is, I am going to cautiously recommend this book despite its flaws.
No more room.
It began with a power outage. A power outage that went beyond lights and televisions. Clocks stopped telling time. Cell phones no longer received signals. Cars became dead relics that wouldn’t start.
As the world around them becomes darker, so do the inhabitants of the small town of Westmont, Illinois. A mysterious and evil presence has taken a hold over the village, making the once peaceful town a place of violence and despair
A small group of individuals, untouched by this presence, must uncover the mystery of why they remain normal and discover what—or who—is taking control of their town, one soul at a time.
Because the Man in the Dark Coat is out there. Hunting them.
And not everyone can remain untouched forever.
In the tradition of Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker, Keith Knapp tells a horrifying tale of innocence and sin, and what people will overcome to defeat their own innermost demons in the search for hope. This is his first novel.
Moonlight shows great potential. It has an interesting premise and the writer’s style is immediate and very accessible, full of believable characters dropped into tricky and surprisingly plausible situations.
Where the book fails is in its editing. I found numerous problems with its punctuation (when will self published writers learn the difference between hyphens and dashes?), a few clichés; redundant statements, some lapses in tense; and a lot of repetition of various plot-points. I understand this last was intended to reinforce the plot but I found it patronising and infuriating, and it only really served to slow the pace of an otherwise fast-moving story.
The author would be wise to improve his editing techniques, too. There is a scene in which a generator will not work which I found particularly irritating: I’ve lived off-grid for the last thirteen years and we’ve had several different diesel generators during that time, as have our off-grid neighbours: I’ve never seen a single generator to work in the way described here. I’ll admit I’ve not had hands-on experience of every single model of generator that there is, and I’m no expert in their workings: but I know enough about them for this description to jar me right out of the narrative—which is exactly what writers should aim to avoid.
In summary, then: a book with real promise and a writer who could do well, let down by basic errors in editing, technique and research. All these should improve with experience, so I hope for better from Mr. Knapp in the future. I read twenty six pages out of a total of four hundred and sixty five, and would have read more had that generator been a little more true-to-life.
It’s the summer of 1879, and Annie Fuller, a young San Francisco widow, is in trouble. Annie’s husband squandered her fortune before committing suicide five years earlier, and one of his creditors is now threatening to take the boardinghouse she owns to pay off a debt.
Annie Fuller also has a secret. She supplements her income by giving domestic and business advice as Madam Sibyl, one of San Francisco’s most exclusive clairvoyants, and one of Madam Sibyl’s clients, Matthew Voss, has died. The police believe his death was suicide brought upon by bankruptcy, but Annie believes Voss has been murdered and that his assets have been stolen.
Nate Dawson has a problem. As the Voss family lawyer, he would love to believe that Matthew Voss didn’t leave his grieving family destitute. But that would mean working with Annie Fuller, a woman who alternatively attracts and infuriates him as she shatters every notion he ever had of proper ladylike behaviour.
Sparks fly as Anne and Nate pursue the truth about the murder of Matthew Voss in this light-hearted historical mystery set in the foggy gas-lit world of Victorian San Francisco.
The author is currently living in San Diego with her husband and assorted animals, where she is working on Uneasy Spirits, the next instalment of her series of historical mysteries set in Victorian San Francisco. Go to http://www.mlouisalocke.com to find out more about M. Louisa Locke and her work.
Maids of Misfortune is competently written and clicks along at a pretty good pace, once you get over the frequent blocks of exposition which stand in your way. There are a few clichés to interrupt the flow, which could easily be remedied; and a couple of places where a more modern idiom intrudes on an otherwise Victorian world.
It’s a light, bright read which can’t be taken too seriously: and in the end it was this frothiness which let the book down for me. I couldn’t quite believe in any of its rather flimsy characters; the situations which they found themselves in were just a little too sanitised and lacking in depth to fully catch my attention; and despite the author’s evident skill I found her main character almost scarily cheerful, and longed for her to reveal a darker side.
Despite my reservations, though, I read ninety-three pages out of three hundred and twenty-nine, and might well dip back into this book. It is well above the average of the books that I read for this blog, and consequently I’m happy to cautiously recommend it to you.
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.
An Illustrated Novel-Encyclopedia By David Roman
Eternal Horizon is a science fiction saga about a secret brotherhood of ten men with psionic powers and their internal conflict that decides the fate of an entire galaxy. It’s a tale about war, love, adventure, and the relentless hunger for supremacy. The story follows a man bent on recreating reality, a general seeking redemption for his past sins, a loyalist, a megalomaniac, two brothers, and a mysterious man from an unknown system called “Earth.”
CHARACTERS, + STATS & BIO, SHIP DIAGRAMS, + TOP & REAR VIEW
Eternal Horizon incorporates sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, and role-playing-game elements to bring you the very first novel-encyclopedia. Aside from having a powerful tale that will take you beyond the stars, Eternal Horizon has more than 70 illustrations.
ROBOTS, VEHICLES, CHAPTER OPENERS, TROOPS, & MORE
Chronicles of Vincent Saturn
Oryon Krynne, a dissident member of the brotherhood, is ambushed by the evil general Zeth on his covert mission. Fatally wounded, Oryon makes it to his ship and blasts off, heading for an unknown direction…
Vincent Saturn is a spontaneous federal agent who’s investigating a crashed alien vessel. His brief contact with Oryon changes his life for ever. Vincent wakes up on a distant planet with a hazy memory and falls into the hands of Oryon’s cohorts—a faction determined to free the galaxy from a terrible regime called “Imperial Republic.” Lost, vilified, and dubbed a liar, he follows the colorful group on their trek across multiple worlds. Refusing to accept that he’s stranded and the idea that some bizarre power is boiling in his veins, Vincent struggles to find his way home, all the while getting closer to his companions and a beautiful alien princess…
I can sympathise with this writer: I have a strong tendency to overwrite, just as he does. The difference is, though, that over the years I’ve learned to recognise some of my worst excesses and to correct them before I let even my closest friends read my work: whereas Mr. Roman has made his book available to the world in all its overwritten glory.
It’s a shame. There’s a tension to his writing which hints of greater things to come from him: he might not yet have acquired enough skill or experience to self-edit effectively, but he does demonstrate a raw talent that most others lack. I’d advise him to join a writing group, to find good writers who are willing to give him some advice (as always, Absolute Write is a good place to start), and to read as much as he can if he really wants to improve.
It wasn’t his writing that really let Eternal Horizon down, though: its cover is quite embarrassingly bad. The artwork for the front cover doesn’t fit the book’s format, leaving a band of plain black along the bottom of the book; all of the artwork is low-resolution, and can’t stand up to the scrutiny of being reproduced at this size so it’s fuzzy, and the text is all out of focus; the black-and-white illustrations on the back are muddy and grey; and the layout is amateurish and unattractive.
Add to that a lamentably bad blurb, which I found confusing and full of cliches, and you’ll understand how I found my first ten problems on the cover, despite several attempts to be generous.
I read less than one full page of this book but would probably have read quite a few more pages if the jacket had shown even the slightest nod towards professionalism. This is a poor result for a writer who does show signs of talent; but a perfect demonstration of how self publishing is often a poor choice for a writer to make.
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.
SLAVERY IS MORE THAN CHAINS AND SHACKLES
SLAVERY IS A STATE OF MIND
Immerse yourself in this highly anticipated political docu-drama set in the Deep South amidst the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement.
Martha was a young white girl living in the Deep South, inundated with the racist sentiments of the times. But Martha’s natural curiosity and generous heart led her to question this racial divide. When she discovered a primitive Negro family living deep in the woods near her house, everyone’s life changed for ever.
Take the journey of a lifetime alongside Martha as she forges relationships that lead to self discovery and a clearer understanding of the world around her. In the Land of Cotton provides an outstanding snapshot of life in the South during those troubled times – a snapshot everyone should take a close look at, regardless of era or color.
The year was 1956.
I have a feeling that there’s a fascinating story lurking on the pages of In the Land of Cotton: the problem is that it’s buried beneath a lot of clumsy writing and careless mistakes, most of which could be cleared up by a careful edit and a thoughtful rewrite. Several sentences were so poorly-written that I had to stop and reread them in order to understand them fully; and there were a few places where entirely the wrong words had been used. The foreword is particularly badly-written and does the book no favours—I would drop it entirely; but if the writer is determined to keep it then she’d be wise to at least explain who its author is, and why his opinion of her and this book is significant: because although he’s clearly significant to her, I don’t know who he is or how he is connected to the book.
Overall, then, this book is a missed opportunity: its writer rushed into publication before she was really ready for it. Her writing is not yet good enough to be published, and her editing skills will have to be far sharper than they are right now if she wants to make the best of her work.
If she had worked harder on learning her craft and been a little less eager to get into print she’d have done herself and her readers a big favour: as it is, the book just isn’t good enough. I read seventeen pages of In the Land of Cotton, and I closed this book feeling saddened: the writer could have done so much better if she had only taken a little more time.
“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.
A self-compiled collection of modern musings. This publication ranges from the political to the comical, from the dark to the romantic.
Following the author’s journey throughout university we travel through his mind, his nights out and his emotions. While his future wife lives in a different country, he drinks too much, he parties too hard and he tries his best to hide the pain.
We move on through to his questioning of the world around him, his job, his musical ambitions and watch as he moves to the capital in search of dreams.
This ironic but beautiful collection of poems will remind you of the best of times and the worst of times.
This is the first part in an on-going collection of thoughts.
Reading this slim collection of poems I felt as though I was spying on the author: it reads like an adolescent’s journal-scribblings, and just isn’t ready to be published.
Poetry is one of the most concentrated art-forms there is: to work, poetry has to be lyrical, intense, fresh and pure, and I’m afraid that I don’t see a single one of those qualities in Boyd’s work. His poems look like real poetry on the page—or at least, they would if the book had been formatted a little better, and the typesetting had been carried out by someone more skilled at the job—but I’m afraid that’s as far as the resemblance goes.
If Mr Boyd wants to attract a decent readership then I strongly advise him to read a lot of good poetry and to do his best to develop an understanding of rhythm, imagery and depth before he publishes any more of his work. I read just three pages out of thirty-one, despite my repeated attempts at leniency.
Lines of Neutrality is a window into the lives of two modern-day assassins—Raven Yin and Christian Delacroix. Unbeknownst to either of them, they are both hired to kill the same mark and coincidentally choose the exact same night and time to strike. This begins a chain of events that brings Raven and Christian together to fight a war far larger and more complex than either of them could have imagined. It is a war being waged against secret societies whose agendas are more enigmatic than their rumoured existence.
Their personalities and methods are fundamentally different, yet each of them discovers more about themselves by studying the other. Despite secret societies, internal betrayal, stolen memories and personal battles, Raven and Christian defy the odds to show that the Society of Assassins is nobody’s pawn.
S. B. Jung has been an English teacher since 2002. She has been writing plays, poems, and novels since 1997; Lines of Neutrality is her first published work. Her husband Matthew and son Aiden have been her strength, encouragement, and inspiration as she continues to write and create more worlds for readers to enter and enjoy.
SB Jung is a writer with real promise and Lines of Neutrality: Book One of the Assassin Chronicles has an interesting premise. Her text is lovely and clean, her grammar is pretty much spot-on, and I found that the pages of this book turned with a very pleasing swiftness: but despite all that, only read as far as page seventeen.
The problems I found were, for the most part, small and easy to correct: for example, the appendix is the first thing I found after the dedication page but the information it provides is confusing when presented here—it would have been much better placed at the back of the book; the cover design is unprofessional, and not terribly attractive; and the text on that front cover is blurry, slightly out of focus, and is in a font which really isn’t clear enough. The copy on the back cover needs attention too: it’s a little confused, a little cliched, and in places doesn’t quite make sense.
Moving on to the main text, then, I found a few quibbles which a decent edit would almost certainly resolve: there were some contradictions and lapses of logic which caused me to pause and rethink, and so spoilt the flow as I read. But the biggest problem that I had was that while this text is far more fluent and absorbing than most of the books I’ve reviewed here, it is still quite clearly the work of a novice writer—a talented and potentially very capable one, but still a novice.
I’d like to see what Ms Jung’s writing becomes when she’s written, and read, a great deal more. I have the feeling she could turn out to be competent and productive, and that in the years to come she might well produce books which are far superior to this good-but-flawed beginner’s effort.
For Katherine Orr the words “I love you” are not enough. Only a demonstrative expression of her husband Jayce’s love can rescue their relationship. But Jayce’s personal demons prevent him from giving her this even though he knows that she is all that stands between him and a descent into chaos.
Simultaneously, Bryan struggles to repair the breach of love in his life caused by the death of his daughter. But his wife Jayce’s sister, grows ever more distant. Charismatic social activist Faith, who longs for love but fears she will lose herself in it, unwittingly becomes the catalyst for change in the lives of all four characters.
The paths of these four converge toward a tragic event as each struggles to decipher the intricacies of love lost and love found. Each discovers in their own way that love is the living core of human existence and that how we love defines who we are.
Visit http://www.mdyetmetaphor.com/blog after each chapter for another dimension of this internet-enhanced novel.
Michael Dyet holds an Honours B.A., summa cum laude, in Creative Writing from York University. His professional writing experience spans journalism to marketing copywriting. Until the Deep Water Stills, his debut novel, weaves together memorable characters with a tightening web of external events. It ranges from lyrical to provocative in its style and from introspective to universal in its message.
Michael Dyet, the author of Until the Deep Water Stills, has an impressive list of qualifications and experience which I hoped would be reflected in his writing: he has a BA in creative writing, and has experience in journalism and copywriting. And he’s tied this novel to a website to add a further level of meaning to his text, which has the potential to be interesting.
The problem is that when I read a book I don’t want to have to keep referring back to the internet to get the full story. I want a book to be self-contained and complete: its own little world, into which I can disappear. Clicking about on the internet will drag me out of that world: it’s a distraction, and one which I found only detracted from my experience of this book.
And what an experience it was… the book is horribly over-written. Here is its first paragraph:
Shattering glass rescued Katherine from her dream. Aftershocks mingled in her half-awake brain with the elusive church bells now retracted seven years into the past. Jayce’s arm had knocked a water glass of the night table as he shifted in bed. How strangely prophetic, she thought, that he should fall into complicity with her dream. He did not hear the crash just as he did not hear the bells in her dream.
This sort of overwriting is neither literary nor clever: it’s just overdone (and bear in mind here that literary fiction is my genre-of-choice: I am not unaware of its conventions or standards). Dyet’s writing is far too complicated, and he often favours that complication over clarity and meaning. The text is thick with clever-sounding phrases, many of which make little sense; and I found a lot of clichés buried in his overdone language.
The back-cover copy is predictably weak; the punctuation clean enough, although I did pick up a few problems with it as I read. But overall, this book fails because it is so very badly over-written. I read just three of its three hundred and ten pages, but it felt more like fifteen.
This collection, AS THEY GROW OLDER, has a life of its own. Starting with The Toyman and The Grumpy Browns to fascinate the very young, the stories themselves grow older, stranger and spookier, until the almost adult Last and Longest Story at the very end.
AS THEY GROW OLDER should be read with the lights dimmed, read aloud at Halloween. It doesn’t matter how old your children are, there is a spooky story in this collection written especially for them to listen to…..
If they dare.
This collection of short, spooky stories is cleaner than most, with a mercifully-low error-count. The writer has a fluent, if rather naive style; and he has a good grasp of grammar, too. These things count strongly in his favour and were I reading this as a slush-pile submission rather than a published book, those good points would mean that he was automatically in the top ten per cent of the work before me.
He would still receive a rejection, though. His tone is at times a little patronising and while that might have worked a few decades ago it’s no longer acceptable in children’s fiction; and his stories, while perfectly pleasant, are neither convincing nor compelling. The story Nearly Nine describes a monster which lives in the narrow space behind the wardrobe: consequently, it’s shaped like a bath mat (and I quite liked that idea). The bath mat monster ripples across the bedroom floor one night, creeps up onto the bed where a child lies sleeping and—here’s the punchline—wishes him a happy birthday. And that’s the end of the story. This could have been done so much better: had the monster approached the child a few times but been thwarted, and had the reader had known that the monster felt the time was running out, the reader would have wondered why it wanted to reach the boy and there would have been some real tension to the story. As it is, we have some funny description of the monster, a brief moment of tension—and then it’s over, and nothing much has happened.
I’d advise this writer to work more on the structure of his stories, to consider developing their narrative arcs a little more fully, and to update his tone just a little. I read a respectable forty-nine pages out of a total of 369, and feel that this writer has plenty of unrealised potential.